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Video: Police crack down on pro-Kurdish demo after clashes grip Paris

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ll4g625kjoA&w=580&h=385] Clashes erupted between police and pro-Kurdish protesters near Place de la Republique, after law enforcement attempted to disperse a protest against the ... Via...
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Video: Northern Powerhouse ridiculed by canny Sheffield lad on BBC Question Time Bradford (04Feb15)

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z4gyQ6kPmHU&w=580&h=385] Tory minister's bid to show off Northern Powerhouse falls flat on Question Time 00:45, 5 FEB 2016 UPDATED 01:10, 5 FEB 2016 BY...

Google testing secretive drone project that can beam 5G internet – report

Google is reportedly testing a new internet connectivity program called Project Skybender. The project involves solar drones that use millimeter radio waves to allow...
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Video: ‘Signal that refugees are not welcomed’: German regions seize migrants’ valuables

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4GV88UYIiXQ&w=580&h=385] Reports in the German media, suggest Bavaria has been routinely seizing valuables from refugees arriving in the region - to cover some of...
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Video: EU backlash? Brussels threatens sanctions over new Polish media law

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F4gbcaOtCYw&w=580&h=385] Brussels has launched a probe against Poland into its laws controlling state media - Warsaw can hire and fire senior managers working in...

Rosa Luxemburg Explains Capitalism Using Spoons

The inspiring life, engaging prose and intellectual prowess of Rosa Luxemburg leaps off the page through Kate Evans' art in a new graphic biography...
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Video: Exclusive: Assad army advances against ISIS in southern Syria

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jKW8VCDH4GY&w=580&h=385] The Syrian government is continuing to advance against ISIS groups across the country. In the latest move, forces stormed the southern Daraa province,...
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Video: Kurdish Crackdown: Thousands protest against Turkey curfews

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=14GOnvO8l1g&w=580&h=385] Turkish police have dispersed thousands of Kurdish protesters in Diyarbakir, Turkey's biggest Kurdish town, who demanded an end to curfews imposed less ... Via...

Big Water vs. the National Parks: The Fight Against Bottled Water Goes Federal

(Photo: Crushed Water Bottle via Shutterstock) In mid-December, Congress passed a provision within a $1.8 trillion budget bill requiring the National Park Service to file a...
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Video: Racist web users shamed by having their messages posted on giant billboards in...

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qD4G-xFc8TA&w=580&h=385] In an effort to curb intolerance, the racist Tweets of Brazilian citizens are being printed on massive billboards near their homes. The campaign...
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Video: FIRST VIDEO: Russian submarines target ISIS in Syria from Mediterranean

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E8B64gmKWn8&w=580&h=385] Russia has, for the first time, targeted Islamic State targets in Syria with Kalibr land-attack cruise missiles launched from a submarine in the...
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Video: Molotov cocktail attack on Cairo nightclub, over a dozen people killed & injured

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DED4gWEUH_w&w=580&h=385] An apparent firebombing of a nightclub in the Egyptian capital, Cairo, has claimed at least 16 lives, security officials report. Earlier reports said...

An Open Letter to Racist Britain

Dear Racist Britain, I'm one of those people who has been brought up in, lived in and surrounded myself in an environment which scorns racist...
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Video: Climate Activists Vow to Continue with Protests Ahead of Paris Talks

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4gYY25aUQE8&w=580&h=385] In the wake of the Paris attacks, climate activists and the French government are at odds over plans for a massive protest march...

War criminal Tony Blair’s spy chief who wrongly claimed Iraq had WMDs making millions

The former spy chief who provided Tony Blair with ‘evidence’ justifying the invasion of Iraq in 2003 is now raking in vast sums of...
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Video: RAW: Italian leftists clash with riot police in Bologna

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4GXivYtOLvQ&w=580&h=385] Antifascist activists from a wide range of leftist political movements clashed with riot police in Bologna on Sunday, as they protested against a...
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Video: CrossTalk: Obama cornered

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fpej54gVbLo&w=580&h=385] Doubling down or re-calibrating? After finding itself painted into a corner, the Obama administration appears to be doing both when it comes to...
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Video: WikiLeaks exposes CIA Chief’s emails on torture tactics, Iran, Afghanstan

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pmu-4gT9L-g&w=580&h=385] WikiLeaks has come into possession of the contents of CIA chief John Brennan's email account. Among the documents, from the period when Brennan...
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Video: ISIS Slaves (RT Documentary Trailer)

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ztk84GSJYJU&w=580&h=385] Read more https://rtd.rt.com/films/victims-of-isis/ When in August 2014, ISIS invaded regions near Mount Sinjar in Iraq, the terrorists killed and abducted ... Via Youtube
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Video: Top U.S. and World Headlines for October 21, 2015

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S1AymjQ4G6E&w=580&h=385] Visit http://democracynow.org to watch the full independent, global news hour, read the transcript, search our archive, and to make a donation to support...
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Video: Police Tactics of Mass Arrests, Violence and Overcharging Protesters First Developed in 2000

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h4GoBcLRBCs&w=580&h=385] Kris Hermes tells Paul Jay that police suppression of protests at the Republican National Convention set the pattern for breaking up legal protests...
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Video: Syria frontline RAW: Assad’s army in fierce offensive in Damascus suburb

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7S4GVeNPsos&w=580&h=385] Syrian Arab Army ground forces started a large-scale offensive against militants' positions in Joubar and Ein Tarma in the Damascus municipality in an...
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Video: RAW: Syrian Army goes on offensive in Latakia

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iMJJFf4gvsc&w=580&h=385] Syrian Army tanks advanced through the north of the Latakia Governorate on with the help of Russian air support. COURTESY: RT's RUPTLY video...
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Video: Martin O’Malley on Climate Change & Rise of Islamic State

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tCG34gOFtYk&w=580&h=385] In July, presidential candidate Martin O'Malley made headlines by suggesting that the rise of the so-called Islamic State came about in part because...
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Video: US Army confirms dangerous WW2 era radioactive pollution in St. Louis, Missouri

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LG9x4GJSnrE&w=580&h=385] After years of denial the US Army has confirmed dangerous radioactive pollution is present in St. Louis County in Missouri. In the 1940's...

Ignoring the Cause of Welfare: Not Laziness but Low Wages

Numerous US media outlets recently uncritically echoed a methodologically flawed report by an anti-immigration organization with ties to white supremacist groups (FAIR.org, 9/4/15). Beyond...

Warrant now required for federal ‘Stingray’ surveillance use – DoJ

US Department of Justice agents now have to acquire a search warrant before utilizing a cell-site simulator, the department said, though the new policy...

The 2030 Agenda: This Month The UN Launches A Blueprint For A New World...

Michael Snyder (RINF) - Did you know that the UN is planning to launch a “new universal agenda” for humanity in September 2015? That phrase...

Amnesty International director alleged to have links to Muslim Brotherhood & radical Islamists

A senior Amnesty International official has been found to have private links with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and revolutionary Islamists accused of plotting...

Hillary Clinton’s Keystone Crisis

Jamie Henn Hillary Clinton's pipeline problem started in earnest this July 28, when Bruce Blodgett, a retired software engineer, asked Clinton about her position on...
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Video: Father of suspected ISIS recruit: ‘It is my fault’

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cxtnnlY4gAU&w=580&h=385] About 25000 foreign fighters from more than 100 countries are estimated to have joined Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS). RT met the family...
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Video: Nazi Roots Of The EU Revealed

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u4gWkd8UfCs&w=580&h=385] Lord Christopher Monckton talks to Alex Jones about the nazi roots of the EU and how the UN is getting ready to introduce...
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Video: From 9/11 to Mass Surveillance, The Man Who Knew Too Much – Thomas...

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U_gjaj4GJRk&w=580&h=385] On Reality Asserts Itself, Mr. Drake tells Host Paul Jay that mass surveillance is not about protecting people, in the end it's about...
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Video: FIRST VIDEO: Moment helicopter crashes at airshow in Russia, pilot escapes burning cockpit

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6s8Ahcxg84g&w=580&h=385] An Mi-28N military helicopter has crashed near Russia's Ryazan during an aerobatic display performed as part of the Aviadarts competition in the 1st...
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Video: #SayHerName: Protests Demand Justice for Sandra Bland & Black Teen Found Dead in...

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YKIKXWaAF4g&w=580&h=385] http://democracynow.org - In Texas, new information has emerged about the arrest of Sandra Bland, the 28-year-old African-American woman found dead in a ... Via...

Video: Meredith McLeod Reporting On New York Banning Fracking For The Richie Allen Show!

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SV8M1WDRB4g&w=580&h=385] Please Support The Show — http://richieallenshow.com/donate/ http://richieallenshow.com/ https://www.facebook.com/richieallenshow ... Via Youtube
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Video: Moscow slams US’ recent nuclear bomb test as ‘irresponsible’ & ‘openly provocative’

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4g9orwr5zu4&w=580&h=385] Russian Deputy Defense Minister slams Washington's recent dropping of a dummy atomic bomb, as a provocation and potential test for a nuclear attack...

FBI Claims Arrests Tied to Fourth of July ‘Plots,’ Declines to Offer Any Details

In new comments today, FBI Director James Comey is claiming that he “believes” plots linked to the Fourth of July may have been thwarted...
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Video: Baltimore Police Commissioner Fired Amid Surge in Violence, Mistrust

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6i_p-2ish4g&w=580&h=385] Mayor calls Anthony Batts a distraction from crime fighting efforts. Via Youtube

Why Turkey’s Erdogan Stumbled

In his rise to power, Turkish President Erdogan won popular support by showing independence in foreign affairs but then got caught up in his own...
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Video: 1 Day Left!

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iERejOGPF4g&w=580&h=385] As we near the target we need your help to push us the rest of the way. Consider donating today, $5 to $5000,...
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Video: Thrilling GoPro footage: GTA style car chase & shootout with $7 million robber...

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qr4G6pOToBQ&w=580&h=385] A day after a special forces unit chased down a gang of cash van robbers through the streets of Moscow, and exchanged gunfire...
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Video: An American Writer: Ta-Nehisi Coates (2/2)

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4gCYuIbs1KQ&w=580&h=385] TRNN Executive Producer Eddie Conway discusses reparations and the Black Lives Matter movement with Baltimore native Ta-Nehisi Coates. Via Youtube

King John Butchered Authors of Magna Carta

… or at least he tried to butcher them. On this day 800 years ago, King John was compelled to sign Magna Charta, formally...
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Video: Keiser Report: Beware Bankers Bearing Debt Crack! (E770)

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SoY4gYFM5ww&w=580&h=385] In this episode of the Keiser Report, Max Keiser and Stacy Herbert discuss bursting bond bubbles, fleeing banks and scaring the hell out...
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Video: House Democrats Defeat TPP For Now

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p3H4gRXaf20&w=580&h=385] CEPR's Stephan Lefebvre explains why House Democrats voted against Trade Adjustment Assistance and what to expect before the revote Tuesday. Via Youtube
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Video: CrossTalk: Obama’s Failure

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U-PpCVbe34g&w=580&h=385] The Islamic State continues to thrive and establish itself as a power base in the Middle East. Though it must be pointed out...
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Video: Only Infowars Reporters “Mug Shots” on Checkpoint Wall

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nTZEesMB54g&w=580&h=385] As Infowars reporters Rob Dew and Josh Owens went through the Buchen checkpoint, Rob noticed that both of their passport photos and Paul...

Driven Mad by Brutal Government

Governments have a number of ways that they can drive people insane. There are constant psychological assaults, and sometimes, something as simple as staying...

American Pharoah: What A Perfect Description For The Guy In The White House

By Michael Snyder (RINF) - A horse named “American Pharoah” just won the Triple Crown. Is this some sort of a sign for America? The...

40 Flicks for Prepper Movie Night

Every prepper I know loves a good disaster flick. We just enjoy sitting back and watching a fictional disaster unfold so that we can strategize how we would handle it, mock the hero for his or her poor decisions (you know, those dumb moves that a prepper would never make), and feel absolutely justified with regard to our lifestyle choices.

UK mass surveillance lacks transparency

RINF Alternative News In response to a report from the Parliament's Intelligence and Security Committee, Amnesty International has slammed the regulation of mass surveillance as...

‘Stingray’ surveillance devices can degrade service for any cell phone in vicinity – report

Surveillance technology known as ‘Stingray’ -- used to trick phones into connecting to them by mimicking cell towers -- can block or drop phone...

Deadly LAPD shooting of homeless man is caught on video

In a dramatic confrontation caught on video, Los Angeles police shot and killed a homeless man in the heart of downtown’s bustling skid row Sunday. A video of...

Brookings Wants More Villages Firebombed in Ukraine’s ‘Anti Terrorist Operation’

Eric Zuesse INTRODUCTION Washington's prestigious bipartisan think tank, the Brookings Institution, has now issued a call for American taxpayers to finance more firebombings, clusterbombings, and other...

I Am a Patriot. Stop This Madness. No More Killing In Our Names

Tighe Barry On Thursday, November 13, I dropped down in my seat at the hearing room of the House Armed Services Committee on the Administration’s...

Anyone threatening US petrodollar is public enemy No.1

Annie Machon Last Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, said at the celebration of the fall of the Berlin Wall last weekend that we are facing a...

As Malaysia Airlines bleeds out, twin tragedies are still a question mark

Malaysia Airlines has had a profoundly difficult year. Between two harrowing air disasters and the company’s precarious financial woes, the national carrier faces daunting challenges as it attempts to restructure and recover its reputation as a leading regional airline. Despite poor commercial performance in recent years, it maintained a stellar record for decades as one of the Asia-Pacific's safest and most reliable airlines.


Malaysia Airlines has suffered the two worst disasters in modern aviation less than five months apart. Both incidents involved Boeing 777-200ERs, widely considered being one of the safest aircrafts. Over six months have past since flight MH370 disappeared on route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. A multinational search team has scoured remote southern stretches of the Indian Ocean, unable to find even a trace of debris from the aircraft.


A preliminary report on the demise of flight MH17 released by Dutch investigators has failed to provide a wider understanding of the incident, leaving critical questions of culpability unanswered. The crippling impact of the two air disasters has forced Malaysia Airlines into accelerating a major restructuring effort to rescue the brand and return it to profitably by 2017, with plans to relist the company by 2019.


Nationalize or privatize?


As the flagship carrier, Malaysia Airlines is viewed as a symbol of national prestige and development. The state has played a vital role in using public funds to restructure the airline over the years. The key challenges confronting the carrier are competition from low-cost national and regional rivals, high operating costs, unprofitable long haul routes, and a bloated payroll.


The main question going forward is whether further nationalization or drastic privatization will more effectively resuscitate the airline. Khazanah Nasional, a state investment fund that owns about 70% of Malaysia Airlines, proposed a strategy to recover the national carrier, involving plans to take full ownership of the airline and the most stringent job cuts in the company's history.


Unlike the four previous attempts to restructure the airline, which reneged on plans to scale back the workforce under pressure from politically influential airline unions, the company intends to cut staffing by 6,000 jobs or 30% of the carrier's 20,000 employees. Malaysia Airlines has about 30 percent more staff than comparable airlines, and while the cuts will be painful, the status quo can clearly not be maintained under the prevailing circumstances.


Khazanah Nasional will channel around RM6bn ($2 billion) into reviving the carrier, buying out remaining stock from shareholders, layoffs and other restructuring costs, debt settlement and capital injections. Putrajaya claims these funds are an investment, rather than a bailout, expressing its intention to regain the funds when the airline returns to profitability. One can be forgiven for being skeptical of the carrier’s strategy, taking into account the shortcomings of previous restructuring attempts.


An accumulative sum of RM17.4bn ($5.3 billion) was injected into the airline between 2001 and 2014, and losses of RM8.4bn ($2.6 billion) were incurred nonetheless during that period. Malaysia Airlines reported a net loss of RM443mn ($140.8 million) for the first quarter of 2014. Second-quarter earnings following the unexplained disappearance of MH370 in March saw losses of RM307mn ($97.6 million). The second-half earnings are expected to be even grimmer in the wake of MH17, following reports from the airline that average weekly bookings had declined by 33 percent. The company has lost more than 40 percent of its market value this year and has not made an annual profit since 2010.


Shareholders will be meeting in early November to consider Khazanah’s selective capital reduction proposal plan before the recovery plan can go into effect. Although shareholders will be losing money by selling off their assets for lower prices than they purchased them for, the independent adviser AmInvestment Bank advised that they accept the offer, because without the proposed capital injection from Khazanah, the airline will go under and the share price will collapse. It’s better to lose a finger than to lose an arm.


As budget carriers like AirAsia, which was formally state-owned before being taken private, lead the Southeast Asian market, there are those who will view any further capital injection into Malaysia Airlines as an imprudent use of public funds. Khazanah itself has noted that the RM17.4bn used to restructure the national carrier could have helped improve education or provide water and power to remote villages. It also doesn’t make sense to refer to Khazanah’s move to take full ownership of the airline as a privatization since it is a government investment fund; it’s more like a de-facto nationalization.


At this stage, whether Malaysia Airlines is nationalized or privatized is a periphery concern: the real question is how can it be restructured to viably compete with discount airlines that make up some 58 percent of the air traffic in Southeast Asia? There are concerns going forward that Khazanah lacks the expertise needed to micromanage the airline and implement the kind of solutions needed to shift the balance back toward profitability. Additionally, there will be no minority shareholders to scrutinize the management and provide helpful input under Khazanah’s full ownership of the carrier.


Structural adjustments are needed to make the airline leaner and more efficient if it has any chance of surviving. Long unprofitable routes that require heavy subsidies should be cut with renewed focus on competitively priced medium-haul services within Asia. The fleet of Boeing 777s and Airbus A380s can be sold off and replaced with more fuel-efficient A330s and the A350s designed for shorter distances.


If employees and unions were better informed about the dire ill health of the airline, perhaps they would agree to voluntary pay cuts for a limited period if it meant retaining job security. Under the current circumstances, bonuses should be suspended and the balance sheet should be carefully scrutinized. In addition to rolling out a public relations blitz to repair the image of the company, Malaysia Airlines should emulate some qualities of their rivals’ business models, but differentiate themselves by offering greater value for money to the extent that a full-service airline can provide.


No answers, no closure


As the enquiry continues into the demise of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over the skies of eastern Ukraine in July, the preliminary findings of the international investigation have done little to develop a clearer understanding of the incident. The parties responsible for bringing down the aircraft, and exactly what means were utilized to do so, have yet to be firmly established.


The Dutch Safety Board (DSB), which is leading the investigation into the MH17 crash, released a preliminary report in September, which sought to analyze air traffic control and radio communication data, assess the inflight break-up sequences, and conduct a forensic examination of the wreckage. Assigning culpability to any party was not in the report’s mandate; the authors of the text use highly guarded and ambiguous language to explain their findings.


Due to the continued obstruction and contamination of the crash site as a result of military hostilities, it is highly questionable whether further forensic examinations can be carried out under such protracted circumstances. Another barrier is a lack of political will to consider certain findings, due to the politically charged nature of the Ukrainian conflict, which has resuscitated Cold War-era hostilities, bringing US-Russia relations to new lows.


Though Ukraine, the United States, and other countries have accused Russia of supplying the rebels with surface-to-air missiles and orchestrating the shoot-down of MH17, those governments have yet to declassify their intelligence on MH17, refusing even to discuss the sources and methodology behind their findings. Comments by Russian officials at the UN and elsewhere indicate that Moscow feels its side of the story has been neglected and overlooked.


The satellite images and military data made public by Moscow, which suggest a completely different series of events, have been entirely absent from the media’s narrative. The Dutch findings conclude that the aircraft abruptly ended its flight after a large number of “high energy objects”penetrated the aircraft from the outside, but does not identify the nature of those objects.


Dutch investigators have wholly omitted findings from radar data submitted by Moscow that purportedly showed a Ukrainian Su-25 fighter jet flying in close proximity to MH17 prior to it disappearing from radar.  BBC’s Russian language service broadcasted a report shortly after the disaster where several local eyewitnesses claimed to see a military aircraft in the sky flying in the vicinity of MH17 as it exploded and broke apart. The investigation has a responsibility to address the question of the Ukrainian fighter jet and its possible role in the incident.


The case of MH370 has proven to be the most baffling incident in commercial aviation history and one of the world's greatest aviation mysteries. Despite the largest multinational search and rescue effort ever conducted, not a trace of debris from the aircraft has been found, nor has the cause of the aircraft’s erratic change of trajectory and disappearance been established.


After a fruitless search in the southern Indian Ocean where the plane is believed to have crashed after running out of fuel, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau leading the investigation has admitted that investigators are not entirely sure if the current underwater search is being conducted in the right spot, although Malaysian officials have been more optimistic.


Tim Clark, the CEO and president of Emirates, questioned the methodology used by investigation team to pinpoint the crash site, claiming it was downright “suspicious” that a Boeing 777 could disappear without a trace with its communications being disabled. Clark also raised concerns that the public was not being told the whole truth about the cargo manifest.


The families of the passengers and crewmembers onboard the missing aircraft recently renewed calls for Putrajaya to release the full cargo manifest, which they say was only partially released some two months after the incident, claiming that there were missing gaps in the document. The manifesto claimed that the cargo contained 2.4 tons of lithium ion batteries and radio accessories and chargers consigned for Motorola, and 4.5 tons of mangosteen.


IGP Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar promised the media that authorities would investigate the mangosteen supplier after the Federal Agricultural Marketing Authority claimed that the fruit was not in season, nor were there any orchards in Johor where the mangosteen supplier, Poh Seng Kian, is based. The way in which certain information has allegedly been withheld from the public domain has worked to stoke skepticism that investigators must address. 


Inmarsat, the British satellite telecommunications company responsible for analyzing MH370 satellite data, has also come under scrutiny from independent satellite experts and engineers that found glaring inconsistencies in their analysis. The Atlantic magazine published a report in May based on the analysis of Michael Exner, founder of the American Mobile Satellite Corporation, Duncan Steel, a physicist and visiting scientist at NASA’s Ames Research Center, and satellite technology consultant Tim Farrar.


The team of analysts used flight and navigation software to deconstruct Inmarsat’s analysis, and determined that Inmarsat’s data contained irregular frequency shifts, and even when the values were corrected, Inmarsat’s example flight paths failed to match and proved to be erroneous. In other words, these analysts believe there may be grounds to believe that the search is being conducted on the basis of a false mathematical conclusion.


The authors of the report attempted to reach Inmarsat and other relevant bodies, but they claim that the company did not reply to requests for comments on basic technical questions about their analysis, leading them to determine that “Inmarsat officials and search authorities seem to want it both ways: They release charts, graphics, and statements that give the appearance of being backed by math and science, while refusing to fully explain their methodologies.”


While the investigation teams are doing their level best to establish accounts of the two Malaysia Airlines disasters, there is undoubtedly a dimension of political pressure involved that can create various barriers to understanding. The astonishing nature of these two incidents demand that uncomfortable scenarios and questions be addressed and examined. The media still has an important role to play.

This article was appeared in the October 28 and 29, 2014 print edition of The Malaysian Reserve newspaper.

Nile Bowie is an independent journalist and political analyst based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. His articles have appeared in numerous international publications, including regular columns with Russia Today (RT) and newspapers such as the Global Times, the Malaysian Reserve and the New Straits Times. He is a research assistant with the International Movement for a Just World (JUST), a Malaysian NGO promoting social justice and anti-hegemony politics. He can be reached at nilebowie@gmail.com.


The Collapse of the American Economy Has Begun

Susan Duclos  and Stefan Stanford recently interviewed “V” the Guerrilla Economist and the following information was revealed in this landmark interview: “The process of undermining...

Libya’s Destruction A Warning To Egypt, Syria, And Ukraine

Tony Cartalucci RT’s article, “90% of aircraft destroyed at Tripoli airport, Libya may seek international assistance,” reported that: Libya is considering a deployment of international force...

Israel Inflicts Illegal Collective Punishment on Gaza

Marjorie Cohn Israel has commenced full-scale warfare on the people of Gaza. The recent tensions began about six weeks ago when Israeli forces abducted 17...

When The Elite showed its hand

When The Elite showed its hand by Jon Rappoport June 16, 2014 www.nomorefakenews.com In a minute, I’m going to print a stunning 1978 conversation between a US reporter and two members of the Trilateral Commission. I discovered the conversation in the late 1980s, and ever since then, I’ve been looking at it from various angles, […]

The Day the Robot Rebelled

The Day the Robot Rebelled by Jon Rappoport June 11, 2014 www.nomorefakenews.com “Once the Singularity has been reached, [Ray] Kurzweil predicts machine intelligence will be infinitely more powerful than all human intelligence combined. Afterwards, Kurzweil says, intelligence will radiate outward from the planet until it saturates the universe…Kurzweil feels humans will most likely experience gradual […]

18 ‘Conspiracy Theories’ That Were Proven True

By Susan Duclos



 On May 15, 2014, Newsweek published a piece about conspiracy theories and how they "cripple basic governance," also that they "divert attention from real issues," and "distort the debate that is crucial to democracy."

 First and foremost, as much as some would like it to be different, America is NOT a Democracy, it is a Republic that holds democratic elections, but despite the MSM's attempts to distort that very basic fact, that is not the point of this article.

 Key Quotes from the Newsweek article:


.....“One of the most common ways of introducing a conspiracy theory is to ‘just ask questions’ about an official account,’’ says Karen Douglas, co-editor of the British Journal of Social Psychology and a senior academic who has researched conspiracy theories at Britain’s University of Kent. “It’s quite a powerful rhetorical tool because it doesn’t require any content, just the introduction of doubt about the official story.”....

But accusing political opponents of serious wrongdoing based on unsubstantiated nonsense plays havoc with social discourse. When each side attacks the other based on wild theories—calling them terrorists, anti-American, murderers, racists and the like—the tribal divisions cripple basic governance.

“The reason we should worry about conspiracy theories and misinformation is that they distort the debate that is crucial to democracy,’’ says Brendan Nyhan, an assistant professor in Dartmouth’s government department who has conducted research on conspiracy theories. “They divert attention from the real issue and issues of concern that public officials should be debating.”

It is a long article, make sure to read it before listening to the video below, where Mark Dice discusses 18 "crazy" conspiracy theories............. all that were proven true over time, from either declassification of government secrets (years after the fact and AFTER insisting that those that believed those theories were crazy) or leaked information proving them true, again, usually years later.


The point is the MSM is doing everything they can to label those that "ask questions" about an "official" story as loons that are disrupting the process, yet no mention in this hit piece about conspiracy theories that are true, those "loons" were right, the official story nothing but a pack of lies.


Sure there are some theories that are over-the-top and out there, so to speak, but when "we the people" have been lied to over and over again by the very government we elected to represent us, then every single official story becomes suspect....... and they should be!








Cross posted at Before It's News


Rick Wiles TruNews ‘A Lot Of People Are Going To Meet Their Maker’

By Susan Duclos Rick Wiles and Chris Steinle at TruNews are joined by end-times author Doug Krieger for an in-depth discussion on Bible prophecies and how they relate to current events, where Wiles states outright that "something is on the wa...

Oil Rig War, Demographic Winter, Thai Regime Change — Asia-Pacific Perspective

Welcome back to The Asia-Pacific Perspective, that monthly show where James Corbett of corbettreport.com and Broc West of apperspective.net break down all the latest news and headlines from the Asia-Pacific region. In this month’s conversation: S...

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This month on the Asia-Pacific Perspective: China sets up an oil rig in Vietnam's Economic Exclusion Zone; Japan sets a 100 million population goal for 2060; and Thailand teeters on the edge of martial law.

How Marijuana Legalization in America is Destroying Mexican Drug Cartel Business

Michael Krieger Nothing is more amusing (and sad) than when I see some ignorant out of stater commenting about how nightmarish the legalization of marijuana...

America: A Pacific power?

As Washington pursues its rebalancing strategy, Obama’s historic four-nation tour of the Asia-Pacific has subtly altered the region’s security dynamics.

"The United States is a Pacific power, and we are here to stay," declared President Obama during his speech to the Australian parliament in 2011, following his announcement to deploy 2,500 marines to northern Australia to help protect American interests across Asia.

As Washington remains embroiled in domestic economic issues and conflicts throughout the Middle East and elsewhere, the Obama administration has come under great scrutiny for not living up to the promise of rebalancing to the Asia-Pacific, the world’s most economically-dynamic region. The US president’s recent trip to the region was the most significant and tangible development to occur since the rebalancing policy was unveiled.

Obama’s trip had two primary dimensions: deepening the role of the US military throughout the Asia-Pacific, and shoring up support for the faltering Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, an all-encompassing trade deal led by Washington that would embolden transnational corporate power at great public expense.

As the Obama administration moves ahead on plans to relocate some 60 percent of its navy into the region, Washington's current Asia doctrine is grounded in the notion that no other power can be allowed to reach parity with the United States. Washington’s strategy to pivot toward the Asia-Pacific is adorned with the language of pragmatism and neutrality, and despite repeated denials, the Obama administration’s actions are quite transparently aimed at capping the influence of a rapidly developing China.

Washington has inserted itself into complicated, long-standing historical and territorial disputes under the guise of neutrality, which risks potentially setting the stage for an irreparable strategic blunder: antagonizing two major world powers simultaneously at a time when relations between the US and Russia are already deteriorating over the crisis in Ukraine.

President Obama’s milestone four-nation tour of the Asia-Pacific may have laid the foundations for the region’s local territorial disputes to grow into an increasing tense superpower stand-off.

Read the full story on RT.com

Nile Bowie is a Malaysia-based political analyst and a columnist with Russia Today. He can be reached at nilebowie@gmail.com.

Israel: Holocaust Memorial Day

Israel gears up to mark Holocaust Remembrance Day

The theme of this year's opening ceremony at Yad Vashem is “Jews On the Edge 1944: Between Annihilation and Liberation,” where 6 survivors will light torches.

 
 
CHILDREN AND an old woman on the way to the death barracks of Auschwitz-Birkenau in Poland. Photo: GERMAN FEDERAL ARCHIVES
 
On Sunday evening and Monday Israelis will mark Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day with memorials across the country. The commemoration of the six million European Jews murdered by the Germans will commence with torch lighting ceremony attended by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, President Shimon Peres and other senior officials at the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum in Jerusalem....
 
Go read more on the Jerusalem Post.

Via AP, comes a report of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warning the world.  He says, in part:
"In this place I have said many times that we must identify an existential threat in time and act against it in time and tonight I ask 'why in the years before the Holocaust did most of the world's leaders not see the danger ahead of time?' In hindsight, all the signs were there," he said.

"Has the world learned a lesson from the mistakes of the past? Today we are again faced with clear facts and before a real danger. Iran calls for our destruction, it develops nuclear weapons."


NEVER AGAIN???  Only we can decide if we really mean that, and what we are prepared to do to walk the walk of:  NEVER AGAIN..

Rep. Hurt Confuses Iraq and Afghanistan

Congressman Hurt just wrote below:"I have unconditional support for our brave men and women serving America overseas, as well as for their families.  As our military commanders have said, we must remain steadfast in a clear strategy to defeat t...

Something Very Strange Is Going On

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Harry Reid Wants Civil War: ‘It’s Not Over! — Americans Agree, It Isn’t Over...

By Susan Duclos  Cross posted at Before It's News Harry Reid's plan failed, his attempt to steal Cliven Bundy's cattle and violently force Mr. Bundy, known as the "last rancher standing," off his land, failed. Spectacularly failed! Americans ...

Revolution Now In Nevada — What You Can Do To Fight Back

By Susan Duclos It is time. A revolution without a shot fired is possible, and for those that have been wringing their hands over what they have been watching happen to the US and wondering what a single person can do about it, there is plent...

Corrupt To The Core: The Fire Power Of The Financial Sector

Countercurrents and Global Research 9/4/2014

The enormous power and destructive influence of financial markets became apparent after the global economic collapse of 2008. This event revealed a need for bringing the sector under democratic public ownership; failing that, stronger regulations for financial markets at the very least. But political will has been lacking on both counts. The sector enjoys massive financial resources and successfully translates them into political influence.


Many ordinary people might be wondering why governments have not curtailed the criminality of the financial sector on the back of the economic crisis which it created. Instead, billions of dollars, pounds and euros have been handed over to the sector, and governments continue to grant banks free rein and thus dictate national economic and social policies.


If bankers and financiers are to be able to stuff their bulging suitcases with taxpayer handouts and to further loot economies, it is essential for them to have politicians in their pockets. One way by which this is achieved is shown in a new report, which indicates that the financial industry spends more than 120 million euros a year on lobbying in Brussels and employs more than 1,700 lobbyists to influence EU policy-making.

The report, ‘The fire power of the financial lobby’ has been released by Corporate Europe Observatory, ÖGB Europabüro (Brussels office of the Austrian Trade Union Federation), and AK EUROPA (Brusselsoffice of the Austrian Chamber of Labour) .


Kenneth Haar from Corporate Europe Observatory says:


“Reform has proved difficult, and these numbers are an important part of the explanation. The financial lobby's fire power to resist reform has been evident in all significant battles over financial regulation since the collapse of Lehman Brothers.”

The report shows the financial industry commands tremendous lobbying resources and enjoys privileged access to decision makers. The financial sector lobbies EU decision-makers by means of over 700 organisations, including companies' public relations offices, business associations, and consultancies.


This figure outnumbers civil-society organisations and trade unions working on financial issues by a factor of more than five. And the imbalance is even greater when numbers of staff and lobbying expenses are compared. The report shows that the financial lobby massively outspends other actors by a factor of more than 30. In order to arrive at a safe estimate, the survey used the most conservative figures. The actual numbers – and the imbalance between different interests – are thus likely to be far higher. This underestimate is mainly due to the lack of a mandatory register of lobbyists at the EU level that would provide reliable information for proper monitoring.


The report also shows the presence of the financial industry in the EU's official advisory groups that play a key role in helping to shape policy. And, here too, the financial lobby is massively over-represented here: 15 of the 17 expert groups covered by the study were heavily dominated by the financial industry.


Oliver Röpke, from ÖGB Europabüro said:


“This situation represents a severe democratic problem that politicians must act on swiftly. A first step is to adopt effective rules on lobbying transparency and strong ethics rules against undue influence.”

Amir Ghoreishi from AK EUROPA said:


“The fact that the financial lobby is so dominant in advisory groups reveals that the European Commission feels that people representing the financial industry should be allowed to set the agenda. An arms-length principle should be applied immediately.”

The report is a damning indictment of the sector's political influence. The sector continues to rake in unimaginable profits, while sucking the life out of economies. Ordinary people continue to pay the price via the privatization of public assets and ‘austerity’.  


“The stench emanating from the financial system is a product of the decay of the entire profit system. That system must be replaced by a higher socio-economic order in which the vast wealth created by the collective labour of the world working class is deployed to meet human need. The expropriation of the banks and finance houses, placing them under public ownership and democratic control, is the first step in implementing such a program.” Nick Beams (1)


Note:






The Legend That Lost Its Way: How Pacifica Split

In January 1960, Harold Winkler, Pacifica Radio’s president and KPFA station manager, received an unusual phone call from New York. A former political science professor at the University of California, Winkler had resigned in protest over a required loyalty oath for faculty members. He was also independently wealthy. On the other end of the line was Louis Schweitzer, a Russian-born millionaire, radio station owner, and also a president – in his case president of the Peter Schweitzer Division of Kimberly-Clark. He knew about Pacifica and had a radical proposition.
     A few years before, the eccentric radio enthusiast had bought a station for $34,000, subsequently offering New York City the latest music and some intelligent programs. But he found the choice between losing money on quality and making a profit by going more commercial personally frustrating and philosophically untenable. To his dismay, the station’s greatest success had come during a New York newspaper strike. “That was not what I wanted at all,” he told Winkler. “I saw that if the station ever succeeded, it would be a failure."
     So, he asked, did Pacifica want it?
     For a decade, KPFA in Berkeley had been the only listener-sponsored radio station in the country. But after planning for four years and raising $200,000, the Pacifica Foundation had recently launched a second station – KPFK in Los Angeles – an independent operation with its own board, station manager, and local base of supporters. Now, without paying anything, it could own a completely equipped FM station in the Big Apple, smack dab in the middle of the FM dial. It was a no-brainer.
     The station that ultimately became WBAI began lower on the dial in 1941 as WABF, a commercial station, but moved to the 99.5 frequency in 1948. In the early 1950s it was off the air for two years, but came back in 1955 with call letters that reflected the name of its current owner, Broadcast Associates, Inc. By the time Schweitzer made his donation, it was worth about $200,000.
      With KPFK and WBAI, Pacifica expanded from a single station into a network reaching three major metropolitan areas with a potential audience of sixty million people. But along with growth came challenges for which the organization was largely unprepared.
     Driving into New York City in February 2006, on the first leg of my orientation tour as Pacifica Executive Director, I thought about WBAI’s past. It was once one of the most innovative stations in broadcast history, winning awards for its civil rights coverage and helping to define the counterculture. In 1965, it sent the first American reporter, Chris Koch, to cover the war from North Vietnam. Combining resources with the other Pacifica stations, it broadcast live anti-war teach-ins. At a time when even the underground press wasn’t receptive to feminism, it put Nanette Rainone’s groundbreaking show “CR” on the air. When Columbia students seized the campus in 1968, it covered the occupation uninterrupted.
     There was also Bob Fass’s “Radio Unnameable,” a weekend collage of music, poetry and talk, radio’s version of the underground press. Identifying with the counterculture and anti-war movement, Fass took his mike out to demonstrations and invited movement leaders into the studio to discuss their plans. He ran the show like a telephone switchboard, connecting people and getting them involved. He broke the mold and invented something new – freeform radio

.

