The Global Water Grab: Meet the “New Water Barons”

February 8th, 2013 by Shiney Varghese

Writing in National Geographic in December 2012 about “small-scale irrigation techniques with simple buckets, affordable pumps, drip lines, and other equipment” that “are enabling farm families to weather dry seasons, raise yields, diversify their crops, and lift themselves out of poverty” water expert Sandra Postel of the Global Water Policy Project cautioned against reckless land and water-related investments in Africa. “[U]nless African governments and foreign interests lend support to these farmer-driven initiatives, rather than undermine them through land and water deals that benefit large-scale, commercial schemes, the best opportunity in decades for societal advancement in the region will be squandered.”

That same month, the online publication Market Oracle reported that “[t]he new ‘water barons’—the Wall Street banks and elitist multibillionaires—are buying up water all over the world at unprecedented pace.” The report reveals two phenomena that have been gathering speed, and that could potentially lead to profit accumulation at the cost of communities and commons —the expansion of market instruments beyond the water supply and sanitation to other areas of water governance, and the increasingly prominent role of financial institutions.

In several instances this has meant that the government itself has set up public corporations that run like a business, contracting out water supply and sanitation operations to those with expertise, or entering into public–private–partnerships, often with water multinationals. This happened recently in Nagpur and New Delhi, India. In most rural areas, ensuring a clean drinking water supply and sanitation continues to be a challenge. For-profit companies such as Sarvajal have begun setting up pre-paid water kiosks (or water ATMs) that would dispense units of water upon the insertion of a pre-paid card. It is no surprise that these are popular among people who otherwise have no access to clean drinking water.

With climate change, however, the water crisis is no longer perceived as confined to developing countries or even primarily a concern related to water supply and sanitation. Fresh water commons are becoming degraded and depleted in both developed and developing countries. In the United States, diversion of water for expanded commodity crop production, biofuels and gas hydro-fracking is compounding the crisis in rural areas. In areas ranging from the Ogallala aquifer to the Great Lakes in North America, water has been referred to as liquid gold. Billionaires such as T. Boone Pickens have been buying up land overlying the Ogallala aquifer, acquiring water rights; companies such as Dow Chemicals, with a long history of water pollution, are investing in the business of water purification, making pollution itself a cash-cow.

But chemical companies are not alone: GE and its competitor Siemens have extensive portfolios that include an array of water technologies to serve the needs of industrial customers, municipal water suppliers or governments. (In the last year and a half two Minnesota based companies have become large players in this business—Ecolab, by acquiring Nalco and Pentair by merging with Tyco‘s Flow Control unit—both now belonging to S&P’s 500.)

The financial industry has also zeroed in on water. In the summer of 2011, Citigroup issued a report on water investments. The much quoted statement by Willem Buiter (chief economist at Citigroup) gives an inkling of Citigroup’s conclusion: “Water as an asset class will, in my view, become eventually the single most important physical-commodity based asset class, dwarfing oil, copper, agricultural commodities and precious metals.” Once again, several others had already seen water as an important investment opportunity, including GE’s Energy Financial ServicesGoldman Sachs and several asset management firms that are involved investing in farmland in Asia, Africa, South America and Eastern Europe.

Given these recent trends, initiatives that track the water use of companies or map information regarding water related risks could be double edged. Some examples include the ‘water disclosure project’ and the ‘water-mapping project’. Both are initiated by non-profits/ think-tanks, the former by UK-based Carbon Disclosure Project and the latter by the US-based World Resources Institute. While distinct, they are linked by their shared constituency: global investors concerned about water-related risks. These initiatives could help companies identify and reduce their water footprint, or could lead to company investments that follow water and grab it.

The Carbon Disclosure Project’s water disclosure project seeks to help businesses and institutional investors understand the risks and opportunities associated with water scarcity and other water-related issues. According to its most recent report, issued on behalf of 470 investors with assets of $50 trillion USD, over half the respondents to their survey have experienced water-related challenges in the preceding five years, translating into disruptions in operations, increases in expenses and other detrimental impacts.

Aqueduct Alliance and its water mapping project, which aims to provide companies with an unprecedented level of detail on global water risks, seems at one level a direct response to the findings of the global water disclosure reports by CDP. General Electric, Goldman Sachs and the Washington-based think tank World Resources Institute are the founding members of the Aqueduct Alliance. All of them identify water-related risks as detrimental to profitability, continued economic growth and environmental sustainability. The water maps, with their unprecedented level of detail and resolution, seek to combine advanced hydrological data with geographically specific indicators that capture social, economic, and governance factors. But this initiative has given rise to concerns that such information gives companies and investors unprecedented details of water-related information in some of the world’s largest river basins.

Many of these investors, described as the “new water barons” in Jo-Shing Yang’s article ”Profiting from Your Thirst as Global Elite Rush to Control Water Worldwide,” are the same ones who have profited from speculating on agricultural contracts and contributing to the food crisis of the past few years. The food crisis and recent droughts have confirmed that controlling the source of food—the land and the water that flows under or by it—are equally or even more important.

closer look at the land-related investments in Africa, for example, show that land grabbing is not simply an investment, but also an attempt to capture the water underneath. At the recent annual Global AgInvesting Conference (with well over 370 participants), the asset management groups and global farm businesses showcased their plans, including purchases of vast tracts of lands in varying locations around the globe. With tools such as water maps, such investors are further advantaged. The global rush for land grabbing, as well as the resistance to it, shows that all stake-holders—pension funds, Wall Street or nation-states on the one hand or the people who currently use these lands and waters, and their advocates on the other—are well aware of the life-and-death nature of land (and water) grabbing, especially in the case of developing countries.

National and international regulatory mechanisms must be put in place to ensure that basic resources such as land, water and the means for accessing fresh water do not become merely the means for profit accumulation for the wealthy, but are governed in a way that ensures the basic livelihood of those most dependent on it. The last session of the Committee on World Food Security  (a United Nations mechanism set up to address the food crisis) was a good starting point, and has set in motion a series of consultations on principles for agricultural investments. Civil Society Organizations are tracking the various ways in which regulations may develop in national contexts: simply facilitate land grabbing, mitigate negative impacts and maximize opportunities or block (or roll-back) land grabbing altogether. Ultimately, any policy approaches must prioritize local communities’ access to food and water: Any water-related investments needs to be about allaying their livelihood risks and enhancing their ability to realize their rights, whether it is in developing countries or developed countries.

The Cost of Development: The Three Gorges Dam

February 8th, 2013 by Emile Bouffard

China’s Three Gorges dam, completed in 2006 and put into use last summer, is the world’s largest source of ‘clean’ hydroelectric power. With a generating capability equal to that of 15 nuclear reactors, the project has been hailed as a solution to China’s massive energy crisis. However, before the project had even been completed, major concerns were voiced over the potentially disastrous environmental repercussions of this massive engineering project. Seven years later, the Three Georges dam appears to be China’s greatest short-sighted decision in its era of modernization and industrial development.

The dam has certainly been a crucial element of China’s ‘green’ initiative, aimed at decreasing reliance on non-renewable sources of energy, in particular, coal. However a decrease in carbon emissions does not necessarily create an environmentally friendly energy strategy – for example, the use of the colossal reservoir had led to weakening of the river banks, causing massive landslides in populated areas. And these are just the beginnings of the problems.

The creation of the dam has slowed the normally quick flowing river, causing silt in the water to settle on the riverbed. This not only decreases the concentration of nutrients in the water, but damages existing ecosystems. Stagnant water in the reservoir could also boost pollution levels and water-borne diseases; already major issues for the population in the area. While constructing the dam, the Chinese government moved an estimated 1.3 million people from their ancestral homeland along the river valley. As the reservoir continues to weaken the riverbank, erosion is expected to displace another 100, 000 people. Decreased level of silt downriver of the dam may lead to poorer agricultural yields , with important nutrients settling to the bottom of the reservoir. Perhaps the most frightening possible consequences of the reservoir is an increase in earthquakes. Geologists fear that the weight of the reservoir may actually cause seismic activity over the two major fault lines that the dam rests on.

In addition, vulnerability of China’s already endangered species is increasing, as huge amounts of water are moved around the watershed. Many fragile ecosystems have been destroyed when water levels have changed dramatically. Wetlands, home to many unique species, are especially susceptible to changes in the river – populations of species such as the Baiji dolphin, Chinese sturgeon, and the Siberian crane are endangered because of the Three Gorges dam project.

The Three Gorges Dam shows with brutal clarity, that China traded short-term gains for long-term social and ecological problems. The energy gained by this project is not clean, and it will have long-lasting effects on a waterway that runs through over half of the country. The environmental effects of this dam will be long-term, and in most cases, irreversible.

Now that the Three Gorges Dam is in full use, these environmental problems will have to be solved rather than prevented. The world’s largest ‘clean energy’ project has already caused and will continue to cause permanent geological and ecological damage.

When CIA nominee John Brennan faced the Senate Select Committee on So-Called Intelligence on Thursday, countless critical and cutting questions had been prepared by bloggers and journalists.  None of them were asked.

Brennan might have been asked why he’d lied about the killing of bin Laden or about the murder by drone program.  He had claimed that every target was known, even though he was fully aware that people were being targeted without identifying them (using so-called signature strikes).  He had claimed that there were zero collateral deaths, even though independent reports have produced hundreds of names, identities, and photographs, and even though the U.S. Ambassador in Pakistan told a delegation of peace activists that there was a U.S. government count of civilian deaths and he wouldn’t reveal what it was.

Brennan might have been asked how in the world it can be legal, according to a “white paper” leaked on Monday, for a “high official” to order the murder of a human being, American or non-American, without judicial or legislative or public or international oversight – or even with such oversight.  He might have been asked if he is one such high official. He might have been asked whether there was a memo to justify the murder of the three Americans thus far known to have been intentionally murdered, since none of them seem to fit the qualifications laid out in the “white paper.”  He might have been asked what the procedure would be if two “high officials” disagreed on the desirability of murdering a particular American.  He might have been asked what authority would certify that a targeted victim could not be captured rather than killed.  He might have been confronted with the rise in hostility toward the U.S. government being generated.  He might have been asked about the United Nations investigation of the murder by drone program as criminal.

We Virginians were represented in the hearing room by Senator Mark Warner.  He claimed what he called the “honor” of introducing the nominee, and expressed his pride that Brennan lives in Virginia along with much of the “intelligence community.”  Warner hyped his effort to create a U.S. Intelligence Professionals Day (which presumably we’ll celebrate silently in our minds), praised Brennan in the vaguest of terms by reading through his resume, declared him ready to be confirmed pre-questioning, and outrageously asserted that Brennan backed “greater transparency” and “adherence to the rule of law.”  A major news story in the preceding 24 hours had been the White House’s refusal to tell the public or even the legislature exactly what it was pretending that the law was.

The most informative and valuable portion of the hearing was produced by Toby Blome, Ann Wright, David Barrows, JoAnn Lingle, Alli McCracken, Eve Tetaz, Joan Nicholson, and Jonathan Tucker, who took turns interrupting the proceedings to ask what needed to be asked.  The message that some Americans do not favor murdering children abroad was thus communicated to the world.  Many others were prepared to add their voices in that room, but Chairwoman Feinstein kicked everyone out except for a handful of Good Americans, and the hearing proceeded with a mostly empty room.  The “Intelligence” Committee is of course used to holding hearings in an entirely empty room with the door locked.

Senator Warner’s chance to ask questions, despite having already declared his support, would come later in the hearing.  By that point, Warner had to work with not only Brennan’s pathetic written answers to a series of weak questions presented to him prior to the hearing, but all of his answers to other Senators during the hearing up to that point.  Remarkably, during the hearing, on more than one occasion, Brennan claimed to have believed (despite voluminous public evidence) that torture was an effective tool.  He did not claim to have believed that as a child, or to have believed it 10 years ago.  He claimed to have believed it up until last week when he took the time to read part of the Senate committee’s report, as he had been shamed and pressured into doing.  He said he was shocked to learn that torture was not an effective tool.  Also during the hearing, before Warner’s turn came, Brennan repeatedly refused to call waterboarding torture and claimed that only a lawyer could make that judgment.  Note that he was asking to direct an agency involved in torturing people, identifying himself as a non-lawyer, and declaring that only a lawyer could determine what torture was.  Brennan also, by the time Warner’s turn came around, had refused to list the nations in which the United States is murdering people.  He had also repeatedly confessed to having had “inside control” of the underwear bomber.

When Warner’s 8 minutes began, one might think he would have had something important to ask about.  Couldn’t you have thought of SOMETHING if it was you?  Even without prior experience on the committee (or law school) might you not have thought of something, ANYTHING, significant to ask about?  Wouldn’t you have asked specific detailed questions about past performance, about torture, rendition, warrantless spying, lying, or killing people?  Aren’t any of those topics worth touching on?

Warner framed his first question as a rambling, time-swallowing speech.  His question was: how can we be sure the CIA director is well informed?  The general vague answer he got to this line of questioning matched the generality and vagueness of the question.  If Mark Warner is afraid a CIA director might be uninformed, why not ask Brennan if he knows significant facts?  Why not ask him how many people have been killed and where?  Why not ask him how many are on the list to be killed?  Why not ask him what the criteria are for getting on the list?  Why not ask how young the youngest person on the kill list is?  Why not express any concern that an “informed high official” might be killing people with the same level of “intelligence” that put so many people into Guantanamo who have since been exonerated of any guilt?

Instead Mark Warner turned to vague questions about the federal budget.  Brennan’s response included hyping the extensive “intelligence” efforts within the “defense” department.  Wow, what an opening!  The Pentagon is not supposed to be doing the “intelligence” work.  Everyone knows how disastrously the Pentagon violated that rule in the lead up to the invasion of Iraq.  Surely Warner would jump at this bait.

Warner instead moved on to asking Brennan, as many of his colleagues had already, how exactly Brennan would conduct himself in answering questions from the committee if, after he was confirmed, they were to actually ask him any questions.

By the time Warner might have had a second turn to question the witness, Warner was nowhere to be seen.

He will however be seen at the University of Virginia on Monday and if you sign up you can attend.  Maybe YOU can think of something to ask HIM.  If you need ideas for what to ask and how, or just want to attend as a group, you should get together with a concerned citizen who’s planning to attend by emailing [email protected]

Obama’s Proposals Fail to Prevent Gun Violence

February 8th, 2013 by James F. Tracy

On February 6, Obama chose Jewell as new Interior Secretary. More on her below.

She’ll replace Ken Salazar. He supported BP’s Deepwater Horizon operation. He ignored environmental risks. He approved BP’s exploration plan with no environmental analysis.

His negligence permitted Gulf of Mexico disaster. After BP’s rig exploded, he granted “categorical exemptions” to expand offshore drilling. He surpassed Bush administration policies.

He and Obama share culpability. They back dangerous nuclear expansion. They’re beholden to oil and gas interests. Drill, drill, drill is official policy. Lip service alone is paid to environmental concerns.

Salazar’s environmental record was deplorable. As junior Colorado senator, he opposed fuel efficiency. He supported unrestricted oil and gas drilling on federal lands.

He voted against Gulf of Mexico drilling protections. He fought them as Interior Secretary.

Center for Biological Diversity’s Kieran Suckling accused him of being “very closely tied to ranching and mining and very traditional old time, Western, extraction industries.”

He proved it throughout his tenure. Expect no change from Jewell. Suckling remains “guarded.” She’ll withhold judgment for later.

“America’s public lands and endangered species are in dire need of visionary leadership,” she said.

She hopes Jewell will reverse Salazar’s damage. It’s hard imagining how.

Her “challenge is whether she will value our wildlands and wildlife in the face of endless pressure by industry to drill for fossil fuels in areas within Interior’s jurisdiction.”

“Nature needs a true champion at this point in history.” Obama has other priorities. Jewell was chosen to serve them. Expect no positive changes on her watch.

Suckling’s colleague, Bill Snape, said he’s “not joining the (Jewell) love fest.”

“Our public lands are not a publicly-traded commodity on Wall Street.”

Former Interior Secretary Bruce Babbit called on Obama to set aside one acre for conservation permanently for each one devoted to oil and gas development.

“So far under Obama,” he said, “industry has been winning the race as it obtains more and more land for oil and gas.”

“Over the past four years, the industry has leased more than 6 million acres, compared with only 2.6 million acres permanently protected. In the Obama era, land conservation” got short shrift.

Speaking in the White House State Dining Room, Obama announced Jewell’s appointment.

She’s Recreational Equipment Inc. (REI) president and CEO. It sells outdoor gear and sporting goods. It does so through dozens of US retail outlets. Its sales approach $2 billion annually.

“Sally spent the majority of her career outside of Washington,” said Obama. She’s “an expert on the energy and climate issues that are going to shape our future.”

Obama thanked Ken Salazar. He “cracked down on waste,” he said. He claimed he improved Interior’s management. He “ushered in a new era of conservation for our land, our water and our wildlife.”

He spent four years wrecking them. He gave industry free reign. Expect no change from Jewell. She was chosen to serve industry interests. She won’t disappoint.

She’ll be low key and soft spoken. She’ll conceal official policy. Whatever Big Oil wants it gets. Jewell’s their Washington representative.

She’ll oversea oil and gas production. She’ll give industry free reign. She’ll back Keystone XL Pipeline System construction. Word is Obama supports it. He hasn’t officially said so.

It’s a controversial 1,661-mile Alberta, Canada to Port Arthur, TX pipeline. It’ll carry toxic tar sands oil from Western Canada to refineries on America’s Gulf coast. It’ll pass through environmentally sensitive areas in six states.

They include waterways and the Ogallala Aquifer. It’s one of the world’s largest. In America, it supplies about 30% of the nation’s irrigation ground water. It’s also used for human consumption.

Friends of the Earth says Keystone XL “will carry one of the world’s dirtiest fuels: tar sands oil.”

Its route “could devastate ecosystems and pollute water sources, and would jeopardize public health.”

It’ll double America’s dirty tar sands oil supply. Doing so will increase environmental toxicity exponentially.

No matter the stakes, Big Oil wants it. So do Republicans, many Democrats and Obama. Expect Jewell to support it. It’s part of her mandate at Interior. She won’t disappoint.

She was chosen not to. Her background shows why. It includes banking and Mobil Oil employment.

From 1978 – 1981, she performed oil field engineering services. From 1981 – 1992, she was a Ranier Bank/Security Pacific executive.

From 1992 – 1995, she was WestOne Bank president. From 1996 – 2000, she was Washington Mutual (WaMu) commercial banking group president. Before collapsing, it was the nation’s largest mortgage lender.

It was one of the biggest option-ARM mortgage issuers. They let borrowers make unreasonably low payments. Doing so increases indebtedness exponentially. It compromises the ability to repay.

WaMu was rife with fraud. Senate investigators discovered gross deception. Loan officers got bonuses for speedy subprime mortgage closures, overcharging, and levying stiff prepayment penalties.

Senior bank executives knew all about fraudulent practices. Nothing was done internally to stop them. Bottom line priorities came first.

High-risk subprime loans were prioritized. They were securitized as toxic junk. They were sold to unwary buyers. Doing so was the bank’s undoing. It profited hugely until its house of cards collapsed. Accountability never followed.

Environmentalists and conservationists express caution about Jewell. They have good reason to do so. She wasn’t chosen to be a friend of the earth. Responsible stewardship’s excluded from her mandate.

Western Energy Alliance president Tim Wigley said he hopes Jewell’s background translates into expanded oil and gas drilling on federal lands.

“We hope to see a better balance of productive development on non-park, non-wilderness public lands that enhances the wealth of America and creates jobs while protecting the environment” on her watch, he said.

Left unsaid is you can’t have one with the other. Drill, drill, drill runs counter to good stewardship.

Bush administration Interior Secretary, Dirk Kempthorne, praised Jewell. He knew her from earlier consultations. “She was always someone I wanted there because she’s a catalyst,” he said.

In other words, she supported Big Oil administration policies. She’s well suited for Interior, added Kempthorne.

She’s “effective and time-tested on taking on a variety of issues, deciphering them, and determining what is the most important and making a decision.”

Big Oil’s in good hands with Jewell. Friends of the earth have good reasons for concern.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at [email protected]

His new book is titled “Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity.”

http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanII.html

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com 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.

http://www.progressiveradionetwork.com/the-progressive-news-hour

http://www.dailycensored.com/big-oils-in-good-hands-with-sally-jewell/

Media Covered Up US Assassination Base in Saudi Arabia

February 8th, 2013 by Joseph Kishore

For more than a year, several major US media outlets—including theWashington Post and the New York Times —deliberately concealed the existence of a US drone base in Saudi Arabia. The base was used to carry out many of the CIA’s extra-judicial assassinations, including the killing of at least two US citizens.

The decision not to report on the location of the base was made at the direct request of the Obama administration, underscoring once again the role of the media as an auxiliary arm of the state.

The drone base’s location was finally reported in an article published this week in the Times, shortly before a Senate hearing for John Brennan, who has been nominated by Obama to head the CIA. Brennan reportedly played a key role in establishing the base in Saudi Arabia, and has been central in the drawing up of the administration’s “kill list” of individuals to be assassinated.

The revelation came a day after NBC News released a leaked Justice Department white paper giving the administration’s legal rationale for assassinating US citizens, including Anwar Al-Awlaki in September 2011, one of those killed using drones from the Saudi base. Al-Awlaki’s 16-year old son, also a US citizen, was assassinated in a separate attack. (See, “The police state implications of Obama’s assassination program”)

Attempting to justify the decision not to report on the location of the drone base, Times managing editor Dean Baquet told the newspaper’s public editor, Margaret Sullivan, that, until the nomination of Brennan, the location of the drone base was a mere “footnote” to stories about the assassination program.

This false rationalization—that the location of the base was not particularly important or newsworthy—is contradicted by further statements from Baquet. Sullivan writes, “The government’s rationale for asking that the location be withheld was this: Revealing it might jeopardize the existence of the base and harm counterterrorism efforts. ‘The Saudis might shut it down because the citizenry would be very upset,’ [Baquet] said.”

Baquet added, “We have to balance that concern with reporting the news.”

Baquet and the Times are so deeply integrated into the state apparatus that they do not realize how devastating this statement is. The interests of the state—in engaging and covering up criminal actions abroad—have to be “balanced” with the ostensible task of the Times, to report the news. The newspaper accepts, moreover, the entire rationale of the “war on terror.”

Sullivan adds, “Mr. Baquet said he had a conversation with a C.I.A. official about a month ago and, at that time, agreed to continue withholding the location, as it had done for many months.”

According to Sullivan, as this week’s Times article was being prepared, the CIA and government were informed that the newspaper was planning on revealing the location and that “officials should contact Mr. Baquet if they wanted to discuss it further.” This time, there was no objection from the Obama administration.

In other words, the Times and its reporters are in regular discussion with the CIA over what is and is not “fit to print.”

By Baquet’s own admission, the Times decided not to expose the location of the base because it could cause problems for US ally Saudi Arabia, a despotic monarchy that is a lynchpin to the broader strategy of American imperialism in the Middle East. The monarchy plays a key role not only in the drone assassination program, but also the war in Syria and efforts to suppress popular uprisings throughout the region against pro-US governments.

There is widespread opposition within Saudi Arabia to the presence of the US military. After the 2003 US invasion of Iraq, bases were formally removed, though there remained a large military-intelligence presence in the country.

The Times was also covering for Brennan, currently the director of the National Counterterrorism Center under Obama. Brennan was a former CIA station chief in Saudi Arabia and evidently had close connections to the Saudi monarchy, helping to negotiate the establishment of the base. A base in Saudi Arabia is particularly important due to its proximity to Yemen, where al-Awlaki was killed; Iran, where US spy drones are known to operate; and North Africa.

The American media in general, and the New York Times in particular, has a long and sordid record of collusion with the government in promoting war and covering up for crimes, at home and abroad. Particularly since the attacks of September 11, the media has integrated itself more thoroughly into the state apparatus, going far beyond the “embedded” reporters that travel with the US military.

One particularly egregious example was the decision by the New York Timesto withhold publication of National Security Agency’s illegal domestic spying program at the request of the Bush administration for over a year. The period in which the newspaper sat on the information without informing the American people included the 2004 US elections. (See, “A damning admission: New York Times concealed NSA spying until after 2004 elections”)

When the newspaper published a report on the destruction of the CIA videotapes of torture in 2007, it acknowledged that this came only after discussions with the government and evidently another lengthy delay. (See, “New York Times bows to White House pressure over CIA tapes story”)

There can be no doubt that there are many more crimes carried out by the government that are known to the editors of the Times and other major American media, but remain concealed from the American people.

NATO-Trained Kosovo Army To Be Activated in June

February 8th, 2013 by Stop NATO

Kosovo is planning to convert its lightly-armed Kosovo Security Force into a full-fledged army.

Established in 2009, the force consists of 2,500 active and 800 reserve members and is primarily responsible for crisis response.

Over the past few years, it has been intensively trained by KFOR, which reports to NATO. Based on the Kosovo Security Force’s success, the alliance will decide on the future of the Kosovo army.

“NATO nations are considering the right time for the KSF final endorsement,” KFOR spokesman Alexander Willing said. “The North Atlantic Council, NATO’s highest decision-making body, will make a political decision based on the assessment of NATO’s military authorities,” he added.

The council is expected to decide on the force’s status at its June meeting.
Voice of Russia, SETimes.com

What they Don’t Tell You About the Economy

February 8th, 2013 by Margaret Flowers

The corporate media and front groups for big business and political parties leave out what we believe are important details. That’s why at It’s Our Economy we focus on articles that go deeper into current news. This week: the real national security budget is bigger then acknowledged, the growth in GDP before the election seems to be due to government spending being sped up, the poor don’t live well as the right wing claims, and the U.S. is a ‘managed democracy’ or polyarchy where the people do not rule.

Economist David Cay Johnson digs deep to show that while attention is focused on the President’s budget proposal for military spending and cuts to Social Security and Medicare, a large sector of spending is being ignored. That is total spending on the National Security State and it is as much as 2.5 times the base Defense budget; that’s $1.3 trillion not the $525 million the corporate media trumpets.

And labor economist Jack Rasmus reports that GDP was artificially inflated in the third quarter last year (just prior to the elections) by record levels of federal defense spending. Was this to make the economy look good for the election?  We may never know the reason for this rapid spending of government funds. It might not had even been noticed, but on the other side, in the fourth quarter, the GDP declined.  Why? A rapid drop in military spending. The shrinkage of GDP in the fourth quarter had people looking more closely at the numbers. Rasmus still cautions that we are headed for a double-dip recession in 2013-14. A recession can be mitigated by job creation, but unemployment is rising and technology is permanently destroying middle class jobs. The likelihood of a recession is increasing because of an unprecedented drop in federal spending. As we warned, experience shows that cuts in spending during an economic collapse makes a long and deep recession more likely. 

Thomas Edsall busts the myths about Americans in poverty being promulgated by the right. He says, “the presence in the United States of 42.6 million people officially living in poverty — no matter that they have access to a trickle of consumer goods — must be recognized as a powder keg.” And Greg Kaufmann writes that if we are serious about education, we must address poverty.

And while we are often told that we live in a democracy, Cliff DuRand explains the conflict between real democracy and a global corporate state. He calls the US government “polyarchy” or a form of low-intensity democracy or as Sheldon Wolin calls it a “managed democracy.” Chris Hedges tells us in simple terms these terms mean “political theater” to hide the rule of the elites behind a thin veil of expensive campaigns.  Democracy is literally translated as “people power.” An area of the world where true democracy (participatory democracy) is growing is Venezuela, but the corporate media goes to great lengths to hide this. We interviewed Cliff Durand and Chris Hedges on “Clearing the FOG” this week, and next week we will speak about participatory democracy in Venezuela and the United States.

The good news is that economic and participatory democracy are growing in the US. We are pleased to announce the first It’s Our Economy State Chapter in Colorado. If you are interested in starting a chapter, contact us at [email protected].Knowledge is power. That is why we try to bring you information that is not prominent in the media. Please share this email with others.
Kevin Zeese, JD and Margaret Flowers, MD co-direct It’s Our Economy and co-host Clearing the FOG. This article is based on the weekly newsletter for the organization, sign up to receive it for free here.

Over the past four decades, of all the reasons people over a certain age have given for their becoming radicalized against US foreign policy, the Vietnam War has easily been the one most often cited. And I myself am the best example of this that you could find. I sometimes think that if the war lovers who run the United States had known of this in advance they might have had serious second thoughts about starting that great historical folly and war crime.

At other times, however, I have the thought that our dear war lovers have had 40 years to take this lesson to heart, and during this time what did they do? They did Salvador and Nicaragua, and Angola and Grenada. They did Panama and Yugoslavia, and Afghanistan and Iraq. And in 2012 American President Barack Obama saw fit to declare that the Vietnam War was “one of the most extraordinary stories of bravery and integrity in the annals of military history”. 1

So, have they learned nothing? When it comes to following international law, is the United States like a failed state? The Somalia of international law? Well, if they were perfectly frank, the war lovers would insist that the purpose of all these interventions, and many others like them, was to keep the atheists out of power – the non-believers in America’s god-given right to rule the world – or to at least make life as difficult as possible for them. And thus the interventions were successful; nothing to apologize for; even the Vietnam War achieved its purpose of preventing that country from becoming a good development option for Asia, a socialist alternative to the capitalist model; precisely the same reason for Washington’s endless hostility toward Cuba in Latin America; and Cuba has indeed inspired numerous atheists and their alternatives for a better world.

If they were even more honest, the war lovers might quote George Kennan, the legendary State Department strategist, who wrote prophetically during the Cold War: “Were the Soviet Union to sink tomorrow under the waters of the ocean, the American military-industrial establishment would have to go on, substantially unchanged, until some other adversary could be invented. Anything else would be an unacceptable shock to the American economy.” 2

But after all these years, after decades of American militarism – though not a day passes without some government official or media acolyte expressing his admiration and gratitude for “our brave boys” – cracks in the American edifice can be seen. Some of the war lovers, and their TV groupies would have us believe that they have actually learned something. One of the first was Secretary of Defense Robert Gates in February 2011: “In my opinion, any future defense secretary who advises the president to again send a big American land army into Asia or into the Middle East or Africa should have his head examined.”

And here’s former Secretary of State George Shultz speaking before the prestigious Council of Foreign Relations last month (January 29): “Iraq and Afghanistan cannot be the template for how we go about” dealing with threats of terrorism.

A few days earlier the very establishment and conservative Economist magazine declared: “The best-intentioned foreign intervention is bound to bog its armies down in endless wars fighting invisible enemies to help ungrateful locals.”

However, none of these people are in power. And does history offer any example of a highly militaristic power – without extreme coercion – seeing the error of its ways? One of my readers, who prefers to remain anonymous, wrote to me recently:

It is my opinion that the German and Japanese people only relinquished their imperial culture and mindset when they were bombed back to the stone age at the end of WWII. Something similar is the only cure for the same pathology that now is embedded into the very social fabric of the USA. The USA is a full-blown pathological society now. There is no other cure. No amount of articles on the Internet pointing out the hypocrisies or war crimes will do it.

So, while the United States is busy building bases and anti-missile sites in Europe, Asia and Africa, deploying space-based and other hi-tech weapons systems, trying to surround Russia, China, Iran and any other atheist that threatens American world hegemony, and firing drone missiles all over the Middle East I’m busy playing games on the Internet. What can I say? In theory at least, there is another force besides the terrible bombing mentioned above that can stop the American empire, and that is the American people. I’ll continue trying to educate them. Too bad I won’t live long enough to see the glorious transformation.

Afghanistan: Manufacturing the American Legacy

“A decade ago, playing music could get you maimed in Afghanistan. Today, a youth ensemble is traveling to the Kennedy Center and Carnegie Hall. And it even includes girls.”

Thus reads the sub-heading of a Washington Post story of February 3 about an orchestra of 48 Afghan young people who attended music school in a country where the Taliban have tried to silence both women and music. “The Afghan Youth Orchestra is more than a development project,” the article informs us. For “the school’s many international donors, it serves as a powerful symbol of successful reconstruction in Afghanistan. And by performing in Washington and New York, the seats of U.S. political and financial power, the orchestra hopes to showcase what a decade of investment has achieved.”

“The U.S. State Department, the World Bank, the Carnegie Corporation and Afghanistan’s Ministry of Education have invested heavily in the tour. The U.S. Embassy in Kabul awarded nearly $350,000 footing most of the estimated $500,000 cost. For international donors, the tour symbolizes progress in a country crippled by war.”

The State Department’s director of communications and public diplomacy for Afghanistan and Pakistan declares: “We wanted Americans to understand the difference their tax dollars have made in building a better future for young people, which translates into reduced threats from extremists in the region.”

“There’s a lot of weariness in the U.S. and cynicism about Afghanistan,” said William Harvey, an American violinist who teaches at the school, where 35 of 141 students are girls. “What are we doing there? What can be achieved? These concerts answer those questions in the strongest way possible: Cooperation between Afghanistan and the international community has made it safe for young girls and boys to learn music.”

There can be no question that for the sad country of Afghanistan all this is welcome news. There can also be little doubt that a beleaguered and defensive US foreign policy establishment will seek to squeeze out as much favorable publicity as possible from these events. On the issue of the severe oppression of women and girls in Afghanistan, defenders of the US occupation of that desperate land would have you believe that the United States is the last great hope of those poor females. However, you will not be reminded that in the 1980s the United States played an indispensable role in the overthrow of a secular and relatively progressive Afghan government, one which endeavored to grant women much more freedom than they’ll ever have under the current Karzai-US government, more probably than ever again. Here are some excerpts from a 1986 US Army manual on Afghanistan discussing the policies of this government concerning women:

“provisions of complete freedom of choice of marriage partner, and fixation of the minimum age at marriage at 16 for women and 18 for men”
“abolished forced marriages”
“bring [women] out of seclusion, and initiate social programs”
“extensive literacy programs, especially for women”
“putting girls and boys in the same classroom”;
“concerned with changing gender roles and giving women a more active role in politics”. 3

The US-led overthrow of this government paved the way for the coming to power of Islamic fundamentalist forces, which led directly to the awful Taliban. And why did the United States in its infinite wisdom choose to do such a thing? Because the Afghan government was allied with the Soviet Union and Washington wanted to draw the Russians into a hopeless military quagmire – “We now have the opportunity of giving to the Soviet Union its Vietnam War”, said Zbigniew Brzezinski, President Carter’s National Security Adviser. 4

The women of Afghanistan will never know how the campaign to raise them to the status of full human beings would have turned out, but this, some might argue, is but a small price to pay for a marvelous Cold War victory.
Guantánamo Bay

People on the left never tire of calling for the closing of the US prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. The fact that President Obama made the closing a promise of his 2008 campaign and repeated it again in the White House, while the prison still remains in operation, is seen as a serious betrayal. But each time I read about this I’m struck by the same thought: The horror of Guantánamo is not its being open, not its mere existence. Its horror lies in its being the site of more than 10 years of terrible abuse of human beings. If the prison is closed and all its inmates are moved to another prison, and the abuses continue, what would have been accomplished? How would the cause of human rights be benefitted? I think that activists should focus on the abuses, regardless of the location.
The War on Terror – They’re really getting serious about it now

For disseminating classified materials that exposed war crimes, Julian Assange is now honored as an official terrorist as only America can honor. We Shall Never Forget 9/11, Vol. II: The True Faces of Evil – Terror, a graphic coloring novel for children, which comes with several pages of perforated, detachable “terrorist trading cards”. Published by Really Big Coloring Books Inc. in St. Louis, the cards include Assange, Timothy McVeigh, Jared Lee Loughner, Ted Kaczynski, Maj. Nidal Hasan, Bill Ayers, and others. 5
Superpower – the film

Starring Noam Chomsky, Chalmers Johnson, Michel Chossudovksy, Karen Kwiatowski (Pentagon “defector”), William Blum, Sergei Khrushchev (son of Nikita), Kathy Kelly, and many others: https://vimeo.com/55141496 (enter password when prompted: barbarasteegmuller) – 2 hours long.
New Book and talk

The eagerly awaited (I can name at least three people) new book by William Blum is here at last. “America’s Deadliest Export – Democracy: The Truth About US Foreign Policy and Everything Else” is made up of essays which are a combination of new and old; combined, updated, expanded; many first appeared in one form or another in the Anti-Empire Report, or on my website, at various times during the past ten years or so.

As mentioned in the book, activists like myself are sometimes scoffed at for saying the same old things to the same old people; just spinning our wheels, we’re told, “preaching to the choir” or “preaching to the converted”. But long experience as speaker, writer and activist in the area of foreign policy tells me it just ain’t so. From the questions and comments I regularly get from my audiences, via email and in person, I can plainly see that there are numerous significant information gaps and misconceptions in the choir’s thinking, often leaving them unable to see through the newest government lie or propaganda trick; they’re unknowing or forgetful of what happened in the past that illuminates the present; or knowing the facts but unable to apply them at the appropriate moment; vulnerable to being led astray by the next person who offers a specious argument that opposes what they currently believe, or think they believe; and, perhaps worst of all, many of them suffer pathetically from an over-abundance of conspiracy thinking, often carrying a justified suspicion or idea to a ridiculous level; virtually nothing is taken at face value.

The choir needs to be frequently reminded and enlightened to be better able to influence others, to be better activists.

To order a signed copy directly from me you can go to my website: http://killinghope.org.

I’ll be speaking about the new book at Politics and Prose bookstore, 5015 Connecticut Ave., NW, in Washington, DC, Saturday, March 2 at 1 pm.
26

Notes

May 28, 2012, speaking at the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington ↩
George Kennan, Wikipedia entry ↩
US Department of the Army, Afghanistan, A Country Study (1986), pp.121, 128, 130, 223, 232 (Library of Congress Call Number DS351.5 .A34 1986) ↩
Zbigniew Brzezinski, Wikipedia entry ↩
View the press release; see the cards ↩

 

by Ralph Lopez

Connecticut State’s Attorney Stephen Sedensky has argued that unsealing warrants in the Sandy Hook case might “seriously jeopardize” the investigation by disclosing information known only to other “potential suspects.”

Sedensky said that unsealing the warrants would also:

“”identify persons cooperating with the investigation, thus possibly jeopardizing their personal safety and well-being.” “

The statement by the CT prosecutor’s office is the first indication from state authorities that Adam Lanza may have not acted alone. The statement was made in support of a motion to continue the seal on the results of five search warrants for 90 more days.

CT State Police Public Affairs Officer Lt. Paul Vance said in an official press release on December 16th that:

“The male subject identified as the shooter at Sandy Hook Elementary School has been identified as ADAM LANZA DOB: 04/22/92; he resided at 36 Yogananda Street. His cause of death was gunshot wound and his death is ruled a suicide.”

However, neither Vance nor the CT Attorney General’s office have ever ruled out the possible presence of other suspects. The New Haven Register reports Vance as having said: “Whenever you conduct an investigation you don’t speculate as to where it’s going to take you, as I said, we’re going to look at every single thing, every piece of material and we’ll take it from there.”

The CT State Attorney General’s Office is handling the investigation of the mass shooting, in which 20 children and 8 adults died last December 14th.

The motion to extend the seal on the records for 90 days was granted by Superior Court Judge John Blawie, who wrote in his decision that:

“”The court finds that due to the nature and circumstances of this case and the ongoing investigation, the state’s interest in continuing nondisclosure substantially outweighs any right to public disclosure at this time,”"

The warrants were for searches, on different dates, of the Lanza home, and of Adam Lanza’s mother’s two cars. One of the cars, a 2010 black Honda Civic, was the vehicle which Lanza allegedly drove to the crime scene. The other, a 2009 silver BMW, was parked in the garage attached to the Lanza home. The court motion seals the affidavits stating what was found upon execution of the warrants for another 90 days, until late March.

Little else is known about what the authorities may be referring to in support of the motion to seal the affidavits for another 90 days beyond the normal statutory allowance of 14 days. Lt. Vance did say in a press conference on December 15, 2012, somewhat apologetically for not being able to answer all of the reporters’ questions, that there were “some cards that we’re holding close to our vest.”
State’s Attorney Sedensky wrote in the motion that:

““No arrests have been made and none are currently anticipated, but have not been ruled out.”” Sedensky said:

“”There is information in the search warrant affidavits that is not known to the general public”"

An image of the key passages in the court motion is below. The entire document has been uploaded at Scribd by the New Haven Register, the venerable New England newspaper associated with the home of Yale University.

Read more: http://www.digitaljournal.com/article/342829#ixzz2KJ4Vd8pA

Global Research News Hour Episode 14

“We know that Saddam Hussein is determined to keep his weapons of mass destruction, is determined to make more … Leaving Saddam Hussein in possession of weapons of mass destruction for a few more months or years is not an option, not in a post-September 11th world.”

-Secretary of State Colin Powell before the UN Security Council on Iraq’s WMD threat

February 5, 2003

Weapons of Mass Delusion

It was a presentation designed to garner international support for a military intervention into Iraq. Colin Powell, retired  Four Star General and US Secretary of State spoke in front of a UN Security Council Plenary session to detail the evidence of Saddam Hussein refusing to comply with UN Security Council Resolution 1441. The resolution, passed unanimously the previous November, called for Iraq to fully cooperate with weapons inspectors and disarm or face “serious consequences.”

Powell’s dossier included the testimonies of anonymous defectors, satellite images, schematics of mobile labs for biological weapons agents, intercepted phone conversations and a prop vial supposedly containing Anthrax powder.

The UN, in the end, was not sufficiently persuaded by Powell’s presentation to authorize the use of force to oust the Iraqi strong man by force, but his performance was convincing enough to garner popular support within the United States for the war. The US under then President George W Bush and the United Kingdom under then Prime Minister Tony Blair led a so-called “coalition of the willing” to “free the Iraqi people” from a brutal dictator.

“Operation Iraqi Freedom” has proven to be disastrous to the reputations of the former American and British Heads of State. Much more significantly, it has devastated the civilian population of Iraq with a death toll conservatively estimated to be in the tens of thousands.

On the tenth anniversary of Powell’s infamous speech, we examine the evidence of the Iraq War as a war crime with distinguished University of Illinois Professor of International Law Francis Boyle.

Abandoning the Battlefield

“I will never apologize for deserting the American army. I deserted an injustice and leaving was the right thing to do. I owe one apology and one apology only, and that is to the people of Iraq.”

-Joshua Key, from his 2007 book The Deserter’s Tale: The Story of an Ordinary Soldier Who Walked Away from the War in Iraq

Like far too many Americans, Joshua Key from Guthrie, Oklahoma joined the US Army in 2002, principally to be able to make enough of an income to support his young wife and children.

At first, Joshua accepted at face value the Bush Administration’s claims that Saddam Hussein was threatening America with terrorism and weapons of mass destruction. Having served in Iraq during the first nine months of the war, Key’s perspective on the war changed and out of conscience, he deserted as soon as he returned to the US.

He eventually made his way to Canada, and like dozens of other deserters, sought sanctuary there.

The Canadian government did not officially support the war in Iraq, nevertheless, the current Conservative government of Stephen Harper has a jaded view of these soldiers who they see as “bogus refugee claimants.” Several have already been returned to the United States to face lengthy prison sentences and dishonorable discharge.

Key co-wrote with Lawrence Hill his memoir The Deserter’s Tale: The Story of an Ordinary Soldier Who Walked Away from the War in Iraq.

Key joins us in the last half hour to discuss his journey and the obstacles faced by US War resisters and deserters in Canada.

TO consult the GLOBAL RESEARCH Interactive Reader on the Iraq War, click here.

 

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The Global Research News Hour hosted by Michael Welch airs on CKUW 95.9FM in Winnipeg Thursdays at 10am CDT. The programme is now broadcast weekly by the Progressive Radio Network in the US, and is available for download on the Global Research website.

 

September 9, 2001: Two Days Before 9/11, Global Research was Born…

February 8th, 2013 by Prof Michel Chossudovsky

On the 9th of September 2001, the Global Research website at www.globalresearch.ca was born, two days before the tragic events of September 11.

We started up in late August with a handmade web design in FrontPage.  A student in philosophy gave me a hand in drafting the home page and putting the project online.

On the morning of September 8, I took a two hour “crash course” on the use of file transfer FTP software from a young software specialist, who taught me how to upload articles to the website.

Among our first articles was a coverage of the events surrounding 9/11 and the subsequent invasion of Afghanistan on October 7.

From these modest beginnings, with virtually no resources, the Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG) has evolved into a dynamic research and independent media group.

We revamped the website in 2005. A separate French language website, www.mondialisation.ca  was established

We subsequently launched Spanish, Portuguese, German, Arabic, Italian and Serbian pages.

In 2005, we started a book publishing program and in 2008, the CRG moved from makeshift premises to a small office located in the historical quarter of Le Vieux Montreal (Old Montreal).

In 2010, we launched The Global Research TV (GRTV) website, which features selected videos as well as commentary, analysis and news coverage.

Since September 2001, we have established an extensive archive of news articles, in-depth reports and analysis on issues which are barely covered by the mainstream media.

In an era of media disinformation, our focus has essentially been to center on the “unspoken truth”.

And on September 1st of 2012, we revamped the website, integrating a data bank of more than 32,000 articles and 7000 authors.

These endeavors of more than last eleven years –including the development of  a new web design– would not have been possible without the ongoing support of our readers.

Thanks to your contributions, we have also been able maintain complete independence. We do not accept support from corporate foundations, which are actively seeking to control and manipulate the alternative media.

We have tried to the best our abilities to provide honest news coverage and analysis of an evolving global crisis.

We have published articles from diverse perspectives to ensure that you get the true big picture of what’s happening in the world.

We are indebted to our authors, editors and correspondents  who have volunteered their time and energy to this endeavor. We also thank are web design team and our webmaster who have worked relentlessly in developing and launching the new website.

On behalf of the Global Research team, we extend our sincere thanks for your continued support and encouragement.

If you wish to become a member or donate to Global Research, scroll down for details.

Michel Chossudovsky
Editor of globalresearch.ca,
Director, Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG)
Montreal

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Donate to Global Research

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If you are a US resident and wish to make a donation of $400 or more, contact us at crg.[email protected] (please indicate “US Donation” in the subject line) and we will send you the details. We are much indebted for your support.

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The Great Recession has quietly devastated public services on a state-by-state basis, with Republican and Democratic governors taking turns leading the charge. Public education has been decimated, as well as health care, welfare, and the wages and benefits of public sector workers. The public sector itself is being smashed. Since the recession began, states have made combined austerity cuts of at least $337 billion, according to the Center of Budget and Policy Priorities

The 2012-2013 budget deficits for 34 states resulted in $55 billion in cuts, according to the Center of Budget and Policy Priorities. The coming budgets for 2013-2014 that begins on July 1st is becoming clear as well, and the deficits are rolling in by the billions: Connecticut, Minnesota, Maryland, New York, Oregon, Washington, and many others have large deficits projected.

You’d expect after years of austerity cuts to public services, state politicians would think of new ways to raise revenue from those who can afford it — the wealthy and corporations. Not so. The cuts that began as a consequence of the 2008 recession are set to continue; raising revenue from the wealthy is “off the table” for Republicans and Democrats alike.

The pattern of budget cuts has revealed that the age-old distinction between Republican and Democrat has evaporated on the state level. The state budget trends — what’s getting funded and what’s not — are similarly aligned across the country. Both parties have merged their state-level agendas into a singular focus on “economic growth,” a bi-partisan euphemism meaning “corporate profits.”

Below is the bi-partisan funding trends for the states that began with the 2008 recession and continue to this day:

1)  The Attack on Public Employees and Pension “Reform”

It wasn’t long ago that everyone understood that the states’ budget crises was caused in part by the recession, itself caused by the big banks and greedy corporations, and in part by the politicians continuing willingness to lower taxes on the rich. Now the corporate media and politicians have re-written history: suddenly it’s “greedy” public workers and their “lavish” pensions that are bankrupting the states. Two years ago it was the health care of public employees that was bankrupting the states, which resulted in large cuts to workers in many states.

The pre-recession pension system was working fine, but it, too, suffered under the bank-caused financial crisis; pension returns sank and right-wing economists projected ruin for the states in the future (they conveniently assumed that recession era rates would continue forever, thus under-funding the system).

Democratic governors are now as eager as their Republican counterparts to destroy the pensions of public employees. Democratic politicians in Oregon, Washington, California, New Jersey, Illinois, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Maryland, Massachusetts, and several other states are leading the charge to erode the last bastion of retirement security for working people, while continuing to lay off public employees by the thousands. This national shrinkage of state governments is a long-standing right-wing dream: the smaller the state, the greater the “growth opportunities” for corporations that take over privatized public services and the lower their taxes since a smaller state requires less revenue for operating expenses.

2) Education Reform

The National Governors Association (NGA) spoke for both political parties when announcing a renewed focus on education funding for the states during the annual “state of the states” address. The funding is necessary because schools across the country are expecting an influx of students, while school districts everywhere have been starved funds by the ongoing austerity cuts; the system has been literally crumbling. But the new funding is to be used for the undermining and destruction of public education, since it is based on Obama’s pro-corporate Race to the Top education “reform” where charter schools replace public schools.

Democrats and Republicans are in complete agreement over Obama’s education policy, which closes “failing schools,” (those in poor neighborhoods), opens privately run, non-union charter schools, and fires “bad teachers,” (typically those who teach poor students). The whole system is based on standardized testing, which poorer students will spend most of their education preparing for, (those who don’t drop out from sheer boredom). Bi-partisan education reform targets teacher unions while privatizing education — the Democrats have adopted the ideas from the right-wing think tanks of the 1990′s.

3) Raising Revenue – But Not From the Wealthy or Corporations

Many states have implemented — or are planning to implement — a variety of taxes that disproportionally affect working and poor people, including increased sales taxes, alcohol, tobacco and other “sin” taxes, not to mention increases in different fees, from state parks to driver registration.

At the same time that these taxes have been upped, a consistent clamor has been raised by the media and politicians to lower the taxes for corporations, give them new subsidies or “freeze” their already-low taxes so that future tax increases will be impossible. In Oregon the Democratic governor declared a “special session” emergency in order to ensure that NIKE’s super low tax status would be frozen in place for decades, outside the reach of the public, which might want to raise corporate taxes to fund public services.

Democrat and Republican controlled states are equally competing for the adoration of corporations by lavishing a never-ending flow of taxpayer money on them, while “guaranteeing” them “investment security,” i.e., promising low taxes and an open spigot of taxpayer money. This is the basis for several states implementing “right to work” laws that target unions for destruction, while also attempting to “revamp the tax code,” which is a euphemism for lowering corporate taxes.

4) Welfare Reform: Attacking the Safety Net

Waging war against the safety net is like picking a fight with road kill — the states’ safety net is already disfigured beyond recognition, but the bi-partisan assault nevertheless continues. Bill Clinton started welfare “reform” as president, and the 2008 Great Recession accelerated the attack on those in poverty. The year 2011 was a devastating one for welfare, now called Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF).

According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities:

In 2011, states implemented some of the harshest cuts in recent history for many of the nation’s most vulnerable families with children who are receiving assistance through [TANF] … The cuts affect 700,000 low-income families that include 1.3 million children; these families represent over one-third of all low-income families receiving TANF nationwide.

But these TANF “reforms” continue, to the detriment of the neediest. Newly released budgets in several states — including California and Oregon — further tighten the program, a relentless boa-like constriction that’s already suffocated millions of the country’s poorest citizens. Typically TANF reform either lowers the monthly payment, shortens the time one can receive benefits, or raises the standards for staying in the program.

Before the giant TANF cuts in 2011, the program was already shrunken such that TANF only assisted 28 families for every 100 in poverty — the ludicrous definition of “poverty” being a family of four that makes only $22,000 or less.

There is a direct link between the assault on TANF and the rising poverty levels in the United States. Cutting TANF in a time of mass unemployment means consciously consigning millions of families to grinding poverty, hunger, homelessness, and the many other barbarisms associated with extreme poverty.

Conclusion:

It wasn’t long ago that the Democrats understood that the government can and should create jobs, especially during a recession. But now the Democratic Party has fully adopted the economics of Reaganism. As a result, the only “job creators” now recognized are the corporations. This bi-partisan agreement not to tax the rich and use the revenue for public spending to create jobs — hiring more teachers, firefighters, roads and parks workers, etc. — is unnecessarily prolonging the job crisis, ensuring more years of deficits and a deeper gouging of the public sector.

These cuts are having a devastating effect on public sector unions, the last bastion of union strength in the country. These unions are being weakened to such an extent that stripping them of their right to collectively bargain — the nail in the coffin — becomes a real possibility. No state is safe from this threat.

If unions don’t unite with community groups to demand that public services be fully funded by taxing the wealthy and corporations, the cuts will continue, communities will feel helpless, inequality will continue to spiral out of control, and working people will be further subjected to the policies of the 1%, now implemented in chorus by Republicans and Democrats alike. But, of course, this means that the unions will have to break with the suicidal strategy of relying on the Democrats for handouts. Time and again the Democrats have demonstrated their willingness to sacrifice the needs of working people in order to curry favor with the rich and corporations, their greatest benefactors when it comes to election campaign contributions.

