Monthly Archives: October 2013

Congress Disgraces United States Fails To Show For Drone Hearing


Above: Nabila Rehman, left, 9, watches as her brother Zubair reads a statement about the day their grandmother was killed by a U.S. drone strike in Pakistan, at a hearing in Washington, Tuesday.Jason Reed/Reuters

Alan Grayson (D-FL) organized an historic hearing on US drone strikes. It was the first time that drone strike victims told their stories to U.S. elected officials at a hearing. The Rehman family traveled halfway around the world from Pakistan to tell the story of their families loss; the killing of the families grandmother.  Only five members of Congress bothered to show up.  What does this show about the United States political leadership?  It is shameful.  Below are three articles describing the scene and the families ordeal.  We need to help them change the hearts and minds of Americans especially our elected leadership.  Please share this with the White House ( and your representatives in Congress.

Drone Survivors Speak at Congressional Briefing

Drone victims give US lawmakers first-hand account of attack

By Naureen Khan

Nabila, a shy girl with startling hazel eyes and red streaks in her dark hair, along with her father Rafiq and 13-year-old brother Zubair have told the story of the day when a drone fell from the sky in their village in North Waziristan so many times that by Tuesday morning the tale was rote — even if this particular retelling was before U.S. lawmakers, at a briefing which was the first opportunity for members of Congress to hear directly from Pakistani victims of American drones.

It was Oct. 24, 2012, the day before the Islamic holy day of Eid-al-Adha in North Waziristan. Zubair, Nabila, their little sister, five-year-old Asma and some of their cousins were all in the fields beside their house as their grandmother, 67-year-old Momina Bibi, showed them how to tell when the okra was ripe for picking.

Zubair knew the drones were circling overhead; he has known their distinctive buzzing since he was even younger — a methodical zung, zung, zung, he says.

“It’s something that even a 2-year-old would know,” he said in Pashto, speaking to Al Jazeera through a translator. “We hear the noise 24 hours a day.”

Before the missile hit, he remembers hearing two clicks, like a trigger being pulled. Suddenly, day seemed to turn to night as they were enveloped in darkness and heat. Their grandmother, Momina Bibi, was thrown 20 feet away and killed instantly.

Zubair, Nabila and the other children wounded in the attack were taken to a hospital. Zubair had shrapnel lodged in his leg — an injury that would take expensive laser surgeries to heal — while Nabila looked down to see her hand bleeding.

“I tried to bandage my hand but the blood wouldn’t stop,” she said. “The blood kept coming.”

Momina Bibi’s wounds were so severe that neighbors would not allow her sons to see the body, said Rafiq, a primary schoolteacher in Pakistan who was in town buying school supplies and sweets when the attack happened.

In the days and weeks after, Rafiq said the newspapers reported that militants had been killed in the strike. As far as he knows, his mother was the sole fatality. He has never received an answer from the Pakistani or U.S. governments about why she was targeted or whether the strike was a mistake.

The Rehmans traveled halfway across the world, from their remote village of Tappi, to tell their story and to urge lawmakers to put an end to the covert CIA program of “targeted killings” in Pakistan, Yemen and elsewhere. They also participated in an Amnesty International report about casualties of drones and a documentary by filmmaker Robert Greenwald, called Unmanned. According to the London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism, 376 total strikes have taken place in Pakistan, killing up to 926 civilians and as many as 200 children.

Since they arrived in Washington last weekend — their first time outside of Pakistan — the Rehmans have patiently sat for hours of interviews with dozens of media outlets in a dogged effort to change hearts and minds, with only a few breaks to go see the sights in the U.S. capital.

The Obama administration, for its part, until recently did not even acknowledge the existence of the program. Now, officials say drone warfare is a precise and effective means to neutralize enemies in remote regions of the world where capturing terrorists is difficult and that civilian casualties are minimal.

That rationale holds little solace for Rafiq and his family.

Opponents of the United States have pointed out, beyond the legal and moral implications, that the U.S. policy engenders hatred of America and breeds extremism.

But even after what his family has been through, Rafiq Rehman said he does not resent the United States. In fact, even after witnessing his first Halloween weekend in the States, he does not believe all that much separates him from Americans.

“It’s very peaceful here. For the most part, there’s a lot of freedom and people get along with each other. They’re nice, they respect each other, and I appreciate that,” Rafiq told Al Jazeera.

“We’re all human beings,” he said. “I knew that Americans would have a heart, that they would be sympathetic to me. That’s why I came here — I thought if they heard my story, they would want to listen to me and influence their politicians.”

Rafiq, like so many fathers, wants his children to have peaceful lives and the best education possible. He hopes Zubair grows up to be a doctor and that Nabila is a lawyer.

“(The drone attack) created a disruption in our lives,” he said. “Our children live in fear. They don’t want to go to school. They don’t want to play outside.”

Ultimately, only five members of Congress arrived at the briefing to hear their testimony Tuesday morning: Rep. Alan Grayson of Florida, who organized the briefing, along with Reps. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., Rush Holt, D-N.J., John Conyers, D-Mich., and Rick Nolan, D-Minn.

What compelling interest did the U.S. government have in murdering a grandmother of nine and a midwife who helped deliver babies in the village, Rehman asked them. How can he reassure his children that the drones will not come back?

“I no longer love blue skies,” Zubair said. “In fact, I now prefer gray skies. The drones do not fly when the skies are gray.”

Grayson said the briefing, held a full decade after the first drone strikes in Yemen by the Bush administration, was a promising start and dismissed the seemingly low attendance, noting that five members showed “a fair amount of interest.” Grayson doubted, however, that a full committee hearing with members of Congress would be called anytime soon.

“The appropriate committees generally are staffed by people, if I may say this, who are friends of the military industrial complex, not even enemies, or even skeptics of it,” he said.

Still, Zubair Rehman remained hopeful.

“I hope I can return home with a message,” he said. “I hope I can tell my community that Americans listened.”

“Unmanned: America’s Drone Wars” Hidden Truth Behind US Drone Program


One of the most anticipated documentaries on drones, directed and produced by Robert Greenwald, has been released so that audiences worldwide can finally see the US drone program for what it really is. The film takes viewers on a journey through the struggles of Pakistanis who have been affected by the strikes as well as a former USAF drone operator’s feelings about what he has done.

Posted October 31, 2013

NSA Spying on the President

By Andrew P. Napolitano

October 31, 2013 “Information Clearing House –  When German Chancellor Angela Merkel celebrated the opening of the new U.S. embassy in Berlin in 2008, she could not have imagined that she was blessing the workplace for the largest and most effective gaggle of American spies anywhere outside of the U.S.

It seems straight out of a grade-B movie, but it has been happening for the past eleven years: The NSA has been using Merkel to spy on the president of the United States. We now know that the NSA has been listening to and recording Merkel’s cellphone calls since 2002. In 2008, when the new embassy opened, the NSA began using more sophisticated techniques that included not only listening, but also following her. Merkel uses her cellphone more frequently than her landline, and she uses it to communicate with her husband and family members, the leadership of her political party, and her colleagues and officials in the German government.

She also uses her cellphone to speak with foreign leaders, among whom have been President George W. Bush and President Obama. Thus, the NSA – which Bush and Obama have unlawfully and unconstitutionally authorized to obtain and retain digital copies of all telephone conversations, texts and emails of everyone in the U.S., as well as those of hundreds of millions of persons in Europe and Latin America – has been listening to the telephone calls of both American presidents whenever they have spoken with the chancellor.

One could understand the NSA’s propensity to listen to the conversations of those foreign leaders who wish us ill. And one would expect that it would do so. But the urge to listen to the leadership of our allies serves no discernible intelligence-gathering purpose. Rather, it fuels distrust between our nations and in the case of Merkel exacerbates memories of the all-seeing and all-hearing Stasi, which was the East German version of the KGB that ruled that police state from the end of World War II until it collapsed in 1989. Merkel was raised in East Germany, and she has a personal revulsion at the concept of omnipresent state surveillance.

Obama apparently has no such revulsion. One would think he’s not happy that his own spies have been listening to him. One would expect that he would have known of this. Not from me, says Gen. Keith Alexander, the director of the NSA, who disputed claims in the media that he told Obama of the NSA spying network in Germany last summer. Either the president knew of this and has denied it, or he is invincibly ignorant of the forces he has unleashed on us and on himself.

When Susan Rice, Obama’s national security advisor, was confronted with all of this by her German counterpart, she first told him the White House would deny it. Then she called him to say that the White House could not deny it, but the president would deny that he personally knew of it.

How did we get here? What are the consequences of a president spying on himself? What does this mean for the rest of us?

Neither Bush nor Obama has had a strong fidelity to the Constitution. They share the views of another odd couple of presidents from opposing political parties, Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson, in that the Constitution is not the supreme law of the land as it proclaims to be, but rather a guideline that unleashes the president to do all that it does not expressly forbid him to do. In the progressive era 100 years ago, that presidential attitude brought us the Federal Reserve, the federal income tax, Prohibition, World War I, prosecutions for speech critical of the government and the beginnings of official modern government racial segregation.

That same attitude in our era has brought us the Patriot Act, which allows federal agents to write their own search warrants, government borrowing that knows no end – including the $2 trillion Bush borrowed for the war in Iraq, a country which is now less stable than before Bush invaded, and the $7 trillion Obama borrowed to redistribute – and an NSA that monitors all Americans all the time. In the case of the NSA spying, this came about by the secret orders of Bush and Obama, animated by that perverse TR/Wilsonian view of the Constitution and not by a congressional vote after a great national debate.

Just as people change when they know they are being watched, the government changes when it knows no one can watch it. Just as we can never be ourselves when we fear that we may need to justify our most intimate thoughts to an all-knowing government, so, too, the government knows that when we cannot see what it is doing, it can do whatever it wants. And it is in the nature of government to expand, not shrink. Thomas Jefferson correctly predicted that 175 years ago.

But spying on yourself is truly asinine and perhaps criminal. You see, the president can officially declassify any secrets he wants, but he cannot – without official declassification – simply reveal them to NSA agents. One can only imagine what NSA agents learned from listening to Bush and Obama as they spoke to Merkel and 34 other friendly foreign leaders, as yet unidentified publicly.

Now we know how pervasive this NSA spying is: It not only reaches the Supreme Court, the Pentagon, the CIA, the local police and the cellphones and homes of all Americans; it reaches the Oval Office itself. Yet when the president denies that he knows of this, that denial leads to more questions.

The president claims he can start secret foreign wars using the CIA, secretly kill Americans using drones, and now secretly spy on anyone anywhere using the NSA. Is the president an unwitting dupe to a secret rats’ nest of uncontrolled government spies and killers? Or is he a megalomaniacal, totalitarian secret micromanager who lies regularly, consistently and systematically about the role of government in our lives?

Which is worse?


Glenn Greenwald: Dick Cheney, Most Radical, Criminal in the United States


“Remember, Dick Cheney is a politician who engaged in some of the worst, most radical and criminal conduct in the last century in the United States and did it all in secret — from lying about the war in Iraq to torturing people, to putting people in cages with no lawyers, to eavesdropping on the American people without the warrants required by law”

Posted October 30, 2013

“Remember, Dick Cheney is a politician who engaged in some of the worst, most radical and criminal conduct in the last century in the United States and did it all in secret — from lying about the war in Iraq to torturing people, to putting people in cages with no lawyers, to eavesdropping on the American people without the warrants required by law,” he told CNN host Anderson Cooper. “So of course political people like Dick Cheney, people in political power always want to do what they do behind a wall of secrecy because that’s how they abuse power.”

“And they always consider those who bring transparency to what they do to be evil, treasonous people,” he continued. “Edward Snowden is considered a hero to people around the world and the United States and received a whistle blowing award because he did what people have conscience do, which is tell that world about things that they should know.”

“That the world’s most powerful people are trying to keep concealed,” Greenwald said. “It’s created a worldwide debate over internet freedom and the value of privacy and dangers of surveillance. It’s created movements for reform and all kinds of legislators around the world including in the United States and the world is much better off that the Dick Cheneys of the world aren’t able to abuse their power in secret.”

“What we told the world what they didn’t know is this spying system is directed at innocent people, people that have nothing to do with terrorism,” Greenwald said.

See also –

Canadians Seek Dick Cheney’s Arrest For War Crimes During Upcoming Visit: An international volunteer organization urged Canadian authorities to arrest former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney on war crimes charges when he visits the 2013 Toronto Global Forum later this week.

The Secret Government: The Constitution in Crisis

By Bill Moyers

This is the full length 90 min. version of Bill Moyer’s 1987 scathing critique of the criminal subterfuge carried out by the Executive Branch of the United States Government.

Host Bill Moyers exposes the inner workings of the secret government. Though originally broadcast in 1987, it is even more relevant today. Interviews with respected, top military, intelligence, and government insiders reveal both the history and secret objectives

Another Blow To The US Dollar

Time Bomb of the World Energy Congress 2013 in Daegu, South Korea

By Peter Koenig

October 31, 2013 “Information Clearing House –  The 22nd World Energy Congress, one of the most important meetings of the energy sector, also dubbed the “Energy Olympics” took place from 13-17 October 2013 in Daegu, South Korea. It was attended by some 5000 participants from 93 countries, including about 50 ministers and senior government officials.

The World Energy Congress (WEC) takes place every three years. The first one took place in London in 1924. This is only the second time the Conference takes place in Asia – perhaps a sign of Asia’s emerging importance in energy production and trading – and more: a testimony to Asia’s economic ascent in the world arena.

Among the niceties, à la UN-propaganda, was Ban Ki-moons promise that by 2030 all humanity will have access to power, whereas today one in five people lack it. Let’s hope this promise comes true – not like the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) – reducing by 2015 the world’s poverty by half of what it was in 2000 – which was mere political brouhaha of developing countries’ leaders to mobilize more money from the West, but hardly any of them has accomplished what the UN promised.

It is amazing how little coverage this WEC event received from the Western media – especially ignored was the time bomb dropped by Igor Sechin, CEO of Rosneft, the leader of Russia’s hydrocarbon exploration and production. Mr. Sechin called for a “Global Mechanism to Swap Gas Supplies” and went on suggesting that “It [was] advisable to create an international stock-exchange for the participating countries, where transactions could be registered with theuse of regional currencies” (emphasis added).

This would mean another blow to the US dollar. If regional gas transactions are dealt in local currencies by participating members through a stock-exchange – an ‘Oil Bourse’, to use the term coined by Iran in 2007 – soon most hydrocarbon will be dealt with in local currencies, and soon most oil and gas producers will join, as they are tired of using an imposed currency, the US dollar, which has long ago lost its glamour of security – if it ever had some – and certainly the confidence around the world. That could mean soon the end of American hegemony across the continents, the end of a self-styled, armed-to-the-teeth empire without sacrificing a drop of blood.

A similar scenario was described already in earlier ICH and Voice of Russia articles, most recently on 9th and 10th of October 2013

Indeed, as pointed out in these essays, a new currency imposes itself; once the dollar has lost even its fake luster, and the US implode in their own morass of debt and greed. A demonstration was the recent Washington debacle about budget and debt increase. It’s of course a spectacle that is repeated almost every year. But it demonstrates how fragile the US economy is – and how weak the rest of the (Western) world is – showcased by the recent Brussels EU Summit, where none of the leaders dared to seriously question the Obama Regime after it became clear that NSA spied not only on common people, the UN, corporations – but also on 35 world leaders, many of them US allies. And that – shortly after Mrs. Merkel furiously went on TV to declare that this American behavior was not tolerable. Obama, who is said to control personally every drone assassination, claimed not to have known about it.

Mrs. Merkel, along with her EU colleagues, was quiet at the Brussels Summit. Nobody questioned further negotiations of the impending Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the US; or would not even put it on hold, while trying to reestablish trust in their partner in Washington.

Imagine, if Obama lies about spying, how trustworthy would be an FTA?

Where does this European fear of the master come from? – It’s a ridiculous submission to the emperor without clothes.

Mr. Sechin’s proposal may put an end to this hypocrisy. As a new energy trading mechanism shines on the horizon, a new monetary system will be of the order. The BRICS, led by Russia and China, may take the initiative. New potential members, countries, like Iran, Venezuela, Malaysia, Vietnam and the oil rich Central Asia Union, as well as others are waiting in the wings.

Their combined population would exceed half the globe’s populace and their joint GDP would easily approach a third of the world’s GDP.

Inevitably, the European US allies (the Group of Poodles) would have to gravitate towards where the new markets are – for sheer survival. And who of the remaining world wouldn’t want to get away from Washington’s abuse, aggressions, threats and bloodshed? –

Towards a more just world – in the words of Liu Chang, the famous writer for China’s official press agency, Xinhua, where he talks on October 13 about a de-Americanized world, “where the destinies of others [now] in the hands of a hypocritical nation have to be terminated, and a new world order should be put in place, according to which all nations, big or small, poor or rich, can have their key interests respected and protected on an equal footing.”

He goes on concluding that to this end all nations would have to respect international law and each others sovereignty, and the UN must return to its original mandate – be a forum for conflict resolution and peace, no longer a mere mouthpiece of Washington.

Such may be the implications of Mr. Sechin’s seemingly trivial suggestion – to trade hydrocarbons in local currencies in a specially designed stock-exchange.

No wonder the Western media have ignored it.

Peter Koenig, Economist –  Geneva / Switzerland

Detroit Will be Democracy’s Decisive Battle

By Glen Ford

“If we don’t do something real soon, I think you’ll have to agree that we’re going to be forced either to use the ballot or the bullet. It’s one or the other in 1964. It isn’t that time is running out — time has run out!” – Malcolm X, “The Ballot or the Bullet,” Cleveland, Ohio, April 3, 1964.

October 31, 2013 “Information Clearing House – “BAR” — A half-century after the man once known as Detroit Red spoke those words, the last grains of sand are trickling from the hour glass of what has passed for democracy in America. The principle of one-person, one vote – or any meaningful franchise, at all – is no longer operative for the majority of Black people in the state of Michigan, whose largely African American cities are run by emergency managers accountable to no one but Rick Snyder, the venture capitalist in the governor’s mansion. The same bell is tolling for every urban center in the land, as hegemonic finance capital creates the template for direct corporate rule through the systematic destruction of Detroiters’ citizenship rights.

The 82 percent Black metropolis has been reduced to a Bantustan in both the economic and political senses of the term. Surrounded by some of the richest counties in the nation, the impoverished city exemplifies a national racial wealth gap that is more profound than that which existed in South Africa at the height of apartheid, as detailed by Jon Jeter in this issue of BAR (See “Worse Than Apartheid: Black in Obama’s America”). The Emergency Manager law, passed by the Republican state legislature after rejection by voters in a referendum, makes the Bantustan analogy complete, with a Black corporate lawyer overseeing the dismantling of every mechanism of local democracy. Kevyn Orr’s ascension as plenipotentiary of Wall Street is also the ultimate logic of the most vulgar current of African American politics, which seeks only Black representation at the highest levels of power, no matter whose interests are served. Wall Street long ago scoped this Black weakness, and has exploited it at every political level.

“The same bell is tolling for every urban center in the land.”

Detroit’s dissolution also sounds the death knell for a generation’s dreams of authentic “Black Power” through purely electoral means in collaboration with corporate “renaissance” schemes. The Black masses have never been envisioned as part of any “renewal” of the cities under corporate auspices. Rather, investment is contingent on Black disempowerment and removal – the corporate axiom from which the Emergency Manager regime logically flows. Barack Obama, as loyal (and lawyerly) a servant of the banks as Orr, accepts the validity of the premise, which is why he raises no principled objection to Detroit’s disenfranchisement, either in its particulars or as a model for urban America.

The drama unfolds in bankruptcy court, a venue whose rules were written almost entirely by the financial capitalist class. By virtue of the Emergency Manager law, Detroit is represented in court by its nemesis, Kevyn Orr – which is like imposing Newt Gingrich as chief counsel for the NAACP. (The Detroit NAACP seeks to halt the proceedings on voting rights grounds.) Orr’s office is referred to as “the city” in both legal terms and by idiot corporate media, who confuse the public by reporting, as did Detroit PBS correspondent Christy McDonald, this week, that the issue is “whether the city can go ahead with its bankruptcy” process. In fact, hardly an elected official or candidate exists that openly supports bankruptcy, especially under Kevyn Orr’s terms (Detroit holds a meaningless mayoral and council election, next week).

Orr may be the most hated man in Detroit – a fact that would be noted by every media outlet in the nation, if the metropolis were largely white. But the Detroit model for democracy’s demolition is depicted as a white supremacist morality play, in which corruption and incompetence are the inevitable fruits of Black majority rule, which must be extirpated by any means necessary. White Americans, in general, can be distracted by the slightest hint of ghetto graffiti from seeing their own futures written on the wall.

“Detroit is represented in court by its nemesis, Kevyn Orr – which is like imposing Newt Gingrich as chief counsel for the NAACP.”

Kevin Orr, ensconced in a $5,000 per month luxury penthouse condominium paid for by one of Governor Snyder’s private slush funds with contributions from secret corporate donors, is building the template for urban democratic dissolution from scratch. He is a crude and unimaginative man, doing Wall Street’s bidding with little finesse in the bright light of day. His arrogance is buttressed by the certainty that he is backed by the real rulers of the American State, Wall Street, and that the outcome in Judge Steven Rhodes’ federal bankruptcy court will create precedent to render all of America’s cities servile and neutered. Orr is also aware that his coloration provides perfect cover for his mission – added value for his services, well worth the luxury suite. (The judge ruled that Orr’s accommodations were irrelevant to the case.)

First-responders, revered in the post-911 United States, are crucified along with the rest of the city rabble. Orr ejected 8,000 city retirees under age 65 from their city-paid $605 per month health insurance, including police and firefighters. The state constitution specifically forbids impairing pensions, which average only $18,000 a year, yet Orr testified that he thinks federal law allows him to override those protections. He and the governor, who was subpoenaed by unions, both claimed they didn’t start out wanting to bankrupt the city – but why would Snyder hire bankruptcy lawyer Orr unless that were the intention? The lying duo claimed they never conspired to push Detroit into the venue, and that it was the unions that refused to negotiate in good faith. Apparently, “good faith” means negotiating away rights guaranteed by law.

“Orr ejected 8,000 city retirees under age 65 from their city-paid $605 per month health insurance, including police and firefighters.”

Orr admitted that he never even raised the subject of getting the state to help Detroit out of its fiscal difficulties. And, why would he? His mission is not to save the city, but to break it into auctionable pieces and to garnishee its remaining revenue streams for bankers. His opening fiscal reorganization plan would pay off Bank of America and UBS, who have already made millions on a 2005 derivatives scheme with the city, establishing Britain’s Barclay’s Bank as the super-priority creditor with dibs on $4 million a month in Detroit casino revenues if the city defaults.

To ensure that the city can never escape the clutches of capital, the contract would allow Barclay’s to immediately declare Detroit in default if Emergency Financial Manager rule is ended for any reason – that is, the corporate plan calls for the permanent cessation of democracy in Detroit.

That’s the plan for the whole country. Wall Street recognizes that it cannot effectively consume the public sphere as long as the public retains the electoral democratic mechanisms to stop it. In other words, concentrated capital can no longer coexist with even the thin gruel of American democracy. The Black polity is the weakest link in the U.S. democratic armor. White folks won’t protect it, and Black folks have the least resources to defend it. The generals of Wall Street have purposely chosen Detroit as the decisive battleground, where the power of massed capital will be hyper-charged by an endemic, unreconstructed racism that can reliably be expected to deny that democracy is really at stake, at all. It’s just, you know – “the Blacks.”

And even some Black folks will agree.

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at

Malcolm X – Ballot or Bullet

Peace Process Is Doomed To Fail While Israel Stalls For Time

By Jonathan Cook 

October 31, 2013 “Information Clearing House – Whatever happened to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process? You could be forgiven for thinking everyone packed up shop a while ago and forgot to inform you. There’s been barely a peep about it since the revival of talks was greeted with great fanfare back in July.

The negotiations, which have been conducted in a fug of secrecy, flitted briefly back on the radar last week when the US secretary of state, John Kerry, met Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu for what the media called an “unusually long”, seven-hour meeting in Rome.