With a transmitter at the Empire State Building, a signal that reached far beyond the city limits and a roster of on-air voices second to none, the station’s influence was profound in its day. But now it was at war with itself. It was like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, said programmer Ibrahim Gonzales, “complete with endless debates over the right of return, over who held the rights to a time slot.” As managers and hosts came at one another with lawsuits, purges, and fights over race and ideology, its audience was drifting away.
    In 2005, amidst charges of mismanagement, favoritism, and partisan games, Station Manager Don Rojas had resigned. Business manager Indra Hardat was placed temporarily in charge as the local board searched for a permanent replacement. Nine months later, when I started my cross-country trip, she was still on the job. But the real power was in the hands of Program Director Bernard White.
    Like many key players, Bernard had been with Pacifica for decades, Raised in Harlem, he studied at Queens College and held a variety of jobs, including New York school teacher, before turning to radio journalism in 1978. For several years he shared the mike weekday mornings with Amy Goodman on “Wake Up Call,” then became WBAI’s Interim Program Director in 1999 after the untimely death of Samori Marksman, a beloved and cosmopolitan Pan-Africanist. The following year, in a controversial move, General Manager Valerie Van Isler chose him for permanent PD over Utrice Lead, a flamboyant Trinidad native. By year’s end, however, Bernard was fired, a casualty of Pacifica’s “Christmas Coup.” Central management and the National Board had taken over the station, changed the locks, fired Van Isler, installed Leid as interim GM, and given a list of “banned” employees to the security guards.
     Bernard and two dozen others who were fired during the “hijack” period, as it was labeled by those organizing against the people in charge, returned to WBAI in 2002. But his tenure as program director since then had been stormy. Bernard had solid backing from the Justice and Unity Coalition, the strongest faction on the local board, which considered him a determined anti-racist who put “activist” voices on the air. Amy Goodman thought of him as a comrade and friend. To his opponents, however, he was a Tammany Hall-style demagogue who abused his position, dismissed popular hosts like investigative journalist Robert Knight and health guru Gary Null, commandeered the airwaves to criticize his opponents, and frequently played the “race card” himself. Basically, they blamed him for the station’s listener and financial decline.
     Whatever the reasons, station membership had dropped by 20 percent since the previous year, according to industry and management figures. On-air fund drives ran longer and longer, and brought in less money per day.

Part One of Pacifica Radio: A Listening Tour

  • Next: Facing the Factions

UPDATED – YouTube Gives Gov’t Agents ‘Super Flagging’ Status To Remove Vids And Channels...

By Susan Duclos


Via his backup video channel, Mark Dice comes out with a hard hitting response to his YouTube channel's termination after 7 years of producing videos, and reveals that this happened just days after an announcement that YouTube was enlisting "Trusted Flaggers."


Via Wall Street Journal, we see that Dice is correct in calling some of these "flaggers" government agents:


Google has given roughly 200 people and organizations, including a British police unit, the ability to “flag” up to 20 YouTube videos at once to be reviewed for violating the site’s guidelines.

The Financial Times last week reported that the U.K. Metropolitan Police’s Counter Terrorism Internet Referral Unit has been using its “super flagger” authority to seek reviews – and removal – of videos it considers extremist.

Looks like YouTube aka Google has decided to do the government's bidding now using censorship to stifle the free speech of users.


While YouTube denies that it allows these government flaggers to dictate what is and is not removed, the last paragraph of the WSJ article pretty much tells the story and it contradicts their assertions.


More than 90% of the videos identified by super flaggers are either removed for violating guidelines, or restricted as not appropriate for younger users, the person familiar with the program said. That’s a far higher percentage than regular users who occasionally flag dubious content, the person said.

[Update] Should Dice's backup channel be terminated, this video below is saved and will be uploaded to Liveleak and replaced.


[Updated] YouTube contact page found here.


[UPDATE] YouTube aka Google terminated Dice's backup channel also, so as promised I uploaded it to LiveLeak and it is embedded below the video now missing due to YouTube's censorship! 








 

 

 




Cross posted at Before It's News


Dear Future Mom

By Findalis of Monkey in the Middle Today is World Down Syndrome Day.  And here is a heartwarming message from 15 ambassadors with Down Syndrome to a future mother of a child with Down Syndrome. Click here if the video fails to load. Down Syndrome...

‘Winds Of War’ Russia Moves Anti-Ship Missiles To Crimea In Response To US Guided-Missile...

By Susan Duclos


Russia has countered the Obama administrations attempt to interfere, once again, in the Ukraine. The US decided to move guided-missile destroyer USS Truxtun into the Black Sea, and Russia has made their next move by deploying a Bastion anti-ship missile system in Sevastopol, according to Joseph Watson at InfoWars.


“The system is designed for the destruction of various surface ships from an enemy’s landing squadrons, convoys, carrier strike groups, as well as single vessels and land-based radiocontrast targets in conditions of intensive fire and electronic countermeasures. The system uses the P-800 Yakhont (SS-N-26) anti-ship cruise missile and has a maximum range of 300 km,” states a separate report on a Vietnamese military website.

Tensions are high and with the buildup of military force and world leaders with nuclear weapons, pound their chests and counter move after move, threats issued and battle lines being drawn, one wrong move, one over-the-top insult or sanction or even an accident could be construed as a declaration of war and BOOM, world war III begins.


Via the video details from Paul Begley "Russia seems to 2 steps ahead of every American Military move."


Yes, that is what happens when you pit a community organizer (Obama) against a KGB war expert (Putin).






Cross posted at Before It's News

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Kristen Gwynne  RINF Alternative News Philadelphia, 16-year-old Darrin Manning was on his way to play in a basketball game when police approached him and his teammates....

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Kara Brandeisky  RINF Alternative News Today President Obama plans to announce some reportedly limited reforms to National Security Agency surveillance programs. Since the first disclosures based on documents provided...

“One Fund Boston” and the Boston Mass Casualty Event

By James F. Tracy

An integral and by now much-anticipated element of a spectacle such as the Boston Mass Casualty Event (BMCE) of April 15, 2013 involves establishment of charities through which the incident may gain legitimacy in the public mind. Such entities provide fiscal channels by which event participants may be compensated and are also vital for public participation via charitable offerings.

Here, perhaps predictably, one find the unusually swift development of “The One Fund Boston,” a now celebrated aid organization whose very name oddly resonates with the new agey themes of “resilience” and “unity” promoted by mass grief and woe maven John Woodall.[1] “We are one Boston. We are one community,” Boston Mayor Thomas Menino is quoted as saying on “One Fund’s” website. “As always, we will come together to help those most in need. And in the end, we will all be better for it.”[2]

One Fund is in fact the sole creation of the 2013 Boston Marathon’s chief corporate sponsors—the John Hancock corporation and the Hill Holliday advertising firm. Website captures from the Internet Archive indicate the entity was up-and-running with a logo and web presence on April 16, less than twenty four hours after the incident, just as the dreaded Tsarnaev brothers still roamed free and long before the professed bombing’s fatalities could be laid to rest.

The rapid-fire creation of the relief fund is an example of how individuals, politicians and businesses in Boston unite in a crisis,” Advertising Age gushed, referencing an interview with Michael Sheehan, Chairman of Hill Holliday. “Communicating mostly by text-message, about a dozen key players at Hill Holliday, Hancock and the Mayor’s Office managed to create the foundation from scratch.[3] Within a week One Fund had raised over $23 million from corporate and individual donors [4] including John Hancock, Bank of America, and Bain Capital. The charity has to date raised a total $71.3 million.[5]

On April 17 at 9:29AM One Fund filed its articles of organization [6] with the Massachusetts Secretary of State. Yet One Fund’s quickly-drafted articles list only two individuals fulfilling the roles of president, treasurer, clerk, and board members—James D. Gallagher, Chief Administrative Officer and General Counsel of John Hancock, the US subsidiary of Canadian-based Manufacturers Life Insurance Company (“ManuLife”), and Hill Holliday’s Sheehan. “If you can think it,” one of Hill Holliday’s mottoes reads, “we can make it real.”

Sheehan recently left Hill Holliday to become a consultant to the Boston Globe.[7] Examination of existing photographic and video evidence of the bombing’s aftermath combined with amateur videos taken from the scene now suggest how the Globe was likely given exclusive rights to photograph and videotape the BCME, as the video below tends to demonstrate. The paper has also been direct role in propagating inflated injury tallies following the event.[8]

The One Fund even proffers a referral service to BMCE martyrs, many of whom sustained grievous “hearing issues,”[9] needing advice on how to manage their newfound wealth. Because of The One Fund contributors’ “unprecedented generosity,” a document on the charity’s site reads,

many victims and families may be receiving very large monetary gifts. To help address the management of the gifts that you may receive, the One Fund is happy to connect you with financial advisory firms that have volunteered to consult with you at no cost. If you are interested in learning more about this free consultation, please contact One Fund Boston at …[10]

John Hancock and the broader insurance industry’s benefit from the BCME and its influence in the intertwined public opinion and policy-making processes shouldn’t be underestimated. Both stand to profit greatly from the enhanced risk environment brought about by the renewed specter of international terrorism, the supposed cause of the BCME itself.

In light of the manifestly dubious nature of the Boston Marathon bombings [11] the active and multi-faceted solicitation of contributions to address the event’s aftermath suggests a fraud of extravagant proportions, even by today’s threadbare standards.

The true beneficiaries of the BMCE include not only the American police state that has grown by leaps and bounds since September 11, 2001, but more importantly the global corporatist class that likewise benefits from the quickening demise of a critical citizenry. Those select few with the control to shape public consciousness now recognize more than ever that the masses will accept as genuine almost any tragic domestic event, provided it is presented within the infotainment formulas to which the population has grown so accustomed.

Notes

[1] James F. Tracy, “New World Order Religion,” memoryholeblog.com, April 14, 2013.

[2] The One Fund Boston, “About,” n.d. Accessed January 16, 2014.

[3] “How Hill Holliday Created Relief Effort One Fund Boston in Seven Hours,” Advertising Age, April 19, 2013.

[4] Lindsey Tanner, “One Fund Boston Raises More Than $2o Million, But Will It Be Enough For Injured Marathon Victims?Huffington Post, April 25, 2013.

[5] “Thank You,” The One Fund Boston, n.d. Accessed January 16, 2014.

[6] “Articles of Organization,” The One Fund Boston, n.d. Accessed January 16, 2014. Accessed January 16, 2014.

[7] Beth Healy, “Globe Hires Former Hill Holliday CEO as Consultant,” Boston Globe, January 3, 2014.

[8] James F. Tracy, “The Boston Marathon Bombing’s Inflated Injury Tallies,” memoryholeblog.com, May 11, 2013.

[9] Ibid.

[10] “Memo re Financial Advisory Services,” The One Fund Boston, n.d. Accessed January 16, 2014.

[11] James F. Tracy, “Witnessing Boston’s Mass Casualty Event,” memoryholeblog.com, April 22, 2013.

Republished at GlobalResearch.ca on January 17, 2014.

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Anatomy of a Media Frenzy

By James F. Tracy

One year ago a national media frenzy ensued over my analysis and observations of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre event of December 14, 2012. Evidence that has since emerged since, including the State of Connecticut’s curiously expurgated official report released December 27, has overall tended to confirm such observations. My initial series of articles was circulated widely in alternative news outlets in late December 2012 and early January 2013. Yet not until the South Florida Sun-Sentinel interviewed me and published a rather inflammatory story on January 7 did a select set of my remarks subsequently “go viral” in major news media via the Drudge Report.

I was initially startled with the fervent backlash exhibited in corporate media outlets (below), as well as the progressive-left blogosphere. As far as I can gather, the outrage centered around 1) the conclusion upon considerable analysis that what the media publicized about a profoundly tragic event was at best only partially true, 2) my purportedly bizarre and speculative belief that a swell guy like President Barack Obama and his well-meaning administration would ever, well, act like politicians and seek to hoodwink the public, especially in such a brazen fashion, and 3) the fact that such remarks were being voiced publicly by a “tenured university [censored].”

While at times personally unnerving, the experience was instructive in that it strongly confirmed much of what I continue to study and teach—the powerful influence exerted by the government-corporate media nexus in terms of pushing certain emotional buttons to channel, manipulate and, where necessary, stifle debate on extremely important issues and events.

In my view, it was not surprising or unusual that something like Sandy Hook had transpired in the US, particularly given historical precedents in Dunblane, Scotland and Port Arthur, Australia. Still, I found it unsettling that a large majority of the public—including friends and colleagues—allowed for themselves to be swayed by their blasé reliance on headlines and sound-bites versus taking the time to actually read and engage with what I had written.

Further, while a handful came forward to point out the contradiction that I was being publicly excoriated and my livelihood threatened for essentially doing what I was trained and hired to do—media analysis and criticism—my employer’s response was not to defend academic freedom and free speech, but rather to disavow my remarks, hold a breakfast fundraiser for one of Newtown’s multitude of charities, and eventually reprimand me for using the professional salutation “[censored]” on my personal blog and elsewhere.

While my tenure was ultimately upheld, one is left to seriously ponder the informal yet persuasive constraints placed in intellectuals today who concretely address certain controversial issues and topics. Only a brief survey of today’s lamentably somber and often inane public discourse is necessary to conclude that tenure is far too infrequently used in the fashion originally intended—to allow academics to research with impunity the topics of their choosing that may prove inflammatory, particularly to some who may wield enough political influence to have them disciplined or fired.

There is in fact room for academics to engage in controversial topics, yet one must know how to strike the appropriate chord between axe grinding and well-mannered career advancement. For example, it was recently high-fives all around at my institution when a colleague secured a fellowship with the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, a neoconservative think tank that has vigorously advocated the disastrous and criminal “Bush Doctrine” against Iraq and urges similarly brutal military action against Iran. Another social scientist is affiliated with the AIPAC-controlled Washington Institute for Near East Policy. No conspiracy mongering here, only implicit acknowledgement of which way the political winds blow, however tainted they may be.

KABC-AM (Radio)1/8/2013 10:58:40 AM
Los Angeles, CA

there are radio station that are allowing people on the air to say that the whole new down master never have right now to Florida Atlantic University professor saying it never happened it was a Obama push to push gun control advocate the day of wagging the dog , and said Finnigan Ladino music made the marathon for roughly the size of everything before her fourth really ` don’t go away with a lot of thought about a two percent tax on everyone on ABC’s Richard Davies with today’s text it for the past couple of years workers of enjoying a two percent reduction in Social Security tax they pay the debts into and on December thirty first Imperial holiday

WTVJ-MIA (NBC)1/8/2013 11:15:38 AM
Miami, FL
NBC 6 South Florida Today at 11am

the grammy winning singer was found dead at her london home in july of 2011. >>> a communication professor known for conspiracy theories is now stirring up controversy at florida atlantic university. 47-year-old james tracy claims last month’s newtown, connecticut, shootings didn’t happen as reported. goes onto say even perhaps it didn’t happen at all. tracy says there’s not enough evidence to support that one gunman killed 20 students and six staff members. the professor says he knows he sparked all kinds of controversy on campus, but he would like his students to look at events in a more critical way. fau, by the way, distancing

WFLA-AM (Radio)1/8/2013 3:14:32 PM

there and then not before sunset both covering the story of four kilometers dear here … from mother Sun Sentinel they publish this late last night for inclusion in the paper today and the online last night FAA you professor stirs controversy by disputing the new town Connecticut master are you are you kidding me of a lesson of Looney Tunes stuff you a piece written by Mike Larry Sun Sentinel a communication professor known for conspiracy theories has stirred controversy at Florida Atlantic

WPEC (CBS)1/8/2013 5:07:07 PM
West Palm Beach, FL
CBS 12 News—5:00

claiming that the newton massacre leaving 26 people dead – including several kids… was a hoax. (2shot) the florida atlantic university professor making the bizarre comments on his personal blog. john cbs 12′s lynn gordon spoke to students who say the professor’s claims are not only outrageous, they’re giving the school a black eye. trt 1:53 5:27:49 that fau ( look live intro) professor creating quite a controversy with a blog that suggests the sandy hook massacre may not have happened as reported or maybe didnt happen at all 5:27:58 ( newtown file) its one of the worst mass shootings in our nation’s history. the massacre at sandy hook elementary in newtown connecticut where 20 children and six adults were murdered in cold blood last month 5:25:10 i think its kind of craxzy that a professor would say somethng lke that it def happened ( photo of tracy) students are referring to

WPLG-MIA (ABC)1/8/2013 5:36:32 PM
Local 10 News @ 5PM

a professor at florida atlantic university is raising questions about what happened at sandy hook elementary school in connecticut last month. in a blog post james tracy asked in the if the shooting was a conspiracy and if the media are asking the right questions. tracy says it’s worth asking if the shooting was politically motivated. f.a.u. is distancing itself from those comments. >>> 20-year-old adam lanza you will remember won’t a shooting rampage at the elementary school, killing 26 people, including 20 children on december 14th. lanza also shot and killed his mom and then turned the gun on himself. >> now to the subject of home here. hope is on the horizon for haiti.

WPBF (ABC)1/8/2013 6:14:47 PM
WPBF 25 News at 6:00

now to wpbf 25 news exclusive a professor at florida atlantic university in boca raton is creating controversy with the conspiracy theory involving the sandy hook school shooting. professor james tracy questions what really happened the day the 20 children and 6 teacher were gunned down in newtown connecticut. on his personal blog he questions whether the shooting was somehow politically motivated to get more gun control. he claims that the lot of missing information. >> there’s just a lot of conflicting information. we don’t have the autopsy on lanza either. it seems like a real stretch

WFLX (FOX)1/8/2013 11:01:39 PM

his bizarre conspiracy theory that suggests the newtown, connecticut school massacre may have been a government plan. dan corcoran is live on the fau campus in boca raton. dan. his  three hour class – called ‘communication and social power’ – just wrapped up a few minutes ago.until now professor james tracy has remained silent about his blog, which has gone viral, over the last couple of days. tracy is not apologizing for his words that he wrote this week on his blog on ‘memory hole dot com’.it was in that writing that he questioned if there were what he refers to

WPEC (CBS)1/8/2013 11:09:50 PM
CBS 12 News—11:00

an FAU professor strikes a nerve here and across the country over his claim that the newtown massacre was a hoax. tonight, “cbs 12″ confronts him and his conspiracy theory. tonight, florida atlantic university is distancing itself from its media professor and his controversial comments but the professor himself is defending his comments. peter schaller spoke with james tracy. peter? >> the professor spoke with us after his communications class tonight. he’s worked here at fau for 10 years and he’s no stranger to controversy. in the past he questioned the

WPBF (ABC)1/9/2013 4:33:57 AM
WPBF 25 News Mornings

morning of a growing controversy… comments made by a florida atlantic university professor. as erin guy shows us.. he suggests the school shooting in newtown, connecticut could have been a government conspiracy. newtown connecticut… december 14th… police say adam lanza walked into sandy hook elementry school… armed with semi automatic weapons and opened fire… killing 20 children and 6 adults… but now a florida atlantic university professor james tracey … is questioning what really happened… saying on his blog quote: “while it sounds like an outrageous claim, one is left to inquire whether the sandy hook shooting ever took place-at least in the way law enforcement authorities and the nation’s news media have described.” on his blog he askes. how did lanza fire so many shots in a short amount

WDBO-FM (Radio)1/9/2013 5:31:47 AM
Orlando, FL

after he claimed a personal blog that he said he hoped elementary school shooting made a massive conspiracy W. DBO’s Ken Kendall and Marcia Taylor began our life can coverage of Prof. James Tracy a lighted the conspiracy involving law enforcement and federal government and the mass media to leave your country Johnson digging through those blogs this morning and an interview the professor did just couple days ago that Dr. Tricia question how Atlanta was able to fire off so many shots in such a little amount of time he also

WFLX (FOX)1/9/2013 6:12:07 AM
West Palm Beach, FL

“florida atlantic university” professor. james tracy says he won’t apologize for what he wrote on his blog on “memory-hole-dot-com.” his conspiracy theory suggests the newtown, connecticut school massacre may have been a government plan. on his blog, he questioned if there were what he refers to as “crisis actors” hired by the government during the massacre. now, he’s speaking out– saying why he wrote it and what he wants every american to think about.”in terms of saything that sandy hook, the newtown massacre, did not take place is really a simplification – an oversimplification – of what i said. i said that there may very well be elements of that event that are synthetic to some degree, that are somewhat contrived. i think that

WRTV-IN (ABC)1/9/2013 6:37:51 AM
RTV 6 Good Morning Indiana

and defending his bizarre conspiracy theory that suggests the newtown, connecticut school massacre may have been a government plan. florida atlantic university professor james tracy talked to our scripps station in west palm beach about his blog. tracy writes that there were ‘crisis actors’ hired during the massacre…and the shooting was a ‘set up’ by the obama administration/’85to prompt more strict gun control regulations. but he now says his ideas were over-simplified. > >”in terms of saything that sandy hook, the newtown massacre, did not take place is really a simplification – an

KSHB-KC (NBC)1/9/2013 6:33:27 AM
Kansas City, MO

newtown, connecticut school massacre may have been a government plan. florida atlantic professor james tracy wrote on his blog this week that he questioned if there were what he refers to as ‘crisis actors’ hired during the massacre in newtown. he also claims the shooting was a ‘set up’ by the obama administrationa to prompt stricter gun control regulations. (curtis) new this morning– a man wanted in monday’s quadruple murder in tulsa– was arrested in kansas. our scripps station in tulsa has learned joseph tillman was arrested in independence, kansas– near the oklahoma border. he was wanted in connection with a separate assault. police believe he may also know something about the

WJXT-JAX1/9/2013 7:40:22 AM
Jacksonville, FL
The Morning Show

shooting. he says it may not have happened. these new claims — by a professor at florida atlantic university — are really causing a stir. james tracy is basing them on the early reports filed during the incident. he says the timeline confusion shows a coordinated effort to hide the so-called “real” story. for example, at one point it was thought there were two shooters. florida atlantic university is distancing itself — saying the conspiracy professor does not speak for the university and tracy was writing on his personal blog page. how much do you like cockroaches? if you’re

KTRS-AM (Radio)1/9/2013 7:39:27 AM
St. Louis, MO

and I believe for Atlanta Gazette not the site of where the Cardinals of his returning that right there is right yet it’s close all floors like right altogether but not elapsed on the of America Abaco was a right afforded when it is not women’s I can’t believe that town were formulaic is to Ezra’s Roto-Rooter area within this professor from their is making some claims about this in the book of school shootings in Newtown Connecticut he’s saying that it really didn’t happen and that it was just the Obama administration’s effort to sway public opinion in favor of gun control up professor is saying this professor

FAU Professor Makes Surprising Comment
(WIOD NewsRadio 610 (Miami) © 01/08/2013)

 Indexed Jan 8 2013 9:23PM

FAU Professor Makes Surprising Comment An FAU professor under fire for saying the school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut may …

FAU professor says Newtown school massacre might have been faked to push gun control
(WPEC News 12 Palm Beach County © 01/08/2013)
**Also ran in Daily KOS
, Indexed Jan 8 2013 1:24PM

FAU professor says Newtown school massacre might have been faked to push gun …control Posted by Scott T. Smith / CBS12 News BOCA RATON, Fla. –

A Florida Atlantic University assistant professor says the Sandy Hook school massacre may never have happened, …to impose gun control. James Tracy, who has taught media studies at FAU

FAU students react to professor’s conspiracy theory
(Palm Beach Gardens-WPBF (ABC) © 01/09/2013)

Indexed Jan 9 2013 3:42AM

FAU students react to professors conspiracy theory Florida Atlantic University professor James Tracy raised questions about what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary …law enforcement authorities and the nations news media have described.”Students on Florida Atlantic University reacted after hearing about Tracys comments.Kenson Delva said his comments are …a real debate on gun control.” Alex Jeanty is a senior at FAUand said its too soon…

Florida school moves away from professor’s claim that Sandy Hook massacre was staged

(Fox News © 01/08/2013)
**Also ran in WOLF Orlando,
Indexed Jan 8 2013 2:24PM

…Connecticut really happened. James Tracy, an associate professor of media history at Florida Atlantic University , made the bizarre claim on his personal blog memoryholeblog.com, writing that …for himself. “James Tracy does not speak for the university,” Lisa Metcalf, FAU ’s director of media relations, told FoxNews.com in an email. “The website on which his post appeared is not affiliated with FAU in any way. As for any previous disciplinary actions …

Newtown leader condemns professor who suggested school massacre was ‘drill’
(Fox News © 01/08/2013)
**Also ran in KBND News Radio,
Indexed Jan 8 2013 10:24PM

…community really happened. James Tracy, an associate professor of media history at Florida Atlantic University , made the bizarre claim on his personal blog memoryholeblog.com, writing that …for himself. “James Tracy does not speak for the university,” Lisa Metcalf, FAU ’s director of media relations, told FoxNews.com in an email. “The website on which his post appeared is not affiliated with FAU in any way. As for any previous disciplinary actions at…

NUTTY PROFESSOR? FAU Prof Suggests Obama Behind Sandy Hook
(Boca News Now © 01/08/2013)
**Also ran in Bayoubuzz
Indexed Jan 8 2013 9:44PM

NUTTY PROFESSOR? FAU Prof Suggests Obama Behind Sandy Hook BOCA RATON, FL (BocaNewsNow.com) — Florida Atlantic University (FAU ) officials are distancing themselves from communications professor James Tracy who on his …

Obama staged Newtown shooting with ‘crisis actors,’ says professor who is totally not a crackpot
(Daily KOS © 01/08/2013)

Indexed Jan 8 2013 5:44PM

…all: A communication professor known for conspiracy theories has stirred controversary at Florida Atlantic University with claims that last months Newtown, Conn., school shootings did not happen …not speak for the university” and his website is “not affiliated with FAU in any way.” But lest you think that this lunatic is, you …

Professor makes no apologies for calling Conn. massacre a hoax
(WPEC News 12 Palm Beach County © 01/09/2013)

Indexed Jan 9 2013 3:34AM

…School massacre are creating a national controversy. Its not so much that FAU professor James Tracy doesnt believe the tragedy happened, but that he believes …could have done a better job,” Tracy said. Tracy has taught at FAU for ten years and is no stranger to controversy. Hes questioned the …reading the media stories about his blog than the blog itself.  FAU Media Relations Director Lisa Metcalf says that Tracys views do not reflect …those of the universi…

Professor’s Ridiculous Newtown Theory Gets Internet Wings
(Associated Content © 01/08/2013) 

Indexed Jan 8 2013 5:24PM

…use “whippersnapper” these days, but nonetheless, the words of a professor at Florida Atlantic Universityhave escaped their little corner of the South. Before the grand scheme …

1/9/2013 – New York Daily News – Florida conspiracy professor suggests Sand Hook massacre didn’t occur, was cooked up by Obama to promote gun control

1/9/2013 – Web Pro News – Prof: Newtown Didn’t Happen The Way We Think It Did

1/9/2013 – WBDO Orlando – FAU professor under fire for blog comments on Newtown shooting

1/8/2013 – Fox 8 Cleveland – Prof: Newtown Didn’t Happen

1/8/2013 – DesMoines Register – Florida professor, a U of I grad, stirs up controversy by disputing Newtown shooting

1/8/2013 – KSEE News 24 – College Professor Creates Controversy with Claims Connecticut School Shooting Never Happened

1/8/2013 – Gawker – Florida Atlantic University Professor Wonders if the Sandy Hook Shooting Isn’t Just One Big Mass Media Conspiracy

1/8/2013 – The Inquisitr – Florida Professor James Tracy Claims Sandy Hook Might Be A Hoax

1/8/2013 – Christian Post – Professor Claims Newtown Shooting Was Likely Staged

1/8/2013 – Radar Online – Whacko Professor Says Sandy Hook School Shooting Didn’t Happen, Was Hoax By Obama Administration

1/8/2013 – Opposing Views – Professor James Tracy Claims Sandy Hook Shooting May Not Have Happened

1/8/2013 – International Business Times – Professor Claims Sandy Hook Shooting Did Not Happen As Believed, Sees Political Agenda

1/8/2013 – Human Events – Florida Professor Questions the Newtown Massacre

1/8/2013 – Orlando Sentinel – Daughter of Eustis coach has dreams of becoming Olympic speedskater

1/9/2013 – Broward Palm Beach New Times – James Tracy, FAU Professor, Says Sandy Didn’t Happen; Revels In Notoriety

1/9/2013 – Miami New Times – FAU Professor Thinks Sandy Hook Massacre May Have Been A Media Conspiracy

1/9/2013 – The Holiday Gossip – Newtown Didn’t Happen, Professor Claims

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US Hegemony and Puerto Rico’s Economic Crisis

Timothy Alexander Guzman, Silent Crow News – A major economic crisis is looming in the Caribbean.  Puerto Rico, a US Commonwealth will be the center of attention in the world of finance in the coming months ahead.  Puerto Rico’s economy has been in a recession since 2006 and its bonds are close to junk status.  Puerto Rico is facing an alarming economic downturn that is clearly unsustainable.  The economy is headed for a major collapse, one not seen since the great depression, this time it could be far worse.  Puerto Rico has $70 billion in debt and an underfunded government pension system that will be eventually face cuts which only adds to more economic uncertainties for the population.  Unemployment levels are at 14.7 percent and a mass migration of the Puerto Rican people to the United States in search of better opportunities has taking hold.  Puerto Rico’s economy is dependent upon the United States government and its corporations, which many are pharmaceutical conglomerates.  It is politically and socially a “Colonial Possession” of the United States since the Spanish-American war of 1898.  However, Puerto Rico is not alone.  The United States has other colonial possessions namely Guam, American Samoa in the Pacific and the U.S. Virgin Islands.  France and Great Britain also has “Colonial Possessions” or “Overseas Territories” in a number of regions throughout the world.  Puerto Rico is no exception to the rule; it is a colony that has been exploited politically and economically for more than a century under US rule.

Puerto Rico’s economy is in a dire situation. As of October 2013, the official number of people who are unemployed is at 14.7 percent, perhaps a lot higher if you count those that have dropped out of the labor force because they are no longer looking for employment opportunities.  The Public debt is currently at $70 Billion and increasing daily. Early this month an article written by Justin Velez-Hagan who is executive director of The National Puerto Rican Chamber of Commerce for Forbes magazine titled ‘Default: Puerto Rico’s Inevitable Option’ describes what lead to Puerto Rico’s debt crises:

With triple tax exemption (federal, state, and local), combined with higher-than-average yields, Puerto Rican bonds became so popular in recent years that it was able to rack up $70 billion of debt now held by institutional investors and mutual funds alike. The debt-to-GDP ratio is now nearly 70% and growing, not including pension obligations, which raises the ratio to over 90%. With a per capita debt load of $19,000 and growing, Puerto Ricans shoulder almost 4 times the burden of U.S. leader Massachusetts which carries a deficit of $5,077 per citizen

Puerto Rico’s debt is 4 times larger than Massachusetts who Velez-Hagan acknowledges as the most indebted state per citizen with $19,000. The Washington Post also sounded alarm bells concerning Puerto Rico’s economic crises. In ‘Puerto Rico, with at least $70 billion in debt, confronts a rising economic misery’ Michael A. Fletcher describes what the commonwealth faces with cuts to pensions and government jobs and a rise in taxes all across the board including small and big businesses causing a migration of Puerto Ricans to major US cities:

The economy here has been in recession for nearly eight years, crimping tax revenue and pushing the jobless rate to nearly 15 percent. Meanwhile, the government is burdened by staggering debt, spawning comparisons to bankrupt Detroit and forcing lawmakers to severely slash pensions, cut government jobs and raise taxes in a furious effort to avert default.

The implications are serious for Americans outside Puerto Rico both because a taxpayer bailout would be expensive and a default would be far more disruptive than Detroit’s record bankruptcy filing in July. Officials in San Juan and Washington are adamant that a federal bailout is not on the table, but the situation is being closely monitored by the White House, which recently named an advisory team to help Puerto Rican officials navigate the crisis.

The island’s problems have ignited an exodus not seen here since the 1950s, when 500,000 people left for jobs on the mainland. Now Puerto Ricans, who are U.S. citizens, are again leaving in droves.  They are choosing the uncertainty of the job market in Orlando or New York City or Philadelphia over what they view as the certainty that their dreams would be crushed by the U.S. territory’s grinding economic problems.

Bloomberg Businessweek also published an article with concerns affecting the “Muni-Bond Market” that can rattle Wall Street’s Mutual Fund companies. ‘Puerto Rico’s Borrowing Binge Could Rock the Muni-Bond Market’ stated the facts:

The island’s plight affects almost anyone with a mutual fund invested in the municipal-bond market. Exempt from local, state, and federal taxes in the U.S., Puerto Rican bonds are held by 77 percent of muni funds, according to research firm Morningstar (MORN). About 180 funds, including ones run by OppenheimerFunds, Franklin Templeton Investments (BEN), and Dreyfus (BK), have 5 percent of their assets or more in Puerto Rican bonds.

General-obligation bonds, or GOs, which account for about 15 percent of the commonwealth’s public debt, carry the lowest investment-grade rating from Moody’s Investors Service (MCO) and S&P. A downgrade could force many mutual funds to sell part of their Puerto Rican holdings, flooding the market. “Puerto Rico could represent a systemic issue for the municipal-bond market,” says Carlos Colón de Armas, an economist and former official of the Government Development Bank, which conducts the island’s capital-markets transactions. “We are now in a situation where the bonds are trading like junk. I think the ratings agencies have been careful not to lower the GOs further, to avoid creating havoc in the muni-bond market.”

The Obama administration is sending a team of economic advisors according to Bloomberg News last month “With a $70 billion debt load and a substantially underfunded government pension system, the island has fueled market speculation it may need a bailout from Washington.” The report also stated what was on the agenda:

Most of the group’s work will focus on improving Puerto Rico’s management of federal funds to ensure officials are getting the amounts they are entitled to and putting them to effective use, according to the officials.  “There is less here than some people think,” said Jeffrey Farrow, who served as the Clinton White House’s liaison on Puerto Rican affairs. “This is pretty straightforward and an extension of what they have been doing in the past, but more intense, formalized and public.”

The first team of officials was scheduled to be from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Health, Education and Housing and Urban Development departments, officials said.  Puerto Rico’s education, health and housing departments are among of the biggest recipients of federal funding and have also been responsible for past Puerto Rico budget shortfalls.