Shamus Cooke is a social service worker, trade unionist, and writer for Workers Action (www.workerscompass.org). He can be reached at [email protected]

http://www.cbpp.org/cms/index.cfm?fa=view&id=711

http://www.nga.org/cms/stateofthestates

http://www.cbpp.org/cms/index.cfm?fa=view&id=3498

It Has Happened Here in America: The Police State is Real

February 7th, 2013 by Dr. Paul Craig Roberts

The Bush regime’s response to 9/11 and the Obama regime’s validation of this response have destroyed accountable democratic government in the United States.
So much unaccountable power has been concentrated in the executive branch that the US Constitution is no longer an operable document.
Whether a person believes the official story of 9/11 which rests on unproven government assertions or believes the documented evidence provided by a large number of scientists, first responders, and structural engineers and architects, the result is the same. 9/11 was used to create an open-ended “war on terror” and a police state. It is extraordinary that so many Americans believe that “it can’t happen here” when it already has.
We have had a decade of highly visible evidence of the construction of a police state:
  • the PATRIOT Act, illegal spying on Americans in violation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act,
  • the initiation of wars of aggression–war crimes under the Nuremberg Standard–based on intentional lies,
  • the Justice Department’s concocted legal memos justifying the executive branch’s violation of domestic and international laws against
  • torture, the indefinite detention of US citizens in violation of the constitutionally protected rights of habeas corpus and due process,
  • the use of secret evidence and secret “expert witnesses” who cannot be cross-examined against defendants in trials,
  • the creation of military tribunals in order to evade federal courts, secret legal memos giving the president authority to launch preemptive cyber attacks on any country without providing evidence that the country constitutes a threat, and the Obama regime’s murder of US citizens without evidence or due process.
 As if this were not enough, the Obama regime now creates new presidential powers by crafting secret laws, refusing to disclose the legal reasoning on which the asserted power rests. In other words, laws now originate in secret executive branch memos and not in acts of Congress.  Congress?  We don’t need no stinking Congress.
Despite laws protecting whistleblowers and the media and the US Military Code which requires soldiers to report war crimes, whistleblowers such as CIA agent John Kiriakou, media such as Julian Assange, and soldiers such as Bradley Manning are persecuted and prosecuted for revealing US government crimes. http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article33804.htm  The criminals go free, and those who report the crimes are punished.
The justification for the American police state is the “war on terror,” a hoax kept alive by the FBI’s “sting operations.”  Normally speaking, a sting operation is when a policewoman poses as a prostitute in order to ensnare a “John,” or a police officer poses as a drug dealer or user in order to ensnare drug users or dealers. The FBI’s “sting operation” goes beyond these victimless crimes that fill up US prisons.
The FBI’s sting operations are different. They are just as victimless as no plot ever happens, but the FBI doesn’t pose as bomb makers for terrorists who have a plot but lack the weapon. Instead, the FBI has the plot and looks for a hapless or demented person or group, or for a Muslim enraged over the latest Washington insult to him and/or his religion. When the FBI locates its victim, its agents approach the selected perpetrator pretending to be Al-Qaeda or some such and ply the selected perpetrator with money, the promise of fame, or threats until the victim signs on to the FBI’s plot and is arrested.
Trevor Aaronson in his book, The Terror Factory: Inside the FBI’s War on Terrorism, documents that the FBI has so far concocted 150 “terrorist plots” and that almost all of  the other “terrorist cases” are cases unrelated to terrorism, such as immigration, with a terror charge tacked on. See video
The presstitute American media doesn’t ask why, if there is so much real terrorism requiring an American war against it, the FBI has to invent  and solicit terrorist plots.
Neither does the media inquire how the Taliban, which resists the US invasion and attempted occupation of Afghanistan, fighting the US superpower to a standstill after 11 years, came to be designated as terrorists. Nor does the US presstitute media want to know how tribesmen in remote regions of Pakistan came to be designated as “terrorists” deserving of US drone attacks on the citizens, schools and medical clinics of a country with which the US is not at war.
Instead the media protects and perpetrates the hoax that has given America the police state. The American media has become Leni Riefenstahl, as has Hollywood with
the anti-Muslim propaganda film, Zero Dark Thirty. This propaganda film is a hate crime that spreads Islamophobia. Nevertheless, the film is likely to win awards and to sink Americans into both tyranny and a hundred-year war in the name of fighting the Muslim threat.
What I learned many years ago as a professor is that movies are important molders of Americans‘ attitudes.  Once, after giving a thorough explanation of the Russian Revolution that led to communist rule, a student raised his hand and said: “That’s not the way it happened in the movie.”
At first I thought he was making a witty joke, but then I realized that he thought that the truth resided in the movie, not in the professor who was well versed in the subject. Ever since I have been puzzled how the US has survived for so long, considering the ignorance of its population.  Americans have lived in the power of the US economy. Now that this power is waning, sooner or later Americans will have to come to terms with reality.
It is a reality that will be unfamiliar to them.
Some Americans claim that we have had police states during other wartimes and that once the war on terror is won, the police state will be dismantled. Others claim that government will be judicious in its use of the power and that if you are doing nothing wrong you have nothing to fear.
These are reassurances from the deluded. The Bush/Obama police state is far more comprehensive than Lincoln’s, Wilson’s, or Roosevelt’s, and the war on terror is open-ended and is already three times longer than World War II. The Police State is acquiring “squatter’s rights.”
Moreover, the government needs the police state in order to protect itself from accountability for its crimes, lies, and squandering of taxpayers‘ money.  New precedents for executive power have been created in conjunction with the Federalist Society which, independent of the war on terror, advocates the “unitary executive” theory, which claims the president has powers not subject to check by Congress and the Judiciary. In other words, the president is a dictator if he prefers to be.
The Obama regime is taking advantage of this Republican theory. The regime has used the Republican desire for a strong executive outside the traditional checks and balances together with the fear factor to complete the creation of the Bush/Cheney police state.
As Lawrence M. Stratton and I documented in our book, The Tyranny Of Good Intentions, prior to 9/11 law as a shield of the people was already losing ground to law as a weapon in the hands of the government. If the government wanted to get you, there were few if any barriers to a defendant being framed and convicted, least of all a brainwashed jury fearful of crime.
I cannot say whether the US justice system has ever served justice better than it has served the ambition of prosecutors. Already in the 1930s and 1940s US Supreme Court Justice George Sutherland and US Attorney General Robert Jackson were warning against prosecutors who sacrifice “fair dealing to build up statistics of success.”  Certainly it is difficult to find in the ranks of federal prosecutors today Jackson’s “prosecutor who tempers zeal with human kindness, who seeks truth and not victims, who serves the law and not factional purposes, and who approaches his task with humility.”
Just consider the wrongful conviction of Alabama’s Democratic governor, Don Siegelman by what apparently was a Karl Rove plot to rid the South of Democratic governors. The “Democratic” Obama regime has not investigated this false prosecution or given clemency to its innocent own. Remember how quickly Bush removed the prison sentence of Cheney’s operative who revealed the name of a CIA undercover agent? The Democrats are a cowed and cowardly political party, fearful of justice, and as much a part of the corrupt police state as the Republicans.
Today the purpose of a prosecution is to serve the prosecutor’s career and that of the party that appoints him or her. A prosecutor’s career is served by high conviction rates, which require plea bargains in which the evidence against a defendant is never tested in court or before a jury, and by high profile cases, which can launch a prosecutor into a political career, as Rudy Giuliana achieved with his frame-up of Michael Milken.
Glenn Greenwald explained how Internet freedom advocate Aaron Swartz was driven to his death by the ambition of two federal prosecutors, US Attorney Carmen Ortiz and Assistant US Attorney Stephen Heymann, who had no aversion to destroying an innocent person with ridiculous and trumped-up charges in order to advance their careers. http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/jan/16/ortiz-heymann-swartz-accountability-abuse
It is rare for a prosecutor to suffer any consequence for bringing false charges, for consciously using and even paying for false evidence, and for lying to judge and jury.
As prosecutors are rarely held accountable, they employ illegal and unethical methods and routinely abuse their power. As judges are mainly concerned with clearing their court dockets, justice is rarely served in America, which explains why the US has not only a larger percentage of its citizens in prison than any other country on earth, but also the largest absolute number of prisoners. The US actually has more of its citizens in prison than “authoritarian” China which has a population four times larger than the US. The US, possibly the greatest human rights abuser in history, is constantly bringing human rights charges against China. Where are the human rights charges against Washington?
In America the collapse of law has gone beyond corrupt prosecutors and their concocted false prosecutions. Unless it needs or desires a show trial, a police state does not need prosecutors and courts. By producing legal memos that the president can both throw people into prison without a trial and execute them without a trial simply by stating that some official in the executive branch thinks the person has a possible or potential connection to terrorism, tyranny’s friends in the Justice (sic) Department have dispensed with the need for courts, prosecutors and trials.The Bush/Obama regime has made the executive branch judge, juror, and executioner. All that is needed is an unproven assertion by some  executive branch official. Here we have the epitome of evil.
Evidence is no longer required for the president of the US to imprison people for life or to deprive them of their life. A secret Justice Department memo has been leaked to NBC News that reveals the tyrannical reasoning that authorizes the executive branch to execute American citizens on the basis of belief alone without the requirement of evidence that they are terrorists or associated with terrorists.  See NBCreport  
In “freedom and democracy” America, innocent until proven guilty is no longer the operative legal principle. If the government says you are guilty, you are. Period. No evidence required for your termination. Even Stalin pretended to have evidence.
The United States government is working its way step by step toward the determination that any and every critic of the government is guilty of providing “aid and comfort” to Washington’s “terrorist enemies,”  which includes the elected Hamas government in Gaza. The only critics exempted from this rule-in-the-making are the neoconservatives who criticize the US government for being too slow to throttle both its critics and “anti-semites,” such as former US President Jimmy Carter, who criticize the Israeli government’s illegal appropriation of Palestinian lands. Most of Palestine has been stolen by Israel with Washington acquiesce and aid. Therefore, nothing is left for a “two-state solution.”
There is no doubt whatsoever that the Israeli government’s theft of Palestine is illegal; yet, Washington, on which Israel is totally dependent, does nothing about law. Law, we don’t need no stinking law.”  Washington has might. Might is right. Get used to it.
Not only for Palestinians has law ceased to exist, but also for Americans, and for Washington’s NATO puppets in the UK and Europe, pitiful remnants of once great nations now complicit in Washington’s crimes against humanity. The Open Society Justice Initiative, a NGO based in New York, has issued a report that documents that 54 governments are involved in Washington’s rendition and torture program. Twenty-five of the governments that help Washington to kidnap, disappear, and torture people are European. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/feb/05/cia-rendition-report-uk-court
The opening decade of the 21st century has seen the destruction of all the law that was devised to protect the innocent and the vulnerable since the rise of the now defunct moral conscience of the West. The West’s moral conscience never applied outside of
itself. What happened to people in Europe’s colonies and to native inhabitants of the US and Australia is a very different story.
Nevertheless, despite its lack of coverage to the powerless, the principle of the rule of law was a promising principle. Now America under Bush and Obama, two peas of the same pod, has abandoned the principle itself.
The Obama police state will be worse than the Bush/Cheney police state. Unlike conservatives who in times past were suspicious of government power, Obamabots believe that government power is a force for good if it is in the right hands. As Obama’s supporters see him as a member of an oppressed minority, they are confident that Obama will not misuse his power. This belief is akin to the belief that, as Jews suffered so much at the hands of Hitler, Israel would be fair to the Palestinians.
Glenn Greenwald writes that “the most extremist power any political leader can assert is the power to target his own citizens for execution without any charges or due process, far from any battlefield. The Obama administration has not only asserted exactly that power in theory, but has exercised it in practice.”
This is the power of a dictator. That Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi were said to have this power was part of their demonization as “brutal dictators,” a justification for overthrowing their governments and murdering the dictators and their supporters.
Ironic, isn’t it, that the president of the United States now murders his political opponents just as Saddam Hussein murdered his. How long before critics move from the no-fly list to the extermination list?

US Violating Human Rights of Children, Says UN Committee

February 7th, 2013 by Allison Frankel

The Obama Administration recently underwent its first U.N. treaty body review, and the resulting concluding observations made public yesterday should be a cause for alarm. The observations, issued by independent U.N. experts tasked with monitoring compliance with the international treaty on the rights of children in armed conflict (formally known as the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict or “OPAC”), paint a dark picture of the treatment of juveniles by the U.S. military in Afghanistan: one where hundreds of children have been killed in attacks and air strikes by U.S. military forces, and those responsible for the killings have not been held to account even as the number of children killed doubled from 2010 to 2011; where children under 18 languish in detention facilities without access to legal or full humanitarian assistance, or adequate resources to aid in their recovery and reintegration as required under international law. Some children were abused in U.S. detention facilities, and others are faced with the prospect of torture and ill-treatment if they are transferred to Afghan custody.

By ratifying OPAC in 2002, the U.S. committed to guaranteeing basic protections to children in armed conflict zones, and to submit periodic reports on the implementation of its treaty obligations to the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child. We wroteabout the latest U.S. report, released in November, which revealed that over 200 children have been held in U.S. custody in Afghanistan since 2008, some for lengthy periods of time. During its review of the U.S. on January 16, the Committee posed critical questions about the treatment of children by the U.S. military and issued recommendations to remedy these human rights violations.

These recommendations include taking “concrete and firm precautionary measures [to] prevent indiscriminate use of force” particularly against children, and ensuring all allegations of unlawful use of force are “investigated in a transparent, timely and independent manner” and that “children and families victims of attacks and air strikes do always receive redress and compensation.” In regard to the detention of juveniles, the Committee urged the U.S. to ensure that all children under 18 are detained separately from adults and guaranteed access to free and independent legal assistance as well as an independent complaints mechanism. Importantly, considering the previous U.S. response to the Committee revealed that the average age of children detained by U.S. forces is only 16 years old and the average length of stay for juveniles in U.S. military custody has been approximately one year, the Committee recommended children be detained only “as measures of last resort and for the shortest possible period of time and that in all cases alternatives to detention are given priority.”

The Committee also stressed that allegations of torture and other forms of mistreatment must be investigated and the perpetrators brought to justice, and that no child should be transferred to Afghan custody if “there are substantial grounds for the danger of being subject to torture and ill treatment.” The Committee specifically mentioned the case of Omar Kadr, a former child soldier who was detained by U.S. forces at the age of 15 and was subjected to torture and a systematic program of harsh and highly coercive interrogations at the American prisons at Guantánamo Bay and Bagram.

The U.S. government’s human rights obligations do not end with the release of a periodic report or the completion of a treaty body review. In order to give meaning to the words of the children’s rights treaty, the U.S. must work diligently to implement the Committee’s recommendations and ensure that our military forces, intelligence agents, and other government officials treat children in the war zones of Afghanistan and elsewhere in accordance with international law.

The Face of Austerity: Photoshopping Away Police Torture in Greece

February 7th, 2013 by Leonidas Oikonomakis

Greek police may vainly try to Photoshop away the torture of four alleged bank robbers, but they cannot gloss over the radicalization of Greek youth.

The story is as follows.

On February 1st 2013, an attempted robbery of two banks takes place in a small village of the Western Macedonia region, called Velvento. The bounty was around 180.000 euros and the police managed to arrest the robbers after a short chase. The news would have passed unnoticed, if the heavily armed robbers were not very young middle and upper-middle class boys, whom the police associates with the armed urban-guerilla group ‘Conspiracy of the Cells of Fire’.

Twenty four hours later, the police make public the photos of the bank-robbers, and the whole country is appalled by what it sees: the faces of four badly beaten20-25 year olds, which have also been — badly — photoshopped in a vain attempt to hide the cuts and bruises, and the hands (?) that are holding the youngsters’ heads in order for them to be photographed.

The police rush through an announcement to justify themselves, claiming that only the minimum amount of violence necessary was used due to resistance during the arrest, while the Minister of Public Order Mr Dendias (the man whothreatened to sue The Guardian for having published a report on the torture of 15 anti-fascist activists by the Greek police, the same man who launched a waragainst Greece’s squats) said that the pictures were photoshopped in order for the faces of the arrested to be more recognisable (!), claiming that no torture had taken place.

The youngsters themselves — through their families and lawyers — claim that they did not resist their arrest and that they were badly beaten up/tortured while in detention; while there is evidence (videos and pictures from the moment of the arrest) that proves that they were not beaten during the arrest, but whatever happened, it did so afterwards. Some alternative Greek media, together with some international ones, as well as Amnesty International, strongly questioned the official explanations, while the latter also commented that “the Greek authorities cannot just photoshop their problems away”.

Under heavy public criticism, the Minister had to promise that a torture investigation would take place and the results are still expected. The bank robbers are now in detention, yet they describe their actions as political, and consider themselves anarchist ‘prisoners of war’, shouting during their transfer to the Prosecutor’s office “zito i anarhia koufales!” — “long live anarchy assholes!”. What is also worth noticing is that one of the four arrested anarchists is the friend ofAlexandros Grigoropoulos — the 15-year-old boy who was assassinated by police in Exarchia in 2008 — and happened to be by his side on that very moment, which surely played a big role in shaping his view of state power and police brutality.

The story is indicative of the radicalization of a young generation of Greeks, and of Greek society as a whole, under the structural conditions imposed by austerity. But it is also indicative of the way the state has chosen to deal with the voices of opposition in the country, be they legal or illegal: with repression, human rights abuses, and public humiliation.

Let’s not forget that a few months ago, the same government, the same Minister of Public Order, and the same police force, tortured — as it was proven — 15 antifascist activists for having organized an AntiFa moto-parade. And it is the same state officials who launched an attack against the country’s squats, for no obvious reason other than silencing any oppositional voices around.

It is by now obvious that the Greek state, in order to defend the extremely unpopular and unsuccessful austerity measures it has been imposing for a couple of years now, has chosen the road of repression. It is not something new: we have seen such practices in the past too — in Chile, in Argentina, and elsewhere. The difference is that in those cases we were talking about military dictatorships, while in the Greek case we are talking about a democratically-elected government, which is even more scary and unacceptable. At the same time, it is also obvious that this strategy of the state is resulting in the further radicalization of the Greek youth.

Post image for Photoshopping away police torture in Greece

In the network of corrupt and incestuous relations between government financial regulatory agencies and the banks they nominally police, a growing role is played by private, for-profit “consulting” firms that serve as middlemen in the government cover-up of corporate crime.

The New York Times in a front-page article last week called attention to this lesser-known mechanism used by the government to protect Wall Street from being held to account for the fraudulent and illegal practices in which it engages on a daily basis.

The Times wrote: “Federal authorities are scrutinizing private consultants hired to clean up financial misdeeds like money laundering and foreclosure abuses, taking aim at an industry that is paid billions of dollars by the same banks it is expected to police.”

The firms in question operate in essentially the same way as the credit rating agencies that facilitated the subprime meltdown. Just as Standard & Poor’s Rating Services and Moody’s Investors Service are paid by the banks whose securities they rate, the consulting firms tasked with investigating banks are chosen and paid by the very institutions they are investigating. This arrangement is based on a howling conflict of interest. Consulting firms that want to keep old clients and add new ones, and increase their profits, are obviously under pressure to cover up the misdeeds of their banking paymasters.

Moreover, the same revolving door by which individuals move seamlessly between Wall Street and the regulatory agencies exists between the consulting firms and the banks and regulatory bodies.

Last month’s $8.5 billion foreclosure fraud settlement with major US lenders lifted the lid on bank regulators’ increasing use of these “independent investigators.” Tasked with finding the extent of fraud and illegality in the processing of home foreclosures, these companies helped the banks cover up their fraudulent activities and ensure that the extent of their wrongdoing was not brought to light.

The settlement between ten major mortgage lenders and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), a branch of the Treasury Department, related to widespread fraud committed by the banks in their rush to foreclose on as many homes as possible in 2009 and 2010. To expedite the foreclosure process, the banks had employees or contractors sign off on thousands of mortgage documents every month, swearing that they had intimate knowledge of their contents when, in reality, they had not even read them.

This resulted in the improper expulsion of an unknown number of families—probably in the hundreds of thousands—from their homes.

In April of 2011, the OCC, the Office of Thrift Supervision (OTS), and the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System ordered individual reviews of foreclosures carried out between 2009 and 2010 by fourteen mortgage lenders, including Bank of America, Citibank, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo.

The investigation was intended to individually review all cases in which homeowners claimed that they were improperly foreclosed on, so that each victimized household could receive a cash payout. The findings of such an investigation would have undoubtedly shown that foreclosure fraud was far more prevalent than had been previously known, and laid the basis for further lawsuits against the lenders.

Instead of reviewing the foreclosures themselves, regulators had the banks hire so-called independent investigators, who, while receiving $2 billion in fees from the lenders, dragged their feet in reviewing the foreclosure cases.

Last month, government regulators closed down the review on the grounds that it was too time-consuming and too expensive for the banks and came up with a sweetheart settlement that cost the banks a relative pittance.

Instead of payouts to individuals who were harmed by the banks’ wrongdoing, the lenders agreed to split a $3.3 billion cash payout among 4.2 million foreclosed homeowners, without “determination of harm.” As a result, homeowners will receive a check of under $1,000 even if they were illegally thrown out of their homes.

The government, like the banks, had a vested interest in shutting down the investigation, as the results of any genuine inquiry would have exposed negligence and collusion on the part of the regulators as well as gross violations of law by the banks that would have made it more difficult for the Obama administration to avoid criminal prosecutions.

When setting up the “Independent Foreclosure Review” in April 2011, regulators claimed that they had to rely on independent contractors such as Promontory Financial and PricewaterhouseCoopers because regulators themselves had neither the money nor the manpower the review the claims.

“The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency employs just 3,800 people, only about 2,000 of whom are bank examiners,” said Bryan Hubbard, director for public affairs operations at the OCC in a telephone interview Monday. “It would simply not have been practical to hire the staff necessary for the review.”

He added that “independent consultants are used often by many regulators, not just the OCC, in support of enforcement actions. It was not unusual.” He added that the decision to end the review “will provide more money to more borrowers than maintaining the original course.”

The argument that closing down the investigation resulted in greater compensation for victimized borrowers is absurd.

The growing scandal over the role of “independent consultants” in the foreclosure abuse settlement prompted Senator Elizabeth Warren and Representative Elijah Cummings to send a letter to the US Federal Reserve and office of the Comptroller of the Currency last week, asking them to publish documents related to the role of the consultants hired by the banks to review foreclosures.

The role of such “independent investigators” in covering up the banks’ crimes goes beyond the foreclosure settlement. Since the 2008 financial meltdown, it has become increasingly common for financial regulators to rely on such companies in regulatory actions. The New York Times reported that the OCC required the hiring of such consultants in more than 130 regulatory actions since 2008.

The Times also reported that such “independent investigators” played a key role in the HSBC money laundering scandal, helping cover up the extent of the British-based bank’s money laundering operation for Mexican drug cartels. The newspaper reported that HSBC was cited for its loose money laundering protections in 2003 and turned to the consulting firm Deloitte & Touche to review its compliance with regulations.

In 2010, the bank was again investigated in connection to its money laundering activities, ultimately leading to a $1.9 billion settlement with regulators late last year. To help determine the fine to be levied, HSBC was ordered to hire an independent consultant to assess the extent of its legal transgressions.

The bank hired its reliable ally of previous years, Deloitte & Touche, which, according to the Times, “generously bundled hundreds of missed transfers into a single report,” which “may have helped save the bank from some government fines.”

“Independent investigators” like Deloitte and Promontory are staffed largely by former regulators, who, having gained experience in government, have turned to using their knowledge to help banks skirt regulations, for sizable fees. Promontory Financial, which examined loans for Bank of America and Wells Fargo, is a case in point. The company was founded in 2000 by Eugene Ludwig two years after he left his position as Comptroller of the Currency.

Last month, Promontory announced that Julie Williams, the former chief council at the OCC, would join the group to become the firm’s director of advisory practice. “I thought I could do more good helping firms understand and comply with government expectations—which are not always just what’s in rules and regulations—at Promontory,” she said upon taking the job.

PricewaterhouseCoopers, which carried out the foreclosure fraud investigation for Citigroup, brags to potential clients that its “teams consist of experienced regulatory risk specialists, including ex-regulators, who not only know the rules, but have also implemented and assessed compliance against them.”

Extrajudicial Killing: Official US Policy

February 7th, 2013 by Stephen Lendman

Since taking office, Obama headed America toward full-blown tyranny. He enforces Bush administration police state laws. He added more of his own. He governs like a tinpot despot.

He targets free expression, dissent, whistleblowing, and other constitutional freedoms. He usurped diktat authority.

He spurns civil protections, judicial fairness, and other fundamental rights. Abuse of power is institutionalized.

By executive order, he authorized anyone indefinitely detained with or without charge on his say. He promised to close Guantanamo but keeps it open. He operates a secret global torture prison network.

In January, Law Professor Jonathan Turley called America “no longer the land of the free,” saying:

“An authoritarian nation is defined not just by the use of authoritarian powers, but by the ability to use them.”

“If a president can take away your freedom or your life on his own authority, all rights become little more than a discretionary grant subject to executive will.”

Post-9/11, constitutional rights no longer apply. Diktat power replaced them. Bush took full advantage. So does Obama.

He governs extrajudicially. He claims the right to order anyone incarcerated indefinitely or killed on his say. US citizens are included. No reasonable proof is needed. No one anywhere is safe.

He ordered outspoken Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki killed. He was a US citizen. He threatened no one. He lived in Yemen. He opposed US imperial lawlessness. He committed no crime. He’s dead for supporting right over wrong.

Others like him are vulnerable. No one’s safe anywhere. There’s no place to hide. Rule of law protections don’t apply. Murder, Inc. was elevate to a higher level. It’s official policy. Summary judgment targets state enemies.

Obama decides who lives or dies. He appointed himself judge, jury and executioner. He’s got final kill list authority. Police states operate that way. America by far is the worst. It menaces humanity

Democracy is a figure of speech. American never was beautiful and isn’t now. Diktat power is policy.

On February 5, The New York Times headlined “Memo Cites Legal Basis for Killing US Citizens in Al Qaeda,” saying:

Administration lawyers turned jurisprudence on its head. They call it lawful to kill US citizens if “an informed high-level (government) official” says they belong to Al Qaeda and pose “an imminent threat of violent attack against the United States.”

A Justice Department “white paper” inverted inviolable legal principles. It’s titled “Lawfulness of a Lethal Operation Directed Against a US Citizen who is a Senior Operational Leader of Al Qa’ida or An Associated Force.”

It’s unsigned and undated. It’s “the most detailed analysis yet to come into public view.” It calls lawless killing without trial or evidence legal.

Thresholds of evidence and just cause aren’t discussed. Vague language substitutes. “Imminent” threats are highlighted. So is ill-defined “terrorism.”

Extrajudicial executive authority is usurped. Courts have no say. Nor does Congress.

Twisted logic claims judicially enforcing “orders would require the court to supervise inherently predictive judgments by the president and his national security advisers as to when and how to use force against a member of an enemy force against which Congress has authorized the use of force.”

Last March, Attorney General Eric Holder made the case. He claimed America’s lawful right to operate extrajudicially. He said Washington can kill US citizens affiliated with Al Qaeda if capture isn’t possible.

“Given the nature of how terrorists act and where they tend to hide, it may not always be feasible to capture a United States citizen terrorist who presents an imminent threat of violent attack,” he said.

“In that case, our government has the clear authority to defend the United States with lethal force.”

“Some have argued that the president is required to get permission from a federal court before taking action against a United States citizen who is a senior operational leader of Al Qaeda or associated forces.”

“This is simply not accurate. ‘Due process’ and ‘judicial process’ are not one and the same, particularly when it comes to national security. The Constitution guarantees due process, not judicial process.”

In other words, the UN Charter, Geneva Conventions, other inviolable international laws, constitutional rights, and US statute laws don’t apply.

With no evidence or justification whatever, Holder said “a small number of US citizens” plot attacks on America. Citizenship grants no immunity, he claims. They’re fair game. They can be targeted and killed extrajudicially.

Pentagon general counsel, Jeh Johnson, made the same case. He claims “(b)elligerents who also happen to be US citizens do not enjoy immunity where non-citizen belligerents are valid military objectives.”

“The legal point is important because, in fact, over the last 10 years Al Qaeda has not only become more decentralized, it has also, for the most part, migrated away from Afghanistan to other places where it can find safe haven.”

“Within the executive branch the views and opinions of the lawyers on the president’s national security team are debated and heavily scrutinized, and a legal review of the application of lethal force is the weightiest judgment a lawyer can make.”

“And, when these judgments start to become easy, it is time for me to return to private law practice.”

ACLU National Security Project Director Hina Shamsi addressed the white paper. She calls it a “profoundly disturbing document.”

“It’s hard to believe that it was produced in a democracy built on a system of checks and balances.”

“It summarizes in cold legal terms a stunning overreach of executive authority – the claimed power to declare Americans a threat and kill them far from a recognized battlefield and without any judicial involvement.”

ACLU Deputy Legal Director Jameel Jaffer called the document “chilling.” It manipulates legal standards. It turns them on their head. Doing so justifies the unjustifiable.

ACLU said extrajudicial killings occur “with virtually no oversight outside the executive branch, and essential details about the program remain secret, including what criteria are used to put people on CIA and military kill lists or how much evidence is required.”

America kills illegally. Rule of law principles are spurned. Transparency and openness are gone. Accountability no longer applies. Diktat authority usurped it. Doing so is unconstitutional.

On February 5, the Center for Constitutional Rightsresponded to Washington’s white paper.

CCR’s senior attorney, Pardiss Kebriaei said:

“This white paper’s claim of executive power is disturbing enough on its own, but it doesn’t describe the vast majority of targeted killings being carried out by the U.S. government, which now number in the thousands.”

“The government claims the authority to target a US citizen who is a ‘senior operational leader of Al Qa’ida or an associated force,’ but it doesn’t provide an analysis that would explain, for example, the killing of our client’s grandson, 16-year-old Abdulrahman Al Aulaqi, nor does it describe the so-called signature strike killings of people whose identities are unknown but who fit some undisclosed profile.”

“One of the most dangerous aspects of the white paper is the claim that ‘there exists no appropriate judicial forum to evaluate these constitutional considerations’ either before or after a killing.”

CCR Executive Director Vincent Warren added:

“The parallels to the Bush administration torture memos are chilling. Those were unchecked legal justifications drawn up to justify torture; these are unchecked justifications drawn up to justify extrajudicial killing.”

“President Obama released the Bush torture memos to be transparent; he must release his own legal memos and not just a Cliffs Notes version for public consumption, particularly when scores of civilian lives are at stake.”

“Despite this attempt to appear transparent, the program remains opaque. This will rightly raise many questions for John Brennan.”

He was deeply involved in Bush administration rogue policies. He a key architect of Obama’s targeted killing program.

CCR filed suit (Al Aulaqi v. Panetta). It demands accountability “in a court of law.”

On February 5, a New York Times editorial headlined “To Kill an American,” saying:

Obama “utterly rejects the idea that Congress or the courts have any right to review (extrajudicial killings) in advance, or even after the fact.”

Twisted logic defines administration policy. It exceeds the worst of George Bush. It includes a menu of lawless practices.

Congress hasn’t officially seen the white paper. White House officials won’t acknowledge administration authority to kill Awlaki. They provided no evidence justifying it.

“According to the white paper,” said The Times, “Constitution and the Congressional authorization for the use of force after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, gave” Obama unchecked powers.

Definitions aren’t forthcoming. Vagueness substitutes for specifics. Due process and judicial fairness don’t apply. Geopolitical priorities alone matter.

The Times quoted Center for National Security Studies director Kate Martin calling the white paper “a confusing blend of self-defense and law of war concepts and doesn’t clearly explain whether there is a different standard for killing a senior Al Qaeda leader depending on whether he is a citizen.”

“Its due process is especially weak.”

Congress needs to act. At stake are fundamental issues. They include balance of power and rule of law principles. They no longer apply. They need to be reasserted.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at [email protected]

His new book is titled “Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity.”

http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanII.html

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com 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.

http://www.progressiveradionetwork.com/the-progressive-news-hour

http://www.dailycensored.com/extrajudicial-killing-official-us-policy/

How much money does it cost to get populations to think a certain way? Answer: it requires a blank cheque. But can Americans really afford it?g and

Chief among the pitfalls of managing any global empire – persuading the natives overseas that Rome will in fact bring prosperity and open new markets for them, and bring advanced Roman culture. In those days, it can be argued that indeed, Roman civilization had something to offer back then. But it’s unclear today what exactly the Anglo-American Empire has to offer the world at large, aside from taking control of regional markets and resources – and of course, exporting their number one product in the 21st century – war.

In previous years, the Pentagon was tasked with defending the nation from real and potential state actors overseas, but under the new Obama collective, the military arm will continue to focus on ‘managing reality’ – by any means necessary, including (in their own words):

“…persuasive and coercive means to assist and support joint, interagency, intergovernmental, and multinational partners to protect and reassure populations and isolate and defeat enemies.”

The tradecraft here is otherwise known as ‘propaganda’, or federally-funded mass-brainwashing to be more precise.

Americans might bother asking in the run-up to the next Obama budget… “Does represent it value for money?”

In a country which is actually bankrupt on paper, Americans can only guess how much this futile operation will ultimately cost them, and ultimately add to the US government’s already bloated budget deficit. Cracks are already beginning to appear in the Federal machine  at home this week, with a draft memo being circulated by the White House:

“Based on guidance to federal agencies from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), says the administration may “have to consider placing employees on temporary furlough, or taking other personnel actions, should sequestration occur.”

‘Austerity at home’ we are told, but there seems to be plenty of money available for experimental military propaganda psychological operations overseas, and also at home too.

According to the masterminds at the Pentagon the PR managers at the Washington Post:

“As part of planning for the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the Pentagon under Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld decided to place reporters with military units. With “embedding,”many reporters who had never been in the military service shared time with troops and essentially became part of the outfit they covered. It mostly worked to the Pentagon’s benefit.

That lesson is key to the new manual’s approach. The best way to keep Americans informed, it says, is “through the actions and words of individual soldiers.” And the best way to do that is through army units that “embed media personnel into the lowest tactical levels, ensuring their safety and security.” There is to be “a culture of engagement in which soldiers and leaders confidently and comfortably engage the  media – as well as other audiences,” the manual says.

Embedded reporting was probably the single most negative developments in modern press history. The main target of this opaque effort was not populations overseas, however, it was the American people themselves. What’s more incredible though, is that there are still many who believe that the illegal war and occupation of Iraq was some sort of resounding success. Of course, all this while Bradley Manning sits rotting a military prison cell for allegedly leaking information which the world already knew.

Likewise, Nazi propaganda chief Goebbels probably thought he was doing really well with his state information arm – for a while at least, until it collapsed under the weight of its own self-regarding nature.

Herein lies the ultimate problem with constructing such an iron bubble, who we are told, manages to burn through trillions of US dollars, and cannot even properly account for it….

The U.S. Army has embraced what civilians would call public relations as a key part of military operations for the 21st-century battlefield.

“Combat power is the total means of destructive, constructive and information capabilities that a military unit or formation can apply at a given time,” according to a new Army field manual released publicly last month.

Added to the traditional war elements — among them movement and maneuver, intelligence and firing against an enemy — is the new “Inform

and Influence Activities” (IIA). As the manual states, IIA “is critical to understanding, visualizing, describing, directing, assessing, and leading operations toward attaining the desired end state.”

I’ve written before about the military moving into PR. But this manual shows just how serious the Army has become about it. There’s now a member of a commander’s staff with a G-7 pay level whose job is for “planning, integration and synchronization of designated information-related capabilities,” the manual says.

Listed on the Web site of the 2nd Infantry Division in Korea is its assistant chief of staff, G-7, who is “responsible for planning, coordinating and synchronizing Information Engagements activities of Public Affairs, Military Information Support Operations, Combat Camera and Defense Support to Public Diplomacy to amplify the strong Korean-American alliance during armistice, combat and stability operations.”

The G-7 for the 3rd Infantry Division at Fort Stewart, Ga., “assesses how effectively the information themes and messages are reflected in operations . . . assesses the effectiveness of the media . . . [and] assesses how the information themes and messages impact various audiences of interest and populations in and outside the AO [area of operations].”

Two years ago, Lt. Gen. Robert L. Cashen Jr., commander of the Combined Arms Center at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas, wrote in Military Review magazine that Army doctrine would adopt words as a major war element, saying it “was validated in the crucible of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

With bureaucratic-speak, he described IIA activities as employing “cooperative, persuasive and coercive means to assist and support joint, interagency, intergovernmental, and multinational partners to protect and reassure populations and isolate and defeat enemies.”

Translated: Under the “inform” element, commanders will be responsible for keeping not only their own troops aware of what is going on and why, but also U.S. audiences “to the fullest extent possible,” the manual states. Commanders abroad will be required to inform their foreign audiences, balancing disclosure with protecting operations.

The “influence” part is limited to foreign populations, where, according to the manual, the goal is to get them to “support U.S. objectives or to persuade those audiences to stop supporting the adversary or enemy”…

What is happening in India right now encapsulates the current battle that is taking place across the globe, which will decide the future direction of humanity.

This country of 1.2 billion people is where modernity meets tradition head on. We are not just talking about ‘modernity’ in some kind of benign technocratic sense here, stripped of all political or ideological context; we are discussing a specific form, a variety that has little to do with progress or with making life easier for the bulk of the people, not unless that is you equate ‘modernity’ with increasing powerlessness, subjugation and the destruction of local traditions or economies.

The trouble is that ‘globalisation’ is too often confused with a beneficial notion of modernity and genuine mutual interdependence and cooperation between nation states, which in reality it clearly is not. Based on this deliberate misrepresentation by politicians and the mainstream media, we are encouraged to regard globalisation as a positive thing and to embrace it. Globalisation has come to India and is impacting all aspects of life. So let’s take a look at it in action.

Globalisation in India

Today, individualism, inequality and capitalism are increasingly being accepted as ultimate truths and as comprising a reality of how many view the world and evaluate others around them. Social and cultural traditions dating back thousands of years are being uprooted thanks to a redefining of the individual in relation to the collective, how people should live and what they should aspire to be like, ably assisted of course by an all pervasive advertising industry that reaches out even into the small towns and villages these days. Consumerism’s world view is being fed to people and corporate news organisations are following suit with sensationalist, celebrity-related infotainment formats that dovetail with celebrity-endorsed products and commercials as well as high profile events (like the corporate ad fest known as the Indian Premier League). The result is that this world view (and the social relations endorsed by it) is becoming regarded as ‘natural’ and is not viewed for the controlling culture it is: a hegemonic one that binds people to products and ultimately to capitalism and one that is immune to its own falsehoods.

Transnational companies are in effect trying to cast India in consumer capitalism’s own sordid image: a morally, socially and economically bankrupt one at that. Hand in hand with this is an ongoing civil war in the ‘tribal belt’ and other violent conflicts elsewhere in the country. Powerful foreign (and Indian) corporations with the full military backing of the Indian state are attempting to grab lands for various industries, including the resource extraction, nuclear and real estate sectors. It is for good reason that environmentalist Vandana Shiva argues that the plundering of Indian agriculture in order to cast it in the image of one that is beneficial for Western interests is resulting in a forced removal of farmers from the land and the destruction of traditional communities on a scale of which has not been witnessed anywhere before throughout history.

The ratio between the top and bottom ten per cents of wage distribution has doubled since the early 1990s, when India opened up it economy. According to the 2011 Organisation for Cooperation and Economic Development report ‘Divided we stand’, the doubling of income inequality over the last 20 years has madeIndiaone of the worst performers in the category of emerging economies. 42 per cent of 1.2 billion live on less than $1.25 per day, the highest number of poor in the world.

But these are the types of things that happen when US corporations and their stooges in the US government or at the IMF, World Bank, WTO or some other political machinery come beating at a government’s door with promises, bribes, threats or lop-sided deals. If you have read John Perkins’s book ‘Confessions of an economic hitman’, you will immediately get the point here. Moreover, the impulse for Western capitalism to seek out foreign markets has been heightened due the current plight of Western economies.

And don’t forget that it was these same corporate swindlers that helped destroy the post-1945 Keynesian consensus and tip the balance in favour of elite interests in the first place during the early 1970s, which eventually led to the depression of wages and therefore demand and thus economic crisis. The debt-inflated economies that resulted from the 1980s onwards could not be sustained, and places like India now seemingly represent rich pickings for a certain brand of slash and burn capitalism.

Call it ‘globalisation’ if you must, but let’s call it for what it really is: imperialism. In an effort to maintain profit margins, elite concerns are going abroad to plunder public assets and exploit human labour or trample on human life.

The worst thing is that it doesn’t have to be this way. Modernity and progress should be about improving quality of life of the masses and a wider sense of well-being or happiness. And, according to various ‘well-being’ surveys in recent years (Happy Planet Index, World Values Survey and the Human Development Index), the key to achieving such things may well lie in good health, decent education, greater levels of social equality and welfare provision, self-sustaining communities and people living within the limits set by the environment. It’s for a reason that the US and UK tend not to do so well in such surveys, as they have been the most strident proponents of economic neo-liberalism and empire in recent years. Once political leaders abdicate responsibility for organising a society in a way that works for the public good and place emphasis on ‘deregulation’ and cede power to ‘the market’ (aka giving the corporate thieves the keys to their home), what we are left with are places like the US where capitalism and oligarchy reign supreme and ‘socialism’ becomes a misused and abused concept and identified not as a realistic alternative, but as some awful conspiracy that lies behind the rot.

As India hangs onto the coat tails of Uncle Sam’s agenda for global hegemony, are we to sit back and watch Indian society being hollowed out in a similar way to that of the US? Possibly so, if we are to take the food and agriculture sector as a starting point.

The globalisation of food and agriculture in India

The government has already placed part of agriculture in the hands of powerful western agribusiness. You don’t have to look far to read the many reports and research papers to know the effects – biopiracy, patenting and seed monopolies, pesticides and the use of toxins leading to superweeds and superbugs, the destruction of local rural economies, water run offs from depleted soil leading to climate change and severe water resource depletion and contamination.

It is no exaggeration to state that foreign corporations are already shovelling their poison into the mouths of Indians, which are being held open courtesy of the compliant Indian state. ‘Mouths’ and ‘poison’ are being used in a literal sense here. Traditional agricultural practices and, by implication food, is being destroyed by Western agribusiness. People are becoming sick of it. Again, ‘sick’ is being used in a literal sense. From how food is produced, to what ends up on the plate, both food sovereignty and the health of the nation are under threat. Export-oriented policies that are part of the structural adjustment of Indian agriculture have led to a shift in India from the production of food crops to commodities for exports. Food is being increasingly controlled by the likes of Monsanto, Syngenta and their subsidiaries, thanks to the Knowledge Initiative on Agriculture which they had a direct hand in drawing up, and people are becoming ill due to the chemical inputs that are now a defining feature of modern agriculture and food processing.

One of the most revealing pieces about the impact of such chemical-based agriculture appeared in Bangalore’s Deccan Herald newspaper just last week (Transformation of a food bowl into a cancer epicentre). Gautam Dheer writes that the contamination of drinking water by pesticides is a major cause of cancer in India’s Punjabstate. At this point, although various other factors may also be to blame, it is worth noting that cancers are on the rise in many of India’s urban centres. For major organs, India has some of the highest incidence rates in the world. The links between pesticides and cancers and illnesses are well documented in Western countries (for instance, Dr Meryl Hammond, Campaign for Alternatives to Pesticides, told a Canadian parliament committee in 2009 that a raft of studies published in prestigious peer-reviewed journals point to strong associations between chemical pesticides and a vast range of serious life-threatening health consequences. And that’s not even mentioning the impact of hormones or other additives in our food).

India is one of the world’s largest users of pesticides. Ladyfinger, cabbage, tomato and cauliflower in particular may often contain dangerously high levels and fruits and vegetables are sprayed and tampered with to ripen and make them more colourful. Research by the School of Natural Sciences and Engineering at the National Institute of Advanced Studies in Bangalore reported in 2008 that many crops for export had been rejected internationally due to high pesticide residues.

Should we expect the health outcomes in India to be any different as it adopts or has already adopted a system of chemically dependent agriculture and food production? The mainstream media often cites the increasing prevalence of certain diseases as due to people ‘adopting Western lifestyles and habits’. The individualization of health issues (poor lifestyle choices) is a convenient explanation which diverts attention from structural issues, not least how India’s food and agriculture sector is being recast by Western corporations and the possible health impacts thereof.

In his piece, Gautam Dheer argues that Punjab stares at an inevitable crisis. Agriculture has become increasingly unsustainable, and the model practised by desperate debt-ridden farmers has only meant more indiscriminate use of pesticides, something which is now being linked to the alarmingly high incidents of cancer in Punjab. Gautam writes that a study of two districts in Punjab revealed the presence of pesticides such as heptachlor and chloropyrifos and other heavy metals in samples of drinking water and concluded that these had led to a higher incidence of cancer. The Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER) in Chandigarh states that the indiscriminate use of pesticides in crop production in Punjab is one of the reasons for high incidents of cancer in Punjab.

Moreover, Punjab’s ground water table has dramatically dipped due to over exploitation by chemical-dependent agriculture, which is by its very nature heavily water-intensive. In several places, the use of ground water has either been completely banned or restricted. Although Punjab pioneered the ‘Green Revolution’ (or perhaps because it did), the average annual growth of the GDP from agriculture and allied sectors in the last seven years for Punjab has remained at a mere 1.76 per cent, against the national average of 3.7 per cent. In fact, it plunged to below onr per cent in last fiscal year.

What’s the answer: more chemical inputs to try to boost yields? More water depletion, increased contamination?Punjab already has 90 cancer patients for every 100,000 of its population: ten times more than the national average. Giant community reverse-osmosis plants have come up in almost all districts of the state to help matters with safe drinking water

In Punjab, groundwater is continuously declining in 85 per cent of areas within the state. Nitrate presence in water has gone up by ten times in the past four decades. Of 138 hydrogeological blocks, over 100 are listed as dark or grey zones due to over-exploitation. Groundwater levels are going down by about 60 cm every year. As per official estimates, nearly 35,000 pumps have been going underground each year over the last four years.

Punjab has to find a quick solution for this form of agriculture that is not only unsustainable, but deathly too. Environmentalist Vandana Shiva argues that this type of intensive chemical-industrial agriculture, with its reliance on vast amounts of fresh water, fertilisers, pesticides and the like and is destroying biodiversity and is unsustainable in the long term. It might have increased production in the relative short term, but it has been at a terrible cost to health and the environment. The situation in Punjab could just be the tip of the iceberg.

For Shiva, the answer is to return to basics by encouraging biodiverse, organic, local crop systems, which she asserts is more than capable of feeding India’s huge population – and, unlike chemical intensive agriculture – feeding it healthily.

In the meantime, powerful politically-connected and often extremely unscrupulous Big Agra and Big Oil concerns involved in fertiliser, pesticide and seed manufacturing (and let’s not forget the genetically modified sector) have a lot invested in maintaining the current, highly profitable system. After all, the logic of global capitalism is to ensure profits for shareholders and thus grab increasing shares of markets wherever they may be and, as John Perkins notes, by all means necessary. An article in the journal Hortscience in 2009 by Donald R Davis (Declining fruit and vegetable composition: what is the evidence?) indicated falling nutritional values as a result of industrialised agriculture.

Should we be surprised? In a bankrupt system, nutritious, healthy, life-sustaining food or healthy environments are but secondary concerns.

America’s Sniper Fetish

February 7th, 2013 by Mickey Z

“Military men are just dumb, stupid animals to be used as pawns in foreign policy.”  Henry Kissinger

When the story broke about the Feb. 2 shooting death of former Navy SEAL and American Sniper author, Chris Kyle, we immediately learned that the 39-year-old wrote the Naval Special Warfare Sniper Doctrine, the first Navy SEAL sniper manual, and he “served four tours in Iraq and was awarded two Silver Stars, five Bronze Stars with Valor, two Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals, and one Navy and Marine Corps Commendation.”

We were also regaled with the “fact” that from 1999 to 2009, “Kyle recorded more than 150 sniper kills, the most in U.S. military history.”

“We have lost more than we can replace,” said Kyle’s American Sniper co-author, Scott McEwen. “Chris was a patriot, a great father, and a true supporter of this country and its ideals. This is a tragedy for all of us.”

Real tragedy for all of us: The reality that Kyle’s book was a New York Times best seller along with the widespread public celebration of 150 “kills” (surely a number conjured up for maximum propaganda impact) is business-as-usual in the home of the brave.

“A different breed of warrior”

The entire Chris Kyle episode brought me back to something I wrote nine years ago after reading a Jan. 2, 2004, New York Times article by Eric Schmitt, entitled “In Iraq’s Murky Battle, Snipers Offer U.S. a Precision Weapon.”

Consider Schmitt’s opening lines: “The intimate horror of the guerrilla war here in Iraq seems most vivid when seen through the sights of a sniper’s rifle. In an age of satellite-guided bombs dropped at featureless targets from 30,000 feet, Army snipers can see the expression on a man’s face when the bullet hits.”

Schmitt went on to quote an American sniper boasting: “I shot one guy in the head, and his head exploded. Usually, though, you just see a dust cloud pop up off their clothes, and see a little blood splatter come out the front.”

The newspaper of record also crowed about a sniper’s ability “to fell guerrilla gunmen and their leaders with a single shot from as far as half a mile away” all in the name of protecting “infantry patrols sweeping through urban streets and alleyways.”

“Soldiering is a violent business, and emotions in combat run high. But commanders say snipers are a different breed of warrior — quiet, unflappable marksmen who bring a dispassionate intensity to their deadly task,” Schmitt dutifully explained.

Let’s pause for a minute here to re-cap. The alleged liberal media ignored any mention of an illegal invasion and occupation while turning U.S. snipers into rifle-toting gods: “calm, methodical, and disciplined” men, we’re told, who undergo psychological screening “to make sure they’re not training a nut.”

Define “nut.”

“I’d shoot him, otherwise he’d shoot me”

Specialist Wilson told Schmitt that he tries not to see his Iraqi victims “as men with families and children” and a Sergeant Davis had this to say about the eight confirmed kills to his credit: “As soon as they picked up a weapon and tried to engage U.S. soldiers, they forfeited all their rights to life, is how I look at it.”

These men, I guess, are no more “nuts” than those who firebombed Dresden and Tokyo or those who piloted the Enola Gay or blew up Korean dams or napalmed Southeast Asia or used sand plows to cover Iraqi soldiers or fired depleted uranium shells in Yugoslavia or launch predator drones today.

The Times reassure us that “our” snipers are well-trained and have “honed the art of killing to a fine edge.” They always hit the right target, Schmitt promises us, soothingly.

“We don’t have civilian casualties,” a sniper explained when asked how he avoided hitting the Iraqi schoolchildren. “Everything you hit, you know exactly what it is. You know where every round is going.”

We can all sleep better tonight…

After fetishizing their weapons of choice and informing us that U.S. snipers often wrap condoms on the gun muzzle “to keep the sand out,” Schmitt offers some helpful context: “Most snipers are familiar with firearms even before joining the armed forces. Sergeant Davis and Specialist Wilson grew up on farms, and both owned their first rifles before they were 10. They fondly remember hunting deer as youngsters.”

You gotta love his use of the word fondly to soften the image of frightened animals being stalked and murdered by human children.

In the classic liberal media tradition of asking the tough questions, Schmitt concludes with this one: “Would they ever shoot a child who aimed at them?”

Specialist Wilson, a father of five, hesitated before replying. “I couldn’t imagine that,” he said. Davis saw things differently: “I’d shoot him, otherwise he’d shoot me.”

However, before you lose any sleep over any potential “nuts” running around spending our tax dollars exploding the heads of brown-skinned children, Davis did offer this caveat (which Schmitt’s editor tellingly chose as the article’s closing line): “But I wouldn’t feel good about it.”

This neatly transitions us back to the violent death of Chris Kyle who, since leaving the service, had been running an organization ostensibly designed to help ex-enlistees with post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD).

Counter-recruitment is the best “support”
According to a 2008 RAND study, up to 20 percent of U.S. soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from PTSD.

Eddie Ray Routh, the 25-year-old accused killer, is “a former Marine said to suffer from post-traumatic stress syndrome.” He is a veteran, we’re told, “who served in Iraq and Haiti and who police say may have been suffering from some type of mental illness from being in the military.”

Apparently Kyle and his friend Chad Littlefield had taken Routh to a shooting range “to aid his recovery.”

WTF?

I’d suggest our (sic) troops don’t need day trips to the shooting range; they need more information about what “serving their country” really means.

Sniper worship, yellow ribbons, flag-waving, repressive laws, peer pressure, and loud chants of “USA” don’t qualify as support but do qualify as self-policed obedience orchestrated by a corporate-dominated state. Ultimately, however, it’s not an issue of “support” but rather, learning to resist the relentless conditioning.

We grow up watching war movies and playing with guns. We’re surrounded by war memorials and war monuments, and are taught to obey and fear those in uniform. We witness the demonizing of those who oppose war.