Much of the conversation was held in private, with not even officials present, but, according to reports, discussions concentrated on the revived peace process. Mr Kerry, concerned about the lack of tangible progress, is believed to have tried to pin Mr Netanyahu down on his vision of where the nine-month negotiations should lead.

Mr Kerry’s intervention follows weeks of mounting Palestinian frustration, culminating in rumours that the talks are on the verge of collapse. After a meeting with Mr Kerry in Paris, an Arab League official, Nasif Hata, added to the desultory atmosphere, saying there were “no positive indications of progress”.

Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, on a tour of European capitals last week in search of diplomatic support, tried to scotch suggestions that the talks were at a “dead end”. They were “difficult”, he admitted, and after nearly three months of meetings the two sides were still “at the beginning of the road”.

But privately his officials have expressed exasperation at Israel’s inflexibility and the miserliness of its opening positions. Earlier this month the Al Hayat newspaper reported that Israel had refused to discuss the key issue of borders, instead focusing exclusively on its own security concerns.

None of this is surprising. At Israel’s insistence, the talks have been entirely shielded from public view. Privacy, Israel argued, would ease the pressure on the two parties and give them greater room to be forthcoming and creative.

The reality, however, is that the lack of scrutiny has allowed Israel to drag its feet. Israel’s lead negotiator, Tzipi Livni, has already warned that the talks’ timetable is likely to overrun.

Similarly, US envoy Martin Indyk was supposed to be Mr Kerry’s eyes and ears in the talks. Instead he spent the first two months locked out of the proceedings, apparently again at Israel’s instigation.

Secrecy, Israel hopes, will give it the cover it expects to need when – as seems certain – the talks end inconclusively, or the Palestinians storm out. Widespread ignorance about developments can be exploited to cast the Palestinians as the treacherous party, as occurred following the collapse of the Camp David talks in 2000.

But belatedly we are seeing a little of the leadership role Washington promised. Mr Indyk is said to be now actively involved. The rate of meetings between the negotiators has been stepped up sharply in the past two weeks. And last week’s meeting in Rome suggested that the US hopes to pressure Mr Netanyahu either into making a big concession or into beginning the face-to-face talks with Mr Abbas that this process is supposed eventually to lead to.

According to Mr Hata, the US has also promised the Arab League it will “take action” if there is no breakthrough by January, presenting “viable suggestions for ways to end the thaw”.

But whatever Mr Netanyahu told Mr Kerry in private last week, few believe the Israeli prime minister is really ready to seek peace. Earlier this month he set out in public his vision for the talks, in a follow-up to his famous speech in 2009, when, faced with a newly installed US president, Barack Obama, he agreed to a two-state solution.

This time, speaking from the same podium, he sounded in no mood for conciliation. “Unless the Palestinians recognise the Jewish state and give up on the right of return there will not be peace,” he said. He denied the “occupation and settlements” were causes of the conflict, and insisted on Israel’s need for “extremely strong security arrangements”.

It is this kind of uncompromising talk that has discredited the negotiations with those outside the White House.

Last week Yuval Diskin, a recent head of the Shin Bet, Israel’s domestic intelligence service, warned that there was no realistic prospect that “the Israeli public will accept a peace agreement”. Israelis’ distrust of the negotiations is fuelled by the constant opposition of government ministers.

In a further show of dissension, they have backed a bill that would require a two-thirds parliamentary majority before Israel can even broach at the talks the key issue of dividing Jerusalem. If passed, the legislation would turn the negotiations into a dead letter.

On the other side, Hamas has grown emboldened. Ismail Haniyeh, the prime minister in Gaza, has called on Palestinians to renew a “popular uprising”, just as a 1.5km tunnel Hamas had built into Israel was exposed.

In the West Bank, a spate of attacks and killings of Israelis over the past few weeks – after a year without the loss of a single Israeli life from the conflict in 2012 – has provoked wild speculation about whether a Palestinian uprising is imminent. A Palestinian driving a bulldozer who went on a rampage through a military base near Jerusalem only reinforced the impression.

Conveniently, Mr Netanyahu has exploited widespread opposition to the next round of Palestinian prisoner releases, due yesterday – the carrot to keep the Palestinians at the negotiating table – to justify plans for yet more settlement building.

All indications are that these talks, like their predecessors, are doomed to fail. The question is whether the Palestinians have the nerve to unmask the charade. If not, Israel will use the peace process as cover while its settlements devour yet more of the Palestinian state-in-waiting.

Jonathan Cook is a journalist based in Nazareth

US Confirms New Israel Attack On Syria

Damascus target hit in addition to Latakia airbase; both sites said to contain arms meant for Hezbollah, Al-Arabiya reports

By Yifa Yaakov, Lazar Berman and Ilan Ben Zion

October 31, 2013 “Information Clearing House – “Times Of Israel” — While Israel has remained tight-lipped over an alleged strike in Syria, an Obama administration official confirmed to CNN on Thursday that Israeli warplanes had in fact attacked an airbase in Latakia on Wednesday. The target was “missiles and related equipment the Israelis felt might be transferred to Hezbollah,” the report said.

Earlier Thursday, on the heels of reports that the airbase had contained advanced, Russian-made anti-aircraft missiles, Al-Arabiya reported that Israel had attacked not one, but two targets in the civil war-torn country.

Al-Arabiya’s report said two targets had been hit in Syria on Wednesday night – not just the Latakia air defense base, but a target in Damascus as well. Both targets were said to have contained shipments of Russian SA-8 anti-aircraft missiles meant for Hezbollah, which were reportedly completely destroyed.

A map of the Latakia airbase posted online shows three batteries of the Russian-made surface-to-air anti-aircraft missile at the base, outside Snobar Jableh in the country’s coastal Latakia region.

Earlier Thursday, Al-Arabiya quoted opposition forces as saying the base held S-125 missiles.

The S-125 is especially effective against maneuverable low- to medium-altitude targets, including aircraft. The Egyptians used such missiles with some success during the War of Attrition and the 1973 Yom Kippur war, and batteries used by Iraq may have knocked down coalition aircraft in the First Gulf War.

The system has undergone improvements since then, but countermeasures have also progressed significantly.

A massive explosion was reported at the base late Wednesday night, with some reports that it was targeted by missiles fired from the sea. The Syrian news outlet Dam Press, considered loyal to the regime of Bashar Assad, reported that the site was damaged but that there had been no injuries.

Earlier on Wednesday the Lebanese government news agency reported six Israeli aircraft flying through Lebanese airspace along the coast north of Beirut.

The coastal strip of Syria, encompassing the cities of Tartous, Latakia and Baniyas, is part of a predominantly Alawite portion of the country which remains loyal to the Assad regime in its lengthy campaign against rebels.

Israel has been accused of striking Syrian sites in the past, including in January and May this year. Israel refused to confirm the reports that it targeted weapons transfers, possibly to the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah, which has remained loyal to Assad during the country’s bloody civil war.

Syria is reportedly in the midst of upgrading its missile defense system to the Russian-made S-300, a move Israel has lobbied against.

Fukushima: The ticking nuclear bomb


Fukushima: The ticking nuclear bomb. 51442.jpeg

In August this column ran a piece claiming that the Pacific Ocean was being poisoned by radioactive material escaping from Fukushima, two years after the devastating tsunami and meltdown at the Japanese nuclear facility. Three months later, shocking evidence points towards a calamity situation. Silence from the corporate media.

There is growing evidence coming from numerous reports aired on social networks and the so-called social media, among which is the article “Radioactive Water From Fukushima Is Systematically Poisoning The Entire Pacific Ocean” (*), which claimed that every day and for 750 days (now over 800) tonnes of toxic materials have been pouring into the Pacific Ocean.

The toxic substances were identified as Tritium, Cesium and Strontium, being carried far and wide by winds, rain and ocean currents, entering the food chain through seaweed and seafood, building up high levels of toxicity in the fish – and humans – at the top end of the consumption chain.

TEPCO, or Tokyo Electric Power Company, the operator of the plant, admitted in August that between twenty and forty trillion becquerels of radioactive material have entered the Pacific Ocean after a security barrier had been breached. The same operator admitted that in just one week, in August, levels of Caesium-134 rose by 90 times and Caesium-137 rose by 86 times.

Fresh research (**) provides a chilling reminder that this situation is serious, will not go away, is getting worse and cannot be swept under the carpet. This research points to “massive numbers” of sea creatures dying across the Pacific, and that high levels of Cesium-137 are present in “a very high percentage of fish” caught in this ocean “and sold in North America”.

The research then moves on to refer to specific and unexplained incidents. For example, the unexplained death of starfish off Puget Sound off Canada. The animals seem to be melting, a phenomenon observed elsewhere in Canadian waters. Divers spoke of live creatures literally disintegrating in front of them, in “massive numbers”.

On to British Columbia, where abnormal behavior and an unusually high death rate has been observed among killer whales. The vocal communication among the animals has ceased, and in the last two years, seven matriarchs have died.

An Australian traveler sailing from Japan to California, USA, referred that it appeared the entire ocean was dead. All he saw was a whale rolling helplessly in the sea with a tumour on its head, and “for 3,000 nautical miles there was nothing to be seen”. No turtles, no sea birds, no dolphins, no sharks.

On to Alaska, where polar bears, seals and walruses have loss of fur and suffer from open sores on their skin. On to Southern California, where 45 per cent of sea lion pups have died, described by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration as “an unusual mortality event”.

Back up to Canada, where the sockeye salmon faces record low numbers, up across the entire west coast of Canada, where fish are dying from bleeding eyes, gills and bellies.

Back across the Ocean, where extremely high levels of Cesium-137 have been found between Hawaii and California. On a test made on 15 dead tuna, all 15 were found to be contaminated with radiation. Of the fish being sold to Canada, in 2012, the Vancouver Sun recorded the number of specimens testing positive for Cesium-137, namely:

100 per cent of monkfish, carp, seaweed and shark; 94% of cod and anchovies; 93% of tuna and eels; 92% of sardines; 91% of halibut; 73% of mackerel.

Fukushima continues to leak, and leak at ever increasing rates and the latest prediction is that this contamination will continue until 2015, at the earliest. Until then, will the Pacific Ocean be poisoned beyond repair (if this has not happened already)? And when will the authorities explain to us what is happening? When our babies are born glowing bright green and blinking at us through seven eyes?

 Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey

Top British educational advisor insists achievement is genetically determined

By Jo March 

31 October 2013

In an effort to justify the destruction of any vestiges of a comprehensive education system in the UK, a leading Conservative Party education advisor, Dominic Cummings, recently claimed that individual child performance is mainly based on genetics and a child’s intelligence quotient (IQ).

Cummings, described as “the most influential adviser to the education secretary in the past five years”, has written a 250-page paper which essentially argues that a well-rounded education for working class children is a waste of money.

He attacks the broad-based higher education system which in the past 40 years had become more accessible to working class students, claiming that general government spending amounting to over half a trillion pounds a year is of dubious value and “of which vast amounts are wasted and it could easily divert a few billion pounds if it could prioritise to strengthen world-class humanities, maths and science departments.”

He questions the relevance of many degree courses, writing, “In many third-rate higher education institutions there is a large amount of ‘social science’ work in economics, anthropology, sociology, literary theory and so on of questionable value both from an intellectual perspective and from the perspective of students, jobs prospects.”

The Sure Start programme, which provides Family Health, Early Years Care and Education and Improved Well Being Programmes, should be scrapped, he insists, “There is great political pressure to spend money on things like Sure Start, but little scientific testing, refinement and changing budgets to reinforce demonstrated success. Therefore billions have been spent with no real gains.”

What he really means by this statement and his assertions about genetics is that no monetary gains are made for the ruling class by providing this or any other services, which are being targeted by governments around the world in an effort to make the working class pay for the crisis of capitalism.

Cummings is asserting that working class children are genetically incapable of learning at a high level, as an excuse to make it impossible for working class children to do so—a process already well underway with the introduction of £9,000 per year fees for university education.

“There is strong resistance across the political spectrum to accepting scientific evidence on genetics,” he proclaims. “Most of those that now dominate discussions on issues such as social mobility entirely ignore genetics and therefore their arguments are at best misleading and often worthless.”

Cummings claims research shows that as much as 70 percent of a child’s performance is genetically derived—and that therefore social class and the natural advantages it brings must be a function of intelligence.

He cites as proof the work of geneticist Robert Plomin, of the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College London. Plomin examined a region of chromosome 6 in children with ultra-high IQs and children with average IQ.

He found that those with ultra-high IQs were twice as likely to have a particular variant of the insulin-like growth factor 2 gene (IGF2). Nevertheless, only half of the ultra-high IQ participants had this variation. This at best only accounts for about two percent of the variation in human intelligence.

This also accepts IQ scores as a legitimate and reliable measure of intelligence. This measure has been much contested by psychologists—especially for being inherently biased culturally toward the middle and upper classes.

In contrast, there is ample research evidence to show that environment—primarily associated with social class—plays the overriding role in educational development. Well-respected studies show, for example, that when children from poor backgrounds were adopted into culturally-rich middle class families, their IQ scores grew (Scar and Weinberg, 1976, Schiff et al, 1978).

And of course, when one speaks of a household being “culturally rich”, this means, in addition to parental help, private tutors, and strenuous efforts to secure a place in better schools—either by direct purchase of private education or at the very least by having the required post-code to secure access to the best the state-funded system can offer.

The phenomenon of the ruling class either misusing or distorting genuine scientific research to justify its prejudicial actions is hardly new. Neither is the use of pseudo-science to prove the innate superiority of the upper classes. In the 19th century, tracts were written on Craniometry to “prove” that black people had smaller brains and were somehow less human, a theory that was utilised to justify slavery. Social Darwinism—the claim that societies also embodied the principle “survival of the fittest”, in a way never advanced by the great scientific thinker—became widespread. This type of thinking reached its apotheosis in the Nazi theory of the “untermensch” and the “master race.”

In the most recent period, a host of right-wing authors have become fashionable in ruling circles for advancing “genetic-based” justifications for every social malady, from crime to poor educational performance—including Charles Murray and the late Richard J. Hernstein.

Murray and Hernstein published The Bell Curve. In a 1996 lecture, “Equality, the Rights of Man and the Birth of Socialism,” WSWS chairman David North observed that its popularity lay in the fact that “The essential thesis of Hernstein and Murray is that social inequality is the natural and legitimate expression and product of genetically-determined mental capacities. The rich are rich because they have superior genes. The socializing and intermarriage of the rich is preserving a gene pool that tends to guarantee wealth and success for their offspring.”

The reason many working class children do not succeed educationally has nothing to do with genetics and everything to do with poverty, bad housing, unhealthy diets, and an educational system designed to discourage success for the majority of children.

The 1944 Education Act brought in by the National Government under Winston Churchill established an elitist tripartite system of grammar, secondary modern and secondary technical schools. This was designed to limit access to an academic education primarily to upper and middle class children able to pass the 11 plus exam, while the rest were expected to leave school at 14 and learn a trade or work in factories.

In the 1960s, a period of the upsurge of the working class and of economic growth that required a more educated workforce, the Labour government required local councils to move away from selection and establish Comprehensive Schools, open to all. Even then some counties such as Kent still maintained selective tests.

An attack on comprehensive education was first initiated by Labour Prime Minister James Callaghan in 1976, who lined up behind an ongoing Conservative backlash. Streaming and setting, enabling selective education according to ability either within common classes or in separate classes, were never wholly abandoned even in comprehensive schools. They were brought back with a vengeance by the Conservative governments of the 1980s and 1990s.

In 1993, all primary schools were encouraged to introduce setting by the Department for Education (DfE Report, 16/93), leading to a situation where some primary schools organise children into “ability” tables from as young as five.

Segregation was further exacerbated by the publishing of school league tables, whereby those who can afford to move house and flock to “achieving” schools and children of poor families are ghettoised into “failing” schools.

The claims by Education Secretary in Michael Gove to want to “raise standards” by using more rigorous inspections by the government inspection service Ofsted is a cynical lie. It is designed to “prove” that schools are failing, to put them into “special measures” and force them into becoming Academies as a precursor for the full scale privatisation of education in the UK.

This endgame is made abundantly clear by Cummings approval of Gove’s “reforms”. “Hopefully, it will push the English system towards one in which the state provides a generous amount of funding per pupil, which parents can spend in any school they wish, breaking down the barrier between private-state school, while the Department for Education does little more than some regulatory accountancy, and due diligence functions,” he wrote.

As is made clear by Labour’s latest embrace of privately-run Free Schools, all three of the major parties are in complete agreement that free comprehensive education for all should be a thing of the past. They agree that working class children should only be taught the minimum required to enable them to work cheaply and not question the conditions that are imposed on them.

US Federal Reserve continues massive subsidy for financial markets

By Andre Damon 

31 October 2013

The US Federal Reserve announced Wednesday that it will continue to inject $85 billion per month into the financial system, citing a lack of evidence that the economy is improving. It gave no indication that it intends to scale back its money-printing and bond-purchasing program, dubbed “quantitative easing,” anytime soon.

The Fed’s statement, following a meeting of its policy-making Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC), guarantees that its policy of radical monetary stimulus, which has fueled an ever-ascending stock market and record corporate profits, while doing virtually nothing to promote job or income growth for the vast majority of the population, will continue well into the new year.

US corporate profits, which hit a new record in the third quarter, have shot up 18.6 percent over the past year. As a result, corporate profits now make up a larger share of America’s gross domestic product than at any previous time in US history.

On the same day the central bank made clear it will continue its vast cash handouts to the banks, bipartisan talks began in Congress to slash the food stamp program beyond an automatic reduction in benefits that takes effect this Friday, and a House-Senate conference committee held its first formal meeting on a new budget that will further slash social programs.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke had signaled this summer that he would begin “tapering” the bond-buying program by the end of the year, triggering a sell-off on stock and bond markets in the US and internationally. At the Fed’s September meeting, Bernanke and the FOMC unexpectedly reversed course, backing away from talk of an early decrease in the scale of the stimulus.

President Obama’s nomination of Janet Yellen, the current vice chairman, to succeed Ben Bernanke as Fed chairman next year reinforced the message that the Federal Reserve would likely continue its asset purchases unchanged. The Federal Reserve has one remaining monetary policy meeting in 2013.

In its statement, the FOMC said that it “decided to await more evidence that progress will be sustained before adjusting the pace of its purchases.” It noted that the economy “continued to expand at a moderate pace,” but that the “recovery in the housing sector slowed somewhat in recent months.” It added, “Fiscal policy is restraining economic growth.”

The Fed’s announcement followed a string of lackluster reports on jobs and other economic indices. The US economy added 148,000 jobs in September, less than the number expected by economists and barely enough to keep up with population growth, according to the Labor Department’s employment report released last week. So far, the second half of 2013 has averaged 143,000 new jobs per month, compared to an average of 195,000 for the first half of the year, pointing to an economic slowdown.

Those figures did not take into account the effect of the 16-day government shutdown that began October 1, which is expected to drag down employment in next month’s jobs report.

Also on Wednesday, ADP, the payroll processor, reported that the US private sector added 130,000 jobs in October, significantly less than the 150,000 predicted in a Reuters poll of economists.

The New York Times bluntly summed up the state of the economy Wednesday, writing that “there is still little sign that the Fed has succeeded in stimulating job growth.” The newspaper continued: “The share of adults with jobs remains at roughly its post-recession nadir. The unemployment rate has fallen, but largely because fewer people are looking for jobs.”

Also on Wednesday, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released its latest figures on consumer prices, registering a significant slowdown in inflation. Over the past twelve months, consumer prices have risen only 1.2 percent, compared to the Federal Reserve’s nominal target of 2 percent.

Nine of the ten voting FOMC members voted in favor of continuing asset purchases at the present levels. Esther L. George, the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, dissented, warning that the Fed’s extraordinary money-printing operations could destabilize financial markets.

Two years since the end of the US-NATO war in Libya

31 October 2013

Today, October 31, 2013, marks two years since the official end of the US-NATO war for regime change in Libya. It is highly unlikely that this second anniversary will be marked with any fanfare in Washington, the capitals of Western Europe or Libya itself.

The nearly eight-month-long war achieved its goal of toppling the regime of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, whose murder by a mob of NATO-backed “rebels” prompted President Barack Obama to proclaim from the White House Rose Garden that this grisly event signaled the advent of “a new and democratic Libya.”

Two years later, there is no sign of any such Libya. The country bombarded by the US military and its European allies is in an advanced state of disintegration. It was reported Monday that oil production, which is responsible for virtually all of the country’s export earnings and over half of its gross domestic product, has fallen to 90,000 barrels per day, less than a tenth of the pre-war level.

Major installations have been seized by armed militias. In eastern Libya, these militias advocate the country’s partition into the three regional governorates—Cyrenaica, Tripolitania and Fezzan—maintained under the colonial regime of fascist Italy.

According to best estimates, there are nearly one-quarter of a million militiamen who are armed and paid by the Libyan government but operate with complete impunity under the direction of Islamist and regional warlords. The warlords constitute the principal power in the country.

Clashes between these militias, attacks on the government, and assassinations of its officials are routine. Earlier this month, Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan was himself abducted by an Islamist militia that acted in protest over the October 5 abduction of alleged Al Qaeda operative Abu Anas al-Liby by US Special Operations troops.

Thousands of Libyans as well as sub-Saharan African migrant workers are being held incommunicado in makeshift prisons controlled by the militias, subjected to torture and killings.

Conditions for the masses of the oil-rich nation remain abysmal, with a real unemployment rate estimated at over 30 percent. One million people, many of them supporters of the former regime, remain internally displaced.

The continuation of this chaos two years after the end of the war reflects the character of the war itself.

The US and its principal NATO allies, Britain and France, launched the war on the pretense that it was a humanitarian intervention, designed only to protect innocent lives. Based on unsubstantiated claims that a government massacre of a rebellious population in the eastern city of Benghazi was imminent without immediate intervention, the NATO powers pushed Resolution 1973 through the United Nations Security Council, authorizing them to impose a no-fly zone and “take all necessary measures” to protect civilians.

This served as the pseudo-legal fig leaf for an imperialist war of aggression that killed an estimated 50,000 Libyan civilians and wounded at least that number. This war was patently not about saving lives. Rather, it was a war of neocolonial plunder, its principal objective being to topple the Gaddafi regime and impose a more pliant puppet in its place.

Washington and its allies instigated the war in large measure as a strategic response to the outbreak of mass uprisings by the working class against Western-backed regimes in Tunisia, on Libya’s western border, and Egypt, on its eastern border. The aim was to halt the spread of revolution and reassert US and Western European hegemony in the region, while supplanting the economic and political influence of China and Russia and seizing a more direct hold on Libya’s energy reserves.

Of great significance is the fact that the attempt of the imperialist powers to mask the war’s neocolonial character was assisted by a whole layer of pseudo-left forces in both Europe and the US.

These elements, including groups such as the New Anti-capitalist Party (NPA) in France, the Socialist Workers Party in Britain and the International Socialist Organization in the US, cast the imperialist war against Libya as not merely a “humanitarian” intervention, but a “revolution” by the Libyans themselves.

These elements remain silent on the present-day state of Libya, and for good reason. The country’s disintegration into fiefdoms of rival militia warlords, the paralysis of its economy, and the poverty of its people are all proof that what they supported in Libya in 2011 was not a “revolution,” but an imperialist rape.

The regime that was placed in power enjoys no authority, precisely because it owes its office not to a popular revolutionary uprising, but to a sustained US-NATO bombing campaign, supplemented by the operations of Islamist militia forces, many of them connected to Al Qaeda, which served under the direction of US, British, French and Qatari special forces operatives as NATO’s ground troops.

Two years after the war in Libya, this same pseudo-left layer has continued to promote the imperialist intervention for regime-change in Syria—once again celebrating the machinations of the CIA, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey, together with the sectarian atrocities committed by Al Qaeda-led militias, as a “revolution.”

These groups use these wars to cement even closer connections to their own governments and ruling elites. Their politics—indistinguishable in all essentials from those of the CIA and the Obama administration—reflect the interests of a privileged upper-middle class layer that has become a new constituency for imperialism.