The EPA’s intervention may stem from concerns regarding the ability of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority to comply with new federal air quality regulations that take effect in 2015.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is one of the agencies participating under Washington’s request. Washington has required that the Puerto Rico government and the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) comply with new federal air quality regulations by 2015. The online news source Caribbean Business reported back on July 11th, 2013 ‘PREPA falling behind on 2015 EPA Deadline’ that Puerto Rico is in a race to meet Washington’s air-quality standards by 2015:

A high-ranking regulatory official is concerned that the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (Prepa) isn’t moving fast enough to comply with strict federal air-quality standards taking effect in two years, as industry sources told CARIBBEAN BUSINESS that key decisions on the compliance process won’t be taken until next spring.  Prepa plans to either close or convert most of its oil-firing units to natural gas to comply with the new air-quality standards, but it won’t select a liquefied natural gas (LNG) supplier and decide on a method to deliver the gas to north-coast plants until March 2014, according to industry sources. That means the final contracts would probably not be enacted and finalized until the fourth quarter of 2014, they added.

Meanwhile, Prepa has an agreement with Texas-based Excelerate Energy to construct an offshore LNG terminal to feed the massive Aguirre powerplant in Guayama. A formal application with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission was filed in April and the project remains in the permitting phase. Excelerate officials have said they expect the facility to be in service in early 2015, but that outlook depends on getting timely federal approval on its environmental impact statement and several permits.

Puerto Rico’s plan to convert most of its oil-firing units to natural gas will have an impact on its economy. Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) does not have the economic capacity to invest in the construction of new plants that would supply natural gas. “While the cash-strapped public utility can’t afford to build its own plants, there is interest from large energy companies to construct new generation units through public-private partnerships (P3s)” the report stated. “That is especially the case because the move to natural gas isn’t just about compliance, but about bringing down power costs.” Caribbean Business said that Edgardo Fábregas, a former member of PREPA’s board confirmed that the public utility is considering a plan to construct a gas-fired plant “The former Prepa board member said the public utility was considering a longer-term plan to construct, through a P3 initiative, a massive natural gas-fired plant, probably on the site of Arecibo’s Cambalache plant, which is rarely used.” The report also said that Fábregas admitted to the costs associated with the project:

To do a project right, building a plant that could “flex up or down” rapidly and would have the capacity to power the entire north coast, would cost $7 billion, and take six years to build. The project would allow for the elimination of the Palo Seco and San Juan plants, Fábregas said. “We have to move to natural gas as soon as we can, but at the end of the day, you have to renew your system. I understand the cost and time implications involved, but if we don’t start, we will never finish,” he added.

According to Robert Bryce, a senior fellow with the Center for Energy Policy and the Environment at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, a conservative think tank based in New York City produced a report called ‘The High Cost of Renewable-Electricity Mandates’. He wrote about the effects of Washington’s new air-quality proposal:

Motivated by a desire to reduce carbon emissions, and in the absence of federal action to do so, 29 states (and the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico) have required utility companies to deliver specified minimum amounts of electricity from “renewable” sources, including wind and solar power. California recently adopted the most stringent of these so-called renewable portfolio standards (RPS), requiring 33 percent of its electricity to be renewable by 2020.  Proponents of the RPS plans say that the mandated restrictions will reduce harmful emissions and spur job growth, by stimulating investment in green technologies.

But this patchwork of state rules—which now affects the electricity bills of about two-thirds of the U.S. population as well as countless businesses and industrial users—has sprung up in recent years without the benefit of the states fully calculating their costs.  There is growing evidence that the costs may be too high—that the price tag for purchasing renewable energy, and for building new transmission lines to deliver it, may not only outweigh any environmental benefits but may also be detrimental to the economy, costing jobs rather than adding them.  The mandates amount to a “back-end way to put a price on carbon,” says one former federal regulator. Put another way, the higher cost of electricity is essentially a de facto carbon-reduction tax, one that is putting a strain on a struggling economy and is falling most heavily, in the way that regressive taxes do, on the least well-off among residential users.

To be sure, the mandates aren’t the only reason that electricity costs are rising—increased regulation of coal-fired power plants is also a major factor—and it is difficult to isolate the cost of the renewable mandates without rigorous cost-benefit analysis by the states.

The new mandate is called Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) that automatically “require electricity providers to supply a specified minimum amount of power to their customers from sources that qualify as “renewable,” a category that includes wind, solar, biomass, and geothermal.” The report clarified what the results of the new energy plan would bring:

The federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is similarly bullish on the state programs. The RPS rules are designed “to stimulate market and technology development,” the agency says, “so that, ultimately renewable energy will be economically competitive with conventional forms of electric power. States create RPS programs because of the energy, environmental, and economic benefits of renewable energy.”[4]

Although supporters of renewable energy claim that the RPS mandates will bring benefits, their contribution to the economy is problematic because they also impose costs that must be incorporated into the utility bills paid by homeowners, commercial businesses, and industrial users. And those costs are or will be substantial. Electricity generated from renewable sources generally costs more—often much more—than that produced by conventional fuels such as coal and natural gas. In addition, large-scale renewable energy projects often require the construction of many miles of high-voltage transmission lines. The cost of those lines must also be incorporated into the bills paid by consumers.

What Edgardo Fábregas forgets to mention is that Bryce’s analysis on the price of producing electricity through renewable energy sources can be astronomical. It is an amazing prediction given by the EPA under the Obama administration’s directives. It is important to note that the major players in the RPS programs are connected to Wall Street and major banks that includes Goldman Sachs who is one of President Obama’s major campaign contributors. Author and journalist Matt Taibbi wrote an article on the history of Goldman Sachs and the US government’s relationship for Rolling Stone magazine called ‘The Great American Bubble Machine’. Taibbi explains how Goldman Sachs would benefit from Washington’s air-quality mandates:

The new carbon credit market is a virtual repeat of the commodities-market casino that’s been kind to Goldman, except it has one delicious new wrinkle: If the plan goes forward as expected, the rise in prices will be government-mandated. Goldman won’t even have to rig the game. It will be rigged in advance.

Here’s how it works: If the bill passes, there will be limits for coal plants, utilities, natural-gas distributors and numerous other industries on the amount of carbon emissions (a.k.a. greenhouse gases) they can produce per year. If the companies go over their allotment, they will be able to buy “allocations” or credits from other companies that have managed to produce fewer emissions. President Obama conservatively estimates that about $646 billion worth of carbon credits will be auctioned in the first seven years; one of his top economic aides speculates that the real number might be twice or even three times that amount.

The feature of this plan that has special appeal to speculators is that the “cap” on carbon will be continually lowered by the government, which means that carbon credits will become more and more scarce with each passing year. Which means that this is a brand new commodities market where the main commodity to be traded is guaranteed to rise in price over time. The volume of this new market will be upwards of a trillion dollars annually; for comparison’s sake, the annual combined revenues of all electricity suppliers in the U.S. total $320 billion.

One other important factor to consider regarding Puerto Rico’s energy demands in the future is the supply of natural gas. Puerto Rico is hoping to secure a steady supply of natural gas from the United States for the next 100 years. “A key part of the plan is to secure a long-term LNG contract with the U.S., which has the most economical prices in the world, the result of a boon in U.S. natural gas exploration, which has unearthed a supply that experts say will last a century” according to the Caribbean Business report.  In the 2012 State of the Union Address, US President Barack Obama said “We have a supply of natural gas that can last America nearly 100 years, and my administration will take every possible action to safely develop this energy.” F. William Endahl, a research associate at Global Research wrote a ground breaking report, ‘The Fracked-up USA Shale Gas Bubble’ wrote that the 100 year supply of natural gas is in fact an inaccurate prediction:

In a sobering report, Arthur Berman, a veteran petroleum geologist specialized in well assessment, using existing well extraction data for major shale gas regions in the US since the boom started, reached sobering conclusions. His findings point to a new Ponzi scheme which well might play out in a colossal gas bust over the next months or at best, the next two or three years. Shale gas is anything but the “energy revolution” that will give US consumers or the world gas for 100 years as President Obama was told.

Berman wrote already in 2011, “Facts indicate that most wells are not commercial at current gas prices and require prices at least in the range of $8.00 to $9.00/mcf to break even on full-cycle prices, and $5.00 to $6.00/mcf on point-forward prices. Our price forecasts ($4.00-4.55/mcf average through 2012) are below $8.00/mcf for the next 18 months. It is, therefore, possible that some producers will be unable to maintain present drilling levels from cash flow, joint ventures, asset sales and stock offerings.” [16]

Berman continued, “Decline rates indicate that a decrease in drilling by any of the major producers in the shale gas plays would reveal the insecurity of supply. This is especially true in the case of the Haynesville Shale play where initial rates are about three times higher than in the Barnett or Fayetteville. Already, rig rates are dropping in the Haynesville as operators shift emphasis to more liquid-prone objectives that have even lower gas rates. This might create doubt about the paradigm of cheap and abundant shale gas supply and have a cascading effect on confidence and capital availability.” [17]

What Berman and others have also concluded is that the gas industry key players and their Wall Street bankers backing the shale boom have grossly inflated the volumes of recoverable shale gas reserves and hence its expected supply duration. He notes, “Reserves and economics depend on estimated ultimate recoveries (EUR) based on hyperbolic, or increasingly flattening, decline profiles that predict decades of commercial production. With only a few years of production history in most of these plays, this model has not been shown to be correct, and may be overly optimistic….Our analysis of shale gas well decline trends indicates that the Estimated Ultimate Recovery per well is approximately one-half the values commonly presented by operators.” [18] In brief, the gas producers have built the illusion that their unconventional and increasingly costly shale gas will last for decades.

However, Caribbean Business says that “Prepa has invited several suppliers to bid on a project to supply the north-coast plants with natural gas. It is spelling out its gas needs at its Palo Seco and San Juan plants, letting the energy companies decide the best way to supply the natural gas” and that “Prepa has made some progress on its natural gas conversion plan, which energy experts say is the only way to bring down the high cost of electricity.” Allowing energy companies decide how to supply gas would add to the price in the long run. Russia Today recently reported that “fracking technology” is causing major environmental problems within the United States. Since 2008, the state of Texas has been experiencing more earthquakes than ever before:

Between 1970 and 2007, the area around the Texas town of Azle (pop. 10,000) experienced just two earthquakes. The peace and quiet began to change, however, at the start of 2008, when 74 minor quakes were reported in the region. Now an increasing number of people, including scientists, are speculating that natural gas production by fracking – a process that forces high pressure water and chemicals into rock in order to extract natural gas reserves – is the culprit. The problem, however, is proving the claims.

Cliff Frolich, earthquake researcher at the University of Texas, said waste water injection wells from fracking could be responsible for the recent spate of earthquake activity. “I’d say it certainly looks very possible that the earthquakes are related to injection wells,” he said in an interview with KHOU television.

Frolich left room for doubt when he said thousands of such wells have operated in Texas for decades with no quakes anywhere near them. Frolich co-authored a 2009 study on earthquake activity near Cleburne, just south of Azle, which concluded: “The possibility exists that earthquakes may be related to fluid injection.” A recent government study lent credence to Frolich’s findings.

There have been Anti-fracking protests around the world. Fracking or “hydraulic fracturing” is a water-intensive process where millions of gallons of water, sand, and chemicals combined are injected underground with intensive pressure to fracture rocks that surround an oil or gas well. This process then releases extra oil and gas from the rock which flows into the well. “Fracking Technology” is proving to be environmentally dangerous for the health and safety of communities located in close proximity to these well sites. It causes many problems for the air we breathe and long-term environmental damage. For example, water can become contaminated from the toxins fracking has caused. It is an environmental hazard.

EPA rules and regulations also have the potential to impose a “carbon tax option” for states according to The Hill, A Washington D.C. based daily newspaper reported last month that Brookings Institution economist Adele Morris said that a carbon excise tax can be imposed on states:

Morris, a carbon tax supporter, argues that a carbon excise tax could be part of the “menu of specific approaches” that the agency gives states that will craft plans to meet the federal guidelines. Morris suggests that the EPA could “allow states to adopt a specific state-level excise tax or fee on the carbon content of fuels combusted by the power plants regulated under this rule.”

In other words, an excise tax associated with renewable energy supplies can be added only leading to higher energy costs for households, businesses and major industries. It would also allow Puerto Rico to contribute to the environmental degradation because of its future demands of natural gas which has no guarantee of supplies for the next 100 years. It is a recipe for disaster for both the economy and the environment.

 Will new EPA rules bankrupt farmers?

It is estimated that Puerto Rico imports at least 85% of the food supply from the United States according to the Latin American Herald Tribune. ‘Puerto Rico Imports 85 Percent of Its Food’ stated that “Puerto Rico imports 85 percent of the food its residents consume due to the lack of competitiveness among companies in this U.S. commonwealth, Agriculture Secretary Javier Rivera told Efe.” Agriculture Secretary Rivera admits that the majority of food is imported from the United States even though Puerto Rico has the capability to produce its own food, but cannot compete with US food suppliers. Rivera continued “Although we have the technical capacity, we’re not able to produce competitively” Why? “The secretary attributed the drop in production to the high operating costs of growing food on the island, which are, in turn, a result of high labor costs, as well as rising energy and fertilizer prices. Rivera acknowledged that therefore many farmers – of which there are fewer than 2,000 on the island, according to recent statistics – have come to depend on government subsidies to stay in business.” With new EPA regulations, remaining farmers will bear higher-energy costs because of the EPA’s new federal air quality regulations that will start in 2015. Agriculture on the island would be affected and farmers would be economically bankrupt when energy prices begin to rise.

From the 1929 Great Depression to the Recession of 2014

Looking back to the 1930’s, Puerto Rico was in economic despair due to the effects of the Great Depression. In 1940, the Popular Democratic Party (PPD) under the leadership of Washington’s puppet governor Luis Munoz Marin came to power with 37.9% of the vote compared to 39.2% of the Republican-Socialist coalition. The PPD also won the 1944 elections with 64.8% of the vote. The PPD was determined to transform Puerto Rico’s economy from an Agricultural farm-based to an export-driven modern industrial economy.

The US and Puerto Rico governments wanted to fast track the urbanization in many areas from a rural society to a modern, industrial urban center that would resemble New York City’s economy. For a short period of time, the project did increase living wages, improved housing conditions, health care and education. It also led to equitable land reforms,. At the same time the plan increased unemployment rates because many Puerto Ricans were unqualified for the types of jobs the new Industrial economy provided. It increased the migration levels to the United States, namely New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

Puerto Rico became more dependent on U.S. markets and created more public and private debts. The most important aspect of US economic and political control of Puerto Rico was the cultural transformation of the population. It became what sociologist call “Americanization”. They were subjected to American culture, media, laws, and even its foods under Washington’s economic and social plan. In ‘Economic History of Puerto Rico: Institutional Change and Capitalist Development’ by James L. Dietz, professor of economics and Latin American studies at California State University wrote:

Industrialization and the accompanying decline of agriculture after the late 1940s did nothing to expand and make permanent the relative autonomy of the early 1940s. Instead, the PPD program had just the opposite result: it laid the foundation for increased dominance by U.S. capital from the 1950s to the present. The PPD’s goal of eventual political independence, after the attainment of social justice and a solution to the island’s economic problems, faded further into the future and eventually disappeared altogether. It may be that Munoz and the PPD never really were committed to independence, as many have suggested, but it is more likely that, as the PPD’s redirection of the economy under Munoz’s leadership tied its destiny ever closer to that of the United States, what they had became what they wanted as what they had wanted slipped further and further from their grasp

In ‘How an Economy Grows and why it Crashes’ author and economist Peter Schiff stated that “The evidence supporting these claims is largely emotional. What is far more certain is that the government’s monopoly control of public projects and services almost always leads to inefficiency, corruption, graft, and decay.” Puerto Rico’s economy was under US control then as it is now. Dietz says that “From 1941 to 1949, the government followed a program of land reform, control over and development of infrastructure and institutions, administrative organization, and limited industrialization through factories owned and operated by the government.” Comparing to what Peter Schiff said the Puerto Rican government’s control of certain economic sectors led to numerous “inefficiencies” and “Decay.” The bleak economic growth of Puerto Rico did not improve through a program called ‘Operacion Manos a la Obra’ or ‘Operation Bootstrap’ in English. It was known as “Industrialization by Invitation” to attract foreign investment. It failed in the long-run. Dietz further wrote:

“Yet Operation Bootstrap made it difficult for Puerto Ricans to improve their standard of living through their own efforts, since it put control over that process in the hands of U.S. firms, whose interests did not necessarily coincide with those of the majority on the island. It is likely that no one consciously intended such results from a development program that seemed so promising, but Puerto Rico’s colonial relation with the United States prevented, or at a minimum made more difficult, a more independent existence for the economy and society”

Puerto Rico’s dependence on the US mainland became evident as the years went by, but right from the beginning of World War II, Puerto Rico’s economy suffered.  “The war shut Puerto Rico off from its primary export market and source of imported goods, and meanwhile, there were no war industries to absorb surplus labor; consequently, unemployment increased” according to Dietz.  Today, Puerto Rico is suffering from a recession that started in 2006. In another report by Caribbean Business ‘PR reverses growth forecast, now predicts another year of recession’ and stated the dire predictions by the government of Puerto Rico, “The Puerto Rico government has dropped expectations for economic growth this fiscal year as the island struggles to pull out of a marathon downturn dating back to 2006. The Planning Board said Friday it is now projecting that the economy will shrink by 0.8 percent in fiscal 2014, dropping its previous forecast for razor-thin growth of 0.2 percent.” Puerto Rico’s economy will continue to decline as the US economy continues with its own economic problems. It will become more difficult as time progresses for Puerto Rico.

The Collapsing US Dollar and the Fall of Rome   

The US Dollar as a the world’s reserve currency is in its last stages because the US owes trillions of dollars in household, corporate and financial debt and future underfunded welfare liabilities.  The demand for U.S. dollars kept prices and interest rates low. It allowed the U.S. government to acquire the economic power it needed to dominate the world economically. It allowed the Federal Reserve Bank to print dollars unconditionally. Although the US dollar is still dominate with more the 50% of foreign currency reserves in the world, a gradual transition for other currencies is coming in the near future. The dollar will eventually lose its value. Interest rates on every loan and credit card will rise.

This is a recipe for disaster, because if a country such as Puerto Rico cannot produce its own food and is dependent on a foreign source that is the most indebted nation in world history with more than $17 trillion dollars in debt which continues to increase each passing day is a serious problem for Puerto Rico’s future. Tyler Durden of zerohedge.com provided a chart in 2012 to show the fiscal danger the United States faces in the near future. Durden explains:

We present the following chart showing total US Federal debt/GDP as well as Deficit/(Surplus)/GDP since inception, or in this case as close as feasible, or 1792, which appears to be the first recorded year of historical fiscal data. We can see why readers have been so eager to see the “real big picture” – the chart is nothing short of stunning.

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Confronting Neo-liberal Capitalism: SIGTUR’s tenth Congress in Perth/Australia, 2 to 6 December 2013.

Last week, I attended the tenth Congress of the Southern Initiative on Globalisation and Trade Union Rights (SIGTUR) in Perth/Australia, 2 to 6 December 2013. SIGTUR is a network of more militant trade unions from the Global South with a focus on South-South co-operation. In this post, I will reflect on SIGTUR’s achievements, problems as well as possibilities for the future on the basis of the exchanges at this Congress. I will argue that it will only be through joint campaigns against capitalist exploitation that relationships of solidarity can be established through SIGTUR more widely.

Since its establishment in 1991, SIGTUR’s membership has steadily increased. At the Congress in Perth, Latin America was represented by delegates from CUT/Brazil and CTA/Argentina. From Africa, the Nigerian Labour Congress and the South African Cosatu had sent strong delegations, complemented by a representative from Ruanda and a delegate from the ITUC-Africa. Unions from Asia included large delegations from CITU/India and the KCTU/South Korea. Smaller delegations came from the Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand, Myanmar, Indonesia. One delegate from the smaller Japanese union ZENROREN also participated. Finally, a large delegation represented various federations of the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU). The latter had founded SIGTUR together with Cosatu from South Africa against the background of Australian union solidarity with the anti-Apartheid struggle as well as Cosatu support for striking Australian dockers (see also SIGTUR – A movement of democratic unions of the Global South). In the following, I will first look at key differences between SIGTUR members, before discussing common challenges and the need for joint campaigns.


Australian unions and labour movements from the Global South

Although geographically located in the Global South, Australia is clearly an industrialised country unlike the countries of other SIGTUR members. Unsurprisingly, first differences emerged right at the beginning of the Congress. When the various delegations introduced themselves, the ITUC-Africa representative made clear that the capitalist system as such needed to be challenged. CITU from India identified capitalism and imperialism as the main target, while the KMU delegate from the Philippines mentioned monopoly capitalism as the main opponent. In general the unity of the working class was singled out as essential in the struggle to transform existing structures of exploitation.

By contrast, Ged Kearney, President of the ACTU, raised concerns about the recent change in power towards a Conservative government and the related attack on the welfare state and progress enacted by the previous Labour government. The Australian social and industrial compact around the welfare state and employment rights was under attack, she argued. At the global level, workers from different countries would be pitted against each other and a general increase in insecure work was noticeable. While the proliferation of free trade agreements endangered the environment and undermined workers’ rights, corporate power was globalised. Not capitalism as such, but unfettered capitalism was identified as the opponent. Decision-making at G20 meetings should be done in consultation with employers and trade unions, as unregulated free markets would not work. This resembles very closely the position of many European trade unions and their emphasis on social partnership with employers to ensure a capitalist system with a human face, in which economic growth is combined with fairness at work and throughout wider society.

Members at the founding meeting of SIGTUR, Photo by Rob Lambert

Trade unions and the position vis-à-vis political parties and social movements

Another area of differences concerned the relationship between trade unions and political parties and social movements. As the Argentinian CTA delegate outlined, instead of close connections with a political party, his union has emphasised co-operation with social movements. Individuals and social movements can even be directly CTA members without representing sections of the working class. This was the basis, he argued, on which the successful struggle against the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) had been based. These sentiments were echoed by the delegate from the ITUC-Africa, making clear that unions can no longer be islands. They need to co-operate with progressive civil society and move from workplace issues to community concerns as in the successful global campaign for the rights of domestic workers. CUT from Brazil and the South African Cosatu, on the other hand, have close relationships to governing political parties with the PT and the ANC respectively, as had the Australian ACTU until recently with a Labour government. They would still emphasise their autonomy as trade union. Especially CUT emphasised its close collaboration with social movements such as the movement of landless workers (MST) as well as participation in various left networks, combined with critical positions on government policy, when necessary. Nevertheless, this strategy is clearly different from the CTA’s approach.

CITU/India, in turn, completely rejects co-operation with social movements, as 95 per cent of them would be funded by transnational corporations (TNCs) or governments and, therefore, could not be allies in class struggle. The South Korean KCTU, finally, had actually founded its own party, which even gained 10 per cent in elections at some stage. However, soon afterwards it split and one of the two resulting parties split yet further, so that the union decided in the end not to support any longer a specific political party. Instead, it joined the broad alliance People’s Power, which is currently the platform for the struggle against the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA).

Considering these differences over who the opponent actually is and whether to co-operate with political parties and/or social movements in the struggle, how can SIGTUR actually function as a coherent network?


Common challenges and joint campaigns

Despite these differences, it soon became clear at the Congress that the various SIGTUR members are conscious of the common challenges they face and the need for joint campaigns to confront them successfully. For example, the damage caused by the increasingly powerful TNCs are everywhere the same. Chevron, the global energy TNC, for example, extracts local wealth and undermines trade union and workers’ rights in Australia as it does in developing countries. Local communities suffer everywhere, as Chevron neither provides jobs with training opportunities for local people nor establishes sustainable infrastructure. The environment is frequently damaged too. Equally, the threat to the public sector through outsourcing and privatisation affects South Korea, where the KCTU is currently involved in a bitter struggle over the privatisation of the railways (see Korea: Support railway workers’ right to strike), as it does Australia, where austerity measures undermine the public provision of services, or India, where the government intends to privatise the system of food distribution to the poor. 

Delegates at the SIGTUR Congress in Perth.


SIGTUR members agreed that these common challenges required joint responses including global campaigns against specific TNCs, such as Chevron, Samsung or Suzuki as well as a joint campaign for the public sector and against privatisation. The current Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) negotiations were especially identified as dangerous. On the one hand, this agreement intends to strengthen TNCs further allowing them to sue specific governments, should they endanger their profits, on the other it pushes the privatisation of the public sector, opening it up precisely to a take-over by these TNCs.

In short, as clear as the differences over members’ position on capitalism and on co-operation with parties and social movements were, it was equally clear that these differences did not prevent in any way joint actions by SIGTUR. Throughout the Congress, Australian trade unionists discussed and worked with their fellow colleagues from other Southern labour movements on an equal footing.


The challenge of joint activities: What future for SIGTUR?

As it became clear at the Congress, the main challenge actually is not how to handle differences between SIGTUR members, but how to move towards joint actions. In individual discussions with various representatives, doubts were frequently raised about SIGTUR’s capacities in this respect. A Thai delegate, for example, told me that he had been at similar Congresses before, but was getting increasingly frustrated about the lack of progress. The CTA delegate from Argentina emphasised that SIGTUR was important for his union’s international activities, but ultimately the ITUC in Latin America was more active and the cultural similarities made it easier to organise joint campaigns regionally. Equally, a Cosatu delegate emphasised the lack of SIGTUR action between Congresses and pointed to the intensive activities by the ITUC-Africa, being a much more worthwhile international organisation to work with. CUT from Brazil still values SIGTUR, I was told, but less than in the past. In short, the next three years will be crucial for SIGTUR. Joint activities will be necessary so that members continue having faith in the network. Alternatively, SIGTUR and the idea of South-South co-operation could lose attraction.

Discussions at the SIGTUR Congress in Perth

And the potential is there. A new structure with four regional co-ordinators has been established and several targets for joint activities identified. The unique Global South dimension, the fact that SIGTUR members perhaps with the exception of the ACTU are not affected by the ideology of social partnership still puts it in a unique place for class struggle against capitalism. The presence of three trade unionists from Myanmar, where it has just recently become possible to form openly trade unions, and SIGTUR’s signing up to the initiative of Trade unions for energy democracyindicates that it remains cutting edge as an international labour organisation. The decisive task will be to translate this potential into concrete actions so that SIGTUR becomes more known internationally and its more militant outlook can provide a guiding example for others.

Solidarity and the overcoming of differences is ultimately always the result of struggle. The next three years may be decisive for SIGTUR’s future as a network. Either members are able to carry out joint initiatives against capitalist exploitation through SIGTUR, or they may well feel that their efforts are better spent elsewhere.



Prof. Andreas Bieler
Professor of Political Economy
University of Nottingham/UK

Personal website: http://andreasbieler.net

9 December 2013

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Either the MSM is completely clueless or they think the general public is clueless, either way, the story of the  never before seen, once-in-a-lifetime event of hundreds of orcas, humpbacks and dolphins showing up on the West Coast for a seafood buffet because of the millions of anchovies in unheard of amounts gravitating to the West Coast, has people excited they say, while completely ignoring the ramifications of why the anchovies are there attracting the whales and dolphins.

Note- November 26, 2013, a report at Before It's News by Live Free or Die asks "So, we know for a fact that all across the Pacific Ocean, it has turned into a death zone, with no signs of life for miles and miles. However, close to the shore, anchovies are still bountiful…has the California coast turned into a sort of ‘Noah’s Ark’ for the remaining creatures?"

Note- November 28, 2013, a report by me at Before it's News and I quote "A question mark appears in the questions from the MSM about what could be causing such odd behaviors in the sea creatures in the Pacific ocean when they ask, could it be Fukushima? You think??????"

My reference was to CBC actually asking if it could be Fukushima.

Seems other news outlets like CBS and ABC, both shown in video reports below, are still playing dumb and talking about how amazing this spectacular sight is of all thise sea creatures and pelicans coming to the West Coast for a seafood buffet is.

Via ENENews:

CBS News: 100s of whales in bay on California coast; It’s never been like this, we just can’t even believe it — Experts: We just aren’t sure what’s going on; “A once-in-a-lifetime chance… unheard of, it’s unbelievable, nobody’s seen this”

Look at some of the quotes:

Exactly why we are seeing these incredible numbers of anchovies isn’t completely clear. There are some ideas that surface, perhaps the warmer water in the bay is more conducive to anchovy egg and larval survival right now, and the fish know that. But we aren’t sure
"This is a once-in-a-lifetime chance, so people should see it."
"It’s never been like this” she said. “This is phenomenal."
"They are chasing an unexplained explosion of anchovies in the bay."
"So I’m just trying to tell the people how lucky they are to really witness this."

The Pacific is dying, the animals are all trying to get to the safest place possible and the idiots quoted above are excited?

It is unhead of, never before seen and all the other descriptions because it is NOT normal, the animals are not there some "unknown" reason and the MSM damn well knows it.








Cross posted at Before It's News




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The current global economic crisis has been covered extensively within academic literature and the wider (social) media alike. Few, however, have tackled the topic with the ambition of questioning capitalism itself. John Hilary’s book The Poverty of Capitalism: Economic Meltdown and the Struggle for What Comes Next(Pluto Press, 2013) is a welcome exception here. In this blog post, I will provide a critical engagement with this excellent analysis of capitalist crisis and moves towards alternatives. 


The power of transnational capital

John Hilary, Executive Director of the British NGO War on Want, looks in detail at three economic areas, which have been dominated by transnational capital at the expense of workers’ most basic human rights, extraction, garments and food production. ‘The Marikana massacre’, he argues, ‘is a brutal reminder that direct conflict with the extractive industries’ insatiable drive for profit remains a daily reality for millions of people across the world’ (P.99). While Western countries and increasingly emerging economies such as China continue to exploit the mineral wealth of developing countries, the dispossession of the local population often includes widespread human rights abuses.

The global garments industry is closely controlled by brand names and retailers, who relentlessly squeeze suppliers in producing more cheaply. Unsurprisingly, working conditions in this sector are characterised by super-exploitation with a disregard for issues such as health and safety.  The recent collapse of the Rana Plaza factory in Bangladesh, when more than 1000 people were killed is only one of the most extreme examples of the consequences of poor working conditions in this sector. In relation to food production, ‘as with the garments sector, the production, distribution and consumption of food are already dominated by a small number of giant transnational corporations who seek to determine what is grown and what is eaten in all corners of the globe. As with the extractive sector, capital has become increasingly aggressive in its attempts to appropriate the natural resources necessary for its further expansion: land, seeds, water and the genetic building blocks of life itself’ (P.118). In short, global capitalism has intensified exploitation across borders with the peoples of the Global South bearing yet again the brunt of the onslaught. 




The rise of the BRICS and CSR as hopes for alternatives?

John Hilary dismisses hopes that the rise of the BRICS, Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, will result in a dramatic change in global capitalism. Yes, the balance of power in the global economy is changing, but capitalism itself has not been undermined. ‘Instead of the traditional division between the capital-exporting countries of the North and the capital-importing countries of the South, the increasing accumulation of capital in the semiperiphery has generated a new wave of imperialism from the emerging economies themselves’ (P.34). At the same time inequality across the globe is increasing between countries, but also within countries and the BRICS are no exception here. ‘In the emerging economies of India and China, similar increases in inequality have taken place against the backdrop of hundreds of millions living in absolute poverty (P.18). Interestingly, the position of transnational capital has actually been strengthened rather than weakened as a result of the rise of the BRICS. ‘The G20’s decision to resurrect the failed institutions of twentieth-century globalization in the interests of transnational capital represents the greatest structural continuity between the new world order and the old’ (P.29).

John Hilary is equally clear in his dismissal of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) schemes as a way of self-regulation by transnational capital. ‘For all its claims to be channelling the power of business in pursuit of humanity’s common goals, CSR has successfully undermined the very cause it purports to serve’ (P.59). Instead of constraining capital and ensuring good working conditions for workers, CSR actually legitimises current practices of exploitation. The fact that many NGOs have collaborated with capital in this area makes the situation worse. This ‘has contributed to the closing down of critical space, as corporations have been able to point to their partnerships with “respectable” civil society (especially NGOs from the global North) as a means of marginalizing more radical opposition to their operations or to the system as a whole’ (P.79).


What alternatives beyond capitalism?

Photo by seven-resist
Importantly, John Hilary does not stop with criticising hopes linked to the BRICS and CSR. He also attempts to identify real moments of alternatives. Unlike many liberal commentators of the current situation, he is fully aware of the impossibility of regulatory changes. Real change can only be brought about, if global capitalism itself is challenged (P.117). His thinking is organised around three concepts: popular sovereignty, common ownership, and social production. ‘The concept of sovereignty is essentially opposed to the disempowerment inherent in corporate globalization, in that it reclaims authority over natural resources and the means of production from transnational capital, relocating legitimate authority within the democratic structures of the community, however constructed and contested (P.131). Common ownership can galvanise the resistance against the new wave of enclosures reflected in ‘land grabbing’ and social production allows the production for use, not for profit. These concepts are positively supported with a whole range of examples from Latin American countries, where the so-called ‘pink tide’ of centre-left and left governments has resulted in measures of significant wealth re-distribution from Lula’s Brazil and Morales’ Bolivia to Hugo Chavez’s ‘new socialism’ in Venezuela. 

As important as all these examples of change are, it is this aspect of the book where I find myself in slight disagreement with John Hilary. I am not convinced that the majority of the ‘global justice movement’ has declared itself opposed to capitalism as such rather than criticising the most negative outgrowths of neo-liberalism. Nor does the re-emergence of the state as an important actor of development in Latin America point towards a future beyond capitalism. As John Hilary acknowledges himself, at the national level ‘several of the “pink” governments have actually augmented the power of capital both nationally and internationally, maintaining their socially progressive credentials through pro-poor welfare programmes, but at the expense of any structural change’ (P.146). Capitalism as such is not challenged. Is John Hilary slightly too optimistic when assessing the current potential for moves beyond capitalism? Perhaps, but then there are many studies simply re-asserting the dominance of capitalism. In a way, it is refreshing that The Poverty of Capitalism goes into the opposite direction.

Photo by Sterneck
When looking at all the examples of transformative change mentioned by John Hilary, perhaps it is the movement around food sovereignty, demanding that people can decide for themselves what to grow and for whom, which directly challenges corporate power and may include the seeds for a different world. The peasant farmers’ movement La Via Campesina organises 150 local and national organisations from 70 countries and ensures a strong presence of this movement at the international level. Demands for ecological, sustainable, local and self-determined agriculture find support in the Global North and South alike.

The struggle over the future world order is open ended. It is these struggles, which can function as vehicles, ‘by which to develop an international class consciousness over and against the very real challenges posed by globalization to transnational solidarity’ (P.116). Solidarity is always the result of concrete struggles, and it is in this respect, that John Hilary’s positive assessment of the current situation may be justified. Hence, to conclude with his words, ‘the struggle for alternatives beyond capitalism is what makes another world possible. Even in the midst of crisis, that world is already coming into view’ (P.161). 

An impressive book, a must read for all those interested in transformative change beyond capitalism!


Prof. Andreas Bieler
Professor of Political Economy
University of Nottingham/UK

Personal website: http://andreasbieler.net

12 November 2013

Dr. Bill H. Weld Is Dead; Justin Tribble Admits Role In Nano Domestic Quell...

Serial hoaxer Justin Tribble fessed up to his role in an internet hoax that has had the Youtube "Truther" community in an uproar for months. On Monday, November 11th, Tribble shut down the Dr. Bill H. Weld Youtube page and Facebook accounts. He mo...

Land of the Docile and Unfree

The American of today, in fact, probably enjoys less personal liberty than any other man of Christendom, and even his political liberty is fast succumbing to the new dogma that certain theories of government are virtuous and lawful, and others abhorrent and felonious. Laws limiting the radius of his free activity multiply year by year: It is now practically impossible for him to exhibit anything describable as genuine individuality, either in action or in thought, without running afoul of some harsh and unintelligible penalty.

It would surprise no impartial observer if the motto “In God we trust” were one day expunged from the coins of the republic by the Junkers at Washington, and the far more appropriate word, “verboten,” substituted. Nor would it astound any save the most romantic if, at the same time, the goddess of liberty were taken off the silver dollars to make room for a bas-relief of a policeman in a spiked helmet.