Our (sic) media is overrun with militaristic fervor. Our (sic) tax dollars finance war and pro-war propaganda. Our (sic) government passes laws designed to thwart dissent.

As I’ve said before: The U.S. Department of Defense (sic) is the most violent institution on the planet and that includes its status as the planet’s worst polluter. Paid volunteers are nothing more than willing accomplices to the continuing carnage.

If we want a culture without sniper scorecards and without manipulated soldiers sent home with PTSD (and worse), we must rediscover the subversive pleasure of critical thought… and help others to do the same.

We must create and cultivate alternative visions. We must get busy with counter-recruitment. Now.

NYC Event Note: Mickey Z. will be part of a Feb. 9 panel called: “Game Over For the Environment: Keystone XL, Spectra and Direct Action.”

Mickey Z. is the author of 11 books, most recently the novel Darker Shade of Green. Until the laws are changed or the power runs out, he can be found on an obscure website called Facebook.

With its air strikes against targets inside Syria last week, Israel announced its formal entry into the Syrian crisis.  The Israeli targeting of Iran has thus entered the Syrian theater.

According to McClatchy, the Israeli strikes on January 30 targeted anti-aircraft missiles at a military base outside of Damascus.  The missiles, according to Israeli intelligence sources, were headed for Hezbollah in Lebanon.

“Israel relies heavily on the strength of our air force, and its strategic deterrence,” an Israeli official explained to McClatchy. “Weapons systems that make our air force vulnerable will not be allowed to fall into the hands of terrorist groups.”

Accordingly, Washington reacted to the Israeli assault by sternly warning Damascus.  “Syria,” White House deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes warned, “should not further destabilize the region by transferring weaponry to Hezbollah.”

Washington, in other words, views any effort to curb Israel’s freedom to fly sorties when and where it fancies as a threat to regional stability.  Of course, “stability” in the Washington lexicon is used to connote unmatched Western military superiority.  (Thus, NATO Patriot batteries deployed along the Turkey-Syria border are championed as a means to “deescalate tensions.”)

With such “stability” in mind, Time reports that Washington has given a “green light” to Israel to carry out yet further strikes.  And blessed with such carte blanche, Israel is already planning an escalated level of intervention.

According to a report in the Times of London, “Israel is considering creating a buffer zone reaching up to 10 miles inside Syria.”  And to this end, Israel has now reportedly dispatched its third Iron Dome anti-rocket battery to its northern border.  As an Israeli military planner went on to tell the Times, “If the country [Syria] remains unstable we might have to stay there for years.”

Meanwhile, the right-wing Debkafile reports that “the Israeli Air Force has in recent days thrown a round-the-clock blanket over the [Syria-Lebanon] border area.”

“Without going through any formalities,” Debka continues, “Israel has thus effectively imposed a no-fly regime over a buffer zone straddling the Syrian-Lebanese border and placed it under the control of its air force.”

The Israeli strike inside Syria was thus clearly not an isolated affair, but a prelude to a deepening Israeli intervention long in the making.

Confronting Iran via the Third Option

In a February 2012 New York Times op-ed, former Mossad chief Efraim Halevy argued that beyond punitive sanctions and military confrontation, the crisis in Syria created a third option “to rid the world of the Iranian menace.”

“Ensuring that Iran is evicted from its regional hub in Damascus would cut off Iran’s access to its proxies (Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza) and visibly dent its domestic and international prestige, possibly forcing a hemorrhaging regime in Tehran to suspend its nuclear policies,” Halevy argued.  “This would be a safer and more rewarding option than the military one.”

“Once this is achieved,” Halevy continued, “the entire balance of forces in the region would undergo a sea change. Iranian-sponsored terrorism would be visibly contained; Hezbollah would lose its vital Syrian conduit to Iran and Lebanon could revert to long-forgotten normalcy; Hamas fighters in Gaza would have to contemplate a future without Iranian weaponry and training; and the Iranian people might once again rise up against the regime that has brought them such pain and suffering.”

Such notions of a “new Middle East” amenable to the interests of Tel Aviv and Washington have long held an allure for Western planners.  In fact, nearly seven years have now passed since Israel’s 2006 invasion of Lebanon was cheered by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice as “the birth pangs of a new Middle East.”

It’s little surprise, then, that the dream of forging a new Middle East through the destruction of Syria has come to be championed by the U.S. neo-con crowd.  But the hope of using the crisis in Syria to boot Iran from the Arab world more generally is widely shared.  Indeed, the marginally more sober have begun to warm to the idea of intervention into Syria as a means to purge the “Iranian menace.”

“An inflection point has been reached,” the New York Times’ Roger Cohen argues in his latest column.  “Inaction spurs the progressive radicalization of Syria, the further disintegration of the state, the intensification of Assad’s mass killings, and the chances of the conflict spilling out of Syria in sectarian mayhem. It squanders an opportunity to weaken Iran. This is not in the West’s interest.”

“It is time to alter the Syrian balance of power enough to give political compromise a chance and Assad no option but departure,” Cohen continues.  “That means an aggressive program to train and arm the Free Syrian Army. It also means [Senator John] McCain’s call to use U.S. cruise missiles to destroy Assad’s aircraft on the runway is daily more persuasive.”

But it really doesn’t take much persuasion to convince U.S. elites it’s time to fire off another cruise missile.  After all, “rocket and bomb diplomacy” has become American foreign policy orthodoxy.

Stoking the Inferno or Seeking an End Game?

American dreams of cruise missile justice notwithstanding, Israel’s entry into Syria indeed appears as an inflection point.  But why, we must ask, did Tel Aviv chose now to insert itself into the crisis?

As Nicola Nasser notes, the Israeli raid “coincided with hard to refute indications that the ‘regime change’ in Syria by force, both by foreign military intervention and by internal armed rebellion, has failed, driving the Syrian opposition in exile to opt unwillingly for “negotiations” with the ruling regime.”

In fact, it was the very day the exiled Syrian opposition first hinted at an openness to dialogue that Israeli jets were sent to strafe the outskirts of Damascus.  But then again, stoking the Syrian inferno is widely held in Tel Aviv as favorable to Israeli interests.

As former Israeli Military Intelligence chief Maj. Gen. Amos Yadlin explained on Monday, “The most significant army along our borders, the Syrian army, which is an advanced army with a very large arsenal of long-range missiles and rockets and with Russian-made air defenses that are among the most advanced in the world, is wearing itself down. Its operational capability to act against Israel declines every week that goes by.”

“This is a positive development both from the military aspect, but also from the political aspect,” Yadlin continued. “The radical anti-Israel axis that goes through Tehran, Damascus, Beirut, and Gaza is falling apart.”

Alon Liel, the former director general of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, offered much the same analysis in a weekend appearance on Al Jazeera English.

“For Israel,” Liel argued, “the weakening of Syria as a result of this war is of strategic importance because Syria is quite an enemy of Israel.  And the internal battle is also removing the issue of withdrawing from the Golan Heights from the agenda.”

Whether Israel’s formal intervention into Syria is thus meant to fan the flames, or whether it is instead intended to hasten an end game, remains uncertain.  At the moment, though, it certainly appears Tel Aviv is quite content with letting Syria burn.

But whatever the case may be, Israel’s ultimate aim is quite clear.  As Halevy argued, “if Mr. Assad goes, Iranian hegemony over Syria must go with him. Anything less would rob Mr. Assad’s departure of any significance.”

Yet as planners in Tel Aviv and Washington seek to impart such significance, a growing Iranian foothold in the Arab world continues outside the purview of imperial diktats.

A Resilient Menace

The arrival of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad in Cairo on Tuesday – the first Iranian leader to touch down in Cairo since the Islamic revolution in 1979 – offers just the latest evidence of Tehran’s growing regional stature.  Cause, of course, for great distress in Washington.

“While the Egypt’s relations with Iran remains limited,”  the New York Times noted “the scene on the tarmac at the Cairo Airport on Tuesday — Egypt’s new president, Mohamed Morsi, greeting Mr. Ahmedinejad warmly in a red-carpet ceremony — would have been unimaginable under Mr. Mubarak, and seemed likely to alarm the Obama administration.”

Tuesday’s historic meeting in Cairo follows on the heels of Morsi’s visit to Tehran in August for the Sixteenth Summit of Non-Aligned Movement.  At the time, Morsi was widely condemned in both Washington and Tel Aviv for, as Times columnist Thomas Friedman wrote, taking such a “wrong turn.”

Morsi’s continued “wrong turn,” needless to say, bodes ill for those seeking to sever Tehran presence in Syria.  For as Morsi declared Tuesday, “I believe that the Syrian problem could not be resolved without Iran and Iran’s efforts in this regard are prioritized.”

“We have no doubt that Iran is sincerely endeavoring to resolve the problems in Syria and other nations,” Morsi added, “Hence, we stress cooperation with Iran in this field.”

It appears expunging the “Iranian menace,” then, will require more than an Israeli triumph on a Syrian battlefield.  For rather than being crippled, the menace appears ever more resilient.  Hence the purported danger is said to remain acute.

Speaking with the Wall Street Journal, outgoing U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta recently accused Iran of “an intensified campaign to destabilize the Middle East.”  And as a result, the Journal report continued, “the U.S. is stepping up efforts to counter the Iranian threat.”

Such efforts will no doubt come to dominate the itinerary of President Obama’s spring visit to Israel.  As the New York Times reports, “on the agenda this trip will be Iran and the continuing strife in Syria that threatens to descend into a wider regional conflict.”

The prime minister and president have much to discuss; for though a new Middle East may indeed be on offer, the imperial vise is loosening ever so slightly.  “Stability” is clearly threatened.
Ben Schreiner is a freelance writer based in Wisconsin.  He may be reached at [email protected] or via his website.

Chris Kyle, Navy Seal in Iraq: “American Sniper” Gets Sniped

February 7th, 2013 by Margaret Kimberley

One of the ways in which humans wrestle with the existence of evil is by hoping that the evil doer gets his or her just desserts.

This hope is expressed with expressions such as “what goes around comes around” or “you reap what you sow.”

Despite all of this wishful thinking, it is rare for cosmic justice to be served as completely as it was in the case of the late Chris Kyle. Kyle was a Navy SEAL sniper in Iraq who served five tours of duty and by his own estimate killed 150 people. This week Kyle was himself shot to death and by another veteran no less.

Kyle should have lived in ignominy for taking so many lives, but instead he was decorated with medals and became a celebrity as a result of what should have been prosecuted crimes. Kyle wrote a best selling book, American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in American History. He had a starring role in a NBC reality show, Stars Earn Stripes, a disgraceful ode to militarism and empire. He and another veteran met their end in an ill-advised effort to treat a former marine suffering from PTSD. Kyle was good at killing but he wasn’t much of a mental health professional. He used a shooting range as a venue to treat other vets having difficulty adjusting to civilian life. Let’s just say it didn’t work out very well.

The United States government committed a terrible crime when it invaded Iraq nearly ten years ago. Estimates of the number of Iraqis killed range from 150,000 to over 1 million. Like human beings throughout human history, Iraqis didn’t take kindly to being occupied and they fought back as best they could. The media may call them terrorists or insurgents, but Iraqis have as much right to defend themselves and their country as anyone else in the world and Kyle had no right to kill any of them.

Obviously he didn’t see it that way. He felt justified and quite moral in killing so many people and he did it in typical American fashion. In a Fox news interview, Kyle declared that Iraqis were not really human beings and thus had lost any right to stay alive.

“I considered the people I was killing to be savages because of the violence they committed against American troops, the beheadings, the rapes of innocent villagers. They lived by putting fear into other people’s hearts and civilized people don’t act that way. I wasn’t so much committed to killing them as I was committed to making sure that every service member over there, whether American or allied, came home – I was killing them to protect my fellow Americans. You have to get into the mentality and you can not think of them as human beings.”

Don’t think of them as human beings. That is the long standing clarion call of white supremacy, manifest destiny and imperial delusion. America has long accepted decidedly uncivilized behavior as being morally superior, even when it obviously isn’t.

American troops were guilty of raping their fellow soldiers and Iraqi prisoners and other civilians too. As for beheadings it should be pointed out that humans are decapitated by bombs and bullets. All of the allegations Kyle made against Iraqis can be laid at America’s door step too. Civilization is definitely in the eye of the beholder.

The people who plan the wars don’t suffer.

George W. Bush and Tony Blair went on to make millions of dollars giving corporate speeches and Blair even has the gall to present himself as a religious leader of sorts.

The Iraqi victims and the soldiers maimed or killed or suffering from PTSD pay the real price for the wrong doing planned from on high.

Kyle is survived by a wife and young children who are no doubt grieving, but the same is surely true of his 150 victims. They left family behind. Children are fatherless or motherless or homeless because of the “civilized” United States. It is tragic for all of these people to have suffered so much but until they can be seen as civilized human beings, there will be no end to American slaughter.

Margaret Kimberley’s Freedom Rider column appears weekly in BAR, and is widely reprinted elsewhere. She maintains a frequently updated blog as well as at http://freedomrider.blogspot.com. Ms. Kimberley lives in New York City, and can be reached via e-Mail at Margaret.Kimberley(at)BlackAgendaReport.com

Cambodia and America’s “Killing Fields”

February 6th, 2013 by Kieran Kelly

For John Kerry the incoming Secretary of State, the bombing of Cambodia by the US was illegal. But, even as Kerry reaffirms his condemnation of US actions in Cambodia, it comes to light that in June his colleagues in the Senate Judiciary and Intelligence committees were issued a white paper from the Department of Justice which claimed US intervention in Cambodia as being a legal precedent for the administrations use of targeted killings using drone strikes. In fact, “legal precedent” might be too strong a term, because what is actually cited is an address given by legal counsel to the State Department to a legal forum.

Yes, they are using a speech rather than an adjudication as a claim of precedence, much as one might in some future time quote John Yoo as the legal precedent for a systematic programme of child torture by testicular crushing. On the other hand, the carpet bombing of Cambodia was one of the most brutal and notorious war crimes of the post-WWII era and not only has no one been prosecuted for the crime, but the principle perpetrator was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize a few years later – perhaps this is exactly the sort of precedent that the Obama administration looks towards.

With all of that in mind, it is worth revisiting exactly what the US did to the people of Cambodia. Then we can understand exactly what sort of moral precedent applies here – the sort that would make almost any organised crime boss, or terrorist, or psychopathic serial killer blanch with horrified disgust. If you think I’m exaggerating, read on.

In 2007 Barack Obama said:

“The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.”

In questioning John Kerry about Obama’s departure from that principle in Libya, Rand Paul elicited from Kerry, a reaffirmation that he, Kerry, still believed that the bombing of Cambodia was illegal. One might wonder, then, whether Obama’s new Secretary of State is going to oppose his famous “drone” assassination programme. I broach the subject because the Department of Justice rationalised the use of deadly force in other sovereign territories citing Cambodia as a precedent. This is an excerpt from their recently released White paper:

The Department has not found any authority for the proposition that when one of the parties to an armed conflict plans and executes operations from a base in a new nation, an operation to engage the enemy in that location cannot be part of the original armed conflict, and thus subject to the laws of war governing that conflict, unless the hostilities become sufficiently intense and protracted in the new location. That does not appear to be the rule of the historical practice, for instance, even in a traditional international conflict. See John R. Stevenson, Legal Adviser, Department of State, United States Military Action in Cambodia: Questions of International Law, Address before the Hammarskjold Forum of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York (May 28,1970)…, (arguing that in an international armed conflict, if a neutral state has been unable for any reason to prevent violations of its neutrality by the troops of one belligerent using its territory as a base of operations, the other belligerent has historically been justified in attacking those enemy forces in that state).

Now, let me start off by saying something absolutely clearly. The idea that the US can legally engage in a programme of assassinations using hellfire missiles fired from unmanned aerial vehicles is a patent falsehood – a complete joke – a non-starter – a parody – a stupid idea that no one should take seriously. A single ad hoc emergency strike might be justified as self-defence under Article 51 of the UN Charter, but a programme cannot be as self-defence because, under the charter, it can only be applied to imminent threats. This aspect of law isn’t rocket science, nor hidden within some mystical realm of legalese. The standard legal textbook dealing with this subject is Yoram Dinstein’s, War, Aggression and Self-Defense, now in its 4th edition. It is a pretty straightforward book (and I’m no lawyer) and on this particular subject it is so unequivocal that it is impossible that any superior authority might find some crucial flaw which would invalidate Dinstein. The reason it is so unequivocal is that the US arguments have already been ruled against by no lesser body than the International Court of Justice. The reason for this is that the US has already deployed almost the exact same reasoning to justify its actions against Nicaragua.

On Nicaragua v. United States of America, the ICJ ruled “By twelve votes to three, Rejects the justification of collective self-defence maintained by the United States of America in connection with the military and paramilitary activities in and against Nicaragua the subject of this case; …. By twelve votes to three, Decides that the United States of America, by training, arming, equipping, financing and supplying the contra forces or otherwise encouraging, supporting and aiding military and paramilitary activities in and against Nicaragua, has acted, against the Republic of Nicaragua, in breach of its obligation under customary international law not to intervene in the affairs of another State….” And goes on to add other grounds of violation, including a similar finding against the US mining of Nicaragua’s main port. Dinstein explores the US self-defence claims and notes that although self-defence was ruled out on other grounds this did not prevent judges from further noting that the three requisite conditions of immediacy, necessity, and proportionality were also unsustainable.1

In the Nicaragua case, as now, the US argued that conditions of immediacy, necessity and proportionality were met, but then, as now, these are just empty words disproved by the simplest of geographical facts. Such claims are even further disproved by publicly available details of the US assassination programme, such as the use of “signature strikes” and the use of “double tap” follow up strikes. These practices demolish self-defence arguments even as they raise further questions about breaches of International Humanitarian Law (such as the Fourth Geneva Convention (1949)) and International Human Rights Law (such as Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which affirms “the right to life, liberty and security of person”).

So, how much does citing US actions in Cambodia strengthen the feeble claims of legal rationale for drone strikes? I would say somewhat less than not at all, partly because US military actions in Cambodia were clearly not legal and partly because they too failed the test of self-defence (hence arguably being crimes against the peace) but they were also gross breaches of International Humanitarian Law, and should be classified as genocide – which is considered an “aggravated crime against humanity”.

When people think of genocide and Cambodia, they tend to think of the Khmer Rouge, and the “Killing Fields”; of their evidently insane Democratic Kampuchea regime which began its “Year Zero” in 1975. But a Finnish Inquiry Commission designated the years 1969 to 1975 in Cambodia (a time of massive aerial bombardment by the US and of bitter civil war wholly sustained by the US) as Phase 1 of the ‘Decade of Genocide’.2Estimates of Cambodian deaths resulting from the 1969-75 war range from Vickery’s 500,000 killed3 to a credible 1 million excess deaths estimated by Sorpong Peou.4 Given that the Cambodian population was an estimated 6 or 7 million in the period of the Second Indochina War, this gives us a figure of between 1 in 6 and 1 in 14 of all Cambodians killed.

US actions inside Cambodian borders began years before the devastating carpet bombing. The US ‘Studies and Operations Group’ conducted attacks with US Special Forces personnel in Cambodia throughout the 1960s. In 1967 these were institutionalised as “Salem House” (later known as “Daniel Boone”). This programme was kept secret from the US congress and conducted a total of 1,835 missions. Their primary activity appears to have been the laying of “sanitized self-destruct antipersonnel” mines anywhere up to 30 kilometres beyond the border. Their supposed mission was intelligence gathering, but throughout the whole programme they only captured 24 prisoners.5 The Special Forces troops usually disguised themselves as Vietnamese PLAF fighters and sometimes murdered civilians in false-flag operations.6

In 1970 Sihanouk was overthrown by General Lon Nol7 and Prince Sirik Matak with tacit support from Washington and probable assistance by the CIA. Washington recognised the new regime within hours.8 So fast was recognition of Lon Nol’s government that it must have precluded any possibility that the changes on the ground were being assessed, which strongly suggests that the US must have had detailed foreknowledge in order to have any confidence in its judgement. Sihanouk’s overthrow made civil war unavoidable.

In 1969, before the above events, the US began bombing Cambodia in what was known as “Operation Menu”. From Saigon, US General Creighton Abrams insisted that he had “hard evidence” that the Central Office for South Vietnam headquarters (COSVN HQ) had been located in the “Fish Hook” salient of Cambodia.9 The problem was that no such place ever existed, though for years the US had mounted operations to crush it when they claimed it was located in South Vietnam.10 Once under way, Operation Menu spread to other areas. Despite the carpet bombing of area supposed to contain COVSN HQ, in April 1970 Abrams claimed that the headquarters still existed as a fortified underground bunker with 5000 personnel.11 In May US and RVN forces invaded Cambodia, the action justified in part as an attempt, yet again, to wipe out the COVSN HQ “which had become the Holy Grail of the American war”.12 The US/RVN invasion simply, and predictably, drove communist forces deeper into Cambodia.13
It is a known and predictable effect

that the killing of civilians drives people to take up arms, it is a “counterproductive” counter-insurgency tactic which actually strengthens the enemy.14 It is worth remembering that the famous maverick US Army officer John Paul Vann made the same observation in 1962.15One of the most striking examples of generating an enemy by killing civilians, is what occurred in Cambodia from 1969 onwards. Ben Kiernan repeatedly cites evidence in numerous consecutive instances that US/RVN aerial bombardment strengthened the Khmer Rouge insurgency, and, more specifically the anti-Vietnamese faction of the Khmer Rouge under Pol Pot.16 In 1969, the Khmer Rouge consisted of perhaps 4000 – an ultimately unthreatening insurgency.

By the end of 1972, they were able, with DRV logistical support, to “hold their own” against Lon Nol’s armed forces, which, at US instigation, had been enlarged to between 132,000 and 176,000 (not counting “ghost” soldiers, who existed only on the books of the corrupt officers who collected their pay) and had massive US/RVN air support.17 In William Shawcross’s words, “the new war was creating enemies where none previously existed”18 and by this stage, Lon Nol’s regime was already reduced to the control of shrinking and fragmenting enclaves.19

When the the US generated a war in Cambodia they had already had a great deal of experience in Vietnam and Laos, and what occurred in Cambodia is, in many ways, a naked exposure of the logic behind the genocidal war system, less obfuscated because, ironically, Cambodia was a “sideshow” where it was not the details but the whole war which was kept obscure from the public.

Within a year of Lon Nol’s coup, as mentioned, the economy of Cambodia was virtually destroyed, not only by bombing, but also by US aid. Aid was channelled to the import of commodities and surplus US agricultural goods. It also underwrote the Cambodian government and armed forces: “By the end of 1970, the government was spending five times its revenue and earning nothing abroad.”20 Most of the population became reliant on US aid to eat, and rice supplies were kept at the minimum level needed to prevent food riots. By 1975, malnutrition was widespread and many children starved to death.21

Going back in time to 1970, less than two months after the coup that brought Lon Nol to power, the US invaded Cambodia, along with ARVN forces. They did not bother to forewarn Lon Nol who found out after Richard Nixon had announced the invasion publicly.22 This invasion along US and RVN bombing and the civil war made refugees of around half of the Cambodian population.23Lon Nol was outraged by the invasion and when later briefed by Alexander Haig (then military assistant to Kissinger) about US intentions he wept with frustration. According to Shawcross,

“He wished that the Americans had blocked the communists’ escape route before attacking, instead of spreading them across Cambodia. … The Cambodian leader told Haig that there was no way his small force could stop them. … [Haig] informed Lon Nol that President Nixon intended to limit the involvement of American forces…. They would be withdrawn at the end of June. The the President hoped to introduce a program of restricted military and economic aid. As the implications of Haig’s words for the future of Cambodia became clear to Lon Nol, he began to weep. Cambodia, he said, could never defend itself.”24

As has been detailed, US actions, particularly in bombing, were directly responsible for creating the communist enemy which overthrew Lon Nol. The bombing between 1969 and 1973 took up to 150,000 lives.25 If averaged out, over 33 tons of ordnance were used to kill each Khmer Rouge insurgent.26 Despite the fact that Vietnamese pilots bombed any Cambodian they could, which aided only the Khmer Rouge, Lon Nol acceded to a US demand that he request an increase in VNAF bombing in 1971.27 By May 1972, the Lon Nol regime had control of perhaps 10 per cent of the country and continued to lose territory which was thereafter fragmented into ever smaller enclaves.28 The result was by that stage foregone, and yet the war dragged on for three years with the greater part of the 1 million deaths occurring after that point.

In 1970, when Henry Kissinger briefed Jonathan “Fred” Ladd, who was slated to conduct the war in Cambodia, he told him, “Don’t even think of victory; just keep it alive.”29 The point of the US bombing was not to win a military victory – it was to destroy Cambodia as part of an Indochina “exit strategy” – and that is a clear instance of genocide under the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. When the US Congress finally blocked aid to Cambodia and South Vietnam, it was with the belated realisation that such aid would not give any hope of victory or improve a bargaining position. Senator Mike Mansfield spoke out, “Ultimately Cambodia cannot survive…. Additional aid means more killing, more fighting. This has got to stop sometime.”30

So that was the end of the US involvement in Cambodia, and their legal culpability. The Khmer Rouge took over Phnom Penh, and the refugees were shocked to see that the black-clad cadres were mostly young teens, fanatical and brutalised by half a young lifetime of fighting and death. The US was not responsible for the fantasies of the Pol Pot clique, who believed that supernatural amounts of food could be produced without recourse to machine power, nor for their refusal to accept aid.

But the US had deliberately brought the Cambodian population to the brink of starvation – destroying farmland and driving peasants off the land. Perhaps 500,000 or more died of starvation. Hundreds of thousands were executed for political or ideological reasons, murdered by the Khmer Rouge who the US had largely brought into existence. And when the Vietnamese put the regime to an end (and despite what you may read about this being justifiable as “humanitarian intervention” it was in fact legitimate self-defence – if you don’t believe me you can read about Khmer Rouge foreign policy, border attacks, and espoused official desire to exterminate all Vietnamese) when the Khmer Rouge were supplanted, the US insisted that they retain a seat at the UN and started giving aid to their guerilla forces.

So, do I think that the Cambodia precedent is a good one to justify an assassination programme? No, I do not. But then again I am not from the US, and perhaps I am failing to grasp the subtle point that next to no “Americans” died in Cambodia (none that were officially acknowledged) therefore it did not happen. I don’t want to think ill about people in the US, but it gets a little hard to distinguish the people from the regime when every time the drone programme is discussed, there is an emphasis (small or large) on the targeting of “US citizens”.

And, occasionally the prospect of attacks on “US soil” is mentioned with tones of urgently whispered horror. There is no reason, except to critique the mainstream discourse, that you should ever need to use the phrase “US citizen” with regard to a programme based on killing people, because they are all human beings. 5 US citizens have been killed by US drone strikes while thousands of citizens of other states have. Why, then, should there be any reference to “US citizens”, when killing foreigners by drone is blatantly illegal? Not only do you instantly abrogate any moral standing you might have by implying a hierarchy of worth, but psychologically you set yourself and others up for being mollified by cosmetic measures offered to guarantee the rights of US citizens while retaining the right to kill foreigners at will. Do you really believe that being a US citizen or being born in Denver makes someone more human?

Kieran Kelly blogs at On Genocide.

Notes

1 Yoram Dinstein, War, Aggression and Self-Defence (3rd ed.), Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001, pp 184-5.

2 Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky, Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media. London: Vintage, 1994 (1988), p 260.

3 Ibid, p 263.

4 Sorpong Peou, Intervention & Change in Cambodia: Towards Democracy? Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 2000, p 54.

5 Ibid, pp 64-5.

6 Ben Kiernan, The Pol Pot Regime: Race, Power, and Genocide in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1996, p 18.

7 The US had developed ties with Lon Nol in the 1950s and by 1970, according to CIA officer Frank Snepp, he was one of two candidates being groomed by the CIA to take Sihanouk’s place (William Shawcross, Sideshow: Kissinger, Nixon and the Destruction of Cambodia. London: Fontana, 1980 (1979), pp 114-5).

8 Ibid, pp 114-23; William Blum, Killing Hope: U.S. Military and C.I.A. Interventions Since World War II (2nd ed.), Monroe: Common Courage Press, 2004, pp 137-8; Peou, Intervention & Change in Cambodia, pp 125-6.

9 Shawcross, Sideshow, p 19.

10 Marilyn Young, The Vietnam Wars 1945-1990, New York: Harper Perennial, 1991, pp 72, 186; Tucker, Vietnam, p 129; Turley, The Second Indochina War, pp 79-80.

11 Shawcross, Sideshow, p 140.

12 Young, The Vietnam Wars, p 245.

13 Shawcross, 1979, p 151.

14 David Keen, Endless War? Hidden functions of the ‘War on Terror’. London, Ann Arbor: Pluto Press, 2006, pp 58-61.

15 Neil Sheehan, A Bright Shining Lie: John Paul Vann and America in Vietnam (New York: Vintage 1989 (1988), p pp 106-111.

16 Kiernan, The Pol Pot Regime, pp 19-23. Also see Peou, Intervention & Change in Cambodia, p 128.

17 Shawcross, Sideshow, pp 73, 180, 194-5, 261.

18 Ibid, p 249.

19 Ibid, p 254.

20 Ibid, p 220.

21 Ibid, p 317-9.

22 Ibid, p 149.

23 Peou, Intervention & Change in Cambodia , p 127.

24 Shawcross, Sideshow, p 163.

25 Kiernan, The Pol Pot Regime, p 24.

26 Ibid, p 19.

27 Shawcross, Sideshow, p 186.

28 Ibid, pp 254-5.

29 Ibid, p 169.

30 Nigel Cawthorne, Vietnam: A War Lost and Won. London: Arcturus Publishing, 2003, p 213.

Sweden Member Of NATO In All But Name

February 6th, 2013 by John Robles

A scandal has erupted in Sweden after the Swedish Armed Forces chief, Sverker Göranson, said that his country wouldn’t last even two days against Russia, in an attempt to spur Sweden’s NATO entry. Swedish Prosecution has accused the General of divulging state secrets. The number of Swedes backing NATO entry has been declining ever since Gen. Göranson told the local Svenska Dagbladet daily that Sweden had never been armed well enough to stand against the Soviet Union or Russia on its own. He stressed that in case of a Russian threat Stockholm would require the help of NATO or America. The General pointed out that Swedish politicians were standing in the way of the country’s militarization.

To add substance to his warning, Gen. Göranson reminded the journalist about the 2008 Russian-Georgian war, which allegedly proved that European borders could be changed as a result of a military attack. The Commander also drew attention to Russia’s beefing up its Army under President Vladimir Putin, although he stressed that such an attack on Sweden was very unlikely.


Interview: Sweden Member Of NATO In All But Name

Voice of Russia

February 5, 2013

In part 2 of an interview with the Voice of Russia, Agneta Norberg, Vice Chair of the Swedish Peace Council, Member of Steering Committee of the International Peace Bureau and a member of the board of directors of Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space discusses the facts surrounding Sweden’s non-neutrality and the country’ s involvement in NATO and Western military expansion. Ms. Norberg gives her views on drones which she calls “murder machines” and the development and testing of drones in Sweden, including a new drone being developed in a joint European project.

Part 1 of the interview:

http://english. ruvr.ru/2013_ 01_30/Militariza tion-of-the- Arctic-We- have-to-rethink- how-war-is- fought-Nordberg/

Robles: How does Sweden officially explain that they allow these installations? And do you think all these maneuvers are designed to intimidate Russia or to try to exercise sovereignty on the Arctic?

Norberg: Well, when we drift to the Arctic, I think there are two things going on here. When they are interviewed, those who are in charge of these maneuvers, they always answer that this is for the Arctic, they openly express this – these maneuvers are for the Arctic and the resources which will be available when the ice is melting.

But the NATO maneuvers are so seldom covered in the news, in media, specifically not here in the south – I live in Stockholm; up in the north, in the local newspapers they are covered rather extensively. And they used to send quotes from the newspapers for me, otherwise I wouldn’t have known of it, because the media don’t cover it in the south, in Stockholm, where most of the people live.

So, it is sort of secretly hidden from the public to understand what is really going on. But when they are asked, they say: this is for the Arctic.

And also one thing I think you’ve mentioned is that Sweden is neutral. Forget that! We are not neutral! We have for long ago abolished neutrality. We are not non-aligned; we are nothing, because we are openly conducting war games with NATO.

But there is one difficulty, because the people in Sweden and in Finland are against. It is only about 19% of the Swedish population that accept NATO; the others don’t. So, they have that problem here.

But I can see the lust, how they try to form an enemy out of Russia, and you should understand this: how Russia now is demonized, again. And I’m so old, so I remember how they were demonizing the former Soviet Union, always, and almost on a daily basis. And now we are there again.

So, we have here in one of the latest (Names Swedish newspaper in Swedish) a picture of Putin and Russia is arming, here, and how the Russian bear now starts showing its muscles. So, at the same time, as you have these military maneuvers and military flexing of muscles, you seldom get information to the public here.

I was speaking in Norway last summer and they didn’t know about these things. I’m very often on speaking tours in the north. I was in Finland last autumn and they didn’t know about these military maneuvers either. They were really shocked when I told them.

So, here we are again, from the Cold War days, gradually Russia is the threat. And when I talk to Russian people they are not aware of this. It is like when I was travelling in the former Soviet Union, they were not aware of how you were depicted and described as a big, big threat. And I think we are there again, hiding what NATO is doing in our country and in the north, and describing the threat of Russia coming. There we are again.

Robles: Would you say it is worse than it was in the Soviet times?

Norberg: It is about the same now. We are at square one, we are back in the Cold War sentiment in a way. But it is even worse now because during the Cold War, at least Sweden had a posture that we are non-aligned and neutral. Not anymore! We have left our neutrality, we have left our non-aligned posture.

Not openly, the neutrality we have left openly, but not the non-aligned posture. I can give you an example: they are now training in North America (for) war in Nevada.

They were training together with the US in 2006 in Alaska. They went with 6 or 7 warplanes to Alaska and made a huge maneuver outside North Korea together with the US.

So, we are actively joining in different parts of the world. Of course we are in Afghanistan now.

And so I think you have to start to understand that Sweden has quite another position now and we are a NATO country. It is only a document that is left to be done. That’s the situation now in Sweden.

Robles: Can you tell us a little bit about what you think the US and NATO’s plans are for the Arctic?

Norberg: I can see that they are making a lot of war games together up in the north.

And I also know that the US and Canada are the same; I mean they are in the same organization. Canada has lost much of what they had before. I have a map in front of me where I have all the installations, and the North American-Canada Command had merged together.

So, up in the north you have a very strong militarization from Canada’s point of view and they are building up their military as never before.

And one thing that I think is important to mention is the drones. Canada is planning for a huge drone fleet, and so is Sweden. Now we have one of the world’s biggest drones which is ready in the North European Airspace Test Range which is one of the biggest in Europe for training drones.

Robles: What’s your opinion on drones?

Norberg: They should be banished, abolished or banned because they are terrible murder…we call them “murder machines”. They are conducted from a Nevada test site. They sit there in front of computers and kill people in Yemen, in Pakistan and many places.

We have a huge training area, big as Macedonia, called the North European Airspace Test Range in the northern part of Sweden where they train these drones. So, we are in this arms buildup, it’s rather dangerous I think.

The newest one is Neuron. It is a cooperation between Sweden, France, Italy, Germany, Switzerland on one of the world’s biggest drones, Neuron. That is a prototype that is now ready this year.

Robles: What is your opinion on the legality of drones because the users face no risk?

Norberg: They are totally illegal. You sit in a bunker, you don’t see anything, you just sit in front of a screen and see the target. We call them “murder machines” because these are murders. They say they kill Al-Qaeda?

Agneta Norberg is the Vice Chair of the Swedish Peace Council, a member of the Steering Committee in International Peace Bureau and on the board of directors of the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space.

How quickly best laid plans become passé. New world orders come, it seems, as frequently as eclipses.

The old world order (ancien régime), along with 16 million people, died during the Great European War which began on June 28, 1914 when the Austrian heir to the throne, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, was assassinated by a Serb nationalist, Gavrilo Princip, in Sarajevo. (Today he would be called a terrorist.) This assassination sent nations that had no desire to go to war into the most destructive war the world had yet experienced.

Europe at the beginning of 1914 consisted of six major empires and an assortment of minor states that the major empires didn’t care much about. The six major empires, (the Austro-Hungarian, French, German, British, Ottoman, and Russian) were ensnared in military alliances (much like the US is today) which were formed to keep the peace. The diplomats, like those today, believed that forming alliances that balanced the powers of different groups would keep them from attacking each other. The Central Powers consisted of Austro-Hungary, Germany, and the Ottoman Empire; the Triple Entente consisted of the other three. Peace, the diplomats thought was assured. What happened?

When the archduke was assassinated, the Austrians, confident in their military prowess (as Americans are today), decided to punish Serbia which was attacked on July 28. But the Serbs ambushed the Austrians at the battles of Cer and Kolubara. The Austrians were thrown back with heavy losses. Russia came to the aid of its ethnically related Serbs, and Germany invaded France through Belgium and Luxembourg. Britain came to the defense of France and the Ottoman Empire joined the war in the Balkans on the side of the Central Powers. The alliances that were to ensure the peace changed a single assassination into a massive war. When it was over, the Austro-Hungarian, the German, the Ottoman, and the Russian Empires had vanished and the United States, which joined the war late on the side of the Triple Entente had become a world player. The old world order was gone!

Woodrow Wilson, the American President, sought to create a new old world order by proposing his Fourteen Points. Wilson wanted to create separate nations out of former colonies and ensure the peace by creating a League of Nations (another peace by treaty scheme). Territorial reductions were made to Germany and Austria, a slew of new and revived nations were created in Eastern Europe, while France and Britain carved up the Ottoman Empire to suit themselves. The new old world order was just a reconfigured old world order. It didn’t last and it didn’t ensure the peace. So much for the best laid plans of diplomats.

Germany was reborn in 1933 when Adolph Hitler became Chancellor. He, too, sought to create a new world order, one dominated by a Thousand Year Reich (Empire). To that end, his policies were aimed at seizing Lebensraum (living space) for the German people by extending Germany’s borders. Austria and parts of Czechoslovakia were annexed and Poland was invaded. But alas, Poland had a mutual defense treaty (another alliance formed to ensure the peach) with Great Britain and France, so the invasion of Poland started World War II.

When it was over, Germany again was destroyed and Great Britain and France, for the most part, had had their empires diminished. The United States and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (Russia) found themselves at the top of another new old world order.

The victorious powers, the US, the USSR, China, Great Britain, and France tried again to ensure the peace by creating the United Nations which they attempted to keep firmly in their control by making themselves rulers of the Security Council which had a veto on all UN Activities all five nations didn’t give unanimous approval to. That was to be the new old world order. But it began to come unglued immediately. China was not represented by mainland China which had become Communist but by “Nationalist” China whose government had fled to Taiwan. Communist China soon took the Chinese seat and the two Communist nations formed a bloc while the remaining three Capitalist nations formed another. The United Nations became the Disunited Nations and has remained so to this day. This new old world order was stillborn.

Sometime after 1950 (because of secrecy, the exact date is unknown) the Bilderbergers, realizing that the old world ancient régime and all of these new old world orders were founded on nation states that kept going to war with each other, began an attempt to create a truly new world order. David Rockefeller writes,

“We are grateful to the Washington Post, the New York Times, Time Magazine and other great publications whose directors have attended our meetings and respected their promises of discretion for almost forty years. . . . It would have been impossible for us to develop our plan for the world if we had been subjected to the lights of publicity during those years. But, the world is more sophisticated and prepared to march towards a world government. The supranational sovereignty of an intellectual elite and world bankers is surely preferable to the national auto-determination practiced in past centuries.”

“For more than a century ideological extremists at either end of the political spectrum have seized upon well-publicized incidents such as my encounter with Castro to attack the Rockefeller family for the inordinate influence they claim we wield over American political and economic institutions. Some even believe we are part of a secret cabal working against the best interests of the United States, characterizing my family and me as ‘internationalists’ and of conspiring with others around the world to build a more integrated global political and economic structure – one world, if you will. If that’s the charge, I stand guilty, and I am proud of it”

If there were no nation states, no wars could erupt between them!

Some believe that these international bankers have succeeded in taking over the world, but it has never succeeded in abolishing nation states. In fact, there is some evidence that nation states may be disintegrating into smaller ones. Scotland is going to hold a referendum on withdrawing from England, Catalonia is talking about withdrawing from Spain, Czechoslovakia has broken up into the Czech and Slovak republics, there is talk again of secession in the US, and no one quite knows what is really happening in the Arab world. A new world order ruled by one government? Not hardly!

But things began to break down in the 1950s. Until then, wars were fought between armies supported by nation states, and their endings were foreseeable. A war ended when one army, either voluntarily or on command, surrendered. That era appears to have ended. Old world order warfare appears to have become passé.

When the second world war ended, the Korean Peninsula was partitioned into Northern and Southern sections occupied by the Russians and Americans respectively. Elections for unification were to be held in 1948 but were not; the Americans were unsure the result would favor the South. Open warfare broke out when North Korean forces invaded South Korea in June, 1950. Because the Soviet Union was boycotting the United Nations Security Council at the time, the United States and other countries passed a Security Council resolution authorizing military intervention. The war’s progress favored each side from time to time and continued until July, 1953 when an armistice was signed. Officially, the war still goes on today. The US provided 88% of the 341,000 international soldiers which aided South Korea. The Russians and the People’s Republic of China aided North Korea. The West’s army was international, and the era of never ending, wars may have begun.

After a short pause, the American hubris led the US to play one-upmanship with France. Since the end of World War II, the French had been trying to maintain its hold on its Southeastern Asian colony of Vietnam. But at the Battle of Dien Bien Phu, the French were soundly defeated and decided to give up the fight. American hubris about its military prowess made American diplomats believe that the US could do what the French could not and began to use American military resources to keep South Vietnam from being united with the North.

The Pentagon’s military minds viewed this conflict as a traditional two-nation-state one and believed that America’s military only had to defeat a primitive North Vietnamese army to succeed. They were wrong, and after twenty years of fighting, 58,000 Americans, millions of Vietnamese had died, and the Americans fled. But this war marked another first: the army that won all the battles lost the war. That had never before happened in history. Today, winning battles does not win wars. Truly a new era in warfare has begun. What the Pentagon’s commanders failed to realize was that the war was not a two state war. It was a war between an invading army and an indigenous people who could only be defeated by total annihilation. No possible way existed for Americans (or any other nation-state) to “win” this war.

But Americans are hard learners and they learned nothing from Korea and Vietnam, so after two misadventures that appeared to be successful (Grenada and the 1st Gulf War), the US led another multinational force into Iraq and Afghanistan. After eight years in Iraq and the installation of a new government, the US withdrew without achieving its goals, leaving Iraq in disarray. And after more than a decade in Afghanistan a similar outcome seems to be imminent. Like Vietnam, these wars too are not two-state wars.

They amount to invading armies battling indigenous peoples who themselves are not united and not under the control of any government, group, or commander. No surrendering army in either country will ever be found. But now there’s a new twist. The forces facing the invaders do not merely consist of local peoples. Those peoples are assisted by non-state but similarly minded multi-state actors. The people opposing the West in Afghanistan are the same groups opposing the West in Libya, Algeria, Syria, Yemen, Mali, Somalia, the Sudan, and elsewhere. People who have been subjugated and exploited by the West have begun an undeclared war on the West and westerners everywhere, and winning this war will require not their defeat but their annihilation. The West cannot do that without annihilating itself in the process.

The real new world order has emerged–the world’s downtrodden against the West and its puppet, surrogate colonial governments. These non-state but similarly minded actors will determine the course of future world history. There is now a new world order that the West cannot control, that military force cannot subdue, and that concessions cannot placate. Ancien régimes relied on military power to influence events. The true new world order renders military power effete. All it can now accomplish is kill for killing’s sake. Pure barbarity is what the promise of Western Civilization has been reduced to. What a wonderful world we have made!

Fukushima USA? Inside San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant

February 6th, 2013 by Arnie Gundersen

“The Gatekeepers,” a new documentary, records the views of the Israeli security officials most responsible for suppressing Palestinian resistance and their growing doubts about the strategy of endless repression. But even this criticism glosses over the depth of the problem.

There is a new documentary movie about Israel called “The Gatekeepers,” directed by Dror Moreh and featuring interviews with all the former leaders of the Shin Bet, the country’s internal security organization.

The Shin Bet is assigned the job of preventing Palestinian retaliatory attacks on Israel and, as described by Moreh, the film “is the story of Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories as told by the people at the crossroads of some of the most crucial moments in the security history of the country.” Along the way it touches on such particular topics as targeted assassinations, the use of torture, and “collateral damage.”

“The Gatekeepers” has garnered a lot of acclaim, playing at film festivals in Jerusalem, Amsterdam, New York, Toronto, Venice and elsewhere. It has won the Los Angeles Film Critics Association’s Best Documentary Award. It has been nominated for an Oscar.

In order to promote “The Gatekeepers,” Moreh has been doing interviews and recently appeared on CNN with Christiana Amanpour. He made a number of salient points, as did the Shin Bet leaders in the clips featured during the interview.

–Moreh says, “if there is someone who understands the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it’s these guys,” the Shin Bet leaders. Actually, this not necessarily true. One might more accurately claim that these men, who led Israel’s most secretive government institution, were and are so deeply buried inside their country’s security dilemma that they see it in a distorted fashion (with only occasional glimmers of clarity).

For instance, Avraham Shalom, head of the Shin Bet from 1981-1986, tells us that “Israel lost touch with how to coexist with the Palestinians as far back as the aftermath of the Six Day War in 1967 … when the country started doubling down on terrorism.”

But is this really the case? One might more accurately assert that Israel had no touch to lose. Most of its Jewish population and leadership have never had an interest in coexistence with Palestinians in any egalitarian and humane sense of the term. The interviewed security chiefs focus on the Palestinians of the West Bank and Gaza because they are the ones who offered the most resistance to conquest. But what of the 20 percent of the population of Israel who are also Palestinian and who actually lived under martial law until 1966? You may call the discriminatory regime under which these people live “coexistence,” but it is the coexistence of superior over the inferior secured largely by intimidation.

–Moreh insists that it is the “Jewish extremists inside Israel” who have been the “major impediment” to resolving issues between Israel and the Palestinians. The film looks at the cabal of religious fanatics who, in 1980, planned to blow up the Muslim shrine of the Dome of the Rock on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, as well as the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995. Yet, as dangerous as Israel’s right-wing extremists and settler fanatics are, focusing exclusively on them obscures the full history of the occupation.

By 1977, when Menachem Begin and Israel’s right-wing fanatics fully took power, the process of occupation and ethnic cleansing was well under way. It had been conducted against both the Arab Israelis from 1948 onward, and against the Palestinians of the West Bank and Gaza after 1967. In both cases, it was initiated by the so-called Israeli Left: the Labor Party led by such people as David Ben-Gurion, Golda Meir, Shimon Peres, and Yitzhak Rabin himself. Amongst the Israeli leadership, there were no clean hands.

–Finally, Dror Moreh repeatedly pushes another message: “a central theme of the documentary is the idea that Israel has incredible tactics, but it lacks long-term strategy … if [security] operations do not support a move toward a peace settlement, then they are meaningless.”

Again, this assessment reflects Moreh being so deeply situated inside of the problem that he cannot perceive it clearly. Moreh assumes that achieving peace with the Palestinians is the only “long-term strategy” Israel could possibly have and, in its absence, Israel pursues no strategy at all.

However, an objective assessment of Israeli history tells us that there has been another strategy in place. The Zionist leaders have, in fact, always had a long-term strategy to avoid any meaningful peace settlement, so as to allow: 1. occupation of all “Eretz Israel,” 2. the ethnic cleansing or cantonization of the native population, and 3. settlement of the cleansed territory with Jews.

It is because of this same naivete that Moreh confesses himself “shocked” when Avraham Shalom compares the occupation of the Palestinian territories to “Germany’s occupation of Europe.” It is to Shalom’s credit that he made the statement on camera, and to Morah’s credit that he kept the statement in the final version of the film. But then Moreh spoils this act of bravery when he tells Amanpour: “Only Jews can say these kind of words. And only they can have the justification to speak as they spoke in the film.”

Well, I can think of one other group of people who has every right to make the same comparison Shalom makes – the Palestinians.

Retired Official’s Confession Syndrome 

For all its shortcomings, the film is a step forward in the ongoing effort to deny the idealized Zionist storyline a monopoly in the West. Indeed, that “The Gatekeepers” was made at all, and was received so positively at major film venues, is a sign that this skewed Israeli storyline is finally breaking down. Certainly, this deconstruction still has a long way to go, but the process is picking up speed.

On the other hand, there is something troubling about the belated nature of the insights given in these interviews.  They are examples of what I like to call the “retired official’s confession syndrome.” Quite often those who, in retirement, make these sorts of confessions were well aware of the muddled or murderous situation while in office. But, apparently, they lacked the courage to publicize it at the time. It would have meant risking their careers, their popularity, and perhaps relations with their friends and family.

One is reminded of the fate of Professor Ilan Pappe, who has stood up and lived his principles, and eventually lost his position at Haifa University and was, in the end, forced into exile. For most, however, including these leaders of the Shin Bet, their understanding was clouded and their actions skewed by a time-honored, but deeply flawed, notion of “duty” to carry on like good soldiers.

To date, Israel’s leaders and Zionist supporters have shown an amazing capacity to ignore all criticism. The newly re-elected Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has let it be known that he has no intention of watching “The Gatekeepers.” It is also questionable how many of those who voted for him, or other right-wing politicians, will bother to seek the documentary out.

Israel’s government has recently made the decision to ignore the country’s obligations under the United Nations Human Rights Charter, a decision signaled by its representatives refusal to show up for the country’s “universal periodic review” before the Human Rights Council. Nor is there any sign that any new right-wing led government coalition will stop the ethnic cleansing and illegal colonial repopulation of East Jerusalem.

The only reasonable conclusion one can come to is that it will take increasing outside pressure on Israel, in the form of boycotts, divestment and sanctions, to convince a sufficient number of that country’s Jewish population that they must change their ways. To not change is to acquiesce in Israel’s evolving status as a pariah state.

The irony of it all is that that status will have little to do with most of Israel being Jewish (that is, it will not be a function of anti-Semitism). Yet, it will have everything to do with the fact that, in this day and age, not even the Jews, who have been subjected to some of history’s worst acts of racism, have the right to maintain a racist state.

Lawrence Davidson is a history professor at West Chester University in Pennsylvania. He is the author ofForeign Policy Inc.: Privatizing America’s National InterestAmerica’s Palestine: Popular and Official Perceptions from Balfour to Israeli Statehood; and Islamic Fundamentalism.

Breaking the Chains of Debt Peonage

February 6th, 2013 by Chris Hedges

Chris Hedges gave this talk Saturday night in Brooklyn at the People’s Recovery Summit.

The corporate state has made it clear there will be no more Occupy encampments. The corporate state is seeking through the persistent harassment of activists and the passage of draconian laws such as Section 1021(b)(2) of the National Defense Authorization Act—and we will be in court next Wednesday to fight the Obama administration’s appeal of the Southern District Court of New York’s ruling declaring Section 1021 unconstitutional—to shut down all legitimate dissent. The corporate state is counting, most importantly, on its system of debt peonage to keep citizens—especially the 30 million people who make up the working poor—from joining our revolt.

Workers who are unable to meet their debts, who are victimized by constantly rising interest rates that can climb to as high as 30 percent on credit cards, are far more likely to remain submissive and compliant. Debt peonage is and always has been a form of political control. Native Americans, forced by the U.S. government onto tribal agencies, were required to buy their goods, usually on credit, at agency stores. Coal miners in southern West Virginia and Kentucky were paid in scrip by the coal companies and kept in perpetual debt servitude by the company store. African-Americans in the cotton fields in the South were forced to borrow during the agricultural season from their white landlords for their seed and farm equipment, creating a life of perpetual debt. It soon becomes impossible to escape the mounting interest rates that necessitate new borrowing.

Debt peonage is a familiar form of political control. And today it is used by banks and corporate financiers to enslave not only individuals but also cities, municipalities, states and the federal government. As the economist Michael Hudson points out, the steady rise in interest rates, coupled with declining public revenues, has become a way to extract the last bits of capital from citizens as well as government. Once individuals, or states or federal agencies, cannot pay their bills—and for many Americans this often means medical bills—assets are sold to corporations or seized. Public land, property and infrastructure, along with pension plans, are privatized. Individuals are pushed out of their homes and into financial and personal distress.

Debt peonage is a fundamental tool for control. This debt peonage must be broken if we are going to build a mass movement to paralyze systems of corporate power. And the most effective weapon we have to liberate ourselves as well as the 30 million Americans who make up the working poor is a sustained movement to raise the minimum wage nationally to at least $11 an hour. Most of these 30 million low-wage workers are women and people of color. They and their families struggle at a subsistence level and play one lender off another to survive. By raising their wages we raise not only the quality of their lives but we increase their capacity for personal and political power. We break one of the most important shackles used by the corporate state to prevent organized resistance.