While the US-NATO war succeeded in toppling and murdering Gaddafi and reducing much of Libya to rubble, the imperialist aims of plundering the country’s oil wealth and turning it into a platform for US hegemony in the region are far from realized.

Reflecting deep concerns within US ruling circles and Washington’s intelligence agencies, Washington Post columnist David Ignatius wrote last week that Libya represented “a case study of why America’s influence has receded in the Middle East.” He indicted the Obama administration for having failed to take “steps over the past two years [that] might have limited the country’s descent toward anarchy.”

Meanwhile, two years after the withdrawal of American troops, Iraq is descending into civil war, with casualties approaching the record levels reached during the US occupation. In Syria, the Obama administration found itself compelled to retreat from the direct use of US military force in the face of overwhelming popular opposition both at home and abroad, driven by the immense hostility to the previous wars waged, in the interests of the financial oligarchy, on the basis of lies.

While this crisis has interfered with Washington’s timetable for war in Syria, in the final analysis, it makes even more catastrophic conflagrations not less, but more likely. This threat must be answered through the building of a new mass antiwar movement, based on the working class and directed against the capitalist profit system, the source of war and militarism.

Bill Van Auken

CIA’s Wash Post Leaks Aimed At Silencing Drone Critics

Spot the Whistleblowers: Follow the (Lack of) Money

The Saudi Arabian conundrum

By Mervyn Hosein 

Speaking Freely is an Asia Times Online feature that allows guest writers to have their say. Please click here if you are interested in contributing.

pev301013Saudi Arabia’s rejection of a Security Council seat on October 23 really is a brilliant piece of diplomatic subterfuge. In one fell swoop that country has censured its allies, earned approbation from leaders of banana republics, evoked appropriate noises of dismay from the less-knowledgeable masses and whitewashed itself of all previous and future sins.

No country “gets elected” to anything without having accepted nomination. The UN is largely a waste of time and money for the impotent and enslaved Fourth World countries that make up the vast majority of it 193 weak General (dis)Assembly members.

It is a stomping ground for the “Big Five” permanent elephants

with the UK and France as handmaidens of the sole controller, the US, and the rest of the First World countries more or less faithfully follow dictation like ardent poodles. They know full well that stepping out of line will cost much more than mere National Security Agency communications intercepts. 

For the irrelevant countries, getting a chance to secure a two-year, non-permanent, photo-op seat on the “‘head table” is a prized privilege requiring dexterous combinations of behind the scenes groveling and back-stabbing in the effort. For Saudi Arabia, to secure 176 of the 193 votes in that house was no mean feat of two-year lobbying. Despite the season, it is unlikely this was a gift dropped unannounced from heaven. 

That the UN is “riddled with double standards and had failed in the Middle East”, as the Saudi foreign ministry said in a statement published by the state news agency SPA, is absolutely true and cannot be faulted. The argument that this was a diplomatic rebuff in criticism of the UN’s failure to solve “the nearly three-year civil was in Syria and the protracted Palestinian-Israeli conflict” and to “turn the Middle East into a region free from weapons of mass destruction” was brilliant in its easily palatable logic and truth.

Less well advertised and kept largely unprintable by the enslaved is the role that that the rulers of this country have played in bringing about today’s unstoppable sectarian schism and by extension, ensuring that no Middle Eastern or Muslim country will ever again be able to stand on its own two feet.

Pakistan, the only other known regional nuclear power apart from Israel has been fighting this proxy war for decades. The historical US-Saudi funding of the country’s misery is now well documented.

The extermination of everything that does not fit into the Salafist mold now is bordering on genocide. Syria and Iran, “implacable enemies” of the House of Saud, remain the only other countries not yet totally bought or battered into submission.

Outside Israel and interestingly of no cause for world concern, Saudi Arabia is the largest possessor of US-supplied weaponry, with the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency announcing on October 11 the impending supply to that country of a further $6.8 billion worth of “various munitions and associated equipment, parts, training and logistical support”. Abu Dhabi is also receiving US$4.2 billion.

The obvious question: for what do they need these “weapons of mass destruction?” While every other Middle Eastern country has occasionally fought Israel but generally remain in perpetual attritional warfare with each other, Saudi Arabia despite its vast armory has never fought.

The only country the Saudis ever “invaded” and temporarily vanquished was neighboring Bahrain where they went to prop up another Sunni despot subjugating his essentially Shi’ite countrymen. With the well-planned and aided self-destruction going on in the Middle East, this country, its Gulf acolytes and Israel could conceivably remain in total political, religious, economic and militaristic control of the entire region. Unless someone throws a spanner in the works.

There are two very probable scenarios for the seat rejection. An interesting article by David Ignatius in the Washington Post, “The US-Saudi crack up reaches a dramatic tipping point”, argued, “when the US is exploring new policy initiatives, such as working with the Russians on dismantling chemical weapons in Syria and negotiating a possible nuclear deal with Iran. Those US policy initiatives are sound, in the view of many analysts, but they worry the Saudis and others.”

The author cites the Wall Street Journal, which claims that Prince Bandar “Bush” bin Sultan, a total hawk and recently brought back into favor as Saudi Arabia’s intelligence chief, describes this as “a message for the US not the UN”. The current rejection has probably even more strongly “reinforced US frustration that Riyadh is an ungrateful and petulant ally”.

Since Israel and Saudi Arabia want both Syria and Iran crushed, these countries will quietly pressure the US to continue its protection of the Riyadh monarchy. Since there is a symbiotic relationship between them, this is likely to be the extent of the public rebuke. Given the US’s control of the UN and its unfettered ability to re-write all internationally accepted laws and conventions, it is likely that Saudi pique is only a small part of the reason.

There is another, equally plausible but less obvious scenario. What would have happened if Saudi Arabia had taken up its two-year stint in the 15-seat Security Council? Barring the Russians, who have, to their credit, so far relatively protected Syria and Iran from the fate of Iraq and Afghanistan, and the shrewd Chinese, who remain inscrutably silent, none of the other non-permanent Security Council members is likely to strongly object to the continued US-Israeli spearheaded attempt to eliminate the only two remaining players in the Middle Eastern arena.

Syria and Iran have long been the “implacable enemy” for the Saudis, and Israel considers them an “existential threat”. Two years is a long time. With its monopoly on religious leadership and as the flag bearer of much of the rest of the ummah(community) where would Saudi Arabia stand when publicly asked to approve further crippling sanctions or direct attacks on fellow Muslim states?

Just as important, what would be the Saudi stand if Israel were again censured in the General Assembly and the festering Palestine issue of nationhood brought into the Security Council? What the Saudis do behind the scenes is one thing. For them to be seen openly aligning with “the Great Satan” and its allied retinue in the further destabilization of their avowed enemies would likely create great antagonism within the ummah.

Further, as one of the most repressive and misogynistic countries under the Western umbrella, what would be their position if embarrassing human-rights violations are slammed at them especially during their presidency month? Despite their despotic control of their people and US-Israeli protection, these issues could have serious, possibly fatal, repercussions for the House of Saud.

It is likely that the sudden rejection of the seat was a combination of three factors. An element of self-protective pragmatism, coupled with the opportunity to give a backhanded diplomatic slap to their erstwhile benefactors while yet receiving the most plus points for their “principled stand”. This is the best of all worlds!

Interestingly, the Arab head of the Arab League and the Turkish head of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) have fallen over themselves in defending the Saudis on the grounds that “Palestine and Syria have not been solved”. Perhaps they need to be asked why that thought arose only when Saudi Arabia was getting the “prestigious” seat and not in all the times over the years that other members of the 58 OIC and Arab League countries have played stooge for the big powers.

The day seems not far off when the House of Saud will be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for services above and beyond the call of duty in ensuring the continued hegemony of Israel, the US and its Western allies over the intellectual, mineral, economic, religious, political and social resources of all the countries between India and South Africa.

Speaking Freely is an Asia Times Online feature that allows guest writers to have their say. Please click here if you are interested in contributing. Articles submitted for this section allow our readers to express their opinions and do not necessarily meet the same editorial standards of Asia Times Online’s regular contributors. 

Mervyn Hosein is a Karachi-based surgeon.

(Copyright 2013 Mervyn Hosein)

Downward Development Spiral in the Arab World: Imperialist Hegemony and the Return of Merchant Capital

By Dr. Ali Kadri

Global Research, October 30, 2013

Middle-East-map2-400x277Capital in the Arab World (AW), viewed in its dimension of consuming and allocating resources, has edged close to a mercantilist mode of accumulation whose principal characteristic is the near absence of positive intermediation between private and public wealth – literally it leaves behind the progressive side of capitalism. The merchant mode of accumulation revolves around quick private gains and does not require productive reinvestment in society; the usurpation of value by financial means is a subsidiary outcome.

The practice of merchant capital mimics that of financial capital, in the sense that money is transmuted into money without much involvement in production processes: M-M’. Rentier or rent-grab maybe too general a categorisation; it is also something of a misnomer, meant to support an ad hominem (and faux-nationalist) argument which conceals the fact that value transfers away from the working classes in the AW are conducted by national as well as by US-led international financial capital. The resurrected merchant mode of accumulation is a reincarnation of medieval mercantilism in a modern guise and, as was pointed out quite early in the industrial age, ‘wherever merchant capital still predominates we find backward conditions,’ (Marx, vol. III, p. 327).[i] The degeneration in social and political rights, including the status of women, is a vivid manifestation of the social retrogression driven by the ebbing of industrial culture in much of the AW. The broader context from which this condemnation stems is as follows:

 The independent and predominant development of capital as merchant’s capital is tantamount to the non-subjection of production to capital, and hence to capital developing on the basis of an alien social mode of production which is also independent of it. The independent development of merchant’s capital, therefore, stands in inverse proportion to the general economic development of society (Marx, Capital, Vol. III, p327).

A qualification is in order to allow for the juxtaposition. Save slavery, imperialist aggression, and colonial genocide, the evolution from the merchant mode as Venetian traders began to control and own upstream cottage-scale or small manufacturing undertakings represented progress and a turning point in the organisation of social production around wage labour (Engels, 1891).[ii] Integrating the merchant mode with an industrial one designated a cultural step forward— culture here meaning the universal store of humanity’s knowledge. The AW has de-industrialised under the combined effects of war and neoliberalism. What has occurred in the AW is the gradual disengagement of national industrial capital from commercial capital, after which commerce bereft of industrialisation became the dominant mode. Value usurpation policies, inherently uneven development, blocking the homogenisation of labour, and value grab by imperialist conquest are some of the processes that have underpinned the resurrection of merchant capital in this instance. Here I am relying on Meszaros’ notion that capital as a social relationship regulates its metabolic rate of reproduction in relation to value destruction/grab and value creation, albeit within a context of class struggle and its associated power structure (Meszaros, 1995).[iii]

The case can be generalised in the sense that the security-exposed states of Africa and the AW fall on the “destruction/grab” side of capital as a historical process, and dividedness becomes the defining feature of the their historical subjects, that is, the class alliance of merchants with US-led capital that shape their history. Another distinction/qualification arises between a comprador class and a dominant class that commandeers merchant-capital processes. Whereas a nationalist bourgeoisie differs from a comprador class according to whether the sphere of accumulation and its money-circuit are nationally or internationally linked respectively, the merchant-capital leading class is more fully fused with international financial capital because its concrete activities are inclined to short-term investment wherein the costs of plant removal are also negligible. The merchant class wealth is mostly held in dollars, so it becomes one with US-led capital in the dollar – aptly called the universal form.

It is not just that the rate of imports is nearly at half of income in the AW; merchant capital obeys its international financial counterpart in many areas. Apart from buying abroad and selling at home, its principal endeavours at home are in the speculative areas of a FIRE economy (finance, investment and real estate). The merchant class has little to lose from forfeiting its production base in the home economy. It taps into national resources (national assets and foreign exchange earnings) by speculation, devalorisation of national assets, and the sale of imports to the national economy. This merchant class does not contribute in any significant way to the development of national working classes. These merchant-capital leading classes are either detached from the process of industry within or exhibit an ephemeral link to it.

The pressures of imperialist hegemony and the instilling of the merchant mode have together reinforced the downward (de-)development spiral. Apart from losing major wars that restructured society, there was a prevalence of geopolitical rents from the Gulf states that contributed to de-industrialising more advanced economies, such as Syria and Egypt.  The AW thus became an economy that could not for structural reasons produce jobs, and where profits without effort had gripped the ruling-class mindset. In this context, cheapening life and reducing people to commodities became part of the shift to the merchant mode and the value usurpation process. For the Arab working class, this is a process that religious alienation—imaginary projection of the causation of worldly misery onto a supernatural power—can only momentarily redeem. As working people endure harsher conditions, it appears that the Islamisation of political life offers a short-lived reprieve to the merchant ruling class. However, in the absence of a socialising alternative (land reform, protectionism and egalitarian distribution) toward which popular movements can strive, political uprisings need not imply progress.

Alongside imperialist bellicosity, the merchant mode of accumulation obstructs integrative transformation, both nationally and regionally. It supplants the basis for a social contract. Mal-distribution and the near-absence of positive intermediation between private and public wealth remove the welfare base for working class autonomy and, hence, national integration as well. Under the merchant mode, the private sphere develops a necrotrophic relationship with the social sphere.

Another qualification is in order as well because some industrial economies behave as mercantilist. Present-day exporting industrial superpowers such as Germany are dubbed ‘mercantilist’ in the sense that they often exhibit a trade surplus. But the AW is not and has never been as industrial as Germany.  German mercantilism, or Chinese for that matter, is the commerce of industry selling its products and accumulating a trade surplus consistently over time. The Arab merchant mode is principally about taking raw or semi-raw products out of the nation states and selling them abroad and or importing manufactured goods for sale at home. Alongside chattel slavery, nationalisms laced with racism, and colonial genocide, it was European mercantilists who engaged wage labour in industry and  introduced technology and a complex division of labour. In this way they initiated the wealth-making process of capitalism circa 1500 AD. Mercantilists, under the global pressure of rising trade volumes, engaged wage labour in industry to meet the demands of the world market. In the AW, however, de-industrialisation, regime stabilisation spending derived from oil or geopolitical revenues, and the rise of informal or low-productivity service activity laid the foundation for the new material basis of social relationships. The subjugation of national capital to norms of financial capital, whose activity is centred on money exchange, also accelerates and shortens the duration of the turnover of profits in the national economy. Where Arab industrial and merchant capital did remain tied to each other, that is where industry survived as the leading mode, the space for their joint activities to produce and sell at home or abroad accounted for a puny portion of total income under neoliberalism.

Arab share of high-technology exports from total manufactured exports in the Arab World is at around one to two percentage points, below the rank of sub-Saharan Africa—including South Africa, which is around 5 percent (WDI, various years). In any case, if one excludes the very small Gulf population from total Arab population, Arabs would compose 5 percent of world population earning around one percent of world income. This is not very different from the Sub-Saharan share of income. International financial capital, by hindering the homogenisation of labour (the bridging of wage gaps) and by value grab by imperialist conquest, assisted the ascent of merchant capital in the AW. Capital, to be sure, did not forfeit its absolute general law of development. When the Africa and the AW are considered as an integrated part of the planet the heights of prosperity meet the depth of dislocation.

Imperialist hegemony and the merchant mode are interrelated; they reinforce each other. However, imperialist assault is the underlying historical moment around which all other moments coalesce. The merchant mode of accumulation sets in motion anti-integrationist dynamics. It splinters. If a scale of reference serves to illustrate the point, it divides according to the magnitude of merchant capital subordination to US-led financial capital. Furthermore, the merchant mode requires little expansion in productive capacity or synchronisation of human skills with expanding technology. Merchant capital can easily foment a civil war in the nation state to further the interests of its dominant international partner.

The conventional wisdom posits that oil and geopolitical revenues in the Arab World are unearned incomes. That is a fallacious and misleading claim. These incomes are earned at tremendous social and environmental costs to the working classes; capital accumulation begins with the bombardment of the ex-colonies and human losses in war and the demobilisation of resources are incurred by society as a whole. The reified nation state confounds oppressor with oppressed. The joint loot of the Arab ruling classes and their international financial patrons is unearned income; however, the rest the Arabs—the street vendors, the unemployed, the poverty-and-war–stricken populations—have more than earned their share.

As the merchant mode governs social activity, oil and geopolitical revenues are mainly spent on increasing imports, domestic pacification, and foreign assets. These measures address US-led imperialist objectives that thrive on the pauperisation and disempowerment of Arab working classes. A disempowered working class imparts its insecurity at the national level and boosts imperialist hegemony. In the integrated web of global production, national boundaries can no longer disguise the fact that capital draws on a huge pool of global resources. The idleness of Arab resources is closely tied to the central crisis of overproduction. Deductively, wealth is humanity’s wealth and, conversely, working class de-integration in the AW is the heavy price paid for the unearned income of their ruling-class alliance. More important, the re-empowerment of Arab working classes could dent the hegemony of the US alliance over a region in which they enjoy ‘the freedom of action — notably military action — that is almost unparalleled globally’ (Levy, 2103).[iv]




[ii] Capital Volume III, Supplement, by Frederick Engels,

[iii]Mészáros, I. (1995) ‘BEYOND CAPITAL: Toward a Theory of Transition’, Monthly Review Press, viewed on 17 August 2013

[iv] Daniel Levy, Maximum Bibi, Peace in the Middle East? Not if Benjamin Netanyahu has anything to say about it. Foreign Policy,  2013.

NATO reform strengthens Germany’s role

By Sven Heymann 

30 October 2013

Though coalition talks between the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and Social Democratic Party (SPD) have only just begun, Defence Minister Thomas de Maizière has already presented a new plan for NATO.

It envisages Germany assuming a leading role in the military alliance. Only six weeks after the federal election, it is clear that the new government will have a far more aggressive foreign policy, seeking to lead the country back into the ranks of the major military powers.

The proposal of de Maizière, who is currently defense minister until a new government is formed, was accepted by a meeting of NATO defence ministers in Brussels last week. It proposes that member states develop and finance their military capabilities collectively rather than independently, before making them available to the entire alliance. For this purpose, an undetermined number of countries will be brought together in “clusters”, each of which will be led by a responsible nation.

Along with countries like Britain, France and Italy, Germany is to assume such a leading role for the smaller member states. Under the direction of the leading states, the aim is the development of joint projects. This could include arms production or joint command centres. Plans for the joint fuelling of planes while they are airborne, or arms trading, are also reportedly under consideration. The model is the division of occupied Afghanistan into several regional military commands.

For years, German imperialism remained somewhat reluctant to engage militarily. The Afghan mission was sold in 2001 as a humanitarian operation to dig wells. The word “war” was considered taboo in official politics for years. After opposing the Iraq war in 2003, Berlin subsequently abstained when NATO attacked Libya in 2011. This is now viewed as a serious mistake, which cannot be repeated under any circumstances.

The German bourgeoisie and leading business interests now view more aggressive German participation in future military interventions as essential. In February, it was announced that major German corporations had formed an alliance for raw materials to press the German government to secure trade routes and access to raw materials.

While the parties held back during the election campaign for tactical reasons, there is not a day that goes past without commentary in the media calling for German intervention in Syria. In the weeks since the federal elections, the Left Party has also announced its support for military operations by the German army.

Besides German economic interests, the “precarious situation of the United States” also plays an important role in the NATO reform, Spiegel Onlinewrites. In the past, the virtually unlimited US defence budget secured for the US military a leading role in NATO. However, given its economic and financial crisis and the increasing number of US wars and military interventions, Washington is calling for more support and a spreading of responsibilities among the different NATO powers.

Berlin views the United States’ decline as an opportunity to assume a more prominent role in NATO and in future wars. Only in August, a bombardment of Syria by the United States and its allies seemed unavoidable. However, the unexpectedly strong opposition by the American population blocked the plans of the Obama administration. Instead the United States made an agreement with Russia, cutting across the interests of France and Saudi Arabia.

Representatives of other states praised de Maizière’s reform proposal for NATO. British Defence Minister Phillip Hammond spoke of a “good initiative.” Britain and above all the United States have repeatedly called for Germany to play a stronger military role for years, because their own military capacities have regularly been stretched to the limit by Middle East wars. NATO General Secretary Anders Fogh Rasmussen also thanked de Maizière’s state secretary for the German initiative.

Although at first glance the proposal appears to intensify cooperation within NATO, it will in the final analysis deepen the tensions between the major powers. As “insiders” explained on the side-lines of the defence ministers’ meeting, the new strategy could lead to competition between the arms industries of the leading states. If a particular weapons system is developed under one major power, it is likely that the other member states in that cluster would buy it.

France supported the German proposal only at the last minute. Along with its increasing rivalry with Germany, France repeatedly raised the question of whether smaller states in a German-led cluster could rely on Germany to lead responsibly. Germany had in the past been very reluctant to intervene, and the sending of troops always was dependent on a parliamentary vote, they pointed out.

There are several discussions within the German bourgeoisie over the parliamentary restriction.

The parliamentary restriction is one of the last remaining limitations which is placed on the German army. Although the army belongs to the executive branch of government in Germany, it is actually a parliamentary army, since troop deployments must be approved by a majority of the federal parliament. Like France, other allies see this as a barrier to Germany’s reliability as a state with leading responsibilities in NATO.

In an opinion piece entitled “parliamentary army and alliance capabilities” by the SWP think-tank, Ekkehard Brose, the ministerial director in the office for foreign affairs, pointed to the current dilemma for German foreign policy last month. In order to be able to play a leading role within the structures of NATO in the future, he suggested limiting the parliamentary restriction. The participation of German soldiers in reconnaissance and its responsibility to lead should be “secured by law, without regard to the specific case.”

Brose’s proposal aims to effectively guarantee of the participation of the German army in future wars. In the reform of parliamentary powers which he demands, the parliament would be stripped of all powers except that of deciding to withdraw troops from war zones.

Defence minister de Maizière made a similar suggestion during the first round of coalition talks with the SPD. CDU deputy parliamentary leader Andreas Schockenhoff stated that military operations carried out within the framework of the EU should be exempt from parliamentary authorisation, so that the government could decide on them alone.

Although the SPD responded dismissively at first, with General Secretary Andrea Nahles stating that the parliament’s power to decide would not be altered, they do not have a principled stance against the proposal. Only last year, SPD chairman Sigmar Gabriel suggested that the Social Democrats could make concessions. One had to be prepared to give up sovereignty step by step in the areas of security and defence policy, he explained at the Petersburg dialogue.

The previous defence spokesman for the SPD parliamentary group, Rainer Arnold, was more explicit on his party’s stance. Although he opposed a reduction of the authority of parliament, he also tried to allay doubts of Germany’s NATO allies as to its reliability. In any case, the German parliament would be ready to vote within two or three days, which would be much quicker than troops could actually be sent, he said.

De Maizière’s NATO reform plan and the debate on lifting parliamentary control over military missions are bound up with Germany’s increasingly aggressive foreign and military policy. In the face of the increasingly aggressive approach to foreign policy and the domestic attacks on the social and democratic rights of the population, the future government will come into sharp conflict with the working class. They will act just as ruthlessly towards the population at home as their soldiers do abroad as soon as the class struggle takes on a more open form.

The global NSA spying scandal

30 October 2013

Over the course of the past week, the Obama administration has been rocked by an escalating international diplomatic scandal sparked by a new series of leaks from Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor-turned whistleblower.

At the heart of the crisis is the exposure of an American intelligence apparatus that operates without any legal constraints, international or domestic. Thanks to these and previous revelations from Snowden, the world now has concrete evidence that the NSA sweeps up communications records—including telephone calls and emails—of hundreds of millions of people all over the world.

While European governments have shown little concern about NSA spying on their own populations—and, indeed, have collaborated with the US in this—reports that the NSA has been wiretapping German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s personal cell phone have produced warnings of a rupture in US-German relations. The monitoring began in 2002, when Merkel was still in the opposition as the chairperson of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU).