Moreover, this gradual (and, of late, rapidly progressive) decay of freedom goes almost without challenge; the American has grown so accustomed to the denial of his constitutional rights and to the minute regulation of his conduct by swarms of spies, letter-openers, informers and agents provocateurs that he no longer makes any serious protest.

It is surely a significant fact that, in the face of the late almost incredible proceedings under the so-called Espionage Act and other such laws, the only objections heard of came either from the persons directly affected—nine-tenths of them Socialists, pacifists, or citizens accused of German sympathies, and hence without any rights whatever in American law and equity—or from a small group of professional libertarians, chiefly naturalized aliens.

The American people, as a people, acquiesced docilely in all these tyrannies, both during the war and after the war, just as they acquiesced in the invasion of their common rights by the Prohibition Amendment. Worse, they not only acquiesced docilely; they approved actively; they were quite as hotly against the few protestants as they were against the original victims, and gave their hearty approbation to every proposal that the former be punished too.

The really startling phenomenon of the war, indeed, was not the grotesque abolition of liberty in the name of liberty, but the failure of that usurpation to arouse anything approaching public indignation. It is impossible to imagine the men of Jackson’s army or even of Grant’s army submitting to any such absolutism without a furious struggle, but in these latter days it is viewed with the utmost complacency.

The descendants of the Americans who punished John Adams so melodramatically for the Alien and Seditions Acts of 1789 failed to raise a voice against the far more drastic legislation of 1917. What is more, they failed to raise a voice against its execution upon the innocent as well as upon the guilty, in gross violation of the most elemental principles of justice and rules of law.

– H.L. Mencken, The American Credo: A Contribution toward the Interpretation of the National Mind (1920)

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Kristallnacht: Never again?

Bettmann / Corbis 


The Night of Broken Glass
On November 9, 1938, Jewish people in Germany and German-controlled territories were beaten, arrested and killed. Synagogues were burned and Jewish businesses were vandalized. In most cases, the police made no effort to control the mobs that carried out these crimes. 
(source)




Kristallnacht, literally, "Night of Crystal," is often referred to as the "Night of Broken Glass." The name refers to the wave of violent anti-Jewish pogroms which took place on November 9 and 10, 1938, throughout Germany, annexed Austria, and in areas of the Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia recently occupied by German troops.

Instigated primarily by Nazi Party officials and members of the SA (Sturmabteilungen: literally Assault Detachments, but commonly known as Storm Troopers) and Hitler Youth, Kristallnacht owes its name to the shards of shattered glass that lined German streets in the wake of the pogrom—broken glass from the windows of synagogues, homes, and Jewish-owned businesses plundered and destroyed during the violence. 

In its aftermath, German officials announced that Kristallnacht had erupted as a spontaneous outburst of public sentiment in response to the assassination of Ernst vom Rath, a German embassy official stationed in Paris. Herschel Grynszpan, a 17-year-old Polish Jew, had shot the diplomat on November 7, 1938. A few days earlier, German authorities had expelled thousands of Jews of Polish citizenship living in Germany from the Reich; Grynszpan had received news that his parents, residents in Germany since 1911, were among them. 

Initially denied entry into their native Poland, Grynszpan's parents and the other expelled Polish Jews found themselves stranded in a refugee camp near the town of Zbaszyn in the border region between Poland and Germany. Already living illegally in Paris himself, a desperate Grynszpan apparently sought revenge for his family's precarious circumstances by appearing at the German embassy and shooting the diplomatic official assigned to assist him. 

Vom Rath died on November 9, 1938, two days after the shooting. The day happened to coincide with the anniversary of the 1923 Beer Hall Putsch, an important date in the National Socialist calendar. The Nazi Party leadership, assembled in Munich for the commemoration, chose to use the occasion as a pretext to launch a night of antisemitic excesses. Propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels, a chief instigator of the pogrom, intimated to the convened Nazi 'Old Guard' that 'World Jewry' had conspired to commit the assassination and announced that, "the Führer has decided that … demonstrations should not be prepared or organized by the Party, but insofar as they erupt spontaneously, they are not to be hampered."

 (source)

 German children watch as a synagogue in Kuppenheim, Baden Germany, burns during Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass. November 10, 1938. Photo credit: Hauptstaatsarchiv Stuttgart, courtesy of USHMM Photo Archives.




Over two days some 90 Jews were killed in an orgy of violence, while around 30,000 Jewish males were rounded up for deportation to concentration camps. Over 1,000 synagogues were burned or damaged. 

The Manchester Guardian's first reports of the pogrom appeared on 11 November 1938. 
wrecking  
The Manchester Guardian, 11 November 1938. .

The following day, the paper carried a number of reports and pictures about the attacks, including the news that anti-Jew laws were to be introduced in Germany.

berlin 
  The Manchester Guardian, 12 November 1938. 
 

There was a piece about the 'Aryanisation' of Jewish property as well as a chilling interview with a Manchester woman who had been caught up in the violence and arrests.


interview  
The Manchester Guardian, 12 November 1938.

 (source)


Two survivors recall horrors of Kristallnacht

by alberta lindsey, the associated press 

richmond, va. | It was Nov. 10, 1938, about 2 p.m. Eleven-year-old Alex Lebenstein stood frightened in the front yard of his family's home in Haltern, Germany.

"All of a sudden, these people came around the corner screaming anti-Semitic slogans. A boy I had been in kindergarten with was shooting at me with a slingshot. It was the first time I had seen my father totally defenseless. I put my hand in his and I felt sweat from his hand on mine," Lebenstein recalled.

For survivors of Kristallnacht, the terror is as fresh in their minds now as the day Jews were attacked throughout the German Reich. Lebenstein still gets emotional when sharing his story.

"One of the men grabbed my father by the shoulder and spit in his face. They tore his World War I medals from his shirt and stomped them into the ground. They started beating my father. Furniture started flying through the windows. My mother was screaming: 'Let's get out of here. They are killing us.' We slipped out a back street, hoping the men would be finished soon and we could go back home," he said.

About 130 miles away in Mainz, Germany, Ruth Rosenberg, 13, also was scared. Ten Nazis searched for guns in the apartment where her family lived.

"We didn't have any. I had never seen a gun," Rosenberg said. "They went all through the apartment. They couldn't open one cabinet, so I took a screwdriver and forced the cabinet open."

Now Richmond, Va., is home for Lebenstein, 77, and Rosenberg, 79. They recalled Kristallnacht, the government-sponsored attack on Nov. 9 and 10, 1938.

Rosenberg tries not to dwell on her memories, but Lebenstein still dreams about the events of that time. It was the worst two days of his life, he said. In an effort to make something positive out of the horrors of Kristallnacht, Lebenstein returned to his hometown in 1995. A letter from two high school students in Haltern asking him to tell them about Kristallnacht changed his mind. He still has the letter.

Since then, he has made several trips to Haltern and has already been invited to return next year. "I feel a responsibility to teach the truth. To teach people to be tolerant. That's my responsibility. That's why I go there," he said.
 





Pedestrians glance at the broken windows of a Jewish owned shop in Berlin after the attacks of Kristallnacht, November 1938.  Universal History Archive/Getty Images

How the World Shrugged Off Kristallnacht

Nov. 9, 2013
By Klaus Wiegrefe, SPIEGEL 


In the days surrounding Nov. 9, 1938, the Nazis committed the worst pogrom Germany had seen since the Middle Ages. To mark the incident's 75th anniversary, an exhibition in Berlin gathers previously unknown reports by foreign diplomats, revealing how the shocking events prompted little more than hollow condemnation. 

Consul-General Robert Townsend Smallbones had already seen much of the world. He had been in Angola, Norway and Croatia, and he had spent eight years in Germany with the British diplomatic corps. Despite the Nazi dictatorship, the 54-year-old held Germans in high esteem. They were "habitually kind to animals, to children, to the aged and infirm. They seemed to me to have no cruelty in their makeup," Smallbones wrote in a report to the British Foreign Office. 

Given his impression of the Germans, the representative of the British Empire was all the more astonished by what he experienced in early November 1938. In Paris, Herschel Grünspan, a 17-year-old Jewish refugee from the northern German city of Hanover, had shot the German diplomat Ernst vom Rath in an act of protest against Hitler's policies regarding the Jews. At first, the Nazis only hunted down Jews in the Hesse region of Germany, surrounding Frankfurt. But, after Rath's death on Nov. 9, the pogroms spread throughout the German Reich, where synagogues were burned, Jewish shop windows were smashed and thousands were taken to concentration camps and mistreated. 

Smallbones reported from Frankfurt that Jews had been taken to a large building and forced to kneel and place their heads on the ground. After some of them had vomited, Smallbones writes, the "guards removed the vomit by taking the culprit by the scruff of the neck and wiping it away with his face and hair." According to Smallbones' account, after a few hours, the victims were taken to the Buchenwald concentration camp, where many were tortured and a few beaten to death. The prisoners were even forced to urinate into each other's mouths. This was one of the details Smallbones learned from a golfing partner, a German Jew, after the latter's release from Buchenwald. 

"I flattered myself that I understood the German character," the consul-general wrote, but added that he had not expected this "outbreak of sadistic cruelty." 

The pogroms in November 1938 lasted several days, although history books often refer to the event merely as one "Night of the Broken Glass" (Kristallnacht) because Nazi propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels announced on the radio on Nov. 10 that the excesses had ended. Experts estimate that up to 1,500 people died in the days surrounding Nov. 9. It was the worst pogrom in Germany since the Middle Ages. 

[...]


What is also noteworthy about the documents is what they do not contain. In this respect, they point to the failure of the international community and its far-reaching consequences. The diplomats almost unanimously condemned the murders and acts of violence and destructions. The British described the pogrom as "Medieval barbarism," the Brazilians called it a "disgusting spectacle," and French diplomats wrote that the "scope of brutality" was only "exceeded by the massacres of the Armenians," referring to the Turkish genocide of 1915-1916. 


Nevertheless, no country broke off diplomatic relations with Berlin or imposed sanctions, and only Washington recalled its ambassador. Most of all, however, the borders of almost all countries remained largely closed for the roughly 400,000 Jewish Germans.  [Yes,emphasis mine]

Many diplomatic missions were already in contact with victims because men from the SS and the SA, Nazi Party officials and members of the Hitler Youth were also harassing foreign Jews who lived in Germany. In early November, more than 1,000 Jews fleeing from the Nazis took refuge at the Polish consulate in Leipzig. In an account of the fate of the Sperling family, the local consul wrote that they had been practically beaten to death, and that "many valuable objects" had been stolen from their apartment, "including a radio, a check for 3,600 Reichsmarks, 3,400 Reichsmarks in cash and other valuable things." The thugs had apparently undressed the wife and tried "to rape her." 

German Jews also sought protection in foreign consulates, especially those of the Americans. "Jews from all sections of Germany thronged into the office until it was overflowing with humanity, begging for an immediate visa or some kind of letter in regard to immigration, which might influence the police not to arrest or molest them," reported Samuel W. Honaker, the US consul-general in Stuttgart.
[...]
 1,406 Destroyed Synagogues
 
Many synagogues in the Württemberg, Baden and Hohenzollern regions were "set
on fire by well-disciplined and apparently well-equipped young men in civilian clothes," reported US Consul-General Honaker, noting that the process was "practically the same" in all cities. "The doors of the synagogues were forced open. Certain sections of the building and furnishing were drenched with petrol and set on fire. Bibles, prayer books and other sacred things were thrown into the flames," he wrote. A total of 1,406 synagogues were burned down. 

Then they began smashing shop windows. The shops were easy to identify, especially in Berlin. A few months earlier, Nazis had forced Jewish shop owners in the capital city to write their names in white paint and large letters on the shop windows. 

The second wave came during the course of the next day, as the Hungarian chargé d'affaires reported from the German capital: "In the afternoon, after school, 14- to 18-year-old teenagers, mostly members of the Hitler Youth, were unleashed on the shops. They forced their way into the businesses, where they turned things upside down, destroyed all furniture and everything made of glass, jumbled all the merchandise and then, while cheering for Hitler, left the scene to search for other places to ransack. In the city's eastern districts, the local populace also looted the devastated shops."
As instructed, the perpetrators were not wearing party uniforms. Goebbels wanted the public to believe that the pogrom was a reflection of "the justified and understandable outrage of the German people" over the death of Rath, the diplomat -- and that the police were powerless. 

But none of the diplomats believed this version of the events, especially, as a Brazilian embassy counselor scoffed, in a country with the "most powerful, tightly organized, perfectly equipped and most brutal police force in the world, in the best possible position to promptly suppress any turmoil within the population." 

The 'Unimaginable' on the Way to Reality
The uniformity of the approach in hundreds of cities and villages was enough to expose this lie...

(source) 

There are many, MANY historical documents which share of the horrors of Kristallnacht, and many of those include eye-witness reports of those who survived.  Even so, to this day, there are deniers out there who insist that a) none of these atrocities happened, or b) this could never happen in today's society.


Just as in 1938, today's politicians choose to turn a blind eye - a deaf ear -  to the murder and terrorism carried out in the name of political or religious bigotry.   As always, Jews remain under constant attack, even within the US.  In December 2011, I wrote a column here about Kristallnacht In Highland Park:


Not content to keep the violence to New York City (Brooklyn and Queens), anti-Semites have decided that the Jews of Highland Park, New Jersey must be the next victims on their list.

The central New Jersey community of Highland Park was targeted Tuesday night in a series of anti-Semitic attacks on at least five Jewish-owned establishments.

Vandals hurled bricks through the plate glass windows of a kosher restaurant, a kosher pizza shop, two Judaica stores, and a Jewish-owned hardware store.

At least three other Jewish-owned establishments in nearby New Brunswick were also similarly attacked, including the Rutgers Chabad House, the Rutgers Hillel and an Israeli-owned falafel eatery....

More here.
This is ongoing, but you rarely see it in the msm.  There was this in 2012:

07/01/2012
Colin Flaherty 


If Chaim Amalek had his way, no one would know that mobs of black people are attacking and beating and robbing Jews in the New York area.

Or that they shout anti-Semitic epithets.

Or that they target Jews because “they don’t fight back.”

“Such information can only serve to heighten racial tensions between these two groups,” said Amalek, an alias for New York video blogger Luke Ford. “Let us all look beyond the issue of race (in any event a mere social construct) and instead celebrate our diversity.”

In this case, the New York Post saw a pattern that most other media outlets never see. To some, it was jarring.

 “Anti-Jewish crime wave,” read the June headline about a series of recent anti-Semitic attacks. “In the most disturbing incident, a mob of six black teenagers shouting, ‘Dirty Jew!’ and ‘Dirty kike!’ repeatedly bashed Marc Heinberg, 61, as he walked home from temple in Sheepshead Bay (in June.) 

This is one of several black mob attacks on – and robberies of – Jewish people in Brooklyn over the last two years, leaving broken bones and life-threatening injuries in their wake...

Much more here.  
 




This was no isolated incident, and for those paying attention, there IS documentation out there that to be Jewish is STILL a life-threatening existence, continuing to this day.  Atlas Shrugs is one of the few media to shine a light on ongoing crimes against Jews in America.  That site has many with titles such as: 




Real hate: Little Jewish Girls Attacked, Called ‘Dirty Jews’ in Brooklyn

POLICE OFFICER SHOT AT DC HOLOCAUST MUSEUM, OTHERS WOUNDED UPDATE: SHOOTER WAS NAZI WHITE SUPREMACIST JAMES W VON BRUNN

CHICAGO: MUSLIM ARRESTED IN BOMB THREAT AGAINST JEWISH CHILDREN

 

Atlas Shrugs has MANY more here.

 "Never again" rings very hollow, doesn't it?

 This holds true for Christians of all stripes, and there are daily reports of Catholic Churches around the globe being razed to the ground, and their Church members being rounded up and murdered.  And still the world says - and does - nothing. 

 From  Catholic Online in May this year:



Where is President Obama as Egypt's Coptic Christians Die and Churches Burn?


Last week, hundreds of Coptic Christians in Egypt stood up to a mob of 20 thousand Muslims. They risked their lives to protect their church, their religious freedom and each other. As Copts continue to suffer and die and their churches and property are destroyed, Christians have begun to notice President Obama's silence.

KNOXVILLE, TN (Catholic Online) - According to Asia News, Coptic Christians are experiencing an escalation of attacks by Islamists, and they are becoming a daily occurrence. Asia News reported two attacks that occurred last week. Furthermore, as Copts continue to suffer and die and their churches and property are destroyed, Christians have begun to notice President Obama's silence.
On May17, over 20 thousand Muslims attacked the church of St. Mary in Alexandria. They set fire to the entrance of the building and shattered the windows. In response to the attack, hundreds of courageous Copts formed a human wall around the perimeter of the church, effectively using their bodies as shields against the huge mob. Some Islamists were armed with guns and knives. They shot at the Copts, causing some serious injuries...
   
 From Egyptian Streets in August 2013:

 Coptic churches burn amid violence in Egypt 

Coptic Christians call for greater protection as wave of violence sweeps across Egypt By Mohamed Khairat, Founder, EgyptianStreets.com

 


St. Mary Church in Fayoum attacked, looted


Violence in Egypt has taken a dark turn for sectarianism as more than 45 churches and Coptic institutions were torched or stormed across the country.

The wave of attacks against Copts and their houses of worship, businesses, schools and homes came as Egypt’s security forces dispersed two large pro-Morsi sit-ins in Cairo.
In cities across Egypt, from Sohag and Minya to Cairo and Assiut, Islamists took to the streets attacking churches. In one case in Minya, a Coptic man and his wife were detained before being killed by armed individuals.

In one incident, Islamists torched parts of one of Egypt’s oldest churches that was reportedly built in the 4th Century.

In a frantic email to Egyptian Streets, a Coptic student in Minya said, “They are burning everything we own, and there is no security in sight. Is this Islam? Is this what the Muslim Brotherhood want? To burn Egypt to the grounds!”

More here. 

In one week alone, reports Joel Rosenberg,


Violence out of control in Egypt. Over 700 dead. Upwards of 40 churches burned.

In Uncategorized on August 17, 2013
 Go read the accompanying article here.

This targeting is not unique to Egypt.  Every.single.day reports surface of Christians around the world being murdered.


 In Nigeria:


Adu, Nigeria – Gabriel Anthony, 25, was steeped in quiet, prayerful devotion at 5 a.m. on Sunday (Sept. 1) in this northern Nigerian village when he heard gunshots.


“Within minutes, bullets were piercing into our rooms,” Anthony told Morning Star News. “I escaped from my room by jumping through the window.”


A half hour later, seven of his relatives in Adu village, Kaduna state, were dead, including his father, 60-year-old Anthony Nkom; his mother, 45-year-old Asabe Anthony; his brother, 35-year-old James Anthony; and another brother, 37-year-old Andrew Anthony. Also killed were three of his nephews – 5-year-old Meshack Aaron, 12-year-old Bulus James Anthony, and 15-year-old Happiness Anthony.


The bodies of Happiness and Meshack were buried in one grave, and those of the other five in another.


Besides these seven people, two other Christians in the village were killed and three were wounded in the attack by more than a dozen ethnic Fulani Muslims, Anthony said. All of those killed were members of the St. Andrew’s Catholic Church in Adu....


Again, not an isolated incident in Nigeria, or in many other countries around the world. In Iraq:

Attacks against Christians in Iraq ongoing

24 April 2013  |  Christian Newswire


Islamist extremists want Iraq to be a "Muslim only" country. As a result, Christians in Iraq remain continuous targets of violent attacks.

Each month Open Doors field workers receive sad phone calls and emails of Christian acquaintances who report attacks against the Christians near them. While most of them are part of the general violence, such as bomb attacks and mortar fire which intensified during provincial elections last Saturday, a part of the violence can be labelled as specifically targeted against Christians.

"If these attacks take place in a Christian neighbourhood or a Christian village, you can assume they are targeted, especially against the Christian population of the neighbourhoods and villages," said an Open Doors field worker.

"Since the fall of Saddam Hussein 10 years ago, an estimated 1,000 Christians have been killed, a relatively high number compared with percentages killed from other groups in Iraqi society." A Christian in Mosul was the target of two attacks in one week last March. After the first bomb exploded in his house on a Wednesday, a second one was thrown over his fence on Sunday. The Christian saw two young men running away. The second bomb, wrapped in a black bag and a women's t-shirt, was deactivated by a military engineering team.

In early April, Adbuljabar Khidher Toza, another Christian from Mosul, wasn't so fortunate. Armed men shot him to death in front of his house.
All these targeted attacks serve only one purpose, shares the field worker:
"We received documents and threats stating that the aim of the Islamist Insurgents is to make Iraq a 'Muslim only' country; they want the Christians out."

Louis Raphael Sako, the newly-elected Chaldean Catholic patriarch of Iraq and Syria, says he is afraid of what Islamist rule would mean for Christians.
"People are afraid of a kind of Islamic state as it was in the seventh century where Christians would be considered second-class citizens," he said.

According to Open Doors' 2013 World Watch List materials, there are only an estimated 330,000 to 350,000 Christians left in Iraq. There were more than 1.2 million Christians in the early 1990s. Many of the believers have fled to Jordan and Lebanon or to the northern Kurdish region of Iraq. Iraq is ranked No 4 on the list of the worst persecutors around the globe....

Read the rest here.    

From Iran - where there has been a 'crack down on Christians' in recent years:


Iranian Christian flogged after drinking Communion wine


Published 01 November 2013

An Iranian Christian was flogged on Wednesday, according to rights groups, after a court in Rasht, Iran sentenced him and three other Christians to 80 lashes for drinking wine as part of a Holy Communion service.

According to the Middle East Correspondent for Morning Star News, Behzad Taalipasand, a convert from Islam, received the 80 lashes after being arrested on December 31, 2012 and sentenced this month for drinking alcohol, quoting two sources -- Middle East Concern (MEC) and Christian Solidarity Worldwide...

More details here. 


That is but an overview, and a a few examples of Jews and Christians being murdered with impunity. I won't even get into the insanity of the daily attacks on Jews withIN Israel, and the ongoing Iranian commitment  to wiping Israel off the map (aided and abetted by the current US administration - and the UN.)


And the list goes on and on and on of Christians being prosecuted, murdered:  Kenya, Syria, Iraq.   For ongoing coverage of these crimes against Christians that world msm and politicians choose to turn a blind eye to, go to Jihad Watch, who has daily updates.


And the world shrugs, just as it did in 1938. Just as the world chose to ignore the genocide led by Hitler, today it seems that the global community continues to cling to their wilful ignorance.

  Kristallnacht: Never again?  

Holocaust Survivor Henry Greenbaum so aptly says in this video: "Human beings are capable of doing anything."  As current events continue to prove we  ignore - or choose to 'forget' such atrocities at our peril.





NEVER again? NEVER forget: Tyranny STILL rampages in neighbourhoods around the world.


Educate yourself. Pay attention.

 

Fukushima: Japan’s Cut-Price Nuclear Cleanup: Human Error, Plummeting Morale and Worker Exodus 福島は割引清掃

TEPCO woes continue amid human error, plummeting morale and worker exodus By Justin McCurry and David McNeill reporting from Fukushima During a visit to Fukushima Daiichi...

Fukushima Death Plumes Hitting Canada? Total Media Blackout (Video)

By Susan Duclos



We have a twofer here since they both involved a media blackout, one from the mainstream media in and out of Japan, and the other on social media continued five days after a major earthquake hit near the Fukushima nuclear plant.

First we will start with a Tokyo mother declares that despite sickness, death and serious radiation symptoms, there is a "total media blackout" on what is actually happening in Japan as a result of the Fukushima nuclear plant meltdown after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami cripple it.

That question and answer from the Cinema Forum Fukushima was published in July and still, the media ignores what is happening. 

"In Japan, it’s really a total blackout of media, even though there are lots and lots of people who have been developing symptoms. That information itself cannot come out because of the control of the media and the doctors, like the Society of Medicine in Japan, are denying even now that there have been health damages [...] I just wanted to remind you that this is really a real thing. It’s not only the anxiety, it is happening. I think this is the most important thing. But there are very few people who talk about this […] I was outside on the 15th of March in Tokyo, and then about 1 month later, I had fever of like 103ºF for 8 days. And this [baby] boy, he was totally healthy, now he’s OK, but at the time he had 101ºF fever on and off for 13 times in the duration of 3 months. He had rash all over and he was really, really sick [...] he became real skinny and he stopped growing for 3 or 4 months. It is really happening. I have 2 nodules in my thyroid, and my boy has countless number of minor nodules. So what I wanted to stress most, the most important thing is the symptoms are happening. I want you to know, and I want you to spread this information."

That will be the first video below.

As was reported yesterday, there are also questions as to whether the supposed "live" camera at the fukushima nuclear plant is really live.

Last but definitely not least, BeautifulGirlByDana continues to monitor the web and five days after another 7 plus magnitude earthquake hit near the already devastated nuclear plant, still no verifiable direct social media interaction from Japan.

Dana also brings about the question of the global damage as is clear in the headline of his video "# 2 Fukushima Death Plumes Hitting Canada Tonight & for months ??"

One more quick thought before showing the two videos below.... is it only Japan that has a total media blackout or are governments around the world also hiding the effects from their people and why is the media being complicit and helping them do so?







Cross posted at Before It's News


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This is just a beginning: Gezi resistance and the legitimacy crisis of the AKP...

Last summer, Turkey has witnessed an unprecedented social mobilisation, maybe the most significant and intensive one in the post-1980 military coup period. Between the 28 and 30 of May, a group of environmentalists, who were camped in the Gezi Park to prevent the destruction of the park for the re-construction of the 18thcentury Ottoman Taksim Barracks, were violently evicted by the police. While the activists were beaten and tear gassed, their tents and equipment were burned by the officials. This sparked a massive outrage and paved the way to the subsequent demonstrations and clashes with the police forces that lasted for almost four months. In this guest post, Ertan Erol assesses the wider implications of this moment of social mobilisation in Turkey.

Photo by Sterneck
The reaction of the members of the governing Justice and Development Party (AKP) remained undecided and more or less surprised until the Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan concretised his hard-line position accusing the protestors of being looters and part of a foreign conspiracy that aims to increase interest rates and, thus, damage the Turkish economy. While the PM gradually elevated his criticisms on the protests and launched series of pro-government rallies called ‘Respect to People’s Will’ in the major cities of Turkey, the pro-government media launched a campaign of slander making various claims about the protesters, allegedly showing their links with foreign agents and their fanatically anti-religious and anti-Islamic orientations. In the international arena the AKP officials also continuously claimed that the police reaction was moderate, at least not heavier or different than the use of police force in the Western world. PM Erdogan himself gave the example of the police intervention during the Occupy Wall Street events in New York claiming that 17 people had been killed, which was immediately refuted by the US Embassy in Ankara. 
     
Photo by eser.karadag
Nevertheless, the AKP’s arguments trying to justify the use of police force during the Gezi Resistance have no credibility. A recent report published by Amnesty International (October 2013) noted that the right of peaceful assembly that is protected by various international conventions and by the 34th article of Turkey’s constitution was arbitrarily denied in many parts of the country due to the abusive use of force by the police (quoting the Turkish Medical Association): 8000 people were injured of which 61 severely, 11 lost an eye, 104 suffered head injuries and 3 people died as the direct result of the brutal use of force (2013: 15). In the same report it was also stated that the police force abused the use of less lethal weapons such as tear gas and water cannons. According to government sources only in the first 20 days of the protests 130.000 gas canisters had been used, while 60 water cannons, which in some cases carried water mixed with chemical irritants that might cause first degree burns on human skin, were arbitrarily implemented against the protestors and bystanders (2013 18, 19). The report also noted unofficial detentions, sexual assaults, beatings by the police force, and the arbitrary prosecutions and raids aimed at organisers of the protests, lawyers, journalists, medical personnel and social media users. 

Photo by eser.karadag
The Gezi Protests and the violent, repressive and illegal response by the government and its law enforcement forces was immediately interpreted as an authoritarian turn in the AKP’s 11 years of rule. However, I argue that the protests and the government’s strong response needs to be located and identified within a wider process of neoliberal re-territorialisation of Turkey in the last three decades. Only by doing that, is it possible to identify these protests in the context of legitimacy crises that neoliberal hegemony is also facing simultaneously in other parts of the world such as Mexico, Chile, Brazil and Colombia.

Photo by eser.karadag
 In that sense, it is indispensible to look back to 2010 and pin down the TEKEL workers’ resistance as a turning point, which should be seen as the beginning of the political legitimacy crisis of the AKP rule. In 2010 when the state tobacco company TEKEL was privatised and the TEKEL workers were forced to choose between resignation and accepting to sign yearly contracts, which were not guaranteed to be renewed, the TEKEL workers launched a fierce campaign of resistance and camped in a public park in Ankara. Since the 1980 military coup, it had been the first time a working class movement was able to mobilise and maintain a significant amount of people. It is possible to argue that the reason why the AKP government used brutal police force to disperse the workers and protesters was the vitality of the case as the most obvious crack in the neoliberal hegemonic coalition that the AKP was representing. Thus, the TEKEL resistance became a turning point both for the government and the social movements either in the urban areas concerning public spaces or in the rural areas against the construction of micro dam projects. Since the TEKEL resistance it has become practically impossible to make a public demonstration criticising government policies without receiving strong police intervention with tear gas, detention and arbitrary legal prosecution. In 2013, starting from a protest in Taksim against the destruction of an old cinema building to the clashes following the prohibition of the May Day celebrations in Taksim square, the erosion of the political legitimacy of the AKP government increased the repressive response of these peaceful protests. This situation paved the way to the social explosion on 31st May which led to the four months of anti-government protests and different forms of political disobedience, which are now all summed up under the name of Gezi resistance. The impact of neoliberal re-territorialisation of public space in Istanbul coincided with the wider aspects of the crisis of neoliberal hegemony, which led to the explosion of social struggles and opened up significant space of self-determination and counter-hegemonic socio-spatial practices.

Photo by Sabo Tabi
Hoping to tackle this problem of legitimacy, the AKP government recently presented a series of liberalising reforms, a ‘democratisation package’, offering changes such as lifting the ban on the use of headscarf by public servants, or the general use of Kurdish letters Q, X and W and the original names of Kurdish towns, as well as returning the land previously belonging to an Assyrian Monastery in the southeast of Turkey. However, the package can hardly be perceived as a serious attempt of democratisation, since it is far from satisfying even the basic demands of the minority groups in Turkey or responding to the calls of the general public such as for the elimination of the 10 percent national threshold in general elections.    
In this context, one of the most common slogans of the protests becomes more meaningful: ‘This is just a beginning, the struggle will continue’. There is a direct link between the TEKEL resistance, the resistance in the Anatolian mountains and the Gezi Park protests, and additionally between the recent social struggles in Chile, Mexico, Brazil and Colombia. All are responses to processes of neoliberal re-territorialisation of social space on the periphery of global capitalism. Therefore, it should be expected that we will witness a continuous proliferation of social mobilisations and resistances in these countries, as neoliberal restructuring intensifies and extends the contradictions of neoliberal hegemony across different social scales.  


Ertan Erol has finished his PhD on the regional integration and development projects of Mexico and Turkey at the University of Nottingham in 2013. He is now working in the Department of International Relations at the University of Istanbul as an assistant researcher.

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What future for Social Democracy?

On 9 September 2013, a red-green alliance led by the social democratic Labour Party lost the Norwegian general elections. Only two weeks later, the German Social Democrats (SPD) only came a poor second with just over 25 per cent of the votes in their country’s general elections. Even if it ends up as thefor junior partner in a grand coalition, the clear winner was the centre-right Christian Democratic Party of Chancellor Angela Merkel, which missed only narrowly an absolute majority in parliament. In this post, I will assess the general situation of social democratic parties in industrialised countries and speculate about their potential future role.  

Photo by marza
Asbjørn Wahl and Roy Pedersen, two close observers of, and participants in, Norwegian struggles analysed the reasons behind the defeat in Norway. ‘In a situation in which oil revenue is pouring into the public coffers, the economic crisis goes virtually unnoticed, the unemployment rate is at a record low, real wages have been steadily increasing for a long time and most of the welfare state is still intact’, how was it possible, they ask, that the ruling coalition government lost the elections (The Bullet, Socialist Project • E-Bulletin No. 883, September 22, 2013)? They identify several reasons for why previous voters had turned away from the Norwegian Labour Party and its allies: the spread of New Public Management methods and a related culture of distrust, the intensification and brutalisation of working conditions, a disciplinary rather than helpful workfare policy, the lack of any new progressive policy reform as part of the Labour Party’s election manifesto as well as Norway’s participation in imperialist wars in Libya and Afghanistan. They identify ‘a pretty clear pattern of a government which has step by step moved away from its progressive platform and slid gradually toward more and more mainstream and soft neoliberal positions. This is the reason why it lost the election’ (The Bullet, Socialist Project • E-Bulletin No. 883, September 22, 2013).   

Photo by marza

This clearly explains the Norwegian situation to a considerable extent. And yet, I am wondering whether the more fundamental reason is not that the social democratic project in general has run out of steam. At the beginning of the 20th century, the European left broke apart into social democrats, who emphasised the importance of reforming capitalism, and communists, who argued in favour of a revolutionary overthrow of capitalism. Thus, from the beginning social democracy was always the moderate version of working class policy. And yet, even the focus on reform, nonetheless, included at least initially the aspiration to go beyond capitalism towards socialism. The welfare state, now generally considered to be the main working class/social democratic achievement, had never been more than a compromise with capital (see Forget the welfare state?). In exchange for social policies, full employment and real wage increases social democrats had to accept capital’s control over the means of production. Instead of acknowledging, however, that the welfare state had been a compromise, in the course of the 1960s and 1970s social democratic parties adopted it as their main achievement and further improvements were implemented in a technocratic way. The former ambitions to overcome capitalism were forgotten and the parties became increasingly vulnerable to soft neo-liberal policies during the 1980s and 1990s, which were presented as offering better welfare results. 

Photo by marza
Only in Sweden, against the background of increasing industrial unrest in the late 1960s, early 1970s was the attempt made to challenge capitalism more fundamentally. The Swedish Social Democratic Party (SAP) together with the main trade union LO embarked on a radical reform course in the 1970s. Industrial policy by the state was strengthened, industrial democracy in companies through co-determination introduced and, most importantly, the so-called wage-earner fund proposal put forward, which over time would have given trade unions majority control over big corporations. It was this moment, when capital’s prerogative over the control of production was threatened, that employers mobilised widely. First the social democrats lost the elections in 1976, and then upon their return to power in 1982 they only introduced a watered-down version of the initial proposal. The private ownership of the means of production was no longer questioned, the SAP itself no longer convinced about the wage earner funds initiative.


Asbjørn Wahl and Roy Pedersen are right, further social policy initiatives including new taxes on the rich or a social housing policy would have been possible. If put forward and mobilised around, the Norwegian Labour Party may have achieved a better result. It may even have been able to prevent electoral defeat, although the defeat was pretty decisive. Nevertheless, this would have only improved an already very good welfare state in Norway. It would have been a quantitative improvement. As I see it, however, this in itself is unlikely to transform social democracy into a fighting force with an alternative vision for the future. It would have been more of the same, but nothing qualitatively new. Perhaps, what is needed is a return to former ambitions of overcoming capitalism itself and move beyond the private ownership of the means of production? Unless social democracy can move beyond being the technocratic administrator of the ever more reduced welfare state, it is unlikely to be a significant force in the future.


Prof. Andreas Bieler
Professor of Political Economy
University of Nottingham/UK

Personal website: http://andreasbieler.net

7 October 2013

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‘Expect everything’: A new pretext to justify bombing Syria?

While the Obama administration pays lip service to the Russian solution, there is no reason to believe that Washington will take its finger off the trigger. In a recent interview with CBS, Syrian President Bashar Assad warned that the United States should “expect everything” if it launches a military strike against Damascus, insinuating that the already highly combustible situation could genuinely spiral out of control if Washington escalated this war. The pictures coming out of Benghazi on the anniversary of 9/11 speak for themselves. A year after the killing of US Ambassador Chris Stevens, who was one of the principle coordinators of arms to the Libyan rebels (many of whom are now fighting in Syria on the side of the US), instability ensues in a chaotic post-regime change Libya. In the words of Hilary Clinton reflecting on last year’s attack, “How could this happen, how could this happen in a country we helped liberate?” It’s an easy question to answer – it happened as a result of unthinkably destructive and illegal US foreign policy that materially enabled terrorist groups to overthrow a government that Washington didn’t like.