Ralph Nader, whom I spoke with on Thursday, has been pushing activists to mobilize around raising the minimum wage. Nader, who knows more about corporate power and has been fighting it longer than any other American, has singled out, I believe, the key to building a broad-based national movement. There is among these underpaid 30 million workers—and some of them are with us tonight—a mounting despair at being unable to meet even the basic requirements to maintain a family. Nader points out that Walmart’s 1 million workers, like most of the 30 million low-wage workers, are making less per hour, adjusted for inflation, than workers made in 1968, although these Walmart workers do the work required of two Walmart workers 40 years ago.

If the federal minimum wage from 1968 were adjusted for inflation it would be $10.50. Instead, although costs and prices have risen sharply, the federal minimum wage remains stuck at $7.25 an hour. It is the lowest of the major industrial countries. Meanwhile, Mike Duke, the CEO of Walmart, makes $11,000 an hour. And he is not alone. These corporate chiefs make this much money because they have been able to keep in place a system by which workers are effectively disempowered, forced to work for substandard wages and denied the possibility through unions or the formal electoral systems of power to defend workers’ rights. This is why corporations lavish these CEOs with obscene salaries. These CEOs are the masters of plantations. And the moment workers rise up and demand justice is the moment the staggering inequality of wealth begins to be reversed.

Being a member of the working poor, as Barbara Ehrenreich chronicles in her important book “Nickel and Dimed,” is “a state of emergency.” It is “acute distress.” It is a daily and weekly lurching from crisis to crisis. The stress, the suffering, the humiliation and the job insecurity means that workers are reduced to doing little more than eating, sleeping—never enough—and working. And, most importantly, they are kept in a constant state of fear. Ehrenreich writes:

When someone works for less pay than she can live on—when, for example, she goes hungry so that you can eat more cheaply and conveniently—then she has made a great sacrifice for you, she has made you a gift of some part of her abilities, her health, and her life. The “working poor,” as they are approvingly termed, are in fact the major philanthropists of our society. They neglect their own children so that the children of others will be cared for; they live in substandard housing so that other homes will be shiny and perfect; they endure privation so that inflation will be low and stock prices high. To be a member of the working poor is to be an anonymous donor, a nameless benefactor, to everyone else.

It is time to halt the sacrifice of the working poor. It is time to empower the 30 million low-wage workers—two-thirds of which are employed by large corporations such as Walmart and McDonald’s—to fight back.

Joe Sacco and I spent the last two years in the poorest pockets of the United States, our nation’s sacrifice zones, for our book “Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt.” We saw in Pine Ridge, S.D., Camden, N.J.—the poorest and the most dangerous city in the nation—the coalfields of southern West Virginia and the produce fields of Immokalee, Fla., how this brutal system of corporate exploitation works. In these sacrifice zones no one has legal protection. All institutions, from the press to the political class to the judiciary, are wholly owned subsidiaries of the corporate state. And what has been done to those in these sacrifice zones, those places corporations devastated first, is now being done to all of us.

There are no impediments within the electoral process or the formal structures of power to prevent predatory capitalism. We are all being forced to kneel before the dictates of the marketplace. The human cost, the attendant problems of drug and alcohol abuse, the neglect of children, the early deaths—in Pine Ridge the average life expectancy of a male is 48, the lowest in the Western Hemisphere outside of Haiti—is justified by the need to make greater and greater profit. And these costs are now being felt across the nation. The phrase “the consent of the governed” has become a cruel joke. We use a language to describe our systems of governance that no longer correspond to reality. The disconnect between illusion and reality makes us one of the most self-deluded populations on the planet.

The Weimarization of the American working class, and increasingly the middle class, is by design. It is part of a corporate reconfiguration of the national and global economy into a form of neofeudalism. It is about creating a world of masters and serfs, of empowered oligarchic elites and broken disempowered masses. And it is not only our wealth that is taken from us. It is our liberty. The so-called self-regulating market, as the economist Karl Polanyi wrote in “The Great Transformation,” always ends with mafia capitalism and a mafia political system. This system of self-regulation, Polanyi wrote, always leads to “the demolition of society.”

And this is what is happening—the demolition of our society and the demolition of the ecosystem that sustains the human species. In theological terms these corporate forces, driven by the lust for ceaseless expansion and exploitation, are systems of death. They know no limits. They will not stop on their own. And unless we stop them we are as a nation and finally as a species doomed. Polanyi understood the destructive power of unregulated corporate capitalism unleashed upon human society and the ecosystem. He wrote: “In disposing of a man’s labor power the system would, incidentally, dispose of the physical, psychological, and moral entity ‘man’ attached to the tag.”

Polanyi wrote of a society that surrendered to the dictates of the market. “Robbed of the protective covering of cultural institutions, human beings would perish from the effects of social exposure; they would die as victims of acute social dislocation through vice, perversion, crime, and starvation. Nature would be reduced to its elements, neighborhoods and landscapes defiled, rivers polluted, military safety jeopardized, the power to produce food and raw materials destroyed. Finally, the market administration of purchasing power would periodically liquidate business enterprise, for shortages and surfeits of money would prove as disastrous to business as floods and droughts in primitive society. Undoubtedly, labor, land, and money markets are essential to a market economy. But no society could stand the effects of such a system of crude fictions even for the shortest stretch of time unless its human and natural substance as well as its business organizations was protected against the ravages of this satanic mill.

The global and national economy because of this “satanic mill” continues to deteriorate, and yet, curiously, stock market levels are close to their highs in 2007 before the global financial meltdown. This is because these corporations have been able to suppress wages, slash social programs and bilk the government for staggering sums of money. The Federal Reserve purchases about $85 billion worth of mortgage-backed securities and Treasury bills every month. This means that the Fed is printing endless streams of money to buy up government debt and toxic assets from the banks. The Federal Reserve now owns assets, much of them worthless, of $3.01 trillion. This is triple what it was in 2008.

And while corporations such as Citibank and General Electric loot the Treasury they exact more pounds of flesh in the name of austerity. General Electric, as Nader points out, is a net job exporter. Over the past decade, as Citizens for Tax Justice has documented, GE’s effective federal income tax rate on its $81.2 billion in pretax U.S. profits has been at most 1.8 percent. Because of the way General Electric’s accountants play with tax liabilities the company actually receives money from the Treasury. They have several billion dollars paid to them from the federal government into company bank accounts—and these are not tax refunds. The company, as Nader argues, is a net drain on the Treasury and a net drain on jobs. It violates a host of environmental and criminal laws. And yet Jeffery Immelt, the CEO of General Electric, was appointed to be the chairman of Obama’s Jobs Council. Immelt’s only major contribution to the jobs initiative was to get rid of 37,000 of his employees since 2001. Jim McNerney, president and CEO of Boeing, who also sat on the Jobs Council, has cut over 14,000 jobs since 2008, according to Public Campaign. The only jobs the CEOs on the Jobs Council were concerned with were the ones these CEOs eradicated. The Jobs Council, which Obama disbanded this week, is a microcosm of what is happening within the corridors of power. Corporations increasingly terminate jobs here to hire grossly underpaid workers in India or China while at the same time stealing as much as fast as they can on the way out the door.

As Michael Hudson has pointed out, financialization has created a new kind of class war. The old class warfare took place between workers and bosses. Workers organized to fight for fair wages, better work hours and safety conditions in the workplace as well as adequate pensions and medical benefits. But with a country of debtors and a government that must also borrow to continue operating, Hudson says, we have changed the way class warfare works. Finance, he points out, controls state and federal policy as well as the lives of ordinary workers. It is able to dictate working conditions. The financiers, who insist that cuts be made so governments can repay loans, impose draconian austerity and long-term unemployment to, as Hudson told a Greek newspaper, “drive down wages to a degree that could not occur in the company-by-company clash between industrial employers and their workers.”

The former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, testifying before Congress, was quite open about the role of debt peonage in keeping workers passive. Greenspan pointed out that since 1980 labor productivity has increased by about 83 percent. Yet real wages have stagnated. Greenspan said this was because workers were too burdened with mortgage debts, college loans, auto payments and credit-card debt to risk losing a job. Household debt in the United States is around $13 trillion. This is only $2 trillion less than the country’s total yearly economic output. Greenspan was right. Miss a payment on your credit card and your interest rates jumps to 30 percent. Fail to pay your mortgage and you lose your home. Miss your health insurance payments, which have been spiraling upwards, and if you are seriously ill you go into bankruptcy, as 1 million Americans who get sick do every year. Trash your credit rating and your fragile financial edifice, built on managing debt, collapses. Since most Americans feel, on some level, as Hudson points out, that they are a step or two away from being homeless, they are deeply averse to challenging corporate power. It is not worth the risk. And the corporate state knows it. Absolute power, the philosopher Thomas Hobbes wrote, depends on fear and passivity.

The only way to break this fear and passivity is to organize workers to break the cycle of mounting debt. And the first step to achieving independence from debt—the primary form of political control by the corporate state—is to raise the minimum wage. There are other solutions—forgiving mortgage and student debt, instituting universal health care, establishing a nationwide jobs program to rebuild the country’s Third World infrastructure, and green energy—but none of this will happen until we are able to mount a sustained mass movement that discredits the corporate state. This mass movement will arise, as Nader says, when we mobilize around the minimum wage.

The lowest-grade worker at the General Electric plant that makes high-tech health care devices outside Paterson in Totowa [New Jersey]—a pay grade known as the D 04—was just raised to $14,555 a year. That is under $8 an hour. The plant’s highest-paid hourly employee, known as D 16, earns $22,000. Immelt makes over $11 million a year. This vast disparity in income, and this wage abuse, is played out in every corporation in the country. No one in Washington intends to challenge it.

Only 11.3 percent of workers in this country belong to unions. This is the lowest percentage in 80 years. And nearly all these unions, and especially the AFL-CIO, have been emasculated by corporate power.

Nader is right when he warns that we are not going to be assisted in this effort by established unions. Union leaders are bought off. They are comfortable. They are pulling down at least five times what rank-and-file workers make. Nader says we have to mount protests not only outside the doors of Wal-marts and General Electric plants, not only outside congressional offices, but outside the doors of the AFL-CIO. There is no established institution inside or outside government that will help us. They are all broken or complicit. But there are the 30 million working poor who, if we organize to break the system of debt peonage that holds them hostage, may be willing to rise up. We are bound with many chains and shackles. We will have to break them one at a time. But once we rise up, once we are able to threaten the corporate systems that keep us supine through fear, we will unleash a torrent of energy and passion that will confirm the worst nightmares of our corporate overlords.

Chris Hedges spent two decades as a foreign reporter covering wars in Latin America, Africa, Europe and the Middle East. His latest books are Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt, Death of the Liberal Class, and The World as It Is: Dispatches on the Myth of Human Progress.

Naming the Dead: New Investigation into Victims of US Drone Strikes

February 6th, 2013 by Global Research News

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism is launching an ambitious new investigation, which will seek to identify as many as possible of those killed in US covert drone strikes in Pakistan, whether civilian or militant.

The Bureau is raising some of the money for this project through a crowd-funding appeal.

As part of our ongoing monitoring and reporting of CIA and Pentagon drone strikes, the Bureau has already recorded the names of hundreds of people killed in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.

At the end of January 2013, the Bureau was able to identify by name 213 people killed by drones in Pakistan who were reported to be middle- or senior-ranking militants.

A further 331 civilians have also now been named, 87 of them children.

But this is a small proportion of the minimum 2,629 people who appear to have so far died in CIA drone strikes in Pakistan. The Bureau’s work suggests 475 of them were likely to have been civilians.

‘At the momNaming the Dead new version4ent we know the names of fewer than 20% of those killed in Pakistan’s tribal areas. At least 2,000 deaths still remain publicly anonymous,’ said Chris Woods, who leads the Bureau’s covert drone war team.

‘Our aim will be to identify by name many hundreds more of those killed. A significant number of those identities will be known by local communities, by US and Pakistani officials, and by militant groups. We hope to convince them to share that information.’

Related story – Analysis: Why we must name all drone attack victims

Pakistani tribesmen offer funeral prayer -GettyImages

A February 15 2009 drone strike killed at least 26. Few have so far been named. (Getty Images)

The project has already secured substantial funding from a UK foundation – but it still needs more funds.

Today the US-based Freedom of the Press Foundation, a crowd-funding organisation aimed at raising money for public interest journalism, announced it is backing the Bureau’s Naming the Dead project. The Bureau’s new investigation will be one of four recipients of Freedom of the Press Foundation’s latest campaign.

Crowd-funding is an established way of supporting journalism in the US and it is increasingly being used in the UK as a way of funding projects, which established organisations ignore or will not fund.

Using the reach of the web, many people (the crowd) are able to give small amounts of money to back a cause or project in which they believe.

‘In the face of official secrecy, having the full facts about who is killed is essential  for an informed debate about  the effectiveness and ethics of the drone campaign,’  said Christopher Hird, managing editor of the Bureau. ‘And it is exciting to be able to give all of our supporters worldwide the chance to be part of  our first venture in this democratic form of funding.’

A challenging task

Government officials, media organisations and even militant groups are often quick to identify senior militants such as Yahya al-Libi and Ilyas Kashmiri when they are killed.

Yet little is said of the hundreds more alleged militants and civilians among at least 2,629 deaths in Pakistan drone strikes.

Sth Wana letter Jan 2009Both the US and Pakistani governments are likely to keep detailed records. A recent case at the Peshawar High Court heard that officials in the tribal agencies had prepared a confidential report which ‘included details of each and every drone attack and the number, names and ages of the people killed’.

Anonymous US intelligence officials have also revealed details of CIA video surveillance on particular strikes. And the ‘Terror Tuesday’ process – in which hundreds of named alleged militants have been selected by US agencies for targeted killing – has been widely reported.

Photographs and other documents also occasionally surface. When a civilian family was killed in the first drone strike of Barack Obama’s presidency, local officials issued formal paperwork (see right) that was later obtained by the campaign group Center for Civilians in Conflict.

ID cards, family photographs and eyewitness testimony of attacks can all provide useful corroborating evidence. The graves of militants killed in drone strikes can also name them as ‘martyrs’ and give details of the strikes in which they died.

Drawing on information from a wide array of sources, the Bureau’s team will seek to build a detailed understanding of those killed.

Focus on Pakistan

While the Bureau will seek to extend the project to Yemen and Somalia in the near future, the initial focus will be on the nation where most US covert drone strikes have taken place.

Researchers based in Pakistan and the UK will seek to build up biographical information for all of those killed, whether civilian or militant – their name, age, gender, tribe, and village, for example. Where possible, photographs, witness statements and official documentation will also be published.

The team will seek assistance from the Pakistan and US governments in identifying those killed. And researchers will also call on Taliban factions and other militant groups to release information on the many hundreds of fighters killed in more than 360 US drone strikes since 2004.

 

Obama Declares Global Cyberwar

February 6th, 2013 by Stephen Lendman

Throughout his tenure, Obama governed lawlessly for the monied interests that own him. He’s waged no-holds-barred war on humanity.

Strategy includes homeland tyranny, fear-mongering, saber rattling, hot wars, proxy ones, drone ones, domestic political ones, geopolitical ones, financial ones, anti-populist ones, sanctions, subversion, sabotage, targeted assassinations, mass murder, cyberwar, and more.

In May 2009, Obama prioritized cybersecurity. He called cyber-threats “one of the most serious economic and national security challenges we face as a nation.”

“America’s economic prosperity in the 21st century will depend on cybersecurity.”

He ordered a top-to-bottom review. A Cyberspace Policy Review report followed. He waged cyberwar on Iran. He did so cooperatively with Israel.

In spring 2010, Iranian intelligence discovered Stuxnet malware contamination. The computer virus infected its Bushehr nuclear facility. At the time, operations were halted indefinitely.

Israel was blamed. Washington was involved. Had the facility gone online infected, Iran’s entire electrical power grid could have been shut down.

A more destructive virus called Flame malware is known. Internet security experts say it’s 20 times more harmful than Stuxnet. Iran’s military-industrial complex is targeted. So is its nuclear program. Maximum disruption is planned.

Obama supports draconian cybersecurity bills. Passage threatens constitutional freedoms.

Targeted assassinations eliminate America’s enemies. Lawless domestic spying is policy. So is warrantless wiretapping. Americans are as vulnerable as others.

Obama’s waging war on humanity. He’s doing it multiple ways. Last October, he signed an executive order. It expanded military authority. It authorized cyberattacks. It redefined defense. Doing so lawlessly legitimizes aggression.

In November, Presidential Policy Directive 20 followed. It’s secret. It set guidelines for confronting cyberspace threats.

Last fall, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta warned of a “cyber Pearl Harbor.” It could “cause physical destruction and loss of life,” he said. It could “paralyze and shock the nation and create a new profound sense of vulnerability.”

US officials never lack for hyperbole. Fear-mongering is longstanding policy. So are Big Lies, false flags, and other pretexts for wars, other military actions, and disruptive ones.

Cyberwar capability adds to America’s arsenal. Preemption adds another dirty tactic.

In early February, US media reports headlined stepped-up cyberwar. Preemption is prioritized. Nation states, organizations, and individuals are fair game.

US Cyber Command (USCYBERCOM) has full operational control. It’s a cyber hit squad. It’s part of the US Strategic Command.

It’s based at Fort Meade, MD. General Keith Alexander serves as National Security Agency (NSA) director and US Cyber Command head.

The New York Times cited a secret legal review. It affords Obama sweeping preemptive cyberattack powers.

It permits him “to order a preemptive strike if the United States detects (allegedly) credible evidence of a major digital attack looming from abroad.”

His word alone is policy. Corroborating evidence isn’t needed. Efforts to protect classified and proprietary information are increasing.

The Washington Post said wireless and technology giants are battling over a plan to create super Wi-Fi networks.

The Wall Street Journal said Google, Microsoft and Amazon are competing to control cloud computing business.

The Christian Science Monitor said preemptive cyberwar entered America’s arsenal. It “nugded up along side other” approved tactics and techniques.

New policies govern how intelligence agencies work. They’ve been unrestrained before. They’ll have greater powers now.

The New York Times said they’ll be able to “carry out searches of faraway computer networks for signs of potential attacks on the United States and, if the president approves, attack adversaries by injecting them with destructive code – even if there is no declared war.”

Rules of engagement are classified. Effectively there are none. Cyber-warriors are freewheeling. They’re unrestrained.

They’ll operate anywhere globally. China is a target of choice. It’s America’s main economic and geopolitical competitor.

An unnamed US official said new cyberwar strategy is “far more aggressive than anything” used or recommended before. The gloves are off. Anything goes.

Major disruptions can occur without firing a shot. Military and/or civilian power grids can be crippled. So can financial systems and communications networks.

Another unnamed US official said cyberweapons are so powerful that “they should be unleashed only by” presidential order. Exceptions would be tactical strikes.

Examples include disabling command and control as well as ground radar ahead of conventional strikes. At the same time, most cyberoperations are presidential prerogatives.

Expect Obama to take full advantage. Extrajudicial operations are prioritized. Rule of law principles are spurned. Operational procedures have been in development for over two years.

They’re headlined now. They coming out when cyberattacks more often target US companies and critical infrastructure. An unnamed US power station was crippled for weeks.

The New York Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal reported cyberattacks. Obama prioritizes preemption. Doing so has no legal standing. Self-defense alone is justified. Acting on suspicions without evidence is aggression.

New rules serve Washington. Lawyers get marching orders. They’re well paid to subvert accepted legal standards. Doing so doesn’t change them.

What constitutes “reasonable and proportionate force” resides in the eye of the aggressor. New guidelines exclude the Pentagon from defending US companies or individuals without presidential authority.

Doing so is Homeland Security’s prerogative. The FBI has investigatory authority. Cybersecurity legislation remains stalled in Congress. Expect stepped up efforts for passage.

Doing so will more greatly comprise freedom. Full-blown tyranny approaches. It’s a hair’s breadth away. Whistleblowers are targeted. Dissent is endangered.

There’s no place to hide. Big Brother’s expanding exponentially. Cyber-preemption adds greater police state power.

On February 3, a Washington Post editorial headlined “Cyberwar, out of the shadows,” saying:

US Cyber Command is expanding exponentially. Doing so “is indicative of how conflict is moving toward center stage for the military, a domain similar to land, sea, air and outer space.”

It’s heading America toward unchallenged dominance.

In May 2000, the Pentagon’s Joint Vision 2020 called for “full spectrum dominance” over all land, surface and sub-surface sea, air, space, electromagnetic spectrum and information systems with enough overwhelming power to fight and win global wars against any adversary.

Doing so includes nuclear weapons use preemptively. Non-nuclear countries and adversaries are fair game.

Cyber Command includes:

(1) “Combat mission forces” cooperatively with military units.

(2) “Protection forces” to defend Pentagon networks.

(3) “National mission forces” to head off threats to critical infrastructure. They’ll operate outside America. They’ll function anywhere if authorized. They’ll strike US adversaries preemptively.

Targeting cuts both ways. Incoming attacks can precede or follow US ones. Secrecy is prioritized but compromised. Spies have clever ways of doing it.

Rules of engagement aren’t clear. Public information is limited. Sunlight is the best disinfectant. Policy need generous doses.

“If conflict in cyberspace is underway,” said the Post, “then it is important to sustain support for the resources and decisions to fight it, and that will require more candor.”

Expect little forthcoming from the most secretive administration in US history. Obama’s first term prioritized homeland repression and lawless aggression. Imagine what he has in mind for term two.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at [email protected]

His new book is titled “Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity.”

http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanII.html

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com 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.

http://www.progressiveradionetwork.com/the-progressive-news-hour

http://www.dailycensored.com/obama-declares-global-cyberwar/

The US Department of Justice on Monday filed a civil suit in Los Angeles charging Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services, the world’s biggest credit rating agency, with defrauding investors and the public by inflating the credit ratings it gave to subprime mortgage-backed securities in the run-up to the 2008 financial crisis.

The suit was announced Tuesday at a Washington press conference presided over by Attorney General Eric Holder. He indicated that the government would seek damages of at least $5 billion from S&P, a subsidiary of McGraw-Hill. Sixteen states and the District of Columbia have joined the federal suit.

Coming nearly four-and-a-half years after the Wall Street crash, the suit is the first federal action against a credit rating firm. S&P and its main competitor, Moody’s Investors Service, played a critical role in the vast edifice of financial speculation and fraud that came crashing down following the bursting of the housing bubble in 2007.

S&P, Moody’s and Fitch Ratings are all private, for-profit companies. As previous US government investigations have documented, S&P and Moody’s made huge profits between 2004 and 2008 by landing contracts from Wall Street banks to rate residential mortgage-backed securities (RMBS) and collateralized debt obligations (CDOs), which were assembled by the banks from home loans and sold to other financial institutions and investors around the world.

Wall Street drove mortgage lenders to sell high-risk, high-interest subprime home loans to people who could not afford them, bought up the loans from the mortgage companies, bundled them into RMBS and CDOs, and sold off these toxic investments, making massive profits in the process. The entire US and global financial system was infected as a result by what was, in essence, a vast Ponzi scheme.

While US bank regulators looked the other way, the credit rating firms facilitated the fraud by giving triple-A ratings to RMBS and CDOs backed by mortgages they knew were headed for default.

The credit rating firms had a financial interest in inflating the ratings on RMBS and CDOs, since they were paid by the banks whose securities they were rating. Under the inherently corrupt, deregulated system for rating securities—a system that serves the interests, in the first instance, of Wall Street—banks shop around for the credit rating firm most likely to give their products the highest rating. Consequently, the credit rating firms compete for a share in the lucrative financial derivatives market, which includes mortgage-backed securities, by proving to their bank paymasters that they will deliver the top ratings the banks need to maximize their profits.

At the Justice Department press conference, Holder and other officials painted a picture of pervasive and deliberate fraud, costing investors and taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars. Between 2004 and 2007, Holder said, “S&P executives made false representations to investors and financial institutions, and took other steps to manipulate ratings criteria and credit models to increase revenue and market share.”

“Put simply,” he declared, “this alleged conduct is egregious—and it goes to the very heart of the recent financial crisis.”

Acting Associate Attorney General Tony West described how the major banks, beginning in 2007, worked furiously to package their failing subprime home loans into CDOs and offload the CDOs to investors, in order to get the bad loans off of their books. “And we have evidence,” he said, “that S&P not only knew this is what the banks were doing; S&P helped them to do it.

“As our complaint explains, through the spring and summer of 2007, S&P moved at a record pace, rating hundreds of billions of dollars worth of CDOs packed with subprime mortgage bonds… S&P gave triple-A ratings to nearly all of the CDOs it rated during this time—and they did this despite their own internal reports which showed that the ratings on the mortgage bonds on which the financial quality of these CDOs depended would not hold.”

Despite this narrative of outright criminality, amply documented in the 119-page complaint filed by the Justice Department in US District Court, the government does not name a single individual in its legal brief, nor has it pressed criminal charges. The Obama administration is thus maintaining its record of refusing to criminally prosecute a single leading figure on Wall Street for illegal actions that brought the US and world economy to the brink of collapse and triggered the deepest slump and highest unemployment since the Great Depression.

The government spent four months in talks with S&P in an attempt to reach a settlement and avoid going to court, as it has done in dozens of previous financial fraud cases. Talks reportedly broke down in the last two weeks when S&P rejected any deal requiring it to admit wrongdoing and objected to a cash payment above $100 million.

The Justice Department’s legal complaint cites internal emails, messages and reports demonstrating that the company was well aware it was violating its own standards and giving securities inflated ratings. The legal brief focuses on 40 CDOs S&P rated between March and October of 2007.

The document cites one S&P analyst who wrote in 2006 that the company had loosened its criteria for CDOs to create “a loophole big enough to drive a Mack truck through.” In December of 2006, an S&P employee wrote in an internal email: “Rating agencies continue to create an even bigger monster—the CDO market. Let’s hope we are all wealthy and retired by the time this house of cards falters.”

In April 2007, one S&P analyst told another, “We rate every deal. It could be structured by cows and we would rate it.”

In a July 2007 exchange between an S&P analyst and an investment banking colleague, the banker wrote: “I mean, come on, we pay you to rate our deals, and the better the rating the more money we make?!?! What’s up with that? How are you possibly supposed to be impartial????”

The complicity of the credit rating agencies was previously documented in extensive government reports on the financial crisis. “The Financial Crisis Inquiry Report,” issued in January of 2011 by a commission established by Congress in 2009, wrote: “The three credit rating agencies were key enablers of the financial meltdown. The mortgage-related securities at the heart of the crisis could not have been marketed and sold without their seal of approval.”

The Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations devoted 75 pages of its 639-page report on the Wall Street crash, released in April of 2011, to the role of S&P and Moody’s in facilitating the subprime mortgage swindle. It wrote: “It was not in the short-term economic interest of either Moody’s or S&P, however, to provide accurate credit ratings for high-risk RMBS and CDO securities, because doing so would have hurt their own revenues.”

The Senate report found that more than 90 percent of triple-A ratings given to mortgage-backed securities in 2006 and 2007 were eventually downgraded to junk status.

Whatever the outcome of the suit filed on Monday, the Obama administration has systematically worked, and will continue to work, to shield the banks and their accomplices from any accountability for their crimes, and create conditions for Wall Street to make more money than ever.

The same credit rating system—unregulated and dominated by the banks—remains in place today. The same credit rating companies continue to make millions by giving top ratings to high-risk bonds and derivatives and helping conceal violations of securities laws by the banks, creating the conditions for another, even more catastrophic financial crisis.

London Screening of the film Stealing the Arab Spring

February 6th, 2013 by Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya

The London Socialist Film Co-op

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Our screenings in February will start with Stealing the Arab Spring.  This 34-minute film is by Julien Teil and Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya.

It incorporates the earlier material in Libya: The Humanitrian War – there is no Evidence.  It will be followed by Rossella Schillaci’s award-winning Other Europe (Altra Europa).

We are delighted to welcome Jeremy Corbyn, Member of Parliament, to take Q&A and lead the audience discussion afterwards.

STEALING THE ARAB SPRING
Julien Teil and Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya, France 2012 (Advised 12A) 34 min

This documentary exposes the body of lies that led to the suspension of Libya from the Human Rights Council and generated the Nato-led war to protect the Libyan population. The allegations which claimed that Gaddafi had violently repressed and killed 6,000 of his own people had originated from human rights organisations within Libya and were sanctioned by seventy plus NGOs. These lies had spread before they were verified and led to the murder and detention of many Black African and sub-Saharan migrant workers and Black Libyans.

OTHER EUROPE (ALTRA EUROPA)
Rosella Schillaci, Italy 2011 (12A) 75min

200 migrants from Africa squat an abandoned clinic in Turin, north Italy, in 2008. The director follows three of them during a year in which they struggle for survival as legal, political refugees, dealing with suspicion from the local community and minimal support from voluntary associations and local council initiatives. This feature documentary illustrates the changing face of Europe, immigration policies and the inherent contradictions these pose for the migrants and the host community.

Playing at the Renoir Cinema
The Brunswick (Brunswick Square), London, WC1N 1AW
Tube: Russell Square (Piccadilly Line)
Buses: 7, 59, 68, 91, 168, 188
Tickets: Available on the day of screening at 10:30 am

The first choice for any true art-house fan, Renoir has a firm reputation as the home for films from established auteurs and new world cinema talent. Situated in the popular Brunswick centre, its underground bar and screens make it a resort for cineastes wanting to take a trip of discovery.

Women in Combat: Behind the Pentagon’s Decision

February 5th, 2013 by Kathy Durkin

On Jan. 24, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta announced that the Pentagon had lifted its ban on women serving in combat, and that more than 230,000 “battlefront” positions could be opened up to them. Military officials must submit plans by May on how to include women in combat, although they have until January 2016 to list male-only positions.

The reality is that women have already served in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. They comprise 15 percent of the 1.4 million active military personnel. More than 280,000 women have been sent to Iraq, Afghanistan or to other war zones; 152 have died and 800 been injured. Enlisted women want payment for their combat duties, and they seek promotions to jobs denied them; some are suing the Pentagon over this issue.

Women join the military for the same reasons as do men. Because of the recession, high unemployment, and the proliferation of part-time and low-wage jobs, they are also subjected to the “economic draft.” This is especially true for women of color, who face worse discrimination and economic inequality. The military recruits them by promising college educations, job training and benefits.

What is the real reason behind the Pentagon’s decision now?

Is the U.S. military suddenly purging itself of sexism? Just look at the high rate of sexual assaults within the ranks and the officials’ inaction in holding perpetrators accountable. Military women are frequently mistreated — at Veterans Administration facilities and while seeking sexual trauma treatment and disability benefits.

The real answer to this question was hinted at by Joint Chiefs of Staff head, Gen. Martin Dempsey, who stressed that, “ultimately, we are acting to strengthen the armed forces.” (ABC News, Jan. 24)

The Pentagon needs more combat troops to carry out its ever-expanding war drive, to fulfill its imperialist goals of dominating many corners of the globe. It plans to send more troops to Africa, Australia and East Asia, even as it maintains existing deployments in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.

Male soldiers have been serving three and four deployments in war zones. Many suffer from war-related post-traumatic stress disorder and depression. Troop morale is low; suicides are at an all-time high. There is no military draft to replenish the forces. Pentagon and other government officials fear a major revolt among the youth if they try to reinstate it.

Women are needed in combat. This is a major reason for the Pentagon’s new policy.

What does it mean for women and men to be soldiers in an imperialist army, one that brings death and destruction in its wake? This military machine does not bring health care, food or other aid to the people under occupation, subject to bombings or threatened by drone attacks. It’s a death machine.

In the Israeli Defense Forces, women do 90 percent of the jobs men do and the government claims that shows it has “liberated” women. But their role, just like the men soldiers of this patriarchal settler state, is to brutally occupy Palestinian territories and oppress the people. There is nothing progressive about it.

However, many times in history armed women have played a progressive role, such as in World War II Resistance movements or in the Vietnamese liberation army. This is not just a question of women’s participation. The issue is the class character of the military, in whose interests it is fighting and for what purpose.

Women in the U.S. should not face sexist or racist discrimination anywhere. There should be no barriers for any women to higher education, jobs, livable wages and essential government programs, including reproductive and other health care.

Moreover, the federal government should enact a strong Equal Rights Amendment that guarantees women’s rights and bans all discrimination.

Let’s renew the call for women’s full equality while demanding that all U.S. troops be brought home now.

“The full consequences of a default — or even the serious prospect of default — by the United States are impossible to predict and awesome to contemplate… Denigration of the full faith and credit of the United States would have substantial effects on the domestic financial markets and on the value of the dollar in exchange markets.”

-Ronald Reagan (1911-2004), 40th President of the United States (1981–89), (1983)

“Decisions about the debt level [should] occur in conjunction with spending and revenue decisions as opposed to the after-the-fact approach now used… [doing so] would help avoid the uncertainty and disruptions that occur during debates on the debt limit today.”

-U.S. Government Accountability Office (G.A.O.)

“I will not have another debate with this Congress over whether they should pay the bills for what they’ve racked up… We can’t not pay bills that we’ve already incurred.”

-President Barack Obama, Tuesday January 1, 2013

That’s why the American people hate Congress.”

-Chris Christie, New Jersey Republican Governor, (January 2, 2013, after the Republican House majority refused to vote on a $60 billion aid package for victims of Superstorm Sandy)

One crisis averted, three to come! Indeed, that’s what can be said after the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation on January 23, 2013, to suspend the government’s statutory borrowing limit for three months.

In fact, the cycle of artificially created crises will go on and on in Washington D.C. Now, the next crises are scheduled for March 1s, for March 27th and for May 19th. Stay tuned. On March 1st, automatic sequester cuts agreed by Congress in 2012 will take effect, causing an immediate cut of $69 billion in public discretionary spending. Then, on March 27, the U.S. government’s ability to fund itself (the “continuing resolution”) will run out. And, of course, come May 19, the melodrama of raising the debt ceiling will be back again in force.

Ever since Republicans took control of the 435-member U.S. House of Representatives in 2010, a fiscal drama with the White House and the U.S. Senate has been replayed time and again. One of the political gimmick is called the “raising of the country’s debt limit.

Why so many artificial crises in the current American political system? Extreme political polarization seems to be the answer.

Indeed, since the 2010 mid-term election, when the Republican Party took control of the House of Representatives with some 242 seats, this party has behaved as if it were in fact two parties in one. There is the traditional conservative Republican Party on one side, and the radical Republican Tea Party on the other side. With some 67 anarchist anti-tax and anti-establishment Tea Party House members voting as a block, the latter has been in a position to hold the balance of power in the House and to prevent compromised solutions to the country’s fiscal problems.

A good example was the 2011 showdown between the Democratic Obama administration and the Republican-controlled House of Representatives regarding raising the U.S. government’s debt ceiling.

In the spring of 2011, House Republicans, spurred by Tea Party members who practice no party discipline toward the Republican Party except to themselves, and reneging on a decades-long bipartisan tradition, refused to raise the nation’s debt ceiling, thus threatening to push the U.S. government toward debt default. They demanded that the Obama administration concede to freezing tax revenues and to enacting massive spending cuts. In the midst of a financial crisis and an economic slowdown, such huge public spending cuts could have pushed the U.S. economy toward an economic depression similar to the 1930’s Great Depression.

For the first time, therefore, House Tea Party members decided to use the perfunctory requirement to raise the debt limit to gain partisan political advantage. That move has introduced into the functioning of the U.S. Congress an element of radicalism and brinkmanship that could prevent the U.S. government from operating properly for years to come.

Mind you, the obligation for Congress to vote on raising the U.S. government’s debt ceiling has existed since a 1917 law to that effect was enacted. It allows the U.S. Treasury to proceed with borrowing to finance government operations as outlined in an already approved budget for a given fiscal year.

Economically speaking, indeed, there are three main ways to finance public expenditures: -through tax revenues; -through borrowing; -or, through the printing press, when a government borrows from its own central bank. The latter is in fact an inflation tax imposed on every user of the national currency.

Therefore, if the U.S. Congress has already approved a public budget of operations that does not raise taxes in a sufficient amount to cover outlays, and if an inflation tax is out of question, the only other avenue left is to borrow the required funds.

For years, the 1917 requirement to raise the debt limit was considered redundant since the budget had already been approved and it was seen as a simple bipartisan formality. Since 1940, for example, the U.S. debt ceiling has been raised 94 times, 54 times by a Republican administration and 40 times by a Democratic administration. Altogether the debt ceiling has been raised 102 times since 1917. It has been raised every year that the U.S. government has run a deficit.

If the Tea Party members of the House keep on routinely using the 1917 law to formally raise the debt limit as an obstructionist tool, Congress may be constantly gridlocked and the U.S. government will continue going from crisis to crisis. A small minority of House members could then hold the U.S. government hostage. As a consequence, it could become increasingly difficult for the U.S. Administration to implement sensible economic and fiscal policies along the principle of majority rule. The U.S. economy is bound to suffer severely from such a political paralysis.

In 2011, former president Bill Clinton expressed the view that the 1917 law is unconstitutional since it goes against Article I, sec. 8 of the U.S. Constitution that requires that Congress pay “the Debts and provide for the … general Welfare of the United States.” Besides, the Fourteenth Amendment (section 4) of the U.S. Constitution states that: “the validity of the public debt of the United States… shall not be questioned.

Therefore, if Congress does not fulfill its duties for one reason or another, the President in whom executive power is vested may have the right to act for the “general Welfare of the United States”.

In the coming weeks, if the House of Representatives refuses bipartisan cooperation and keeps stonewalling the Administration, President Obama may have no other choice but to call the Tea Party members’ bluff by unilaterally declaring the 1917 law unconstitutional and letting the courts sort it out later.

A constitutional crisis may seem to many to be a better alternative than a repetitive and protracted economic and financial crisis and an economy constantly teetering on the brink of a permanent fiscal cliff.

Dr. Rodrigue Tremblay, a Canadian-born economist, is the author of the book “The Code for Global Ethics, Ten Humanist Principles”, and of “The New American Empire”)

 

Mariela Castro Espín conseguiu se libertar da herança familiar. Sobrinha de Fidel Castro, líder histórico da Revolução Cubana, e filha de Raúl Castro, atual presidente de Cuba, Mariela ganhou reconhecimento internacional não graças ao sobrenome, mas sim pela ação a favor do direito à diversidade sexual.

Cubadebate

Mariela Castro: em Cuba, “zombar dos homossexuais era algo normal, assim como depreciá-los ou denegri-los”

Licenciada em Psicologia e Pedagogia, com mestrado em sexualidade, Mariela tornou sua a causa dos homossexuais, bissexuais, lésbicas e transexuais e possibilitou que essas comunidades saíssem da marginalidade na qual fora colocada pela sociedade, como diretora do Centro de Educação Sexual (Cenesex), cuja atuação tem sido coroada com êxitos.

Desde 2007, o dia contra a homofobia é celebrado em Cuba, em 17 de maio. O Estado se encarrega gratuitamente das operações de mudança de sexo. A homofobia diminuiu de forma sensível, apesar de persistir em alguns setores. Finalmente, importantes instituições, como o Partido Comunista de Cuba ou o Ministério da Cultura, são agora aliados de primeira ordem na luta pelos direitos de todos.

Mariela se parece com a mãe, Vilma Espín. Herdou ao mesmo tempo a beleza natural e o caráter. De fato, como ilustra a conversa abaixo, deprecia a linguagem estereotipada e não vacila em apontar as injustiças que foram cometidas em Cuba no passado, ou em denunciar os obstáculos institucionais ainda presentes na sociedade. Sua franqueza não suscita unanimidade no poder cubano, particularmente no setor mais conservador. Mas, cada vez que Raúl Castro recebe uma queixa a seu respeito, a resposta é invariável: “Se você tem algo a dizer sobre a minha filha, vá procurá-la diretamente”, conta ela. No momento, os críticos não arrefeceram.

Além de não evitar nenhuma pergunta, Mariela não impôs condições prévias à entrevista, dividida em quatro partes. Na primeira parte do diálogo , aborda temas como a situação dos homossexuais após o triunfo da Revolução, as tristemente célebres Unidades Militares de Ajuda à Produção, o famoso “Quinquênio Cinza”, a Fundação do Cenesex, a luta contra a homofobia, a prostituição, o fenômeno transexual ou o casamento para todos.

Opera Mundi: Qual era a situação das minorias sexuais em 1959, após o triunfo da Revolução em Cuba?
Mariela Castro Espín: No início dos anos 1960, a sociedade cubana era o reflexo de sua herança cultural, principalmente espanhola. Cuba tinha uma cultura “homoerótica”, patriarcal e, portanto, homofóbica. Naquela época, o mundo inteiro era patriarcal e homofóbico, tanto os países desenvolvidos como as nações do Terceiro Mundo. Em todas as culturas ocidentais baseadas na religião católica dominante essas características estavam estabelecidas nos códigos culturais da relação homem/mulher.

No entanto, é curioso que o processo da Revolução Cubana, em cujo programa político se reivindicava a luta contra desigualdades, racismo e diferentes formas de discriminação contra mulheres, além do fim de injustiças e brechas entre a cidade e o campo, não tenha se interessado pelos homossexuais e os considerado vítimas de discriminações de todos os tipos. A homofobia era a regra inclusive depois do triunfo da Revolução.

OM: Então ser homofóbico era algo “natural”?
MCE: A homofobia era a regra. O que se considerava anormal era o respeito a quem havia escolhido uma orientação sexual diferente. Mas, repito, não era algo específico de Cuba. A homofobia institucionalizada dos primeiros anos da Revolução refletia essa realidade e estava em consonância com a cultura da época. Zombar dos homossexuais era algo normal, assim como depreciá-los ou denegri-los. Era normal discriminá-los no mercado de trabalho, em sua vida profissional, e esse era o aspecto mais grave.

A Revolução permitiu ao povo cubano conseguir a soberania nacional e colocou em xeque inúmeros paradigmas, como a virgindade da mulher como condição prévia ao casamento, a ausência do divórcio, o status do homem como chefe da família, a fidelidade natural da mulher frente à infidelidade do homem, a desqualificação da família monoparental e da mulher solteira, mas não se interessou pelo problema da diversidade sexual.

OM: Entre 1965 e 1968, o Estado Cubano elaborou as Unidades Militares de Ajuda à Produção, as Umap, às quais os homossexuais foram integrados à força. Você poderia falar sobre esse obscuro episódio?
MCE: Primeiro, convém precisar que as Umap afetavam todos os homens em idade de entrar no serviço militar, não só os homossexuais. Alguns, inclusive, falaram de campos de concentração para homossexuais. Não creio que seja necessário exagerar, é preciso ser fiel à verdade histórica. As Umap afetaram a todo, menos aos que podia justificar [a não integração] com um emprego estável. Os estudantes tinham que colocar entre parênteses a carreira universitária para fazer o serviço militar.

É interessante também lembrar o contexto da época. Nosso país se encontrava constantemente sob a agressão dos Estados Unidos: a Baía dos Porcos em abril de 1961, a Crise dos Mísseis em 1962, e os grupos da CIA compostos por exilados cubanos, que multiplicavam os atentados terroristas. As bombas explodiam todos os dias em Cuba, queimavam canaviais, sabotavam as ferrovias, atacavam teatros com bazuca. Não se pode esquecer essa realidade, vivíamos em estado de sítio. Grupos paramilitares agiam nas montanhas do Escambray e assassinavam trabalhadores rurais favoráveis à Revolução, torturavam e executavam jovens professores que tinham se integrado à campanha de alfabetização. No total, 3.478 cubanos perderam a vida por conta do terrorismo naquela época. Foi um período muito difícil, nós nos encontrávamos permanentemente agredidos e a luta de classes estava em seu auge. Os latifundiários tinham reagido com muita violência à reforma agrária e não estavam dispostos a perder sua posição de poder na sociedade. Então havia uma mobilização geral para a defesa da nação, e neste contexto nasceram as Umap.

OM: Então porque as Umap foram associadas ao reino do arbitrário e da discriminação?
MCE: Como todos deveriam participar na defesa do país, grupos marginais, como os hippies, por exemplo, e os filhos da burguesia que haviam se acostumado com uma vida de ócio e não trabalhavam, pois tinham recursos, tiveram que se integrar às Umap. Grupos que não se sentiam comprometidos com o processo de transformação social iniciado em 1959 e preferiam um papel de observador tinham que se integrar e trabalhar nas fábricas ou na agricultura.

Reprodução
O exército criou então as Umap para apoiar os processos de produção. Mas a realidade foi outra. O Ministério do Interior tinha a tarefa de identificar esses grupos e integrá-los à força, pois o serviço era obrigatório.

Essas pessoas não tinham uma boa imagem na sociedade cubana, que os rechaçava por sua falta de comprometimento na construção da nova nação revolucionária, e os considerava parasitas.

Lembro, em minha juventude, de ouvir reflexões desagradáveis devido à minha relação familiar com meu tio e meu pai. Alguns diziam: “É uma menininha”, quer dizer, uma “filhinha de papai”, uma pessoa que gozava de uma posição privilegiada, que não tinha o mesmo padrão de vida que o resto por seus vínculos familiares. Eu sentia uma raiva terrível cada vez que isso acontecia e me esforçava para fazer tudo o que os demais faziam, rechaçando todo tipo de privilégio ou de favoritismo. Nunca suportei esse qualificativo, que era muito depreciativo.

OM: Esse método de integração era muito arbitrário.
MCE: Convém recordar que o procedimento era arbitrário e discriminatório. Houve vozes na sociedade cubana que se opuseram a essas medidas, entre elas a Federação de Mulheres Cubanas, assim como muitas personalidades. As denúncias que algumas mães fizeram desataram esse movimento contra as Umap.

OM: E os homossexuais? Foram vítimas de muitos abusos nas Umap?
MCE: Em uma sociedade homofóbica, nesse contexto de hegemonia masculina e viril, as autoridades consideraram que os homossexuais sem profissão tinham que ser integrados às Umap para serem verdadeiros “homens”. Em algumas delas, essas pessoas foram tratadas como todos os demais e não foram vítimas de discriminação. Em outras, onde reinava a arbitrariedade, eles foram separados injustamente dos demais jovens. Havia então o grupo dos homossexuais e dos travestis, o grupo dos religiosos e dos crentes, o grupo dos hippies, etc. Foi reservado a eles um tratamento especial com chacotas cotidianas e humilhações públicas. Em uma palavra, as discriminações que existiam na sociedade cubana se tornaram mais vivas e mais cruéis nas Umap.

Não resta a menor dúvida de que o processo de criação e de funcionamento das Umap foi arbitrário. Por isso, essas unidades foram fechadas definitivamente três anos depois. Mas, repito, a situação dos homossexuais no resto do mundo era similar, às vezes pior. Isso, evidentemente, não justifica em nada as discriminações das quais os homossexuais foram vítimas em Cuba.

OM: Qual era a situação das minorias sexuais no resto do mundo?
MCE: Há um estudo extremamente interessante de um pesquisador norte-americano chamado David Carter sobre os movimentos LGBT na América Latina e no resto do mundo. Por exemplo, no nosso continente, as ditaduras militares perseguiam impiedosamente os homossexuais. Essa realidade, no entanto, não deve nos impedir de analisar criticamente o que ocorreu em Cuba.

OM: Qual foi a responsabilidade de Fidel na criação das Umap?
MCE: Fidel Castro é como o Quixote. Sempre assumiu suas responsabilidades como líder do processo revolucionário. Em razão de seu cargo, considera que deve assumir a responsabilidade de tudo o que ocorreu em Cuba, tanto os aspectos positivos como os negativos. É uma posição muito honesta de sua parte, ainda que me pareça não ser justo, pois não deve assumir sozinho todos esses excessos, o que não aproxima da verdade histórica. Era uma época na qual emergia uma nova sociedade com a criação de novas instituições, em meio a agressões, traições, ameaças contra sua vida. Fidel foi vítima de mais de 600 tentativas de assassinato. Não podia cuidar de tudo e, portanto, delegava muitas tarefas.

OM: Concretamente, qual é o vínculo entre Fidel e as Umap?
MCE: Fidel Castro não desempenhou um papel nesta criação. Na realidade, o único vínculo dele com as Umap foi quando decidiu fechá-las, após numerosos protestos da sociedade civil, e a investigação levada a cabo a pela política das Forças Armadas, que concluiu que muitos abusos foram cometidos. A partir dessa data, decidiu-se não incluir os homossexuais no serviço militar para evitar discriminações em uma força marcada pela homofobia, não apenas em Cuba, mas no resto do mundo. Também se poderá argumentar que se tratava de uma nova discriminação em relação a eles, mas sua incorporação às forças armadas foi tão nefasta por conta dos preconceitos, que resultou nessa decisão.

OM: Qual era o ponto de vista do seu pai?
MCE: Falei muitas vezes sobre esse tema com meu pai e ele me explicou que era extremamente difícil eliminar os preconceitos sem uma política de educação. Por outro lado, o universo militar continua sendo muito machista em Cuba. Lamentavelmente, é notório que, em nossas sociedades, rechaçamos tudo o que se mostra diferente. Imagine então no contexto dos anos 1960. A esse respeito, o Cenesex lançou um programa de pesquisa sobre as Umap e estamos recolhendo os testemunhos das pessoas que sofreram com essa política.

Leia as outras três partes da entrevista:
2: “PC era reflexo da sociedade cubana: machista e homofóbico”, diz filha de Raúl

3: Mariela Castro: “uma nação socialista deve defender a igualdade de todos”
4: Mariela Castro: consenso é de que homofobia e “transfobia” são incoerentes com a Revolução

“The refuge of the morally, intellectually, artistically and economically bankrupt is war.”(Martin H.Fischer, 1879-1962.)

It has not been an auspicious couple of weeks for UK Prime Minister David Cameron.

His Cabinet colleagues, largely a bunch of millionaires, have accused the unemployed of being work-shy and a burden on the taxpayers – never mind that businesses are closing in near industrial numbers and that often hundreds, if not thousands, apply for one job. Additionally, according to the Literacy Trust: ” One in six people in the UK struggle with literacy. This means their literacy is below the level expected of an eleven year old … Men and women with poor literacy are least likely to be in full-time employment at the age of thirty.”

A junior Health Minister has accused the poor of being fat because, she has decided, they eat the wrong things.

The latter of course, implies that the overweight poor will be a further burden on Britain’s National Health Service, being more likely to develop chronic conditions. It seems this health fascism exempts government Ministers and politicians such as the Minister for Communities and Local Government, Eric Pickles, who must flatten the tires and springs of his Ministerial limousine, along with other political rotundas, politicians who of course, live entirely at the taxpayers expense, from large salaries, with all financial outputs covered and health care.

David Cameron himself stated that without the health help he had received, often twenty four hours a day, for his little son Ivan, suffering a chronic condition which subsequently proved fatal, his family would have been unable to cope. Now under his government, the Health Service too is under government fire – slash and burn style. Cuts in welfare include attempting to force the very disabled, even potentially terminally ill back to work. Some have committed suicide.

Public anger and resentment is palpably mounting against pretty well all policies in a government seen as completely blind to the reality in Britain’s villages, towns and cities.

The government message of course is fiscal belt tightening, ”getting the economy back on track.”

Then the Prime Minister cancelled a long planned address in Europe on Britain and the EU (another mess) leapt on a ‘plane for Mali, a geographical stone’s throw away from the ruins of his last African foray, Libya, and announced support for France’s reckless insurgency, in one of the few countries the British have not invaded, plundered or colonised. So much for fiscal probity.

The opposition Labour Party’s Defence spokesman, Jim Murphy, commented of what rapidly became Operation Creep: “The UK commitment to Mali has grown from lending the French two transport aircraft, to the deployment of perhaps hundreds of troops to the region.” Most will be there, Cameron has assured, on a “training mission.”

In what should have been a mega reality check for anyone but the Prime Minister, former Labour Cabinet Minister, Frank Dobson, pointed out that: “The American catastrophe in Vietnam started off with a deployment of troops in a training capacity.”

From there he went to meddle in Algiers, popped in on the remains of Libya in a sixteen vehicle armed and armored motorcade, where he addressed a police training college (in english) and assured them that: “In building a new Libya you will have no greater friend than the United Kingdom. We will stand with you every step of the way.” That should send a chill down spines.

Cameron’s decision to fly to the Maghreb, wrote one commentator: “was a Blair-style statement that Britain intends to stay involved. Indeed, Cameron’s references to a ‘generational struggle’ make him sound remarkably similar to Tony Blair after 9/11.”

“I believe we are in the midst of a long struggle against murderous terrorists and a poisonous ideology that supports them,” he told the World Economic Forum in Davos on returning.

Whilst: “We’ve successfully put pressure on al-Qaida in Afghanistan and Pakistan, so al-Qaida franchises have been growing for years in Yemen, in Somalia” and across parts of Africa he warned. His predecessor, “Peace Envoy” Tony Blair, wanted by lawyers and others worldwide for his Iraq lies, cheered on Britain in Mali from the television studios.

It now transpires that David Cameron relies on Blair, who may yet be headed for the International Criminal Court in The Hague, as, seemingly some sort of mentor, from whom, it is reported, he has been taking personal advice.The Chancellor, George Osborne, is reported as referring to Blair as “the master.” (i)

Cameron is quoted as being: “very admiring of Blair, whom he regards as a nice person and has conviction.” With judgment like that there may be those who feel he would be dangerous in charge of a broom, yet alone a country.