At least 34 other international leaders have been similarly targeted. German newspapers have reported that this list includes Merkel’s predecessor, Gerhard Schröder, who was monitored after his government came out in 2002 against the planned US invasion of Iraq.

Once again, top officials in the US government have been caught in blatant lies, including the president himself. Obama has declared that he was unaware that his administration’s own spy agencies were monitoring the communications of Merkel and other foreign leaders. An article Tuesday in the Los Angeles Times, however, cites sources within the NSA who insist that reports of any such wiretapping had to have been submitted directly to the White House and the National Security Council.

The entire policy of the American ruling class, at home and abroad, is based on a mountain of lies. It is involved in a permanent conspiracy against the democratic rights of the population. The exposure of these lies has the most far-reaching political implications.

An article appearing in the latest edition of Foreign Affairs, one of the major journals of the foreign policy establishment, suggests that the pervasiveness of leaks is undermining a central premise of Washington’s “soft power”—namely, “its ability to act hypocritically and get away with it.”

In order for the international political system to function under the domination of the US, George Washington University political science professors Henry Farrell and Martha Finnemore argue, “US officials must regularly promote and claim fealty to its core liberal principles… But as the recent leaks have shown, Washington is also unable to consistently abide by the values that it trumpets.”

The leaks from Snowden and Chelsea (Bradley) Manning are, they write, part of “an accelerating hypocrisy collapse—a dramatic narrowing of the country’s room to maneuver between its stated aspirations and its sometimes sordid pursuit of self-interests.”

Farrell and Finnemore conclude with the hope that the political crisis created by the leaks will persuade the American government to bring its policies closer into line with its rhetoric, including a reversal in the expansion of the “national security state.”

Yet the fundamental source of the hypocrisy of the American government lies not in subjective policy decisions, but in the objective conflict between the interests that this government represents—namely, those of a small and fantastically wealthy layer of the corporate and financial elite—and the interests of the vast majority of the population, within and outside the United States.

Democracy is not compatible with a policy of world domination through military violence and the unprecedented levels of social inequality that prevail within the United States. The American ruling class spies on everyone because it sees everyone as a potential enemy. Abroad, it is determined to assert control over every region of the world and undermine every potential competitor. Within the United States, it is well aware that its policies of war and social counterrevolution are creating the conditions for mass social opposition.

There is no constituency within the American political establishment or military-intelligence apparatus that retains any commitment to democratic rights. Amidst the various proposals from the Obama administration and Democratic and Republican politicians for “reviews” of the spying programs—including from the likes of Senator Dianne Feinstein, a staunch defender of the NSA who has denounced Snowden as a “traitor”—there is no suggestion that the spying programs be dismantled, or that those responsible for the systematic violation of the constitutionally enumerated rights of the population be prosecuted.

Meanwhile, those who have exposed government crimes have been hounded and persecuted. Manning is in prison, after having been detained and subjected to abuse amounting to torture by the Obama administration. Snowden is in exile in Russia. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is trapped in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, the target of a secret grand jury indictment. Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald faces threats and denunciations, while his partner has been seized and interrogated at a British airport.

The mentality of a police state pervades official political circles, in the US and internationally. The statement of NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander that “we ought to come up with a way of stopping” press reports was echoed Monday by British Prime Minister David Cameron, who declared before parliament that the press must demonstrate “social responsibility” or “it will be very difficult for government to stand back and not act.”

Such reactions are born out of the well-reasoned fear that the exposures by Snowden and others have fatally undermined the credibility of the ruling class and its state. Unable to defend its social system through persuasion, the ruling class resorts to lies, threats and violence.

The social constituency for the defense of democratic rights is the working class. The exposures have done much to raise popular awareness and harden opposition. This sentiment must be turned into a conscious political movement of the American and international working class against the capitalist system, the source of war, social inequality and dictatorship.

Joseph Kishore

NSA Stores Data to Target Any Citizen at Any Time – Greenwald


October 29, 2013 “Information Clearing House – “RT” — The current revelations on the NSA’s spying are just the tip of the iceberg and affect “almost every country in the world,” said Glenn Greenwald. He stressed the NSA stores data for “as long as it can,” so they can target a citizen whenever they want.

Glenn Greenwald, the man behind the reports on the NSA global spy program, spoke to El Mundo journalist German Aranda and stressed that the US espionage activities went much further than just Europe.

“There are a lot of countries, and journalists in a lot of different countries, who have been asking for stories and to work on documents for a long time,” Greenwald said. He added that he was working as fast as possible to “make sure that all of these documents get reported in every single country there are documents for, which is most countries in the world.”

Shedding light on the NSA’s motives in compiling metadata on citizens, he said the spy organization’s main aim was to store the information to be able to dip into it whenever necessary.

“The very clear objective of the NSA is not just to collect all this, but to keep it for as long as they can,” said Greenwald.

“So they can at any time target a particular citizen of Spain or anywhere else and learn what they’ve been doing, in terms of who they have been communicating with.”
‘Preparing the terrain’

Referencing reports leaked from former CIA worker Edward Snowden regarding the millions of phone calls tapped by the NSA in the EU, German Aranda stated that French reaction was “important to prepare the terrain in Spain.”

“With all the countries around Europe and around the world, it will be the same. The more countries [that] see documents about them, the more interest the other countries will have to see what is happening with them,” said Aranda.

Last week the Spanish Prime Minister, Manuel Rajoy, summoned the US Ambassador to account for the reports of spying, echoing the reactions of France, Germany and a handful of other countries. Spain has so far resisted calls from Germany to sign an EU no-spying treaty against the US in the wake of the revelations; however this may be set to change.

“As in previous occasions, we’ve asked the U.S. ambassador to give the government all the necessary information on an issue which, if it was to be confirmed, could break the climate of trust that has traditionally been the one between our two countries,” said Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo, at a joint news conference in Warsaw last week.

In response to European leaders’ furor over NSA espionage, the White House has launched an internal review into the NSA’s activities. The EU Parliament has also threatened to halt the sharing of data on the SWIFT banking system, which provides information on the transfer of funds by suspected terrorists.

A delegation from the EU parliament is currently in Washington to discuss what has been described as a “breakdown in trust” between traditional allies.

The Obama administration earlier said the controversial intelligence gathering procedures that have attracted international scrutiny in recent months may require “additional constraints.” White House spokesperson Jay Carney said that a “number of efforts [are] underway that are designed to increase transparency.”

Brave New World

By Patrick J. Buchanan 

October 29, 2013 “Information Clearing House –  The first reports in early May of 1960 were that a U.S. weather plane, flying out of Turkey, had gone missing.

A silent Moscow knew better. After letting the Americans crawl out on a limb, expatiating on their cover story, Russia sawed it off.

Actually, said Nikita Khrushchev, we shot down a U.S. spy plane 1000 miles inside our country flying over a restricted zone.

We have the pilot, we have the camera, we have the pictures. We have the hollow silver dollar containing the poisoned-tipped needle CIA pilot Francis Gary Powers declined to use.

Two weeks later, Khrushchev used the U-2 incident and Ike’s refusal to apologize to dynamite the Paris summit and the gauzy Spirit of Camp David that had come out of his ten-day visit to the USA.

Eisenhower’s reciprocal trip to Russia was now dead.

A year later, President Kennedy would be berated by Khrushchev in Vienna. The Berlin Wall would go up. And Khrushchev would begin secretly to install nuclear missiles in Cuba, 90 miles from Key West.

Had there been no U-2 incident, would the history of the Cold War have been different? Perhaps.

Yet, while there were critics of launching Power’s U-2 flight so close to the summit, Americans understood the need for espionage. Like us, the Soviets were installing ballistic missiles, every single one of which could incinerate an American city.

Post 9/11, too, Americans accepted the necessity for the National Security Agency to retrieve and sift through phone calls and emails to keep us secure from terror attacks. Many have come to accept today’s risks of an invasion of their privacy — for greater security for their family.

And there remains a deposit of trust among Americans that the NSA, the CIA and the Defense Intelligence Agency are not only working for us, they are defending us.

How long Americans will continue to repose this trust, however, is starting to come into question.

Last week, we learned that a high official of the U.S. government turned 200 private phone numbers of 35 friendly foreign leaders, basically the Rolodex of the president, over to the NSA for tapping and taping.

Allied leaders, with whom America works toward common goals, have for years apparently had their private conversations listened to, transcribed and passed around by their supposed U.S. friends.

Angela Merkel has apparently been the subject of phone taps since before she rose to the leadership of Germany and Europe. A victim of the East German Stasi, Ms. Merkel is not amused.

We are told not to be na‹ve; everyone does it. Spying, not only between enemies but among allies, is commonplace.

This is how the world works. Deal with it.

But why are we doing this? Is it all really about coping with the terrorist threat? Or is it because we have the ability to do it, and the more information we have, even stolen surreptitiously from friends and allies, the better? Gives us a leg up in the great game of nations.

U.S. diplomats say that one of their assignments abroad is to know what the host government is thinking and planning politically, economically, strategically. That this is an aspect of diplomacy.

But relations among friendly nations are not unlike the NFL. While films are taken of rival teams’ games and studied, scouts observe practices, and rumors are picked up of injuries, there are lines that most opposing NFL teams do not cross.

The lines of unethical conduct and criminality.

To learn that an owner or coach of one NFL franchise had wiretapped the home phones of coaches and players of a Super Bowl rival would, if revealed, be regarded as rotten business.

What kind of camaraderie, cooperation or friendship can endure in an environment where constant snooping on one’s closest friends is accepted practice?

In the Nixon White House, there were serious leaks that revealed our secret bombing of Communist sanctuaries in Cambodia to protect our troops, and of our fallback position in the strategic arms talks.

Wiretaps were planted on aides to Henry Kissinger and White House staffers who had no knowledge of what had been leaked.

Relationships were altered, some poisoned for a lifetime.

Why should we not expect a similar reaction among foreign friends who discover their personal and political secrets have been daily scooped up and filed by their American friends, and found their way into the president’s daily intelligence brief?

The Cold War was a clash of ideologies and empires for the future of the world. Men took drastic measures to preserve what they had. At the end of the Cold War, the old tactics and measures were not set aside, but improved upon, and now are no longer restricted for use against the likes of al-Qaida, but against allies.

At the Cold War’s end, the late Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick talked hopefully of America becoming again “a normal country in a normal time.” Seems as though the normal times are never coming back.

Patrick J. Buchanan is the author of “Suicide of a Superpower: Will America Survive to 2025?”

Ignored Reality Is Going To Wipe Out the Human Race

By Paul Craig Roberts

October 29, 2013 “Information Clearing House –   To inform people is hard slugging. Everything is lined up against the public being informed, or the policymakers for that matter. News is contaminated by its service to special interests and hidden agendas. Many scientists or their employers are dependent on federal money. Even psychologists and anthropologists were roped into the government’s torture and occupation programs. Economists tell lies for corporations and Wall Street. Plant and soil scientists tell lies for agribusiness and Monsanto. Truth tellers are slandered and persecuted. However, persistence can eventually win out. In the long-run, truth sometimes emerges. But not always. And not always in time.

I have been trying to inform the American people, economists, and policymakers for more than a decade about the adverse impacts of jobs offshoring on the US economy. The word has eventually gotten out. Last week I was contacted by 8th grade students competing for their school in CSPAN’s StudentCam Documentary Contest. They want to interview me on the subject of jobs offshoring for their documentary film.

America is a strange place. Here are eighth graders far ahead of the economics profession, the President, the Congress, the Federal Reserve, Wall Street, and the financial press in their understanding of one of the fundamental problems of the US economy. Yet, people say the public schools are failing. Obviously, not the one whose students contacted me.

Is it too late? I know much, but not all. So this is not the final word. I think it might be too late. When skilled jobs are sent abroad, the skills disappear at home. So do the supply chains and the businesses associated with the skills. Things close down, and abilities are lost. Why take a major in collage for a job that is offshored. A culture disappears.

But we can start them back up, right? Perhaps not. When a First World country exports its technology and know-how abroad to a Third World country in order to benefit from lower cost labor, how does the First World country get the work back? Living standards and the cost of living in Third World countries are much lower than in First World countries. The populations of First World countries cannot pay their mortgages, car payments, student loans, medical care, and grocery bills with the wages of Third World countries.

When First World wages drop, mortgage, car, credit card, and student loan payments do not drop. Americans cannot live on Chinese, Indian, and Indonesian wages. Once the technology and know-how is transferred, the low wage country has the advantage in the absence of tariff protection.

For America to revive, our economy would have to be walled off with high tariffs, and subsidies would have to be provided in order to recreate US industry and manufacturing. But many corporations now produce offshore, and America is broke. The government has been $1 trillion dollars in the hole each year for the last 5 years.

Jobs offshoring diminished the US tax base. When a job is sent abroad, so is that job’s contribution to US GDP and tax base. When millions of jobs are sent abroad, US GDP and tax base cannot support government spending levels. To the extent that there are any replacement jobs, they are in lowly paid domestic services, such as waitresses, bartenders, retail clerks, and hospital orderlies. These jobs do not provide a tax base or consumer spending power comparable to manufacturing jobs and tradable professional services such as software engineering and information technology.

Republicans and increasingly Democrats, as both parties are dependent on the same sources of campaign contributions, blame “entitlements.” By entitlements they mean welfare.

In fact, entitlements consist of Social Security and Medicare. Entitlements are funded by the payroll tax, approximately 15% of payroll. The fact that a person pays the payroll tax all his working life is why the person is entitled to Social Security and Medicare if they live to retirement age. Welfare, such as food stamps and housing subsidies, are a small part of the federal budget and are not entitlements.

Every since President Reagan was betrayed three decades ago by Alan Greenspan and David Stockman, both of whom sold out to Wall Street and raised the Social Security payroll tax above what was needed to pay Social Security benefits in order to protect Wall Street’s stock and bond portfolios from exaggerated deficit fears, Social Security payroll tax revenues have exceeded Social Security payments. As of today, Social Security revenues exceed payments to beneficiaries by an accumulated $2 trillion. The money was used by the federal government to pay for its wars and other spending programs. The Social Security Trust Fund holds non-marketable IOUs from the Treasury. These IOUs can only be made good from an excess of tax revenues over expenditures or by the Treasury selling $2 trillion in bonds, notes, and bills and paying off its IOUs to the Social Security Trust Fund. This is not going to happen.

The Federal Reserve could not care less about the US population. The Fed was established for the purpose of protecting and aiding banks. Currently, the Fed, as if America were a Banana Republic which America appears to be becoming, is printing one thousand billion dollars per year in order to support the banks and to finance the federal deficit.

This is bad news for Americans, as it means that their fiat money is being created at a far greater rate than the demand for the dollar. The implication for our future is a drop in the dollar’s value. As there are no jobs, a drop in the dollar’s value means high inflation on top of unemployment and double the misery of the Great Depression.

As bad as this is, it is minor compared to the destruction of the planet’s environment. Online information shows that the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem is in crisis after the BP spill and use of Corexit, a dispersant used to hide, not clean up, the spilled oil.

The Fukushima catastrophe has hardly begun. Yet already the radioactive water pouring into the Pacific Ocean has made fish dangerous to eat unless a person is willing to accept a higher risk of cancer.

Fukushima has the potential of making Japan uninhabitable and of polluting the air, water, and soil of the US with radioactivity. Yet the crisis is seldom mentioned in the US media. In Japan the government just passed a law that could be used to imprison Japanese journalists who report truthfully on the dire situation.

Take the time to familiarize yourself with the online information about Fukushima.. According to the presstitute media, Americans face threats from Iran and Syria and from whistleblowers such as Edward Snowden. The real threats are simply not in the news.

If you search Fukushima, you will find information that the presstitute media hides from you. See for example,

There are a number of other threats to the environment on which our lives depend. One is the effort to extract more productivity from the soil by use of GMOs. Monsanto has altered the genes of several crops so that the crops can be sprayed with RoundUp to eliminate weeds. The results have been to deplete the soil of nutrients, to destroy the micro-biology of the soil so that new plant diseases and funguses are activated, and to produce superweeds that require heavier doses of the glyphosate in RoundUp. The heavier dose of RoundUp worsens the aforementioned problems. US agricultural soil is losing its potency.

Now we come to chemtrails, branded another “conspiracy theory.” However, the US government’s efforts to geo-engineer weather as a military weapon and as a preventative of global warming appear to be real. The DARPA and HAARP programs are well known and are discussed publicly by scientists. See, for example, Search Chemtrails, and you will find much information that is kept from you. See, for example, and 

Some describe chemtrails as a plot by the New World Order, the Rothchilds, the Bilderbergers, or the Masons, to wipe out the “useless eaters.” Given the amount of evil that exists in the world, these conspiracy theories might not be as farfetched as they sound.

However, I do not know that. What does seem to be possibly true is that the scientific experiments to modify and control weather are having adverse real world consequences. The claim that aluminum is being sprayed into the atmosphere and when it comes to earth is destroying the ability of soil to be productive might not be imaginary. Those concerned about chemtrails say that weather control experiments have deprived the western United States of rainfall, while sending the rain to the east where there have been hurricane level deluges and floods.

In the West, sparse rainfall and lightening storms without rain are resulting in forests drying out and burning down. Deforestation adversely affects the environment in many ways, including the process of photosynthesis by which trees convert carbon dioxide into oxygen. The massive loss of forests means more carbon dioxide and less oxygen. Watershed and species habitat are lost, and spreading aridity further depletes ground and surface water. If these results are the consequences of weather modification experiments, the experiments should be stopped.

In North Georgia where I spend some summers, during 2013 it rained for 60 consecutive days, not all day, but every day, and some days the rainfall was 12 inches–hurricane level–and roads were washed out. I received last summer 4 automated telephone warnings from local counties not to drive and not to attempt to drive through accumulations of water on the highways.

One consequence of the excess of water in the East is that this year there are no acorns in North Georgia. Zilch, zero, nada. Nothing. There is no food for the deer, the turkeys, the bear, the rodents. Starving deer will strip bark from the trees. Bears will be unable to hibernate or will be able only to partially hibernate, forced to seek food from garbage. Black bears are already invading homes in search of food.

Unusual drought in the West and unusual flood in the East could be coincidental or they could be consequences of weather modification experiments.

The US, along with most of the world, already had a water problem prior to possible disruptions of rainfall by geo-engineering. In his book, Elixir, Brian Fagan tells the story of humankind’s mostly unsuccessful struggle with water. Both groundwater and surface water are vanishing. The water needs of large cities, such as Los Angeles and Phoenix, and the irrigation farming that depends on the Ogallala aquifer are unsustainable. Fagan reminds us that “the world’s supply of freshwater is finite,” just like the rest of nature’s resources. Avoiding cataclysm requires long-range thinking, but humanity is focused on immediate needs. Long-range thinking is limited to finding another water source to deplete. Cities and agriculture have turned eyes to the Great Lakes.

Los Angeles exists because the city was able to steal water from hundreds of miles away. The city drained Owens Lake, leaving a huge salt flat in its place, drained the Owens Valley aquifer, and diverted the Owens River to LA via aqueduct. Farming and ranching in the Owens Valley collapsed. Today LA takes water from the Colorado River, which originates in Wyoming and Colorado, and from Lake Perris 440 miles away.

Water depletion is not just an American problem. Fagan reports that “underground aquifers in many places are shrinking so rapidly that NASA satellites are detecting changes in the earth’s gravity.”

If the government is experimenting with weather engineering, scientists are playing God when they have no idea of the consequences. It is a tendency of scientists to become absorbed by the ability to experiment and to ignore unintended consequences.

Readers have asked me to write about Fukushima and chemtrails because they trust me to tell them the truth. The problem is that I am not qualified to write about these matters with anything approaching the same confidence that I bring to economic, war and police state matters.

The only advice I can give is that when you hear the presstitute media smear a concern or explanation as “conspiracy theory,” have a closer look. The divergence between what is happening and what you are told is so vast that it pays to be suspicious, cynical even, of what “your” government and “your” presstitute media tell you. The chances are high that it is a lie.

Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Economic Policy and associate editor of the Wall Street Journal. He was columnist for Business Week, Scripps Howard News Service, and Creators Syndicate. He has had many university appointments. His internet columns have attracted a worldwide following. His latest book, The Failure of Laissez Faire Capitalism and Economic Dissolution of the West is now available.

Naomi Klein: How Science is Telling Us All To Revolt

Is our relentless quest for economic growth killing the planet? Climate scientists have seen the data – and they are coming to some incendiary conclusions.

By Naomi Klein

Waste land: large-scale irrigation strips nutrients from the soil, scars the landscape and could alter climactic conditions beyond repair. Image: Edward Burtynsky, courtesy Nicholas Metivier Gallery, Toronto/ Flowers, London, Pivot Irrigation #11 High Plains, Texas Panhandle, USA (2011)

October 29, 2013 “Information Clearing House – “New Statesman” — In December 2012, a pink-haired complex systems researcher named Brad Werner made his way through the throng of 24,000 earth and space scientists at the Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union, held annually in San Francisco. This year’s conference had some big-name participants, from Ed Stone of Nasa’s Voyager project, explaining a new milestone on the path to interstellar space, to the film-maker James Cameron, discussing his adventures in deep-sea submersibles.

But it was Werner’s own session that was attracting much of the buzz. It was titled “Is Earth F**ked?” (full title: “Is Earth F**ked? Dynamical Futility of Global Environmental Management and Possibilities for Sustainability via Direct Action Activism”).

Standing at the front of the conference room, the geophysicist from the University of California, San Diego walked the crowd through the advanced computer model he was using to answer that question. He talked about system boundaries, perturbations, dissipation, attractors, bifurcations and a whole bunch of other stuff largely incomprehensible to those of us uninitiated in complex systems theory. But the bottom line was clear enough: global capitalism has made the depletion of resources so rapid, convenient and barrier-free that “earth-human systems” are becoming dangerously unstable in response. When pressed by a journalist for a clear answer on the “are we f**ked” question, Werner set the jargon aside and replied, “More or less.”

There was one dynamic in the model, however, that offered some hope. Werner termed it “resistance” – movements of “people or groups of people” who “adopt a certain set of dynamics that does not fit within the capitalist culture”. According to the abstract for his presentation, this includes “environmental direct action, resistance taken from outside the dominant culture, as in protests, blockades and sabotage by indigenous peoples, workers, anarchists and other activist groups”.

Serious scientific gatherings don’t usually feature calls for mass political resistance, much less direct action and sabotage. But then again, Werner wasn’t exactly calling for those things. He was merely observing that mass uprisings of people – along the lines of the abolition movement, the civil rights movement or Occupy Wall Street – represent the likeliest source of “friction” to slow down an economic machine that is careening out of control. We know that past social movements have “had tremendous influence on . . . how the dominant culture evolved”, he pointed out. So it stands to reason that, “if we’re thinking about the future of the earth, and the future of our coupling to the environment, we have to include resistance as part of that dynamics”. And that, Werner argued, is not a matter of opinion, but “really a geophysics problem”.

Plenty of scientists have been moved by their research findings to take action in the streets. Physicists, astronomers, medical doctors and biologists have been at the forefront of movements against nuclear weapons, nuclear power, war, chemical contamination and creationism. And in November 2012, Naturepublished a commentary by the financier and environmental philanthropist Jeremy Grantham urging scientists to join this tradition and “be arrested if necessary”, because climate change “is not only the crisis of your lives – it is also the crisis of our species’ existence”.

Some scientists need no convincing. The godfather of modern climate science, James Hansen, is a formidable activist, having been arrested some half-dozen times for resisting mountain-top removal coal mining and tar sands pipelines (he even left his job at Nasa this year in part to have more time for campaigning). Two years ago, when I was arrested outside the White House at a mass action against the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, one of the 166 people in cuffs that day was a glaciologist named Jason Box, a world-renowned expert on Greenland’s melting ice sheet.

 “I couldn’t maintain my self-respect if I didn’t go,” Box said at the time, adding that “just voting doesn’t seem to be enough in this case. I need to be a citizen also.”

This is laudable, but what Werner is doing with his modelling is different. He isn’t saying that his research drove him to take action to stop a particular policy; he is saying that his research shows that our entire economic paradigm is a threat to ecological stability. And indeed that challenging this economic paradigm – through mass-movement counter-pressure – is humanity’s best shot at avoiding catastrophe.