The Obama administration clearly hasn’t learned its lesson, but as bombs rip through the Libyan city of Benghazi two years in a row, it's going to be even harder for Obama to sell this war not only to the public, but to his own government. Round two of Benghazi blowback raises numerous questions – we’re supposed to believe Washington’s intelligence that it knew Assad planned to use chemical weapons 3 days in advance and that its totally secret evidence, which it won’t reveal to anybody, is solid. It seems that US intelligence agencies are only adept at finding “evidence” that is amenable to their strategic foreign policy objectives, meanwhile they are totally incompetent when it comes to preventing terrorist attacks, from Benghazi to Boston. The Russian solution has succeed in getting warmonger Obama to backpedal on his bombs-for-peace proposal for the time being, even so, one should also “expect everything” from the rabid Washington regime that has poured enormous financial and diplomatic resources into bombing Syria and toppling Assad. In other words, expect a new pretext.

Read the full story on RT.com

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Trade union responses to the attack on wages by the EU!

As part of the austerity programmes across Europe in response to the economic crisis, European Union (EU) institutions have increasingly become involved in an attack on trade union rights. In this guest post, Anne Dufresne highlights especially the attack on national wage formation and considers potential responses by European trade unions.

Photo by habeebee
Wages, and thus trade unions, are being violently attacked by European authorities. Until now, wages have remained an exclusively national issue as a negotiated right at the very core of trade unions’ identity. It had been excluded from the EU’s competences since the Maastricht Treaty. Yet, for approximately two years, with the implementation of the new ‘European economic governance’ (Pact for the Euro, Six-Pack,..), the economic actors of the EU have kidnapped wages. The ECB, DG ECFIN and the ECOFIN Council transformed it into a statistic figure of ‘Unit labour cost (ULC)’, measured as an indicator that should be contained in order to improve competitiveness. A threshold of wage increases should be respected to avoid a financial penalty. So, from a negotiated right at national level, wages have become a European market price!

According to the European Council ‘the obstacles of institutional nature to a flexible adjustment of prices and salaries to market conditions (must be) suppressed’. And this is why since 2010, wage institutions have been suffering all over Europe, more or less violently so depending on the state of subordination of that particular country to the EU: with the authoritarian interventions of the Troika (Commission, ECB, IMF) and its compulsory austerity plans in the so-called ‘peripheral countries’ of the South, the East and in Ireland (unilateral reduction of minimum wages, brutal cuts in public services) or through recommendations of the Commission in the countries of the North (questioning of the indexation and wage stop in Belgium, reduction of minimum wages in France, etc.). Dismantling collective bargaining systems that people fought for is equal to a frontal attack on the very existence of trade unions in each of the member states. The Commission makes no secret about this and indicated in a recent report of DG ECFIN that it should be possible ‘to promote measures that lead to a global reduction of the ability that trade unions have to set wages’ (2012).  As they are facing this threat, how do European trade unions fight back?

Photo by Kheel Center, Cornell University


For too long, wages have remained a taboo issue for the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC), which preferred the European Social Dialogue, excluding precisely wages. But the frontal attack perpetrated by the EU brought the subject to the foreground. In April 2008, the ETUC organised the first European demonstration with the slogan ‘increasing salaries and better sharing of profits’, and not a vague slogan such as ‘for a Social Europe’. In May 2011, at its latest Congress in Athens, the ETUC was able to express a common diagnosis by the vast majority of European trade unions (only CFDT was of a different opinion): it clearly opposed the Commission and its governance and demanded the stop of the anti-salary bulldozer strategy of the EU. So, if there is a real consensus amongst trade unions to refuse persistent wage austerity, the key question is: how can we proceed? What could be the trade unions’ counter-strategy?

A first answer goes back to the 1990s. The ETUC, following the track of the European Metalworkers’ Federation, which in the meantime merged in the Federation of European Industries, with the chemical and textile Federations, had developed a strategy to fight wage dumping: the coordination of collective bargaining.The idea was to promote a ‘union’ wage norm, according to which real wages should at least increase in parallel with the increase of productivity. While the EU (regardless of inflation) now promotes nominal wages ‘according to productivity’ and pleads for a downwards harmonisation all over Europe, it is important to update this union norm and to reinforce the European coordination attempts by trade unions. A more offensive approach against the current European wage policy would be to promote the reinforcement of all collective bargaining institutions in the different countries in order to back a European growth policy driven by wage increases.

Photo by HatM


A second line of inquiry: the European minimum wage, is a watchword that could impose itself given the differences in wages paid within the EU and the lack of a minimum level in some countries. A European regulation allowing for a relative increase in all countries could be the introduction of a minimum wage calculated in relation to the national average wage: 50% in the short-term and then 60% in the longer term. Trade unions in big countries are broadly in favour: French organisations with the ‘SMIC’ model, English unions with the success of their recently obtained minimum and the German unions that are looking for a universal standard before the next elections. Nevertheless, the ‘no front’, with the Italians and the Scandinavians in particular, is clearly against this because they fear that their bargaining systems of minimum sectoral wages, that are often very high, might suffer. Their veto has been blocking all demands in this matter since the beginning of the century. The current impossibility to find an agreement on this issue, despite the ever increasing assaults against wages, shows that there is still a long way to go before obtaining a common bargaining dynamic at the transnational level.



Photo by HatM
So a lot of questions are left over: how can we break the deadlock of national withdrawal by trade unions? How can we avoid an unbalanced increase between countries, social tensions and eventually the stalemate of the trade union movement? How can we create a new balance of power in response to the economic players of the EU?

The challenges this implies are huge: on the one hand, there is the implementation of a strategy of ‘Europeanisation’ of social movements, already underway with the increasingly rapid success of decentralised movements. A good example was the transnational strike of 14 November 2012, which was new because it was organised simultaneously in all southern countries, hit most severely by austerity measures. On the other hand, the social partners should regain their power with respect to wages. If wages are to be dealt with at EU level then they are the only ones who can manage this and not the economic actors which pursue a policy of surveillance of wage moderation. This is likely to be a long way…

This post was first published by the Social Europe Journal.


Anne Dufresne is a Researcher at FNRS-FRS of the Université Catholique de Louvain, Belgium and a Research Fellow at IRES, France.

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Democratic global Keynesianism as a way out of crisis? Critical reflections on Heikki Patomäki’s...

When the financial market crisis in 2007 and 2008 threatened the global economy, governments around the world stepped in and bailed out many financial institutions, which were on the brink of collapse. Large amounts of private debt were transformed into public debt. In the Eurozone, this resulted in the sovereign debt crisis. In his excellent book The Great Eurozone Disaster: From Crisis to Global New Deal (Zed Books, 2012), Heikki Patomäki not only provides an insightful analysis of the crisis, but he also makes clear recommendations for the best way out of crisis.

Patomäki’s argument is in many respects a classic Keynesian analysis. He correctly points out that ultimately the global financial crisis was only the trigger of the sovereign debt crisis. Insufficient demand unevenly distributed across the European Union (EU) and the neo-liberal institutional set-up of the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) were the real problems. ‘The difficulties facing the European Monetary Union have been primarily caused by the asymmetries in the formation of overall demand in the European political economy as a whole, and also by the institutional arrangements and restrictions that were put in place by the Maastricht Treaty’ (P.79). A successful solution to the crisis, for Patomäki, consequently, needs to tackle the question of demand. ‘A sufficient level of effective aggregate demand is an essential requirement for adequate real investments and economic growth’ (P.49).

When reflecting on potential future scenarios, Patomäki identifies three different alternatives: ‘According to the first scenario, the neoliberal European project will continue and deepen; in the second scenario, the EU will develop into a social-democratic federation of states and a world power; but in the third scenario the EU will pursue transformations of global governance and promote democratic and social goals, understanding itself as part of a much wider dynamic whole’ (P.108). The current EU policies around the so-called Fiscal Compact and its focus on fiscal discipline, the first scenario, are considered disastrous. ‘When a sufficient number of EU states decide to cut public spending at the same time, it has a marked negative impact on the level of effective aggregate demand within the whole of the EU’ (P.83). The second scenario, the Euro-level, social-democratic federation, would be in a better position to address the problem of aggregate demand spread equally across the EU.

Image by EuroCrisisExplained.co.uk

The real solution for Patomäki, however, lies in the EU becoming part of a democratic global Keynesianism. This would include the re-regulation of financial markets within a setting of new global institutions, perhaps including even a global central bank, with the goal to manage trade deficits and surpluses. ‘Needed are the sorts of global governance mechanisms that can shape the supply of money in the system, balance surpluses and deficits on an equitable basis, and direct the formation, composition and distribution of economic growth’ (P.168). His vision includes a world parliament to ensure the democratic nature of the new system as well as respect for ecological issues. In sum,

‘global Keynesianism is an approach that frames questions of public economic policy and politics more generally on the world economic scale. Global Keynesianism aims to regulate global interdependencies in such a way as to produce stable and high levels of growth, employment and welfare for everyone and everywhere, simultaneously. Global Keynesianism is an ecologically responsible doctrine: governing interdependence could not otherwise by sustainable’ (P.175).


Nevertheless, as impressive as Patomäki’s analysis clearly is, and as nice as it would be to have a ‘global Finland’ characterized by equality, democracy and social justice, there are serious flaws in his historical understanding as well as recommendations for the future. Most importantly, it is his (mis-) understanding of the capitalist social relations of production, which causes a number of problems in his analysis. In line with his Keynesian focus on demand levels and related issues of distribution of wealth, he completely overlooks the way exploitation is rooted within the way of how production is organised around wage labour and the private ownership of the means of production as well as the related, fundamental class conflict between labour and capital. 

A different understanding of the capitalist social relations of production has implications for how we can explain the current crisis in the first place. Rather than pointing to the lack of regulation (P.37) and personal greed (P.39), from a historical materialist perspective the emphasis is on the structural crisis tendency of capitalism. The fact that so many US financial institutions engaged heavily in the risky subprime mortgage market was not the result of personal greed, but due to competitive pressures forcing one financial institution to obtain the same high profit margin as its competitor, which dealt in subprime mortgages (see also Corruption in the banking industry – the problem of a few ‘bad apples’?).

Moreover, a class analysis results in a completely different understanding of how the Keynesian compromise came about in industrialised countries after World War Two. In contrast to Patomäki’s rather technocratic vision, in which experts, understanding how the economy works, devised a system of demand management, a class analysis makes clear that the welfare state was the result of class struggle. Against the background of the Cold War and on the basis of strong labour organisations at the national level, forged in industrial conflicts at the beginning of the 20th century, labour was in a position to balance the social power of capital. The result was a compromise, in which capital retained the right to own the means of production in exchange for rising wages and an expansive welfare state for workers. In other words, a balance of power in society was absolutely essential. Keynesian ideas provided the economic formula of implementing the compromise in concrete policies.  

This has clear implications for the possibilities of global Keynesianism. Rather than establishing new institutions of global governance and a technocratic consensus on the best Keynesian way forward, it is a balance of class power, which is required. However, this is clearly not the case. Globalisation has precisely implied a dramatic increase in the structural power of capital, which has shifted the balance of power at the global as well as national level in favour of capital. After all, the dominance of capital has been behind the neo-liberal shift in European integration since the mid-1980s in the first place.

Photo by informatique
Nevertheless, even if there was a balance of class power in society at the global level, it is questionable whether global Keynesianism would be feasible within the general capitalist setting. Capitalism has always expanded outward along lines of uneven and combined development. Structurally, in order to continue the accumulation of surplus value, capitalism constantly has to look for new markets and cheap labour elsewhere. This does not, however, lead to equal development, but to highly uneven development and increasing inequality between countries as well as within countries. Ultimately, we can only understand the Keynesian class compromises in industrialised countries, if we see it as a part of the wider global setting. While a degree of equality had been achieved within Northern welfare states, this was also based on, and conditioned by, continuing exploitation of the Global South be it in the area of mineral extraction, be it through drawing on cheap labour of the periphery. Similar to Germany, Nordic countries including Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden have historically related on export-led growth, with which their welfare states were financed. It is in these trade relations, in which high value added goods are traded in exchange with labour intensive goods that surplus is transferred from developing to developed countries. In short, structurally, global Keynesianism is simply impossible within the capitalist social relations of production and global uneven and combined development.

Finally, a historical materialist analysis has clear implications for what is required for a viable alternative way forward.  Rather than focusing on how the distribution of wealth could be re-arranged within global institutions, the emphasis has to be on changing the capitalist social relations of production, the ‘hidden abode’ within which exploitation takes place. It is the system of the private ownership of the means of production and wage labour, which needs to be changed. Only socializing the means of production can overcome exploitation and inequality. 


Prof. Andreas Bieler
Professor of Political Economy
University of Nottingham/UK

Personal website: http://andreasbieler.net

2 September 2013

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There Is An Alternative: reflections on elements of an anti-austerity economic policy.

Poster by freestylee
Similarly to the 1980s, when Thatcher proclaimed that There Is No Alternative (TINA) to her restructuring policies, again we are told in the UK that considering national debt levels, austerity is the only way forward. Up to one million public sector jobs are to be axed, public sector pensions and wages are under attack and welfare services are cut across the board.

Importantly, however, politics is always about choices and deciding on priorities. There are always several possible ways forward. In this post, I will reflect on some elements of an alternative, anti-austerity economic policy.


What would an anti-austerity policy look like?

  • clearly, as a result of government bailout of banks, national debt has significantly increased. Nevertheless, as the PCS has already made clear a couple of years ago, the current national debt level is lower than between 1918 and 1961, when the British welfare state was established (PCS). In short, the gravity of the situation is exaggerated;

  • tax justice – close tax loopholes by employing more inspectors: ‘figures produced for PCS by the Tax Justice Network show that £25 billion is lost annually in tax avoidance and a further £70 billion in tax evasion by large companies and wealthy individuals’ (PCS). Employing more staff at HM Revenue & Customs would allow the government to collect additional billions of Pounds every year;

  • moreover, the PCS further calculates that if the so-called Robin Hood tax, ‘a 0.05% tax on global financial transactions – was applied to UK financial institutions it would raise an estimated £20–30bn per year (PCS). At the European level, it is the UK government which currently blocks moves towards a financial transaction tax;
  • tax justice would also imply that unlike the current government, an anti-austerity policy would not lower the income tax rate for high earners;

  • government investment into infrastructure projects such as the generation of green energy and especially social housing to create employment. This would also help to address the energy crisis as well as solve the housing crisis, with many people finding it impossible to secure affordable housing at the moment (BBC, 8 July 2013). While this would initially lead to larger national debts, the creation of jobs would result in higher demand levels, less government spending on jobseeker's allowances and an overall more positive economic outlook;

  • small companies struggle to raise necessary finance (BBC, 17 September 2012). An anti-austerity policy would imply that the government gives more direction to state-owned banks towards finance for businesses and a more focused industrial policy;

  • emphasising cuts to wages is counter-productive as it takes demand out of the economy. An anti-austerity policy would protect wage levels in line with inflation and productivity increase;
Photo by Eddie Truman

  • spending is always also about deciding on what are the key priorities. Do we actually need to replace Trident? ‘The government estimates renewal costs will be between £15bn and £20bn but anti-nuclear campaigners say the figure will be much higher’ (BBC, 16 July 2013). Is the British involvement in Afghanistan a societal priority? In addition to the loss of human lives, ‘the war in Afghanistan has cost Britain at least £37bn and the figure will rise to a sum equivalent to more than £2,000 for every taxpaying household, according to a devastating critique of the UK's role in the conflict’ (The Guardian, 30 May 2013). An anti-austerity policy would channel finance from war adventures to investment into schools, social housing, the health sector, etc.;
Of course, these are just a range of potential elements of an anti-austerity economic policy. They are not a comprehensive programme. What is clear, however, is that there are alternative policies available. If this is the case, then why does the UK government pursue these austerity policies in the first place?


What is the real purpose of government austerity policy?
 

The government claims that austerity policies are necessary to reduce national debt. However, how much money do these policies actually save?

  • it is highly likely that the new loan scheme in Higher Education will ultimately be more expensive for the state than the past system of financing university education via block grants (see The Great University Gamble). Perhaps the real focus is on opening the door to private providers?
  • in secondary education, finance is moved from comprehensives to academies and free schools. Is this really about saving money, or is the goal ‘to incentivise’ private sector involvement (see  Hands Off Our Schools)?

  • the implementation of the bedroom tax is in all probability more expensive than what is actually saved in the process (see Nottingham Bedroom Tax Campaign). Is the real purpose an attack on social housing?

  • NHS restructuring: is privatising the most profitable parts really about saving money and making service delivery more efficient, or is the objective to provide private investors with profitable investment opportunities (see also Broxtowe Save Our NHS)?
Photo by infomatique
In short, the real objective of current austerity policies is not to save money, but to open up the public sector for private investment. The financial crisis is used as a justification for a drastic transformation of society resulting in a redistribution of wealth from the poor to the rich and a change in the power balance from labour to capital. Austerity policies are a strategy of class warfare!


And yet, alternative policies are available. Whether they are implemented is a matter of political will and, ultimately, a matter of the balance of class power in society.  



Prof. Andreas Bieler
Professor of Political Economy
University of Nottingham/UK

Personal website: http://andreasbieler.net

23 August 2013

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SIGTUR’s Futures Commission and the search for alternatives in and beyond capitalism!

On 24 and 25 June, I participated in the first meeting of the Southern Initiative on Globalisation and Trade Union Rights’ (SIGTUR) Futures Commission. The meeting was hosted by Eddie Webster in the Chris Hani Institute in Johannesburg/South Africa and supported by the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation. A group of left-wing intellectuals and trade union representatives was entrusted with the task to undertake the first steps towards developing concrete alternatives to neo-liberal globalisation. In this post, I will reflect on some of the key discussions during the two days.


Colonialism and the question of capitalism

It became clear early on that the location of the workshop and the background of the participants mattered. SIGTUR is an initiative of trade unions in the Global South including Australian, South Korean, Indian, Brazilian and Argentinian trade unions in addition to COSATU from South Africa. One of the key aspects they have in common, with the exception of Australian unions, is their joint history of colonialism and liberation struggles. Unsurprisingly, neo-liberal globalisation is not simply regarded as the latest epoch of capitalism. It is viewed as a continuation of colonial policies, characterised by the extraction of minerals and agricultural goods for the industries of developed countries as well as the destruction of home grown industries. These policies continued in the 1950s and 1960s as part of national development projects, devised by the core for countries in the periphery of the global economy, and have been further intensified since the 1970s with the onset of globalisation and the related general deregulation and liberalisation of national policy space. Inevitably, in contrast to similar workshops organised in industrialised countries, frequent demands were made for proposals, which do not only reform capitalism, but provide a transformative path towards socialism in the 21st century.

Photo by Egui_
Second, the fact that the workshop took place in South Africa influenced the debates. Almost twenty years after the first democratic elections in post-Apartheid South Africa, the country is characterised by high level unemployment and enormous economic inequality between the rich and poor. These tensions exploded in the so-called Marikana massacre, when policy killed 34 striking miners within three minutes on 16 August 2012 (see  The Marikana Massacre and The South African State's Low Intensity War Against The People; and The Dance of the Undead - Not only at Marikana, Not only in South Africa ...). In order to overcome South Africa’s triple crisis of unemployment, poverty and inequality, Zwlinizima Vavi, General Secretary of COSATU, demanded at the workshop a second phase of transformation in South Africa. With the political transformation accomplished since 1994, it was now time to tackle rising economic inequality. Counter neo-liberal policies were to include a shift towards state ownership and nationalisation of some parts of the economy, the stop of South African capital exports through capital controls and the punishment of capital speculation, as well as the provision of comprehensive welfare services. What South Africa needed, he concluded, was its own Lula moment, a reference to Brazil’s former President, who had presided over policies of wealth re-distribution towards the poor.

Of course, Marikana is a key example of how the capitalist crisis also fragments workers and induces disunity within the labour movement. While Marikana is specific to South Africa, similar tensions can be noted elsewhere and mass mobilisation against neo-liberal economics was identified as the only possible way forward towards overcoming economic and social inequality as well as fragmentation.


Collective bargaining as a way of transformation?

Collective bargaining is currently under attack in Europe (see How European pressure is destroying national collective bargaining systems). Unsurprisingly, when European trade unionists and labour academics discuss collective bargaining, it is a defensive move. Generally, I am sceptical about this as it fails to recognise that collective bargaining is covering fewer and fewer workers and has already become less relevant as a result. More importantly, in Europe too we should focus on how to organise the increasing informal sector of the economy.

The Global South including South Africa has always been characterised by a large informal sector. Hence my surprise, when Neil Coleman from COSATU introduced a revived system of sectoral collective bargaining as a transformative way forward. He outlined the Brazilian experience, where the state had been successful at boosting domestic demand levels through an emphasis on collective bargaining combined with a national minimum wage policy. Undoubtedly, millions of Brazilians have been lifted out of poverty as a result of state policies. Whether these policies including collective bargaining are, however, transformative or simply reform based was left open. In my view, it is difficult to see how collective bargaining would improve the livelihood of mostly black people living in the sprawling townships around Johannesburg and working in the informal economy.

Photo by RachelIF2SEA


‘Embedded free trade’ or ‘fair trade’?

Against the background of capitalism’s uneven and combined development, it is not surprising that there are tensions over ‘free trade’ policy in the international labour movement. While unions in the North often support free trade agreements (FTAs), as they consider them to secure the jobs of their members, labour movements in the Global South are critical as it leads to deindustrialisation and the loss of jobs (see Trade unions, free trade and the problem of transnational solidarity).

An interesting discussion ensued over how to label an alternative trade regime. While I argued in favour of ‘embedded free trade’ in order to facilitate an engagement with Northern trade unions, which generally view ‘free trade’ positively, colleagues from Southern trade unions opted for ‘fair trade’ in order to indicate a more radical break from current trade policies.

Photo by Alejandra H. Covarrubias
The re-establishment of national policy space is clearly an essential element of an alternative trade regime. It would allow governments to protect infant industries until they are competitive, provide space for capital controls and the regulation of transnational corporations, as well as provide the possibility to emphasise food sovereignty over free trade by agribusinesses. And yet, it is also clear that while this would help to reform the current ‘disembedded free trade’ regime, where the WTO not only furthers the trade in goods, but also pushes trade in services and agriculture, as well as expands regulations into investment rules and intellectual property rights, it would not be enough to move beyond capitalism towards socialism. Ultimately, capitalist exploitation is rooted in the way production is organised around wage labour and the private ownership of the means of production and, as a result, capital maximises profits in the exploitation of workers. Only if the way of how production is organised is changed, can there be a transformation of the current system.


Climate Change and the future of Green Capitalism

Jacklyn Cock from the SWOP Institute made clear that the current focus by capital on the green economy was ‘the wolf in sheep clothing’. The trading in carbon emissions will simply lead to a financialisation and further commodification of the environment. The expansion of the market into all aspects of nature would not protect, but further destroy the environment. On the other hand, the change to a low carbon economy could be change towards a real alternative to neo-liberalism. Here, the immediate task would be the formation of alliances with other movements including especially environmental groups. The immediate request should be for food and energy sovereignty, linking justice to sustainability by empowering people to decide for themselves what to grow and what type of energy to use.

Photo by GovernmentZA
Dinga Sikwebu from the South African metalworkers’ union Numsaoutlined how capital was increasingly focusing on extreme energy generation including fracking, tar sands and further extensive use of coal. Renewable energy was clearly the way forward from a labour perspective. In contrast to Northern campaigns around jobs related to the green economy, however, he pointed out there are actually not that many jobs, which will be created as a result of a shift towards renewable energy. Hence, other arguments for an alternative energy policy, which resonate with workers, are needed. Considering that in South Africa many manufacturing workers still owned a piece of land, which they cultivate when not at work, a possible way forward would be to point out that all citizens will be negatively affected by climate change. In their role as farmers, manufacturing workers too notice the changing climate with different rain seasons than in the past. Unsurprisingly, Numsa, together with the agricultural workers’ trade union, is currently involved in a campaign for land reform linking up different trade unions and social movements. Nevertheless, Dinga Sikwebu also made clear that a shift to renewable energy in itself was not enough. For a real shift towards eco-socialism, it was necessary to move away from market-based incentives towards social ownership and democratic control of all types of energy generation, echoing Jacklyn Cock’s request for food and energy sovereignty.

The key challenge of moving into this direction was, according to Rob Lambert, the co-ordinator of SIGTUR, to find a solution to the question of how to connect trade unions in the workplace with movements of the dispossessed. He identified the limits to liberal representative democracy and demanded that trade unions urgently needed to restructure themselves from hierarchical, bureaucratic organisations into agents, which welcome diversity, direct democracy and independent initiatives by its members. If this is combined with a focus on issues beyond the workplace, as in the case of Numsa and its participation in a campaign for land reform, then the kind of forces may be available, which are needed to push successfully for transformation.


The development of alternatives through experiments in concrete struggles

Clearly, conceptual and strategic discussions are necessary in the search for alternatives to neo-liberal globalisation; alternatives, which are focused on human well-being and development in contrast to capital’s maximisation of profits. Nonetheless, concrete alternatives to capitalist social relations of production can only be developed on the ground in concrete struggles and the interplay between ideas and action. Moreover, alternatives which work in one part of the world may be unsuitable for other parts. No blueprint can be prescribed.

Hence, perhaps the next step in the search for alternatives could be a focus on concrete experiments of establishing a non-capitalist economy? In the area of ‘free trade’, for example, the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA) is already one practical example in this respect. At its beginning in 2004 was a treaty between Venezuela and Cuba with the former providing petroleum to the latter at very favourable prices in exchange for doctors and teachers from Cuba, working in some of Venezuela’s poorest states. Direct negotiations between the two countries had replaced a reliance on prices set by the market. A more in-depth analysis of this and other alternative economy examples may be the way forward in the search for alternatives by the Futures Commission. 



Prof. Andreas Bieler
Professor of Political Economy
University of Nottingham/UK

Personal website: http://andreasbieler.net

2 July 2013

Just Another Republican Keynesian?

by ...

Info Wars: Paranoia, Surveillance and an Empire in Decline

Global Research and Countercurrents 1/7/2013

Back in 1992, the academic Francis Fukuyama mistakenly informed the world that, with the apparent triumph of western capitalism and the downfall of the USSR, we had arrived at the end of history, the end of ideology. Fast forward a couple of decades and in 2011 Hilary Clinton announced the US was at war. She wasn’t talking about the US’s ongoing illegal invasions, occupations and mass slaughters, as if that wasn’t enough, but an ideological war for the hearts and minds of the global community.

While the likes of Voice of America were aggressively assertive during the Cold War, Clinton was lamenting the fact that, since then, US global ideological influence had weakened, especially with the advent of the internet as well as new kids on the block gaining influence, such as Russia Today.


Of course, Hollywood too has been a long-time cheerleader of the ‘great myth’: the propagator of the US as the beacon of freedom, as the flagship of democratic ideals. The great 'American Lie' of the great 'American Dream' whereby the individual can somehow miraculously overcome adversity and make it in life, just as long as s/he keeps his or her nose to the grind. No actual chains required. The suffocating clasp of popular culture will suffice. The ‘self-made man’ syndrome rammed down the collective throat by Hollywood, which magics away into thin air the debilitating effects of class-based structural inequalities (1). As the commentator and comedian once stated: “The American Dream, you have to be asleep to believe it.”(2)


And let’s not forget Uncle Sam the movie star, the liberator of the oppressed, the protector of universal good, the sweeper of its mass terror and atrocities away from the screen and conveniently under the carpet.

Enter some balance. Enter the internet, Press TV, RT and the ‘alternative media’. The media landscape has been transformed. In recent years, the US 
has had to face up to the harsh truth that it cannot dominate the global debate to the extent it once did when it comes to shaping the analysis and reporting of news through its compliant media outlets. 


Trying to keep the lid on things 


Two years on from Clinton voicing her concerns about the US struggle to win the info wars, Edward Snowden has revealed what many of us had already strongly suspected - that people and foreign governments, including allies and the EU (3), are being heavily monitored by the US government. Before Snowden became public enemy number one, the US had set out to curtail WikiLeaks’ voice by shutting down its access to finance, notably by initially applying pressure on PayPal and MasterCard.

The 
US state-corporate machine did almost everything in its power to curtail WikeLeaks’ influence. Most debilitating of all was the shutting down of WikiLeaks’ access to finance, notably via PayPal, MasterCard, the Swiss bank PostFinance, Moneybookers, Bank of America and Visa Inc.

Bank of America was accused as being especially strident in attempting to discredit and shut down WikiLeaks with various dirty tricks, including backing a smear campaign that involved the use of false documents, disinformation, and sabotage (4).


These actions along with demands that Snowden be ‘handed over’ by the countries the US has been caught red handed of spying on, come as little surprise. The US deems fit to break international laws with impunity, yet bleats about about legalities where Snowden is concerned. Such high-mindedness. But this is par for the course. Successive US administrations have shown a strong dislike of proper democracy, legalities or open debate, whether at home or abroad, and have done everything to stifle it or bomb it out of existence (5).

In exposing state-corporate secrets and challenging powerful institutions, Assange made many enemies in high places. US Attorney General Eric Holder has said that Assange put the lives of US citizens at risk by leaking diplomatic cables. Dick Cheney calls Snowden a ‘traitor’. Who are the real ‘traitors’? If anyone has placed US lives at risk or has attacked the rights and freedoms of US citizens, it’s not Assange. People like Holder and Dick ‘Halliburton’ Cheney should look at their own actions and unbridled support for and benefits accrued from the robber baron regime they are part of and which they seek to legtimise and protect (6)(7). 
  


The hegemony of an empire in decline


Central to this whole debate is the struggle to maintain hegemony, which involves the dominant class attempting to legitimize its position in the eyes of the ruled over – a kind of ‘consented coercion’ that disguises the iron fist of power. If state violence and outright oppression is to be avoided, people's consent must be achieved via ‘ideological state-corporate apparatuses’, including the mass media. Former CIA boss General Petraeus is on record as saying US strategy is to conduct a war of perceptions continuously through the news media. According to the recently deceased journalist Michael Hastings, Petraeus was a master of duplicity and expert in manipulating the media and thus public perception (8). 


We therefore don't have to imagine much that the prevailing view of world conveyed through the mainstream media and swallowed by many people is based on 'a pack of lies' carefully presented by men like Petraeus, Cheney, Rumsfeld and the rest to try to gloss over their corruption and sanctioning of mass killing and plunder. British MP George Galloway’s powerful performance in front of a US Senate committee in 2005 highlighted it as such (9). 


These days, despite state-corporate control and manipulation of the mainstream media, many see through the charade of today's 'liberal democracy’ and the ‘pack of lies’ which underpin it. The more the US lacks control over ‘the message’, the more it has to resort to violence and restrictions on freedoms. The more paranoid it becomes, the more penetrating and widespread the surveillance and 'information gathering' is. It is the type of insecurity that derives from an empire in decline. It is the type of oppression that derives from an empire that is ideologically and militarily fighting for its continued existence (10).


Notes



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Handgun isolated(Image: Handgun isolated via Shutterstock)Detroit - After three long years, the case of Aiyana Stanley-Jones will finally be argued before a jury.

During a March 8 pre-trial hearing, Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Cynthia Gray-Hathaway denied a motion to dismiss all charges against Detroit Police Officer Joseph Weekley in the shooting-death of the 7-year-old.

In a military-style raid on the Jones’ near east side home May 16, 2010, Weekley shot into the house, killing Aiyana as she slept on the family’s living room sofa.

He faces multiple charges, including involuntary manslaughter and reckless possession of a firearm.

Those charges were brought against Weekley after a year-long investigation by the Michigan State Police and a Wayne County Court.

During the hearing, Judge Hathaway said discrepancies in witness accounts of the police raid led to the decision to deny the defense motion to dismiss the case.

“Since I can’t make that determination, the case has to go to a jury to decide what the truth is,” Hathaway said during her ruling. “We’re going to go to trial.”

Hathaway set the trial start date for May 28.

Judge Hathaway also announced there would be a demonstration of the flash grenade that was used by Detroit Police during the raid, which was reportedly being filmed by A&E for their cable television program “The First 48 Hours.”

While the Jones family has waited for the court to move on the case, Aiyana’s father, Charles Jones, has been in custody on separate charges in connection with the murder of Je’Rean Blake.

Weekley has remained free on bond, while Aiyana’s father has been held on pending charges related to another case.

“He has a police badge so he can walk free and go home to his children,” said Mertilla Jones on the steps of the Murphy Hall of Justice following the judges ruling. “But Charles is locked up for two years and can’t see his six little sons.”

According to reports, jailhouse informant and six-time felon Jay Schlenkerman led police to the doorstep of the Jones’ home in May 2010, where the prime suspect in that case, Chauncey Owens, lived upstairs.

The police raid was mistakenly conducted on the lower flat where the Jones’ family lived.

Attorney Robert Moran is the Wayne County prosecutor representing both Officer Joseph Weekley and Charles Jones. This has led to accusations of a looming conflict of interest within the Wayne County Prosecutor’s office and other questions surrounding the timing of the cases.

Assistant prosecuting attorney Maria Miller says there is no conflict.

“Jones case involves the fatal shooting death of Je’rean Blake. The Weekley case involves the fatal shooting death of Aiyana Jones. The complainants on the two cases are different, and the facts are completely distinct,” Miller told the Michigan Citizen. “For these reasons, it is not a conflict of interest for Mr. Moran to try these cases.”

Ron Scott, director of the Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality, however, says the prosecution may be counting on a ruling in the Charles Jones case before Weekley goes to trial.

“The question is, why has this case taken so long?” says Scott. “The raid was obviously not conducted according to police regulations. There are many other cases where the Michigan State Police have brought in and adjudicated within 18 months.”

In addition to the DCAPB, the Jones family has received full support from the International Socialists Organization, who both sponsored a rally after the March 8 hearing.

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Myanmar

In Southeast Asia’s Myanmar, already 20 are reported dead in the latest genocidal violence carried out by Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi’s “Saffron monk” political movement. CNN’s, “Armed Buddhists, including monks, clash with Muslims in Myanmar,” reports that:

Buddhist monks and others armed with swords and machetes Friday stalked the streets of a city in central Myanmar, where sectarian violence that has left about 20 people dead has begun to spread to other areas, according to local officials.

The article also added that:

In the western state of Rakhine, tensions between the majority Buddhist community and the Rohingya, a stateless ethnic Muslim group, boiled over into clashes that killed scores of people and left tens of thousands of others living in makeshift camps last year.

Most of the victims were Rohingya.

“The ongoing intercommunal strife in Rakhine State is of grave concern,” the International Crisis Group said in a November report. “And there is the potential for similar violence elsewhere, as nationalism and ethno-nationalism rise and old prejudices resurface.”

Image: Aung San Suu Kyi’s “Saffron Monks” are committing genocide in Myanmar.

The West has both created this movement and is silently supporting it, hoping to disrupt and ultimately drive out extensive Chinese interests found at the epicenter of the violence.

CNN’s citing of the corporate-financier funded “International Crisis Group,” which has supported and engineered similar strife elsewhere around the world, including Egypt in 2011, is particularly foreshadowing. And as in previous spates of recent violence, Aung San Suu Kyi has once again allowed opportunities to call on her own supporters to stand down, slip by in silent complicity.

Rakhine state is the site of an expanding Chinese presence, including a port and the terminal of a trans Sino-Myanmar pipeline and logistical network leading to China’s Yunnan province. The violence unfolding in Rakhine over the past months appears to be the execution of the well-documented US “String of Pearls” containment strategy versus China, and mirrors similar violence being carried out by US proxies in Pakistan.


Suu Kyi’s “Saffron Monks”

Similar violence in September of last year revealed the name of one of the leading “monks.” AFP’s September 2012 article, “Monks stage anti-Rohingya march in Myanmar, refers to the leader of these mobs as “a monk named Wirathu.”