Iraq’s ruins, widows, orphans, three million dead, five million displaced are testimony to Blair’s “conviction” and niceness, in this tenth anniversary of the invasion year and twenty second of the embargo, which Blair endorsed, helped sustain its strangulation, colluded with – with UK aircraft aiding the illegal US bombings, during his term in office, 1997-2007.

On Monday (4th February) David Cameron hosted Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai and President Asif Ali Zardari of Pakistan at a dinner at the Prime Ministerial country home, Chequers: “as part of his ongoing efforts to help to strengthen Afghanistan-Pakistan relations and promote regional peace and stability”, according to The Independent.

It would have been interesting to have been a fly on the wall as the canapés did the rounds. Ahead of this much touted mini summit, President Karzai gave lengthy interviews to the Guardian and ITN (ii.) It was to put it mildly, a bit of a broadside:

“In 2002 through 2006, Afghanistan had a lot better security. When we had our own presence there, with very little foreign troops, schools were open in Helmand and life was more secure”, said the President.

Moreover, whilst he appreciated “the sacrifices” and “contributions” of the British forces: “ … we also would like our allies in the west to recognise the immense sacrifices of the Afghan people in the last ten years, the immense loss of life and the suffering that the Afghan people put up with …”

Acknowledging corruption within the Afghan government and its agencies (indeed the allegations leveled at his own family and connections are a litany) he stated that: “in comparison to the corruption coming through the international donor contracts, and the way the money was spent (it was) really insignificant.” He gave examples.

Asked about the attacks by Afghan troops on coalition forces, he said it “pained” his Administration as a “serious breach of hospitality” for which Afghanistan is known, but: “ …there has to be a lot more cultural sensitivity by our allies when they send troops to Afghanistan. Plus much more.”

Given night raids, wholesale destruction of lives, livelihoods, homes, terrorism by Drones, his restraint was commendable, the more so since he and colleagues survived a US “friendly fire” missile attack in 2001, suffering serious injuries, his also involving damage to facial nerves, still sometimes noticeable.

Asked what stood in the way of progress in Afghanistan: “The risk is continuation of foreign interference …” Further: “The exit of foreign forces will not bring more violence … but a serious, strong, good reduction in violence will occur.” Earlier he had said: “On our own, as Afghans, we will be good. It’s the external factors that will determine the extent of progress and stability or the lack of it.”

On the planned departure of western troops from Afghanistan one comment was that perhaps the reason was: “ …that they have felt that there was no fight in Afghanistan from the very first day, that terrorism was not in Afghanistan to be found, that they had to go to the (Taliban’s) sanctuaries long time back, that they didn’t do that and since they cannot do that even today there is no point for them to stay in Afghanistan, so they would like to leave …” Ouch.

(It should be said that in the mid nineties Karzai not only worked with the Taliban, but they asked him to be their Ambassador to the United Narions.)

In a long interview there are certainly some enlightening lines. US and UK “progress” and conquest of “hearts and minds” over twelve years in Afghanistan seems to lie buried in that “graveyard of empires.”

The US is committed to “an enduring presence” in Afghanistan (it’s the minerals, stupid.) So far Hamid Karzai is talking a conciliatory line. They would perhaps be confined to the odd base, but in no towns or villages. Mr Karzai seems like a man who is capable of changing his mind.

It is to be hoped nothing went wrong with the menu of that bridge-building Prime Ministerial dinner. Britain has had another major food scandal, with horsemeat found in beefburgers – and pork in halal meat. Hope none found its way to Chequers to round off Cameron’s latest accident prone couple of weeks.

Notes

i. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/meet-my-nbf-david-cameron-and-tony-blair-become-chums-8478494.html

ii. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/feb/04/hamid-karzai-interview-full-transcript?INTCMP=SRCH

Obamacare: A Deception

February 5th, 2013 by Dr. Paul Craig Roberts

Introduction by Paul Craig Roberts

The article below is the most comprehensive analysis available of “Obamacare” – the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The author, a knowledgeable person who wishes to remain anonymous, explains how Obamacare works for the insurance companies but not for you.

Obamacare was formulated on the concept of health care as a commercial commodity and was cloaked in ideological slogans such as “shared responsibility,” “no free riders” and “ownership society.” These slogans dress the insurance industry’s raid on public resources in the cloak of a “free market” health care system.

You will learn how to purchase a subsidized plan at the Exchange, what will happen when income and family circumstances change during the year or from one year to the next, and other perils brought to you by Obamacare. It is one of the most important articles that will be posted on my website this year. Americans will be shocked to learn the extent to which they have been deceived. The legislation neither protects the patient nor are the plans affordable.

The author shows that for those Americans whose income places them between 138% and 400% of the Federal Poverty Level, the out-of-pocket cost for one of the least expensive (lower coverage) subsidized policies ranges from 2% to 9.5% of Modified Adjusted Gross Income (MAGI), a tax base larger than the Adjusted Gross Income used for calculating federal income tax.

What this means is that those Americans with the least or no disposable income are faced in effect with a substantial pay cut. The author provides an example of a 35 year-old with a MAGI of $27,925. The out-of- pocket cost to this person of a Silver level plan (second least expensive) is $187.33 per month. This cost is based on pre-tax income, that is, before income is reduced by payroll and income taxes. There goes the car payment or utility bill. The lives of millions of Americans will change drastically as they struggle with a new, large expense – particularly in an era of no jobs, low-paying jobs and rising cost of living.

The author also points out that the cost of using the mandated policies will be prohibitive because of the large deductibles and co-pays. Many Americans will find themselves not only with a policy they can’t afford, but also with one they cannot afford to use. Those who cannot afford the insurance, even with a subsidy, will be faced with a costly penalty, and in many cases, this, too, will be difficult, if not impossible, to pay. As each year’s subsidy is based on last year’s income, there will be a substantial year-end tax liability for those who must repay the subsidy in whole or part because their income increased during the year. The stress alone from such a regressive scheme is, without a doubt, not conducive to good health and well-being.

Diets will worsen for millions of Americans as they struggle with a new large expense. Thus, the effect of Obamacare will be to worsen the health of millions. Indeed, a “glitch” in the legislation allows millions to be priced out of coverage.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/30/obamacare-glitch-priced-out-of-health-care_n_2585695.html?view=print&comm_ref=false

Alternatively, Americans might be able to acquire health insurance coverage but have no doctors willing to treat them.

http://www.californiahealthline.org/road-to-reform/2013/access-denied-implications-of-medi-cal-pay-cut.aspx# [1]

The demand that Obamacare places on household budgets in which there is no slack makes me wonder where the president’s economists were while the insurance lobby crafted the product that serves the profits of insurance companies. Two well-known economic facts are that real family income has been stagnant or declining for a number of years and Americans are over their heads in debt.

How does Obama preside over a recovery when consumer purchasing power is redirected to insurance company profits?

Obamacare not only rations health care by what a person or family can afford, but also has implications for Medicare patients. Hundreds of billions of dollars are siphoned from Medicare to help pay the cost of Obamacare. The health care provided to Medicare patients will decline with the reduced payments to care providers. Health care seems destined to be rationed according to the age and illnesses of Medicare patients. Those judged too old and too ill could be denied expensive treatments or procedures that would prolong their lives.

Obama will rue the day that his name was put on this special interest legislation, and most Americans, once they realize what has been done to them, will be angry that special interests again prevailed over the health of the nation.

Paul Craig Roberts

February 5, 2013


OBAMACARE: DEVILS IN THE DETAILS

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, commonly referred to as the ACA or Obamacare, will go into full effect in 2014. This decree mandates that all Americans must purchase and maintain government-approved health insurance or pay a penalty to the IRS. Touted as a plan to provide all Americans with access to medical care, in reality, this compulsory shakedown commands everyone to purchase insurance that for many will be too expensive, even with government subsidies – or unaffordable to use – or both.

The ACA was not selflessly designed with the intent of providing affordable and equitable medical services to those in need, but rather to acquire taxpayer money for the private insurance companies under the seemingly helpful guise of health care and the ideological excuse of personal responsibility. It takes money from ordinary people and gives it to a medical insurance industry that profits handsomely from this legally-enforced corporate welfare – all while keeping Americans locked in the same broken system that puts profit before patients. The law was essentially written by business executives from the industry so that special interests would not be upset and profits assured.

There’s a lot to digest about how the ACA works and much is buried in a complex, convoluted maze of regulations and procedures. A few websites contain explanations, but very important details have either been left out or glossed over. These details are well worth understanding so you will know what’s at stake for you and your family. This lesson is not meant to convey a political opinion. This is how the ACA works and under this law, there are no sacred cows.

In today’s lesson, you will learn why 2013 is an important year for many of you with regard to your income and the ACA. We will discuss 1) use of Modified Adjusted Gross Income, 2) tax credits (help paying for insurance), 3) your share of the premium, 4) paying back the tax credits to the IRS, 5) expansion of Medicaid and estate recovery which could affect you if you are put into that plan, 6) inadequate coverage in most subsidized plans, 7) penalties, 8) exemptions and 9) a few tidbits. We’ll also take a look at the agenda of Enroll America and the Health Insurance Exchanges, and what you can expect to hear in the very near future.

Here we go. Fasten your seat belts.

1. HEALTH INSURANCE EXCHANGE BASICS

In 2014, each state will have an Affordable Insurance Exchange where qualified individuals and families with incomes between 138 and 400 percent of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) can shop for commercial insurance policies. Most individuals and families with incomes at or below 138 percent FPL will be put into Medicaid. You may be eligible for help paying for your insurance in the form of a tax credit. In most states, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) will continue to cover children in families with incomes up to at least 200 percent FPL. Some states may offer a Basic Health Plan for those who earn up to 200 percent FPL and are not eligible for Medicaid. Under limited circumstances, you may also be eligible for a cost-sharing credit.

Eligibility to receive a tax credit, the amount of your tax credit and your out-of-pocket share for the insurance will be determined by your income and where you fall in the Federal Poverty Level Guidelines (FPL). This is easy to understand.

Your annual gross income determines which FPL you’re in. For example, based on 2012 FPL Guidelines, an individual with an annual income of $33,510 is at 300 percent FPL; a family of 4 with an annual income of $69,150 is at 300 percent FPL. To see where you’re at, try the handy calculator at this link. FPL Guidelines are revised every January, so the 2013 edition should be up soon. http://www.safetyweb.org/fpl.php [2]

The ACA requires use of MODIFIED ADJUSTED GROSS INCOME (MAGI) instead of Adjusted Gross Income for all determinations made by an Exchange including eligibility for Medicaid except in certain cases. So, in this lesson, we’ll refer to annual income as MAGI.

Modified Adjusted Gross Income (MAGI) is defined as Adjusted Gross Income PLUS

a) all tax exempt interest accrued or received in the taxable year;
b) the non-taxable portion of Social Security benefits provided under Title II of the Social Security Act which includes old-age benefits, disability benefits, spousal benefits, child benefits, survivor benefits and parental benefits;
c) tier 1 Railroad Retirement benefits that are not includible in gross income; and
d) the exclusion from gross income for citizens or residents living abroad.

The adoption of MAGI, created by the ACA, is defined in a new section of the IRS code.

2. DETERMINING ELIGIBILITY FOR A TAX CREDIT

The tax credit is to help you pay for insurance. The ACA says it must be based on annual income for the tax year it’s received, but since you will need help paying for your plan during that year, the ACA allows for advance payment of the tax credit.

Here’s an example of what that means: Let’s say you apply for insurance at an Exchange in 2014. Therefore, 2014 is the tax year you will receive your tax credit, and per the ACA, the amount you receive must be based on that year’s MAGI. But, that year’s MAGI won’t be available until 2015 when you file your 2014 tax return and you need help paying for your insurance plan when you buy it in 2014. So, the amount of your tax credit has to be determined on information that is available such as your prior-year (2013) tax return. Thus, the tax credit morphs into an ‘advance payment of the tax credit’ (also referred to as an advance premium assistance credit). Now you see why 2013 is an important year for many of you.

The ACA allows for limited disclosure of tax return info in order for an Exchange employee to verify your citizenship status and MAGI, and, not only to let you know how much your advance tax credit will be, but also to see if you are eligible to receive this in the first place. An Exchange can also consider using your real-time income by looking at your state’s most current quarterly wage database, or it may agree to accept paper verification (pay stubs, etc.) as a last resort or an attestation of your income with no verification. Creation of a federal ‘data services hub’ is in the works so your income information will be more readily accessible. But, no matter how this plays out, you’ll still receive an advance payment of the tax credit because your actual MAGI for 2014 will not be known by you nor can it be verified by an Exchange until you file your 2014 tax return in 2015.

Ultimately, no matter which method is used – prior year or partial current year – this advance payment of the tax credit carries with it some heavy-duty consequences which are discussed in topic 4 of this lesson.

3. TAX CREDITS AND YOUR SHARE OF THE PREMIUM

The amount of your tax credit will be based on the second lowest-cost Silver plan in the area where you live and your MAGI. Here’s how this works – it’s quite simple:

a) First, the amount you will pay out of your pocket for that Silver plan – copays and deductibles not included – will be a specific percentage of your MAGI, and you will pay this to the insurer on a monthly basis. The way this percentage will be calculated is described a few lines down.

b) Next, your share will be deducted from the cost of that Silver plan and the difference will be your tax credit which the government will pay directly to the insurer on a monthly basis when you purchase a plan.

The specific percentage you will have to pay for the second lowest-cost Silver plan will be based on your FPL using a well-greased sliding scale. As your FPL increases little by little, the percentage you will pay increases. The same percentage applies to an individual or a family. Here’s how much of your MAGI you will pay for that Silver plan:

— up to 138 % FPL: 2% for people legally present less than 5 full years and residents of states that do not expand Medicaid
— 138-150% FPL: 3 to 4%
— 150-200% FPL: 4 to 6.3%
— 200-250% FPL: 6.3 to 8.05%
— 250-300% FPL: 8.05 to 9.5%
— 300-400% FPL: 9.5% – there’s no range, but the dollar amount of your share will change because 9.5% of a lower MAGI is less than 9.5% of a higher MAGI.

Here are two examples in dollars using 2012 FPL Guidelines and an estimate for a second lowest-cost Silver plan which will vary depending where you live – actual costs are not yet available:

a) You are 35 years old and the price of the second lowest-cost Silver plan for an individual in the area where you live is $4,750 with no tax credit. If your MAGI is $33,510 ($2,792.50 per month) putting you at 300 percent FPL, your share for that Silver plan, per the chart above, would be 9.5 percent of your MAGI which comes to $3,183 ($265.25 per month). Your tax credit would be $1,567 which is the difference between the unsubsidized cost of that Silver plan and your share.

b) You are 35 years old and your MAGI is $27,925 ($2,327 per month) putting you at 250 percent FPL, so, your share of that Silver plan would be 8.05 percent of your MAGI which comes to $2,247.96 ($187.33 per month) and your tax credit would be $2,502.

If the second lowest-cost Silver plan is too expensive, you can apply your tax credit to a Bronze plan which will be cheaper but less comprehensive. If you want a better plan than the Silver, you will have to pay the full difference in the premium.

Don’t forget that your share of the monthly premium will be figured on your MAGI which is pre-tax income. So, after you deduct your income taxes and your share of an insurance plan, will you be able to cover your monthly basic living costs including paying off debt you may owe and still have some cash left to pay for medical care if you have to use your insurance? Check out topic 6 in this lesson for a rundown of plans and coverage you can expect to find at an Exchange. Hope you don’t faint.

Once you purchase a plan, your share and your tax credit won’t change until the next enrollment period unless, before that time, your income goes up or down enough to bump you into a different FPL or you get a job with insurance. You can let your Exchange know by phone or via your online account, or, your Exchange might notice while cruising the data services hub you learned about in topic 2 and notify you that you must ‘up’ your coverage or that you’ve been tossed into Medicaid if your MAGI has decreased enough to make you eligible for that plan. Exchanges will be encouraged to use as many different avenues as possible including private databases to keep tabs on your income.

Thus, you could end up bouncing from Medicaid to a subsidized plan or vice versa. By the same token, you could take some extra work to help pay the bills or to save for a vacation, and, oops, you went over 400 percent FPL and are no longer eligible for a tax credit. The Exchange may not find out about this unless you spill the beans, but, no matter how it all plays out, income changes will catch up with you when you file your tax return.

To be eligible for a tax credit you must file your tax return no later than April 15. Married taxpayers must file a joint return. Individuals who are listed as dependents on a return are ineligible for a tax credit.

If you are eligible for Medicaid, you will not be allowed to receive a tax credit or a cost-sharing credit although some states impose premium and cost-sharing charges on certain Medicaid enrollees per the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 (DRA) and clarified in the Tax Relief and Health Care Act of 2006.

On January 22, 2013, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) proposed allowing states to further increase Medicaid premiums and out-of-pocket costs by 5 percent. The most egregious part of this proposed rule says that states may allow providers to deny services for failure to pay the required cost-sharing in certain circumstances. The Obama administration is behind this proposed rule hoping to persuade states to expand Medicaid since many have refused and others are still undecided – the expansion of Medicaid is an integral part of the ACA.

Allowing states to further increase premiums and cost-sharing for the poorest segment of the population underscores the existing political bias toward low-income Americans despite rhetoric which claims otherwise.

See https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2013/01/22/2013-00659/medicaid-childrens-health-insurance-programs-and-exchanges-essen- tial-health-benefits-in-alternative#h-186 [3]
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/23/health/medicaid-patients-could-face-higher-fees-under-a-proposed-federal-policy.html

Affordability rates (the percentage of your MAGI the government has decided you can afford to pay for insurance) are based on boardroom formulas which don’t take particular individual needs into account such as housing costs, property taxes, debt, education, transportation, retirement savings, etc. Also, FPL Guidelines are standard across the country and do not take into consideration those who reside in a more expensive region or vice versa. They are one-size-fits-all with the exception of Alaska and Hawaii. See topic 8 in this lesson to learn about exemptions.

Check out what self-proclaimed health care expert Jonathan Gruber says about affordability and get a load of all the “formulas.” According to Mr. Gruber, you may be having too much fun in life and need to get serious, buy health insurance and live under a rock in order to pay for it. He was involved with Romneycare in Massachusetts and was also Mr. Obama’s go to man under a no-bid contract. Per a bar graph on page 6 of a report prepared by Stan Dom for the Urban Institute, subsidized plans under the ACA are estimated to cost 2 to 3 times more (give or take) than the subsidized plans under Romneycare. Per several surveys during the years that Romneycare has been in effect, many low and modest income MA residents have had difficulty paying for those plans and the out-of-pocket costs to use the insurance, particularly chronically-ill residents.

See

http://www.statecoverage.org/files/TheBasicHealthProgramOptionUnderHealthReform.pdf [5]

4. PAYBACK OF TAX CREDITS TO THE IRS

Perhaps you recall hearing politicians including Mr. Obama say if you can’t afford to pay for health insurance, the government will help you. That was one of the key talking points repeated non stop. We just went over the help part – the tax credits. Now we’ll look at what Mr. Obama et al didn’t tell you which is important to understand because it could cause you some serious financial distress.

Remember the “advance payment of the tax credit” in topic 2 of this lesson? Well, essentially, that was a loan from the government which was paid in advance to the insurer on your behalf when you purchased your plan, and, as you know, loans have to be paid back. So, when you file your tax return for the year you received your “advance tax credit” (your loan), if your income has changed, you have to settle this with the IRS. Here’s the deal:

a) If your MAGI is higher and the increase puts you into a higher FPL, you may have to pay back a portion or all of the tax credit because it was based on a lower MAGI. In other words, you could have an additional tax liability on top of the income taxes you already paid (or still owe) because you received a higher tax credit than you were entitled to.

b) If your MAGI is lower and the decrease puts you into a lower FPL, a refund could be coming to you because you were eligible for a larger tax credit than the government paid to the insurer. In other words, you overpaid for your portion of the insurance premium.

c) If you earned a bit more or less, but your extra earnings or loss didn’t bump you into another FPL, you’re home free.

To figure out your payback, you will have to enter the relevant figures on the reconciliation page of the tax return. Changes in filing status such as the number of people in your household will also have an impact. For those of you who marry or divorce, the rules for the payback amount as well as the amount of the tax credit you are eligible to receive will make your head spin – the computation includes pre- and post-marriage FPL and uses the highest FPL of the two people involved. Ditto for divorce.

Here is one of the reconciliation explanations in IRS-speak: Your liability for an excess tax credit you received must be reflected on your current year income tax return subject to a limitation on the amount of such liability.

Oh! Limitation on the amount of such liability. That sounds good.

Let’s take a peek at the payback limitations on record at the time of this writing. “At the time of this writing” are the operative words because the cap has been increased twice since the ACA was signed into law. The original payback was capped at $400 for families under 400 percent FPL and $200 for individuals. We’ll skip over the first increase. The story behind the second one is that a particular revenue stream was removed from the original law, so something had to be done to compensate for this lost money. Thus, an amendment was passed that increased the cap using a sliding scale, thereby putting a huge financial burden on the backs of the very people the ACA claims to help. In other words, tag, you’re it. You are the cash cow.

Here are the current sliding-scale caps:

If the household income (expressed as a percent of poverty line) is:
less than 200 percent, the applicable dollar amount is $600
at least 200 percent but less than 300 percent, the applicable dollar amount is $1,500
at least 300 percent but less than 400 percent, the applicable dollar amount is $2,500

Effective date: the amendment made by this topic shall apply to taxable years ending after December 31, 2013. Very truly yours, House Ways and Means Committee

The name of this bloodsucker is The Comprehensive 1099 Taxpayer Protection and Repayment of Exchange Subsidy Overpayments Act of 2011.
http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/PLAW-112publ9/html/PLAW-112publ9.htm [6]

But wait, there’s more!

a) Update: Today (Feb. 17) (2011) the House Ways and Means Committee approved the 1099 repeal bill which requires consumers earning more than 400 percent of the poverty line to pay back the [entire] subsidy. http://thehill.com/blogs/healthwatch/health-reform-implementation/144847-1099-repeal-gets-trickier-with-house-bill

b) Also, per IRS final regulations: for taxable years beginning after December 31, 2014, the payback caps may be adjusted to reflect changes in the consumer price index.

Payback amounts are reduced to one-half for unmarried individuals who are not surviving spouses or filing as heads of households. There is no help if you get hit with a payback and many of you will have difficulty paying this liability.

Chances that you may have received an incorrect tax credit are not exactly slim because this poorly thought-out scheme does not take into account the unpredictable and complex financial situations that confront the low and modest income population.

Keep in mind that by ending up in a higher FPL, you may also have to pay more out of your pocket for an insurance premium. You learned how that works in topic 3. If you can’t afford a higher premium and drop your insurance, you may still owe a payback plus a penalty for being uninsured which is also MAGI-based. Penalties are discussed in topic 7. If your MAGI puts you over 400 percent FPL, you just knocked yourself into left field and are on your own paying for an insurance plan on the open market. And, you may also be required to payback the entire tax credit.

If you get a job during the current year that offers health insurance which is not more than 9.5 percent of your total salary and the coverage is not less than 60 percent, you must take that insurance or pay a penalty for being uninsured. But, you may owe a payback for the months you received a tax credit before you landed the job. How large that payback is will depend on your MAGI for the entire tax year, not just on your income during the months you received the tax credit. Or, you may lose a job during the year and have a significantly reduced income even though the amount reported on your tax return is high because you had a job for part of the year. In this case as well, your payback will be based on your MAGI for the entire tax year.

More interest income from taxable and tax-exempt savings or a year-end bonus could also contribute to an increased MAGI and the possibility of a payback as well as taking extra work to help pay the monthly bills, house and car repairs, educational aspirations or a vacation. So, whether or not you end up in payback land will depend on how close you are teetering on the edge of an FPL. Ditto for your share of the premium and the amount of your tax credit.

The payback may stop many of you from purchasing insurance at the Exchange because you know in advance you will not have the money to pay it. If this is the case, you may be allowed to negotiate a lesser tax credit by paying more out of your pocket for your monthly insurance premium in order to avoid or decrease the payback. It’s a crap shoot. Considering what you’ve learned so far in today’s lesson, many of you will find yourselves between a rock and a hard place under the ACA, and you will be forced to make untenable choices. Given the skyrocketing costs of food, heat and other basics, how will you even tread water under this set-up, nevermind get ahead?

Being told you will receive help from the government if you can’t afford to purchase insurance and finding out at tax time this was really a loan and you owe the IRS a substantial debt on top of your income taxes is outright shameful. But most politicians have no shame – which brings us to the next topic.

5. MEDICAID EXPANSION AND ESTATE RECOVERY

In order to expand Medicaid, several Medicaid regulations were changed:

a) the income limit for eligibility was increased to 133 percent FPL, but since states must apply a 5 percent disregard, this effectively raises the eligibility to 138 percent FPL
b) Modified Adjusted Gross Income will be used in most cases to determine eligibility (also applies to certain CHIP applicants)
c) the age limit was increased to 64, childless adults will be eligible; and
d) the asset test was dropped except for certain groups such as the elderly and people on Social Security Disability – BINGO!

The fact that the asset test was dropped is very important, but before we look at why, you must first understand that if an Exchange determines you are eligible for Medicaid, you have no other choice. Code for Exchanges specifies, “an applicant is not eligible for advance payment of the premium tax credit (a subsidized plan) or cost-sharing reductions to the extent that he or she is eligible for other minimum essential coverage, including coverage under Medicaid and CHIP.” Therefore, you will be tossed into Medicaid unless there are specific rules as to why you would not be eligible. If you are enrolled in a private plan through an Exchange and have been receiving a tax credit, and your income decreases making you eligible for Medicaid, in you go. If you are allowed to opt out because you don’t want Medicaid, you will have to pay a penalty for being uninsured unless you can afford to purchase insurance in the open market.

Just so you’re clear on this: the ACA stipulates that the system will ensure that if any individual applying to an Exchange is found to be eligible for Medicaid or a state children’s health insurance program (CHIP), the individual will be enrolled in such a plan.

Furthermore, to increase enrollment in health coverage without requiring people to complete an application on their own, states are advised to automate enrollment whenever possible by using existing databases for social services programs such as SNAP (food stamps) to enroll people who appear eligible for Medicaid but are not currently enrolled. Therefore, you could find yourself auto-enrolled in Medicaid against your will if your state acts on this advice.

Many times over Mr. Obama et al told you that all Americans would have choice. Choice was another big talking point. Are poor and low-income Americans undeserving of choice? Is the ACA a class-based system? Maybe they meant that for this segment of the population, the choice would be between Medicaid or a penalty for remaining uninsured. This is blatant discrimination.

Here’s why dropping the asset test got the BINGO – Estate Recovery! You won’t find the following info in the ACA. It’s in the Omnibus Reconciliation Act of 1993 (OBRA 1993) – a federal statute which applies to Medicaid, and, if you are enrolled in Medicaid, it will apply to you depending on your age.

a) OBRA 1993 requires all states that receive Medicaid funding to seek recovery from the estates of deceased individuals who used Medicaid benefits at age 55 or older. It allows recovery for any items or services under the state Medicaid plan going beyond nursing homes and other long-term care institutions. In fact, The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) site says that states have the option of recovering payments for all Medicaid services provided. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) site says at state option, recovery can be pursued for any items covered by the Medicaid state plan.

b) The HHS site has an overview of the Medicaid estate recovery mandate which also says that at a minimum, states must pursue recoveries from the “probate estate,” which includes property that passes to the heirs under state probate law, but states can expand the definition of estate to allow recovery from property that bypasses probate. This means states can use procedures for direct recovery from bank accounts and other funds.

c) Some states use recovery for RX and hospital only as required by OBRA 1993; some recover for a few additional benefits and some recover for all benefits under the state plan. Recovery provides revenue for cash-strapped states and it’s a big business.

Your estate is what you own when you die – your home and what’s in it, other real estate you may own, your bank account, annuities and so on. And even if you have a will, your heirs are chopped liver. Low-income people often have only one major asset – the home in which they live and, in some cases, this has been the family home through several generations.

So what this boils down to is: if you are put into Medicaid – congratulations – you just got a mandated collateral loan if you use Medicaid benefits at age 55 or older! States keep a running tally.

Estate recovery can be exempted or deferred in certain situations after your death, but the regulations for this are limited and complicated with multitudes of conditions. You may not have an attorney on speed dial, but with regard to this hundred pound gorilla, it sure would be handy.

Should you decide to ask your congresscritter about estate recovery, be prepared for responses such as:

— “Estate recovery doesn’t apply to you.” (Great news. Please overnight a copy of the amendment to OBRA 1993 that stipulates estate recovery is no longer required and no longer allowed. Here’s my address.)
— “Oh, estate recovery is state, I’m federal.” (Wrong – estate recovery is federally mandated although the estate recovery program itself is administered by each state.)
— “I don’t know anything about this.” (Highly unlikely because the expansion of Medicaid is an integral part of the ACA and estate recovery is not a secret.)
— “The ACA wasn’t about revamping Medicaid.” (As explained above, Medicaid regs were revised in order to expand Medicaid.)
— “I’ll look into that and get back to you.” (Don’t hold your breath – they don’t want to go there.)

If you ask about estate recovery when you contact an Exchange or speak with an outreach agency, you’ll probably run into a brick wall or be told it doesn’t apply to you – whatever. But, it doesn’t matter because what you are told is not legally binding. What is legally binding is your signature on the Medicaid application which indicates that you agree to the terms of the contract – which brings us to another item in OBRA 1993. Read on.

OBRA 1993 also contains procedural rules intended to ensure that individuals are informed about Medicaid program requirements including disclosure of estate recovery before they complete the application process and also during the annual re-determination process. Notification of estate recovery should be on the signature page of your state’s Medicaid application and is usually a one-liner: I understand that if I am aged 55 or older, (name of your state’s Medicaid plan) may be able to get back money from my estate after I die. (Use of the word ‘may’ doesn’t mean if the state feels like it – it means recovery will take place unless there are specific circumstances for exemption or deferment as mentioned above.) There are also strict recovery/repayment clauses for injury-related settlements disclosed on the signature page and a few other ditties that apply to you or a family member who is enrolled in Medicaid. All of these items must also be disclosed in your state’s Medicaid handbook.

Under the ACA and proposed federal rules for implementation, states will be required to provide a single, simple application to apply for and enroll in Exchange plans, Medicaid and CHIP, and consumers must be able to apply by phone, in person or online. The Secretary (HHS) is charged with this task and it’s in the works. This begs an answer to the following questions:

— Will Medicaid applicants be diligently informed about estate recovery and other rules that apply to Medicaid enrollees on this single application? Failure to do so would be in non compliance with OBRA 1993 and would also be deceptive.
— Will applicants be provided with a signature page that contains appropriate disclosure of these rules so they can be reviewed before signing on the dotted line?
— How will appropriate disclosure and obtaining a signature work for those who are bumped into Medicaid due to a decrease in income or who might be auto-enrolled because they were presumed eligible through a database.

If an applicant or someone who has been bumped or auto-enrolled in Medicaid is not satisfied with the terms of the Medicaid contract, lack of another health insurance option that is in the best interest of low-income earners represents undue and unconscionable advantage being taken of this segment of the population under a law that mandates health insurance or a penalty.

Do the health insurance policies enjoyed by lawmakers on Capitol Hill and paid for by taxpayers include an estate recovery program?

Medicaid is poor, underfunded, overstretched and constantly bombarded by state budget cuts – even before an ACA expansion. It offers a low quality of care in many states, and, in general, represents inequities in care. Office-based doctors typically refuse to accept Medicaid patients, thus, millions thrust into this plan will have difficulty finding a primary-care doctor or a specialist.

A perfect example is the December 2012 federal appeals court decision that allowed California to cut reimbursements by 10 percent to doctors, pharmacies and others who serve low-income residents under the state’s Medi-Cal plan (a version of Medicaid) due to state budget issues. California was already at the bottom of the rate-reimbursement heap which made finding doctors difficult for residents in Medi-Cal. This decision will further reduce the number of health care providers willing to take new Medi-Cal patients, thus jeopardizing their access to primary and specialized care. Under the ACA’s expansion of Medicaid, state budget crises across the nation will exacerbate the ongoing problems regarding access to care for Medicaid patients, particularly in states that have a high low-income population. http://www.sfgate.com/health/article/Medi-Cal-cuts-upheld-by-appellate-court-4116971.php [7]

6. INSURANCE PLANS AT THE EXCHANGES

Below are the 4 plan levels that will be offered at Exchanges for people between 138 and 400 percent FPL. Each one has government- approved benefits including prescription coverage. You will be entitled to one free preventive visit each year. Per the most recent study commissioned by the Kaiser Family Foundation, several cost-sharing options were estimated for non-group (individual and family) Bronze and Silver plans. Cost-sharing is the amount you must pay to use your insurance. Your share of the premium is not part of cost-sharing.http://www.kff.org/healthreform/upload/8303.pdf [8]

The way this works is you will pay for all your medical care until you reach the annual deductible. Then you’ll pay the applicable percentage of coinsurance until you reach the annual out-of-pocket spending cap which will be set on a sliding scale. Annual means these amounts start again the following year, and if they change, you will find out when you re-apply for insurance. There will also be copays – an amount you will pay to the doctor for an office visit.
Here are the current estimates:

Bronze: cheapest and dry as dust with 60/40 coverage – a win-win for insurers
a) annual deductible of $4,375 for an individual (double for a family) with 20 percent coinsurance, b) annual deductible of $3,475 for an individual (double for a family) with 40 percent coinsurance

Silver: next cheapest – offers an illusion of coverage at 70/30
a) annual deductible of $2,050 for an individual (double for a family) with 20 percent coinsurance, b) annual deductible of $650 for an individual (double for a family) with 40 percent coinsurance

Gold: expensive – 80/20 – better coverage
Platinum: most expensive – 90/10 – most comprehensive coverage

A fifth plan will be available for the under-30 crowd and people who have been granted a hardship exemption. See topic 8 in this lesson. Coverage in this plan will be less comprehensive than the Bronze – it is primarily for major-medical expenses except that it has a free preventive visit. Cost-sharing for people at 138 to 200 percent FPL is estimated to be a bit less than the Bronze and Silver estimates mentioned above.

The high deductibles in all but the two most expensive plans could saddle you with mounting bills for routine care and may stop you from seeking necessary treatment for illness or injuries. Many of you will find that the promise of access to affordable health care really means access to inadequate coverage at a price the government has decided you can afford to pay.

The number of drugs in each plan at an Exchange will vary from state to state. In some states, plans will offer up to 99 percent of available drugs and others only 45 percent which means you may not have access to the specific drugs you need. Perhaps Big Pharma will change its stance on this before 2014.

The cost of plans at an Exchange will vary from state to state based on where you live and your age. The ACA allows insurers to charge older customers up to three times more for a plan, even if they are in good health, as long as the state in which an Exchange is located doesn’t have a law that caps age-rating. Some Exchanges will tuck an administrative fee of 2 to 4 percent into premiums to help cover operating expenses.

Cost-sharing tax credits will be available if you are below 250 percent FPL to protect you from high deductibles and copays – but only if you purchase a Silver plan. If you buy the cheaper Bronze plan, you won’t be eligible for these credits, which are, by the way, direct federal payouts to private health insurance companies.

Obamacare has no cost controls. There is nothing stopping the insurance companies from increasing their rates, and Washington has already estimated higher premium costs at the Exchange for 2016 which doesn’t mean that 2015 won’t have an increase. Sounds like 2014 prices will be an Introductory Offer. Get ‘em while their hot!

7. PENALTY FOR BEING UNINSURED

The ACA requires that people who have been deemed able to purchase health insurance but decide not to buy it starting in 2014 will owe a penalty (a tax) to the IRS. Here’s what this looks like:

a) In 2014, the annual penalty will be $95 per adult and $47.50 per child, up to a family maximum of $285 or 1 percent of family income, whichever is greater.
b) In 2015, the penalty will be $325 per adult and $162.50 per child, up to a family maximum of $975 or 2 percent of family income, whichever is greater.
c) In 2016, the penalty will be $695 per adult and $347.50 per child, up to a family maximum of $2,085 or 2.5 percent of family income, whichever is greater.

The IRS collects the penalty, but the ACA stipulates that taxpayers shall not be subject to any criminal prosecution or penalty, tax liens, seizure of bank accounts or garnishment of wages for failure to pay it and no accumulation of interest on the unpaid balance. So, it appears that all the IRS can do is deduct the penalty from a refund it owes you, and if you’re not due a refund, then you’ll have an outstanding tax obligation.

Keep in mind that the penalty is described in annual amounts but is really monthly. So, if you are uninsured for only part of the year, you will accrue only 1/12 of the total for each month you are uninsured unless you qualify for an exemption.

8. EXEMPTIONS FROM THE PENALTY

You may be eligible for official permission that excuses you from having to pay the penalty for being uninsured. The requirements are:

a) If the cheapest health care plan available costs more than 8 percent of your MAGI after subtracting the tax credit or employer contribution, whichever is applicable.
b) Your income is so low that you aren’t required to file federal income taxes.
c) You are between jobs and without insurance for up to three months.
d) You have a sincerely-held religious belief that prevents you from seeking and obtaining medical care.
e) You are in jail.
f) You are an undocumented immigrant.
g) You are a member of an Indian tribe or a religious group currently exempt from paying Social Security tax.

If item d) is the case, you must file a sworn statement as part of your tax return, and should you obtain care during the tax year, the exemption will no longer apply and you will have to pay a penalty for being uninsured. Per H.R. 6597, medical care is defined as acute care at a hospital emergency room, walk-in clinic or similar facilities. Medical care excludes treatment not administered or supervised by a medical doctor such as chiropractic, dental, midwifery, personal care assistance, optometry, physical exams or treatment where required by law or third parties such as an employer, and vaccinations.

If you think you can’t afford the amount the government has decided you can afford to pay for your insurance plan, and you don’t fit into any of the categories described above, you can apply for a Hardship Waiver. Details have not yet been provided regarding hardship eligibility requirements under the ACA, but, for an idea of what they might look like, let’s check out what the deal is in Massachusetts which already has a mandated health insurance law – Romneycare! In fact, Romneycare was the model for Obamacare. That’s why some people call Obamacare, Obamneycare.

To qualify for a Certificate of Exemption under Romneycare, a Massachusetts resident must demonstrate that health insurance is not affordable due to one of the following: 1) homelessness; 2)eviction or foreclosure notice; 3) domestic violence-related medical trauma; 4) major long-term illness of a child; 5) death of your spouse; 6) your house burned down; or 7) “you can establish that the expense of purchasing health insurance would cause you to experience serious deprivation of food, shelter, clothing or other necessities.”

Ya gotta luv number 7. And in Massachusetts, exemptions come with an expiration date, so you have to clean up your act in short order. Under the ACA, the Secretary of Health and Human Services will determine if, indeed, you have suffered a hardship that keeps you from being able to pay for coverage.

9. OTHER TIDBITS

There is much more in the ACA including all kinds of rules and penalties for employers, employees and the self employed as well as the Accountable Care Organization (ACO) model which will be mandated starting in 2014. The latter works as follows: under the simplest option available, a small group of doctors and hospitals – an ACO – will manage your care and be graded and paid based on the outcome of all patients who seek treatment with that ACO. The ACO will also be rewarded with a share of the savings in health costs it achieves by following best treatment practices and reaching specific benchmarks set by CMS. The second option, “shared savings plus risk,” is for larger ACOs. Providers will receive a lump-sum payment to treat their patients and assume a portion of the risk for above target spending but are eligible to keep a greater portion of the savings.

Either of these options reduce patient care to numbers and paperwork because doctors are essentially controlled and incentivized by an administrator in some far-flung office. The ACO model is the insurance industry’s version of “budgeting” the cost of health care which ultimately benefits insurers at the expense of doctors and their patients.

Doctors say that basing their pay on treatment outcomes creates an incentive for them to avoid tough cases whose outcomes could “kill my numbers.” “Paradoxically,” writes Dr. G. Keith Smith, “doctors who are doing sham surgery will be the ones with the best outcomes, as their patients, many of whom don’t need surgery in the first place, will exhibit great, basically perfect outcomes. Physicians who don’t do unnecessary surgery will be pushed to do so to improve their ‘scores.’ ‘Pay for performance’ trends in medicine are not a good idea in my opinion. Paying based on patient outcomes will have perverse effects, not the least of which will be the complete denial of care to the very sick.”

http://www.medibid.com/blog/2012/10/your-disease-can-kill-you-in-more-than-one-way/?utm_source=Registered+Physicians&utm_campaign=8f9028ddaf-October_Physician_Newsletter11_17_2012&utm_medium=email [9]

The ACA also requires Health Insurance Exchanges to establish a navigator program to inform the uninsured about the availability of government-approved subsidized plans at an Exchange and to facilitate enrollment in these plans, but it leaves the design of the program up to each Exchange.

Depending how an Exchange sets up its program, some Navigators will sell plans offered by an Exchange while others will be responsible for maintaining the existing market but may also be allowed to sell Exchange plans. All seller Navigators will be compensated either by Exchanges or insurance carriers for the plans they sell. Many options are being considered by Exchanges including using insurance agents. Hopefully, Navigators and insurance agents will not be knocking on your door or contacting you by phone. That would be over the top. Here’s a link to read what the California Exchange is pondering with regard to its Navigation program.http://www.healthexchange.ca.gov/StakeHolders/Documents/CHBE,DHCS,MRMIB_StatewideAssistersProgramDesignOptionsRecommendationsandWorkPlan_6-26-12.pdf [10]

10. ENROLL AMERICA, HERNDON ALLIANCE & THE EXCHANGES – MASTERS OF SPIN

Since many Americans don’t know about the ACA, somehow the word has to get out and people must be encouraged to purchase health insurance either in the open market or at an Exchange. And who better to do this?

Enter “Enroll America” – a nonprofit 501(c)3, financially backed by Aetna, Blue Cross Blue Shield, UnitedHealth, America’s Health Insurance Plans, hospitals, associations that represent drug manufacturers and nonprofits with vested interests. For insurers and pharma, the ACA is manna from heaven – scratch that – manna from Capitol Hill – and the dollar signs in their eyes are on fire! These profit seekers and connected nonprofits will be using every avenue possible to maximize their bottom lines.

The mission of Enroll America per its website is to “ensure that all Americans are enrolled in and retain health coverage.” It’s Board of Directors and Avisory Council reads like a Who’s Who in the Medical Industry Cartel – CEOs, presidents, vice presidents and directors of such entities as the American Hospital Association, Express Scripts, Medicaid Health Plans of America, Kaiser Permanente and many others – the list is long. If you would like to donate to these mega-profit vultures, you can do so on the Enroll America home- page. The goal is $100 million by 2014.
http://www.enrollamerica.org [11]

In its publication, “Ten Ways to Make Health Coverage Enrollment and Renewal Easy,” Enroll America has recommended availability of web-based applications to increase the places where people can enroll in coverage: at home, at grocery stores, community health centers, state fairs, sporting events, places of worship, and more. Gee, you can apply for insurance while you pray. How thoughtful. http://www.enrollamerica.org/best-practices-institute [12]

The strategy for insurers and state Exchanges to persuade you to purchase insurance and warn you about the penalties includes using ads, social media, blogs, YouTube, Flickr, Twitter, hospitals, health centers, McDonald’s, in-store radio announcements, ballparks, county fairs, libraries, laundromats, community events, libraries, county fairs and drugstores – you name it. Blue Cross Blue Shield has partnered with H & R Block. Health insurers are already setting up shop inside some supermarkets so they can answer your questions and sign you up for coverage while you do your grocery shopping. They will likely be showing up in shopping malls – maybe even in parking lots, on street corners and at church fairs. And, their aim is to recreate themselves from the bloodsucking leeches that they are to your new, cool-dude friends.

We’ll be living in Occupied Territory.

Let’s connect some dots. The executive director of Enroll America is Ron Pollack, also president of Families USA – a nonprofit and friend of the industry. On its website, Families USA bills itself as “a national non-partisan organization dedicated to the achievement of high quality, affordable health care for all Americans.” Philippe Villers and Robert Crittenden, M.D. are on Families USA Board of Directors. Mr. Villers is also on the BOD of Herndon Alliance, Bob Crittenden is a Herndon staff member and Ron Pollack is a Herndon founder. http://www.familiesusa.org [13]

Herndon Alliance is an influential health care spinmeister creating messaging to change public opinion and tweaking each message to reach particular groups.

Herndon has close ties to Capitol Hill and helped market the ACA providing words politicians and supporters should use to promote the bill. For example, during the national health care debacle a few years ago, you heard Mr. Obama et al continually talk about ‘choice,’ ‘we need a uniquely American solution,’ ‘fair rules,’ ‘investing in America’s future’ and ‘high-quality, affordable healthcare.’ That last one is used in Families USA mission statement. The Council for Affordable Health Insurance, a frontgroup for the industry, gets right to the point – its name. Ron Pollack worked with the Obama administration to help reshape public opinion of Mr. Obama’s unpopular health care bill. Leading up to 2014 when the Exchanges are scheduled to open, there will most likely be a blitz of TV ads in which you will hear many of these same nebulous, feel-good words. And, you’ll undoubtedly read or hear plenty of Herndon spin from your Exchange and throughout your state in the immediate future.

In the interest of coming up with messaging, Enroll America held a few focus groups and commissioned a nationwide survey in fall 2012. Research was provided by Celinda Lake from Lake Research Partners, a national public opinion and political strategy research firm. One takeaway was when a monthly premium cost was given, the majority of people polled thought that it was too expensive and the ACA would not provide affordable and comprehensive coverage even with the government tax credits (subsidies). So, Lake Research Partners advised Enroll America not to mention specific costs but to use the phrase ‘free or low-cost plans.’ http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/20/us/officials-confront-skepticism-over-health-law.html?ref=us&_r=0&pagewanted=all[14]

Herndon has been working on messaging various parts of the ACA that will be used by outreach partners, insurers and state Exchanges. Its messaging is not based on truth or evidence – Herndon actually stays away from any mention of facts as you read above regarding the cost of plans. Instead, its messaging is designed to mislead an uninformed public.

A few of Herndon’s target populations include voters, people of color, red states, skeptical audiences, and you’ll love this one – Elevator Language with a list of succinct scripts to use based on the person you’re speaking to during the ride. You must check out Herndon’s website and read the many instructions of what to say and what not to say. You’ll either get very annoyed or laugh yourself silly. http://herndonalliance.org/resources/research/communications-tips-exchange-talking-with-voters.html [15]
http://herndonalliance.org/resources/implementation-basics/communications-tips-to-use-with-skeptical-audiences.html [16]

Here are some examples of Herndon spin regarding the ACA:

— Use “family values” when talking to the public about the expansion of Medicaid. Is estate recovery a family value? http://herndonalliance.org/resources/what-s-new/talking-about-medicaid-connecting-with-the-public.html [17]

— When talking about the ACA’s required Accountable Care Organization (ACO) model that will pay doctors according to patient outcomes and reward them for savings they achieve, Herndon says to call this “Coordinated Patient Care” and “do not connect pricing with rewards or incentives for doctors” or “with lump-sum payments for medical care” and do not mention “payment based on positive patient outcomes.” Why not? The three do-nots are how ACOs work. (ACOs are described in topic 9.) http://herndonalliance.org/resources/system-change/payment-reform-quality-care-pricing.html [18]http://herndonalliance.org/resources/system-change/coordinated-patient-care.html [19]

— Here’s an award winner: “Members of Congress will purchase their insurance at the Exchange. If members of Congress are part of the marketplace then it’s got to offer quality plans and protections.” http://herndonalliance.org/resources/research/communications-tips-exchange-talking-with-voters.html [20]

— Stressing that under the ACA insurers won’t be able to deny coverage for pre-existing diseases is a Herndon biggie. In fact, you heard this many times over from Mr. Obama and other politicians. But a loophole in the law allows insurers to rescind (cancel) your policy if you intentionally put false or incomplete information on your application. The ACA says you must be given at least 30 days’ notice before your coverage can be rescinded, giving you time to appeal the decision or find new coverage. So, if your care becomes costly for the insurer and you didn’t mention you had a rash on your arm when you were 15, that’ll work. How can you prove if leaving this out was intentional or not? It’s them against you.

Enroll America’s Best Practices Institute is publishing a series of briefs on the best way to write and design websites and marketing materials, no doubt, using Herndon messaging. PR and marketing firms are helping various state Exchanges come up with appealing branding such as using a name everyone will like and spiffy logos with cool type styles in colors that will appeal to all audiences. Branding lessons include advising Exchanges which words to ‘embrace’ such as emphasizing choice, control, transparency and competition. Other messaging includes, “the Exchange should be viewed as an educator, not an enforcer” and using the word ‘marketplace’ instead of Exchange is a must. Tennessee Health Care Campaign will be telling potential customers “. . . the exchange offers us more choices, greater control over our health care, and more competition to control costs.” It’s all Herndon’s handywork in one form or another.http://dhmh.maryland.gov/exchange/pdf/Brand_Recommd_may182012_final.pdf [21] http://www.thcc2.org/PDFs/rtm_exchange_talking_point.pdf [22]

More choice means choice of insurance companies, not choice of doctors and hospitals. In rural areas, there may be only one insurer offering plans which means one network and doctors may not be taking new patients. This happened in MA under Romneycare, and on top of that, many doctors would not accept people in the subsidized plans because of time-consuming red tape and low reimbursement rates. Under the ACA, insurers are planning to limit networks in the cheaper plans at the Exchanges. Having too few doctors in a network is a means of suppressing the use of health care which increases an insurer’s profits. Further on in this lesson, you’ll learn that the Maryland Exchange has been advised to ignore negative problems such as not enough doctors to serve the newly insured. http://www.kaiserhealthnews.org/Stories/2013/January/23/HMO-limited-networks-comeback-in-exchanges.aspx [23]

Choice is definitely a non starter for people found eligible for Medicaid – the ACA allows no other choice for this segment of the population and many doctors do not accept Medicaid. As for giving you greater control, considering all the rules about income and FPL, not to mention the data-mining to monitor your income during the year and those nasty tax credit paybacks, it’s you who is being controlled. And competition? Read this stunning op-ed by Nomi Prins: “Real Danger of “Obamacare” Insurance Company Takeover of Health Care.” http://www.nationofchange.org/real-danger-obamacare-insurance-company-takeover-health-care-1352648027 [24]

In Enroll America’s January 15, 2013 press release, Executive Director Rachel Klein says the ACA offers the promise of “access to comprehensive, affordable health coverage.” That is a false promise. As you learned in this lesson, coverage in the plans that will be offered at the Exchanges, with the exception of the two most expensive, is anything but comprehensive – the cheaper plans are unaffordable to use. Furthermore, how can she claim that the cost of the plans are affordable? Ms. Klein should be well aware of the nationwide survey Enroll America commissioned in which the majority of people polled said that the plans are too expensive. http://files.www.enrollamerica.org/news-room/press-releases/Enroll_America_Plans_Major_Affordable_Care_Act_Enrollment_Campaign_1-15-13.pdf [25]
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/20/us/officials-confront-skepticism-over-health-law.html?ref=us&_r=0&pagewanted=all [14]

Currently PR firms are working with some state Exchanges to develop effective communications plans and advertising campaigns. Names include Mintz & Hoke, Hill & Company Communications and Weber Shandwick just to name a few. Ask the Massachusetts Health Insurance Connector – the prototype of an Exchange in the land of Romneycare – how much it spent on PR contracts over the years. In 2007, board members signed off on a two-year contract with Weber Shandwick for $1.85 million the first year with nearly $3 million for advertising – commission on media buys not included. And, by the way, the MA Connector upper management boasts six-figure salaries. Former MA Connector Executive Director Jon Kingsdale’s salary in 2007 was $225,000 and increased in 2008 to $231,750. In 2007, Deputy Director Rosemary Day alternated between a four-day and five-day work week to the tune of $175,000. These are only two examples of the many high-flying salaries at the MA Connector, an operation run by politicians and unelected political appointees and influenced by executives from the private insurance industry,http://www.wickedlocal.com/cambridge/news/x497793387/Connector-re-ups-contract-with-Cambridge-based-Weber-Shandwick[26]http://www.boston.com/yourlife/health/other/articles/2007/01/27/6_figure_pay_for_care_plan_overseers/?page=full [27] http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1G1-166773095.html [28]

Add up pay scales like that for every Exchange in the country, throw in some bennies, a PR contract for each Exchange, campaign costs and compensation paid by Exchanges to Navigators for plans they sell – a grand and costly effort to push more people into America’s for-profit health care system. Your tax dollars at work and mega bucks that could be used for actual hands-on medical care.

The Maryland Exchange has three campaign funding levels – Basic, Plus and Full-Scale – with a total for year one, two and three. Basic funding for year one is $2,450,000, Plus is $4,000,000 and Full-Scale is $6,300,000. See p.137 at this link for years two and three. http://www.dhmh.maryland.gov/exchange/pdf/FinalAdvertisingReportWeber.pdf [29]

The following, from the maryland link above, gives you an idea of some of the strategies that will be in play, most likely in all states. The Maryland Exchange has been advised by Weber Shandwick to “establish a system to monitor newspaper, radio, TV and online conversations about the Exchange and the program and to establish procedures and priorities for responding to negative media stories, op-eds, blogs and reports.” You can find this in the Risk Management and Responses section of Maryland’s strategic marketing plan.