That’s heavy stuff. But he’s not alone. Werner is part of a small but increasingly influential group of scientists whose research into the destabilisation of natural systems – particularly the climate system – is leading them to similarly transformative, even revolutionary, conclusions. And for any closet revolutionary who has ever dreamed of overthrowing the present economic order in favour of one a little less likely to cause Italian pensioners to hang themselves in their homes, this work should be of particular interest. Because it makes the ditching of that cruel system in favour of something new (and perhaps, with lots of work, better) no longer a matter of mere ideological preference but rather one of species-wide existential necessity.

Leading the pack of these new scientific revolutionaries is one of Britain’s top climate experts, Kevin Anderson, the deputy director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, which has quickly established itself as one of the UK’s premier climate research institutions. Addressing everyone from the Department for International Development to Manchester City Council, Anderson has spent more than a decade patiently translating the implications of the latest climate science to politicians, economists and campaigners. In clear and understandable language, he lays out a rigorous road map for emissions reduction, one that provides a decent shot at keeping global temperature rise below 2° Celsius, a target that most governments have determined would stave off catastrophe.

But in recent years Anderson’s papers and slide shows have become more alarming. Under titles such as “Climate Change: Going Beyond Dangerous . . . Brutal Numbers and Tenuous Hope”, he points out that the chances of staying within anything like safe temperature levels are diminishing fast.

With his colleague Alice Bows, a climate mitigation expert at the Tyndall Centre, Anderson points out that we have lost so much time to political stalling and weak climate policies – all while global consumption (and emissions) ballooned – that we are now facing cuts so drastic that they challenge the fundamental logic of prioritising GDP growth above all else.

Anderson and Bows inform us that the often-cited long-term mitigation target – an 80 per cent emissions cut below 1990 levels by 2050 – has been selected purely for reasons of political expediency and has “no scientific basis”. That’s because climate impacts come not just from what we emit today and tomorrow, but from the cumulative emissions that build up in the atmosphere over time. And they warn that by focusing on targets three and a half decades into the future – rather than on what we can do to cut carbon sharply and immediately – there is a serious risk that we will allow our emissions to continue to soar for years to come, thereby blowing through far too much of our 2° “carbon budget” and putting ourselves in an impossible position later in the century.

Which is why Anderson and Bows argue that, if the governments of developed countries are serious about hitting the agreedupon international target of keeping warming below 2° Celsius, and if reductions are to respect any kind of equity principle (basically that the countries that have been spewing carbon for the better part of two centuries need to cut before the countries where more than a billion people still don’t have electricity), then the reductions need to be a lot deeper, and they need to come a lot sooner.

To have even a 50/50 chance of hitting the 2° target (which, they and many others warn, already involves facing an array of hugely damaging climate impacts), the industrialised countries need to start cutting their greenhouse-gas emissions by something like 10 per cent a year – and they need to start right now. But Anderson and Bows go further, pointing out that this target cannot be met with the array of modest carbon pricing or green-tech solutions usually advocated by big green groups. These measures will certainly help, to be sure, but they are simply not enough: a 10 per cent drop in emissions, year after year, is virtually unprecedented since we started powering our economies with coal. In fact, cuts above 1 per cent per year “have historically been associated only with economic recession or upheaval”, as the economist Nicholas Stern put it in his 2006 report for the British government.

 Even after the Soviet Union collapsed, reductions of this duration and depth did not happen (the former Soviet countries experienced average annual reductions of roughly 5 per cent over a period of ten years). They did not happen after Wall Street crashed in 2008 (wealthy countries experienced about a 7 per cent drop between 2008 and 2009, but their CO2 emissions rebounded with gusto in 2010 and emissions in China and India had continued to rise). Only in the immediate aftermath of the great market crash of 1929 did the United States, for instance, see emissions drop for several consecutive years by more than 10 per cent annually, according to historical data from the Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Centre. But that was the worst economic crisis of modern times.

If we are to avoid that kind of carnage while meeting our science-based emissions targets, carbon reduction must be managed carefully through what Anderson and Bows describe as “radical and immediate de-growth strategies in the US, EU and other wealthy nations”. Which is fine, except that we happen to have an economic system that fetishises GDP growth above all else, regardless of the human or ecological consequences, and in which the neoliberal political class has utterly abdicated its responsibility to manage anything (since the market is the invisible genius to which everything must be entrusted).

So what Anderson and Bows are really saying is that there is still time to avoid catastrophic warming, but not within the rules of capitalism as they are currently constructed. Which may be the best argument we have ever had for changing those rules.

In a 2012 essay that appeared in the influential scientific journal Nature Climate Change, Anderson and Bows laid down something of a gauntlet, accusing many of their fellow scientists of failing to come clean about the kind of changes that climate change demands of humanity. On this it is worth quoting the pair at length:

 . . . in developing emission scenarios scientists repeatedly and severely underplay the implications of their analyses. When it comes to avoiding a 2°C rise, “impossible” is translated into “difficult but doable”, whereas “urgent and radical” emerge as “challenging” – all to appease the god of economics (or, more precisely, finance). For example, to avoid exceeding the maximum rate of emission reduction dictated by economists, “impossibly” early peaks in emissions are assumed, together with naive notions about “big” engineering and the deployment rates of low-carbon infrastructure. More disturbingly, as emissions budgets dwindle, so geoengineering is increasingly proposed to ensure that the diktat of economists remains unquestioned.

In other words, in order to appear reasonable within neoliberal economic circles, scientists have been dramatically soft-peddling the implications of their research. By August 2013, Anderson was willing to be even more blunt, writing that the boat had sailed on gradual change. “Perhaps at the time of the 1992 Earth Summit, or even at the turn of the millennium, 2°C levels of mitigation could have been achieved through significant evolutionary changes within the political and economic hegemony. But climate change is a cumulative issue! Now, in 2013, we in high-emitting (post-)industrial nations face a very different prospect. Our ongoing and collective carbon profligacy has squandered any opportunity for the ‘evolutionary change’ afforded by our earlier (and larger) 2°C carbon budget. Today, after two decades of bluff and lies, the remaining 2°C budget demands revolutionary change to the political and economic hegemony” (his emphasis).

We probably shouldn’t be surprised that some climate scientists are a little spooked by the radical implications of even their own research. Most of them were just quietly doing their work measuring ice cores, running global climate models and studying ocean acidification, only to discover, as the Australian climate expert and author Clive Hamilton puts it, that they “were unwittingly destabilising the political and social order”.

But there are many people who are well aware of the revolutionary nature of climate science. It’s why some of the governments that decided to chuck their climate commitments in favour of digging up more carbon have had to find ever more thuggish ways to silence and intimidate their nations’ scientists. In Britain, this strategy is becoming more overt, with Ian Boyd, the chief scientific adviser at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, writing recently that scientists should avoid “suggesting that policies are either right or wrong” and should express their views “by working with embedded advisers (such as myself), and by being the voice of reason, rather than dissent, in the public arena”.

If you want to know where this leads, check out what’s happening in Canada, where I live. The Conservative government of Stephen Harper has done such an effective job of gagging scientists and shutting down critical research projects that, in July 2012, a couple thousand scientists and supporters held a mock-funeral on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, mourning “the death of evidence”. Their placards said, “No Science, No Evidence, No Truth”.

But the truth is getting out anyway. The fact that the business-as-usual pursuit of profits and growth is destabilising life on earth is no longer something we need to read about in scientific journals. The early signs are unfolding before our eyes. And increasing numbers of us are responding accordingly: blockading fracking activity in Balcombe; interfering with Arctic drilling preparations in Russian waters (at tremendous personal cost); taking tar sands operators to court for violating indigenous sovereignty; and countless other acts of resistance large and small. In Brad Werner’s computer model, this is the “friction” needed to slow down the forces of destabilisation; the great climate campaigner Bill McKibben calls it the “antibodies” rising up to fight the planet’s “spiking fever”.

It’s not a revolution, but it’s a start. And it might just buy us enough time to figure out a way to live on this planet that is distinctly less f**ked.

Naomi Klein, the author of “The Shock Doctrine” and “No Logo”, is working on a book and a film about the revolutionary power of climate change. You call follow her on twitter @naomiaklein

Inside Job (2010)

Video – Full Movie

‘Inside Job’ provides a comprehensive analysis of the global financial crisis of 2008, which at a cost over $20 trillion, caused millions of people to lose their jobs and homes in the worst recession since the Great Depression, and nearly resulted in a global financial collapse. The film traces the rise of a rogue industry which has corrupted politics, regulation, and academia. It was made on location in the United States, Iceland, England, France, Singapore, and China.

Posted May 25, 2011

See also – Lifting the Veil: Obama and the Failure of Capitalist Democracy: This film explores the historical role of the Democratic Party as the “graveyard of social movements”, the massive influence of corporate finance in elections, the absurd disparities of wealth in the United States, the continuity and escalation of neocon policies under Obama, the insufficiency of mere voting as a path to reform, and differing conceptions of democracy itself.

Confessions Of A Former Drone “Warrior”


October 25, 2013 – CNN’s Hala Gorani, in for Christiane Amanpour, speaks with former U.S. drone sensor operator Brandon Bryant.

Imagine this: killing more than 1,500 enemies in war without ever stepping foot on the battlefield. That was Brandon Bryant’s life. He was a drone sensor operator responsible for tracking and killing militants halfway around the world from where the trigger was pulled, a ground control station in the U.S. states of Nevada and New Mexico.

Posted October 29, 2013


Imagine this: killing more than 1,500 enemies in war without ever stepping foot on the battlefield. That was Brandon Bryant’s life. He was a drone sensor operator responsible for tracking and killing militants halfway around the world from where the trigger was pulled, a ground control station in the U.S. states of Nevada and New Mexico.

Grainy black-and-white videos like this one give us a bird’s eye view of this new form of warfare. This attack, for instance, took place on the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan back in 2008.

Bryant spent years helping to unleash such drones on militants and admits that he fears that one of his attacks may have, in fact, killed a child. Eventually he became so disillusioned with the career that he turned down a hefty bonus to continue.

He was later diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, PTSD. Now Bryant is opening up about it all, giving the world a window into the windowless bunker where he spent the past several years and revealing new details about America’s top secret and controversial drone program.

Brandon Bryant joins me now from New York.

Thanks for being with us.


GORANI: So first of all I think many people wonder this. What is it like being in a bunker with basically a screen in front of you and a few buttons to push and killing someone half a world away?

BRYANT: It’s — I mean, different. You’re still in the war zone and regardless of whether you — you’re physically there or not, you’re actually participating in the fight. But I kind of want to expand. You said over 1,500 people; I didn’t personally kill those people. Those were all the people that were a part of the operations that I participated in. And I think that’s a misconception that everyone thinks, is like I’m personally taking — staking claim in those kills.

But that’s like 5.5 years of operations. So.

GORANI: But you can put a number, do you think, to the actual list of targets that you killed, that you took out? Or not?

BRYANT: Not really. It’s — the whole thing is kind of a convoluted list, I guess. I never really paid attention to numbers. I didn’t care about numbers. People use those to get promotions and to make themselves feel better. And when I was given that, that kind of diploma thing, it really shocked me and —

GORANI: You were given a diploma?

BRYANT: It was like — I guess it’s like a scorecard or whatever you want to call it. I don’t know. It was just one of those things that I thought was the stupid — why did they give it to me, because all it did was make me feel terrible about like — it make me question myself. It made me question my integrity and like was I really a part of — part of these and as far as the people that I trust that are in that area, the number is really likely to have happened over the 5.5 year period. So.

GORANI: What did it feel like the first time you knew that one of your actions in New Mexico or Nevada, in that bunker, resulted in the death of a human being?

How did that feel?

BRYANT: We were — we were consistently told when I was going through training that our job was to kill people and break things. And that’s like one of those mantras that people say to get themselves to be ready to do stuff like that and I don’t think that I could have ever been ready. I wasn’t prepared and it’s largely my fault. But it’s also the fault of the people that initiated the training.

It was more — the training was more imaginary than real. And I hear that they’re changing that, which is — which is good. But it still doesn’t take into account like what — I mean, how do you really convey that to people? You’re not sitting there; you’re not pulling the trigger of a rifle.


BRYANT: You’re sitting there in a bunker or (inaudible).

GORANI: I get that. But what was it like for you on a personal level, because at one point, according to other interviews I’ve seen with you, Brandon, you thought that you essentially one of the attacks killed a child. This is something that you thought you saw on the video monitor.

BRYANT: Right. And it’s like a — really opened my eyes to how — what the war was about, that it’s not clean. Like we were told that this was a clean — everything was precise and you can — we’re not a scalpel. We’re still a missile and there’s still mistakes that happen and there’s a lot less mistakes than an F-16. But it still made me feel like — I just ended a human life, you know. How is anyone supposed to deal with that?

And we were told to shut up and color. And we couldn’t talk to a psychologist and we couldn’t do this. And if we talked to anyone, we’d lose our clearance. And so some — if affected a lot of people and it, like it would have been a lot better for us if we would have been able to sit down and talk with someone to realize our — what had happened.

GORANI: So why are you speaking up now?

BRYANT: Because I feel like the — all the drone operators, they get a bad rap and they need someone to talk how it’s not a video game, how it is real life and these people need just as much help. Like there’s a huge mental health issue here that no one wants to seem to address.

And it needs to be addressed and these people need help and guidance, and they need to be shown that they’re actual, legitimate people. So they’re not just an unmanned drone, flying in the sky above them. There’s actual people operating behind it. And they’re human beings, like they’re affected by this just as much as people on the ground.

GORANI: You know, one of the things I spoke to a former CIA counterterrorism official, who essentially was saying Americans want a sterile, they want an antiseptic war. They don’t want to — they don’t blood. They don’t want their soldiers killed.

And in the end, this is a video. I mean this is black-and-white, grainy video.

How do you explain that it still affected you, you know, as much as somebody who’s out in the battlefield actually, you know, in a ground combat situation?

BRYANT: So I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of the knife to artillery kind of thought process. But there’s a level of intimacy that goes with every action in war and while we’re not as close as someone who’s knifing someone on the ground or shooting their rifle or the weapon at someone, we still have this level of intimacy where we see what we do and we see the actions that happen. We see the immediate effect. And the effect isn’t physical at all. It’s completely psychological. You hear the hum of a computer. You don’t feel the missile coming off the rail. You watch it. And there — that disconnect right there, I think, affects a lot of people because there’s no physiological effect on people.

GORANI: And what was the worst — I mean, what, when you look — when you look back at your years, doing this, operating drones from afar, what was some of the most shocking video you saw that really to this day stays with you?

BRYANT: The most shocking I think was when we were following someone and the guy stopped and pulled out two kids and executed them in the middle of the street. And he knew that he wasn’t — there — he had no consequences. And the crew that got him later, it was like, vengeance almost. And these were really — these are bad people. Like you have to understand that there are bad people over there. And we do our best to get them. And but you — like you said earlier, America wants an antiseptic war. We want a clean war. And the reality is is that nothing is clean, like it can’t ever be clean. Like there’s a reason why war is hell and it’s dirty and gross and no one wants to participate in it, because if it was clean then everyone would want to be a part of it.

GORANI: And you mentioned that that time you thought you killed a child, but your superiors say that they believe that it was not a child, that it was a dog possibly.

But you described in other interviews sort of seeing blood gushing out, seeing somebody who’s lost a limb, et cetera. Tell us about those images as well, because this is something you’re experiencing not just as a viewer, but as a participant in the incident itself.

BRYANT: That was my first Hellfire shot. And it was in January, so it was cold and like when we — when we fired the Hellfire shot, and the two guys died and then the guy, his right leg was severed, like we — I watched this — bleed out from his femoral artery and in — I mean, pixelization, and it was — it was shocking like — it’s pixelized and it doesn’t really look real. But it was real. And I think that was the most heartbreaking part for me.

GORANI: So do you still suffer from post-traumatic stress? And what would you tell Americans who support? Because as you know, about two- thirds of Americans support the drone program and targeting non-U.S. citizens abroad.

What would you say to them?

BRYANT: I still feel moral injury. I mean, there’s a lot of people that make me feel guilty for feeling bad and especially guys on the ground and I’m never going to compare myself to the guys on the ground and they’re mostly fantastic people and what they do is — they’re much more braver than I am and they’re badasses. I’m not a badass. But what I would say is if you — like drone operations and if you are one of those people that are for it, then you need to hold your leadership accountable for their actions and you need to make sure that these actions are held in war zones and designated war zones in that there’s more transparency because you can’t give someone that amount of power and expect them to use it wisely without being put in check in some sort of shape or form.

GORANI: All right. Brandon Bryant, a former drone operator with a rare, really a rare point of view there as far as this drone program is concerned, thanks so much for joining us from New York.

Earlier this year, then U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta authorized the ill-fated Distinguished Warfare Medal meant to honor exceptional achievements in cyber or drone warfare. But combat veterans pushed back against the award, which would have ranked above traditional battlefield medals, including the Purple Heart, given for combat injuries.

In April, newly appointed U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel scrapped the medal, replacing it with a, quote, “distinguishing device to be affixed to existing awards.”

After a break, imagine living in darkness half the year. That was the gloomy reality for one town in Norway until someone turned on the lights. We’ll explain when we come back. Stay with us.




GORANI: A final thought tonight, earlier we spoke of immigrants risking their lives to find a new home.

Now imagine a world where your home, once shrouded in darkness, is lit by an artificial sun.

The view from the mountains of southern Norway is spectacular, towering over 6,000 feet, a must-seek for hikers and skiers. But for half the year, more than 3,000 residents down below in the town of Rukon (ph) are starved for sunlight, forced to take a cable car up the slopes just to catch some rays and vitamin D. That is until now.

These three giant mirrors have been installed on the mountainside. They’re equipped with sensors that follow the sun, redirecting a beam of light down to the town square, creating an artificial glow to warm the long winter season.

The idea for the mirrors is 100 years old. But the technology that guides their movement didn’t exist until now. A similar project that brought light to a village in northern Italy inspired the effort. In Norwegian folklore, the mountains are home to trolls who dwell in darkness and prey on people. But sunlight turns the trolls to stone.

And in one Norwegian town, it also turns hopeful faces right to the sky, where winter has finally some of its gloom.

That’s it for our program tonight. And remember, you can always contact us at and follow me on Twitter, @HalaGorani. Thanks for watching and goodbye from CNN Center.

Bill O’Reilly Grills Dick Cheney on Iraq: ‘What Did We Get Out of It?’

War Criminal and Pressitute Discuss Iraq

– Video –

“We spent a trillion dollars on this with a lot of pain and suffering on the American military. What did we get out of it?”

Cheney repeatedly claimed that the Bush administration had a clear plan for after their successors took over, but that the Obama administration ended up not following through and so in Iraq, for one, the “level of violence has escalated significantly.”

Posted October 29, 2013

Palestine’s Mandela

Marwan Barghouti’s popularity can give new momentum to the Palestinian struggle.

By Shannon Ebrahim

October 29, 2013 “Information Clearing House – “Al-Jazeera” – On Sunday, October 27, the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation launched an international campaign from the infamous Robben Island – where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 18 years – for the release of Marwan Barghouti and all Palestinian political prisoners.

The symbolism is powerful. Kathrada launched the “Release Mandela” campaign in 1963, just prior to his own arrest, which saw him also incarcerated on South Africa’s Robben Island for 18 years. Now half a century later, as an 84-year-old veteran, he is launching yet another campaign for an iconic freedom fighter.

Barghouti’s wife, Fadwa, travelled to Robben Island with the Palestinian Minister for Detainees, along with hundreds of special guests, including South African struggle veterans and five Nobel Peace Prize laureates.

Barghouti was the first member of the Palestinian Legislative Council to be arrested by Israel, and is one of the most prominent of the more than 5,000 Palestinian prisoners who remain incarcerated in Israeli jails. The European Union and the Inter-Parliamentary Union have called for his release.

Barghouti’s struggle

Huddled in the back of a fish restaurant in the Gaza Strip in 2001, a few African National Congress (ANC) members of parliament and I sat whispering with Marwan Barghouti. We knew he was number one on Israel’s hit list, but little did we know that within nine months he would be kidnapped by Israeli forces, interrogated and tortured for 100 days, put in solitary confinement for 1,000 days, and, more than 11 years later, become known as “the Palestinian Mandela”.

In an interview Barghouti gave to Al-Monitor in May 2013, he described how the Israelis had kept him in solitary confinement for almost three years in a tiny cell infested with cockroaches and rats. His windowless cell had denied him aeration or direct sunlight, with dirt falling from the ceiling. He was only allowed one hour of exercise a day while handcuffed. He proved unbreakable after three years.

Barghouti’s defiance of the largest military power in the Middle East was inspiring, reminiscent of the fiery determination of the ANC leaders in South Africa twenty years earlier. At the time we met him he was the Secretary General of Fatah, the leader of Fatah’s armed branch Tanzim, and had been the brains behind the first and second intifada. His revolutionary spirit was electric.

He knew very well that sooner or later Mossad would catch up with him, despite his best efforts at being a black pimpernel. In one of a number of attempts to assassinate Barghouti in 2001, the Israeli military ended up killing his bodyguard in a targeted strike. In April 2002, Israeli forces hid in the back of an ambulance and ambushed the house he was staying in, grabbing him. He was later charged for his activities under Tanzim and given five life sentences.

But as with most exceptional freedom fighters elsewhere, his message and persona grew in prison. His popularity has surpassed that of all Palestinian leaders – both in Hamas and Fatah  –  and he is being hailed by Palestinians as a unifying figure who could lead his people to freedom.

His propensity to unite Fatah and Hamas into one powerful liberation movement insisting on a two-state solution based on the 1967 borders makes him a dangerous threat to Israel’s political establishment. Barghouti’s message is so powerful that Hamas has rallied behind him. When Hamas recently engaged in negotiations on a prisoner exchange with Israel in return for the captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, they had put Marwan Barghouti at the top of their list. For Israel, Barghouti’s release was not negotiable.

Apartheid and resistance

Palestinian unity threatens Israel’s strategy – which seems to be to delay peace talks, claiming to have no peace partner, while grabbing more land through settlements. That strategy has worked so far, in that settlement building has increased three or four times over the two decades of negotiations. What is left of historic Palestine is Swiss cheese – full of holes, with little contiguous territory. Its comparison to the old South African Bantustan maps is hard to avoid. Where Palestinian villages and towns remain, they are surrounded by the massive apartheid wall, in most instances cut off from their water resources and farm land, which have been annexed by Israeli settlers.

Where Mahmoud Abbas has given in to Israeli demands, opposing all forms of armed resistance, and establishing unprecedented economic and security cooperation with the occupying authorities, Marwan Barghouti has called for an end to all forms of cooperation with the Israeli occupation. Barghouti has been against the collaboration of US-trained Palestinian security forces with Israeli forces, which he believes has guaranteed the security of growing Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

Barghouti has also been scathing about the Arab Ministerial delegation to Washington in April 2013, which proposed amending the 1967 borders in return for land swaps. He considers this the Arab rulers’ worst betrayal of the Palestinian cause. While the Gulf monarchies may have tried to gamble with the future of the Palestinian people, Barghouti’s principled stand has found resonance on the Arab street.

The most famous Palestinian political prisoner is now calling for a third intifada – a non-violent mass uprising. Non-violent protest will deny Israel the ability to dismiss legitimate Palestinian demands as “terrorism”, a strategy that has discredited the Palestinian cause for many outside observers. It will be a Palestinian version of the Arab Spring that will dominate the headlines and galvanise international public opinion.

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is only too well aware of the dangers of such calls. His focus at the United Nations and in private diplomacy on Iran as a nuclear threat has deflected the world’s attention from Palestinian independence, settlement building, and freeing legitimate peace partners.

If Barghouti’s attempt, from prison, to inspire a non-violent protest movement captures the imagination of Palestinians, it could start a significant new chapter in the heretofore tragic history of the Palestinians’ struggle for justice.