However, this isn’t merely “a monk named Wirathu,” but “Sayadaw” (venerable teacher) Wirathu who has led many of “democratic champion” Aung San Suu Kyi’s political street campaigns and is often referred to by the Western media as an “activist monk.”

In March 2012, Wirathu had led a rally calling for the release of so-called “political prisoners,” so designated by US State Department funded faux-NGOs. Wirathu himself was in prison, according to AFP, for inciting hatred against Muslims, until recently released as part of an amnesty, an amnesty US State Department-funded (page 15, .pdf) Democratic Voice of Burma claims concerned only “political prisoners.”

Image: Real monks don’t do politics. The “venerable” Wirathu (front, left) leads a rally for “political prisoners” loyal to Aung San Suu Kyi’s “pro-democracy” movement in March, 2012. Wirathu himself has been often portrayed as an “activist monk” and a “political prisoner” who spent years in prison. In reality, he was arrested for his role in violent sectarian clashes in 2003, while Suu Kyi’s “pro-democracy” front is actually US-funded sedition. Wirathua has picked up right where he left off in 2003, and is now leading anti-Rohingya rallies across the country.

….

Human Rights Watch itself, in its attempt to memorialize the struggle of “Buddhism and activism in Burma” (.pdf),  admits that Wirathu was arrested in 2003 and sentenced to 25 years in prison along with other “monks” for their role in violent clashes between “Buddhists and Muslims” (page 67, .pdf). This would make Wirathu and his companions violent criminals, not “political prisoners.”

While Western news agencies have attempted to spin the recent violence as a new phenomenon implicating Aung San Suu Kyi’s political foot soldiers as genocidal bigots, in reality, the sectarian nature of her support base has been back page news for years. AFP’s recent but uncharacteristically honest portrayal of Wirathu, with an attempt to conceal his identity and role in Aung San Suu Kyi’s “Saffron” political machine, illustrates the quandary now faced by Western propagandists as the violence flares up again, this time in front of a better informed public.

Image: An alleged monk, carries an umbrella with Aung San Suu Kyi’s image on it. These so-called monks have played a central role in building Suu Kyi’s political machine, as well as maintaining over a decade of genocidal, sectarian violence aimed at Myanmar’s ethnic minorities. Another example of US “democracy promotion” and tax dollars at work.

….

During 2007′s “Saffron Revolution,” these same so-called “monks” took to the streets in a series of bloody anti-government protests, in support of Aung San Suu Kyi and her Western-contrived political order. HRW would specifically enumerate support provided to Aung San Suu Kyi’s movement by these organizations, including the Young Monks Union (Association), now leading violence and calls for ethnic cleansing across Myanmar.

The UK Independent  in their article, “Burma’s monks call for Muslim community to be shunned,” mentions the Young Monks Association by name as involved in distributing flyers recently, demanding people not to associate with ethnic Rohingya, and attempting to block humanitarian aid from reaching Rohingya camps.

The Independent also notes calls for ethnic cleansing made by leaders of the 88 Generation Students group (BBC profile here) – who also played a pivotal role in the pro-Suu Kyi 2007 protests. “Ashin” Htawara, another “monk activist” who considers Aung San Suu Kyi,  his “special leader” and greeted her with flowers for her Oslo Noble Peace Prize address earlier this year, stated at an event in London that the Rohingya should be sent “back to their native land.”

The equivalent of Ku Klux Klan racists demanding that America’s black population be shipped back to Africa, the US State Department’s “pro-democratic” protesters in Myanmar have been revealed as habitual, violent bigots with genocidal tendencies. Their recent violence also casts doubts on Western narratives portraying the 2007 “Saffron Revolution’s” death toll as exclusively caused by government security operations.

While in late 2012 the Western media attempted to ignore the genocidal nature of Suu Kyi’s “Saffron Monks,” now it appears that more are catching on. The International Business Times published recently an article titled, “Burmese Bin Laden: Is Buddhist Monk Wirathu Behind Violence in Myanmar?” stating:

The shadow of controversial monk Wirathu, who has led numerous vocal campaigns against Muslims in Burma, looms large over the sectarian violence in Meikhtila.

Wirathu played an active role in stirring tensions in a Rangoon suburb in February, by spreading unfounded rumours that a local school was being developed into a mosque, according to the Democratic voice of Burma. An angry mob of about 300 Buddhists assaulted the school and other local businesses in Rangoon.

The monk, who describes himself as ‘the Burmese Bin Laden’ said that his militancy “is vital to counter aggressive expansion by Muslims”.

He was arrested in 2003 for distributing anti-Muslim leaflets and has often stirred controversy over his Islamophobic activities, which include a call for the Rhohingya and “kalar”, a pejorative term for Muslims of South Asian descent, to be expelled from Myanmar.

He has also been implicated in religious clashes in Mandalay, where a dozen people died, in several local reports.

The article also cites the Burma Campaign UK, whose director is attempting to rework the West’s narrative in Myanmar to protect their long-groomed proxy Suu Kyi, while disavowing the violence carried out by a movement they themselves have propped up, funded, and directed for many years.

Like their US-funded (and armed) counterparts in Syria, many fighting openly under the flag of sectarian extremism held aloft by international terrorist organization Al Qaeda, we see the absolute moral bankruptcy of Myanmar’s “pro-democracy” movement that has, up until now, been skillfully covered up by endless torrents of Western propaganda – Aung San Suu Kyi’s Nobel Peace Prize and recent “Chatham House Prize” all being part of the illusion. And just like in Syria, the West will continue supporting and intentionally fueling the violence while attempting to compartmentalize the crisis politically to maintain plausible deniability.

Aung San Suu Kyi is a Western Proxy

In “Myanmar (Burma) “Pro-Democracy” Movement a Creation of Wall Street & London,” it was documented that Suu Kyi and organizations supporting her, including local propaganda fronts like the New Era Journal, the Irrawaddy, and the Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB) radio, have received millions of dollars a year from the Neo-Conservative chaired National Endowment for Democracy, convicted criminal and Wall Street speculator George Soros’ Open Society Institute, and the US State Department itself, citing Britain’s own “Burma Campaign UK (.pdf).”

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/1/1c/Rendition_of_Myitsone_Dam.jpg

Image: The Myitsone Dam, on its way to being the 15th largest in the world until construction was halted in September by a campaign led by Wall Street-puppet Aung San Suu Kyi, a stable of US-funded NGOs, and a terrorist campaign executed by armed groups operating in Kachin State, Myanmar.

….

And not only does the US State Department in tandem with Western corporate media provide Aung San Suu Kyi extensive political, financial, and rhetorical backing, they provide operational capabilities as well, allowing her opposition movement to achieve Western objectives throughout Myanmar. The latest achievement of this operational capability successfully blocked the development of Myanmar’s infrastructure by halting a joint China-Mynamar dam project that would have provided thousands of jobs, electricity, state-revenue, flood control, and enhanced river navigation for millions. Suu Kyi and her supporting network of NGOs, as well as armed militants in Myanmar’s northern provinces conducted a coordinated campaign exploiting both “environmental” and “human rights” concerns that in reality resulted in Myanmar’s continual economic and social stagnation.

The ultimate goal of course is to effect regime change not only in Myanmar, but to create a united Southeast Asian front against China. The unqualified “progress” the US claims is now being made in Myanmar moves forward in tandem with Myanmar’s opening to Western corporate-financier interests.

As reported in June, 2011′s “Collapsing China,” as far back as 1997 there was talk about developing an effective containment strategy coupled with the baited hook of luring China into its place amongst the “international order.” Just as in these 1997 talking-points where author and notorious Neo-Con policy maker Robert Kagan described the necessity of using America’s Asian “allies” as part of this containment strategy, Clinton goes through a list of regional relationships the US is trying to cultivate to maintain “American leadership” in Asia.

Image: (Top) The “Lilliputians” though small in stature were collectively able to tie down the larger Gulliver from the literary classic “Gulliver’s Travels.” In the same manner, the US wants to use smaller Southeast Asian nations to “tie down” the larger China. (Bottom) From SSI’s 2006 “String of Pearls” report detailing a strategy of containment for China. While “democracy,” “freedom,” and “human rights” will mask the ascension of Aung San Suu Kyi and others into power, it is part of a region-wide campaign to overthrow nationalist elements and install client regimes in order to encircle and contain China.

….

The US backing of puppet-regimes like that of  Thailand’s Thaksin Shinawatra, his sister Yingluck, or Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi, installing them into power, and keeping them there is central to projecting power throughout Asia and keeping China subordinate, or as Kagan put it in his 1997 report, these proxy regimes will have China “play Gulliver to Southeast Asia’s Lilliputians, with the United States supplying the rope and stakes.” Two of these “Lilliputians” are Yingluck Shinawatra and Aung San Suu Kyi, the rope and stakes are the street mobs and disingenuous NGOs funded by the US State Department to support their consolidation of power.

It is essential to look past the empty rhetoric of “democracy,” “human rights,” and “progress” used to justify foreign-funding and meddling to install servile autocrats like Thailand’s Thaksin, Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi, or even Malaysia’s proxy dictator-in-waiting Anwar Ibrahim, and see the greater geopolitical game at play. It is also essential to expose the disingenuous organizations, institutions, and media personalities helping promote this global corporate-fascist agenda.

With Suu Kyi’s movement now being exposed as violent, sectarian-driven mobs rather than the “pro-democracy” front it was claimed to be by its sponsors in the West, it remains to be seen whether well-meaning people worldwide turn their backs on this carefully crafted hoax and the corporate-financier interests that created it – and instead seek genuine causes that abandon political struggle for pragmatic solutions.

Anonymous Reveals Disturbing Truth About Bank of America

Activist group Anonymous has released 14GB of data it obtained about corrupt and unethical corporations including the Bank of America, Bloomberg, Thomson Reuters, ClearForest and TEKSystems, an intelligence firm.

How the Fed Could Fix the Economy–and Why It Hasn’t

fedreserve

Quantitative easing (QE) is supposed to stimulate the economy by adding money to the money supply, increasing demand. But so far, it hasn’t been working. Why not? Because as practiced for the last two decades, QE does not actually increase the circulating money supply. It merely cleans up the toxic balance sheets of banks. A real “helicopter drop” that puts money into the pockets of consumers and businesses has not yet been tried. Why not?  Another good question . . . .

When Ben Bernanke gave his famous helicopter money speech to the Japanese in 2002, he was not yet chairman of the Federal Reserve.  He said then that the government could easily reverse a deflation, just by printing money and dropping it from helicopters. “The U.S. government has a technology, called a printing press (or, today, its electronic equivalent),” he said, “that allows it to produce as many U.S. dollars as it wishes at essentially no cost.” Later in the speech he discussed “a money-financed tax cut,” which he said was “essentially equivalent to Milton Friedman’s famous ‘helicopter drop’ of money.” Deflation could be cured, said Professor Friedman, simply by dropping money from helicopters.

It seemed logical enough. If the money supply were insufficient for the needs of trade, the solution was to add money to it. Most of the circulating money supply consists of “bank credit” created by banks when they make loans. When old loans are paid off faster than new loans are taken out (as is happening today), the money supply shrinks. The purpose of QE is to reverse this contraction.

But if debt deflation is so easy to fix, then why have the Fed’s massive attempts to pull this maneuver off failed to revive the economy? And why is Japan still suffering from deflation after 20 years of quantitative easing?

On a technical level, the answer has to do with where the money goes. The widespread belief that QE is flooding the economy with money is a myth. Virtually all of the money it creates simply sits in the reserve accounts of banks.

That is the technical answer, but the motive behind it may be something deeper . . . .

An Asset Swap Is Not a Helicopter Drop

As QE is practiced today, the money created on a computer screen never makes it into the real, producing economy. It goes directly into bank reserve accounts, and it stays there.  Except for the small amount of “vault cash” available for withdrawal from commercial banks, bank reserves do not leave the doors of the central bank.

According to Peter Stella, former head of the Central Banking and Monetary and Foreign Exchange Operations Divisions at the International Monetary Fund:

[B]anks do not lend “reserves”. . . . Whether commercial banks let the reserves they have acquired through QE sit “idle” or lend them out in the internet bank market 10,000 times in one day among themselves, the aggregate reserves at the central bank at the end of that day will be the same.

This point is also stressed in Modern Monetary Theory.  As explained by Prof. Scott Fullwiler:

Banks can’t “do” anything with all the extra reserve balances. Loans create deposits—reserve balances don’t finance lending or add any “fuel” to the economy. Banks don’t lend reserve balances except in the federal funds market, and in that case the Fed always provides sufficient quantities to keep the federal funds rate at its . . . interest rate target.

Reserves are used simply to clear checks between banks. They move from one reserve account to another, but the total money in bank reserve accounts remains unchanged.  Banks can lend their reserves to each other, but they cannot lend them to us.

QE as currently practiced is simply an asset swap. The central bank swaps newly-created dollars for toxic assets clogging the balance sheets of commercial banks. This ploy keeps the banks from going bankrupt, but it does nothing for the balance sheets of federal or local governments, consumers, or businesses.

Central Bank Ignorance or Intentional Sabotage?

Another Look at the Japanese Experience

That brings us to the motive.  Twenty years is a long time to repeat a policy that isn’t working.

UK Professor Richard Werner invented the term quantitative easing when he was advising the Japanese in the 1990s.  He says he had something quite different in mind from the current practice.  He intended for QE to increase the credit available to the real economy.  Today, he says:

[A]ll QE is doing is to help banks increase the liquidity of their portfolios by getting rid of longer-dated slightly less liquid assets and raising cash. . . . Reserve expansion is a standard monetarist policy and required no new label.

Werner contends that the Bank of Japan (BOJ) intentionally sabotaged his proposal, adopting his language but not his policy; and other central banks have taken the same approach since.

In his book Princes of the Yen (2003), Werner maintains that in the 1990s, the BOJ consistently foiled government attempts at creating a recovery. As summarized in a review of the book:

The post-war disappearance of the military triggered a power struggle between the Ministry of Finance and the Bank of Japan for control over the economy.  While the Ministry strove to maintain the controlled economic system that created Japan’s post-war economic miracle, the central bank plotted to break free from the Ministry by reverting to the free markets of the 1920s.

. . . They reckoned that the wartime economic system and the vast legal powers of the Ministry of Finance could only be overthrown if there was a large crisis – one that would be blamed on the ministry.  While observers assumed that all policy-makers have been trying their best to kick-start Japan’s economy over the past decade, the surprising truth is that one key institution did not try hard at all.

Werner contends that the Bank of Japan not only blocked the recovery but actually created the bubble that precipitated the downturn:

[T]hose central bankers who were in charge of the policies that prolonged the recession were the very same people who were responsible for the creation of the bubble. . . . [They] ordered the banks to expand their lending aggressively during the 1980s.  In 1989, [they] suddenly tightened their credit controls, thus bringing down the house of cards that they had built up before. . . .

With banks paralysed by bad debts, the central bank held the key to a recovery: only it could step in and create more credit.  It failed to do so, and hence the recession continued for years.  Thanks to the long recession, the Ministry of Finance was broken up and lost its powers. The Bank of Japan became independent and its power has now become legal.

In the US, too, the central bank holds the key to recovery. Only it can create more credit for the broad economy. But reversing recession has taken a backseat to resuscitating zombie banks, maintaining the feudal dominion of a private financial oligarchy.

In Japan, interestingly, all that may be changing with the election of a new administration. As reported in a January 2013 article in Business Week:

Shinzo Abe and the Liberal Democratic Party swept back into power in mid-December by promising a high-octane mix of monetary and fiscal policies to pull Japan out of its two-decade run of economic misery. To get there, Prime Minister Abe is threatening a hostile takeover of the Bank of Japan, the nation’s central bank. The terms of surrender may go something like this: Unless the BOJ agrees to a 2 percent inflation target and expands its current government bond-buying operation, the ruling LDP might push a new central bank charter through the Japanese Diet. That charter would greatly diminish the BOJ’s independence to set monetary policy and allow the prime minister to sack its governor.

From Bankers’ Bank to Government Bank

Making the central bank serve the interests of the government and the people is not a new idea. Prof. Tim Canova points out that central banks have only recently been declared independent of government:

[I]ndependence has really come to mean a central bank that has been captured by Wall Street interests, very large banking interests.  It might be independent of the politicians, but it doesn’t mean it is a neutral arbiter.  During the Great Depression and coming out of it, the Fed took its cues from Congress.  Throughout the entire 1940s, the Federal Reserve as a practical matter was not independent. It took its marching orders from the White House and the Treasury—and it was the most successful decade in American economic history.

To free the central bank from Wall Street capture, Congress or the president could follow the lead of Shinzo Abe and threaten a hostile takeover of the Fed unless it directs its credit firehose into the real economy. The unlimited, near-zero-interest credit line made available to banks needs to be made available to federal and local governments.

When a similar suggestion was made to Ben Bernanke in January 2011, however, he said he lacked the authority to comply. If that was what Congress wanted, he said, it would have to change the Federal Reserve Act.

And that is what may need to be done—rewrite the Federal Reserve Act to serve the interests of the economy and the people.

Webster Tarpley observes that the Fed advanced $27 trillion to financial institutions through the TAF (Term Asset Facility), the TALF (Term Asset-backed Securities Loan Facility), and similar facilities. He proposes an Infrastructure Facility extending credit on the same terms to state and local governments. It might offer to buy $3 trillion in 100-year, zero-coupon bonds, the minimum currently needed to rebuild the nation’s infrastructure. The collateral backing these bonds would be sounder than the commercial paper of zombie banks, since it would consist of the roads, bridges, and other tangible infrastructure built with the loans. If the bond issuers defaulted, the Fed would get the infrastructure.

Quantitative easing as practiced today is not designed to serve the real economy. It is designed to serve bankers who create money as debt and rent it out for a fee. The money power needs to be restored to the people and the government, but we need an executive and legislature willing to stand up to the banks. A popular movement could give them the backbone.  In the meantime, states could set up their own banks, which could leverage the state’s massive capital and revenue base into credit for the local economy.

Ellen Brown is an attorney and president of the Public Banking Institute.  In Web of Debt, her latest of eleven books, she shows how a private, privileged banking oligarchy has usurped the power to create money from the people themselves, and how we the people can get it back. Her websites are http://WebofDebt.com, http://EllenBrown.com, and http://PublicBankingInstitute.org.  The Public Banking Institute is hosting a conference June 2-4, 2013, in San Rafael, CA; details here.

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Obama to Receive ‘Medal of Distinction’ in Israel

US president Barack Obama will be given Israel's presidential medal of distinction upon his visit to the country this spring, the office of Israeli president Shimon Peres announced Monday.

US President Barack Obama and Israeli President Shimon Peres at the White House. June 13, 2012. (photo credit: Amos Ben Gershom/GPO/Flash90) In a statement, the office lauded the president for his loyalty and friendship to the country, which has illegally occupied the Palestinian territories through lethal military force for decades and has come under increased condemnation from a growing international community.

"President Obama has made a unique and meaningful contribution to strengthening the state of Israel and the security of its people," the office said in a statement.

"Barack Obama is a true friend of the state of Israel and has been since the beginning of his public life. As president of the United States he has stood beside Israel in times of crisis," it added.

Obama will visit both Israel and the West Bank this spring, although no dates have been announced.

And as Agence France-Presse reports, "The White House has kept expectations deliberately low, saying Obama has no plans to use the trip to push new proposals to break the more than two-year deadlock in peace talks."

Last June, Obama presented Peres with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America’s highest civilian honor, at the White House.

‘No constitution, no normal laws’: Wife fights for Palestinian husband captured by Israel

A desperate Ukrainian wife of a Palestinian engineer, abducted by Israel and jailed without trial two years ago, has been forced to conduct her own investigation. Her husband has been detained in awful conditions, and denied medical assistance.

Veronika, a Ukrainian citizen and mother of six, has said that neither she nor her kids are going to leave the Gaza Strip as a sign of protest after her husband was kidnapped and held prisoner in Israel. What may look like a Hail Mary pass for some is actually the last resort for her as a wife and mother – after the whole world abandoned her, she went one-on-one against blatant abuse from the government.

Her husband, Dirar Mousa Abu Sisi, technical director of a power plant in Gaza,was kidnapped by Israel’s special services two years ago in Ukraine, where he went in the hope of obtaining Ukrainian citizenship, and was secretly extradited from the country in a coffin. For two year, he has been tortured in an Israeli prison without charge.

Ukraine, however, claims he never left its territory.Europe, the US, Muslim countries, the revolutionary forces of the Islamic revival, the UN and international human rights organizations have all been silent on the incident.

In their modest apartment in the Jabalia refugee camp, we are met by Veronika, whose head is covered with a veil. This beautiful, confident woman apparently feels ill at ease: It’s the first time she has received Russian journalists in Gaza; Ukrainian journalists said that her story is still taboo.

She tries to keep her cool: Her voice only melts when she speaks to her mother-in-law, whom she calls ‘Mummy.’Her parents-in-law have moved here from Jordan to live with her.Veronika was born into a military family in Leningrad. Later, her parents had to move to Ukraine. Shortly afterwards, the USSR collapsed.

The six children of engineer Dirar Abu Sisi, and his mother, father and wife, in their apartment at the Jebaliya refugee camp in Gaza. (RT photo)
The six children of engineer Dirar Abu Sisi, and his mother, father and wife, in their apartment at the Jebaliya refugee camp in Gaza. (RT photo)

Engineer’s wife… turned prisoner’s wife

Veronika and Dirar got married in 1998, when he was a student in Kharkov – where they first met. Veronika was 19; she had a degree in music, and no idea whatsoever of the Palestinian conflict. Dirar is 43 years old now, and Veronika is 34.

In 2000, the US company that owned the power plant offered her husband a job as assistant operator.

“We tried looking for a job in Ukraine – but there was none we could find,” she said. “We looked for a job in Jordan – but my husband was told that his Ukrainian degree was not recognized by Jordanian employers. When he received a job offer from Gaza, we hopped on a plane immediately and went there – at that time, the airport was still working.” The vacancy matched his qualification, and they thought Gaza was a wonderful place to go to. Shortly after that, the American company went bankrupt and the power plant was sold to another business based in Abu Dhabi.

“My husband is a top-notch engineer. He knows the plant through and through,” Veronika explained.In 2003, Dirar was promoted to technical director of the power plant, the only one in Gaza. It now meets about 25 percent of the electricity demand in the Strip. Over the last seven years, it has been the Strip’s main power supplier, making electricity available for eight hours a day.

But in 2006, the plant was bombed, and later in the winter of that year, Hamas won the elections in the Gaza Strip and formed the majority government. In response, Israel imposed an economic blockade on Gaza, and made Egypt join in as well. If it weren’t for Dirar, Israel could have succeeded in suffocating the Gaza Strip with this blockade.

“Dirar successfully restructured the power plant in Gaza,” Veronika explained. “He made changes so that it could use fuel supplies from Egypt instead of fuel that previously came from Israel. This made electricity cheaper for Gaza – and hurt Israel’s interests.” Veronika believes that this innovation introduced by her husband led to Israel holding a grudge against him.

“We had a home,” she said. “We had a good life. It may sound cynical but we lived as if there were no war, no siege, no trouble. Two weeks before the Gaza War in 2008 we had our youngest son Usama.” As his mother speaks, Usama is following her every word.

Veronica and her younger son Osama. (RT photo)
Veronica and her younger son Osama. (RT photo)

Dirar was born in Jordan, and Jordan doesn’t grant citizenship to Palestinians,” Veronika recalled. “All he has is papers confirming his refugee status. I made all the arrangements for Dirar to be granted Ukrainian citizenship. I spent six months arranging all the formalities for it to happen. On January 27, 2011, Dirar and I went to Kharkov with our youngest son, leaving our five other children in Gaza. My husband went to pick up the passport on the due date, the 18th, and waited till the office closed, but they never gave it to him. Dirar sent me with Usama back to Gaza, while he decided to stay for a few days in order to meet his brother in Kiev. He had not seen him for 16 years.”

The next day, Dirar’s brother, who had flown in to Kiev from Canada, called her to tell her that they never met. Dirar was also not answering his phone. Veronika left her children with her husband’s family, crossed the tunnel to Egypt, and from there returned to Ukraine. While on her way, she received a very strange text message from her husband: “Salam. I need to lie low. We’re going to Umrah. Will call.”

“This wasn’t like him, not his choice of words, not his style. Until I got that text I was still hopeful that he was either kidnapped for ransom or held by the Ukrainian security services. After it, I had no doubt it was Israel’s doing,” Veronika explained.

Since then, Veronika has been paying for a near-endless amount of legal help, but all she has managed to win so far was one telephone call from her husband from prison. “My phone rang and someone who sounded like Dirar told me that he wants to speak with me in Arabic. We never spoke Arabic with each other. I replied in Russian and the call was disconnected,” she said.

She received some information from Oubad Bilal, who was also a prisoner at the same detention facility. He said that their captors tortured Dirar, and kept him in a tiny cell 1-by-1.5 meter cell. They tried to scare him by threatening to kill his wife and children, and played recordings of women crying and shouting to break him emotionally. Veronika decided then that she shouldn’t try to get a permit to visit her husband in prison, as that would likely only give his torturers a way to use her to break him.

Who was Israel after?

“I don’t believe any of charges laid against him. First they were demanding him to tell them where [Gilad] Shalit was. Then they accused him of being involved with missiles, and after that of training militants in a mosque which is totally bizarre and ridiculous. And yet why is it they never launch the trial?” Veronika said.

Veronika and her family are sure that Israeli special services were after someone who’d prove to be important enough to swap for Shalit; now, they just don’t know what to do about Dirar. “They were tracking him from the very border. They knew he was bound for Ukraine. They were in cahoots with the Ukrainian special services,” Veronika said.

Several suspicious episodes surfaced after Dirar left Gaza, but the family didn’t take them seriously at the time. In Egypt, he was questioned by special services, but it didn’t seem to be out of ordinary – all Palestinians, even cancer patients, had to be questioned during the Mubarak regime. He was also detained a few times for up to 10 hours by police in Jordan where he visited his family. This didn’t alert anyone either, as Jordanian authorities are generally very suspicious of all Palestinians, despite the fact that they account for 80 percent of the population.

When Dirar told the Jordanian special services that he would like to rejoin his family in Gaza, they denied him the permission. This, again, was a routine hazard. Kharkov’s authorities didn’t issue him a passport, despite the prior arrangements. But Dirar thought it was merely yet another bureaucratic hurdle, and took a train to Kiev to see his brother, thinking he’d pick up his Ukrainian passport on the way back in a few days.

While fighting for her husband’s release, Veronica started painting her family. (RT photo)
While fighting for her husband’s release, Veronica started painting her family. (RT photo)

Does Ukraine allow kidnapping on its territory?

Veronika holds the Ukrainian authorities responsible for participating in – and covering up – her husband’s kidnapping. She stressed that no one in the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) has asked what her husband looks like, or what personal possessions he had on him. She saw an official sign a missing persons report she filed, as well as a paper that said all borders would be closed should Israel attempt to transport him out of the country; that paper has disappeared without a trace.

She was astounded when the SBU denied a request by telling her there were no security cameras at the station where her husband was pulled off his train. Wasting no time, Veronika found the train’s conductor. He affirmed that her husband was on that train and described the kidnappers, but denied all his statements later on. His superior turned out to be “on vacation” when Veronika and her lawyer came to see him.

“They keep saying he hasn’t left Ukraine. Israeli television has shown that Israel has him, and three days before the exchange Netanyahu said they had my husband. Shalit’s father called me and via teleconference asked me to exchange his son for my husband, and Ukrainian authorities still have no idea who took my husband and how,” Veronika said

Before her husband’s kidnapping, she was reasonably positive towards Israel, and favored freeing Shalit. But she couldn’t believe that Israelis hadn’t condemned the kidnappings of Palestinians all over the world. She made a public statement saying that neither she nor her children, all citizens of Ukraine, would leave the Gaza Strip while her husband was being held captive. In response, the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said that Ukrainian citizens can remain in the territory of another state for up to nine months.

The crime of being Dirar

“My husband has a cropped beard – they consider it evidence. He was a handsome, educated, stately man, and he held an important position – that’s all the evidence they have,” Veronika said.

“He’s in prison in Ashkelon,” he said. “He isn’t allowed to read books or newspapers. For eight months he was trying to get a TV and a fridge. Before he was arrested he weighed 98kg, he was very handsome. Now he looks like a shriveled old man – he weighs 61kg, he has a heart condition, asthma, problems with kidneys and digestive system, his eyesight is falling rapidly. No doctors are allowed to tend to him, and the only medicine he gets is aspirin.” Veronika’s voice doesn’t catch, but her cheeks flush an angry crimson. At one point, Dirar decided to go on a hunger strike, and was force-fed.

“Out of all the possible medical tests, they did only one, to find out whether he was lactose-intolerant. That’s all. In Israel people spend 10, 20, 30 years in jail without being convicted. There’s no constitution there and no normal laws. And my homeland, Ukraine, does Israel’s bidding,” Veronika said. 

The Red Cross has managed to pass a couple of her husband’s letters on to her. He is allowed to write only in Arabic, but he managed to smuggle one note in Ukrainian, telling Veronika how much he loves her – the note had heart-shaped emoticons in it. Dirar never receives any of her letters.

Veronika said that only ignorant people would believe the accusations against her husband regarding his involvement in developing missiles. Her husband is an electrical engineer, and he finished his post-graduate program at the Kharkov National Academy of Municipal Economy. “The Academy of Municipal Economy doesn’t teach anything about missiles or bombs, and no field commander would need Ukrainian citizenship,” she explained.

An anonymous member of Hamas told me that no commander, whatever his rank, travels to another country without a security escort. The visits are always planned beforehand, and the commanders are never left unprotected. Dirar was just working at the plant, but had no connection to Hamas. And the technical side of the power plant’s processes can’t be important enough for Israel to kidnap him, as plant continues to work just fine without him. The Hamas source is sure that the Israeli special service was desperate to find someone they could exchange for Shalit, but failed, which is why there has been no progress in Dirar’s case for more than a year now.

Even in Israel, some say that the special service kidnapped the wrong man, but they don’t know how to resolve the situation, so they are continuing to lie. “They’re kings today, but they can become lackeys tomorrow. They will get what they deserve,” Veronika said.

For 12 years, Veronika was a happy wife and mother, unconcerned with politics. Now she knows all the laws and declarations. She learned how to be an Iron Lady, both a mother- and father-figure for her kids. She learned how to drive a car, and to talk to lawyers and journalists.

“Dirar is still an employee at the plant, but without pay. We’re living on our savings, but we’ll be running out of them soon. And my mom died while all this was happening,” she said. Veronika learned to draw to relieve her pain: She draws her kids and Dirar. She is waiting for him in Gaza, though two years ago they were thinking about moving to Ukraine, when he applied for that ill-fated citizenship.

­Nadezhda Kevorkova, RT

Thousands at Climate Rally in Washington Call on Obama to Reject Keystone Pipeline

Zach Roberts documents the largest climate rally in US history in this photo essay.

Climate Rally.

A reported 50,000 people attended the 350/Sierra Club rally yesterday in Washington DC - making it the largest environmental march in decades. 

There were also dozens of smaller rallies across the country, including in Los Angeles, San Diego and St. Louis.

Climate Rally.

The action in DC drew in people from around the country - Jim and Bonnie, full time climate activists both took the train from Portland, Oregon. They held a sign that called on the President to be true to his own words "We cannot afford more of the same timid politics when the future of our planet is at stake."

At the speakers podium Native leaders from Canada and the US spoke out against the Tar Sands and the pipeline - calling both nations leaders to task for not hearing their concerns. Chief Jackie Thomas of the frog clan at Saik'uz (in British Columbia) warned that "Oil will spill, is always does." She went on to thank Enbridge, the company is contracted to create much of the Keystone XL pipeline "Never have I seen white and Native work together… thank you Enbridge."

She ended her speech to the crowd amassed in the shadow of the Washington Monument "I'm here to ask you, we need your help, I need someone to stand with me when the bulldozers come." At that the crowd cheered.

Climate Rally.

There was no civil disobedience planned for the day - though earlier in the week several protestors, including Robert F. Kennedy Jr, Bill McKibben and Daryl Hannah were arrested in front of the White House. DC Police reported they had no plans to arrest anyone during the action. About a dozen members of Occupy from DC and from New York did poke and prod at the police to arrest them - standing on the White House fence and declaring 'We're BACK' and asking if Obama wanted to come out and talk to them.

Climate Rally.

He seemingly had no interest, or was otherwise occupied.

The Occupy protestors did have many words for him though- demanding that he stop the pipeline immediately, take action on climate change - make a real living wage instead of his $9 an hour proposal at the State of the Union, among other things (some not suitable for print). Earlier members of Occupy Sandy marched around the White House with the 350.org and Sierra Club members - making the connection between the Hurricane that devastated much of the East Coast and the climate.

Climate Rally.

Unlike many protests of late (thanks to the promise of no police action,) there was a great number of younger protestors. On the bus that I took down from New York (organized by 350.org and Sierra Club) a 14 year old boy was celebrated for his first protest, and his first visit to DC - he was joined by his parents. No doubt the celebs speaking helped bring some of the younger crowd as well - Rosario Dawson spoke out against fracking, and Modern Family's Nolan Gould (Sierra Club Youth Ambassador) appeared on stage with Evangeline Lilly. Evangeline spoke briefly - apologizing for Canada for their digging up the Tar Sands and for pushing the pipeline.

Climate Rally.

US Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, who received some of the biggest applause, had these words to rally his audience - "The polluters don't want you here ... they've got the politicians in their pocket ... until you showed up."

Climate Rally.

On the way back to New York the protestors on Bus #4 (the one with the sign that said "girls varsity basketball") shared stories of their local actions, and swapped e-mail addresses. Someone made the announcement that the protest had made it on the front page of both Huffington Post and The New York Times website. Even though a good number of the crowd was young - enough of them, at least on this bus were old enough to remember the protests of the Bush years that garnered no press, or at best coverage with drastically low attendance numbers - so they took these as victories.

The New York Times though, did cite the attendance as "in the thousands."

Climate Rally.

Climate Rally.

Climate Rally.

Climate Rally.

Climate Rally.

Climate Rally.

Michelle Rhee Allies With Corporate Pals To March On LA Schools

Screen Shot 2013-02-15 at 5.02.52 PM.png

As you read this, Michelle Rhee is marshaling the troops to march on for Los Angeles Unified School District students. Because we all know Rhee puts "Students First," right? Here are her public reasons for the march:

  • To drive voter registration and turnout for school board and mayoral elections
  • To raise awareness of the unequal access to high quality education and the candidates' platforms
  • To ask our candidates to listen to our community and commit to strengthening our public education system

There's a subtext in those bullets, trying to influence Los Angeles as it has in Chicago or New York or Atlanta or any metropolitan city: Charter schools will solve the problem.

To that end, there's a fierce battle between anti-charter incumbent board member Steve Zimmer and pro-charter challenger Kate Anderson raging right now, so let's also assume the purpose of this march is to spread some love for Anderson and hopefully mount a battle for the entire Los Angeles Unified School District to be charterized (read privatized) sooner rather than later.

If you ever had any doubts that StudentsFirst was anything other than a corporate front, guess again. In 2011, StudentsFirst received $1 million from the Walton Family Foundation, $7 million from the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, and $250,000 from the Doris and Donald Fisher Education Fund. The Walton family are the Wal-Mart founders and owners. Laura and John Arnold are a young couple from Texas with a lot of money and a vision to "go big." John Arnold made most of his money as an Enron trader, so I'm sure former Enron employees are simply thrilled to know that someone who walked away with the big bucks is now looking to score on charter schools. In addition to his charitable giving, Arnold manages a hedge fund now. The Fishers are the founders of The Gap, and spend millions each year toward inserting charter schools in various districts.

More corporate philanthropy funds flowed to StudentsFirst via Education Reform Now, which was used as an incubator for StudentsFirst until their non-profit approval was received. Recently, StudentsFirst replaced their founding board with a new board. Those new members include Bill Cosby, Jennifer Johnson (COO of Franklin Resources, Inc), Joel Klein, former chancellor of New York Public Schools and now Executive VP for Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation (Educational Products Division), and Jalen Rose, former NBA star, ESPN commentator and founder of the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy, a charter high school in Detroit.