In the Earned Media/Public Relations section, advice includes “ . . . putting out stories on the first effective enrollees, enrollment number milestones, and enrollee testimonials. Each of these becomes the focus for positive, brand-reinforcing stories. There will also be the risk of negative stories, including potential topics such as enrollment snafus, delays in issuing insurance cards, the cost of Qualified Health Plans [government-approved plans], claims of ‘shoddy’ Bronze coverage, incidents of physicians refusing to accept enough new patients to serve the uninsured and other negative topics.” “While coverage is bound to include some level of criticism it can be success- fully countered by putting a human face on heatlh reform.”

The Social and Digital Media section advises an invasion of the Internet including social media to market health insurance by “delivering the right messages to the right audience at the right time,” (probably using Herndon spin) to “help drive enrollment in the Exchange,” and also flooding newspapers with op-eds to contradict reported adverse effects of the ACA.

More details can be found at the Maryland pdf link below. It’s worth looking at this presentation to grasp the big business approach of Exchanges which is clearly profit-driven. The Maryland Exchange strategy is just one example. The goal of Exchanges is sell, sell, sell. http://www.dhmh.maryland.gov/exchange/pdf/FinalAdvertisingReportWeber.pdf [29]

Exchanges certainly have a lofty goal – promote success stories only and be ready to contradict and cover up the bad stuff as quickly as possible. Massachusetts residents have been there. The Connector and state politicians including the governor made sure that anyone being harmed by Romneycare would not be heard in spite of statewide survey reports put together by outreach agencies advising state legislators and powerplayers that low-income people were not faring well under this law. Various issues were spelled out and testimonials were included, but residents’ concerns about the adverse effects of Romneycare were ignored. MA national legislators also went along with this agenda as did the mainstream media.

When $130 million was needed in 2009 to balance the Massachusetts state budget, the Connector – with the blessing of MA Gov. Deval Patrick and the MA legislature – removed about 28,000 legal immigrants – working people paying taxes – from their insurance plans. Another 8,000 or so were barred from enrolling in insurance plans because the MA legislature voted to cap enrollment in the subsidized plans. This took place at the same time Mr. Obama was trying to sell the ACA to the nation, so, under pressure from Washington, the MA legislature restored some of the money, and the Connector dumped these people, without their consent, into an out-of-state plan with higher copays, less comprehensive coverage and next to no doctors or safety net hospitals in its network. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/iyah-romm/lessons-from-massachusett_b_380718.html [30]

This has huge implications for the ACA. If legal immigrants can be removed from their plans and others denied enrollment when a state budget is squeezed, which vulnerable segment of the population is next in line? The good news is these legal immigrants in MA sued the Connector and its then-Executive Director, Jon Kingsdale, and the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled unanimously that the state could not violate their right to equal protection under the state and federal constitutions and fiscal considerations alone can not justify a state’s invidious discrimination against them. As a result of this decision, the state had to come up with some bucks, and the Connector was forced to put the plaintiffs back into their original plans.
http://www.healthlawadvocates.org/priority-areas?id=0015 [31]

Getting back to Enroll America, Herndon Alliance and some of the less-than-honorable Exchange strategies – it’s one thing to inform Americans about the ACA and Exchanges that offer the possibility of either purchasing high-deductible or catastrophic coverage with a loan from the government to help pay for it or being tossed into expanded Medicaid – but, mounting a costly, massive campaign to purposely deceive and manipulate the public with the unstated goal of more profit for the already extremely lucrative health insurance industry is disgraceful.

CONCLUDING REMARKS

Is the ACA a fair law if it helps only one small segment of the population but hurts and exploits a larger number to do so? The way this law works is fundamentally unfair and will not bring medical care to the many, but, instead will progress to greater personal debt for individuals and families who can’t afford the “affordable” insurance as well as those who must keep an eye on their income to avoid the many traps and false ends this law creates. At their expense, the forced purchase of health insurance will bring increased revenue to the industry, not to mention more kickbacks to Congress, and in the very near future, the health insurance industry will be “too big to fail.”

The ACA is most definitely a “uniquely American solution” which has little to do with reforming this country’s barbaric health care system. It merely controls peoples’ finances and choices while leaving insurance companies in charge and does virtually nothing to end their abuses. It will leave many millions of Americans uninsured and millions more underinsured at a staggering cost to taxpayers.

Politicians, health care policy wonks and vested interests will brush aside the ACA’s adverse effects. You’ll hear that some have fallen through the cracks of health care reform but the problems can be easily tweaked. You will also witness the usual dog-and-pony show on Capitol Hill in which the two parties play the blame game. The bought-and-paid-for mainstream media will regurgitate whatever Washington feeds it, and TV talking heads will chime in, inviting their “experts” to analyze the situation while real people in the real world struggle to get by under this law or fall by the wayside.

Good luck everyone and watch out for the folding chairs.


See Also:
Obamacare architect leaves White House for pharmaceutical industry job
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/dec/05/obamacare-fowler-lobbyist-industry1 [32]

Physician payments based on outcomes
http://www.medibid.com/blog/2012/10/your-disease-can-kill-you-in-more-than-one-way/?utm_source=Registered+Physicians&utm_campaign=8f9028ddaf-October_Physician_Newsletter11_17_2012&utm_medium=email

 

Biden in Munich: The Ugly Face of Imperialism

February 5th, 2013 by Bill Van Auken

“A decade of war is now ending,” President Barack Obama told Americans in his second inaugural address delivered little more than two weeks ago in Washington.

Speaking Saturday at the annual Munich Security Conference, Vice President Joseph Biden set the record straight: not only is this decade-long exercise in US militarism not ended, it is about to erupt in a whole number of new areas across the globe, threatening the lives of countless millions of people.

First held in 1962, the Munich Security Conference—attended by heads of government, foreign ministers, military brass and representatives of the military-industrial complex—was traditionally a forum for airing views on the post-World War II transatlantic relationship between the United States and its Western European allies.

This year’s proceedings, however, took place in a palpably changed atmosphere of unabashed imperialism and neo-colonialism. Both Washington and the powers of “Old Europe” appeared intoxicated with the prospects of using military power to offset economic decline and forcibly lay hold of geo-strategically vital territories, resources and markets.

French President François Hollande was not able to attend the conference, occupied as he was in staging a victory lap in Mali after an offensive by French warplanes and Foreign Legionnaires had conquered the former French colony. He made it clear that France’s troops are not about to leave.

In Munich, Biden’s speech set the bellicose tone for the security conference. Dispensing with rhetoric about the tide of war receding, the American vice president signaled that US imperialism is gearing up for battle in every corner of the planet.

Biden made a significant statement at the outset of his meandering address, linking the sweeping austerity measures that the Obama administration and Congress are preparing to implement with the explosive growth of militarism abroad. Referring to “difficult but critical steps” that the US administration is taking in the wake of “the deepest economic downturn since the Great Depression,” the American vice president declared that the wave of cutbacks at home were necessary to ensure Washington’s ability to meet “our strategic obligations to the rest of the world.” In other words, the immense costs of US militarism will be placed directly on the backs of the American working class.

Biden pointed toward the new focus of US and Western European imperialism—North Africa. There, he claimed, “extremists are seeking to exploit” a set of conditions created by imperialism itself: governmental breakdown, mass poverty and unemployment, and ready access to arms stockpiles left over from the US-NATO war for regime-change in Libya.

Eliminating the supposed threat to “Western interests” posed by these developments, he said, “will take a comprehensive approach—employing the full range of the tools at our disposal—including our militaries.”

Declaring that Washington “applauds and stands with France” in Mali, Biden added, “The fight against AQIM (Al Qaeda of the Islamic Maghreb, with which the US and NATO were directly allied in their war to topple Libya’s Gaddafi) may be far from America’s borders, but it is fundamentally in America’s interests.” A more frank translation of this rhetorical salute would be: France may have gone in first, but Washington and the Pentagon’s AFRICOM are not about to be left behind in the new scramble for Africa and its rich energy and mineral resources.

Biden delivered thinly veiled threats to both Russia and China, warning Moscow that Washington would respect no “sphere of influence” in the former Soviet republics, and declaring that Beijing had better not “engage in anything remotely approaching military competition with the United States.”

While much of the media coverage of the conference centered on Biden’s remark that the US would “be prepared to meet bilaterally with the Iranian leadership,” the vice president deliberately tamped down speculation that this signaled a new and more reasonable approach from Washington. He told the German daily Süddeutsche Zeitung that the window for diplomacy “will not be opened indefinitely,” the alternative clearly being war.

He cast the Iranian nuclear program as a “threat to the national security of the United States,” and warned that the US “will stop Iran from getting a nuclear weapon.” Echoing the pretext used to launch the Iraq war a decade ago, Biden insisted that the “burden of proof” is on Tehran to prove the negative: that it is not developing nuclear weapons.

In November 1991, in response to the first Persian Gulf War, the International Committee of the Fourth International (ICFI) convened a World Conference of Workers against Imperialist War and Colonialism. In the statement calling for this conference, the ICFI explained that this war marked “the beginning of a new eruption of imperialist barbarism” and that “all the great historical and political tasks that confronted the working class and oppressed masses at the beginning of the 20th century are now posed in their starkest form.”

The statement explained that the “new world order” announced by the elder George Bush on the basis of the collapse of the Soviet Union consisted of “war, colonial enslavement and mass poverty,” which could be countered only by the revolutionary mobilization of the working class on the basis of a socialist and internationalist program.

It warned that the first Iraq war signaled “the start of a new division of the world by the imperialists.” It continued: “The colonies of yesterday are again to be subjugated. The conquests and annexations which, according to the opportunist apologists of imperialism, belonged to a bygone era are once again on the order of the day.”

This perspective was advanced in opposition to the claims of bourgeois ideologues that mankind had reached “the end of history,” with the “failure of socialism” and capitalism and the free market proving themselves the pinnacle of human development. It also stood in direct contradiction to the demoralized petty-bourgeois pseudo-lefts who mourned the demise of the Stalinist bureaucracies upon which they had rested and spoke of “midnight in the century.”

Two decades later, the prognosis made by the ICFI has been thoroughly vindicated by great events. Once again, as in the prelude to 1914 and 1939, the rape of small, defenseless countries is bound up with the insoluble crisis of world capitalism and the growing tensions and disputes among the major powers that point toward world war.

Only a united struggle by the world’s working class to put an end to capitalism and its outmoded division of the world into nation states can prevent a new world conflagration. The International Committee of the Fourth International is the only movement fighting for this perspective.

Irish Government Facilitated CIA “Torture Flights”

February 5th, 2013 by R. Teichmann

“What is morally wrong can never be politically right.”  Lord Shaftesbury, 1801 – 1885

A report published today by the Open Society Justice Initiative  shows that some 54 countries helped to facilitate the CIA’s secret detention,rendition and interrogation programme in the years after 9/11, including Ireland.
Interrogation by C Ó Croidheáin

“ Interrogation” by C Ó Croidheáin

It says countries participated in various ways with the US programme, which is a crime under international law. That included:

- hosting detention and / or “interrogation” (torture) facilities on their soil

- detaining, interrogating, torturing, and abusing individuals

- assisting in the capture and transport of detainees and permitting the use of domestic airspace and airports for secret flights transporting detainees.

The report says that Ireland permitted the use of its airspace and airports associated with CIA extraordinary rendition operations and references several examples since 2002.

The complicity of the Irish government has been known for quite some time. In an article published today thejournal.ie reports:

“A 2007 European Parliament report expressed serious concern about the 147 stopover made by CIA-operated aircraft at Irish airports that on many occasions “came from or were bound for countries linked with extraordinary rendition circuits and the transfer of detainees”.

“U.S. court records from a lawsuit involving Richmor Aviation, a company that operated CIA extraordinary rendition flights, also show that at least 13 flights operated by Richmor involving U.S. personnel landed in Ireland between 2002 and 2004.”

“Richmor-operated flights were involved in the extraordinary rendition of the Egyptian cleric Abu Omar, and are also suspected of having refueled at Shannon before transporting Abd al Nashiri, alleged to be the mastermind of the bombing of the navy missile destroyer the USS Cole .”

“Diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks in 2010 revealed that former Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Dermot Ahern told US Ambassador Thomas Foley that he was “quite convinced that at least three flights involving renditions had refueled at Shannon Airport before or after conducting renditions elsewhere.”

Complicity by inaction

According to other cables released by Wikileaks, the former US ambassador to Ireland noted in 2006 that the Irish government had “acted to ensure continued US military transits at Shannon in the face of public criticism”.

Answering concerns expressed by the Irish Human Rights Commission in 2005 requesting inspections of suspect aircraft landing at Shannon, the government said that inspections were not necessary because it had received assurances from the United States that detainees had not been and would not be transported illegally through Irish territory.

Amnesty International Ireland’s Colm O’Gorman said today the report confirmed the findings of the organisation’s own report in 2010. He said:

“It is undeniable that the Irish government knew rendition flights transited Ireland and that they knew this breached the legally binding international convention on torture. Yet they did nothing. Official Ireland was prepared to ignore our role in kidnap and torture for the sake of maintaining good relations with the United States government.”…

“We have repeatedly called for an independent investigation into the use of Shannon airport. This investigation must also make clear who knew that we were complicit in torture and why they failed to act.”

Other countries convict at least the footsoldiers carrying out these crimes (see http://www.aclu.org/blog/national-security-human-rights/italian-court-upholds-rendition-conviction-cia-agents).

The Irish government does nothing.

R. Teichmann lives in West Cork / Ireand and is an activist within the Awaken Ireland movement. He is a frequent contributor to this blog.

The U.S. and Canada have made significant progress in advancing the Beyond the Border deal and continue to implement various perimeter security initiatives. Without much fanfare, they have signed an immigration agreement that would allow them to share biographic and at a later date, biometric information. As part of a North American security perimeter, both countries are further harmonizing border security and immigration measures. Canada is further taking on U.S. security priorities and this could include a bigger role in the war on terrorism.

It’s been over a year since Prime Minister Stephen Harper and President Barack Obama announced the Beyond the Border and the Regulatory Cooperation Council action plans. On December 14, 2012, the U.S. and Canada issued the Beyond the Border implementation report that highlights the objectives that were achieved over the past year and the work that has yet to be done. It explained that moving forward, “Key future initiatives include harmonizing our trusted trader programs, making significant infrastructure investments at our key land border crossings, fully implementing an entry/exit program at the land border, expanding preclearance operations to the land, rail, and marine domains.” The report also acknowledged challenges facing the Next-Generation pilot project which would permit teams of cross-designated officers to operate on both sides of the border. It was originally scheduled to begin last summer. While steady progress has been made, a lot more work is needed to meet the goals of the Beyond the Border action plan. Over the next several years, other aspects of the deal will be phased-in incrementally with specific deliverables due this year, in 2014 and also in 2015.

Another important facet of the economic and security perimeter agreement is the U.S.-Canada Regulatory Cooperation Council (RCC). A progress report to the leaders outlines accomplishments made in aligning regulations in the areas of agriculture and food, transportation, the environment, health and personal care products, workplace chemicals, as well as nanotechnology. This includes cooperation on pilot projects, scientific and technical collaborations and harmonized testing procedures. RCC working groups have developed detailed work plans for the various initiatives with objectives that will be implemented over the next couple of years. In Canada, some fear that deepening regulatory integration with the U.S. could weaken and erode any independent regulatory capacity. This could lead to a race to the bottom with respect to regulatory standards.

In December of last year, the U.S. and Canada signed the Immigration Information Sharing Treaty which is tied to the Beyond the Border deal. Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney stated that the, “agreement builds on our countries’ mutual efforts to protect our common borders and the surrounding perimeter, through improved screening of immigrants and visitors.” He went on to say, “Enhanced information sharing of foreign nationals will protect the safety and security of Canadians by helping us prevent terrorists, violent criminals, and others, who pose a risk, from entering Canada or the United States.” Under the treaty, Canada and the U.S. will share biographic information from third country nationals who apply for a visa, a travel permit or claim asylum. In 2014, it will also include the sharing of biometric information. There are privacy concerns on how far-reaching the data collected will be shared. This threatens the sovereignty of Canada with regards to retaining control over information at its own borders.

On December 28, 2012, President Obama signed into law, the Countering Iran in the Western Hemisphere Act which is designed to curb Iran’s presence and activity in the region. The bill calls on the Department of Homeland Security to work with Canada and Mexico, “to address resources, technology, and infrastructure to create a secure United States border and strengthen the ability of the United States and its allies to prevent operatives from Iran, the IRGC, its Qods Force, Hezbollah, or any other terrorist organization from entering the United States.” Julie Carmichael, spokeswoman for Public Safety Minister Vic Toews discussed Canada’s efforts to counter any perceived hostility from Iran in the Americas. She is quoted in the Globe and Mail as saying, “We continually assess threats while co-operating with international partners, including the U.S., to address threats to our common security.” Carmichael added, “The Beyond the Border Action Plan as announced by Prime Minister Harper and President Obama provides a framework to identify threats before they reach North America.” Under the perimeter security deal, Canada is further aligning itself with U.S. foreign policy interests and could be expected to play a greater role in the global war on terror.

Through the Beyond the Border agreement, the U.S. and Canada are deepening economic and security integration which is laying the foundation for a North American security perimeter. Both countries are also engaged in the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations with Mexico and other member nations. This is part of efforts to create a free trade area of the Asia-Pacific and could be used to update and expand NAFTA. Another key priority for U.S.-Canada relations is North America’s energy future. President Obama is expected to make a final decision on the Keystone XL pipeline sometime this year. Meanwhile, there is growing environmental opposition to the proposed project which would carry oil from western Canada to the Texas gulf coast.

Dana Gabriel is an activist and independent researcher. He writes about trade, globalization, sovereignty, security, as well as other issues. Contact: [email protected]. Visit his blog at Be Your Own Leader

Here is the memo.  With a few tweaks and a more creative title — like “Murder With Your Hands Clean” — this memo could sell a lot of copies.

And why not?  Either there’s a whistleblower in the Department of So-Called Justice about to be charged with espionage, and NBC is about to face the same persecution as WikiLeaks, or this is one of those “good” leaks that the White House wanted made public in an underhanded manner — perhaps as an imagined boost to morality-challenged CIA director nominee John Brennan who faces his Senate Rejection Hearing on Thursday.

The memo, which is thought to be a summary of a longer one, says the United States can murder a U.S. citizen abroad (abroad but somehow “outside the area of active hostilities” even though killing him or her seems rather active and hostile) if three conditions are met:

“1. an informed, high-level official of the U.S. government has determined that the targeted individual poses an imminent threat of violent attack against the United States;”

The memo goes on to base its claims on the supposed powers of the President, not of some random official.  Who is such an official?  Who decides whether he or she is informed?  What if two of them disagree?  What if he or she disagrees with the President? or the Congress? or the Supreme Court? or the U.S. public? or the United Nations? or the International Criminal Court? What then?  One solution is to redefine the terms so that everyone has to agree.   “Imminent” is defined in this memo to mean nothing at all.  “The United States” clearly means anywhere U.S. troops may be.

“2. capture is infeasible, and the United States continues to monitor whether capture becomes feasible;”

And if a high-level official claims it’s infeasible, who can challenge that?

“3. the operation would be conducted in a manner consistent with applicable law of war principles.”

When a U.S. drone strike killed Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan, no one had shown either of them to meet the above qualifications.

When a U.S. drone strike targeted and killed 16-year-old Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, no one had shown him to meet the above qualifications; I don’t think anyone has made such a claim to this day.  And what about his cousin who died for the crime of being with him at the wrong time?

The sociopaths who wrote this memo have “legalized” the drone-killing of Americans with the exception of all the Americans known thus far to have been murdered by our government with the use of drones.

 David Swanson’s books include “War Is A Lie.” He blogs at http://davidswanson.org and http://warisacrime.org and works for http://rootsaction.org. He hosts Talk Nation Radio. Follow him on Twitter: @davidcnswanson and FaceBook

World Bank “Success” Undermines Haitian Democracy

February 5th, 2013 by Global Research News

by Haiti Grassroots Watch

Part I

A $61 million dollar, eight-year World Bank community development project implemented across half of Haiti has successfully repaired roads, built schools and distributed livestock. At the same time, however, Project for Participatory Community Development (PRODEP) – Projet de développement communautaire participatif  –  has also helped undermine an already weak state, damaged Haiti’s “social tissue,” carried out what could be called “social and political reengineering,” and raised questions of waste and corruption.

As part of an overall strategy encouraging communities to participate in the choice of development project in their regions, PRODEP awarded $17,500 grants to almost 1,500 community based organizations (CBOs) in 59 communes.  But an eight-month investigation by Haiti Grassroots Watch (HGW) found that PRODEP did much more than pay for projects.

By encouraging groups to form in order to get cash grants, PRODEP contributed to Haiti’s growing status as an “NGO Republic.” The projects also damaged traditional solidarity systems and in some cases even strengthened the power of local elites.

Although HGW’s extensive fieldwork was concentrated in the Southeast, new reports by economists from World Bank – the institution that fundeed PRODEP – support the idea that the findings can be extrapolated.

In their articles and a new book –Localizing Development – Does Participation Work?  – Ghazali Mansuri and Vijayendra Rao found that many “community driven development” or CDD projects tend to benefit the “wealthier, more educated” participants who are “often more politically connected” and who “tend to make decisions in community meetings.” These same “elites” can even build political support and run for office, the economists said.

Ironically, PRODEP’s national director touts the creation of new politicians.

At a press conference last July, Michael Lecorps, director of the Haitian government’s Office of Monetization of Aid and Development Projects BMPAD (Bureau de monétisation des programmes d’aide au développement) which oversees PRODEP, said: “There are a lot of people who became deputies [parliamentarians] because of PRODEP. They created platforms, they became leaders!”

While Lecorps may see the use of World Bank dollars to consolidate political fiefdoms as positive, others associated with PRODEP – even those sitting on the local community councils that oversee the projects – do not. Emile Theodore, a farmer outside the southeastern town of Bainet where HGW centered their research, deplored this construction of “political capital” as well as the sudden birth of dozens of “organizations” created solely to go after the funding.

“The fact that there was $17,500 for small projects meant that a lot of organizations got created so they could get those grants,” Theodore told HGW.

  • What is the PRODEP project? What are its objectives and were they achieved?
  • What do the projects look like in and around Bainet, in Haiti’s Southeast Department?
  • How has the work been received by participants and staff at implementing agencies?
  • What are the principal findings of the World Bank economists who warn of the dangers of “development fads”?
  • What long-term harm might have been done to Haiti’s society and “social tissue”?

What is PRODEP?

In 2004, the World Bank launched PRODEP in Haiti. The work is mostly subcontracted to two international aid agencies: CECI (Centre d’Etude et de Cooperation International or Canadian Center for International Studies and Cooperation) and PADF (Pan-American Development Foundation). CECI and PADF set up technical bureaus throughout the country where staffers surveyed existing organizations and oversaw the creation of new ones.

Frame from a PRODEP video. See the video here.
See Haiti Grassroots Watch video here.

Based in part on a similar program in Brazil, a key intent was to calm the population.

“PRODEP began after all the political turbulence in the country,” explained Rincher Fleurent-Fils, coordinator of PRODEP’s technical office for the Southeast Department, in Jacmel. “The concern was to create social peace.”

This claim is substantiated by Bank documents written in conjunction with other principal supporters and funders of the interim government that was put into power following the illegal overthrow of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in 2004.

The Interim Cooperation Framework (ICF) – released in July 2004 by the World Bank, the United Nations, European Union and Inter-American Development Bank – is a policy document meant to guide the “democratic transition” from the illegal removal of a head of state to a democratically elected government.

“The ICF is inspired by lessons learned in similar needs identification exercises in postconflict countries, such as Afghanistan, Iraq, East Timor and Liberia,” the authors note, even though the realities of those countries differ drastically with Haiti.

In fact, the ICF can be seen as a roadmap meant to insure the Haitian people accept the unconstitutional regime change and UN blue helmet mission. The map was laid out, the document claims, with participation from the “Haitian Government” and “civil society” – but was characterized by “the strong involvement of 26 bilateral, multilateral and United Nations agencies,” in other words, “the friends of Haiti.”

Among other actions, the ICF recommended the “establish[ment] of decentralized participatory structures” since local authorities are “weak.”  The ICF then goes on to call for “rapid impact” and decentralized development “interventions” outside of government structures. Instead, the would be implemented by “the specialized local national organizations using a participatory approach in accordance with models already tested in Haiti” the report reads.

“Where organizations do not exist, they will be created,” the ICF says.

Page from the ICF.

According to the World Bank’s own reports, at least 232 new CBOs were “created as a result of the project” and then built them into regional councils and federations, almost like a set of private “Communal Assemblies,” the participatory assemblies called for in the Haitian Constitution which have yet to be established. A virtual parallel state. [For more on this “parallel state,” see Story 3]

The new and existing CBOs were given training and structured into regional councils called COPRODEPs. With assistance from CECI and PADF, the new councils oversaw the submission of projects from CBOs, voted on which ones PRODEP should fund and were mandated to supervise them. The projects fell into three categories: “productive” related to livestock, agriculture, fishing, etc.; “social” such as a community stores, schools or community centers; and “infrastructure” such as bridges, roads and water systems [see PRODEP photo, below]. According to the World Bank, the projects built or rehabilitated 785 kilometers of road, 444 water distribution points and 448 classrooms, and also contributed to building or stocking other community services like health clinics.

When all was said and done, the World Bank spent a total of $29 million on 1,519 projects.

(The groups actually got less than $17,500. According to a PRODEP/PADF official, 12 percent of the $17,500 went for administration: three percent ($525) for the COPRODEPs and nine percent ($1,575) went to the technical office overseeing the region.)

An additional $32 million – more than half the $61 million budget – went for training, administration, evaluation and other costs for BMPAD, CECI and PADF staff, according to the Bank.  (Because HGW was never provided a budget or a copy of the evaluation completed in June 2012, despite being repeated promised that document, it was impossible to verify how money was actually spent.)

Building “social cohesion”

The PRODEP process was far from organic.

PRODEP staff and the central government had control over which organizations were given the right to submit projects, sit on the councils and decide on projects. According to Fleurent-Fils, an organization had to have been officially recognized by both the local mayor’s office and by the Ministry of Social Affairs to qualify.

“We looked at all the groups [in a region], to see what kind of organizations they were. Are they really community organizations?” PRODEPs Southeast coordinator Fleurent-Fils explained. “Once we were in touch with them, we helped them restructure themselves so they could enter into the PRODEP system.”

PRODEP officials claim that “over 70 percent” of projects were “successful,” first of all because the concrete goals were achieved, and secondly because they created “social cohesion.” This is a term used in PRODEP documents and by PRODEP staff, such as Lecorps and like Arcène Jerome, who heads up PRODEP in the five geographic departments where PADF ran the program.

“When all of the community organizations are federated into the COPRODEP, we have achieved our goal of reinforcing organizational capacity, reinforcing ‘networking,’ meaning links between them, to create what we call ‘social cohesion,’ because as we say, the objective is to construct ‘social capital,’” according to Jerome.

But Jerome’s claims run counter to the recent findings of the World Bank economists.

In their June 2012 paper Can Participation Be Induced? Some Evidence from Developing Countries,”Mansuri and Rao said that “there is little evidence that induced participation builds long-lasting cohesion, even at the community level. Group formation tends to be both parochial and unequal… [P]eople are induced to participate and build networks. But they do so in order to benefit from the cash and other material payoffs provided by the project.”

“Overall, projects tend to have very limited impact in building social cohesion or in rebuilding the state. They tend to exclude the poor and are dominated by elites,” the authors noted. “Induced participation – particularly when it is packaged within a project – is almost set up for failure.”

Who is right? PRODEP or the World Bank authors?

Have “social capital” and “social cohesion” been constructed? Are 70 percent of projects successful? What is “success”?

Part 2

Haiti Grassroots Watch took a look at projects in and around Bainet. All visits and interviews in the Southeast took place in August, 2011.

According to PADF, PRODEP funded a total of 60 projects in the commune of Bainet – six in the small coastal town itself, and six in each of Bainet’s nine communal sections.

HGW visited two in town. The first, the water purification project run by OFB (Òganizasyon Fanm Bene or Organization of Bainet Women) in downtown Bainet, and financed with a grant of 752,320 gourdes or about $19,000, was never operational, according to observers and an OFB member who asked that her name not be used.

Building housing the water purification project. It has never functioned.

“PRODEPT/PADF gave us a bunch of machinery that never worked,” she said unlocking the storefront.  Inside, dust-covered machinery filled the room. Plastic bags that were supposed to be filled with purified water lay in flat heaps on the floor.

Nearby, the “OPA-net” cyber-café, was also locked up tight. Run by OPA (Oganizasyon Peyizan an Aksyon or Organization Peasants in Action) and funded with almost $20,000 according to World Bank documents, OPA-net has been shut for nearly three years now. Dusty screens, towers, chairs, desks and a dirty photocopy machine fill the tiny rented space.

A view of most of the cyber-café’s equipment. 

OPA coordinator Saint-Gladys Fleuranville said the project came to halt on January 12, 2010, the day of the deadly earthquake, because the dish connecting the center to the Internet was displaced.

“It was working very well until then,” he said. “PADF has a Reinforcement Program that will help us. We are waiting for them because this is the only cyber-café in the entire community.”

Asked about the water and cyber-café projects, Rincher Fleurent-Fils, coordinator of the PRODEP/PADF technical bureau in Jacmel, acknowledged that some ventures had “a few problems” that still needed to be addressed, such as the cyber-café’s internet connection. “And,” he said, “they couldn’t pay their bills.”

Fleurent-Fils’ supervisor, Arsel Jerome who oversees the PRODEP program for PADF in five of Haiti’s departments, said he was aware that both the water purification project and the cyber-café projects were closed down.

“The way those projects began was a little amateurish,” Jerome admitted. So much so that 119 of the 700 or so projects PADF oversaw needed some kind of “correction” or “reinforcement,” he noted.

PADF’s PRODEP director, Arsel Jerome.

HGW visited four more projects in Bainet’s 9th communal section, Anba Grigri. Anba Grigri sits on the other side of the Bainet River along a bumpy, muddy and rocky road. The hamlet and surrounding hills are home to about 10,000 people who have no electricity, access to clean drinking water or modern sanitation. Farmers grow potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn, sorghum and herd cows and goats; coastal residents fish.  For weeks at a time, villagers from Anba Grigri cannot reach Bainet because of the rain-bloated river. After Hurricane Isaac passed over Haiti in August 2012, the community was cut off to the east for three months.

One of the most infamous PRODEP grantees is the fishing project. The OD9S (Oganizasyon pou Devlòpman 9vyèm Seksyon or Organization for the Development of the 9thSection) got $17,500 to buy boat engines, netting, line, coolers, a generator and batteries.

Almost immediately, the organization split over how the money should be used. The fishermen prevailed, buying new engines and other materials that helped them go further out to sea and catch more fish. But there were accusations of faked receipts with inflated costs for materials and theft. The resulting fish are still being sold at regular market price, according to an OD9S member who spoke to HGW on camera but asked that his name not be used.

One of the boats built with the PRODEP money.

The fisherman also admitted that at least one engine and some of the money meant for maintenance “disappeared,” and that other gear had been lost due to “natural causes.”

“We hope PRODEP-PADF can help us so we can buy more equipment,” he added.

The Community Store of Bainet sits on the main road that runs through Anba Grigri. It stocks the same, mostly imported items that jam shelves in many small stores or “boutiques” throughout Haiti: canned goods, rice, beans, spaghetti, cooking oil, tomato paste, crackers, rum and other products. The Community Store sells its products at the same price as other local vendors and doesn’t receive much traffic.  During a HGW visit, store manager Delva Henry asked a friend to “buy” something for HGW’s camera.

Delva Henry and friends hang out on the porch of the store.

“There are a lot of other stores in our communal section,” the store manager admitted. He said he was thinking of “writing a proposal” to ask for more money so that he could better stock his store, which he runs with his wife.

Community members reported that the store is no different than other markets.

“It’s a private business,” according to François Brunel, a member of OJDB (Oganizasyon Jen pou Devlòpman Bene or Organization of Bainet Youth for Development). Brunel and others reported that the store offers no credit or discounts to local residents. “It’s a success because it exists and it is functioning, but they say you have to be a member of their organization to get a little credit. I think all members of the community should benefit.”

Nearby, the Coordination of Bainet Woman (Kòdinasyon Fanm Bene or KOFAB) received a grant to set up a corn mill. HGW noted that it was up and running and appeared to be frequented by members of the community.

The mill in action.

“Before we had the mill, we had to thrash corn and sorghum with a pestle… or walk a long way,” said an elderly woman. “The mill has made things easier.”

But that’s not to say that KOFAB runs it.

“The project is a success because as you can see, it is employing me!” explained Fabien Jean André Paul who said he manages the mill business, rather than KOFAB. “From time to time I meet with the women and give them a report.”

Mill manager Fabien Jean André Paul.

Another project also produced results: goats. A peasant organization received a grant to buy goats, which reproduced enough so that almost every member of Mouvman Peyizan Kay Anwò (Houses on the Hill Peasant Movement) now has a goat.

“Before, not too many of our members had goats. Now almost everyone has a goat because our organization got the project funding,” said member Alezi Jean Bastien. “Life has improved a little bit for people because the goats are worth 2,000 or 3,000 gourdes (about $50-75) each.”

Assessments and Evaluations

PRODEP’s track record in and around Bainet is not as good as the “over 70 percent success” touted by PRODEP and PADF. Two of the Bainet projects have been closed for years, and of the six Anba Grigri projects, two – 33 percent – were barely operating.

“The projects didn’t work out the way they were supposed to,” said COPRODEP community council member Emile Theodore. “The majority of them have disappeared. You can’t find a trace of them. There are others that are run by a husband and wife, like the community store. As for the fish project, a little group of people is running that one also.”

The main reason, Theodore and others say, is that once the money is disbursed, there is little follow-up and verification.

“In some cases, it takes a while for that [supervision] to happen,” admitted Jerome. He denied knowing of any cases of corruption. “Let’s just say that sometimes there are administrative problems.”

But in the evaluations posted online, in the literature distributed at news conferences, and in interviews, PRODEP and PADF officials made no mention of any irregularities.

The most recent documents available online call PRODEP performances “satisfactory” with no more detail, although a 2010 document does note that evaluation had been a “main challenge.” But if “over 70 percent” of the projects were “successful,” by deduction somewhere between 20 and 30 percent were not, meaning that funding for some 400 projects – over $6 million – has been wasted.

PRODEP and World Bank reports do not mention whether or not people accused of corruption or waste were brought to justice or held accountable.

Despite numerous promises, HGW never received a copy of the PRODEP final evaluation that was completed in June 2012.

What HGW did discover was that the apparent lack of monitoring, verification and evaluation are not unique to Haiti. In their survey of dozens of so-called “Community Driven Development” (CDD) programs around the world, World Bank economists Mansuri and Rao noted “a pervasive inattention to monitoring systems.” They found that only 40 percent of CDD projects they surveyed had any kind of monitoring and evaluation at all.

“The majority of project managers participating in the survey stated that the Bank’s operation policies do not provide incentives for effective monitoring and evaluation,” the authors wrote.

With these kinds of numbers, does PRODEP have the right to call its project a “success”?

Part 3

Although Haiti Grassroots Watch’s extensive fieldwork was concentrated in the Southeast, a report by two World Bank economists supports the idea that the findings can be extrapolated.

In their articles and a new book – Localizing Development – Does Participation Work? – Ghazali Mansuri and Vijayendra Rao found that many “Community Driven Development” or CDD projects tend to benefit the “wealthier, more educated” participants who are “often more politically connected” and who “tend to make decisions in community meetings.” [See stories 1 and 2]

Thanks to PRODEP, Haiti’s “failed state” fails again

One of the most questionable outcomes of the PRODEP system is what appears to be a deliberate undermining of Haiti’s “failed” state.

For decades, development and emergency funding has mostly bypassed the Haitian state, which many foreign governments and agencies dismissed as corrupt and inefficient. There were and still are internal reasons for Haiti’s poorly run government institutions. But, as Oxfam Senior Policy Advisor Angela Bruce Raeburn recently wrote, “Understanding how the US and other international donors have bypassed the Haitian government in the past is key to understanding” Haiti’s weak state of the present.

2011 study from the UN Office of the Special Envoy showed that in 2007, for example, only three percent of bilateral aid, and 16 percent of multilateral aid, was “budget support,” meaning support for government ministries and programs, including communal section elected officials and their budgets.

Analysis of ODA (Overseas Development Aid) to Haiti in 2007. Bilateral donors
gave only 3 percent to support the government’s budget, while multilateral’s
gave only 16 percent. 

The document states, however, that the most effective way for aid to strengthen public institutions is by channeling through them. However in Haiti “most aid is still channeled in the form of grants directly to international multilateral agencies, and non-state service providers (NGOs and private contractors).”

Deputy Special Envoy Dr. Paul Farmer prefaced the report by noting that “creating jobs and supporting the government” is key to ensuring “access to basic services.” He called on donors  “directly invest in the Haitian people and their public and private institutions. The Haitian proverb sak vide pa kanpe – “an empty sack cannot stand” – applies here. To revitalize Haitian institutions, we must channel money through them.”

“Community driven development” (CDD) projects like PRODEP also work better when they work with local governments, according to World Bank economists Mansuri and Rao. But the PRODEP program deliberately channeled its funding almost exclusively to non-state service providers: the agencies CECI and PADF, and the so-called community based organizations or CBOs. [see Story 1]

What might have made more sense was to bolster Haiti’s local rural governments – the CASEC (Conseil d’administration de section communale or Communal Section Administrative Council  – whose budgets pale in comparison.

Empty CASEC office in Anba Grigri.

In 2008, six CBOs in Anba Grigri received nearly $100,000 altogether, while the local CASEC had only about $6,500 for the entire year – to building a “community center,” repair a road, or host the town’s annual celebration.

Construction of a parallel government?

Even before PRODEP began, the World Bank and other donors called for the creation of organizations to “facilitate… rapid impact” decentralized “interventions” outside of local government structures. [see Story 1]

PRODEP accomplished this by working with existing CBOs and by helping create new ones, and then by offering training and support to create COPRODEP council, for which the World Bank and PRODEP implementers had even more in mind.

“The goal is for the COPRODEP to mature from a project-specific tool into a locally driven self-sustaining community institution, managing funds from multiple sources and supporting the institutional capacity of local public institutions,” according to 2010 World Bank document justifying $15 million in additional PRODEP funding.

COPRODEPS are today called CADECs” (Conseils d’Appui de Développement Communautaire or Councils to Support Community Development).  PADF and CECI have been contracted to help the CADECs “in becoming independent non-profit associations that may later develop into Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) with the capacity to support local public institutions, projects, and programs,” according to the World Bank document. Local elected officials and “notables” are invited to sit on the councils, but 80 percent of seats go to CBOs.

“It’s a little revolution taking place at the departmental level today,” explained Arsel Jerome, who heads up PRODEP in the five geographic departments where PADF ran the program.

“The big challenge for us is to institutionalize PRODEP and for the CADECs to become permanent local structures that run all local community development activities.”

What could be seen as a decentralization of “The Republic of NGOs” has only reached about half of Haiti’s 140 communes, but PRODEP officials recently said they are seeking $100 million to fund a nationwidePRODEP 2.

Harm to the grassroots?

In addition to undermining local authorities, PRODEP’s method also appears to have hurt local grassroots organizations and what the World Bank economists call “organic” or “endogenous” participation, the kind of organizing and participation that drives social movements.

Elace Dirou, a farmer and member of Kòdinasyon Oganizasyon Bene (KOB) or Coordination of Bainet Organizations, lamented that “when these projects come into our communities, they actually destroy organizations. They make people become enemies. People that used to share what little they had – salt, matches, etc. – now turn their backs.

Elace Dirou.

Dirou said that KOB – founded in 1990, during the euphoric days of the democratic and popular movement – abstained from participating in PRODEP when it realized the social and political reengineering that could result from the project.

Anthropologist Mark Schuller has been documenting such societal changes since 2001.

Professor at the Northern Illinois University as well as the State University of Haiti, and author of the recently published Killing With Kindness – Haiti, International Aid and NGOs, Schuller said, “ With the influx of NGOs and projects, people lose their sense of solidarity, of working together. I think this is one of the most direct effects NGOs have had here. NGOs are based on contracts, on money, on ‘what can you do for me?”

“Because foreigners are the ones helping, after a while, people even cease to believe in Haitians! They say ‘Haitians can’t do anything’ because the NGO is doing all the work in their neighborhood… It has a direct impact on peoples relationship with one another, with how they work together.”

While PRODEP documents and officials claim the program aimed to “improv[e] community governance and build social capital,” the World Bank economists who surveyed CDD projects worldwide said that was nearly impossible.

In their June 2012 paper “Can Participation Be Induced? Some Evidence from Developing Countries,” Mansuri and Rao concluded “the idea that all communities have a ready stock of ‘social capital’ that can simply be harnessed is naïve in the extreme.” They also note, in a paper a year earlier, that “participation [in CDD projects] has little effect on the exercise of voice or on community organized collective action outside the participatory structure. Instead, some evidence points to a decline in collective activities outside the needs of the project.”

“Induced participation” is not the same as homegrown. Organizations that “arise endogenously” are part of social movements, while “induced” ones tend to organize because they are seeking “cash and other material payoffs,” the authors note.

Anba Grigri saw the birth of a number of new so-called CBOs.

“Yes, there are a lot of organizations created because of what PADF is doing. They are waiting for PADF to fund them,” according to Jean Louis Nicolas, a local elected official.

CASEC Jean Louis Nicolas.

Schuller has noted the same phenomenon in Haiti’s capital.

“There are a lot of organizations founded to channel funding from ‘NGOs,’” he said. “You could call those organizations ‘fake’’ or maybe ‘pocket organizations,’ because they have a piece of paper in their pocket that says they are an organization, but for the majority of the population, they don’t really exist.”

“Elite Capture”

One final negative effect noted in the Southeast as well as by Mansuri and Rao is that the people and organizations that tend to benefit the most in CDD projects in poor countries are those who enjoy privilege and power at the local level. This phenomenon is known as “elite capture,” and was listed as a risk in early PRODEP documents.

Mansuri and Rao’s survey found that in poor countries, “[a] few wealthy, and often politically connected, men – who are not necessarily more educated than other participants – tend to make decisions at community meetings.”

Like many others in and around Bainet, François Brunel, a member of OJDB (Oganizasyon Jen pou Devlòpman Bene or Organization of Bainet Youth for Development), voiced concerns that the projects and their benefits were being used to further political careers. Brunel said CBOs that won the approval of the council were those that “were in the same political group” as powerful council members.

“They made their choices with elections [inside the council], but in those elections, if you weren’t a good ‘partner’ of the council members, your project would not be chosen,” he said.

Those whose projects were funded voiced similar concerns. The corn mill employee, Fabien Jean André Paul, told HGW that organizations “had to do a kind of campaign” to make sure they got the votes they needed in order to receive their funding.

A “successful approach”?

According to Mansuri and Rao, over the past decade the World Bank has spent some $80 billion dollars on CDDs and participatory development projects worldwide. At least $61 million was spent in Haiti.

Was it and is it a success?

Yes, according to its stated objectives. According World Bank documents posted online, the projects built or rehabilitated 785 kilometers of road, 444 water distribution points and 448 classrooms, and also contributed to building or stocking other community services like health clinics.

But what about the 20-30 percent of the projects which failed? Where did the $6 million in funding money go?

More than half of PRODEP’s $61 million – some $32 million dollars – went to the agencies overseeing the project. How was that money used?

Even if the creation of new CBOs was an objective, don’t these “induced” organizations harm Haiti’s social tissue and the existing grassroots groups?

And isn’t it likely that the monetization of community work and of relationships has a negative effect, as the World Bank economists and anthropologists have claimed?

Finally, will the construction of a parallel state, a “permanent local development structure” dependent on foreign aid, contribute to Haiti’s economic development and transition to democracy?

Haiti Grassroots Watch is a partnership of AlterPresse, the Society of the Animation of Social Communication (SAKS), the Network of Women Community Radio Broadcasters (REFRAKA), community radio stations from the Association of Haitian Community Media and students from the Journalism Laboratory at the State University of Haiti.

An Energy Department plan to allow the recycling of scrap metals emitting very low levels of radiation is drawing opposition because of concerns about potential health hazards. But the upside for U.S. atomic bomb-makers is that waste now requiring costly storage could be sold for a profit.

In something of a stealth maneuver during the 2012 holiday season, the U.S. Department of Energy set about to give every American a little more radiation exposure, and for some a lot, by allowing manufacturers to use radioactive metals in their consumer products – such as zippers, spoons, jewelry, belt buckles, toys, pots, pans, furnishings, bicycles, jungle gyms, medical implants, or any other metal or partly-metal product.

The Energy Dept. announced its plan in the Federal Register on Dec. 12 and invited comment for 30 days, through Jan.11. Citing its need to address environmental concerns under the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA), the agency said, in part, that its plan was: “to delegate authority to manage radiological clearance and release of scrap metal from radiological areas to each Under Secretary for sites under his or her cognizance. … 

“ This Draft PEA for the Recycling of Scrap Metals Originating from Radiological Areas analyzes the potential environmental impacts associated with resuming the clearance of scrap metal, originating from DOE radiological areas, for recycling pursuant to improved procedures designed to assure that clearance for release is limited to metals meeting stringent criteria.”

Translated from the bureaucratese, this is a proposal to lift a ban on recycling radioactive metals left over from American bomb-making and other nuclear activities and allow them to be used commercially with “stringent” but largely unenforceable criteria for their use. The initial ban was ordered in 2000, by then Secretary of Energy Bill Richardson.

Largely ignored by mainstream media, the plan caught the attention of an alert member of Congress, Rep. Edward Markey, D-Massachusetts, who wrote a three-page letter to Energy Secretary Steven Chu on Jan. 11, beginning:

“I write to convey my grave concerns regarding your December 2012 proposal to rescind the agency-wide suspension of the release of radioactively contaminated scrap metal from Department of Energy (DOE) facilities for purposes of recycling it into consumer products that could ultimately by utilized by pregnant women, children or other vulnerable populations.  This proposal is unwise, and should be immediately abandoned.”

Although Rep. Markey was writing on the date of the original deadline, the Energy Department had invited the public to respond to an email address that was non-functional during the first nine days of the response period, Dec. 12-20.  On Dec. 28, the department announced in the Federal Register that the comment period was extended to Feb. 11.

On Jan. 16, while taking note of Markey’s letter, the Wall Street Journal covered the story by starting this way: ”The Department of Energy is proposing to allow the sale of tons of scrap metal from government nuclear sites — an attempt to reduce waste that critics say could lead to radiation-tainted belt buckles, surgical implants and other consumer products. …

“The approximately 14,000 tons of metal under review for possible initial release is only a fraction of the tens of millions of tons of metal recycled annually, it said. Smaller amounts could be eligible for release in future years. Selling the metals could bring in $10 million to $40 million a year, the DOE estimates.” 

Minimizing Radiation Dangers

As is common in nuclear industry proposals of all sorts, the Energy Department sought to assure readers of its proposal that any radiation exposure resulting from recycling radioactive waste into the commercial mainstream would have minimal impact on any given individual. The article in the Journal included a chart from the department that reinforced its claim that “would at worst expose a person to very low levels of additional radiation.”

This approach ignores the current scientific consensus that there is NO safe level of radiation exposure. Since there is already a measurable level of background radiation worldwide, and since worldwide radiation levels have increased as a result of nuclear weapons testing and nuclear accidents like Chernobyl and Fukushima, the fundamental safety question is whether any additional radiation exposure is safe in any meaningful sense.

This approach also fails to deal with the reality that once the department has released radioactive materials for commercial use, it loses almost all control over how and where they’re used, and in what concentrations. The same material used in a ceiling light fixture will pose less risk than if it is used in a belt buckle of jewelry, worn close to the skin. These uses are less dangerous than material inside a human body, in a joint replacement or heart valve.

The issue is of global concern because other countries are recycling their radioactive waste as well, with uncertain control and safety. As Rep. Markey noted in his letter, “Just a year ago, Bed Bath and Beyond recalled tissue holders made in India that were contaminated with low levels of the radio-isotope cobalt-60 that were shipped to 200 of its stores in twenty states.

“The Nuclear Regulatory Commission, when discussing the discovery of the contaminated products, said that, ‘There’s no real health threat from these, but we advise people to return them.’ “

While that may seem contradictory, it’s mainly because the choice of the word “real” is not very accurate. It’s true that there’s no threat of immediate injury from a low level of radiation, whereas a high enough level will be lethal. It’s also true that there may be no “realistic” threat from a radioactive tissue box, but that’s not the same as “no threat,” since harm from radiation exposure is cumulative.

Rep. Markey’s letter illustrates this concern, as he notes that the Energy Department is proposing to release contaminated metals into the market place, as long as, quoting from the document, it “can be shown that the release will result in less than 1 millirem (mrem) above background to a member of the public in any calendar year.” [One millirem is a tiny amount of radiation.]

Nevertheless, Markey expresses doubt about even this low standard: “I believe this standard, even it were the appropriate standard, will be impossible to assure or enforce.” [Emphasis added]

No One in Charge of Risk

There is no federal agency with responsibility for such oversight or enforcement. This regulatory vacuum was illuminated by the discovery in 2009 of thousands of contaminated consumer products from China, Brazil, France, Sweden and other countries, as reported by Mother Nature Network:

“The risk of radiation poisoning is the furthest thing from our minds as we shop for everyday items like handbags, furniture, buttons, chain link fences and cheese graters. Unfortunately, it turns out that our trust is misplaced thanks to sketchy government oversight of recycled materials.

“The discovery of a radioactive cheese grater led to an investigation that found thousands of additional consumer products to be contaminated. The source is recycled metals tainted with Cobalt-60, a radioactive isotope that can cause cancer with prolonged exposure.” 

According to a Scripps Howard News Service investigation in 2009, records of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission “… show 18,740 documented cases involving radioactive materials in consumer products, in metal intended for consumer products or other public exposure to radioactive material.

“The U.S. Government Accountability Office estimates there are some 500,000 unaccounted for radioactively contaminated metal objects in the U.S., and the NRC estimates that figure is around is 20 million pounds of contaminated waste….

“In 2006 in Texas, for example, a recycling facility inadvertently created 500,000 pounds of radioactive steel byproducts after melting metal contaminated with Cesium-137, according to U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission records. In Florida in 2001, another recycler unintentionally did the same, and wound up with 1.4 million pounds of radioactive material.” 

Nuclear engineer Arnie Gunderson echoed Markey’s warning in his Jan. 13 podcast, pointing out that the nuclear industry has been trying to do something like this for decades. The reason, he explained, was that radioactive materials are now liabilities for those who own them and are responsible for protecting them and eventually storing them safely. But if they can sell the material, the liability instantly becomes an asset.

NIRS, the Nuclear Information and Resource Service, has come out strongly against the Energy Department initiative, noting the long history of the industry to unburden itself of its radioactive waste and any responsibility for it:

“We’ve fought this battle before. In the late 1980s, NRC adopted a policy it called ‘Below Regulatory Concern (BRC),’ that would have allowed about 30% of the nation’s ‘low-level’  radioactive waste to be treated as normal garbage and dumped in landfills, be burned in incinerators, and yes, be recycled into consumer products….

“NIRS and our allies responded with one of our largest organizing campaigns ever…. 15 states passed laws banning BRC within their borders. Hearings were held in the House and in 1992, Congress officially overturned the BRC policy.”

The grassroots action contributed to Secretary Richardson’s ban on selling radioactive metals for commercial use, the ban that the current Energy Department proposal would overturn. The department has offered no new basis for its recycling program beyond streamlining what it proposed before. NIRS counters that:

“Nothing has changed since 2000 that would justify lifting its current ban. Rather, just the opposite: since then the National Academy of Sciences has acknowledged that there is no safe level of radiation exposure, and we’ve learned that women are even more vulnerable to radiation than men (while children have long been known to be more vulnerable than adults).”

NIRS and other advocacy organizations are currently engaged in a campaign to submit comments before the Feb. 11 deadline to ask the Energy Department to withdraw this proposal.

William Boardman runs Panther ProductionsReader Supported News is the publication of origin for this work.

FBI Arrests Malcolm X’s Grandson En Route to Iran

February 4th, 2013 by Global Research News

It is disturbing, to say the least, that an American citizen can be arrested by the FBI for participating in an international  film festival held in a country which is “disliked” by the Obama administration,   namely Iran. 

Deafening silence of the US media. Reported by Press TV,  the grandson of  Malcolm X was arrested by FBI agents “on his way to Iran” to participate in a film festival.