Shannon Ebrahim is a South African columnist on foreign affairs, a freelance writer, and political consultant. She has worked as the Director for International Relations for the South African Presidency, and coordinated Government policy on the Middle East and East Africa. Follow her on Twitter: @shannonfield7

Is President Obama ‘man enough’ to tell the truth?


By Stuart Harrold

Is President Obama 'man enough' to tell the truth?. 51424.jpeg

It used to be a saying in the United States, is somebody “man enough” to do what is right. You have to realize, that Edward Snowden is “already” moving congress around. They tried to unfund the NSA a little. Furthermore, there are congressmen and senators that want to investigate and also regulated the NSA-already. To make matters worse, the president himself, has two review boards, one external and one internal, to review the NSA. Now, today, in the Wall Street Journal, we find, that the United States President himself, didn’t know the NSA was spying on 35 world leaders. So now, what is happening, is that the revelations of Edward Snowden-are moving the “presidency” around, to apologize to world leaders, that the president didn’t even “know” were having their privacy violated.

Now here’s the question. Did Edward Snowden, moving all these people around including the president now-do a public service to the United States. Because, even the president “didn’t know.” And as they said about Nixon, “what else don’t you know.” About Watergate.

Now, does the President of the United Sates, owe, Edward Snowden. Edward Snowden is forcing Mr. Obama’s hand, and also, forcing him to now explain an American spying policy to world leaders. The real question is should the president, in regards to the revelations of Edward Snowden, should he tell Edward Snowden, that he is free to come back to the United States. That he will guarantee that he will avoid prosecution, if he even needs a presidential pardon-to come home. Edward Snowed, in effect, is informing the President now.

Why. Because President Obama, didn’t even know what was going on. So now, can the government admit the truth? Were Edward Snowden’s actions a public service-because look at what has happened, and how many people are moving on it. In other words what is Edward Snowden guilty of, when even the President didn’t know.

Is President Obama “man enough” to thank Edward Snowden. Man enough, to say, “Ok, you certainly moved the govt. I guess you actions are right.’

What do you think the chances are of that-even for the United States of America?

Do you think they can even tell the truth in America anymore? It doesn’t seem right to punish Snowden for what the President didn’t know, and for moving congress.

You know what is next? Foreign leaders-will thank Edward Snowden in the long run.

And the United States? We will have to see. Definitely President Obama and the NSA are wrong. So now, it’s us to the United States, to see who is “man enough” to admit it and not persecute Mr. Snowden, for a public service. You gonna what, throw him in jail, for showing the president something.

I’m from the south. Invite him home, no strings attached, and thank him also, if you are “man enough.” Who in our government, man or woman, is “man enough.”

If you didn’t know about that one Mr. Obama, what else don’t you know? All of you, owe Mr. Snowden an apology, and more and more people are becoming grateful to him.

Stuart Harrold

Cutting food stamps: The ruthlessness of the American ruling class

29 October 2013

Food assistance benefits for over 45 million Americans will be slashed starting this Friday, in the first-ever nationwide reduction in benefits under the US government’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), popularly known as food stamps.

The cuts total $11 billion over the next three years and amount on average to a month’s worth of food assistance. They will mean yet more privation for millions of working people, including the poorest and most vulnerable members of society—children, elderly people, the unemployed, the disabled and new mothers.

That this brutal cut takes place under conditions of continuing mass unemployment and economic slump, with record numbers of people living in poverty and homelessness and hunger on the rise, testifies to the ruthlessness of the American ruling class. The callous indifference of the media and the entire political establishment, beginning with the Obama White House, to the suffering of broad layers of the population is reflected in their virtual silence on the imminent cutback in benefits.

As far as the corporate-controlled media is concerned, snatching food from the mouths of hungry children is not even worth reporting. As for the politicians, Democrats as well as Republicans are saying virtually nothing because there is a bipartisan agreement to impose the cuts.

Meanwhile, the government bailout of Wall Street and corporate America continues unabated. The Federal Reserve is expected this Wednesday to announce the extension of its $85 billion-a-month subsidy to the stock market and the banks in the form of its “quantitative easing” money-printing operation. Trillions of dollars have been pumped into the financial markets and interest rates have been kept at near-zero to drive up share values to record highs in the midst of the deepest crisis in the real economy since the Great Depression.

This channeling of social wealth into the coffers of the super-rich has produced the highest levels of social inequality in nearly a century. The American financial aristocracy is choking on its own wealth. Just last week,Forbes magazine reported that the ten highest-earning individuals in the US in 2012 each took in more than $100 million, with the top two making more than $1 billion apiece.

The universal claim that there is “no money” to fund social services comes as corporations, awash in cash and profits, systematically avoid taxation. According to a USA Today report published Monday, one in nine corporations in the Standard & Poor’s 500 stock index paid no taxes last year. Among them are Verizon, which recently imposed new concessions on its workers, and the Murdoch-owned News Corp., which publishes the Wall Street Journal. The average effective tax rate on corporations in the S&P 500 was 12.6 percent—barely a third of the nominal corporate tax rate.

The starkest indicator of the real state of the US economy in the sixth year of the crisis that erupted in 2008—and the clearest refutation of the official claims of a “recovery”—is the staggering growth in the number of people dependent on food stamps. Their ranks swelled by 70 percent between 2007 and 2012 and they continue to grow.

The food stamp cuts scheduled for this week are the result of the expiration of the 2009 Recovery Act’s temporary increase in food stamp benefits. The increase was originally slated to last through 2015, when SNAP benefits are scheduled to rise, so as to ensure that there would be no reduction in benefits.

But in 2010, congressional Democrats used $14 billion that had been set aside for food stamps to fund other measures, vowing to return the money before the benefit hike expired. With the unspoken sanction of the White House and congressional Democrats, that never happened.

In current negotiations over a new farm bill, the Democratic-controlled Senate is proposing an additional $4 billion in cuts to the food stamp program over the next decade. The Republican-controlled House of Representatives has passed a bill that would cut $40 billion from SNAP and force adults between 18 and 50 to either work or attend work training in order to reapply for benefits, as well as instituting drug-testing for recipients.

As always, the more draconian Republican proposal serves as the baseline for a “compromise” in which the Democrats, even as they posture as defenders of the poor, agree to increase the scale of cuts to a level that was likely agreed upon in advance by the White House and the two big business parties.

The slashing of food stamp benefits comes just weeks after a 16-day government shutdown that set the stage for a bipartisan deal to extend most of the social cuts included in the $1.3 trillion “sequestration” process that began last March. Those cuts are on top of another $1 trillion in cuts pushed through during the 2011 crisis over the US debt ceiling.

On January 1, the federal program that provides extended unemployment benefits for the long-term jobless is slated to expire, throwing millions more into poverty and outright destitution.

All of this is preparation for a bipartisan assault on the core social programs that date from the New Deal of the 1930s and the Great Society of the 1960s—Social Security and Medicare.

What is involved here is a social counterrevolution, the aim of which is to uproot and destroy every social gain won by the working class over the past century—from pensions and health benefits to public education and child labor laws. The bankruptcy of Detroit, which is being used to gut city workers’ pensions and strip them of their health coverage, along with the sell-off of public assets such as the art work at the world famous Detroit Institute of Arts, are a foretaste of what is coming nationally—and internationally.

This is what capitalism has to offer the working class—mass poverty, accompanied by ever more bloody wars and increasing political repression.

The working class can halt this attack and defend its basic social rights—to a job, a decent wage, nutrition, education, health care, pensions, access to culture—only by mobilizing its vast social power in a political struggle against both parties of Wall Street and the ruling class whose interests they slavishly defend.

The resources needed to provide a secure job and decent standard of living for every person exist in abundance, but they can be mobilized and expanded only by putting an end to the economic despotism of the corporate-financial elite. The corporations and banks must be taken out of private hands and transformed into public institutions under the democratic control of the working population. The ill-gotten wealth of the financial parasites must be expropriated and used to meet social needs.

The wealth produced by the working class must be used for the benefit of society as a whole, not the personal accumulation of wealth by a tiny elite. This is the program of social equality and socialism, fought for by the Socialist Equality Party.

Andre Damon and Barry Grey

Saudi suicide

by Thierry Meyssan

While Saudi Arabia has adopted the Qatari plan to overthrow the Syrian secular regime, Riyadh seems unable to adapt to the sudden withdrawal of the U.S. Not only did the Saudis reject the Russian-American accord but they pursue the war and announce retaliation to “punish” the United States. For Thierry Meyssan, this stubborness is equivalent to collective suicide by the family of Saud.

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Unleashed by the United States against Syria, will Saudi Arabia commit suicide if defeated? This is what one might conclude from the following events:

On July 31st, 2013, Prince Bandar bin Sultan visited Russia, where he not only met his counterpart, the intelligence chief , but also President Vladimir Putin. There are two versions of this meeting. For the Saudis, Bandar spoke on behalf of the Kingdom and the United States. He offered to buy 15 billion dollars worth of Russian weapons if Moscow dropped Syria. For the Russians, he spoke arrogantly, first threatening to send jihadists to disrupt the Olympic Games in Sochi if Moscow persisted in supporting the secular regime in Damascus, then trying to bribe him. Whatever the truth, Putin felt that his interlocutor was insulting Russia.

On September 30th, Prince Saud Al -Faisal had been included on the agenda of the general debate of the 68th session of the General Assembly of the United Nations, but, enraged by the warming of relations between Iran and the U.S., the Saudi Minister of Foreign Affairs left without excusing himself. In his anger, he refused to have his pre-printed speech distributed to delegates.

On October 11th, the Deputy Secretary General of the United Nations and former head of the Department of State for the Middle East, Jeffrey Feltman, received a Lebanese delegation. Speaking on behalf of Mr. Ban, but probably even more on behalf of President Obama, he had no words strong enough to criticize Saudi foreign policy, built on grudges and unable to adapt to a changing world.

On the 18th of October, the General Assembly of the United Nations, with 176 votes out of 193, elected Saudi Arabia as a non-permanent member of the Security Council for two years from January 1st, 2014. Ambassador Abdallah El- Mouallemi congratulated himself for this victory that reflects “the effectiveness of Saudi policy marked by moderation”. (sic) But a few hours later, Prince Saud Al-Faisan issued a press release with Nasserist overtones on the incapacity of the Security Council and the refusal of the Kingdom to take its seat. If the main official reason given was the Syrian issue, the minister offered hiself the luxury of also denouncing the Palestinian issue and the weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East, that is to say, to designate as enemies of peace both Iran and Israel. Knowing that the criticism of the Syrian UN policy is a challenge directly to Russia and China, who made ​​use of their vetoes three times, this press release was an insult to Beijing, although China is currently the main customer for Saudi oil. This about face, which plunged the United Nations into dismay, however, was loudly applauded by the presidents of Turkey and France declaring that they share the “frustrations” of Saudi Arabia on Syria.

On October 21st, the Wall Street Journal revealed that Prince Bandar bin Sultan had invited European diplomats posted in Riyadh to his home. There the head of the secret services narrated Saudi fury against Iranian rapprochement with the U.S. and U.S. military withdrawal from Syria. He is said to have announced to his guests that the kingdom would retaliate by divesting from America. Returning to the episode of the seat on the Security Council, the newspaper clarified that according to Prince Bandar, the statement was not directed against Beijing but against Washington; such a clarification being all the more interesting for not corresponding to the situation.

Faced with the disbelief generated by these statements and soothing comments from the State Department, Prince Turki bin Faisal explained to Reuters that the words of his personal enemy, Bandar, committed the kingdom and that the new policy would not be questioned. There is therefore no longer a question of a division of power between the two rival branches of the ruling family, the Sudairi against the Shuraim, but of their common vision.

In summary, Saudi Arabia insulted Russia in July, China two weeks ago, and now the United States. The Kingdom announced that it will withdraw its investments from America likely in favour of Turkey and France, even though no expert can see how this would be possible. Two explanations for this behavior are possible: either Riyadh feigned anger to allow Washington to continue the war in Syria without taking responsibility, or the family of Saud committed political suicide.

The first hypothesis seems contradicted by the declarations of Prince Bandar before the European ambassadors. If he was playing under the table for the United States, he would have refrained from coming to preach revolution to its allies.

The second hypothesis recalls the behavior of camels, animal fetishes of the Saudi Bedouins. They are reputed to be capable of carrying a grudge for years, not finding peace until they have satisfied their revenge whatever the cost.

However, the survival of Saudi Arabia is at stake since the appointment of John O. Brennan at the head of the CIA in March 2013. Formerly stationed in Saudi Arabia, he is a staunch opponent of the system put in place with Riyadh by his predecessors: international jihadism. Brennan believes that even if these fighters once did a good job in Afghanistan, Yugoslavia and Chechnya, they have become too numerous and unmanageable. What started as a few Arab extremists taking pot shots at the Red Army became a constellation of groups present from Morocco to China, fighting ultimately much more for the triumph of the Saudi model of society than to defeat adversaries of the United States. Already in 2001, the United States had thought to eliminate Al Qaeda by blaming it for the attacks of September 11th. However, with the official Osama Bin Laden assassination in May of 2011, they decided to rehabilitate the system and made great use of it in Libya and Syria. Without Al Qaeda Muammar el- Qaddafi could never have been overthrown. This is evident today by the presence of Abdelhakim Belhaj, former number two of the organization, as military governor of Tripoli. Anyway in the eyes of John O. Brennan, international jihadism should be reduced to low levels and be kept only as a special lever of the CIA for some occasions.

Jihadism is not only the only effective force in Saudi Arabia, whose army is divided into two units obeying the two clans of the Saud family, but also its sole purpose. Washington does not need the kingdom to provide it with oil nor to plead the cause of peace with Israel. Hence the return to the old neocon Pentagon plan: “Throw the Saudis out of Saudi Arabia,” the title of a July, 2002 powerpoint presentation to the Political Council of the Department of Defense. This project foresees the dismantling of the country into five distinct areas, three of which are to form independent states from each other and two of which would be attached to other states.

By choosing a showdown with the United States, the family of Saud doesn’t give them a choice. It is unlikely that Washington will allow itself to be dictated to by a few wealthy Bedouins but predictable that it will have them fall in line. In 1975, they did not hesitate to have King Faysal assassinated. This time, they will likely be even more radical.

Thierry Meyssan

Roger Lagassé

Money the Almighty Dollar


 A poem by  John Fleming

Money the Almighty Dollar. 51413.jpeg

We all need to make a living, but claiming that won’t suffice,

When the rich have all the money, and you in their vice;

“You’ve got to earn it, work for it,” they say,

But the economy offers no good jobs,

And I didn’t create that institution anyway;

I’m not really unemployed, and I’m not idle,

But they tell all the idle, except the idle rich,

That you’re flirting with the devil,

Ain’t that a bitch?

What does success mean? Who are the successful and who the failures?

It seems to depend on the neighborhood-

Big houses for the wealthy, and servants to boot,

While in the workers’ district the homes are mean, crowded and filthy,

And that comes down to the problem’s root;

For to be poor, is but to have no riches, unlike the wealthy with more;

So success it’s plain to see,

Is nailed to the dollar as firm as can be;

Our society, all complete,

Is controlled by a corporate elite:

So any talk of who gets what in the nation,

Must adhere to the corporation;

Lackey$, cronie$, flunkie$, and pluguglie$, to wit,

Are bound to abound in Inc., give it credit!

But some inherit it, and the corporate-censored media love not to mention that,

Whereas it is actually so relevant,

That one may smell a rat;

One notices how little they call just that the heir and heiress,

So instead refer to the them as-what? some kind of  “prince” and “princess”!?

(Democracy or hereditary nobility or hereditary plutocracy?)

For to call a spade a spade is subversiveness;

Also, there are others like mean jokers,

Who sit on corporate boards,

And are condign to assign to themselves huge rewards!

Thank the Lord, or pagan gods,

For whatever little you have or can save,

Cultivate virtue and enjoy your meager goods,

As even several gods have lived in the woods,

And in this way the commoners are made to behave;

“Money doesn’t make you happy,” just play the role of your social station,

And groan and sweat, work all week long,

If you can but live with that rationalization;

There’s consensus, you see, about to have or have no money,

But in reality some exist, as the pencil of the Holy Ghost put it,

In sudore vultus alieni,

Some people live it up, though not working,

In the sweat of other men’s brow, they spend and consume lavishly,

It does not take Veblen’s theory to know, their own chores shirking,

(Then, sure to kick down the ladder by which it ascended, the leisure class is smirking).

Hence, we are told, if a man’s fortune be from oro negro or gold,

Whether “earned” or merely trust funds of old

“More power to ’em,” it doesn’t matter,

For hauling in, somehow, the former or the latter;

But I suspect, and want to make clear,

That we all have to get simolean willy-nilly, each his fair share,

Not in the manner of John  D. the First or Simon Legree,

But, as the coppers say, “civil-like,” cooperatively;

Which leads me to state,

That if it were my preference,

To cruel antisocial competition abate,

And with type of society to reference,

Socialists have cleared it up in debate:

In class society there can be no democracy,

But in classless, the rest is cooperation, and history.

John Fleming

John Fleming is a Midwestern American who, by speaking German, French, Spanish

and native English, knows exactly four times as many languages as the combined grand total of that one spoken by the triad of three female American former globetrotting  Secretaries of State, the mere mention of whose notorious names, Hilary Clinton, Condoleezza Rice and Madeleine Albright, is absolute monumental proof that women are not morally superior to men!

John Fleming is the author of the book Word Power, available online at

America’s Most Beloved War Criminals

By Justin Doolittle

October 28, 2013 “Information Clearing House —  Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is set to be named officially next month as a member of the College Football Playoff selection committee, charged with selecting the four teams that will compete in the first playoffs following the 2014 season. Rice’s appointment, which, according to ESPN, brings some “star power” to the committee, was made possible by the generally favorable impression of her among the public and in the media. Rice has never been a particularly polarizing figure, unlike Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld, two other high-profile players in the Bush administration, who, even if they were equally serious and informed about college football, would never be considered for an appointment. Despite being at the center of some of the most intensely political dramas of the Bush presidency, Rice has managed to escape from the wreckage of those years virtually unscathed. Her reputation is soundly intact and she has not been scorned like many of her colleagues, even those who had far less influence over Bush administration policy, such as John Bolton. Rice is able to go on “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” and have a pleasant conversation with the host. She penned a lovely memoir and has a very warm smile. Many sympathetic stories have been written about her difficult upbringing and touching personal story.

Following Rice’s appointment to the committee, some criticism did bubble up to the surface, but it was not centered on Rice’s active participation in war crimes. A cartoonish jerk by the name of Pat Dye, who used to coach football at Auburn, attacked the choice on the grounds that Rice was a woman and, therefore, “all she knows about football is what somebody told her or what she read in a book or what she saw on television.” For media outlets like ESPN, this established the proper parameters for the “debate” over Rice’s appointment. Unenlightened sexists such as Dye were reflexively opposed, while all right-thinking people obviously considered the presence of a woman – and this particular woman – on the committee to be a welcome development. Andrea Adelson, in a piece for ESPN, praised the appointment as “real progress.” North Carolina State Athletic Director Debbie Yow called Rice a “a skilled and analytical thinker.”

It’s simply extraordinary that the kind of chauvinistic idiocy exemplified by Dye, which is obviously beneath commentary, has become the most visible criticism of Rice’s appointment. This is someone who was the highest-ranked security official in the United States at the time of the 9/11 attacks. She later became a vociferous defender of the Bush administration’s aggressive war against Iraq. She was responsible one of the most radically dishonest statements ever made to the American people, when she warned that, unless Iraq were attacked, Saddam Hussein might very well launch a nuclear war against the United States, leaving a “mushroom cloud” in some unspecified American city. This was preposterous; Rice could not possibly have believed that this was a realistic possibility. If Dick Cheney, or one of the other less genial goons from the Bush administration, had made exactly the same comment – “We don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud” – it would have stuck forever and cemented his reputation as a fanatical warmonger. Rice, though, somehow has preserved her essential statesmanship and above-the-fray elegance.

This is a recurring pattern in American political life. Those who serve as secretary of state, the supreme Cabinet position in American government, are almost wholly exonerated for their roles in the foreign policy disasters of the administrations in which they served, despite having almost unrivaled influence over decision making.

Examples are abundant. Consider the case of Madeleine Albright, secretary of state under President Bill Clinton and the first woman to serve in that capacity. Albright, as does Rice, commands intense transpartisan respect and admiration in the political and media classes, as well as among the general public. She is seen as a foreign policy sage and a beacon of wisdom. President Obama awarded Albright the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012.

This same Madeleine Albright, in what is surely one of the most flagrant illustrations of unhinged genocidal fervor in the past half-century, was once asked by Lesley Stahl of “60 Minutes” if U.S.-led sanctions against Iraq, which reportedly caused the deaths of around 500,000 children, were nonetheless “worth it” (the question itself is terrifying). Albright answered in the affirmative. “Yes, we think the price is worth it,” said this beloved staple of the Beltway cocktail party circuit. Naturally, Albright, later went on to co-chair a “Genocide Prevention Task Force.” No one in Washington, or anywhere else for that matter, seemed to find anything problematic about any of this. Andrea Mitchell won’t be asking Albright about those 500,000 dead Iraqi children in their next amicable chat. It would be so awkward and unpleasant.

It is not by virtue of their gender that Rice and Albright have acquired this inexplicable immunization from criticism – at least in the realm of the mainstream – over their manifestly insane public pronouncements and active participation in war crimes. This is a phenomenon that applies to virtually anyone who leads the State Department and possesses enough charm and charisma to seduce the vapid, substance-free people who control media and shape public perception. And no one has mastered the art of cultivating an honorable and high-minded public reputation despite having an appalling record quite like Henry Kissinger.

Kissinger, who served two presidents as secretary of state, possesses one of the most coldly chilling minds of anyone who has ever wielded political power in a developed country. In audiotapes released by the Nixon Library in 2010, here is Kissinger, speaking to his boss on the question of pressuring the Kremlin to allow Soviet Jews to safely emigrate from the country:

The emigration of Jews from the Soviet Union is not an objective of American foreign policy. And if they put Jews into gas chambers in the Soviet Union, it is not an American concern. Maybe a humanitarian concern.

After these revelations in 2010, Christopher Hitchens wondered if this concerete evidence of psychopathy would mean that the Nobel Peace Prize laureate would, finally, “have the door shut in his face by every decent person” and be “shamed, ostracized and excluded.” More than three years later, far from having doors shut in his face, Kissinger can be found hamming it up in comedy bits with Stephen Colbert, or wining and dining with his many powerful friends at his lavish 90th birthday party. At the aforementioned party, in June 2013, the current secretary of state, feeling himself in the presence of true greatness, declared Kissinger the “indispensable statesman.”

While Kissinger is clearly second to none in his ability to get a credulous media and amoral political class to disregard his stunning lack of humanity, respect on this front also must be paid to Colin Powell. Powell is wily enough to have refrained from ever making the kind of outrageous and sadistic pronouncements that some of his peers have. But he did participate, to an even more pronounced degree than Rice, in the international campaign of deception and subsequent attack on Iraq in 2003.

Nevertheless, Powell’s popularity has been “undimmed by time,” and, these days, liberals can be counted on reliably to cheer every time Powell mildly criticizes the most rabidly racist elements in his party. Indeed, American liberals are hardly blameless in the seemingly indestructible popularity and mainstream acceptance of these allegedly charismatic secretaries of state. All Powell has to do is endorse a centrist Democratic candidate for president or go on television and gently go after the lowest-hanging fruit on the ultra-right-wing, and liberals will swoon, spread his eloquence all over social media, and happily forget his integral role in the supreme international crime of the 21st century.

Even worse, liberals often will describe Powell’s role in the selling of the Iraq War as “tragic” or “unfortunate” – a Good Man who tarnished his legacy by getting caught up with the wrong crowd. As if this four-star general and then-secretary of state, someone who has spent his entire life in the military and in politics, were merely an innocent and naive background player, pushed around and “misled” by nefarious forces within the administration and forced to go to the U.N. to put on that shameful performance. Rice and Powell are almost never thrown in with Cheney and Rumsfeld, mostly because the former care about their public perception and know how to shape it effectively, while the latter simply don’t give a damn.