Now why on earth are corporations so interested in charter schools? I've said here many times that they see education as an emerging market. Clearly Rupert Murdoch does, and so do many venture capitalists, which is why educational philanthropy grants read like venture capital proposals. Hedge fund managers love charter schools too, as Kristin Rawls at AlterNet explains:

Thanks to a little discussed law passed in 2000, at the end of Bill Clinton’s presidency, banks and equity funds that invest in charter schools and other projects in underserved areas can take advantage of a very generous tax credit – as much as 39% -- to help offset their expenditure in such projects. In essence, that credit amounts to doubling the amount of money they have invested within just seven years. Moreover, they are allowed to combine that tax credit with job creation credits and other types of credit, as well collect interest payments on the money they are lending out – all of which can add up to far more than double in returns. This is, no doubt, why many big banks and equity funds are so invested in the expansion of charter schools. There is big money being made here -- because investment is nearly a sure thing.

And it’s not just U.S. investors who see the upside of investing in charters. Rich donors throughout the world are now sending money to fund our charter schools. Why? Because if they invest at least $500,000 to charters under a federal program called EB-5, they’re allowed to purchase immigration visas for themselves and family members -- yet another mechanism in place to ensure that the money keeps rolling in.

When media makes a big deal out of Michelle Rhee tromping around LA trumpeting about how much she cares for public schools, remember that she is merely facilitating even more big tax breaks for her corporate keepers.

I've been studying patterns of giving to education reform on the right and on the left. They're not much different, largely because their ultimate goals converge. Lefties will make some soft murmurs about keeping schools public while conservatives will say straight out that their goal is breaking unions and privatizing education. If lefties were serious about keeping schools public, they would have gotten behind the idea of magnet schools within existing school district structures and managed by the districts. Instead they've all embraced the sainted public-private partnership as some excuse for handing our kids' education to corporate interests.

The only ones no one is really thinking about seriously are the kids. Common Dreams reports:

Corporate school reformers promote privately operated but publicly funded "charter schools" as one of the key components of their profit-friendly approach to solving what they call the failure of traditional public schooling, but a new investigative report from Reuters shows that many such institutions disregard their own promises of inclusion and equal opportunity by creating barriers to needier students while targeting for enrollment those most likely to pad test scores or otherwise enhance their own promises of "success".

The full report from Reuters is here. It isn't pretty. It certainly lays bare the lies Michelle Rhee uses to get a foothold on the national stage and sell her education reform snake oil.

Hedge funds benefit. Bankers benefit. Philanthropists benefit. Children? Not so much.

Fix the Debt and a Wall Street Sales Tax

Peter G. Peterson, a Wall Street private equity mogul, in New York in a Jan. 29, 2008 file photo. (Photo: Fred R. Conrad / The New York Times) At this point everyone knows about Fix the Debt. It is a collection of corporate CEOs put together by Peter ...

NYC Officials Threaten Funding of College Over Israel Event

On Saturday, I wrote about the numerous New York City officials (including multiple members of the US House of Representatives) who have predictably signed onto the Alan-Derwshowitz-led attack on academic freedom at Brooklyn College. This group of Israel advocates and elected officials is demanding that the college's Political Science department rescind its sponsorship of an event featuring two advocates of the BDS movement aimed at stopping Israeli occupation and settlements.In 1999, then-New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani threatened to cut off funds for the Brooklyn Museum unless it withdrew art exhibits he found "offensive". Photograph: AP Photo/Gino Domenico

The threat to academic freedom posed by this growing lynch mob is obvious: if universities are permitted to hold only those events which do not offend state officials and "pro-Israel" fanatics such as Alan Dershowitz, then "academic freedom" is illusory. But on Sunday, that threat significantly intensified, as a ranking member of the New York City Council explicitly threatened to cut off funding for the college if his extortionate demands regarding this event are not met. From a letter to BC President Karen Gould, issued by Council Assistant Majority Leader Lew Fidler and signed by nine other members of the City Council (the full letter is embedded here):

"Among this City's diversity - and the student body of Brooklyn College - there are a significant number of people who would, and do, find this event to be offensive. . . .

"A significant portion of the funding for CUNY schools comes directly from the tax dollars of the people of the State and City of New York. Every year, we legislators are asked for additional funding to support programs and initiatives at these schools and we fight hard to secure those funds. Every one of those dollars given to CUNY, and Brooklyn College, means one less dollar going to some other worthy purpose. We do not believe this program is what the taxpayers of our City — many of who would feel targeted and demonized by this program — want their tax money to be spent on.

"We believe in the principle of academic freedom. However, we also believe in the principle of not supporting schools whose programs we, and our constituents, find to be odious and wrong."

These officials are expressly stating that no college or university is permitted to hold events that contain views that are "offensive" or which these officials "find to be odious and wrong" without having their funding terminated. How can anyone not be seriously alarmed by this? These threats are infinitely more destructive than any single academic event could ever possibly be.

Few people in New York had trouble understanding this threat when it was posed by a loathed GOP Mayor. Indeed, this current controversy is a replica of the most extreme efforts by official authoritarians to suppress ideas they dislike. In particular, New York City liberals and others vehemently objected when conservative Mayor Rudy Giuliani threatened to cut off city funding for art museums that exhibited works of art which Giuliani found offensive.

Here is what then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani said back in 1999 when he threatened, as the New York Times put it, "to cut off all city subsidies to the Brooklyn Museum of Art unless it cancels next week's opening of a British art exhibition that features, among other works, a shark suspended in a tank of formaldehyde, a bust of a man made from his own frozen blood and a portrait of the Virgin Mary stained with a clump of elephant dung":

"You don't have a right to government subsidy for desecrating somebody else's religion. And therefore we will do everything that we can to remove funding for the Brooklyn Museum until the director comes to his senses and realizes that if you are a government-subsidized enterprise, then you can't do things that desecrate the most personal and deeply held views of people in society. I mean, this is an outrageous thing to do."

The modern-day successors to Giuliani are the New York City officials now threatening the funding of Brooklyn College for exactly the same reasons and based on exactly the same rationale. Back then, liberals were furious at the GOP Mayor's bullying tactics, correctly arguing that his threat to terminate funding was a serious threat to basic freedoms; as First Amendment lawyer Floyd Abrams put it at the time:

"Punishing the Brooklyn Museum by seeking to remove its funding because the Mayor disapproves of what he perceives is the message of its art is at war with the First Amendment. The Mayor has every right to denounce the exhibition. He should understand, however, that the First Amendment limits what he can do to retaliate against art of which he disapproves."

After the Museum refused to withdraw the "offensive" exhibits and Giuliani made good on his threats, a federal judge ultimately ruled that the New York mayor "violated the First Amendment when he cut city financing and began eviction proceedings against the Brooklyn Museum of Art for mounting an exhibition that the mayor deemed offensive and sacrilegious." The judge, Nina Gershon of the US District Court in Brooklyn, wrote in her ruling ordering Giuliani to end his official attacks on the museum [emphasis added]:

"There is no federal constitutional issue more grave than the effort by government officials to censor works of expression and to threaten the vitality of a major cultural institution as punishment for failing to abide by governmental demands for orthodoxy."

The applicability of that rationale to the current controversy is obvious. Regardless of your views of BDS or Israel, the last thing anyone should want is for state officials to be able to dictate what academic events can and cannot be held on campuses. It's odious and threatening for exactly the same reason Giuliani's bullying tactics were. Some academics, such as Scott Lemieux and Kieran Healy have spoken out in defense of BC's academic freedom, but nowhere near as many as should given the threats this campaign poses to their own academic freedom. As is so often the case, when the issue is Israel, many advocates fall strangely mute.

At least back then, Giuliani was honest: he wanted to cut off funds to museums exhibiting art that he personally found offensive to his religion. By contrast, what's so noxious about the campaign aimed at BC is the glaring pretense of it all. As corrupted and dangerous as the stated "principle" is - that colleges should have their public funding terminated if they sponsor events with offensive ideas - this would never be applied consistently. Indeed, it's inconceivable to imagine this level of official mobilization on any issue other than Israel. This is about using the power of the state to suppress criticisms of and activism against the Israeli government in academia - and nothing else.

To see how true that is, just imagine if the BC Political Science department had sponsored an equally one-sided event on the BDS movement, but invited only BDS opponents and hard-core Israel defenders. Does anyone think that even a single one of these cowardly, dishonest political officials would have uttered a peep of protest on the ground that colleges shouldn't sponsor one-sided events concerning controversial issues or which air views that people in the City and the student body find "offensive"? Please. To ask the question is to mock it.

Indeed, as I noted on Saturday, Alan Dershowitz himself - who offends large numbers of people - has spoken without opposition at this very same Brooklyn College at the invitation of the Political Science department and not one of these city officials spoke out against that or threatened the college's funding over it. Beyond that, when a controversy erupted last year at the University of Pennsylvania over a pro-BDS event sponsored by students, that university's Political Science department (which had pointedly refused to sponsor the pro-BDS event) formally sponsored an event for Dershowitz to speak without any opposition, and nobody raised these fabricated, disingenuous concerns over the need to only hold "balanced" events and for academic departments to avoid "controversial" stances. That includes Dershowitz, who claimed to me on Friday that he "would oppose a pro Israel event being sponsored by a department" but - needless to say - never objected, at least not publicly, when the UPenn Political Science department did exactly that by inviting him to speak about Israel without opposition.

Plainly, this entire controversy has only one "principle" and one purpose: to threaten, intimidate and bully professors, school administrators and academic institutions out of any involvement in criticisms of Israel. The claim that this is driven by the belief that colleges should avoid taking positions on controversial issues is a ridiculous joke. Yesterday, the besieged BC College President Gould wrote a letter to the school's Hillel organization about the controversy, and in it, she stated:

"You have asked that I state unequivocally the college's position on the BDS movement, and I have no hesitation in doing so. As president of Brooklyn College, I can assure you that our college does not endorse the BDS movement nor support its call for boycott, divestment, and sanctions against Israel, nor do I personally."

Do you think a single New York City official or Dershowitz or anyone else will object to her official opposition to BDS on behalf of herself and the college, by claiming that this makes BC students who support BDS feel unwelcome and that university officials shouldn't take sides in controversial political disputes? Of course not, because those "principles" are pure pretext. Nobody believes or cares about the notion that colleges and professors, in general, should avoid controversial issues or refrain from sponsoring one-sided academic events (which they do constantly: here's an article on a speech I gave last year at UPenn, speaking alone, expressing many controversial views, at an event formally sponsored by the school's Religious Studies Department; here's an article where I did the same at an event sponsored by the University of Missouri Law School last year). As Political Science Professor Scott Lemieux put it, this campaign poses "threats to academic freedom, based on 'principles' nobody believes."

This is about only one controversial issue (Israel) and about suppressing only one side of that issue (criticisms of and activism against Israeli occupation and settlements). Just as it is extraordinary that a nominated Defense Secretary in the US has to take repeated vows of fealty to Israel and spend most of his confirmation hearing discussing not the US but that foreign country, it is truly extraordinary to watch "liberal" officials in the largest city in the US expressly threaten the funding of a college for the crime of holding an event that is critical of Israel (MSNBC's Chris Hayes, who admires - and has previously had on his show - several of the New York members of Congress who have joined this Dershowitz-led campaign, yesterday lambasted their conduct aimed at BC as "outrageous and genuinely chilling").

BC students and groups are (and should be) free to host as many anti-BDS events as they want and invite all the speakers in the world who support Israeli occupations and settlement expansions, despite how uncomfortable that might make Palestinian and Muslim students (and the BC PoliSci Department has made clear they would likely sponsor such events if asked). That's what free speech and academic freedom are about: the right to freely air and advocate for any and all viewpoints, even ones that "offend" people. Few things threaten those critical values more than elected officials threatening to punish colleges for hosting such events. But that's exactly what is taking place right now in New York.

© 2012 The Guardian

Glenn Greenwald

Mehdi’s Morning Memo: Osborne The Bank Basher

The ten things you need to know on Monday 4 February 2013...

1) OSBORNE THE BANK BASHER

Having cut corporation tax and the top rate of income tax, dropped the bank bonus tax, opposed a financial transactions tax and repeatedly refused to countenance a break-up of the big banks, George Osborne, it seems, is now trying to re-invent himself as a bit of a bank basher - from the FT's splash:

"The chancellor will today warn banks they will be broken up unless they comply fully with rules to make the financial system safer - a threat that will provoke fury among some in the City of London.

"George Osborne has bowed to pressure, agreeing that the proposed ringfence around core retail activities, aimed at protecting the taxpayer from bank collapses, needs to be "electrified" with draconian sanctions. The Labour party claimed Mr Osborne had been forced into 'a partial climbdown', arguing that the chancellor and Vince Cable, business secretary, had not wanted to leave hanging over banks the threat of full separation of investment banking from high-street operations.

"... In a speech on the future of banking today, Mr Osborne will say: 'My message to the banks is clear: if a bank flouts the rules, the regulator and the Treasury will have the power to break it up altogether - full separation, not just a ringfence.'"

For once, I'm with Gideon. Talk, however, is cheap. Let's see what actually happens...

2) NOT-SO-FREE VOTE

There's a fair bit of pressure being applied to anti-gay-marriage Tory MPs by their party's high command ahead of tomorrow's 'free' vote on the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill.

"Tory gay marriage rebels told: you’re out of touch" - that's the splash headline on the front of today's Times. The paper reports:

"The Prime Minister will speak out in favour of equal marriage in an effort to win over at least half his MPs before a landmark vote tomorrow evening. However, his personal intervention risks deepening Tory divisions over an issue that Mr Cameron was warned yesterday could cost him the next election. Last night Tory waverers were under mounting pressure to spare the Prime Minister the embarrassment of being deserted by more than 150 of his parliamentary party.

"Michael Fabricant, a Tory vice-chairman, said he was 'disturbed' to hear of ministerial aides warning backbenchers that their careers would be dented if they failed to support the Government even though Mr Cameron has given his troops a free vote. Another MP said undecided ministers were being pressed to back the Prime Minister."

But there's pressure being applied on those MPs from other directions, too - the Telegraph splashes on news that

"In his first official day as leader of the Church of England, the Rt Rev Justin Welby is expected to say that marriage should remain 'between a man and a woman'."

The PM versus the Archbishop of Canterbury. Who says Old Etonians all think alike?

On a side note, David Burrowes, one of the Tory 'rebels', has written a piece for HuffPost UK which is worth a read; he argues that this is "the first time in living memory that an issue raising such fundamental matters of moral, legal and constitutional significance has been pushed through by a government without an electoral mandate".

3) WRONG WAR, WRONG PLACE

If you had any doubt that the Afghan war and, in particular, Britain's presence in Helmand province, has been a disaster, listen to the latest opinions from 'our ally', Hamid Karzai, the president of Afghanistan.

From the Guardian:

"The Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, has questioned whether western troops were 'fighting in the wrong place' during their decade-long mission in Afghanistan, saying security was better in southern Helmand province before the arrival of British forces.

"... 'They feel fulfilled with regard to the objective of fighting terrorism and weakening al-Qaida, or they feel that they were fighting in the wrong place in the first place, so they should discontinue doing that and leave,' Karzai said in an interview ahead of trilateral talks with David Cameron and the Pakistani president, Asif Ali Zardari."

Meanwhile, the Times reports that "David Cameron has set himself the ambitious target of brokering a deal between Afghanistan and Pakistan to facilitate peace talks with the Taleban".

4) 'STITCHED UP'

Another 'Plebgate' scoop from Channel 4's DIspatches - reported by the Financial Times:

"Andrew Mitchell, the former Conservative chief whip who resigned last year after his "plebgate" row with police officers, will talk about his frustration with Downing Street's treatment of the scandal and argue that he was "stitched up", in a television interview due to be broadcast tonight.

"... The row embarrassed the Tories, and Mr Mitchell resigned in the autumn when he felt he had lost the support of party colleagues. 'I could tell I was being stitched up but I didn't know how it was being done or where it was coming from,' he will say in a Dispatches interview tonight."

5) HEY ED, WE'RE STILL HERE

Ed Miliband has repeatedly said that New Labour is the past. Tell that to, er, New Labour. The former home secretary, Alan Johnson, a card-carrying New Labour Blairite who briefly served as shadow chancellor under Ed M, has offered some 'advice' to the Labour leader in an interview with (the Blairite) Progress magazine.

From the Guardian:

"Ed Miliband needs to start setting out policies this year and has little option but to accept the spending levels set out by the coalition for 2015, Labour's Alan Johnson has said.

"... Asked whether Labour should commit to sticking to the government's spending limits for the first two years if elected – as it did in 1997 – Johnson said it was 'difficult to think what else you can do'.

"'We can't get away from the fact that the fiscal deficit has got to come down,' he said.

"'Now is a dangerous time. We can't get away with saying we are thinking about policy. That's perfectly acceptable for the first three years, but now we have got to start unveiling some policy and what Ed's going to need to do is to meet the expectations he himself has created.'"

Yesterday, Tony Blair, speaking on BBC1's Andrew Marr programme, said Labour would "later in this year... start to unveil its policies".

The clock is ticking, Ed...

BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR...

Watch this video of a puppy dancing, trying to get attention...

6) HUHNE TRIAL KICKS OFF

The Telegraph reports:

"Chris Huhne, the former Energy Secretary, and his ex-wife will go on trial today over claims that she took speeding points for him nearly a decade ago.

"The Liberal Democrat MP and his former wife, Vicky Pryce, are accused of perverting the course of justice over a speeding offence dating from 2003.

"Mr Huhne resigned from the Cabinet last year after the Crown Prosecution Service announced that he had been charged over an allegation that he persuaded Miss Pryce to take his penalty points so he could avoid prosecution."

7) BIASED BOUNDARIES

From the Telegraph:

"Votes in Labour seats will be worth much more than votes in Tory seats because the Liberal Democrats rejected new Commons boundaries, the Conservatives have claimed.

"Labour and Lib Dem MPs last week voted to reject Conservative plans to redraw Commons boundaries and cut the House of Commons by 50 seats.

"Without those changes, votes in some seats will be worth half as much as those in others by the next election, according to research by the Tories. They say that the reforms would have stopped the current Commons map favouring Labour so much because sizes of constituencies would have been standardised."

Oh boo-hoo. Here's a tip for the Tories: if you're so worried about the (undoubted) unfairness and disproportionality of our antiquated voting system, why not campaign for full proportional representation? Where seats in parliament reflect votes in the country?

8) 'STOMPING' ON KIDS' GRAVES

Another PR victory for the Met - from the Guardian:

"Britain's largest police force stole the identities of an estimated 80 dead children and issued fake passports in their names for use by undercover police officers.

"The Metropolitan police secretly authorised the practice for covert officers infiltrating protest groups without consulting or informing the children's parents."

"... Two undercover officers have provided a detailed account of how they and others used the identities of dead children. One, who adopted the fake persona of Pete Black while undercover in anti-racist groups, said he felt he was 'stomping on the grave' of the four-year-old boy whose identity he used.

9) UNPAID NUCLEAR BILLS

Remember how we've run out of money? How the government can't afford to fund SureStart centres or disability benefits? Not quite (via the Mirror):

"The cost of decommissioning Sellafield nuclear reprocessing plant has hit £67.5billion and is still rising, MPs have warned.

"The Commons Public Accounts Committee said the authority dealing with our radioactive legacy had not been able to show if it gave value for money.

"Around £1.6billion a year is spent on the site, due to close in 2018."

10) WANNA BE US AMBASSADOR TO LONDON? THAT'LL BE $2.3M PLEASE.

From the Times:

"Today, a former US diplomat to some of the world’s less glamorous berths provides the answer: do not expect to get the Court of St James’s if you raised less than $650,000 for the Obama campaign, and in this competitive year of ten big donors for every top position, it could take $2.3 million.

"Dennis Jett, who started his foreign career in Argentina in 1973, and served in Liberia during the civil war and Mozambique during a refugee crisis, teamed up with an economist to establish the probability of big political donors landing in fine world capitals.

"Their computer model concludes that the greater the campaign donation, the more likely a posting will be in Western Europe rather than those countries seen as 'obscure, dangerous, poor or of low interest to tourists'."

I guess that means Matthew Barzun (the ambassador to Sweden, who raised more than $2m for Obama) has a better chance of getting the London gig than Anna Wintour (he editor of American Vogue, who raised a mere $500,000 for Obama’s campaign).

PUBLIC OPINION WATCH

From yesterday's Sunday Times/YouGov poll:

Labour 41
Conservatives 34
Lib Dems 12
Ukip 8

That would give Labour a majority of 86.

140 CHARACTERS OR LESS

‏@Freeman_George Fitting that this week sees a new Archbishop and new Bank Governor. Never have we needed spiritual, moral and financial leadership so much.

@tobyhelm incredibly @toryeducation still listed as official @Conservatives site despite Gove's lot running it as a propaganda tool in breach of codes

@Mike_Fabricant Why is it when I tweet about Gay Marriage I get loads of replies, but no-one is interested when I tweet about my (4g) Dongle? Boo hooh.

900 WORDS OR MORE

Maria Miller, writing in the Times, says: "The State should not stop two people who love each other, gay or straight, getting married."

David Blanchflower, writing in the Independent, says: "Here’s a way to end our slump: give away money."

Geoffrey Wheatcroft, writing in the Guardian, says: "The Andrew Mitchell affair revealed our prejudices, and showed the police to be untrustworthy."


Got something you want to share? Please send any stories/tips/quotes/pix/plugs/gossip to Mehdi Hasan (mehdi.hasan@huffingtonpost.com) or Ned Simons (ned.simons@huffingtonpost.com). You can also follow us on Twitter: @mehdirhasan, @nedsimons and @huffpostukpol

BACKFIRE: Seattle Gun Buyback Turns Into Gun Show; Collectors Waved “Wads of Cash” At...

Guns For Cash - Texas

Leave it to enterprising Americans to always find a loophole in the midst of ever-expanding government regulation.

While thousands of Seattle residents lined up for hours to trade their handguns, rifles and family heirlooms away in exchange for up to $200 in gift cards as part of the city’s latest gun buyback program, gun collectors who have seen prices for assault rifles and firearms accessories almost triple since November took advantage of a huge opportunity.

Police stood in awe as gun enthusiasts and collectors waved wads of cash for the guns being held by those standing in line for the buyback program.

Police officers in Seattle, Washington held their first gun buyback program in 20 years this weekend, underneath interstate 5,  and soon found that private gun collectors were working the large crowd as little makeshift gun shows began dotting the parking lot and sidewalks.

Some even had “cash for guns” signs prominently displayed.

People that had arrived to trade in their weapons for $100 or $200 BuyBack gift cards($100 for handguns, shotguns and rifles, and $200 for assault weapons) soon realized that gun collectors were there and paying top dollar for collectible firearms. So, as the line for the chump cards got longer and longer people began to jump ship and head over to the dealers.

John Diaz, Seattles Police Chief,  wasn’t pleased with the turn of events stating “I’d prefer they wouldn’t sell them,” but admitted it’s perfectly legal for private individuals to buy and sell guns, FOR NOW. Mayor Mike McGinn said at a news conference the private transactions are a loophole that needs to be closed. “There’s no background checks, and some (guns) could be exchanged on the streets that shouldn’t be in circulation.”

But Schuyler Taylor, a previous gun retailer attending the event in hopes of buying weapons, asked Why not offer them cash versus a gift card? I’m still taking the guns off the streets; they’re just going in my safe.

DCexposed via What Really Happened?, Before It’s News, Daily Paul

Pictures from the Gun buyback turned gun show in Seattle:

Will Buy Guns for Cash

Gun Buyback Line

Cash For Assault Rifles

Cash For Guns

As lawmakers and gun control advocates further press the issue of disarmament, law abiding American gun owners who see those very same politicians refusing to disarm their own armed security details and exempting themselves from gun control legislation they mandate upon the rest of us, are starting to push back.

New York gun owners are organizing and resisting the new registration requirement recently forced down their throats by the State legislature.

Calls for defiance are taking hold across the entire spectrum of gun owners, with even elected law enforcement officials now rejecting any forced Federal or State mandates that they deem unconstitutional.

In Milwaukee, and to the fury of Mayor Tom Barrett, Sheriff David A. Clarke Jr. launched a media ad campaign promoting a new partnership with residents of his city :

I’m Sheriff David Clarke and I want to talk to you about something personal: your safety. It’s no longer a spectator sport; I need you in the game.

But are you ready?

With officers laid off and furloughed, simply calling 911 and waiting is no longer your best option. You can beg for mercy from a violent criminal, hide under the bed, or you can fight back. But are you prepared? Consider taking a certified safety course in handling a firearm so you can defend yourself until we get there.

You have a duty to protect yourself and your family.

Law abiding gun owners in America minded their own business and simply asked to be left alone. Now, because of the actions of criminals and psychopaths who will not disarm despite any legislative action, we have government officials on all levels and even the private sector attempting to limit how we can protect ourselves and our families from the very people who are out there committing the violence.

Sides are being taken.

And while there may be an effort to weaken certain Constitutional protections and even repeal them altogether, there are tens of millions of Americans uniting behind a single cause. They come from all walks of life, different political ideologies, and many are members of our armed forces and local police departments.

Every attempt that gun grabbers have made in an effort to disarm Americans and limit our access to firearms has been vehemently rejected, and in the case of the Seattle impromptu gun show, used for the benefit of expanding gun ownership.

If certain government officials really believed in our right to bear arms and wanted to keep guns in the hands of responsible, law abiding people, they wouldn’t be trying to take them away from us. Instead, they’d be giving us a tax break for gun safes.

Pictures courtesy of statesman.com, Seattle Times, The StrangerGuns Save Life

One Million Moms For Gun Control: Origins Of A Movement

How these women, despite facing fierce odds, are coming together to fight gun violence.

January 26, 2013  |  

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It began because Shannon Watts didn’t know what to tell her 12-year-old son about Newtown. The boy had been undone by what he still calls "The Batman Shooting” and left a movie theater sobbing a few days after Aurora, certain the man next to him had a gun. After months of therapy and medication he was just getting his balance back. What would she tell him now, Watts wondered, with 20 children dead in their first-grade classroom?

It began because Amy R. heard the news from Newtown over morning coffee in her North Carolina kitchen, and fought the urge to pull her 8-year-old out of school immediately. The more she read, the more she realized "how ignorant I was that so many guns were out there," she says. Finally, she wiped her tears and brought her son home from school 30 minutes early. "It's one of those moments when you just need to hold your child."

It began because Kim Russell went ahead with her son’s fourth birthday party as planned, two days after Newtown -- then had flashbacks about the days after Columbine, when she had gone to dinner with a teacher who said “that could have been at his school,” Russell says. Her dinner date was shot and killed by a 17-year-old mugger with a stolen Glock that night.

These women and others like them -- tens of thousands of others, it turns out -- are coming together to fight gun violence. They want to be a force for change, they say, like the bipartisan Mothers Against Drunk Driving (and the liberal progressive Momsrising.org, the conservative Christian OneMillionMoms.com and the new Moms Clean Air Force).

They know they are facing fierce odds: foes with more organization and money, the tendency of Americans to forget about guns between tragedies and a history of other groups that have tried and failed. But they want to become a movement and they think their time is now.

GETTING STARTED

In any tragedy there are two circles of victims. The smaller, more wounded cluster is filled with those who were hurt personally, who lost something they could name, or count, or touch. The second circle, much larger, contains the rest of us. Change begins with the first group but cannot succeed without the second.

The morning after Newtown, Watts woke up angry. “If I don’t do something, I am culpable,” she remembers thinking. She’d worked in corporate communications for 15 years before becoming a stay-at-home mom, and while not a pro with computers, she knew enough to create a Facebook page. She called it "One Million Moms For Gun Control," and shared the link with her 175 Facebook friends.

Halfway across the country, in Brooklyn, Marcie Bohan, a mother of three who is training to be a social worker, was also on Facebook and had just spontaneously written a note to a friend: “We need to organize a million mamas for gun control.” Not long afterward, she received a reply from an acquaintance in Virginia who was also connected to Watts. “I have a friend who just posted the same idea,” he said. “You two should talk.”

Bohan shared a link to Watts’s page, writing: “Come on Brooklyn. Let’s do this.” Russell, who knew Bohan from a long ago playgroup added a comment to the post. “I’m a victim of gun violence and I have wanted to do something for 13 years," she wrote.

By the next day, the two were among the five founders of the Brooklyn chapter of One Million Moms For Gun Control -- or 1MM4GC -- who gathered in Bohan’s kitchen, with Watts attending the meeting via Skype. They created a mission statement: “To reinstitute the assault weapons ban and establish other laws that will limit gun availability and misuse in the United States.” They also sorted through the emails that kept pouring in from around the country offering to form other chapters -- in Las Vegas and Boston, Denver and Florida, Northern Virginia and Southern Maine. Now there are more than 70 branches (including a chapter for Aurora, Colo., as well as one each for Grandmothers, Teachers and Dads), and the original page has accumulated more than 40,000 “likes” in its first 40 days.

Frontrunning: January 24

  • When the cash runs out dividends go away: Nokia to Omit Dividend for First Time in 143 Years (BBG)
  • Passing Debt Bill, GOP Pledges End to Deficits (WSJ)
  • Japan logs record trade gap in 2012 as exports struggle (Reuters)
  • so naturally... Yen at 100 Per Dollar Endorsed by Japan Government’s Nishimura (BBG)
  • Japan rejects currency war fears (FT)
  • Investors grow cagey as Italy election nears (Reuters)
  • In Amenas attack brings global jihad home to Algeria (Reuters)
  • Mafia Victim’s Son Holds Key to Bersani Winning Key Region (BBG)
  • Bernanke Seen Pressing On With Stimulus Amid Debate on QE (BBG)
  • U.S. to lift ban on women in front-line combat jobs (Reuters)
  • Red flags revealed in filings of firm linked to Caterpillar fraud (Reuters)
  • Apple Sales Gain Slowest Since ’09 as Competition Climbs (BBG)
  • Spanish Jobless Rate Hits Record After Rajoy’s First Year (BBG)
  • North Korea Threatens Nuclear Test to Derail U.S. Policies (BBG)

Overnight Media Digest

WSJ

* Apple Inc recorded a flat profit despite selling 18 million more iPhones and iPads as it spent heavily to roll out new products to fend off intensifying competition.

* The U.S. House of Representatives defused one potential debt crisis Wednesday, while a top Republican set the stage for a far broader debate over whether it is possible to actually balance the U.S. budget in coming years.

* A government informant has implicated a prominent former trader at SAC Capital Advisors, telling federal investigators the two swapped confidential stock tips for years, according to people briefed on the matter.

* NYSE Euronext has no intention of selling its European unit to a rival following a planned takeover by IntercontinentalExchange Inc, according to NYSE Euronext's chief executive.

* The value of Goldman Sachs Group Inc's investment portfolio doubled last year. Bond underwriting hit a five-year high. The firm's workforce shrank and remaining employees were paid a smaller chunk of overall revenue.

* General Dynamics Corp swung to a fourth-quarter loss, posting a $2 billion write-down in its information-technology business that Chief Executive Phebe Novakovic called a "reset".

* McDonald's Corp's fourth-quarter earnings beat expectations, reversing two quarters of misses, but the world's largest restaurant chain said it expects tough times ahead.

* Netflix Inc capped a turbulent year by posting a surprise fourth-quarter profit and adding more Internet subscribers than expected, news that sent its stock rocketing about 35 percent in after-hours trading.

* As Novartis AG Chairman Daniel Vasella steps down from the company he helped build over 25 years, he leaves behind one of the health-care industry's most admired firms - but also some shareholder resentment and big questions about Novartis's future.

* Loretta Fredy Bush, the high-profile founder of China's Xinhua Finance Ltd who was later indicted over an alleged $50 million fraud, has agreed to a plea deal and appears poised to plead guilty to a reduced charge.

FT

FSA PROBES ICAP OVER LIBOR FIXING ICAP, the world's largest interdealer broker, has become a focus of the UK Libor rate-rigging investigation and is being investigated by the UK financial watchdog for possible breaches of market conduct rules. () CAMERON PUTS EU FUTURE ON THE LINE David Cameron put Britain's future in the EU on the line in an audacious gamble that united his Conservative party but could have profound implications for the country.

UK LABOUR MARKET DEFIES GLOOM The puzzle of Britain's productivity performance grew on Wednesday, with an unexpectedly buoyant set of employment figures ahead of Friday's output data for last year's fourth quarter, which many economists think will show a dip.

GMG ENDS TALKS TO SELL TRADER STAKE Guardian Media Group has called off talks with interested buyers over the sale of its half stake in the car classifieds company Trader Media Group following a failure to agree a price. Apax, its joint venture partner in Trader Media, had been interested in buying out the 50.1 per cent owned by GMG in a deal that would have netted the publisher of the Guardian and the Observer around 300 million pounds in cash.

CHINESE FUND AND SCHMIDT-BACKED BANK UNITE A boutique merchant bank backed by Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt has struck a deal with a Chinese state-owned fund to work together on media, sport and entertainment acquisitions. Raine's partnership with China Media Capital, which manages a Rmb5bn ($805m) fund, is the latest sign that China's nascent but fast-growing media sector is keen to borrow expertise and contacts from established western operators.

NYT

* Investors have come to expect nothing short of perfection from Apple Inc but with the company's stock sinking 11 percent, it is clear there are a range of challenges.

* Avoiding an economic showdown with President Obama, the House on Wednesday passed legislation to eliminate the nation's statutory borrowing limit until May, without including the dollar-for-dollar spending cuts that Republicans once insisted would have to be part of any debt limit bill.

* Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain has added to Europe's malaise, vowing to reduce British entanglement with the European Union - or allow his people to vote in a referendum to leave the bloc altogether.

* Daniel Vasella, the longtime chairman and former chief executive of Novartis, the Swiss drug maker, plans to step down next month, the company said on Wednesday, when it also reported a jump in fourth-quarter profit.

* The International Monetary Fund said on Wednesday that it continued to expect a modest upturn in global growth in 2013, with fewer risks of major policy mistakes and lower levels of financial stress.

* Netflix Inc reported $8 million in net income, surprising analysts who had expected a slight loss. It increased the number of subscribers for its streaming service to 27 million.

* The Boeing 787's difficulties have raised questions about how regulators certify new technology and how they balance advances in design and engineering with safety.

* Japan on Thursday reported a record annual trade deficit in 2012, the second straight year in the red for an exporting nation that has long built its wealth on its vast trading surpluses.

* A survey of manufacturing activity in China on Thursday provided more reassurance that the Chinese economy, buoyed by somewhat improved global trade and a string of government stimulus measures last year, has settled into a muted recovery.

* US Airways Group Inc reported on Wednesday that its net income doubled in the fourth quarter from a year earlier, and its executives said strong passenger demand for the airline could lead to higher fares.

* The long decline in the number of American workers belonging to labor unions accelerated sharply last year, according to data reported on Wednesday, sending the unionization rate to its lowest level in close to a century.

Canada

THE GLOBE AND MAIL

* Nigeria, the leading power in West Africa, wants Canada and other western nations to take on the conflict in Mali as an international problem and provide funding and heavy equipment like helicopters.

* As Canadian finance minister Jim Flaherty prepares the Conservative government's 2013 budget, his main target will be to balance the books by 2015. With that horizon in mind, economists see several reasons for him to be optimistic, including positive signs from the United States and European economies, as well as the country's housing market.

Reports in the business section:

* The Bank of Canada is setting aside worries over a housing bust to double down on a broader concern, the country's sputtering economy.

The central bank surprised Bay Street and Wall Street on Wednesday by dropping from its latest policy statement any hint that it would raise interest rates to deter Canadians from bidding up housing prices and adding to record levels of household debt.

* RBC Dominion Securities raised its price target for Research In Motion Ltd to C$19 from C$11 ahead of the crucial launch of the smartphone maker's BlackBerry 10 devices, but warned that it is "far too early" to call the company's turnaround a success.