According to Press TV:

Muslim civil activist Malcolm Shabazz was reportedly arrested before starting his scheduled visit to Tehran to attend a conference on Hollywoodism, sources outside the United States confirmed on Monday.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has refused to provide any information about his whereabouts.

Tehran hosted the third Hollywoodism International Conference, on the sidelines of the 31st Fajr International Film Festival in the Iranian capital Tehran on Sunday.

Many filmmakers, directors, actors, and movie critics as well as politicians and economists took part in the conference.

Mike Gravel, a former US Senator who attended the conference, condemned Hollywood’s role in imposing imperialistic views on the people of the world.

“Hollywood is just a tool of the American government and European governments to pursue their imperialistic views whether it is in economy…culture…or religion,” Gravel stated.

The first Hollywoodism and Cinema Conference was held in Iran in 2011.  http://www.presstv.ir

 

PBS ombud Michael Getler (1/31/13) responded to FAIR activists who wrote to him about the recent Nova special on drones (1/23/13) that was underwritten by Lockheed Martin, a major military contractor and drone manufacturer.

FAIR (Action Alert, 1/28/13) pointed out that this connection violates PBS‘s guidelines concerning sponsorship and conflicts of interest.

Getler agreed, explaining that “the Lockheed funding does present a perception and commercial test problem for PBS. My feeling is that this particular program would have been much better off without Lockheed support.”

There was a further lack of disclosure. Getler noted that he

saw no mention of Lockheed when I watched the program online or when I looked at the Nova website. And there was never any mention of Lockheed in the body of the program, even though that huge defense company is heavily involved in drone development, which I didn’t know and I’m sure vast numbers of online viewers–unless they are in the Air Force or CIA–also probably did not know.

That lack of disclosure left Getler feeling “deceived by Nova“–though he noted that “Lockheed Martin was clearly identified on screen” as a funder in the broadcast version of the program.

Getler concluded by writing, “I think Nova handled this situation poorly and did not comply with the spirit, at least, of the guidelines when it came to being upfront with viewers.”

Nova thought otherwise. Its statement began:

WGBH fully adheres to PBS funding guidelines and takes our public trust responsibility very seriously. With regard to Nova “Rise of the Drones,” Lockheed Martin’s sponsorship of Nova is not a violation of the PBSunderwriting guidelines.

Nova’s defense is that Lockheed “had no editorial involvement in the program.” But as the PBS guidelines make abundantly clear, this is not a defense at all. The fact that a funder’s interests exist is a problem–not just whether the funder interfered in the editorial content of the program:

When there exists a clear and direct connection between the interests or products or services of a proposed funder and the subject matter of the program, the proposed funding will be deemed unacceptable regardless of the funder’s actual compliance with the editorial control provisions of this policy.

Since it is indisputable that Lockheed manufacturers drones, the guidelines as written say this is “unacceptable.” Since Nova does not believe the underwriting guidelines mean what they say mean, the real issue here is whether PBS itself believes in its rules. As FAIR has pointed out (Press Release, 4/3/02 ), PBS has historically found certain funding arrangements problematic–when the funder is a labor union, or a producer of a film about domestic violence is the leader of a battered women’s support group. Major corporate funders, though, get a pass.

Nova also argues that including a guest who has a business relationship to the funder “has no relevance to the story.” But basic journalistic ethics–for any medium, not just public television–tell you that such disclosures are important.

Nova seemed to prefer that viewers not know Lockheed’s connection to the subject of the program at all. The program’s response to the FAIR alert did mention that they “will include Lockheed Martin in the list of funders on the Nova website for full transparency.”

FAIR thanks the hundreds of activists who wrote to PBS, and to ombud Michael Getler for writing a thoughtful response.

The Pentagon and Slave Labor in U.S. Prisons

February 4th, 2013 by Sara Flounders

Prisoners earning 23 cents an hour in U.S. federal prisons are manufacturing high-tech electronic components for Patriot Advanced Capability 3 missiles, launchers for TOW (Tube-launched, Optically tracked, Wire-guided) anti-tank missiles, and other guided missile systems. A March article by journalist and financial researcher Justin Rohrlich of World in Review is worth a closer look at the full implications of this ominous development. (minyanville.com)

The expanding use of prison industries, which pay slave wages, as a way to increase profits for giant military corporations, is a frontal attack on the rights of all workers.

Prison labor — with no union protection, overtime pay, vacation days, pensions, benefits, health and safety protection, or Social Security withholding — also makes complex components for McDonnell Douglas/Boeing’s F-15 fighter aircraft, the General Dynamics/Lockheed Martin F-16, and Bell/Textron’s Cobra helicopter. Prison labor produces night-vision goggles, body armor, camouflage uniforms, radio and communication devices, and lighting systems and components for 30-mm to 300-mm battleship anti-aircraft guns, along with land mine sweepers and electro-optical equipment for the BAE Systems Bradley Fighting Vehicle’s laser rangefinder. Prisoners recycle toxic electronic equipment and overhaul military vehicles.

Labor in federal prisons is contracted out by UNICOR, previously known as Federal Prison Industries, a quasi-public, for-profit corporation run by the Bureau of Prisons. In 14 prison factories, more than 3,000 prisoners manufacture electronic equipment for land, sea and airborne communication. UNICOR is now the U.S. government’s 39th largest contractor, with 110 factories at 79 federal penitentiaries.

The majority of UNICOR’s products and services are on contract to orders from the Department of Defense. Giant multinational corporations purchase parts assembled at some of the lowest labor rates in the world, then resell the finished weapons components at the highest rates of profit. For example, Lockheed Martin and Raytheon Corporation subcontract components, then assemble and sell advanced weapons systems to the Pentagon.

Increased profits, unhealthy workplaces

However, the Pentagon is not the only buyer. U.S. corporations are the world’s largest arms dealers, while weapons and aircraft are the largest U.S. export. The U.S. State Department, Department of Defense and diplomats pressure NATO members and dependent countries around the world into multibillion-dollar weapons purchases that generate further corporate profits, often leaving many countries mired in enormous debt.

But the fact that the capitalist state has found yet another way to drastically undercut union workers’ wages and ensure still higher profits to military corporations — whose weapons wreak such havoc around the world — is an ominous development.

According to CNN Money, the U.S. highly skilled and well-paid “aerospace workforce has shrunk by 40 percent in the past 20 years. Like many other industries, the defense sector has been quietly outsourcing production (and jobs) to cheaper labor markets overseas.” (Feb. 24) It seems that with prison labor, these jobs are also being outsourced domestically.

Meanwhile, dividends and options to a handful of top stockholders and CEO compensation packages at top military corporations exceed the total payment of wages to the more than 23,000 imprisoned workers who produce UNICOR parts.

The prison work is often dangerous, toxic and unprotected. At FCC Victorville, a federal prison located at an old U.S. airbase, prisoners clean, overhaul and reassemble tanks and military vehicles returned from combat and coated in toxic spent ammunition, depleted uranium dust and chemicals.

A federal lawsuit by prisoners, food service workers and family members at FCI Marianna, a minimum security women’s prison in Florida, cited that toxic dust containing lead, cadmium, mercury and arsenic poisoned those who worked at UNICOR’s computer and electronic recycling factory.

Prisoners there worked covered in dust, without safety equipment, protective gear, air filtration or masks. The suit explained that the toxic dust caused severe damage to nervous and reproductive systems, lung damage, bone disease, kidney failure, blood clots, cancers, anxiety, headaches, fatigue, memory lapses, skin lesions, and circulatory and respiratory problems. This is one of eight federal prison recycling facilities — employing 1,200 prisoners — run by UNICOR.

After years of complaints the Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General and the Federal Occupational Health Service concurred in October 2008 that UNICOR has jeopardized the lives and safety of untold numbers of prisoners and staff. (Prison Legal News, Feb. 17, 2009)

Racism & U.S. prisons

The U.S. imprisons more people per capita than any country in the world. With less than 5 percent of the world population, the U.S. imprisons more than 25 percent of all people imprisoned in the world.

There are more than 2.3 million prisoners in federal, state and local prisons in the U.S. Twice as many people are under probation and parole. Many tens of thousands of other prisoners include undocumented immigrants facing deportation, prisoners awaiting sentencing and youthful offenders in categories considered reform or detention.

The racism that pervades every aspect of life in capitalist society — from jobs, income and housing to education and opportunity — is most brutally reflected by who is caught up in the U.S. prison system.

More than 60 percent of U.S. prisoners are people of color. Seventy percent of those being sentenced under the three strikes law in California — which requires mandatory sentences of 25 years to life after three felony convictions — are people of color. Nationally, 39 percent of African-American men in their 20s are in prison, on probation or on parole. The U.S. imprisons more people than South Africa did under apartheid. (Linn Washington, “Incarceration Nation”)

The U.S. prison population is not only the largest in the world — it is relentlessly growing. The U.S. prison population is more than five times what it was 30 years ago.

In 1980, when Ronald Reagan became president, there were 400,000 prisoners in the U.S. Today the number exceeds 2.3 million. In California the prison population soared from 23,264 in 1980 to 170,000 in 2010. The Pennsylvania prison population climbed from 8,243 to 51,487 in those same years. There are now more African-American men in prison, on probation or on parole than were enslaved in 1850, before the Civil War began, according to Law Professor Michelle Alexander in the book “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.”

Today a staggering 1-in-100 adults in the U.S. are living behind bars. But this crime, which breaks families and destroys lives, is not evenly distributed. In major urban areas one-half of Black men have criminal records. This means life-long, legalized discrimination in student loans, financial assistance, access to public housing, mortgages, the right to vote and, of course, the possibility of being hired for a job.

State Prisons contracting slave labor

It is not only federal prisons that contract out prison labor to top corporations. State prisons that used forced prison labor in plantations, laundries and highway chain gangs increasingly seek to sell prison labor to corporations trolling the globe in search of the cheapest possible labor.

One agency asks: “Are you experiencing high employee turnover? Worried about the costs of employee benefits? Unhappy with out-of-state or offshore suppliers? Getting hit by overseas competition? Having trouble motivating your workforce? Thinking about expansion space? Then Washington State Department of Corrections Private Sector Partnerships is for you.” (educate-yourself.org, July 25, 2005)

Major corporations profiting from the slave labor of prisoners include Motorola, Compaq, Honeywell, Microsoft, Boeing, Revlon, Chevron, TWA, Victoria’s Secret and Eddie Bauer.

IBM, Texas Instruments and Dell get circuit boards made by Texas prisoners. Tennessee inmates sew jeans for Kmart and JCPenney. Tens of thousands of youth flipping hamburgers for minimum wages at McDonald’s wear uniforms sewn by prison workers, who are forced to work for much less.

In California, as in many states, prisoners who refuse to work are moved to disciplinary housing and lose canteen privileges as well as “good time” credit, which slices hard time off their sentences.

Systematic abuse, beatings, prolonged isolation and sensory deprivation, and lack of medical care make U.S. prison conditions among the worst in the world. Ironically, working under grueling conditions for pennies an hour is treated as a “perk” for good behavior.

In December, Georgia inmates went on strike and refused to leave their cells at six prisons for more than a week. In one of the largest prison protests in U.S. history, prisoners spoke of being forced to work seven days a week for no pay. Prisoners were beaten if they refused to work.

Private prisons for profit

In the ruthless search to maximize profits and grab hold of every possible source of income, almost every public agency and social service is being outsourced to private for-profit contractors.

In the U.S. military this means there are now more private contractors and mercenaries in Iraq and Afghanistan than there are U.S. or NATO soldiers.

In cities and states across the U.S., hospitals, medical care facilities, schools, cafeterias, road maintenance, water supply services, sewage departments, sanitation, airports and tens of thousands of social programs that receive public funding are being contracted out to for-profit corporations. Anything publicly owned and paid for by generations of past workers’ taxes — from libraries to concert halls and parks — is being sold or leased at fire sale prices.

All this is motivated and lobbied for by right-wing think tanks like that set up by Koch Industries and their owners, Charles and David Koch, as a way to cut costs, lower wages and pensions, and undercut public service unions.

The most gruesome privatizations are the hundreds of for-profit prisons being established.

The inmate population in private for-profit prisons tripled between 1987 and 2007. By 2007 there were 264 such prison facilities, housing almost 99,000 adult prisoners. (house.leg.state.mn.us, Feb. 24, 2009) Companies operating such facilities include the Corrections Corporation of America, the GEO Group Inc. and Community Education Centers.

Prison bonds provide a lucrative return for capitalist investors such as Merrill-Lynch, Shearson Lehman, American Express and Allstate. Prisoners are traded from one state to another based on the most profitable arrangements.

Militarism and prisons

Hand in hand with the military-industrial complex, U.S. imperialism has created a massive prison-industrial complex that generates billions of dollars annually for businesses and industries profiting from mass incarceration.

For decades workers in the U.S. have been assured that they also benefit from imperialist looting by the giant multinational corporations. But today more than half the federal budget is absorbed by the costs of maintaining the military machine and the corporations who are guaranteed profits for equipping the Pentagon. That is the only budget category in federal spending that is guaranteed to increase by at least 5 percent a year — at a time when every social program is being cut to the bone.

The sheer economic weight of militarism seeps into the fabric of society at every level. It fuels racism and reaction. The political influence of the Pentagon and the giant military and oil corporations — with their thousands of high-paid lobbyists, media pundits and network of links into every police force in the country — fuels growing repression and an expanding prison population.

The military, oil and banking conglomerates, interlinked with the police and prisons, have a stranglehold on the U.S. capitalist economy and reins of political power, regardless of who is president or what political party is in office. The very survival of these global corporations is based on immediate maximization of profits. They are driven to seize every resource and source of potential profits.

Thoroughly rational solutions are proposed whenever the human and economic cost of militarism and repression is discussed. The billions spent for war and fantastically destructive weapons systems could provide five to seven times more jobs if spent on desperately needed social services, education and rebuilding essential infrastructure. Or it could provide free university education, considering the fact that it costs far more to imprison people than to educate them.

Why aren’t such reasonable solutions ever chosen? Because military contracts generate far larger guaranteed profits to the military and the oil industries, which have a decisive influence on the U.S. economy.

The prison-industrial complex — including the prison system, prison labor, private prisons, police and repressive apparatus, and their continuing expansion — are a greater source of profit and are reinforced by the climate of racism and reaction. Most rational and socially useful solutions are not considered viable options.

Global Research News Hour Episode 13

 “It’s easy to take an issue like the 9/11 truth movement and demonize it…that happened in the election of 2008. Even though at the time it was a rising tide and growing numbers of people… had actually rejected the official explanation and were actively looking at the evidence hoping to find out what really happened, even though that was happening, the Conservatives in that election chose to demonize those folks, and I guess I appeared to be one of them because I was willing to talk about it with respect.

-Lesley Hughes

During the Canadian federal election of 2008, Lesley Hughes, overnight, went from the Liberal Party’s star candidate to a political liability.

An article Hughes wrote in 2002 entitled “Get the Truth” offered readers a contrarian viewpoint on the war in Afghanistan as retaliation for 9/11.

The anonymous blogger Black Rod, unearthed the article, conflated it into an anti-Semitic 9/11 conspiracy theory, and circulated it throughout the on-line community and the mainstream press.

Liberal leader Stephan Dion, under pressure from B’Nai Brith, the Canadian Jewish Congress, and his political opponents, not to mention uncomfortable media scrutiny, removed the candidacy of Ms. Hughes without ever confronting her about it directly.

Hughes, humiliated, dropped off the media radar screen and spent the subsequent few months licking her wounds. She finally found herself a lawyer and launched a defamation suit against the above-named groups, as well as Conservative candidate Peter Kent, the entities she saw as most responsible for this disastrous blow to her reputation.

In December of last year, at the end of a four year ordeal, Hughes was finally cleared of all charges of anti-Semitism.

Who is Lesley Hughes?

Hughes is much more than the “earnest middle-aged mother and community activist” described by National Post columnist and author Jonathan Kay in his 9/11 Truth hit-piece “Among the Truthers.”

Lesley Hughes is a Winnipeg-based broadcast and print journalist.

In the province of Manitoba, she became a house-hold name as co-host of the popular morning program Information Radio, a CBC show she helmed for more than ten years.

Her prowess as an interviewer earned her the distinction of sitting in briefly for CBC icon Peter Gzowski on the nationally broadcast Morningside, earning her praise from executive producer Patsey Pehleman for being “fresh and different.”

Over the course of a career that has spanned more than three decades, Lesley has interviewed a multitude of global movers and shakers, including former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, humanitarian Mother Theresa, South African President Nelson Mandela, dissident intellectual Noam Chomsky, French President Francois Mitterand, and playwright Tennessee Williams to name just a few.

She has since contributed articles to major newspapers. She covered the 1992 Earth Summit from Rio de Janeiro in Brazil for the Globe and Mail. She reported from the World Poverty Summit in Copenhagen, and the Information Summit in Geneva. She has authored book reviews for the Winnipeg Free Press. She continues to write the back column for the distinguished Canadian organ of progressive political thought known as Canadian Dimension Magazine.

Hughes has had her work carried by Radio Denmark, Radio Antilles and the Grenadian Voice.

Hughes has been a media trainer, instructing students at the University of Winnipeg. She was designated as the University of Manitoba’s Outstanding Alumnus for Distinguished Achievement, named one of Canada’s top three columnists for a weekly community newspaper by the Canadian Community Newspaper Association, and honoured Manitoba’s Woman of the Year in Communications and Best Interviewer (Radio) by Winnipeg ACTRA among other accolades.

The recent court ruling has affirmed what informed people, supporters and detractors alike, know all too well. Lesley Hughes has not an anti-Semitic bone in her body!

Lesley Hughes, regardless of what one might think of her politics, is an inspirational, compassionate, hard-working, brilliant and breath-takingly decent human being. It is a sad commentary on the times we live in that she could be brought down from her well-earned pedestal in Canadian life, simply for…well…doing her job as a journalist.

In this exclusive interview for the Global Research News Hour, Lesley Hughes from the living room of her Winnipeg home explains how she was affected personally and professionally by the allegations, her take on the corrosive effect of anonymous blogging on journalism, and about how attacks on 9/11 skeptics signals a new kind of McCarthyism.

She also introduces her upcoming memoir, “Hit and Run: My Brilliant Life in Canadian Politics.”

Also featured in this one hour programme is an interview with Richard Sanders of the Coalition Opposed to the Arms Trade, (coat.ncf.ca) about how Canadian Pension Plan investments are aiding and abetting Israeli War Crimes. We also hear an assessment of the recent Israeli elections by Chicago based writer and broadcaster Stephen Lendman.

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The Global Research News Hour hosted by Michael Welch airs on CKUW 95.9FM in Winnipeg Thursdays at 10am CDT. The programme is now broadcast weekly by the Progressive Radio Network in the US, and is available for download on the Global Research website.

U.S. Escalate Imperialist War in Mali and Niger

February 4th, 2013 by Abayomi Azikiwe

French Socialist President Francois Hollande has visited Mali in an effort to claim victory over targeted Islamic groups based in the central and northern regions of this vast West African state. The president visited the capital of Bamako and the cities of Sevare and Timbuktu.

A staged rally in Timbuktu made it appear as if Hollande was the savior of the Malian nation. In his speech he failed to address the allegations of civilian deaths and injuries among people in the areas that have been bombed by French war planes since January 11.

The French leader told the media and crowds in Timbuktu that the war in Mali was not over. He did say that France would withdraw its troops from Mali as soon as a West African regional force was in place inside the country.

In the immediate aftermath of the Hollande visit, dozens of French war planes escalated their attacks on several areas in the north.  Under the guise of disabling supply routes for the designated “terrorists” groups, the mountainous north-east region around Kidal and Tessalit was pounded.

Laurent Fabius, the foreign minister in the Hollande administration, said of the renewed airstrikes that “It is about destroying their rear bases, their depots. They have taken refuge in the north and northeast but they can only stay there long-term if they have ways to replenish their supplies.” (ninemsn.com, Feb. 4)

French Intervention Breeds Human Rights Violations

For months reports have been emanating from areas under the control of various Islamist organizations indicating that fundamental rights of the local population groups have been violated. These alleged atrocities committed by Islamist groups in northern and central Mali have been utilized as a pretext for the intervention of France which is being backed up by the United States and other NATO countries.

Nonetheless, there has been far less attention paid to the allegations made that the military invasion by France is leading to the deaths of numerous Malians through aerial bombardments and ground operations by both the French and Malian military forces.  Accusations of beatings, torture and killings have been documented through organizations such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the United Nations.

On Feb. 1, Adama Dieng, a special adviser to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on the prevention of genocide, reported that there have been “serious allegations” of extrajudicial executions by the Malian army. Other stories are emerging of civilians killed by bombs and the impact of the aerial bombardments on the ability of people to have adequate food, drinking water and medical attention.

The International Committee of the Red Cross is seeking access to prisoners being held by the Malian army. Spokespersons for the Malian government have not been forthcoming with information on the status of these prisoners.

UN special adviser Adama Dieng noted that “While the liberation of towns once under the control of the rebel and extremist groups has brought hope to the populations of northern Mali, I am deeply concerned at the risk of reprisal attacks against ethnic Tuareg and Arab civilians. There have been serious allegations of human rights violations committed by the Malian army, including summary executions and disappearances, in Sevare, Mopti, Niono and other towns close to other areas where the fighting has occurred.” (AFP, Feb. 2)

Dieng continued by pointing out that “There have also been reports of incidents of mob lynching and looting of properties belonging to Arab and Tuareg communities. These communities are reportedly being accused of supporting armed groups, based simply on their ethnic affiliation. I am deeply disturbed by reports of violations committed by the army, and by reports that the armed forces have been recruiting and arming proxy militia groups to instigate attacks against particular ethnic and national groups in northern Mali.” (AFP, Feb. 2)

Uranium Mines in Niger Are of Great Concern to the U.S. and France

Right across the border from Mali in Niger, the U.S. and France have enhanced their military presence. At present Paris has deployed Special Forces units to ostensibly “protect” the uranium mines inside this West African state.

The BBC reported on February 3 that “Niger has confirmed that French Special Forces are protecting one of the country’s biggest uranium mines. President Mahamadou Issoufou told French media that security was being tightened at the Arlit mine after the recent hostage crisis in Algeria.”

Areva, a French-owned firm, plays a major role in mining uranium in Niger. The country is the world’s fifth largest producer of the strategic resource used in the technology, energy, medical and military industries.

President Issoufou told French TV 5 that “We decided, especially in light of what happened in Algeria…not to take risks and strengthen the protection of mining sites.” Areva obtains a large portion of its uranium from two mines in Niger located at Arlit and Imouraren.

At the same time, the U.S. government has announced two agreements with the Niger government for the deployment of troops as well as a drone base inside the country on the border with Mali. The drone base is designed to enhance the intelligence gathering capability of the Pentagon in West Africa.

One unnamed military official said that the U.S. presence in Niger “is directly related to the Mali mission, but it could also give AFRICOM (U.S. Africa Command) a more enduring presence for ISR (intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance).” President Issoufou said in an interview the agreement was part of “a long-term strategic relationship with the U.S.” (World War 4 Report, Jan. 30)

These military agreements and adventures are taking place within the context of a worsening economic crisis in Europe and the U.S. The French economy is suffering from escalating debt and rising unemployment and the U.S. is facing a mounting fiscal crisis along with a negative growth rate.

British Prime Minister David Cameron also visited Algeria and Libya just prior to the trip by Hollande to Mali. Cameron’s visit to Libya came amid a warning by London that British citizens should leave the same country which was bombed extensively by the Royal Air Force along with Pentagon and NATO forces in 2011.

In Algeria, armed combatant seized the In Amenas gas field in January that resulted in the deaths of over 80 people and the injuring of many more. Britain, France and the U.S. are all seeking to protect their economic interests in both West and North Africa.

Abayomi Azikiwe is Editor of the Pan-African News Wire and Frequent Contributor to Global Research

 

GMOs: Changing the Human Genome One Meal at a Time

February 4th, 2013 by Kirk Rutter

FIDA DAKROUB

عموميات

توقعنا للمتمردين السوريين ما كان في انتظارهم اذا ما انتصرت “ثورتهم المقدسة”: بقشيش وركل.. أخطأنا.. لم يأخذ الصراع بعدُ منعطفا فاصلا حتى تلقى المتمردون السوريون ركلات الجيش الوطني السوري، دون ان يحصلوا على اكراميات من رؤسائهم الأطلسيين والعربَويين. فيما يتعلق بالركلات، فقد انتهت “معركة دمشق الكبرى” بهزيمة كبيرة للمتمردين، ولاقى الآلاف منهم حتفهم في الاشتباكات الاخيرة، وزحف الجيش السوري إلى معاقلهم في داريا، ودمر صفوفهم الخلفية، مأمـّنا بذلك العاصمة دمشق. أما بالنسبة للحلوان، فقد اعترف الرئيس الأمريكي باراك أوباما مؤخرا ببعض التردد بشأن ما إذا كان ينبغي على الولايات المتحدة أن تتدخل في سورية أم لا. وأوضح أنه “في تجاذب” مع هذا المقرر، دون اعطاء إجابة!(1).

مختلف الخطابات حول النزاع السوري منذ أول ايام الأزمة السورية

قدمت الدعاية الإمبريالية الأطلسية وتلك الرجعية العربَوية الصراع في سورية على أنه صراع بين النظام والمعارضة، أو كصراع على السلطة. لقد تهافت كثير من الكتاب والمثقفين والفنانين والصحفيين عامدين الى حجز أماكن لهم في قطار الحملة الإعلامية ضد سورية. نعثر من بينهم على أسماء شهيرة لمثقفين عرب وغربيين: شعراء وروائيين وفنانين ومطربين وموسيقيين وأكاديميين وأساتذة ورجال قانون، بل وأيضا: وسطاء روحيين، ومستبصرين، ودجالين، فقراء ودراويش وأنبياء وسحرة.. الجميع كتب آلاف التحليلات والمقالات النقدية والتحقيقات والتقارير عن “الثورة السورية” المزعومة، وأفضى ذلك أولا الى تحوير ما يسمى “الثورة” الى “الثورة السورية المقدسة”، ثم الارتقاء بها الى مصاف رؤساء الملائكة، وأخيرا تمجيدها كروح أبدية -إذ جاز التعبير- لجميع الثورات الاجتماعية في التاريخ البشري، من ثورة العبيد لسبارتاكوس 109-71 (قبل الميلاد) الى ثورة الورود للسيد ساكاشفيلي عام 2003 (ميلادية)!.

يا لها من مهزلة ! يا للبؤس !

وضمن هذه المجموعة من الفقراء والدروايش، نجد أسماء شهيرة، مثل كريستوف باربيي، آلان غريش، وبرنار هنري ليفي، شخصيات بطولية في سفر(2) الحملة الإعلامية ضد سورية. وبالموازاة وهذه المجموعة، تشكـَّل فريق آخر، حيث إن أعضاءه -بعد أن سقطوا ضحايا للدعاية الإمبريالية ضد سورية- انزووا منعزلين والتزموا الصمت والحياد. ومن بينهم، نميز مجموعتين فرعيتين: الذين آثروا الحياد لأنهم كانوا منبهرين ومشوشين بفعل الدعاية الامبريالية، وأولئك الذين اختاروا ذلك، لأنهم كانوا ينتظرون انقشاع غبار القتال بين الجيش السوري الجماعات المسلحة. في مواجهة هذين الفريقين، هناك أولئك الذين سارعوا، منذ بداية الحرب الإمبريالية، للدفاع عن سورية، لتفكيك الدعاية الأطلسية والرجعية العربوية ومواجهتها، لإعادة توجيه نظر الرأي العام إلى البوصلة المتجهة دوما الى مقاومة الامبريالية، ولفضح –أخيرا- هذه الذئاب التي تتمظهر، ونظنها، خـِرافًا.. لإظهار أن ثغاءها لا يقوم الا بتكرار -بلغة “الديمقراطية” وحقوق الإنسان- خطاب القوى الامبريالية الايديولوجي.. ولاظهار –أيضا- ان جعجعات المتشدقين بـ”الربيع العربي” المزعوم، اختزلت الى عصبة من “الكهنة” في كبريات صالونات التحالف المقدس، لا تفعل غير ان تعكس الاعمال المثيرة للسخرية لفشل الحرب الإمبريالية على سورية المستمر. كان من واجب أعضاء تلك المجموعة أن يظهروا أن الصراع كان في الواقع “بين الوطن وأعدائه، بين الشعب والقتلة المجرمين، بين المواطن، وخبزه، ومائه، ودفئه، وبين من حرمه منها، بين الأمن والخوف”(3)، كذلك شرح الرئيس الأسد.

رُقى جان باتيست جانجين فيلمر

في أحد اعدادها، ، نشرت “لودوفوار”، وهي صحيفة مرموقة في كيبيك، مقالا كتبه السيد جان باتيست جانجين فيلمر(4)، شجب فيه –مثلما جعلنا نعتقد في البداية- الجرائم المقترفة في حق الإنسانية، التي ارتكبها، على حد قوله، كلا طرفي الصراع السوري: “المتمردون” والنظام. والى غاية هذه النقطة، بقينا مجتذبين الى النوايا الحسنة للسيد فيلمر، وايضا الى لياقه، ولم يبق لنا الا ان نطالب مع السيد بانغلوس، أن “كل شيء على افضل ما يرام في العوالم الممكنة”(5). والحال هذه، ورغم هذا التفاؤل البريء في البداية، كان لابد، في النهاية، من اضافة اسم السيد فيلمر الى المجموعة الأولى المذكورة آنفا، لأن السيد فيلمر فبركَ –تضمينا- في مقاله الموسوم بـ”حارب مع الوحوش دون أن تصبح منهم”(6)، بفضل صيغة خيميائية، بعض المبررات للأعمال الهمجية والإرهاب والمجازر والمذابح المنظمة، التي يقوم بها فرسان الثورة المقدسة السورية ضد خصومهم، مدنيين كانوا أم من العسكر، كل هذا بذريعة أن “المتمردين في سورية، وعلى الرغم من جرائمهم، هم الأقل شرا، وتجب مساعدتهم”(7).

يا لها من براهين !.. يا للتخليق !.. يا غضب !.. يا يأس! يا شيخوخة قهارة!(8)..

بيد ان هذه الصيغة الخيميائية التي اخترعها السيد فيلمر ليست في الواقع غير تعويذة تصلح لافتتاح جلسة عِرافة على قدر برشمانه في الخيمياء السياسية. وابعد من ذلك، فقد ألقى سحره وحوّل جهاديي القاعدة في رمشة عين الى ثوريين قديسين، “مدفوعين” بـ”الحق المشروع” في “تقرير المصير” والرئيسَ الأسد، الذي يتمتع بتأييد أغلبية الشعب السوري، الى “ديكتاتور” متعطش للدماء. لنرَ كيف يهذر السيد فيلمر في هذا الموضوع.. بدءا، إنه يفتتح مقاله العظيم باقتباس من نيتشه: “عندما نقاتل مع وحوش علينا أن نحرص على ان لا نصبح كذلك”.. “عندما تمعن نظرك طويلا في الهاوية، فإن الهاوية أيضا تثبت بصرها عليك”. يخدم هذا الاستشهاد، كما تمنى جدا كاتب المقال، إعطاء ما سيقوله لاحقا في النص شرعيةً وقيمة أكاديمية. انها فاتحة خطابه، تعويذة برشمانه، رُقى اختراعه الجديد. ثم يهرع بعد ذلك إلى اختتام سبقي، دون أي دليل، دون أية وثيقة أو مرجع او مصدر، مفاده أن الطرف الآخر من معادلة الصراع السوري، أي الحكومة السورية، “خصم أسوأ من نفسه”، ثم يخوض في تأكيد الجرائم البشعة التي ارتكبها “المتمردون” السوريون، فيورد بعضها، مستندا الى المرصد السوري لحقوق الإنسان:

هذا هو التحدي الذي يواجه المتمردون السوريون، حتى الآن، دون نجاح ذي ذكر، نسبيا، كما يشهد المرصد السوري لحقوق الإنسان، عبر بث فيديوهات، مع فاصل يومين، تظهر شطط كل جانب. الأولى بتاريخ 1 نوفمبر، تظهر مجموعة مؤلفة من حوالى 10 جنود من الجيش النظامي، أسرى، وقد أُلقوا أرضا، تلقوا ركلا شديدا ثم أعدمهم المتمردون رميا برصاص الرشاش، بسرعة9) ووصولا إلى ما اعتقد انه حجة، لم نعثر على غير بلاغة وخيبة أمل، وأطروحة السيد فيلمر، التي بدأت بـ”tu quoque”(10)، تنتهي بسخرية، بتوليفة من نوع “bene dicendi scientia”(11)، مع الفقرة التالية: لا يجب ان تغرقنا هذه المعاينة المتكررة -أن حربا ما هي قذرة دائما وأن الجرائم يرتكبها الجانبان- في نسبوية صلفة، تساوي دوما بين الطرفين. لأن الجرائم التي ارتكبها الثوار الليبيون والسوريون لا يمكن ان نقارنها بتلك التي ارتكبها القذافي والأسد، سواء من حيث النطاق أو الغرض، لأنهم مدفوعون بحق شعب مشروع في تقرير مصيره، وليس برغبة ديكتاتور في الاحتفاظ بالسلطة. هذه الاختلافات لا تستوجب العذر لهم، لهذا:

تجب ادانتهم بالحزم نفسه، ولكنها تفسر أنه ينبغي دعم المتمردين رغم كل شيء(12). أولا، بإلقاء رقى السحر تلك بخصوص القذافي والأسد، كما فعل في هذه الجملة: “…وليس برغبة ديكتاتور في الحفاظ على في السلطة”، لم يضف السيد فيلمر شيئا جديدا، ولم يخترع شيئا موثوقا، لأن كل شيء قد قيل قبلا، وكل شيء قد اخترع بخصوص الطغاة والمستبدين في العالم العربي، ورغباتهم الحيوانية، واهوائهم الدنيوية، وظمأهم للدم، وعن حريمهم وعن سراياهم الكبرى، كل شيء تم تصويره وتوهمه من خطاب الكنيسة في العصور الوسطى، والخطاب الاستشراقي في القرن التاسع عشر، وخطاب الإمبريالية والاستعمار في القرنين العشرين والحادي والعشرين، لا شيء جديد، لا شيء أصلي، منذ “نشيد” رولاند الى اخر برشمان السيد فيلمر، ولا حتى هذا الموقف الذي يتخذه في مقاله، للإدانة، للعقاب، للغفران، للترتيل، لمنح رحمته، عندما صاح من علياء السماء: “..تجب ادانتهم بالحزم نفسه، لكنها تفسر أنه يجب رغم كل شيء دعم المتمردين”.

أيها الرب الأبدي ! عندما خرجت من السعير، عندما تقدمت في حقول سدوم، ارتجت الارض، وانفطرت السماوات وذابت الغيوم الى مياه(13)..

ومع ذلك، بقي لنا أن نسائل أنفسنا عن ما هية الـ”حق المشروع” الذي تحدث عنه بورجوازينا الجنتلمان(14)؟ في أي عصر عاش ما عندما نسخ رقـّه، وما إذا لم يكن ذلك عصر خوسيه اركاديو بوينديا(15)؟ ومن اي نبر اخترع صيغه القضائية- السياسية- الفلسفية- الخيميائية- النيولوجية(16)، اذا لم يكن ذلك في عهد ميلخيادس(17)؟ ألم يقرأ التقارير التي نشرتها وسائل الإعلام الاحتكارية عن الانتشار المتزايد لمقاتلي القاعدة في سورية، وخاصة جبهة النصرة (18) قبل ان يسحرنا برقاه؟ ولنتفحص ما نشرته وكالة رويترز مسكنة، وفي صلب الموضوع: The rise of al Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria, al-Nusra Front, which the United States designated a terrorist organisation last week, could usher in a long and deadly confrontation with the West, and perhaps Israel[19]. يمكن لصعود جبهة النصرة في سورية، الجماعة المنضوية تحت لواء القاعدة في سورية، والتي صنفتها الولايات المتحدة منظمةً ارهابية الاسبوع الماضي، أن يفتح مواجهة طاحنة طويلة مع الغرب، وربما مع إسرائيل(19). بيد أن السيد فيلمر قرر، مقتبسا مجددا من نيتشة، ان يختار “بين الأفضل والمبغـَض”، واعترف بأن “حرب ما هي دوما قذرة”، وهذا لتبرير -قصدا أو سذاجةً، ومهما كان- تمويل الدول الأطلسية والعربوية “المتمردين” السوريين وتسليحهم، هؤلاء “المتمردين” انفسهم، الذين يرتكبون أعمال العنف والمذابح، الذين يزهقون ارواح الأطفال ويذبحون النساء، ويخطفون الرجال ويعدمونهم بذريعة أنهم “يتعاونون” مع النظام! بغض النظر عن من يقتل، عمن يختطف، وعمن يعذب، كل ذلك لا يهم، طالما ان “حربا ما هي دوما قذرة”، يجب دائما اختيار “الأفضل” وليس “الأبغض”! لنستمع الى السيد فيلمر يرتل: بنية التقدير الإنساني، حسب تفسير نيتشه ايضا، هي دائما تفاضلية: اختيار “أ” هو دائما اختيار “أ” بدلا من “ب”، في سياق معين. “انه ليس ابدا صراعا بين الخير والشر، كما قال آرون ايضا، انه الأفضل ضد المكروه. الأمور دائما هكذا، على الخصوص، في السياسة الخارجية”. هذه الأخلاقية الواقعية هي لتلك الاهون شرا. “المتمردون”، اليوم، في سورية، ورغم جرائمهم، هم أقل شرا(20). وايضا، اضحت الجماعات التابعة لتنظيم القاعدة في سورية، عمليا، وعلى أرض الواقع، هي “المفضلة”، وبات النظام السوري الذي يواجهها “مقيتا”!. ارحمني يا رب، لأنني صريع؛ اشفيني، يا رب، لأن أوصالي مضطربة؛ وروحي منغصة (21). أما بالنسبة لنا، فإذا كان الاختيار كذلك محددا بين الـ”أفضل” والـ”البغيض”، وفقا لحسابات ومعادلات السيد فيلمر، فنحن نختار، دون تردد، “المقيت” ضد “الأفضل”!.

ما يجهله السيد فيلمر سذاجةً أو تقصدًا

تتساءلت عما إذا كلف السيد فيلمر نفسه عناء تصفح الجرائد، ليس تلك المحسوبة كبديلة ومقاومة، بل صحافة “المونوبول” وحتى الناطقين باسم الحرب الإمبريالية على سورية، قبل أن يخلب ألبابنا بسحره عن سورية. أولا، ذكرت الصحيفة الأمريكية “نيويورك تايمز” تنامي اعداد الجهاديين في سورية، التي أضحت نقطة جذب لجميع الإسلامويين من تنظيم القاعدة. “The evidence is mounting that Syria has become a magnet for Sunni extremists, including those operating under the banner of Al Qaeda. An important border crossing with Turkey that fell into Syrian rebels’hands last week, Bab al-Hawa, has quickly become a jihadist congregating point[22]”. “تتراكم الادلة على ان سورية أصبحت جاذبة للمتطرفين السنة، بمن فيهم هؤلاء الذين ينشطون تحت لواء تنظيم القاعدة. لإن معبرا حدوديا رئيسيا مع تركية العام سقطت “باب الهوا”، الذي سقط بين ايدي المتمردين، الأسبوع الماضي، سرعان ما أصبح نقطة تجمع الجهاديين(22). ثانيا، جاء في تقرير نشرته صحيفة بريطانية “الغارديان” أن الواقع على الأرض اصبح مظلما، عندما يدرك القارئ أن ما يسمى “المظاهرات السلمية” لم تكن، في الحقيقة، سوى فبركة إعلامية، وأن سورية تكتسحها بكثافة آلاف من المقاتلين من تنظيم القاعدة: “… But these were not average members of the Free Syrian Army. Abu Khuder and his men fight for al-Qaida. They call themselves the ghuraba’a, or “strangers”, after a famous jihadi poem celebrating Osama bin Laden’s time with his followers in the Afghan mountains, and they are one of a number of jihadi organisations establishing a foothold in the east of the country now that the conflict in Syria has stretched well into its second bloody year” ; “Almost every rebel brigade has adopted a Sunni religious name with rhetoric exalting jihad and martyrdom” ; “Religion is a major rallying force in this revolution[23]” ; “Abu Omar gave an order in Arabic, which was translated into a babble of different languages – Chechen, Tajik, Turkish, French, Saudi dialect, Urdu[24]”. “ولكن هؤلاء لم يكونوا من مقاتلي الجيش السوري الحر العاديين، فأبو خضر ورجاله يقاتلون لصالح القاعدة. يطلقون على أنفسهم اسم ‘الغرباء’، حسب قصيدة جهادية شهيرة تمجد الأيام التي قضاها أسامة بن لادن مع أنصاره في الجبال الأفغانية، إنهم ايضا جزء من منظمات جهادية عديدة وضعت لها بالفعل موطئ قدم في شرق البلاد، الآن، حيث يدخل الصراع في سورية عامه الدموي الثاني”. “تبنت كل فرقة متمردة سنية اسما دينيا بليغا يمجد الجهاد والاستشهاد”؛ “الدين هو قوة كبرى للحشد في هذه الثورة”. “اصدر أبو عمر أمرا باللغة العربية، ترجم إلى ثرثرة بلغات مختلفة – بالشيشانية والطاجيكية والتركية والفرنسية وباللهجة العامية السعودية والأردية”. ثالثا، نشرت الصحيفة الامريكية “الاندبندنت” تقريرا عن دور الخليفة التركي والإمارات والسلطنات العربية بخصوص عمليات نقل ضخمة للأسلحة إلى الأراضي السورية. واوضحت أن المستفيدين من هذه الترسانة هم مقاتلو القاعدة وليس الرهبان ذوو الأردية البيضاء: “Syrian rebels are being armed by Saudi Arabia and Qatar, The Independent has learnt, in a development that threatens to inflame a regional power struggle provoked by the 15-month-old uprising against the Assad regime. Rebel fighters from the Free Syrian Army (FSA) have received weapons from the two Gulf countries, which were transported into Syria via Turkey with the implicit support of the country’s intelligence agency, MIT, according to a Western diplomat in Ankara[25]”. The Independent a appris que les rebelles syriens sont armés par l’Arabie saoudite et le Qatar, ce qui entraine en effet un développement menaçant d’incendier un conflit de pouvoir régional, provoqué depuis 15 mois par le soulèvement contre le régime Assad. وقد علمت “الاندبندنت” ان المتمردين السوريين يتلقون السلاح المملكة العربية السعودية وقطر، الأمر الذي يقود -في الواقع- الى تطور يهدد بإشعال صراع السلطة الإقليمية، يثار منذ 15 شهرا بالانتفاضة ضد نظام الأسد. تلقى متمردو الجيش السوري الحر أسلحة، من دولتين خليجيتين، أسلحة تم نقلها إلى سورية عبر تركية، حيث تدعم مصالح المخابرات التركية ضمنيا مثل هذه العمليات، حسب دبلماسي غربي في انقرة(25). وأشار تقرير منشور في صحيفة دير شبيغل الألمانية أن الآلاف من السوريين فروا إلى لبنان، ليس بالضرورة خوفا من نظام الأسد، ولكن بسبب الهجمات التي تقودها قوات متمردي ما يسمى بـ”الثورة” السورية. وأشار التقرير ايضا كيف أن الأقلية المسيحية في سورية تعاني من هجومات الجماعات المتمردة المسلحة: “… the women described what happened to their husbands, brothers and nephews back in their hometown of Qusayr in Syria. They were killed by Syrian rebel fighters, the women said — murdered because they were Christians, people who in the eyes of radical Islamist freedom fighters have no place in the new Syria”, وصفت النساء ما حدث لإخوانهم، وأبناء اخوتهن في مسقط رؤوسهم بـ”القصير” بسورية. لقد قام المقاتلون المتمردون السوريون بتصفيتهم، كما قلن، لقد قتلوا لأنهم كانوا مسيحيين، ولا مكان لهم، حسب مقاتلي الحرية الإسلامويين المتطرفين، في سورية الجديدة. كل ما نقوله هنا لم ينفه السيد فيلمر، يالعكس، هو يؤكده كما كتب: “ليست الأولى، ولا الحادثة الوحيدة من الجرائم التي ارتكبها المتمردون. لقد مرت أشهر ومنظمات الدفاع عن حقوق الإنسان تسلط الضوء على جرائم الحرب التي ارتكبها الجانبان. كما كان عليه الحال قبلا في ليبيا(27). كذلك، اعترف السيد فيلمر “بأنه قد عانى بشكل فظيع على الدوام، ولكن تفاءل لمجرد أن كل شيء سار على أكمل وجه، دائما، ودون ان يعتقد شيئا”(28).

خطاب السيد فيلمر أو بؤس البؤس

في سلسلة من المقالات، الموسومة بـ”خطاب البؤس”، والمنشورة في مركز الأبحاث حول العولمة(29)، شرّحنا الخطاب الخيري لكريستوف باربيي(30) وآلان غراش(31) حول “الربيع العربي” المزعوم والصراع السوري. وأعقبت هذه السلسلة بأخرى، موسومة بـ”بؤس الخطاب”، حيث تصدينا لأوهام برنار هنري ليفي العسكرية(32) بخصوص الحرب على سورية، وايضا محاكاة ساخرة للمجلس الوطني السوري(33). ومع ذلك، يبدو أن هناك حاجة للبدء، مع مقال السيد فيلمر، في سلسلة جديدة، توسم هذه المرة بـ”بؤس البؤس” لأن البؤس الاستطرادي وصل، هنا، الى أوجّه، مع النداء الذي أطلقه السيد فيلمر لتسليح “المتمردين”، ما يؤدي بالفعل إلى تسليح جبهة النصرة، المنضوية تحت لواء القاعدة، حيث يشكل مقاتلوها وحدهم، ووحدهم فقط، غالبية الجماعات المسلحة في سورية. إليكم ما يطالب به السيد فيلمر بلهجة بطولية، أكثر بطولية من نبرة هيكتور تحت اسوار طروادة: “إذن، يجب دعمهم، والقيام بذلك بصورة أكثر حسما، بتزويدهم بالأسلحة الثقيلة، للتعجيل بمخرج لما هو بصدد التحول الى حرب استنزاف(…) الاعتراف بأن الائتلاف الجديد للمعارضة السورية هو “الممثل الوحيد للشعب السوري”، وتزويده بسرعة بالأسلحة -بشكل غير قانوني إذا لزم الأمر- هو السبيل الوحيد لتسريع نهاية الحرب التي حصدت، في عشرين شهرا، ما يقرب من 40 الف ضحية”(34). برافو فيلمر ! تهانينا للقاعدة ! “ابتهجي جدا يا ابنة صهيون! زغردي فرحا يا ابنة أورشليم، من القدس! هوَذا ملكك يأتي إليك، انه صالح ومنتصر،انه متواضع، راكبا حمارا، حمارا، ابن أتان”.. وفي الختام، نذكر السيد فيلمر ان الائتلاف الجديد للمعارضة لا يتحكم في أي شيء ميدانيا، وأن جبهة النصرة هي رأس حربة المعارضة المسلحة، يتأكد هذا يوما بعد يوم، لقد دفع هذا التفاقم الدرامي للوضع فيسورية الرئيس باراك أوباما الى الاعتراف، كما قلنا في البداية، ببعض التردد بشأن ما إذا كان ينبغي على الولايات المتحدة أم لا تتدخل في سورية. وقد قال أوباما أنه “يتصارع” وهذا القرار، دون إعطاء إجابة(36)، لأن من الأفضل في بعض الأحيان ان نصمت على ان نقول اي شيء !

الدكتورة: فداء دكروب

دكتوراه في الدراسات الفرنسية 2010 (UWO, 2010)  ، فداء دكروب كاتبة وباحثة، وعضو في “مجموعة البحوث والدراسات حول الآداب والثقافات الفرنكوفونية(GRELCEF) بجامعة ويسترن أونتاريو. وهي ناشطة من أجل السلام والحقوق المدنية.

الصفحة الرسمية للكاتبة : www.fidadakroub.net ترجمة: خالدة مختار بوريجي هوامش

1 ـ لوبوان. (28 يناير 2013)

. « Syrie: l’opposition réclame de l’aide et des armes ». اعادة: 29 يناير 2013 على: http://www.lepoint.fr/monde/syrie-l-opposition-reclame-de-l-aide-et-des-armes-28-01-2013-1620999_24.php 2ـ تعني: كتاب، باللغة العبرية. 3ـ وكالة سانا (6 يناير 2013). Le président al-Assad lance une solution politique de la crise à trois étapes et affirme que la Syrie redeviendra plus forte et jamais concédant ni principes ni droits » (الرئيس الأسد يطلق حلا سياسيا للأزمة على ثلاث مراحل، ويؤكد أن سورية ستصبح أقوى ولن تتنازل أبدا عن حقوقها ومبادئها) معاد يوم 25 يناير 2013 على: http://www.sana-syria.com/fra/51/2013/01/06/460573.htm 4ـ جان-باتيست جانجين فيلمر، أستاذ القانون في جامعة ماكجيل وعضو منتسب الى شار راؤول-داندورند في UQAM. 5ـ ليكن كل شيء على ما يرام في أفضل العوالم الممكنة”، عبارة شهيرة للسيد بانغلوس “كانديد أو التفاؤل” لفولتير. 6ـ فيلمر، جان باتيست جانجين. (19 نوفمبر 2012). « Lutter avec des monstres sans en devenir un soi-même » نشر في لودوفوار. معاد 26 يناير 2013 في http://www.ledevoir.com/international/actualites-internationales/364283/lutter-avec-des-monstres-sans-en-devenir-un-soi-meme 7ـ الآنف. 8 ـ مونولوغ “دون دييغو” بعد صفعة “الكونت”، مسرحية السيد، لبيار كورناي، الفصل الأول، المشهد 4. 9ـ فيلمر، جان باتيست جانجين، الآنف. 10ـ تعني: “أنت أيضا” في اللاتينية، في نص فيلمر، جان باتيست جانجين. 11ـ البلاغة هي –في وقت واحد- العلم والفن الذي يرتبط بمفعول الخطاب في النفوس، ” bene dicendi scientia ” على حد تعبير الخطيب الروماني كانتيليانوس. 12ـ الآنف. 13ـ قضاة (4:5). 14ـ إشارة إلى شخصية السيد جوردان في “البرجوازي الشريف” لموليير. 15ـ رواية “مائة عام من العزلة” لغابرييل غارسيا ماركيز. وخوسيه اركاديو بونديا هو اطريرك الأسرة ومؤسس ماكوندو. رجل قوي الارادة، ثابت (جسديا وعقليا) ذو اهتمام كبير بالأسرار الفلسفية، مثالي النزعة ومغامر. انهى أيامه مربوطا إلى شجرة. 16ـ إشارة إلى la métaphysico-théologo-cosmolonigologie – في “كانديد أو التفاؤلية” لفولتير، ج. 1. 17ـ في “مائة عام من العزلة” لغابرييل غارسيا ماركيز، ميلخيادس نبي غجري يصادق بونديا الأول. يبحثان معا عن حجر الفلاسفة. أعلن ميلخيادس ميتا، ولكنه الى ال بوينديا، حيث كتب رقائق وبرشمانات. ميلخيادس تسكن روحه دائما ذالك المنزل، وتروي كتاباته كل لعنات آل بوينديا. 18ـ جبهة النصرة هي مجموعة من المتمردين المسلحين في سورية. شُكل الفريق نهاية عام 2011 ابان الحرب الإمبريالية على سورية. صنفته الولايات المتحدة ضمن قائمة المنظمات الإرهابية في أواخر عام 2012. 19، عويس يعقوب، خالد. (20 ديسمبر 2012). “Al Qaeda grows powerful in Syria as endgame nears”، نشرته رويترز. واعيد يوم 29 يناير 2013 على http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/12/20/us-syria-crisis-qaeda-idUSBRE8BJ06B20121220 20ـ فيلمر، الآنف. 21ـ مزمور (6 : 3 – 4). 22ـ نوردلاند، رود. (24 يوليو 2012). “Al Qaeda Taking Deadly New Role in Syria’s Conflict”، منشور في صحيفة نيويورك تايمز. معاد 29 يناير 2013 في: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/25/world/middleeast/al-qaeda-insinuating-its-way-into-syrias-conflict.html?pagewanted=all&_moc.semityn.www 23ـ الغارديان. (30 يوليو 2012). “Al-Qaida turns tide for rebels in battle for eastern Syria”، اعادة 29 يناير 2013 على http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/jul/30/al-qaida-rebels-battle-syria 24ـ عبد الأحد، غيث. (23 سبتمبر 2012): “Syria: the foreign fighters joining the war against Bashar al-Assad”، نشر في الغارديان. اعادة 29 يناير 2013 في http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/sep/23/syria-foreign-fighters-joining-war?intcmp=239 25ـ فيلا، جوستين. (13 جوان/يونيو 2012). “Arab states arm rebels as UN talks of Syrian civil war”. ، نشر في الإندبندنت. اعادة 29 يناير 2013 في: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/exclusive-arab-states-arm-rebels-as-un-talks-of-syrian-civil-war-7845026.html 26، بوز، أولريكي. (25 يوليو 2012). Christians Flee from Radical Rebels in Syria”. “، نشر في دير شبيغل. اعيد 29 يناير 2013 في http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/christians-flee-from-radical-rebels-in-syria-a-846180.html 27ـ فيلمر، الآنف. 28ـ في “كانديد أو التفاؤلية” فولتير، ج. XXX. 29ـ مقالات فداء دكروب نشرها موقع Mondialisation.ca http://www.mondialisation.ca/author/fida-dakroub 30ـ دكروب، فداء. (24 أبريل 2012). “خليفة الدم.” «Le calife de sang» نشرها موقع مركز الابحاث العالمية CRM اعادة 29 يناير 2013 على http://www.mondialisation.ca/critique-du-discours-philanthrope-sur-la-syrie-ou-mis-re-du-discours-le-calife-de-sang/30516 31ـ دكروب، فداء. (1 مايو 2012). “دروب الحرية”. « Les chemins de la liberté ».، نشرت على CRM، اعادة 29 يناير 2013 على: http://www.mondialisation.ca/critique-du-discours-philanthrope-sur-la-syrie-ou-mis-re-du-discours/30637 32ـ دكروب، فداء. (13 أوت/أغسطس 2012). “حول التدخل العسكري في سورية : من نصدق، برنارد هنري ليفي أم جليلي؟” ). « De l’intervention militaire en Syrie : qui croire, BHL ou Jalili ? »، نشر في CRM، اعادة 29 يناير 2013 في: http://www.mondialisation.ca/de-l-intervention-militaire-en-syrie-qui-croire-bhl-ou-jalili/32342 33ـ دكروب، فداء. (4 سبتمبر 2012). “11 فاديميير الثورة السورية المقدسة”. « Le 11-Vendémiaire de la Sainte-Révolution syrienne »، نشر علىCRM، اعادة 29 يناير 2013: http://www.mondialisation.ca/le-11-vendemiaire-de-la-sainte-revolution-syrienne/5303168 34ـ فيلمر، الآنف. 35ـ زكريا (9: 9). 36ـ لوبوان. (28 يناير 2013). الآنف.