It is not particularly clear how, or why, secretaries of state acquired this enduring immunization from the kind of polarization and criticism to which defense secretaries and other Cabinet officials are subject. While there is undeniably something about the office that lends itself to unjustified acclaim – ask an enthusiastic Hillary Clinton supporter to name a few of her substantive accomplishments in her four years as America’s chief diplomat – Rice, Powell, Albright and Kissinger are all exceptionally skilled at playing the media and the public at large. The blame ultimately rests with anyone who tacitly supports or contributes to this culture of valuing personality over substance. This includes the likes of Stephen Colbert, who apparently sees nothing wrong in having a good time with someone who literally expressed indifference over the prospect of millions of people being put in gas chambers. Consider how we would react to a foreign tyrant saying what Kissinger said about Russian Jews or what Albright said about a half a million dead children. For now, though, it seems that only those of us on the “fringe” of the left are unwilling to forget Condi Rice’s fanatical fearmongering that helped sell a war that ended the lives of hundreds of thousands of people for no reason at all. Far be it for us to try to ruin the “real progress” of having her on the playoffs committee.

Justin Doolittle is a freelance writer based on Long Island. He has an M.A. in public policy from Stony Brook University. You can follow him on Twitter @JD1871

This article was originally published at Truthout

Copyright, Truthout.

David Cameron May Take ‘Tougher Measures’ Against The Guardian

By Ned Simons

October 28, 2013 “Information Clearing House – “Huffington Post” –   David Cameron has indicated the government may try and use “tougher measures” against The Guardian to prevent it from publishing further revelations about the activities of British intelligence agencies.Speaking in the House of Commons on Monday afternoon, the prime minister said while the government had not yet been “heavy handed” in how it responded to the dissemination of leaks from NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden – it could crack down if it continued.”We live in a free country so newspapers are free to publish what they want,” he said. However he added the articles in The Guardian had made “this country less safe”.And he urged newspapers to use “judgement and common sense” when deciding to publish material. “I don’t want to have to use injunctions or D-Notices or the other tougher measures. I think its much better to appeal to newspapers’ sense of social responsibility,” he said.But he added: “If they don’t demonstrate some social responsibility it would be very difficult for government to stand back and not to act.”D-Notices are issued to editors by government to request they do not publish material in the interests of national security.Cameron, who was facing questions from MPs on last week’s summit of European leaders, also took the opportunity to insist the work of British spies had helped to save lives across the continent. “Our intelligence has also allowed us to warn our EU allies of plots against their people,” he said.The meeting of EU presidents and prime ministers in Brussels was dominated by the allegations that the United States had bugged the phone of German chancellor Angela Merkel. Cameron said he would not comment on the work of British intelligence agencies or whether he believed his phone had been hacked by the Americans – however he pointed to a White House statement that denied the the US had targeted his phone.Cameron added: “The UK has a very strong, long standing trust based relationship with the United States, not least as part of the ‘Five Eyes’ partnership.”The revelations about the global activities of American and British intelligence agencies have been hugely embarrassing for Washington and London and have cause a deep diplomatic rift between president Obama and several European allies.

See also

Federal agents’ pre-dawn raid on reporter’s home raises questions: Audrey Hudson’s husband had just left for work on August 6 when suddenly, her dog began barking. The nationally-known journalist walked over to the curtains and peeked outside to discover her Chesapeake Bay home was surrounded by law enforcement officers wearing full body armor.

US Political Dysfunction and Capitalism’s Withdrawal

By Richard Wolff

October 28, 2013 “Information Clearing House –  After 200 years of concentrating its centers in western Europe, north America, and Japan, capitalism is moving most of its centers elsewhere and especially to China, India, Brazil and so on. This movement poses immense problems of transition at both poles. The classic problems of early, rapid capitalist industrialization are obvious daily in the new centers. What we learn about early capitalism when we read Charles Dickens, Emile Zola, Maxim Gorky and Jack London, we see now again in the new centers.

What the October 2013 shutdown of the US government teaches us are new lessons about what is happening to the increasingly abandoned old centers of capitalism. Similar lessons flow from the long, painful economic crises now besetting western Europe and Japan. In simplest terms, these old centers of capitalism are suffering the effects of capitalism’s withdrawal.

The causes of withdrawal are well known. In the century before 1970, it became quite clear that the long history of class struggles inside the old centers of capitalism had produced a basic compromise. Capitalists retained their nearly total control over enterprise decisions: what to produce, how to produce, where to produce, and what to do with the profits. Employees, in exchange for ceding that control, obtained rising real wages. Over the same period, capitalists reorganized the world economy (via formal and informal colonialisms) to serve as the “hinterland” for the capitalist centers in western Europe, north America, and Japan. That hinterland provided the food, raw materials, migrant laborers and part of the market for those old capitalist centers. Real wages in that hinterland stagnated or fell.

In the 1970s, the gap between real wages in the old capitalist centers and those in the hinterland had become enormous. At the same time, the development of jet engines and modern telecommunications opened new opportunities for capitalists in the old centers. Their response is transforming the world. Those capitalists realized that they could manage production and distribution facilities almost anywhere in the world as easily as before they had managed facilities within their town, cities, and countries. The more competitive among them moved quickly to take advantage of the much lower real wages in the hinterland by moving old facilities or establishing new facilities there. The laggards are quickly following to avoid competitive destruction.

Capitalism is establishing new centers and withdrawing from many of the old. Indeed, “withdrawal” does not capture the extent of the movement. For example, Detroit, Michigan, was the center of the US automobile industry in 1960 with a population just under 2 million. Today it is a bankrupt city with a population of under 700,000. Its decline since the 1970s mirrors that of Cleveland, Ohio, Camden, New Jersey, and many other formerly thriving capitalist centers where “withdrawal” needs to be replaced by “abandoned.”

Among the social effects of capitalism’s withdrawal from many old capitalist centers in the US are rapidly widening wealth and income inequalities there. These in turn provoke rising tensions within and between the two major political parties and a growing disaffection of the population with political leadership in general. The US government shutdown in October 2013, and the acrimony afflicting US politics reflect capitalism’s withdrawal and its social effects.

The consequence of political dysfunction (on top of the crises that punctuate capitalism’s withdrawal) is to reinforce that withdrawal. The October shutdown and the ongoing stalemate over the national debt ceiling and federal budgets are events that force corporations, wealthy individuals, and central banks to rethink the proportions of their portfolios held in US-based assets. Comparable rethinking affects the proportions allocated to western Europe and Japan. The last half-century’s net flows of wealth into the old capitalist centers – that supported their economies – is being and likely will continue to be cut back or reversed.

Those old centers simply can no longer function as the safest havens for the world’s wealth. However problematic the new capitalist centers, diversifying risk prompts the continuing withdrawal of capitalism from the old centers. Economic conditions in those old centers will suffer.

Beyond the economic consequences of continuing withdrawal, the political effects will likely be more pronounced and visible. The old political compromise will no longer be honored. Capitalists withdrawing from the old centers need not and will not pay rising real wages there. Indeed, they have not done so for several decades. For a while, household and government debt increases postponed the effects of those stagnant or falling real wages. Because the credit bubble built on that debt burst in 2007, north America, western Europe, and Japan now face the full force of a withdrawing capitalism without the debt cushion. That means fewer and/or poorer jobs at shrinking pay levels with fewer benefits and reduced government-provided services. Will workers accept a capitalism that preserves all the power and income ceded to capitalists while ending the workers’ compensation of rising real wages?

Europe has had more general strikes in the last 3 years than at any time since the Great Depression. The Occupy Wall Street movement grew very quickly and commanded majority mass support. Its activists are learning the lessons of their movement and will respond to conditions that are mostly worse now than when Occupy began in September of 2011.

The withdrawal from so many of its old centers and establishing so many new centers – on a global scale – is a new experience for the capitalist system. It homogenizes the conditions for workers across countries even as it sharply deepens inequalities in both the old and new capitalist centers. It differs from such experiences when they happened within countries or regions. It is an open question whether and how the system can manage the process. New contradictions are emerging that promise new crises, political as well as economic.

Richard D. Wolff is Visiting Professor, Graduate Program in International Affairs, New School University, New York City. His latest books are Contending Economic Theories: Neoclassical, Keynesian and Marxian (with S. Resnick). Cambridge: MIT Press, 2012, and Democracy at Work: A Cure for Capitalism (Chicago: Haymarket, 2012). His work is available at

This article originally appeared at e-International Relations

What Recovery?

“4,594,000 Mortgages Going Unpaid in the United States.”

By Mike Whitney

October 28, 2013 “Information Clearing House – Buying a house is a lot like buying a car. If you don’t look under the hood, you could wind up with a lemon. Only with housing, it’s not as simple as checking the dipstick or looking for oil under the rear axle. No, smart home buyers check the data to see what’s really going on. That’s the best way to cut through the hype and separate the fact from the fiction.

Lately, interest rates have been inching higher while prices have been rising. The combination of the two has put the kibosh on sales leading to a more generalized slowdown. But sluggish sales and higher rates don’t tell the whole story. For that, we need to take a peak under the hood and see what the cheerleaders in the media have been hiding from view. And what they’ve been hiding is nearly 5 million homeowners who’ve stopped paying their mortgages altogether. That’s no small matter. Here’s the story from DS News:

Lender Processing Services provided the media with a “first look” at the company’s mortgage performance statistics for the month of September….LPS counts a total of 3,266,000 mortgages nationwide that are 30 or more days past due but not yet in foreclosure. That tally represents 6.46 percent of all outstanding mortgages…..

Of the more than 3 million delinquent loans, LPS says 1,331,000 have missed at least three payments but haven’t started the foreclosure process.  Another 1,328,000 mortgages are currently winding their way through foreclosure pipelines, according to LPS’ data….

All-in-all, there are 4,594,000 mortgages going unpaid in the United States.” (“Number of U.S. Mortgages Going Unpaid = 4,594,000″, DS News) 

Yikes. Now, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s a bad time to buy a house, but one should at least be aware of the fact that there’s a gargantuan stockpile of backlogged homes just waiting to flood the market once the banks get their act together.  Of course, maybe that day will never come, right? After all, we’re already 5 years into this thing and the banks are actually dragging the process out longer today than ever before. Maybe you don’t believe that. Maybe you think that there’s actually a shortage of supply which is why prices have been going up for the last year or so. Okay, but why not withhold judgment until you check this out. This is from an article at Housingwire titled “Prolonged liquidation timelines shake up home prices”:

“Timelines on distressed inventory continue to drag on, while elevated mortgage loss severities continue to offset positive gains on home prices…..

Liquidations increased 32.2 months for the third quarter, up from 31.1 months for the second quarter, and also up from 28.3 months a year ago.  In aggregate, timelines have increased every quarter since the fourth quarter of 2008 and remain at historical highs…

Nonetheless, the most seasoned inventory continues to prove difficult to liquidate, skewing aggregate timelines higher.

“The percentage of distressed mortgages that are five or more years delinquent has tripled just in the last year,” Nelson said.” (“Prolonged liquidation timelines shake up home prices”, Housingwire)

Read that last line over a couple times and let it sink in: “The percentage of distressed mortgages that are five or more years delinquent has tripled just in the last year.”

That doesn’t sound like the “Happy days are here again” refrain we’ve been hearing in the media, does it? It sounds like the banks still haven’t even dumped the subprimes they’ve had on their books for 5-long years. In fact, the article alludes to that very fact. Here’s the money-quote: “Subprime loss severities have remained flat with timelines in excess of 34 months and home price gains lower than the national average.”

The banks are still writing down the losses on subprime mortgages? What a farce.

Now, I know the article was written in opaque business-journal-type gibberish that makes it hard to understand, but just consider what the author is saying: “Liquidations increased 32.2 months for the third quarter… up from 28.3 months a year ago.” So the banks are actually taking LONGER to process the gunk on their books than even last year. Why would they do that? Why would they drag out the process longer than they had to?

Three reasons:

 1– Because they don’t have the money to cover the losses.

2–Because they don’t want to dump more homes on the market and push down prices.

3–Because the Fed is lending them money at zero rates so they can roll over their prodigious debtpile at no cost to themselves.

So, you see, the whole system has been rejiggered to accommodate a handful of underwater, zombie institutions who wouldn’t know how to make an honest buck in a normal business transaction if it was staring them in the face.

Back to housing: So there’s a humongous shadow inventory of distressed homes that have yet to reach the market. And the banks are dragging their feet to keep prices artificially high. Everyone knows this now, in fact, even CNN ran a story on the topic last week. Here’s a clip:

“Foreclosure sounds like the end of the line, but actual eviction can take months or years — even after the bank has repossessed a home.  RealtyTrac estimates that 47% of the nation’s foreclosed homes are currently occupied. The percentage actually tops 60% in some hot housing markets, like Miami and Los Angeles.

Those still living in repossessed homes include both former owners and renters. Either way, their time in the homes is mortgage and rent free….

And banks may be in no rush to kick people out. They will take their time in markets with a lot of homes for sale and depressed prices. Plus, letting homeowners stick around can help protect homes from abuse.” (“Half of nation’s foreclosed homes still occupied”, CNN Money)

What’s funny about this article is that the banks have been fighting tooth-n-nail for the last year for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to ease lending standards on their Qualified Mortgage (QM) rule so they can blow up the system again and leave us all with another 5 or 6 million foreclosures. What’s that saying about “old dogs and new tricks”?

There’s no point in going over the same material over and over again. People who follow the market already know that mortgage applications are down, rates are up, sales are down, prices are up, etc, etc, etc. But potential homebuyers should at least know that this is the weirdest housing market of all time. The extent of the manipulation is simply mindboggling. It’s a stretch to call it a market at all since the fundamentals have been tossed out and replaced with fake rates, fake inventory, fake mortgage modification programs, and fake demand. For example, get a load of this from RealtyTrac:

1—”All-cash purchases nationwide represented 49 percent of all residential sales in September…..

2–September had the highest percentage of institutional investor purchases of any month since RealtyTrac began tracking in January 2011. ….

3–“The housing market continues to skew in favor of investors, particularly deep-pocketed institutional investors, and other buyers paying with cash,” said Daren Blomquist, vice president at RealtyTrac. (“Institutional Investor Purchases Reach New High in September with 14 Percent of all U.S. Residential Sales”, RealtyTrac)

Does that sound like a normal market to you?

Whatever happened to firsttime homebuyers who used to make up the bulk of housing sales?

You know what happened to them, don’t you? They’re either buried under a mountain of student debt from which they will never emerge or stuck in crappy part-time jobs that don’t pay enough to even meet the monthly rent, right?  These people will probably never own a home; it’s just not in the cards, which is why firsttime homebuyers are following the Dodo into extinction.

And the same rule applies to “move up” buyers, too. Move up buyers are the folks who use the equity in their first home to buy a nicer home in a better neighborhood. Move up buyers used to be the second biggest buyer of homes in the US, but not any more. They’re struggling too, mainly because housing prices are still below their 2006 peak (which means many of these people are either still underwater on their mortgages) or because they have zero equity in the homes.

So, who’s buying all the houses?

Speculators. People who have no intention of moving into the homes they buy. That’s what keeps the recovery going.  And that’s what low interest rates and QE-pump priming achieves; it transforms markets that are a critical part of a thriving economy into an annex of the Wall Street Casino where houses are flipped in a frenzy of speculation like credit default swaps or some equally dodgy debt instrument. This is the world Bernanke has created, a topsy-turvy world of lightening-fast trades that blows up every 5 or 6 years.

I mean, think of it:  49 percent of all residential sales in September were all-cash purchases.

That’s ridiculous.

And where are all these deep-pocket buyers coming from?

Wall Street, of course. The big boys have switched from junk bonds and farmland to housing, which should be expected given the ocean of liquidity the Fed has pumped into the financial markets. Naturally, there’s been some spillover into housing which is creating a new regime of credit bubbles. Booyah, Bernanke, you’ve done it again!

Are you surprised? Are you surprised  that institutional investors are snapping up these foreclosures like hotcakes even though there are 4.5 million more in the pipeline? That must mean that the banks made some kind of deal with the PE guys that they wouldn’t dump their houses on the market without giving them a heads up first, right? (wink, wink)

Of course, it’s right. It’s all rigged. You know it, I know it, everyone knows it. The whole bloody country is owned by a credit monopoly that never gets tired of fleecing us.

That’s just what they do.

Mike Whitney lives in Washington state. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press). Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition. He can be reached at

Playing Hard to Get in the Middle East

By Stephen M. Walt 

October 28, 2013 “Information Clearing House – Some of America’s Middle Eastern allies are reportedly not very happy with the United States these days. I refer, of course, to Saudi Arabia and Israel, who are troubled by U.S. discussions with Iran and upset by Obama’s reluctance to plunge head-first into the Syrian quagmire. But those of us with a more strategic view of U.S. interests in the Middle East may welcome these developments, as they contain the kernel of a more flexible and effective approach that may be emerging.

Let’s start with U.S. interests. The United States has at most three strategic interests in the Middle East. First, we want Persian Gulf oil and gas to continue to flow to world markets. Hydraulic fracturing notwithstanding, a major disruption in energy supplies from the Gulf would drive up world prices and hurt a still-fragile global economy. Second, we want to discourage countries in the Middle East from developing WMD, and especially nuclear weapons. (It would have been better had the United States done more to stop Israel from getting the bomb, but that horse left the barn in the 1960s.) Third, we would like to reduce extremist violence emanating from this region, mostly in the form of terrorism. (This threat is usually exaggerated, in my view, but it is hardly non-existent.)

The key to advancing these interests is two-fold: first, help maintain a balance of power in the region, and second, keep the US military presence there to a minimum. If one regional state becomes too powerful, or if an external power were able to intervene there, it might be able to dominate the various oil-producing countries and manipulate energy supplies in ways we might find unpleasant. Concerns about that possibility led the United States to create the Rapid Deployment Force in the late 1970s, and led us to tilt toward Iraq during the Iran-Iraq War. It also led to our direct military intervention to oust Iraq from Kuwait in 1991.

At the same time, excessive U.S. interference and a large-scale U.S. military presence threatens our other strategic goals, either by encouraging some states to seek WMD as a means of deterrence or by fueling anti-American terrorism of the Al Qaeda sort. Policies like 1990s-era “dual containment” or the Bush administration’s disastrous attempt at “regional transformation” were strategic missteps for this reason, not to mention their human and economic costs. Given the unpredictable turmoil that has roiled the region ever since the “Arab spring” erupted, it makes even more sense for the U.S. to keep its presence limited, lest we be seen as a predatory imperial power addicted to interference in local political events.

A balance of power (or if you prefer, balance of threat) approach to the Middle East also highlights the costs of America’s “special relationships” with Israel and Saudi Arabia. If you are playing the balance of power game, you want to maximize your diplomatic flexibility and avoid becoming overly committed to any particular ally. As was said of England during its own balance of power heyday: it had “no permanent friends, only permanent interests.”

Today, because the United States is so closely tied to Israel and Saudi Arabia, it gets blamed for and associated with their various misdeeds. Specifically, we are seen as complicit in Israel’s cruel treatment of its Palestinian subjects, and seen as the chief protector of a decadent Saudi monarchy whose ruling values are sharply at odds with our own. Equally important, preserving these “special relationships” has reduced U.S. influence over both partners: the Saudis have repeatedly dragged their feet on counter-terrorism issues while Israel has continued expand settlements and either threatened or used force with disturbing frequency, and often in ways that complicate US relations with the rest of the region.

Talking to Iran and taking a more measured approach to intervention in the region is thus a very good development. Although the United States and Iran won’t become close allies anytime soon, rebuilding a working relationship with Tehran would be a great benefit to the U.S. strategic interests. Not only would it facilitate cooperation on various issues where U.S. and Iranian interests align (such as Afghanistan), but the mere fact that the U.S. and Iran were talking to each other constructively would also make our other allies in the region more attentive to our concerns and responsive to our requests.

I don’t want to overstate this trend or exaggerate its likely benefits: the United States is not about to abandon its current allies or entirely reverse its long-standing regional commitments, and widening our circle of contacts won’t immediately force others to leap to do our bidding. Nor do I think it should. But a bit more distance from Tel Aviv and Riyadh, and an open channel of communication between Washington and Tehran would maximize U.S. influence and leverage over time. It’s also a useful hedge against unpredictable events: when you become too strongly committed to any particular ally (as the U.S. was once committed to the Shah of Iran), you suffer more damage if anything happens to them.

Because the United States is not a Middle Eastern power — a geographic reality we sometimes forget — and because its primary goal is the preservation of a regional balance of power, it has the luxury of playing “hard to get.” That’s why it’s not such a bad thing if our present regional allies are a bit miffed at U.S. these days. Remember: they are weaker than the United States is and they face more urgent threats than we do. And if they want to keep getting U.S. protection and support and they are concerned that our attention might be waning a wee bit, they might start doing more to keep U.S. happy.

FOREIGN POLICY is published by the FP Group, a division of The Washington Post Company

©2013 The Slate Group, LLC.

Child Victims of CIA Drone Strike to Appear Before US Congress Tomorrow

By Reprieve

Global Research, October 28, 2013

drone3Tomorrow (Tuesday October 29) two children who were injured in a drone attack in North West Pakistan which killed their grandmother will appear, along with their father, at a briefing in the US Congress.

Rafiq ur Rehman – a teacher in a primary school in North Waziristan – and his children Nabila (9) and Zubair (13) will attend the briefing on drones called by Congressman Alan Grayson (FL-09).  Mr Rehman’s 67-year-old mother was killed in the same October 2012 strike which injured his children.  This will be the first time that members of Congress have heard testimony direct from civilian victims of the CIA’s covert drone campaign.

The family will be accompanied by Jennifer Gibson, attorney at human rights charity Reprieve.  The family’s lawyer, Reprieve Fellow Shahzad Akbar, was not granted a visa to the US in order to travel with them – a problem he has faced since 2011, when he began representing Pakistani victims of CIA drone strikes.

Congressman Grayson said: “When it comes to national security matters like drone strikes, it’s important that we hear not only from the proponents of these attacks, but also from the victims. They have a unique perspective to share with Congress, and I hope that my colleagues will attend this important event on October 29th.”

The briefing will take place on Tuesday, October 29, at 10 AM, Eastern Standard Time; it will be held at 2237 Rayburn House Office Building, Washington, D.C.

NSA head demands end to spying revelations

28 October 2013

In an interview last Thursday, the head of the National Security Agency (NSA), General Keith Alexander, delivered a series of threats against whistle-blower Edward Snowden and those who sympathize with and support him, as well as against media outlets that have published Snowden’s revelations of massive government spying.

In the interview, taped by the Pentagon for posting on YouTube, Alexander repeated the official line that NSA spying on the American people and millions of others around the world is driven by the need to protect Americans from terrorism.

He claimed that exposure of the secret programs “means that terrorists now have an upper edge in conducting attacks, probably in Europe and potentially in the United States.” He continued: “And our ability to stop them is reduced. So when people die, those that are responsible for leaking it are the ones who should be held accountable.”

Given the sinister record of the American intelligence apparatus in financing and supporting the founders of Al Qaeda and the extensive evidence that US intelligence agencies allowed the 9/11 attacks to take place, this should be taken as a warning that similar provocations could be engineered to provide a pretext for shutting down any further publication of exposures of US government surveillance.

Alexander added an open threat against the media. “We’re taking this beating in the press because of what these reporters are putting out,” he said. “I think it’s wrong that newspaper reporters have all these documents, the 50,000—whatever they have, and are selling them and giving them out as if these—you know, it just doesn’t make sense. We ought to come up with a way of stopping it.”

The NSA chief did not detail what methods might be employed, referring only vaguely to possible court sanctions. However, for the US military/intelligence apparatus, there is no line that cannot be crossed—including the state killing of whistleblowers like Edward Snowden—in the effort to prevent the exposure of the buildup of an American police state.

Alexander’s statements underscore the prevalence within the highest echelons of the American state of a police state mentality that is utterly hostile to any conception of democratic rights. He speaks for an extensive layer of military and intelligence officials as well as politicians whose aim is to criminalize and silence those who expose the real criminals.