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Munich’s Security Conference is held annually. This year marks the 49th session. Dozens of countries participated. Hundreds of world leaders attended.

They included heads of state, foreign affairs and defense ministers, as well as other senior figures. Active engagement was prioritized. Current and future security challenges were discussed.

In 2007, Russian President Vladimir Putin took full advantage. He pulled no punches. He sharply criticized US foreign policy. He called it:

“very dangerous (in its) uncontained hyper-use of force – military force – in international relations, force that is plunging the world into an abyss of permanent conflicts.” US imperialism, he stressed, “overstepped its national borders in every way.”

“(U)nilateral illegal actions have not resolved any single problem. They have become a hotbed of further conflicts.”

“We are seeing increasing disregard for the fundamental principles of international law….No one feels safe! Because no one can feel that international law is like a stone wall that will protect them.”

“Of course, such a policy stimulates an arms race. The dominance of force inevitably encourages a number of countries to acquire weapons of mass destruction.”

Putin also addressed a “unipolar world.” He called it one “in which there is one master, one sovereign. And at the end of the day, this is pernicious not only for all those within this system, but also for the sovereign itself because it destroys itself from within.”

He added that “We are constantly being taught about democracy. But for some reason those who teach us do not want to learn themselves.”

America deplores democracy at home and abroad. It prioritizes unchallenged dominance. It demands what it says goes. Russia supports peace, not war. It favors diplomatic conflict resolution.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov attended this year’s Conference. Itar Tass headlined “Moscow calls on West not to impose outside values on peoples of Middle East, Africa.”

Lavrov told participants:

“We all aspire for stability and conditions for sustainable development in the Middle East and in Africa, we want the peoples of countries there to be able to move towards the democracy and wellbeing, to have guaranteed human rights, smooth supplies of hydrocarbons and other vital resources.”

“If those are our joint objectives, then, we may agree on transparent and clear rules, which should be used by all players in their practical actions.”

“Agree that we all will be supporting the democratic reforms of the changing countries, but not to impose an outside value scale, acknowledging the variety of development models.”

“Should agree that we shall be supporting the peaceful settlement of the inner state conflicts and stopping of violence via conditions for an inclusive dialogue with involvement of all national political groups.”

“Should agree that we shall refrain from outside interference, especially by force, without a clear mandate from the UN Security Council and from any unilateral sanctions. That we should continuously and firmly fight extremism and terrorism in all forms, should demand observation of rights for ethnic and confessional minorities.”

“Approaches of our Western counterparts cause many questions.”

“Does support for change of regimes justify terror methods? Is it possible to be fighting in one situation against those who you support in another one?”

Lavrov said answers to key questions “should be found jointly, especially regarding final objectives for the efforts to settle crises in countries of the Euro-Atlantic region, which have more uniting aspects rather than discrepancies.”

Russia categorically opposes force. It wants Syrians alone to decide who’ll lead them. It wants no external interference. It’s got international law on its side.

Earlier Lavrov expressed concern about Israeli aggression on Syria. He called it “unacceptable.”

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak also addressed Munich participants. He admitted Israel’s involvement.

He said “what happened in Syria several days ago (is) proof that when we said something we mean it….and we say that we don’t think it should be allowed to bring advanced weapons into Lebanon.”

Israel committed naked aggression. It was unrelated to cross-border weapons transfers. Israel’s objectives aren’t clear. It may be to goad Syria to counterattack.

Doing so would risk greater war. It could become regional or global. History proves small conflicts at times become major ones.

Iran’s Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani warned Israel, saying:

 ”The world is witnessing a vengeance carried out by the West, particularly the US, and some backward elements in the region against resistance.”

He urged regional countries to distance themselves from Israel. He said “the Islamic awakening movement in the region would give a proper response to the Zionist regime.”

On February 3, the Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) said “Israeli Aggression Reveals Israel’s Role in Destabilizing Syria.”

Assad responded publicly for the first time. He said Israel acted in “collaboration with hostile external powers.” Syria’s able to confront challenges. It’ll repel aggression. Destabilizing Syria won’t work. Iran offers full support.

On February 2, Voice of Russia contributor Konstantin Garibov headlined “Israel’s air attack against Syria heralds new regional conflicts,” saying:

Doing so entails great risks. Russia’s Foreign Ministry condemned Israel’s attack. It called it “an unprovoked attack against a sovereign state.”

Syria declared the right to respond. International law permits justifiable self-defense. Lebanese political scientist Imad Rizk called the attack’s timing “symptomatic.”

Netanyahu “returned to big politics.” He forming a coalition government. He’s negotiating for strategic advantage. He’ll deal with Washington’s new Secretary of State.

 ”It looks like the attack became the US and Israel’s joint declaration” of war on Syria.

Vladimir Putin said “Israel will keep delivering blows on facilities or forces participating in the Syrian conflict. They would be either Islamist groups of troops loyal to Bashar al-Assad. I can foresee that as the crisis becomes worse, Israel could expand its participation in such attacks.”

Israel allegedly fears Islamic extremists. Supposedly it’s concerned about ties to Hamas and Hezbollah.

Russian Academy of Sciences Institute of Oriental Studies analyst Vladimiri Sotnikov believes “It would be a nightmare for Israel.”

It’s likely what Israel prefers. It needs enemies to justify belligerence. Peace, calm and stability defeat its agenda.

As foreign minister in 1982, Yitzhak Shamir explained why Israel attacked Lebanon. A “terrible danger” existed, he said, “not so much a military one as a political one.”

On June 6, 1982, Israel invaded Lebanon. Fighting lasted nearly a year.

An Israeli staged false flag was pretext. Arafat was falsely blamed for Abu Nidal militants’ attempted assassination of Israeli UK ambassador Shlomo Argov.

Israel got the war it wanted. Around 18,000 Palestinians were massacred. Southern Lebanon remained occupied until May 2000. Israel still illegally holds Sheba Farms.

It’s a 14-square mile water-rich area near Syria’s Golan. It’s been lawlessly occupied since 1967 along with Ghajar, a bordering Lebanese village.

Sabra and Shatila remain symbols of Israeli ruthlessness. At the time, Ariel Sharon was defense minister. He ordered the slaughter. He let Phalangist fascists do his dirty work.

Palestinian civilians were massacred in cold blood. Women were raped multiple times before being killed. Children were murdered like adults.

Whole families were shot, stabbed, bludgeoned to death, or buried dead or alive under homes. Some were tortured before dying. Bodies were decapitated.

Corpses were charred and violated. Eyes were gouged out. Faces were unrecognizable.

Israel maliciously planned it. Sharon led it. He called it “ridding the world of the center of international terrorism.” Orwell couldn’t have said it better. No one to this day was punished. Israel massacres with impunity.

Haaretz contributor Gideon Levy said “Israel does as it pleases.” Rogue states operate that way. Criticizing them is called “heresy and treason.”

Israel overflies Lebanon’s airspace with impunity. It’s “taken for granted.” It bombards whatever it calls dangerous. It “invade(s) any place, settle(s) anywhere. It may do (almost) anything.”

It does any damn thing it wishes. Washington offers full support. They’re imperial partners. They jointly plan aggression. They get away with it because who’ll stop them?

“(A)nything allowed (is) shaped (in) Israeli consciousness.” It’s based on largely baseless assumptions. Notions about being surrounded by hostile Arabs don’t wash.

It bears repeating. The only threats Israel faces are ones it invents. It menaces regional neighbors and humanity. It prioritizes Middle East dominance.

It wants regional rivals eliminated. It wages unprovoked naked aggression. Israel alone has weapons of mass destruction. Using them is prioritized if threatened.

“(T)o hell with all the troublesome questions,” said Levy. Only what Israel wants matters. Rule of law principles apply to others. “Israel is allowed to do anything.”

It gets away with mass murder and much more. Its right is divine, it claims. It doesn’t matter what others say. Only Israeli interests count.

Saying so claims Jewish exceptionalism, specialness, and uniqueness. Israeli hardliners say they’re God’s “chosen people.” They have a divine right to commit naked aggression. Spurning human rights comes with the territory.

They can do any damn thing they wish. They debase moral values and ethical principles. They threaten Jews and non-Jews alike. They endanger humanity.

They need to be stopped before they kill again. In response to Israel’s May 2010 Mavi Marama massacre, former Congressman Dennis Kucinich asked colleagues to sign a letter to Obama, stating:

“It is not acceptable to repeatedly violate international law. It is not acceptable to shoot and kill innocent civilians. It is not acceptable to commit an act of aggression against another U.S. ally.”

“It is not acceptable to continue a blockade which denies humanitarian relief. It is not acceptable to heighten tensions in a region while the United States continues to put so much blood and treasure on the line.”

“No one questions the right of Israel to defend its border. (Doing so) does not extend to shooting innocent civilians anywhere in the world, anytime it pleases.”

“Israel must account for our support, for the lives of our soldiers, for the investment of billions from our taxpayers.”

“Israel owes the United States more than reckless, pre-meditated violence waged against innocent people.”

It’s hard imagining anyone in Congress today this forthright. It’s likely why Kucinich lost his March 2012 primary reelection bid. Dark forces targeted him. The Israeli Lobby wanted him ousted.

They went after Cynthia McKinney the same way. Doing the right thing is costly. The Israeli Lobby ran her out of Congress twice. Ruining her political career became policy.

Virtually no one in Congress criticizes Israel. Doing it risks being a career ender. McKinney believes principle matters most. Her soul isn’t for sale. Hopefully, Kucinich feels the same way.

He’s free to keep doing what’s right. Voices for truth and justice are badly needed. The most perilous time in world history demands they speak out. Imperiled humanity depends on it.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at [email protected].

His new book is titled “Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity.”

http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanII.html

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com 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.

http://www.progressiveradionetwork.com/the-progressive-news-hour

http://www.dailycensored.com/mosow-to-west-hands-of-middle-eastafrica/

by Elisabeth Gauthier

In Europe we are at a new stage of class confrontation. Despite the systemic crisis not only of finance but of the whole of the mode of accumulation and reproduction of ‘financial market capitalism,’ this system has been able to maintain itself. Its transnational power – largely sustained by the nature of European integration and policies – has not been seriously cracked, despite the massive destruction of public and private goods, which is constantly becoming more extreme, deepening the great crisis.

In Europe, an ‘oligarchy’ has increasingly gotten hold of various powers; it is becoming radicalized and sees the moment as having come in which brutally to accelerate the dismantling of social and democratic gains, notably by profiting from the ‘crisis of public debt,’ generalizing austerity policies which, in turn feed the crisis.[1]

The strategy of systematic de-democratization is aimed at creating conditions for brutal austerity policy whose breadth of damage and suffering for the populations has begun to be visible, notably in the countries of southern Europe. One could indeed wonder, as Hervé Kempf does in Transform! No. 10 (2012),[2] if we are still living in a democracy. Due to the profoundly neoliberal nature of the EU’s very structure, the crisis is taking on a particularly acute and destructive character there. Jean Paul Fitoussi observes:[3]

Destroying Human Capital

“Much current policy in Europe has the effect of reducing the debt while at the same time destroying an increasingly large human capital.”

The headlong rush toward austerity and ever more authoritarian forms is bringing us to the edge of an abyss, with the danger of a collapse that could drag societies into chaotic turbulence. However, opting out of the Euro, not to say the disintegration of the EU, is no alternative[4] inasmuch as the logic governing the Euro and the EU and plunging our societies into the great crisis – for example, the financialization of the economy, making wage workers and territories compete against each other, social dismantling and impoverishment of societies, privatization and commodification, the authoritarian transformation of governmental and state entities – is equally at work at the level of countries, regions and enterprises. The deep causes of the great crisis of ‘financial market capitalism’ are to be sought in the over-accumulation of money capital, which develops simultaneously with a chronic weakness of accumulation and growth.[5] The Euro, in its present conception, transmits this logic, but we can perfectly well imagine another Euro, another European Central Bank, another way of treating the problem of public debt, another set of regulations and treaties favouring not competition but cooperation.

We do not know the timing and the forms of the earthquakes to come. But we do know that we have, to the greatest extent possible, to build up the power of interpretation, strength, the capacity for cooperation and political intelligence to be able to resist and at the same time open up the construction site for a deep refoundation of Europe. And to be able to refuse a nationalist approach that would mask the true nature of the conflict with the forces of capital and would run the risk of pitting against each other populations which suffer from the same logic. The history of the dismantling of Yugoslavia shows the degree to which ruins can generate mortal dangers. In a period when, in different countries, the categories of populations in the process of breakdown and who feel increasingly socially and culturally depreciated, lose trust in the institutions, political representation, ‘living together’ and solidarity as concepts governing societies, and the extreme and populist right find a very favourable terrain in the growing divisions with which to work. The strategies of the financial markets and of the big shareholders, just like EU policies, intensify the regional asymmetries at the European level, which inevitably create or exacerbate gaps between large regions and nurture nationalist postures. The transformation of the ‘market states’ of a neoliberal character into ‘authoritarian states’ also creates a favourable terrain for the extreme and populist right.

War of Position

In the face of the submission of public and political life to the requirements of the financial markets, to make the demand for a change of logic grow and propose completely new political paths to open up such a perspective constitute major challenges for the left. Despite the importance of the struggles and movements of recent years in a great number of countries, despite their creativity and their energy, they have rarely brought success. The dominant forces have tried everywhere to divide and disarm the subaltern classes. In our countries, the place and the role of trade unions are the object of unprecedented political and ideological attacks whose impulse often comes from EU orientations. However, at the same time, important and sometimes general strikes have grown in number. Occupy-type movements in Spain, Greece and elsewhere have shown the potential for resistance and mobilization to hold one’s head high in the face of political and ideological pressure in an increasingly tense social context, in search of an alternative logic and new political practices.

I do not share the view of those who characterize the present period as one of insurrection, as is sometimes done, notably by pointing to movements of the Occupy-type, which, certainly, know how to pose the basic questions, mobilize and influence public opinion, but without (at least for now) being capable of developing a durable struggle for the defence of common interests.[6] The present phase of confrontation rather seems marked by the coexistence of very contrasting phenomena: on the one side, protests, resistance, the emergence of new struggles and new actors, multiple attempts to re-make society, to reconstruct solidarity and a collective; on the other side, a strong sense of powerlessness and anxiety, of isolation, all of which produces resentments, withdrawal and notably the sense, among the most impoverished populations, that politics cannot / does not want to do anything for them.[7]

The current situation in Greece shows the extent to which one cannot yet know whether it is hope or fear that will win the day, in the same way as the French elections revealed a real potential for the Front de Gauche, but also its fragility. Greece is the first country where – in this context – an ‘earthquake election’ occurred, dramatically and profoundly upturning the political system that had been stable up to that point.[8] This was not just an election but the rise of a movement rooted in society, borne by political actors, movements and citizens who were able to pose the question of power at a moment when the parties which had up to then been dominant collapsed due to their records (on the national and European levels), which have been disastrous for the various societies. Syriza was able to build its programme and its activity by combining in an original way numerous forces in society in order to become at once a political coalition, a movement carrying the demands of political representation, a programme integrating many questions developed by the movements and the space in which popular unity manifested itself.[9]

“The Greek elections were elections that realigned classes. Syriza had gotten the highest percentages among the active population and particularly among wage workers in the private sector, the public sector, the unemployed, students and inhabitants of the poorest cities of Attica… Never before in the period after the end of the dictatorship (1974-2012) has there been an electoral moment with such a high degree of social polarization.”[10]

In receiving broad support for its alternative proposals Syriza was able to modify the relations of forces in a spectacular way. In this way the troika’s (European Commission, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank) strategy could, for the first time, be seriously threatened.

In other European countries, we cannot speak of ‘earthquake elections’; however, there are increasing attempts at going beyond the fragmentation of the alternative left and of occupying the space to the left of social-democracy whose crisis continues. Certainly, social-democracy has been able to win some national elections when, rejecting austerity policies, the voters punished the right in power. In these cases, the return of social democracy to power does not in any way mean a ‘new departure’ in the direction of an alternative inasmuch as social democracy nowhere goes beyond the horizon of social liberalism and the EU’s neoliberal-based construction. For this reason, social democracy has not managed to project themes different from those of the right nor has it found new responses to the great crisis. In many countries, being in power and having itself put in place the austerity regime in Europe, social democracy has been heavily penalized, as in Greece, Spain, Portugal… The lasting crisis of social-democracy and of its main political choices opens, on the one hand, a space for the critical, alternative and radical left, but, on the other hand, blocks any prospect of a left majority for change.

The alternative left can indeed try to take up the challenge of this ‘historic window’[11] which has opened in this framework of a growing rejection of neoliberal logic and of the non-response of social democracy to the need for a change. It faces the need to position itself completely autonomously vis-à-vis social-democracy, but at the same time it must develop a strategy aimed at constructing new cultural and political majorities that cannot exist without a significant portion of the citizens, voters and activists who are situated close to social democracy. In numerous countries one of the conditions for creating a movement of dynamic agglomeration is the capacity to go beyond the fragmentation characteristic of the critical left. In this respect, there are not only selective attempts to constitute electoral alliances but also forms of common ‘fronts’ able to generate new political dynamics, beyond just the adherents of the parties involved.

For some years now, processes of new constructions have been in place, of which the most visible are now Syriza in Greece and the Front de Gauche in France. The fact that it is the Front de Gauche and not the NPA (New Anti-Capitalist Party) that has emerged in France’s political landscape demonstrates that there is a need, to the left of the PS, for a political dynamic not limited to organizing protest and which does not define itself as anti-PS (Socialist Party) and which tries to have direct weight on the terrain of the relation of political forces. The harshness of the confrontation, the extreme difficulty of scoring successes in the struggles, the relation of forces disadvantageous to those of resistance and struggle, have motivated a number of protagonists to look for new alliances beyond traditional ones, and this within both national and European spaces.

Strategic Issues

Bob Jessop[12] has proposed a determination, on the basis of an analysis of the economic, social, ideological and political conjuncture, of the strategic possibilities for actors aiming at social transformation in this specific period. The relative weakness of the dissenting forces before the explosion of the great crisis did not make it possible seriously to endanger neoliberal hegemony during the crisis. As a result, we find ourselves, in terms of the goal of going beyond the system, in a defensive phase of the struggle, which leads us to define our strategic objectives in terms of a ‘war of position.’ The critique of the true causes of the great crisis can and must be developed in the most radical and audible way possible, which was done very successfully in the presidential election in France through the ‘learning meetings’ organized by the candidate of the Front de Gauche, Jean-Luc Mélenchon. Not only was the financial sphere the object of a radical critique but also the entirety of the mode of accumulation and reproduction in the framework of ‘financial market capitalism,’ with its consequences for public space, the real economy, the state of public finances, democracy, the social situation, work and the individual. At the same time it was a matter of daring to pose the question of power, which Syriza was able to do and which is a factor of credibility in mobilizing people.

The necessary change of power, the refoundation of democracy on new bases, a new type of social and ecological development – these are challenges for all of society, which cannot be delegated to political organizations alone. Rather, social and political actors are called upon to help citizens acquire a true power of interpretation, which will in great part condition their capacity to position themselves to go beyond the sense of powerlessness, to unite and to act collectively. The formation of a social and ideological bloc that can be a vehicle for change is the heart of the strategic issue. Today, the victims of the crisis are fragmented, divided and sometimes in conflict with each other. An alternative political project has to be able to crystallize the interests of groups and fractions of society, which, though certainly not identical, can converge. Starting with a first core, Syriza was able to conceptualize a programme by relying on what was worked out by social and political movements and by intellectuals and thus aggregate multiple forces. Between radical critique and alternative proposals, the ‘missing link’ of a concrete political strategy has begun to find, in a situation of particularly harsh confrontation, the beginnings of a response.

The constitution of a common European space superimposed on national spaces obviously poses completely new questions from the point of view of political strategy. Indeed, the transnational terrain, with a ‘multilevel’ system of governance, a system of multipolar authorities, gives rise to divisions but also offers opportunities to construct a pluralist radical left contributing to overcoming traditional divisions on the national level.[13] Since its foundation in 2004, the Party of the European Left (EL), which groups more than 30 very diverse parties (members and observers) from a great number of countries (including some outside the EU) has been trying to become effective as a European political subject developing a radical critique of the EU’s mode of integration and neoliberal policies, all the while projecting the idea of ‘another’ Europe, of a social, solidary, democratic, feminist and ecological Europe. At the level of the European Parliament, it is the GUE/NGL group that brings together the deputies of the critical left. For ten years now, the Transform! network has gathered institutes, research centres and journals from different countries connected to the alternative left, and it fulfils the function of a European foundation of the EL.[14] In fact, at the moment of the erosion of neoliberal hegemony, the precise analysis of the contradictions and potential on the basis of which a left strategy can be conceptualized, the search for convergences between social and political forces contesting the dominant logic, the formation of a European political subject of social transformation as well as new alliances, all of these become issues of great importance and call for tools to deal with them.

Gather Forces at the National and European Levels

In the face of the crisis and its dramatic consequences, the search for unity and the formation of new alliances – at the national and European levels – become essential questions for all social and political actors positioned on the left. A new social and political dynamic is indispensable to counter discouragement and, against this background, the extreme right and to put forward the formation of coalitions in favour of ‘democratic ruptures.’ If, at the core of complex societies organized at the level of nation-states the constitution of a cultural and political bloc able to carry a new hegemony (to the quite non-homogeneous subaltern classes) presupposes a long-term process punctuated by political initiatives from the top and from the bottom,[15] such a perspective, at the European level, has not at present even been contemplated.

For some years now, discussions and experiments in the movements, within the trade unions and in the left, have turned around the question of an articulation between struggles at the national and the European level. One of the great complications lies in the EU’s system of multipolar power, as well as in the challenge for the radical left to develop an original strategy, and this in the context of “the current double crisis, that of capitalism and that of Europe, [which] opens up a historic window of opportunity for the whole of the left and for the radical left in particular.”[16]

For ten years now, counter-summits and social forums reflecting a minimal anti-liberal consensus have been able to make progress, but we cannot stay at that level if we are to create forces capable of coming together in the defence of the interests of the populations and for another logic in Europe. It is not a question of organizing a general debate – among trade unions, movements and parties – but of seeking cooperation between forces whose orientation, notably as regards European issues, is sufficiently convergent to really modify the relations of forces and to contribute to the emergence of a new dynamic. The model of the World Social Forum has become inadequate in the territory of the EU where there is confrontation with a very established oligarchy, with concentrated powers and common and everyday institutions on the social, political and ideological levels. The multiplication of protests is certainly necessary, but protests alone, no matter how many there may be, are not enough to alter the relations of forces in an appreciable way. The constitution of true coalitions with new power is indispensable, and this requires a qualitative leap as regards the creation of spaces for work and struggle. Recent experience with the Greek elections has shown that the alteration of the relations of forces in a country, such as Syriza was able to effect, has consequences for all of Europe, but it requires processes of a similar kind elsewhere.

It is because it responds to current needs that the idea of an Alter-summit is rapidly making headway. We want, by clearly defining the line of confrontation, to “realise the convergence of forces and their concrete unity in action,“[17] to create an important political event, visible on a European scale, built with a multitude of actors in our countries, represented and projected by personalities who count, in order to say loudly and clearly that the only way to continue to “make Europe” is to refound it and that we know how to propose some major axes of this new logic that the people need. A process of construction[18] associating different actors from all the parties of Europe – unions, social and altermondialist movements, feminists, networks of intellectuals and appeals for another Europe coming from different countries as well as from representatives of the EL – has begun to get going, emerging from the space that makes up the Joint Social Conference.[19] It is by bringing to life a new ambition and in demanding a change of policies and of power that we can promote awareness, meetings and mobilizations. In recent years we have noticed how close the analyses and proposals emanating from many forces in Europe are. Today we need to translate these convergences into concrete political acts in order really to modify the existing state of things. In the battle between resistance and austerity policies in Europe, the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) has, for the first time, rejected a treaty and shown a somewhat greater willingness to cooperate with social movements.

Cooperation between social and political forces, even with considerable convergence of views, is a difficult matter. And one can easily understand why. However, taking account of the dramatic situation and of the strong convergences between different actors, the moment has come to invent new relationships, obviously with full respect for everyone’s autonomy, which presupposes the invention of new forms.

Concretely, the Alter-summit is planned for spring of 2013 in Athens. Before then a large European meeting will take place in Florence on November 8 – 11, initiated by the Italian social movements, ten years after the first European Social Forum in 2002. It will be a working meeting to move ahead in establishing convergences, deepening analyses, developing alternatives and building alliances.

Elisabeth Gauthier is director of Espaces Marx (France), member of the managing board of transform! europe and member of the national committee of the French Communist Party. This article was published first in French in the journal Lignes, October 2012 and Transform! in English.

Notes

1.Numerous articles in the bi-annual journal Transform!, published in several languages, regularly analyse and comment on economic, social, political and ideological developments. Issue 10/2012 contains a section on democracy. All the articles are available in several languages at www.transform-network.org

2.Hervé Kempf, “From Oligarchy to the New Challenge of Global Politics,” in Transform! 10/2012.

3.Le Monde, May 26, 2012.

4.Francisco Louça, economist and Coordinator of Portugal’s Left Bloc, describes what the disastrous consequences would be of Portugal’s exit from the Euro in Transform! 10/2012.

5.See Joachim Bischoff, “Dauerstand Schuldenkrise. Die endlose Kurzfrist-‘Reparatur’ des Euro-Systems” [The Enduring Debt Crisis: The Endless Short-Term ‘Repair’ of the Euro System], Supplement to the journal Sozialismus, 7-8/2012.

6.See Armando F. Steinko, “May 15 and the Spanish Revolution” in Transform! 09/2011.

7.Cécile Braconnier shows in her investigations that abstention in France now has a class character.

8.Gerassimos Mosconas, “Shooting Horses in Cold Blood,” July 6, 2012. www.policy-network.net.

9.Michaelis Spoudalakis, contribution on the occasion of the summer university organized by the Party of the European Left and Transform! in Portaria, Greece, July 2012.

10.Gerassimos Mosconas, “Shooting Horses in Cold Blood,” July 6, 2012 www.policy-network.net

11.Gerassimos Moschonas, “The European Union and the Dilemmas of the Radical Left: Some Preliminary Thoughts.” In: Transform! 09/2011.

12.Bob Jessop, “Left Strategy”. In: Transform! 10/2012.

13.See Gerassimos Moschonas, “The European Union and the Dilemmas of the Radical Left: Some Preliminary Thoughts.” In: Transform! 09/2011.

14.At present, the network gathers 25 member organizations from 18 countries. It organizes conferences, participates in numerous European initiatives and publishes a monthly Newsletter and a bi-annual journal in several languages.

15.Armando F. Steinko, Contribution on the occasion of the summer university organized by the Party of the European Left and Transform! in Portaria, Greece, July 2012.

16.See Gerassimos Moschonas, “The European Union and the Dilemmas of the Radical Left: Some Preliminary Thoughts.” In: Transform! 09/2011.

17.Felipe van Keirsbilck (organizer of the Joint Social Conference), “Five Reflections on the Altersummit Process.” Contribution on the occasion of the summer university organized by the Party of the European Left and Transform! in Portaria, Greece, July 2012.

18.www.altersummit.eu.

19.A space for European work which has been active for several years now, where trade unionists are very much present, www.jointsocialconference.eu.

Israel claims it bombed a weapons convoy, while Syria claimed that a research facility was hit. Who is right?

Both.

Time reports:

Israeli warplanes struck several targets inside Syria overnight Tuesday, including a biological weapons research center that was reportedly flattened out of concern that it might fall into the hands of Islamist extremists fighting to topple the government of Syrian president Bashar Assad, Western intelligence officials tell TIME.

The irony is thick, as the U.S. is directly backing the Islamist extremists fighting to topple the Syrian government.

Time continues:

A Western intelligence official indicated to TIME that at least one to two additional targets were hit the same night, without offering details. Officials also said that Israel had a “green light” from Washington to launch yet more such strikes.

But the U.S. isn’t just an arm-chair quarterback … it may directly join in the action:

One Western intelligence official told TIME the U.S. military was poised to carry out similar airstrikes around Aleppo if rebels threaten to take sites associated with weapons of mass destruction in that region.

In the bizarro world of American and Israeli propaganda, arming Al Qaeda rebels or bombing Syrian assets does not count as “intervening” in a war:

Though no country has intervened in Syria’s civil war directly …

In diplomatic terms, surgical strikes launched in the name of preventing proliferation of weapons of mass destruction tend to be well-tolerated by the international community, especially when the attacks are not publicly acknowledged. Israel still does not officially acknowledge its secret 2007 destruction of a Syrian nuclear reactor.

“I’m not going to give any condemnation of Israel or rush into any criticism,” British foreign secretary William Hauge told the BBC on Thursday. “There may be many things about it that we don’t know, or the Arab League or Russia don’t know.”

What does this mean?

The endless war on terror has been re-branded through propaganda. There are no new wars launched by America and its allies. There are simply “kinetic actions“, and “covert operations” carried out in secret.

Postscript: The official narrative says that these endless series of wars secure our national defense and stimulate the economy.

In the real world, however, top American economists say that endless war has ruined our economy and hurt the vast majority of Americans.

And security experts – including both conservatives and liberals – thisthisthisthisthisthisthis and this.

The Trickery of the Military Budget

February 4th, 2013 by Paul R. Pillar

A key federal budget trick is using words to confuse citizens, such as labeling U.S. military spending as “defense” though much is for “offense” and sliding costs for wounded soldiers under “veterans affairs” and nuclear bombs under “energy,” as ex-CIA analyst Paul R. Pillar explains.

As budgetary battles proceed with competing rhetorical salvos about what parts of government spending are unreasonably large, or are most out of control, or are the “real” reason for burgeoning deficits (actually, every part of the budgetary equation, on both the expenditure and the revenue sides, is just as real as every other part), one welcomes the occasional breath of fresh semantic air on the subject.

Veronique de Rugy of the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, using data compiled by Winslow Wheeler of the Project on Government Oversight, observesthat the figures usually adduced to present spending on “defense” or “national security” understate by a long shot actual federal spending that is appropriately put under such labels.

A U.S. military rescue team secures a landing site in Afghanistan after being being lowered from an HH-60 Pave Hawk during a mission Nov. 7, 2012. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Jonathan Snyder)

The figure most often cited is the “base” budget of the Department of Defense, which was $535 billion for FY2012. But military and defense expenditures go well beyond that, including such things as the development of nuclear weapons, which is done in the Department of Energy, or training of foreign military forces, which come under the international affairs section of the federal budget.

Add in all those other things and the total is more like $930 billion rather than $535 billion. And that’s just current expenditures, not taking into account follow-on effects such as additional interest to be paid on the national debt.

Probably the most egregious bit of military-related budgetary legerdemain has been the practice of keeping the operational costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan separate from the main Pentagon budget, as if those costs should not count as much because they are, well, sort of temporary. And so the base budget figure continues to get cited as “defense spending” even though it excludes the main, and costliest, activities in recent years of the U.S. military.

This practice makes as much sense as if I were to calculate my health care costs and to exclude stays in the hospital, instead only including recurring expenditures such as dental check-ups.

There is, admittedly, a sense in which the Iraq War should not be counted as “defense” spending. The war was not an act of defense; it was offense. But that, of course, is not the reason for the practice (begun by the administration that launched the Iraq War) of separating costs of the war from the main defense budget. The reason had much more to do with wanting to understate the actual amount the United States spends on its military.

Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes have shown how the true total cost of an endeavor such as the Iraq War goes far beyond what shows up in the federal budget and includes various secondary economic effects. Even just sticking to the federal budget, there are very large costs that do not show up in any one year’s current budget.

A big part of the follow-on cost of recent wars is the long-term care of military veterans, especially grievously wounded ones. Such costs are proportionately greater than for previous wars. Thanks to body armor and a splendid military medical system, many who would have died in earlier conflicts instead survive — but they are still maimed.

Misleading budgetary labeling is by no means confined to military spending. Grouping some government programs under the label “entitlements” — which are programs or obligations where expenditures do not reflect specific congressional appropriations but instead are determined automatically by such things as how many people happen to qualify for a statutorily defined benefit — can be justly criticized on several grounds.

One is that there is wide variation among such obligations or programs, and no reason that a single standard with a single label should apply to all of them. Another is that “entitlement” is a loaded term that implies an agreed moral obligation even when there might not be one. The term also implies — especially when contrasted with other parts of federal spending, which bear the label “discretionary” — that Congress’s hands are tied in changing this even if they really aren’t.

George Will has said that all federal spending is discretionary other than interest on the national debt. In one legalistic sense he may be right, although if one accepts that position then the extortion-facilitating device known as the debt ceiling — which treats as an option non-payment of interest on debt already incurred — looks all the more foolish and unwarranted.

Applying a common moral sense of “entitlement” to federal expenditures does not produce a classification that corresponds to the budgetary categories of entitlements and discretionary spending. Wouldn’t we all agree, for example, that wounded veterans are entitled to government-paid long-term care? And yet medical programs of the Veterans Administration come under the “discretionary” label. (And that care constitutes a big chunk of the military-related expenditure that usually does not get included as “defense spending.”)

There also is wide variation in the amount of discretion entailed in different government activities that are on the “discretionary” side of the ledger, even without getting into the questions of political feasibility that inhibit changes to many of the “entitlement” programs. Much that is labeled “discretionary” is necessary for what has come to be widely expected as a function of government.

Elimination of some of these activities would immediately be seen as a crisis — e.g., the air traffic control system operated by the Federal Aviation Administration (which gets much of its funding from a trust fund based on taxing tickets for air travel but also draws money from the general treasury). And turning back to military matters, some of these civilian activities are far less discretionary than was that very expensive war of choice in Iraq.

Also back on military matters, we should note that “entitlement” is not the only loaded term when discussing budgetary categories. “Defense” and “national security” are loaded as well. They are labels that presume a priority and importance that things not bearing those labels are presumed not to have.

But the labels are affixed to some activities, including some very expensive activities, that are more offensive than defensive and whose contribution to the security of the nation is at best a matter of conjecture or debate.

 

Paul R. Pillar, in his 28 years at the Central Intelligence Agency, rose to be one of the agency’s top analysts. He is now a visiting professor at Georgetown University for security studies. (This article first appeared as a blog post at The National Interest’s Web site. Reprinted with author’s permission.)

Spending Cuts: White House Zeros in on Medicare

February 4th, 2013 by Patrick Martin

Both President Obama and a top economic adviser have confirmed that Medicare, the federal program that underwrites the cost of health care for more than 50 million elderly and disabled people in the United States, is a prime target in the budget-cutting negotiations now going on behind the scenes in Washington.

While talks continue on social program cuts that will affect tens of millions and ultimately the majority of the American people, public attention is being diverted to a serious of secondary issues, such as prospective gun legislation. There was, for example, enormous media attention given to a photograph of Obama shooting skeet with a shotgun at Camp David, including a protracted debate over when the photograph was taken and whether the president could be said to be a hunter.

The real business of the Democrats and Republicans, however, is laid out in the Saturday radio addresses by Obama and a spokeswoman for the congressional Republicans, both of them calling for substantial cuts in domestic social spending.

Obama’s address repeated his empty claims of an economic recovery. He failed to note the radical divergence between the boom in business profits, stock prices and corporate CEO pay and the disastrous state of the job market, with workers’ wages and benefits continuing to decline.

Obama then turned to the question of the deficit, with his usual mixture of doubletalk and demagogy, declaring, “We all agree that it’s critical to cut unnecessary spending. But we can’t just cut our way to prosperity.”

In a passage from the brief address that was not quoted in media accounts, Obama continued, “Already, Republicans and Democrats have worked together to reduce our deficits by $2.5 trillion. That’s a good start. But to get the rest of the way, we need a balanced set of reforms. For example, we need to lower the cost of health care in programs like Medicare that are the biggest drivers of our deficit, without just passing the burden off to seniors.”

The last phrase is typical of Obama speechmaking, and of all the declarations by big business politicians in Washington. First, you signal to your corporate masters what you plan to do, i.e., make drastic cuts in Medicare. Then you reassure the victims of this policy that they aren’t really the target.

In truth, that is exactly what the White House and congressional Democrats and Republicans are planning. They will impose the burden of the fiscal deficit on the backs of the most vulnerable sections of the working class: the elderly, the disabled, young people and the poor.

There is, as Obama emphasizes, general agreement in ruling circles that such cuts will be made. The only question—about which there is heated debate—is what mechanism to use and how to disguise, as much as possible, the real significance of the measures now being discussed behind closed doors in the US capital.

Gene Sperling, head of the Obama’s National Economic Council, underscored the centrality of Medicare cuts to the deficit-reduction process in a speech Thursday to a health care group. Sperling began by declaring that the administration was opposed to any cuts in Medicaid, the entitlement program that underwrites health care for the poor and nursing home care for millions of elderly people.

This is not out of any concern for the impact of such cuts on the poorest Americans. Quite the opposite. Since extending Medicaid eligibility is a central feature of the Obama health care overhaul, which goes into full effect at the end of this year, it is necessary to keep Medicaid afloat at least that long so as to sustain the fiction that health care “reform” is aimed at expanding access to care and conceal its real purpose—to cut the overall cost of health care for corporations and the government.

Moreover, most Medicaid cuts are implemented at the state level, and state governments, led by Democratic as well as Republican governors, have cut back on benefits and eligibility across the country.

“Medicaid cuts, from this president, from this administration, are not on the table,” Sperling said. But since “we’ve made a tough choice” to rule out Medicaid cuts, he continued, “It means we will have to look harder for Medicare savings.”

Neither Sperling nor any other White House spokesman has spelled out exactly what cuts in Medicare are envisioned. But the failed budget agreement of 2011, reached by Obama and Republican House Speaker John Boehner, gave a glimpse. It called for raising the age of eligibility for Medicare from 65 to 67, which would force millions of retiring workers to pay for private health insurance for those additional years. It also called for increased means testing, a step towards turning Medicare into a welfare program reserved for the poor, like Medicaid, and undermining its universality.

The Washington consensus that entitlement program cuts are unavoidable is justified on the grounds that, as countless big business politicians declare, “There is no money.”

This is the mantra in the richest country on the planet from representatives of a ruling elite that is gorging itself on speculation, profit-gouging and outright swindling. The American financial aristocracy is raking in trillions while begrudging every penny spent on retirement income or health care for working people who have labored all their lives.

The claim that there is no money is a lie. The resources exist in abundance, but the wealth produced by the labor of working people must be taken out of the hands of the financial parasites and billionaires and the major banks and corporations placed under democratic control and public ownership.

If the US dollar collapses, it will have a dramatic impact on the world economy because the dollar is the standard unit of currency for commodity markets, especially gold and oil. The U.S. dollar is still the world’s reserve currency, but the reality is that it can lead the world into an economic depression.

Nations with large external debts will not be able to trade sufficiently to earn the needed income to service their debts. They will slide into bankruptcy. However, countries such as Russia and China are taking necessary steps to avoid an economic tsunami caused by a collapse of the US dollar by announcing in 2010 that they will use their own currencies which is the Russian Ruble and the Chinese Yuan for bilateral trade.

Iran and India decided to trade gold for oil due to US sanctions on Iran because of its nuclear program.

Japan and China announced that they will also trade in their own currencies despite diplomatic problems involving the Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea.  One thing is certain, the world is slowly but surely moving away from the US dollar.

The cost of living among people who deal with the US dollar on a daily basis especially by those who live within the United States will see a rapid decline in the standards of living due to Federal Reserve Bank’s debasement of the dollar by printing unlimited amounts of money through Quantitative easing (QE). The Federal Reserve’s action will cause food, clothing and energy prices to soar, which will hurt the average family. As the US Federal Reserve Bank continues to print dollars, the result will be inflation. It will cause panic on the world markets and civil unrest among the people who realize that the US dollars they depend on would no longer be able to buy their basic necessities.  What can be done around the world to avoid such a scenario when the collapse of the dollar is inevitable? History proves that silver can become an alternative currency that can replace the dollar, although many countries are purchasing large amounts of gold such as Russia and China with other countries in Latin America and Asia following in the same footsteps.  However, silver will still be a good option.  At least you have a choice in which precious metals you can invest in.

Silver has been used for thousands of years as a monetary system for the economies of past civilizations. Silver was first discovered in 4000 BC in Anatolia, today’s Modern Turkey with the use of “Electrum”, a gold and silver mix currency. Between 449-413 BC Greece used the “Athenian Owl” a pure silver coin remained in circulation up to 30 BC.

Silver was recognized as more precious than Gold in ancient Egypt as early as 930 BC. The Roman Empire relied on silver to pay for certain commodities such as silk from China. In the Roman Empire, the “denarius”, a pure 100% silver coin was the currency of choice for more than 5 centuries until its gradual debasement that began with Emperor Augustus.

This debasement of the metal in terms of purity fluctuated with the strength of the Empire through its military. It was an indication that Rome lacked precious metals and reduced treasury savings due to their expansionist Imperial policies that resulted in inflation. High taxes on the Roman population further weakened the economy to pay for military expenses. Roman Emperor Nero (54-68 A.D.) preferred to debase the denarius to 87% silver to pay the costs of the military and the ever expanding bureaucracy than raise taxes on the people who were already being heavily taxed. But Nero and other emperors that followed chose to debase the currency by reducing the denarius metal content was already a form of taxation. The devaluation continued with the silver content valued at 50% towards the end of the 2nd century. By the middle of the 3rd century, the denarius was comprised of 0.05% silver.

Around A.D. 215, Rome issued the “Antoninianus” that was valued at twice that of a denarius but was short lived, as the silver content was also removed over several decades of devaluation. The coin was then made from bronze that eventually became useless as the circulation of these coins contained no silver as the Roman currency became worthless.Rome collapsed soon after.

China also used silver throughout most of its history for trade. In 1791, the first Secretary of the Treasury of the United States Alexander Hamilton called for the establishment of a national currency with gold and silver or “bimetallism” as a form of money. The US Congress passed legislation the following year by establishing gold and silver as the “monetary standards” of the United States through the 1792 Coinage Act. The gold standard was regulated at 15 times the valueUS Dollar of silver. The dollar was then established as the basic monetary unit that was instrumental in the creation of the national mint. The dollar was defined through the weight of silver. The death penalty was enacted as a rule of law for anyone who decided to debase the value of the new currency. But these laws were changed as the system became politically corrupt as the years went by. In Article 1, Section 10 of the US Constitution stated the following:

No state shall enter into any treaty, alliance, or confederation; grant letters of marque and reprisal; coin money; emit bills of credit; make anything but gold and silver coin a tender in payment of debts; pass any bill of attainder, ex post facto law, or law impairing the obligation of contracts, or grant any title of nobility.

The future of silver has potential to become an alternative currency because the world’s reserve currency, the US dollar, is not stable.  “The dollar is an unreliable international currency and should be replaced by a more stable system” according to CNN on June 29, 2010 based on a report conducted by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs.  Silver can be used for a number of industries that produce goods that can be sold internationally. It can open the global markets for trade among nations. Silver is the best conductor of electricity. From computers to cell phones and switches all must use silver. Technology based industries that produce lasers, satellites, and robotics need silver to operate. Digital technology and telecommunications also need silver. It is used in televisions, wall switches and refrigerators and other appliances. Silver is used in the chemical industry for the production of plastics. In the Healthcare industry silver is found in many pharmaceuticals such as silver sulfadiazine, which is used for burn treatments. It can be used for water purification purposes as well. And the list goes on. Silver is a valuable metal that can be used for many industries.

The US government is on the path to an economic collapse just as the Roman Empire when Ben Bernanke announced unlimited QE back on September 13, 2012.  This means endless printing of the dollar until it becomes completely worthless.  The US has devalued their currency by printing dollars to bail out the banks and auto industry and to fund the Military-Industrial Complex which will have an impact on the economy. The more you print, the dollar becomes less valuable just as what happened to the denarius during Roman times. The US dollar will collapse sooner or later as countries around the world continue to move away from the dollar and look to other forms of currencies that are reliable.

The United States government cannot finance its debt by printing more money. Market forces will dictate when interest rates will rise as it would make the US Federal debt more expensive to service the debt.

If the Federal Reserve Bank decided to run the printing press, it would lead to hyperinflation. A scenario the US population and the rest of the world does not want to see.  The US population would no doubt witness a massive rise in interest rates on practically everything from credit cards, home mortgages, student loans, auto loans and every other loan you can imagine.

The best option for anyone who wants to protect themselves from the dollar collapse should invest in silver or any other precious metals that includes gold. History has shown that precious metals especially silver can be used as a currency that has intrinsic value. The best thing people and nation-states can do is to look outside the US dollar because sooner or later the Federal Reserve Bank would not able to sustain the economy with the printing press because market forces as always will be the deciding factor. Silver is a viable option for both short and long-term investments. The most important factor to investing in silver is to protect you and your family.  Silver will be in demand in the near future as it was in the past because history has always told us so.

 by William J. Astore

Imagine if we could bridge the empathy gap that separates us from the Vietnamese and our war with them and against them.

When I was on active duty in the Air Force, I visited the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.  I was moved to tears as I encountered the names of more than 58,000 of my fellow Americans etched in stone.  What a waste, I thought, but at least they died for their country, and at least we didn’t forget their sacrifice.

To be honest, I don’t recall thinking about the Vietnamese dead.  The memorial, famously designed by Maya Lin, captures an American tragedy, not a Vietnamese one.  But imagine, for a moment, if we could bridge the empathy gap that separates us from the Vietnamese and our war with them and against them.  How might their suffering compare to ours?

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com/Christian Carollo

America first sent ground combat units to Vietnam in March of 1965.  If we count the Linebacker II air offensive against North Vietnam in December of 1972 (the infamous Christmas bombing) as the end of major combat operations, the U.S. military waged war in Vietnam for roughly 93 months.  Now, let’s consider the number of Vietnamese killed, to include soldiers and civilians, regardless of their political allegiance or lack thereof.  No one knows for sure how many Vietnamese died over this period; the “low” estimate is roughly one million Vietnamese, while the “high” estimate is in the vicinity of three million.  Even using the low estimate, that’s more than ten thousand dead per month, for 93 months.

How can we bring meaning to such mind-numbing statistics?  To imagine the impact of this war on the Vietnamese people, Americans have to think not of one tragic wall containing 58,000 names, but of twenty (or perhaps even fifty) tragic walls, adding up to millions of names, a high percentage of them being noncombatants, innocent men, women and children.

Difficult as that is to imagine, we must also recognize that the impact of the American war in Vietnam was not limited to killing.  The U.S. military bombed and blasted and napalmed and defoliated the landscape as well.  So along with twenty or more Maya Lin-type memorials to list all of the Vietnamese war dead, we’d have to imagine scores of “Super Fund” sites in Vietnam, land poisoned by Agent Orange and similar powerful chemicals, tortured terrain that is still occasionally deadly to the Vietnamese who live there.

How did so many Vietnamese come to die?  How did Vietnam itself become a blasted and poisoned landscape?  And how did the United States come largely to forget its complicity in the killing and blasting?  The reasons are not easy to contemplate, but Nick Turse’s harrowing new study, Kill Anything that Moves, forces us to confront what he terms “the real American war in Vietnam.”

In A Rumor of War (1977), a classic memoir of the Vietnam War, U.S. Marine Lieutenant Philip Caputo recounts how the U.S. strategy of “search and destroy” and the obsession with enemy body count led to “orgiastic violence” in which the goal, in his words, was

“to kill Communists and to kill as many of them as possible.  Stack ’em like cordwood.  Victory was a high body-count … war a matter of arithmetic.  The pressure [from the top] on unit commanders to produce enemy corpses was intense, and they in turn communicated it to their troops.  This led to such practices as counting civilians as Viet Cong.  ‘If it’s dead and Vietnamese, it’s VC,’ was a rule of thumb in the bush.  It is not surprising, therefore, that some men acquired a contempt for human life and a predilection for taking it.”

The horrific reality that Caputo wrote of more than 35 years ago is now fully fleshed out in Turse’s new study.  The obsession with body count—starting with General William Westmoreland, the commanding general in Vietnam—led to, in Turse’s words, “the indiscriminate killing of South Vietnamese noncombatants—the endless slaughter that wiped out civilians day after day, month after month, year after year.”  The enormity of the crime was “neither accidental nor unforeseeable,” but rather “the inevitable outcome of deliberate policies, dictated at the highest levels of the military,” Turse concludes.

The evidence he amasses – of “murder, torture, rape, abuse, forced displacement, home burnings, specious arrests, imprisonment without due process”—is irrefutable.  Indeed, much of the evidence he relies upon was gathered secretly by the U.S. military at the time, only to be suppressed, consigned to archives, and forgotten.  It’s hardly surprising that senior U.S. military officials sought to suppress evidence of atrocities on a mass-scale, since they themselves were both complicit and culpable.

A line that has always stayed with me from Caputo’s memoir came from one of his NCOs, a Sergeant Colby, who in 1965 told then-Lieutenant Caputo that, “Before you leave here, sir, you’re going to learn that one of the most brutal things in the world is your average nineteen-year-old American boy.”  Turse’s study plumbs the depths of such brutality, to include a racist subculture (dehumanizing the Vietnamese as “gooks” and “slopes”) within the U.S. military that facilitated it.  Draft an American teenager, teach him to kill, send him to an utterly foreign land in which he can’t distinguish friend from foe, give him power over life and death against a dehumanized enemy, and reward him for generating a high body count in which “If it’s dead and Vietnamese, it’s VC,” and you have an ineluctable recipe for murderous violence.

Contrast the brutal honesty of Sergeant Colby with the patent dishonesty of an American political scene that to this day fosters a very different interpretation of the Vietnam War.  For many Americans, the true victims of the war are not the millions of Vietnamese who died, or the millions who continue to suffer to this day.  No—the true victims are the American veterans who were allegedly spat upon by unwashed anti-war protesters, or a U.S. military that was allegedly betrayed by back-stabbers at the home front, denying the troops the victory they had so justly earned.  In this narrative, even the infamous slaughter at My Lai becomes the exception that proves the rule, the rule being that with few exceptions the American military fought honorably and cleanly.

For these Americans, the war remains a combination of the Rambo myth mixed with the “noble cause” rhetoric of Ronald Reagan—history as Hollywood fairy tale—a concerted rewriting of the historical record and a rewiring of American culture consistent with feel-good militarism and confectionary war.

To confront the truth, we must abandon the confection.  The truth is that, rather than confronting our nation’s inner heart of darkness during and after Vietnam, the military and our government collectively whitewashed the past.

America’s true “Vietnam Syndrome” was not an allergy to using military power after Vietnam but an allergy to facing the destruction our nation caused there.  And that allergy has only exacerbated our national predilection for military adventurism, warrior glorification, and endless war.

It’s time our nation found the courage to face those twenty (or fifty) walls of Vietnamese dead.  It’s time we faced them with the same sorrow and same regret we reserve for our own wall of dead.  Only after we do so can our nation stop glorifying war.  Only after we do so can our nation fully heal.

Week in Review: Cyber-Warriors, the 9/11 Plan and Neo-Nazism

February 4th, 2013 by Global Research