The vendetta against such courageous people as Snowden, Julian Assange and Private Bradley Manning has been met with general support from the entire political and media establishment. There is virtually no serious opposition from the erstwhile liberal establishment or any section of the Democratic Party.

On the contrary, under a Democratic president, Barack Obama, pervasive spying on the American people has been expanded well beyond what prevailed under Bush. This has been accompanied by an expansion of drone assassinations, including of American citizens, as well as legislation institutionalizing the indefinite detention of alleged terrorists without charge or trial.

Alexander’s attempt to defend police state spying with the all-purpose pretext of the “war on terror” has been rendered all the more absurd by the most recent revelations of NSA tapping of the personal telephones of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and dozens of other heads of government.

Neither Alexander nor any other defender of the mass surveillance programs attempts to present a serious argument that intercepting the phone calls and text messages of Merkel and the leaders of other major countries is a necessary part of a struggle against Al Qaeda terrorists.

It is obviously driven by the aggressive and hegemonic foreign policy objectives of the American ruling elite.

The trans-Atlantic uproar over spying by the NSA has dealt a blow to the political pretensions of American imperialism. It is increasingly difficult for Washington to posture either as the protagonist in a “war on terror” or as the leader of the “free world.”

As the comments of Alexander demonstrate, however, no amount of protest or pressure will curb the operations of the US military/intelligence apparatus. In the final analysis, the buildup of police state powers by the US government must be traced to the deepening social polarization within the United States—a process that is replicated, to a greater or lesser degree, in every capitalist country.

It is impossible to maintain democratic forms of rule and democratic rights in a society where a tiny handful of financial overlords control economic life and demand the destruction of jobs, living standards and basic social benefits for the working people, who are the vast majority.

Alexander’s threats must be taken as a warning. The defense of democratic rights requires the mobilization of the working class, in the United States and internationally, fighting for a revolutionary socialist program to put an end to the profit system. This is the only serious basis for a struggle against the emerging American police state.

Patrick Martin

As Europe Erupts Over US Spying, NSA Chief Says Government Must Stop Media

With General Alexander calling for NSA reporting to be halted, US and UK credibility as guardians of press freedom is crushed

By Glenn Greenwald

October 27, 2013 “Information Clearing House – “The Guardian” –   The most under-discussed aspect of the NSA story has long been its international scope. That all changed this week as both Germany and France exploded with anger over new revelations about pervasive NSA surveillance on their population and democratically elected leaders.

As was true for Brazil previously, reports about surveillance aimed at leaders are receiving most of the media attention, but what really originally drove the story there were revelations that the NSA is bulk-spying on millions and millions of innocent citizens in all of those nations. The favorite cry of US government apologists -–everyone spies! – falls impotent in the face of this sort of ubiquitous, suspicionless spying that is the sole province of the US and its four English-speaking surveillance allies (the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand).

There are three points worth making about these latest developments.

• First, note how leaders such as Chancellor Angela Merkel reacted with basic indifference when it was revealed months ago that the NSA was bulk-spying on all German citizens, but suddenly found her indignation only when it turned out that she personally was also targeted. That reaction gives potent insight into the true mindset of many western leaders.

• Second, all of these governments keep saying how newsworthy these revelations are, how profound are the violations they expose, how happy they are to learn of all this, how devoted they are to reform. If that’s true, why are they allowing the person who enabled all these disclosures – Edward Snowden – to be targeted for persecution by the US government for the “crime” of blowing the whistle on all of this?

If the German and French governments – and the German and French people – are so pleased to learn of how their privacy is being systematically assaulted by a foreign power over which they exert no influence, shouldn’t they be offering asylum to the person who exposed it all, rather than ignoring or rejecting his pleas to have his basic political rights protected, and thus leaving him vulnerable to being imprisoned for decades by the US government?

Aside from the treaty obligations these nations have to protect the basic political rights of human beings from persecution, how can they simultaneously express outrage over these exposed invasions while turning their back on the person who risked his liberty and even life to bring them to light?

• Third, is there any doubt at all that the US government repeatedly tried to mislead the world when insisting that this system of suspicionless surveillance was motivated by an attempt to protect Americans from The Terrorists™? Our reporting has revealed spying on conferences designed to negotiate economic agreements, the Organization of American States, oil companies, ministries that oversee mines and energy resources, the democratically elected leaders of allied states, and entire populations in those states.

Can even President Obama and his most devoted loyalists continue to maintain, with a straight face, that this is all about Terrorism? That is what this superb new Foreign Affairs essay by Henry Farrell and Martha Finnemore means when it argues that the Manning and Snowden leaks are putting an end to the ability of the US to use hypocrisy as a key weapon in its soft power.

Speaking of an inability to maintain claims with a straight face, how are American and British officials, in light of their conduct in all of this, going to maintain the pretense that they are defenders of press freedoms and are in a position to lecture and condemn others for violations? In what might be the most explicit hostility to such freedoms yet – as well as the most unmistakable evidence of rampant panic – the NSA’s director, General Keith Alexander, actually demanded Thursday that the reporting being done by newspapers around the world on this secret surveillance system be halted (Techdirt has the full video here):

The head of the embattled National Security Agency, Gen Keith Alexander, is accusing journalists of “selling” his agency’s documents and is calling for an end to the steady stream of public disclosures of secrets snatched by former contractor Edward Snowden.

“I think it’s wrong that that newspaper reporters have all these documents, the 50,000 – whatever they have and are selling them and giving them out as if these – you know it just doesn’t make sense,” Alexander said in an interview with the Defense Department’s “Armed With Science” blog.

“We ought to come up with a way of stopping it. I don’t know how to do that. That’s more of the courts and the policy-makers but, from my perspective, it’s wrong to allow this to go on,” the NSA director declared. [My italics]

There are 25,000 employees of the NSA (and many tens of thousands more who work for private contracts assigned to the agency). Maybe one of them can tell The General about this thing called “the first amendment”.

I’d love to know what ways, specifically, General Alexander has in mind for empowering the US government to “come up with a way of stopping” the journalism on this story. Whatever ways those might be, they are deeply hostile to the US constitution – obviously. What kind of person wants the government to forcibly shut down reporting by the press?

Whatever kind of person that is, he is not someone to be trusted in instituting and developing a massive bulk-spying system that operates in the dark. For that matter, nobody is.


As many of you likely know, it was announced last week that I am leaving the Guardian. My last day here will be 31 October, and I will write my last column on that date.

Stasi Meets Steve Jobs

By Eric Margolis 

October 27, 2013 “Information Clearing House –  “Gentlemen do not read other gentlemen’s mail” sniffed US Secretary of State Henry Stimson in 1929 when told that American cryptographers had broken Japan’s naval and diplomatic codes.

Stimson, who later headed the War Department, ordered code-breaking shut down.

Alas, there are not any old-school gentlemen left in Washington these days. Revelations of US electronic spying by whistleblower Edward Snowden have ignited a furor across Latin America and now Europe.

This week’s uproar was intensified by claims that the US National Security Agency (NSA) had tapped into the cell phone of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Europe’s most important and influential leader. Further outrage erupted in France after reports that its leaders and diplomats had been tapped by NSA’s big ears.

To no surprise, President Obama officially denied listening in to Merkel’s calls. A US source sought to lessen the damage by claiming NSA had only tapped her office phone, not her cell phone. German anger was not assuaged.

Back in the day, French Interior Ministers – notably Nicholas Sarkozy – used to stay up late poring over wire taps of fellow officials’ peccadillos. That was good fun. Today, by contrast, the NSA and CIA are sweeping up all communications of supposed allies as part of the runaway US national security state. Call it the Stasi meets Apple’s late Steve Jobs.

Last month alone, NSA reportedly sifted through 70 million French phone calls, text and email under the lame pretext of fighting terrorism. What NSA was really finding were the phone numbers of prominent Frenchmen’s mistresses or boyfriends – very useful for CIA blackmail ops – and important commercial information. Terrorism is a red herring. NSA’s run amok spying, allegedly to combat “terrorism,” is making a lot of Americans wonder again about the events of 9/11 that triggered the explosion of America’s spy state, restrictive laws, and foreign wars.

Still, one wonders if President Obama knew what his spies were doing. He has little control over the Pentagon and probably even less over America’s mammoth, ever-growing spy state built by former President George W. Bush that costs over $80 billion per annum. Some 4.8 million Americans now have secret security clearance and work for the octopod national security state.

Obama would not be the first president not to know what his spooks were up to. But he should have been this time. Bugging the leaders of America’s closest European and Latin American allies was an incredibly stupid act. Nothing thereby learned could have been worth the damage caused.

US Elint (electronic spying) has humiliated European and Latin leaders and made them and NATO look like American vassals to be dismissed or disdained.

How can Europe’s leaders face their own voters after this shameful episode? Revelations by Snowdon and Army private Bradley Manning show that Washington treats its NATO allies in the same imperious manner the old Soviet Union bossed around the Warsaw Pact.

Europe’s leaders are under mounting pressure to demonstrate their independence of Uncle Sam by taking some stern retaliatory action against US interests.

A starting point would be building a brand-new electronic communications architecture for Western Europe that resists US penetration, and creating a truly independent Europe military capability. Time for Europe to stop being foot soldiers to America’s nuclear knights.

US reputation in Europe and Latin America is now at an all-time low. The next NSA spying scandals will likely come from the Mideast, India and Pakistan, Canada, South Korea and Japan. Obama may be remembered as having gotten the world even angrier at the US than predecessor George W. Bush – quite an accomplishment.

Washington claims “everyone does spying.” True enough, but no one is anywhere close to NSA’s giant vacuum cleaner and all-hearing bugs. What the US has been doing is far more than information gathering against a handful of anti-American militants. It’s heavy-duty intimidation. A reminder that Big Brother is watching and listening.

The deeply corrupt US Congress won’t do much to curtail NSA’s information theft. Too many of its members profit from market trades made on the basis of NSA snooping.

Eric S. Margolis is an award-winning, internationally syndicated columnist. His articles have appeared in the New York Times, the International Herald Tribune the Los Angeles Times, Times of London, the Gulf Times, the Khaleej Times, Nation – Pakistan, Hurriyet, – Turkey, Sun Times Malaysia and other news sites in Asia.

The One State/Two State Debate is Irrelevant as Israel and the US Consolidate Greater Israel

By Noam Chomsky

This post is part of “What Comes Next?: A forum on the end of the two-state paradigm.” This series was initiated by Jewish Voice for Peace as an investigation into the current state of thinking about one state and two state solutions, and the collection has been further expanded by Mondoweiss to mark 20 years since the Oslo process. The entire series can be found here.

October 27, 2013 “Information Clearing House – On July 13, former Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin issued a dire warning to the government of Israel: either it will reach some kind of two-state settlement or there will be a “shift to a nearly inevitable outcome of the one remaining reality — a state `from the sea to the river’.” The near inevitable outcome, “one state for two nations,” will pose “an immediate existential threat of the erasure of the identity of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state,” soon with a Palestinian-Arab majority.

On similar grounds, in the latest issue of Britain’s leading journal of international affairs, two prominent Middle East specialists, Clive Jones and Beverly Milton-Edwards, write that “if Israel wishes to be both Jewish and democratic,” it must embrace “the two-state solution.”

It is easy to cite many other examples, but unnecessary, because it is assumed almost universally that there are two options for cis-Jordan: either two states – Palestinian and Jewish-democratic — or one state “from the sea to the river.” Israeli commentators express concern about the “demographic problem”: too many Palestinians in a Jewish state.  Many Palestinians and their advocates support the “one state solution,” anticipating a civil rights, anti-Apartheid struggle that will lead to secular democracy.  Other analysts also consistently pose the options in similar terms.

The analysis is almost universal, but crucially flawed.  There is a third option, namely, the option that Israel is pursuing with constant US support.  And this third option is the only realistic alternative to the two-state settlement that is backed by an overwhelming international consensus.

It makes sense, in my opinion, to contemplate a future binational secular democracy in the former Palestine, from the sea to the river.  For what it’s worth, that is what I have advocated for 70 years.  But I stress: advocated.  Advocacy, as distinct from mere proposal, requires sketching a path from here to there.  The forms of true advocacy have changed with shifting circumstances.  Since the mid-1970s, when Palestinian national rights became a salient issue, the only form of advocacy has been in stages, the first being the two-state settlement.  No other path has been suggested that has even a remote chance of success.  Proposing a binational (“one state”) settlement without moving on to advocacy in effect provides support for the third option, the realistic one.

The third option, taking shape before our eyes, is not obscure.  Israel is systematically extending plans that were sketched and initiated shortly after the 1967 war, and institutionalized more fully with the access to power of Menahem Begin’s Likud a decade later.

The first step is to create what Yonatan Mendel calls “a disturbing new city” called “Jerusalem” but extending far beyond historic Jerusalem, incorporating dozens of Palestinian villages and surrounding lands, and furthermore, designated as a Jewish City and the capital of Israel.  All of this is in direct violation of explicit Security Council orders.  A corridor to the East of this new Greater Jerusalem incorporates the town of Ma’aleh Adumim, established in the 1970s but built primarily after the 1993 Oslo Accords, with lands reaching virtually to Jericho, thus effectively bisecting the West Bank.  Corridors to the north incorporating the settler towns of Ariel and Kedumim further divide what is to remain under some degree of Palestinian control.

Meanwhile Israel is incorporating the territory on the Israeli side of the illegal “separation wall,” in reality an annexation wall, taking arable land and water resources and many villages, strangling the town of Qalqilya, and separating Palestinian villagers from their fields.  In what Israel calls “the seam” between the wall and the border, close to 10 percent of the West Bank, anyone is permitted to enter, except Palestinians.  Those who live in the region have to go through a highly intricate bureaucratic procedure to gain temporary entry.  Exit, for example for medical care, is hampered in the same way.  The result, predictably, has been severe disruption of Palestinian lives, and according to UN reports, a decrease of more than 80% in number of farmers who routinely cultivate their lands and a decline of 60% in yield of olive trees, among other harmful effects.  The pretext for the wall was security, but that means security for illegal Jewish settlers; about 85 per cent of the wall runs through the occupied West Bank.

Israel is also taking over the Jordan Valley, thus fully imprisoning the cantons that remain. Huge infrastructure projects link settlers to Israel’s urban centers, ensuring that they will see no Palestinians.  Following a traditional neocolonial model, a modern center remains for Palestinian elites, in Ramallah, while the remainder mostly languishes.

To complete the separation of Greater Jerusalem from remaining Palestinian cantons, Israel would have to take over the E1 region.  So far that has been barred by Washington, and Israel has been compelled to resort to subterfuges, like building a police station.  Obama is the first US president to have imposed no limits on Israeli actions.  It remains to be seen whether he will permit Israel to take over E1, perhaps with expressions of discontent and a wink of the eye to make it clear that they are not seriously intended.

There are regular expulsions of Palestinians.  In the Jordan Valley alone the Palestinian population has been reduced from 300,000 in 1967 to 60,000 today, and similar processes are underway elsewhere.  Following the “dunam after dunam” policies that go back a century, each action is limited in scope so as not to arouse too much international attention, but with a cumulative effect and intent that are quite clear.

Furthermore, ever since the Oslo Accord declared that Gaza and the West Bank are an indivisible territorial unity, the US-Israel duo have been committed to separating the two regions.  One significant effect is to ensure that any limited Palestinian entity will have no access to the outside world.

In the areas that Israel is taking over, the Palestinian population is small and scattered, and is being reduced further by regular expulsions.  The result will be a Greater Israel with a substantial Jewish majority.  Under the third option, there will be no “demographic problem” and no civil rights or anti-Apartheid struggle, nothing more than what already exists within Israel’s recognized borders, where the mantra “Jewish and democratic” is regularly intoned for the benefit of those who choose to believe, oblivious to the inherent contradiction, which is far more than merely symbolic.

Except in stages, the one-state option is an illusion.  It has no international support, and there is no reason why Israel and its US sponsor would accept it, since they have a far preferable option, the one they are now implementing; with impunity, thanks to US power.

The US and Israel call for negotiations without preconditions.  Commentary there and elsewhere in the West typically claims that the Palestinians are imposing such preconditions, hampering the “peace process.” In reality, the US-Israel insist upon crucial preconditions.  The first is that negotiations must be mediated by the United States, which is not a neutral party but rather a participant in the conflict.  It is as if one were to propose that Sunni-Shiite conflicts in Iraq be mediated by Iran.  Authentic negotiations would be in the hands of some neutral state with a degree of international respect.  The second precondition is that illegal settlement expansion must be allowed to continue, as it has done without a break during the 20 years of the Oslo Accord; predictably, given the terms of the Accord.

In the early years of the occupation the US joined the world in regarding the settlements as illegal, as confirmed by the UN Security Council and the International Court of Justice.  Since Reagan, their status has been downgraded to “a barrier to peace.” Obama weakened the designation further, to “not helpful to peace,” with gentle admonitions that are easily dismissed.  Obama’s extreme rejectionism did arouse some attention in February 2011, when he vetoed a Security Council resolution supporting official US policy, ending of settlement expansion.

As long as these preconditions remain in force, diplomacy is likely to remain at a standstill.  With brief and rare exceptions, that has been true since January 1976, when the US vetoed a Security Council resolution, brought by Egypt, Jordan, and Syria, calling for a two-state settlement on the internationally recognized border, the Green Line, with guarantees for the security of all states within secure and recognized borders.  That is essentially the international consensus that is by now universal, with the two usual exceptions – not just on Middle East issues, incidentally.  The consensus has been modified to include “minor and mutual adjustments” on the Green Line, to borrow official US wording before it had broken with the rest of the world.

The same is true of the negotiations that may take place soon in Washington.  Given the preconditions, they are unlikely to achieve anything more than to serve as a framework in which Israel can carry forward its project of taking over whatever it finds valuable in the West Bank and Syrian Golan Heights, annexed in violation of Security Council orders, while maintaining the siege of Gaza.  And doing so throughout with the critical economic, military, diplomatic and ideological support of the state running the negotiations.  One can of course hope for better, but it is hard to be optimistic.

Europe could play a role in advancing the hopes for a peaceful diplomatic settlement, if it were willing to pursue an independent path.  The recent EU decision to exclude West Bank settlements from any future deals with Israel might be a step in this direction.  US policies are also not graven in stone, though they have deep strategic, economic, and cultural roots.  In the absence of such changes, there is every reason to expect that the picture from the river to the sea will conform to the third option.  Palestinian rights and aspirations will be shelved, temporarily at least.

If the Israel-Palestine conflict is not resolved, a regional peace settlement is highly unlikely.  That failure has far broader implications – in particular, for what US media call “the gravest threat to world peace,” echoing the pronouncements of President Obama and most of the political class: namely, Iran’s nuclear programs.  The implications become clear when we consider the most obvious ways to deal with the alleged threat, and their fate.  It is useful, first, to consider a few preliminary questions: Who regards the threat as of such cosmic significance?  And what is the perceived threat?

Answers are straightforward.  The threat is overwhelmingly a western obsession: the US and its allies.  The non-aligned countries, most of the world, have vigorously supported Iran’s right, as a signer of the Non-proliferation Treaty, to enrich Uranium.  In the Arab world, Iran is generally disliked, but not perceived as a threat; rather, it is the US and Israel that the population regards as a threat, by very large margins, as consistently shown by polls.

In western discourse, it is commonly claimed that the Arabs support the US position regarding Iran, but the reference is to the dictators, not the general population, who are considered an irrelevant annoyance under prevailing democratic doctrine.  Also standard is reference to “the standoff between the international community and Iran,” to quote from the current scholarly literature.  Here the phrase “international community” refers to the US and whoever happens to go along with it; in this case, a small minority of the international community, but many more if political stands are weighted by power.

What then is the perceived threat?  An authoritative answer is given by US intelligence and the Pentagon in their regular reviews of global security.  They conclude that Iran is not a military threat.  It has low military expenditures even by the standards of the region, and limited capacity to deploy force.  Its strategic doctrine is defensive, designed to resist attack.  The intelligence community reports no evidence that Iran is developing nuclear weapons, but if it is, they conclude, that would be part of Iran’s deterrence strategy.

It is hard to think of a country in the world that needs a deterrent more than Iran.  It has been tormented by the West without respite ever since its parliamentary regime was overthrown by a US-British military coup in 1953, first under the harsh and brutal regime of the Shah, then under murderous attack by Saddam Hussein, with western support.  It was largely US intervention that induced Iran to capitulate; and shortly after, President George Bush I invited Iraqi nuclear engineers to the US for training in advanced weapons production, an extraordinary threat to Iran.  Iraq soon became an enemy, but meanwhile Iran was subjected to harsh sanctions, intensifying under US initiative to the present.  It constantly subjected to the threat of military attack by the US and Israel – in violation of the UN Charter, if anyone cares.

It is, however, understandable that the US-Israel would regard an Iranian deterrent as an intolerable threat.  It would limit their ability to control the region, by violence if they choose, as they often have.  That is the essence of the perceived Iranian threat.

That the clerical regime is a threat to its own people is hardly in doubt, though regrettably it is hardly alone in that regard.  But it goes well beyond naiveté to believe that its internal repression is much of a concern to the great powers.

Whatever one thinks of the threat, are there ways to mitigate it?  Quite a few, in fact.  One of the most reasonable would be to move towards establishing a nuclear weapons-free zone in the region, as strongly advocated by the Non-aligned movement and particularly by the Arab states, and indeed most of the world.  The US and its allies voice formal support, but have hardly been cooperative.  That is once again clear right now.  Under NPT authority, an international conference was to have been held in Finland last December to advance such plans.  Israel refused to attend, but to the surprise of many, in early November Iran announced that it would take part, without conditions.  The US then announced that the conference was cancelled, repeating Israel’s objections: that a conference is premature before regional security is established.  The Arab states, Russia, and the European Parliament called for immediate renewal of the initiative, but of course little is possible without the US.

Details are murky.  Little documentary evidence is available, and all of this has passed without inquiry. In particular, the US press has not inquired, or in fact even published a single word on the most reasonable and practical efforts to address what it reports as “the gravest threat to world peace.”

It is quite clear, however, that Arab states and others call for moves to eliminate weapons of mass destruction immediately, as a step towards regional security; while the US and Israel, in contrast, reverse the order, and demand regional security – meaning security for Israel — as a prerequisite to eliminating such weapons.  In the not-very-remote background is the understanding that Israel has an advanced nuclear weapons system, alone in the region; and is alone in refusing to join the NPT, along with India and Pakistan, both of whom also benefit from US support for their nuclear arsenals.

The connection of Israel-Palestine conflict to the alleged Iranian threat is therefore clear.  As long as the US and Israel persist in their rejectionist stance, blocking the international consensus on a two-state settlement, there will be no regional security arrangements, hence no moves towards a establishing a nuclear weapons-free zone and mitigating, perhaps ending, what the US and Israel claim to be the gravest threat to peace, at least to do so in the most obvious and far-reaching way.

It should be noted that along with Britain, the US has a special responsibility to devote its efforts to establishing a Middle East NWFZ.  When attempting to provide a thin legal cover for their invasion of Iraq, the two aggressors appealed to UNSCR 687 of 1991, claiming that Saddam violated the demand to end his nuclear weapons programs.  The Resolution also has another paragraph, calling for “steps towards the goal of establishing in the Middle East a zone free from weapons of mass destruction…”, obligating the US and UK even more than others to undertake this initiative seriously.

These comments naturally only scratch the surface, and leave out many urgent topics, among them the horrifying descent of Syria into suicide and ominous developments in Egypt, which are sure to have a regional impact.  And indeed a lot more.  This is how some of the core issues appear, to me at least.

Noam Chomsky was born on December 7, 1928 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He received his Phd in linguistics in 1955 from the University of Pennsylvania, joined the staff of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1955 and in 1961 was appointed full professor. Chomsky has lectured at many universities here and abroad, and is the recipient of numerous honorary degrees and awards.

This article was originally published at Mondoweiss

An Arabic version of this article is to be published in November, 2013 in the Dirasat Yearbook, published in Nazareth.

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