NATIONAL POST

* Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said he was searching for a "consensus" within Canada and the Parliament on how to contribute to stopping the spread of terrorism in Mali, but he would not allow a direct Canadian military mission into the African country.

* Manitoba chiefs are not poised to cede from the assembly of First Nations, but leaders gathered in Winnipeg on Wednesday raised questions about the national body's mandate to represent aboriginals on treaty issues.

FINANCIAL POST

* Bombardier Inc CEO and President Pierre Beaudoin said he hopes that its CSeries airliners will take its first flight in June, demonstrating that the Quebec transportation giant has learned the lessons from Boeing Co's difficulties with its 787 Dreamliner.

* The Canadian and global economies will continue struggling to maintain momentum this year, but in a relatively hopeful new outlook, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said it saw light at the end of the tunnel.

The IMF now expects Canada's economy to expand by a modest 1.8 percent this year and by 2.3 percent in 2014.

China

CHINA SECURITIES JOURNAL

--The value-added growth of large industrial enterprises is expected to rise 10 percent, said Zhu Hongren, chief engineer at the Ministry of Industry.

--The Industrial & Commercial Bank of China, the world's biggest bank by market value, said the volume of its renminbi cross-border business hit over 1.5 trillion yuan ($241.24 billion) in 2012, rising 70 percent from a year earlier.

SHANGHAI SECURITIES NEWS

- Hong Kong is working closely with Chinese authorities to promote the mutual recognition of investment funds, which would pave the way for these funds to be sold into both sides of the market, said the deputy chief executive of Securities & Futures Commission of Hong Kong.

- Steam coal prices on the Bohai Bay Rim Index fell 2 yuan from week ago to 629 yuan ($100)a tonne this week, marking the sixth consecutive session of falls, which has brought prices down by a total of 11 yuan since mid-December.

SHANGHAI DAILY

--Chinese companies are becoming increasingly confident in venturing overseas to expand trade and cement their prescence on a global scale, a private survey showed. About four in every five international Chinese companies surveyed by HSBC plan to boost overseas expansion, according to the survey.

--China will continue testing and expand the trial run of the new 4G network technology that allows 10-20 times faster internet access, the industry's top regulator said.

CHINA DAILY (www.chinadaily.com.cn)

--The yuan-denominated business of two major Chinese banks - Industrial and Commercial Bank of China Ltd and Bank of China Ltd - surged in 2012 as global demand for the currency increased.

--China's first locally manufactured, battery-powered vehicle has been handed over to its buyer in Shanghai.

Fly On The Wall 7:00 Market Snapshot

ANALYST RESEARCH

Upgrades

ASML (ASML) upgraded to Buy from Neutral at BofA/Merrill
Autodesk (ADSK) upgraded to Outperform from Sector Perform at RBC Capital
Bed Bath & Beyond (BBBY) upgraded to Outperform from Perform at Oppenheimer
CSX (CSX) upgraded to Outperform from Sector Perform at RBC Capital
Cubist (CBST) upgraded to Hold from Sell at Cantor
Dillard's (DDS) upgraded to Outperform from Neutral at Credit Suisse
Emerson (EMR) upgraded to Buy from Hold at Deutsche Bank
Gol Linhas (GOL) upgraded to Buy from Neutral at Goldman
Netflix (NFLX) upgraded to Buy from Neutral at Lazard Capital
Netflix (NFLX) upgraded to Market Perform from Underperform at Raymond James
Netflix (NFLX) upgraded to Neutral from Underperform at Macquarie
Netflix (NFLX) upgraded to Overweight from Neutral at JPMorgan
Ross Stores (ROST) upgraded to Outperform from Neutral at Credit Suisse
Tenet Healthcare (THC) upgraded to Outperform from Market Perform at Raymond James
Torchmark (TMK) upgraded to Buy from Neutral at SunTrust

Downgrades

Albermarle (ALB) downgraded to Hold from Buy at Deutsche Bank
Albermarle (ALB) downgraded to Neutral from Buy at Citigroup
Allegheny Technologies (ATI) downgraded to Neutral from Buy at Goldman
Altera (ALTR) downgraded to Market Perform from Outperform at William Blair
Apple (AAPL) downgraded to Hold from Buy at Jefferies
Apple (AAPL) downgraded to Sector Perform from Outperform at Scotia Capital
Coach (COH) downgraded to Neutral from Buy at ISI Group
Copa Holdings (CPA) downgraded to Neutral from Buy at Goldman
Douglas Dynamics (PLOW) downgraded to Neutral from Outperform at Credit Suisse
Energizer (ENR) downgraded to Market Perform from Outperform at BMO Capital
Magnum Hunter (MHR) downgraded to Hold from Buy at Jefferies
Netflix (NFLX) downgraded to Neutral from Outperform at Credit Suisse
Parkway Properties (PKY) downgraded to Sell from Hold at Cantor
Primerica (PRI) downgraded to Reduce from Neutral at SunTrust
Redwood Trust (RWT) downgraded to Market Perform from Outperform at JMP Securities
Reinsurance Group (RGA) downgraded to Equal Weight from Overweight at Morgan Stanley
Safeway (SWY) downgraded to Underweight from Equal Weight at Barclays
Stillwater Mining (SWC) downgraded to Neutral from Outperform at Credit Suisse
Tiffany (TIF) downgraded to Hold from Buy at Canaccord
Veeco (VECO) downgraded to Neutral from Buy at UBS

Initiations

Atwood Oceanics (ATW) initiated with an Overweight at Barclays
Church & Dwight (CHD) initiated with an Outperform at Credit Suisse
Clorox (CLX) initiated with an Outperform at Credit Suisse
Colgate-Palmolive (CL) initiated with an Outperform at Credit Suisse
Expedia (EXPE) initiated with a Buy at Ascendiant Capital
Kimberly Clark (KMB) initiated with an Underperform at Credit Suisse
Ocean Rig UDW (ORIG) initiated with an Overweight at Barclays
PBF Energy (PBF) initiated with an Overweight at Morgan Stanley
Pacific Drilling (PACD) initiated with an Overweight at Barclays
Procter & Gamble (PG) initiated with a Neutral at Credit Suisse
Splunk (SPLK) initiated with an Outperform at BMO Capital

HOT STOCKS

Apple (AAPL) CEO Cook: Very confident in our product pipeline
Apple said changing approach to guidance
Nokia (NOK) to propose no dividend be paid for 2012
Starwood Property (STWD), Starwood Capital to acquire LNR Property LLC for $1.05B
American Airlines (AAMRQ) signed 12-year capacity purchase agreement with Republic (RJET). Republic signed an agreement with Embraer (ERJ) to purchase 47 new aircraft
Amgen (AMGN) said on track to hit upper end of 2015 revenue guidance
Said no plans to raise additional debt in 2013
SanDisk (SNDK) said positioned for strong profitability in 2013
Netflix (NFLX) said no plans to launch additional international markets in 1H13
Said more and more interested in exclusive content
Symantec (SYMC) reorganized management, will reduce middle-management workforce
United Rentals (URI) sees FY13 increase in rental rates of approximately 4.5%

EARNINGS

Companies that beat consensus earnings expectations last night and today include:
Stanley Black & Decker (SWK), Cash America (CSH), Knight Capital (KCG), Jacobs Engineering (JEC), Teradyne (TER), Hill-Rom (HRC), Apple (AAPL), United Rentals (URI), Western Digital (WDC), Sealy (ZZ), SanDisk (SNDK), Netflix (NFLX), Stryker (SYK)

Companies that missed consensus earnings expectations include:
Cabot Microelectronics (CCMP), Logitech (LOGI), Noble Corp. (NE), F.N.B. Corp. (FNB), Energen (EGN), Hexcel (HXL), Greenhill & Co. (GHL)

Companies that matched consensus earnings expectations include:
KeyCorp (KEY), Susquehanna (SUSQ), Celadon Group (CGI), Cubist (CBST)

NEWSPAPERS/WEBSITES

Last year Japan's trade deficit nearly tripled to a record $78.3B and few expect a drastic improvement anytime soon, leaving Tokyo no choice but to continue with efforts to boost the economy, the Wall Street Journal reports
Citigroup’s (C) U.S. retail and commercial banking has the highest average deposits per branch among top lenders but generates lower profits than the others. The bank is attempting to turn that around, including an upgrade of computer systems, remodel branches and make employees more accountable in what is arguably the biggest internal overhaul at Citibank in decades, the Wall Street Journal reports
Growth in China's factory sector surged to a two-year high in January as manufacturers received more local and foreign orders in an encouraging sign for the country's economic rebound. The HSBC flash purchasing managers' index (PMI) increased to 51.9 in January, the highest since January 2011 and above the 50-point level that shows accelerating growth in the sector from the previous month, Reuters reports
Japanese regulators joined the U.S. in all but ruling out overcharged batteries as the cause of recent fires on the Boeing (BA) 787 Dreamliner, which has been grounded for a week. The FAA said there are still no firm answers as to the cause and no clear timetable yet for returning the plane to flight, Reuters reports
With toxic smog engulfing Beijing and much of the rest of the country for weeks, China is considering tighter vehicle curbs and emissions standards like Europe’s. That could benefit GM (GM), Volkswagen (VLKAY) and Hyundai Motor  in a market where sales are forecast to pass 20M units this year, Bloomberg reports
Building supply stocks such as USG (USG) in which Warren Buffett (BRK.A) holds a 16% stake, and Eagle Materials (EXP) that more than doubled last year look to rise further as the U.S. housing market extends its recovery, Bloomberg reports

SYNDICATE
ARIAD (ARIA) files to sell common stock
American Realty (ARCP) announces public offering of 1.5M shares of common stock
Buckeye Partners (BPL) files to sell 6M common units
KB Home (KBH) 5.5M share Secondary priced at $18.25

Your rating: None

How ‘Stop and Frisk’ Is Too Often a Sexual Assault by Cops on Teenagers...

Teenagers are harassed and violated in ways you can't imagine.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com

January 21, 2013  |  

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Imagine you're 17 years old. A man with a gun and a badge has stopped you on the street and jammed his hand inside your pants, touching your penis. The girl you have a crush on is watching from nearby. That's the reality for many young men of color in New York City.

Stop-and-frisk is the controversial policing tactic in which street cops looking for weapons stop and pat down young men. Discussions of this policy in the media most often consist of alarming stats, like what percent of men targeted are black and brown ( 87% in New York) or the breach of constitutional rights the searches entail. But the reality on the ground is far less abstract. The policy amounts to a constant disruption of the lives of hundreds of thousands of young black and brown men. It's a belittling experience that could better described as sexual assault.

I've reported on stop and frisk for two years, and in that time I've talked to young men who have experienced stop-and-frisk, and the stories they tell are harrowing. A black teenager in Bedford-Stuyvesant described how embarrassed he was to have “old ladies” watch as his pants landed around his ankles while police searched him. A 17-year-old in the Bronx explained that police, “They go in my pants. You’re not supposed to go in my pants.” Being touched by a female police officer can be especially upsetting for adolescent males. “It’s annoying because it doesn’t matter what kind of cop it is, female or male, they’re gonna frisk you. If you say something to the female about it, the female says something to you like ‘What? I can do what I want.' And they still frisk you. You can’t say sexual harassment, nothing,” 18-year-old South Bronx resident Garnell told me last year, adding, “And they go hard, grabbing stuff they’re not supposed to.”  

A New York attorney told me last year he has video of a cop saying he just “credit card-swiped” a man’s ass -- without gloves, naturally. What kind of gun can fit between two butt cheeks? And why are cops touching penises, anyway? The answer is simple: They’re not looking for guns, but hoping to make arrests. While stop-and-frisk is only legally allowed for the purpose of uncovering weapons, it has been linked to far more low-level summonses and pot busts than guns. As 18-year-old Lower East resident “Twin” recently told me, “They run their hands down your ass crack because they think you’re hiding drugs there.” In the public housing on Baruch Street, he says police hang out until they see someone “suspicious” enough to grope.

Reporters also tend to cling to the idea that, while suspicion of unlawful activity is a legal prerequisite to a street stop, the vast majority of stops -- nearly 90% -- do not result in arrest. The 10% that do, however, deserve mention. Manhattan federal judge Shira Scheindlin recently ordered an immediate cease to police stops outside of Bronx private housing (before temporarily lifting the ban while she determines a remedy), citing the commonality of suspicionless stops. As the Bronx district attorney’s office noted this fall when it announced refusal to prosecute trespassing charges, unlawful stop-and-frisks were leading to bogus arrests. Imagine your son going to his friend’s house and missing curfew because, unable to prove he lived at the building he was exiting, he had been arrested for trespass. Or, imagine being the mother of a 12-year-old who went out to shoot hoops in Brownsville, Brooklyn -- one of the city’s most violent neighborhoods -- and was missing for hours, only to find out he had been taken down to the precinct to determine his identification following a street stop.

Never mind that they’re not old enough to drive, brown and black kids in New York carry IDs for different reasons. For older-looking teens in high stop-and-frisk neighborhoods, their first arrests came when they failed to produce valid ID during a street stop. As one community affairs officer in Brownsville told me after I inquired about the arrest of a 12-year-old without ID: “Well, does he look older?” He looked about 14 -- old enough for the NYPD to declare his underwear suspicious enough to be searched. Stop-and-frisk happens to young males in some neighborhoods so often-- almost daily, in fact -- that it becomes a part of their everyday life.

With cops regularly shoving their hands down the pants of teenagers in particular neighborhoods, it should come as no surprise that they sometimes pull out a bag of weed. In these situations, an illegal search can quickly become a bogus marijuana charge. Queens College sociologist Harry Levine’s work demonstrates that this is precisely why 50,000 New Yorkers (mostly in the same neighborhoods where stop-and-frisk is prevalent) are arrested annually for pot in public. Once the cops remove weed from a kid’s pocket, they can deem it "in public view,” a more serious offense than marijuana that is concealed. Controversy over these nonsensical arrests led NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly to send an internal memo to the NYPD, advising police that weed they bring into public view cannot be prosecuted as if the kid was smoking or waving his weed around for the cops to see. It is also why Governor Andrew Cuomo is pushing for the decriminalization of marijuana in public view. In a city full of white, bong-smoking college students, almost 90% of those arrested for pot are black or Latino.   

But it’s not just marijuana arrests that are linked to stop-and-frisk. The racial profiling tool provides the initial contact that can lead to a citation necessary to fill a quota. The NYPD follows the "Broken Windows" strategy of policing, in which a zero-tolerance policy for low-level crimes is expected to drive down more serious crimes like shootings. Thus, in the same neighborhoods where police deploy stop-and-frisk, a teen can’t ride a bike on the sidewalk without getting a ticket.

Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb: Who’s Who? Who is Behind the Terrorists?

Who is behind the terrorist group which attacked the BP -Statoil-Sonatrach In Amenas Gas Field located on the Libyan border in south eastern Algeria?  (see map below)

The operation was coordinated by Mokhtar Belmokhtar, leader of the Al Qaeda affiliated Islamist al-Mulathameen (Masked) Brigade, or “Those who Sign with Blood.” 

Belmokhtar‘ organization has been involved in the drug trade, smuggling as well kidnapping operations of foreigners in North Africa.  While his whereabouts are known, French intelligence has dubbed Belmokhtar “the uncatchable”.

Belmokhtar took responsibility on behalf of Al Qaeda for the kidnapping of 41 Western hostages including 7 Americans at the BP In Mena gas field complex.

Belmokthar, however, was not directly involved in the actual attack. The field commander of the operation was Abdul Rahman al-Nigeri, a veteran jihadist fighter from Niger, who joined Algeria’s Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC) in 2005. (Albawaba,  January 17, 2012)

The In Amenas kidnapping operation was carried out five days after the conduct of air strikes by France directed against Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) militants in northern Mali.

French special forces and Malian troops regained control of Diabaly and Konna, two small towns North of Mopti.  The town of Diabaly had apparently been taken over a few days earlier by fighters led by one of the leading AQIM commanders Abdelhamid Abou Zeid.

While the terrorist attack and kidnapping directed against the In Mena Gas plant was described as an act of revenge, it was not in any way improvised, Confirmed by analysts, the operation  had in all likelihood been planned well in advance:

“European and U.S. officials say the raid was almost certainly too elaborate to have been planned in so short a time, although the French campaign could have been one trigger for fighters to launch an assault they had already prepared.”

According to recent reports (January 20, 2012) there are some 80 casualties, including hostages and jihadist fighters. There were several hundred workers at the gas plant, most of whom were Algerian. “Of those rescued, only 107 out of 792 workers were foreign”, according to the Algerian Ministry of Interior. 

The British and French governments laid the blame on the jihadists. News reports confirm, however, that a large number of the deaths of both the hostages and the Islamic fighters was the result of the bombing raids led by Algerian forces.

“The deaths were incurred when Algerian forces bombed the compound, leading to the deaths of 23 hostages and 32 militants.”

Negotiations with the captors, which could have saved lives, had not been seriously contemplated by either the Algerian or Western governments. The militants had demanded an end to France’s attacks in northern Mali in return for the safety of the hostages. Al Qaeda leader Belmokhtar had stated:

“We are ready to negotiate with the West and the Algerian government provided they stop their bombing of Mali’s Muslims”

Within the ranks of the jihadists were mercenaries from a number of Muslim countries including Libya (yet to be confirmed) as well as fighters from Western countries.

 The Al Qaeda Organization in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIQ). Who’s Who’s? 

There are a number of affiliated groups which are actively involved in northern Mali: Al-Qaeda Organization in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) led by Abdelmalek Droukdel, “the emir of al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb”, Ansar Ed-Dine led by Iyad Ag Ghaly, and the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJWA). (The Armed Islamic Group, or Groupe islamique armé (GIA) which was prominent in the 1990s is largely defunct. Its members have joined AQIM).

The National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad  (MNLA) is a Tuareg secular nationalist and independence movement.

In September 2006, the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC) joined forces with Al Qaeda. The GSPC was founded byHassan Hattab a former GIA commander.

In January 2007,  the group officially changed its name to the “Al-Qaeda Organization in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). Also in early 2007, the newly formed AQIM established a close relationship to the Libya Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG).

The commanders of the GSPC had been inspired by the religious teaching of Salafism in Saudi Arabia, which historically played an important role in the training of the Mujahideen in Afghanistan.

The history of AQIM jihadist commanders is of significance in addressing the broader issue: Who is behind the various Al Qaeda affiliated factions? Who is supporting the terrorists? What political and economic interests are being served?

The Washington based Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) traces back the origins of AQIM to the Soviet Afghan war:

Most of AQIM’s major leaders are believed to have trained in Afghanistan during the 1979-1989 war against the Soviets as part of a group of North African volunteers known as “Afghan Arabs” that returned to the region and radicalized Islamist movements in the years that followed. The group is divided into “katibas” or briga+des, which are clustered into different and often independent cells.

The group’s top leader, or emir, since 2004 has been  Abdelmalek Droukdel, also known as Abou Mossab Abdelwadoud, a trained engineer and explosives expert who has fought in Afghanistan and has roots with the GIA in Algeria. It is under Droukdel’s leadership that AQIM declared France as its main target. One of the “most violent and radical” AQIM leaders is Abdelhamid Abou Zeid, according to counterterrorism experts. Abou Zied is linked to several kidnappings and executions of Europeans in the region. (CFR, http://www.cfr.org/north-africa/al-qaeda-islamic-maghreb-aqim/p12717

What the CFR report fails to mention is that the Islamic jihad in Afghanistan was a CIA initiative, initially launched in 1979 during the Carter administration. It was actively supported by president Ronald Reagan throughout the 1980s.

In 1979 the largest covert operation in the history of the CIA was launched in Afghanistan.  Wahabi missionaries from Saudi Arabia set up the Coranic schools (madrassahs) in Pakistan and Afghanistan. The Islamic textbooks used in the madrassahs were printed and published in Nebraska.

Covert funding was channeled to the Mujahideen with the support of the CIA:

“With the active encouragement of the CIA and Pakistan’s ISI, who wanted to turn the Afghan Jihad into a global war waged by all Muslim states against the Soviet Union, some 35,000 Muslim radicals from 40 Islamic countries joined Afghanistan’s fight between 1982 and 1992. Tens of thousands more came to study in Pakistani madrasahs. Eventually, more than 100,000 foreign Muslim radicals were directly influenced by the Afghan jihad.” (Ahmed Rashid, “The Taliban: Exporting Extremism”, Foreign Affairs, November-December 1999).

The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), using Pakistan’s military Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), played a key role in training the Mujahideen. In turn, the CIA-sponsored guerrilla training was integrated with the teachings of Islam:

In March 1985, President Reagan signed National Security Decision Directive 166,…[which] authorize[d] stepped-up covert military aid to the Mujahideen, and it made clear that the secret Afghan war had a new goal: to defeat Soviet troops in Afghanistan through covert action and encourage a Soviet withdrawal. The new covert U.S. assistance began with a dramatic increase in arms supplies — a steady rise to 65,000 tons annually by 1987… as well as a “ceaseless stream” of CIA and Pentagon specialists who traveled to the secret headquarters of Pakistan’s ISI on the main road near Rawalpindi, Pakistan. There the CIA specialists met with Pakistani intelligence officers to help plan operations for the Afghan rebels.” (Steve Coll, Washington Post, July 19, 1992)

Mokhtar Belmokhtar, mastermind behind the terrorist attack on the In Mena gas plant, founding member of AQIM was trained and recruited by the CIA in Afghanistan.Belmokhtar  had been enlisted at age 19 as a Mujahideen to fight within the ranks of Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, at a time when the CIA and its Pakistani affiliate the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) were actively supporting the jihadists in both recruitment and training.Mokhtar Belmokhtar fought in the Afghan “civil war”.  He returned to Algeria in 1993 and joined the GSPC.  Belmokhtar’s history and involvement in Afghanistan suggests that he was a US sponsored “intelligence asset”.

The Role of America’s Allies, Saudi Arabia and Qatar

Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) from the outset in 2007 had established a close relationship to the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), whose leaders had also been trained and recruited in Afghanistan bu the CIA. The LIFG is supported covertly by the CIA and Britain’s MI6.

The LIFG  was directly supported by NATO during the 2011 war on Libya, “providing weapons, training, special forces and even aircraft to support them in the overthrow of Libya’s government.” ( http://www.globalresearch.ca/geopolitical-reordering-and-dirty-tricks-us-covert-support-to-al-qaeda-in-northern-mali-france-comes-to-the-rescue/5318614. British SAS Special Forces had been brought into Libya prior to onset of the insurrection, acting as mlitary advisers to the LIFG.

More recently, reports confirm that AQIM has received weapons from the Libya Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG). LIFG mercenaries have integrated AQIM brigades. According to commander Mokhtar Belmokhtar who coordinated the In Mena operation:

“We have been one of the main beneficiaries of the revolutions in the Arab world. As for our benefiting from the (Libyan) weapons, this is a natural thing in these kinds of circumstances.” http://www.hanford.gov/c.cfm/oci/ci_terrorist.cfm?dossier=174

The BP In Amenas plant is located directly on the Libyan border. One suspects that there was a contingent of Libya Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) combatants involved in the operation.

AQIM also has ties to the Al Nusra Front in Syria which is supported covertly by Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb is indelibly tied into a Western intelligence agenda. It is described  as ” one of the region’s wealthiest, best-armed militant groups”, financed covertly by Saui Arabia and Qatar.

France’s  Canard enchaîné revealed (June 2012) that Qatar (a staunch ally of the United States) has been funding various terrorist entities in Mali including the Salafist Ansar Ed-Dine:

Both the Tuareg rebels of the MNLA (independence and laity), Ansar Eddine, AQIM (Al Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb) and Mujao (Jihad in West Africa) were assisted with dollars from Qatar, according to one report  (The Examiner)

The satirical French paper Canard Enchaîné reported [June 2012] that Qatar has allegedly been funding armed groups in northern Mali made their way into Algerian and west African outlets.

Suspicions that Ansar Ed-Dine, the main pro-shari’ah armed group in the region, has been receiving funding from Qatar has circulated in Mali for several months.

Reports (as yet unconfirmed) that a ‘Qatari’ aircraft landed at Gao, full of weapons, money and drugs, for example, emerged near the beginning of the conflict.

The original report cites a French military intelligence report as indicating that Qatar has provided financial support to all three of the main armed groups in northern Mali: Iyad Ag Ghali’s Ansar Ed-Dine, al-Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJWA).

The amount of funding given to each of the groups is not mentioned but it mentions repeated reports from the French DGSE to the Defense Ministry have mentioned Qatar’s support for ‘terrorism’ in northern Mali. (emphasis added)

The role of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb as an intelligence asset must be carefully assessed. The Islamic insurgency creates conditions which favor the political destabilization of Mali as a nation state. What geopolitical interests have been served?

 Concluding Remarks: “The American Sudan”

In a bitter irony, the kidnapping operation in Southern Algeria and the tragedy resulting from the Algerian led military “rescue” operation provide a humanitarian justification for Western military intervention led by US Africom.  The latter not only pertains to Mali and Algeria. It could also include the broader region extending  across the Sahelian belt, from Mauritania to the borders of Sudan.

This process of escalation is part of US military and strategic road-map, a followup to the US-NATO 2011 war on Libya.

It is a project of neo-colonial conquest by the US over a vast area.

While France is the former colonial power, intervening on behalf of Washington, the end-game is to eventually exclude France from the Maghreb and sub-Saharan Africa. This displacement of France as a colonial power has been ongoing since the war of Indochina.

While the US is prepared in the short-run to share the spoils of war with France, Washington’s ultimate objective is to redraw the map of the African continent, and eventually, to transform francophone Africa into an American sphere of influence.

What is at stake is a vast territory which during the colonial period included French West Africa and French Equatorial Africa. Mali during the French period was referred to as the French Sudan.

Ironically, this process of weakening and eventually excluding France from francophone Africa has been carried out with the tacit endorsement of  both (former) president Nicolas Sarkozy and Francois Hollande, both of whom are serving US interests to the detriment of the French Republic.

The militarization of the African continent is part of the mandate of US Africom. The longer term goal is to exert geopolitical control over of a vast area, which historically has been within the French sphere of influence.  This area is an El Dorado of  oil, natural gas, gold, uranium and strategic minerals.

The colonial redivision of Africa decided at the 1885-86 Berlin Conference (right). For the maps of French colonial Africa, see below.

“The PirateBox”: WiFi + USB Drive = Your Own Mini-Internet (Freedom)

internet1

Worried about draconian Internet laws? Creeping surveillance? The inability to share with others without being criminalized? The Internet is still a tool of tremendous power, but a deep rot has set in. We have caught it early and we are fighting to stop this rot, but there are other options we can begin exploring to hedge our bets, enhance our current efforts of fighting against corporate monopolies, and eventually, build an Internet of the people, by the people, for the people – big-telecom monopolies not welcomed.

Image: The PirateBox in use on a handheld device. Once the PirateBox is up and running, either on a standalone device like the one pictured to the right (background), or on your laptop as described here, it will appear as another WiFi network for people in range to connect to. Once connected files can be freely shared, and there is even a chat client users can communicate with. It is just as useful as a file server for a small business, as it is for circumventing the draconian criminalization of Internet file sharing. 

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In last week’s “Fighting Back Against the “Intellectual Property” Racket,” the “PirateBox” was introduced. The PirateBox transforms a laptop, router, or single board computer into a mini-Internet hub where files can be freely shared, and even features a chat program so users can communicate. It is a lite version of the mesh networks described in December 2012′s “Decentralizing Telecom” where independent mesh networks featured many software alternatives to emulate popular online programs such as Facebook, Twitter, Blogger, and others. The PirateBox is an introductory project anyone with a WiFi adapter and a USB thumbdrive can do on their own with a little motivation and an hour to experiment.

In a busy office, a PirateBox can serve as a simple local wireless file server and chat client. In an apartment complex, it can become the center of a social experiment, an opportunity to reach out to neighbors and organize constructively, or just for fun – building badly needed local communities back up.

Instructions for perhaps the easiest of PirateBox’s implementations can be found on blogger, designer, and activist David Darts’ website here. The instructions are nearly fool proof, and a lot of the common problems ran into are described and their solutions linked to throughout the explanation.

The PirateBox does not connect to the Internet, nor does it operate from your hard drive. It works entirely on the USB thumbdrive you install it on, simply using your computer’s WiFi to network all who are in range.

Ideally you’d want to make a dedicated, standalone PirateBox to serve your space, office, and neighbors. A great place for beginners to embark on this is at your local hackerspace. If you don’t have a local hackerspace, look into starting one up.

Protesting is important, but protesting alone will not stem the problem at its source. The rot will continue to spread unless we develop tangible tools to pragmatically excise it and repair the damage it has already done. The problem of corporate monopolies ensnaring and subjugating us through their telecom monopolies can and is being solved by solutions like mesh networks, the PirateBox, and the onward march of open source software and hardware, simply displacing proprietary products and services. The best way to ensure success is to have as many informed and constructive people as possible join in the problem-solving process.

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Since posting about the PirateBox, LocalOrg has received several success stories of people who have either already been using it, or have looked into it, prompting this follow up. Continue sharing your success, and if you would like, contact us and have them covered here on LocalOrg.

Tesco in horse meat burger apology

Supermarket giant Tesco has placed full-page adverts in a number of UK national newspapers apologising to customers for selling beef burgers containing horse meat.

It has also promised to refund customers who bought the contaminated products, and said sorry for the "unacceptable" situation.

The apology came as a food expert claimed horse meat could have been in beef burgers for years, but remained undetected because of insufficient food regulation. The UK's food watchdog, the Food Standards Agency (FSA), is also considering taking legal action against companies at the centre of the scandal.

Tesco promised refunds to customers who had bought the contaminated products, which it identified as Tesco Everyday Value 8 x Frozen Beef Burgers (397g), Tesco 4 x Frozen Beef Quarter Pounders (454g), and a branded product, Flamehouse Frozen Chargrilled Quarter Pounders.

In the advertisement entitled "We apologise", Tesco said: "While the FSAI (Food Safety Authority of Ireland) has said that the products pose no risk to public health, we appreciate that, like us, our customers will find this absolutely unacceptable. We have immediately withdrawn from sale all products from the supplier in question, from all our stores and online... We and our supplier have let you down and we apologise. So here's our promise. We will find out exactly what happened and, when we do, we'll come back and tell you. And we will work harder than ever with all our suppliers to make sure this never happens again." The apology came as a reported £300 million (360 million euro) was wiped off Tesco's stock market value.

The FSA said it would consult relevant local authorities and the FSAI over whether to take action against any organisations embroiled in the controversy. But it was criticised for not carrying out tests in the past because horse meat posed no threat to public health, the Daily Telegraph said. Tim Lang, a professor of food policy at City University in London, told the newspaper: "It could have been going on for years but we wouldn't know about it because we have never conducted tests. For too long we have had light-touch regulation. The Food Standards Agency has to be institutionalised into taking a more critical approach. They have to work on the assumption that things could go wrong." After a meeting with food industry representatives, the FSA said it would continue its review of the traceability of the food products identified in an FSAI survey, which uncovered the scandal. It also said it would try to further understand how the lower levels of horse and pig meat contamination took place and help to carry out a UK-wide study of food authenticity in meat products.

Meanwhile, the food company at the centre of the scandal vowed to adopt strict DNA testing of its products to prevent a repeat. The ABP Food Group, one of Europe's biggest suppliers and processors, is being investigated by health and agriculture authorities in the UK and Ireland over the controversy. Two of its subsidiaries, Silvercrest Foods in Ireland and Dalepak Hambleton in Yorkshire, supplied beef burgers with traces of equine DNA to supermarkets, including one product classed as 29% horse. An ABP spokesman said: "It is vital that the integrity of the supply chain is assured and we are committed to restoring consumer confidence."

A third company, Liffey Meats, based in Co Cavan, was also found to be supplying products to supermarkets with traces of horse DNA. Liffey Meats said it believed horse DNA was originally contained in raw ingredient marked "bovine only" and supplied by an EU approved factory. It said the traces of horse in three of its products were minute. "Liffey Meats has never produced, purchased or traded any equine products," the company said. "Ingredients were supplied from an EU approved plant and were certified from bovine sources only. We now believe that such imported raw ingredients were the ultimate source of the DNA traces found in some of our products." Liffey Meats is also DNA testing all ingredients at its Ballyjamesduff plant.

The results of the FSAI survey, verified in laboratories in Germany, showed low levels of horse in beef products sold in Tesco, Lidl, Aldi, Iceland and Dunnes Stores in Ireland. Some burgers were also being sold in the UK but retailers insisted all suspect brands had been taken off the shelves within hours of the findings being released. Ten million burgers have been taken off shelves as a result of the scandal.

Simon Coveney, Ireland's Agriculture and Food Minister, said the issue should not be seen in the same light as BSE or a dioxin scare in Irish pork meat from four years ago. "There's no health issue here. But I'm not comfortable eating horse meat like lots of others," he said. "But that's not the issue. The issue is if someone has consumed a burger and something was in that burger that they did not know about. There's no health risk with that." Concerns have also been raised over the extent of reputational damage to Ireland's food industry, worth nine billion euro last year. "There is a serious issue here because of that," Mr Coveney said. "The most important issue here is that our systems have worked. They have flagged a problem and we have to deal with that problem and I think we need to deal with that quickly." The minister said he was confident buyers of Irish food would not pull the plug on deals. "It's important to understand that most of the beef and meat product that gets exported out of Ireland is fresh meat," he said.

Aaron Swartz: Reddit Co-Founder Killed Himself Due to Government Censorship and Harassment?

Reddit co-founder and free speech activist Aaron Swartz killed himself due to government censorship and harassment. (He was probably clinically depressed and apparently committed suicide; no one is alleging that he was murdered.)

A New Sheriff (Make That Business Model) Is Coming to Town For US Wireless...

This is one of those pieces where, after reading it you say "Damn, why didn't I think of that!".. By demonstrating how Google is transforming the telecomm landscape, I may actually save up to $5,700 for at least a quarter of the readers who are perusing this blog. Yes, it's for real, and its a benefit of the "knowlege how" mentality that I described in my previous pieces on education. You'll see where I'm coming from once you get to the long graphic below...

T-Mobile has had a serious problem competing with the big boys of US wireless carriers. They are the only one not to carry the iPhone. This, in my opinion, was a wise move for the subsidy game has been a money loser from the get go, and although the iPhone is still selling like hotcakes, those hotcakes are looking much cooler as Andrioid sales have taken off. Still, T-Mobile doesn't seem content, so it decided to do what most of the carriers should have done a long time ago. T-Mobile is breaking the wireless carrier contract hegemony and offering pure service without the BS. For ANYONE who can count, this makes the decision to go with T-Mobile as brainless a decision as the sneeze is a reflex reaction. Let me count the ways...

Rip Up The Contract & You Reduce The Risk For Both The Carrier & The Consumer. As A Matter Of Fact, Only Fat Margined Hardware Vendors Have Anything To Fear - Oh Yeah, As Well As Those Carriers That Still Rely On Contracts!

The grand disruptor, Google, has been trying to break the grip the carriers have had on the smartphone industry for years, starting with the introduction of the Nexus phone which it sold direct to consumers online. The propeller heads at Google figured they would offer a better product at a lower price and people would simply flock in to buy it. Said propeller heads apparently didn't understand people. They won't always do what's best for them, but they will buy what is sold to them. So this time around, with 3rd (or 4th?) iteration of the Nexus phone, Google has paired with a major carrier in addition to selling it direct. Now, Google sole the last Nexus through Verizon, but Verizon crippled the device in attempt at carrier lock-in - an old school, naive and ultimately self destructive move, in my humble opinion.

Now, T-Mobile will be offering the device (it's already in stores, just not officially selling yet) and will offer it unlocked, off contract, for its original (not inflated like other carriers) price of $299, and with its original capabilities. This device is state of the art, btw, and blows the iPhone 5 out of the water in practically every way. Keep in mind that an iPhone 5 would retail at your local carrier retail store for $200 to $300, subsidized, tied to a 2 year contract. You can buy a far superior device outright for just about the subsidy downpayment of an iPhone.

One of the best devices on the market, approximately  1.5x the device the iPhone 5 is for roughly half the price! $299

Google Now. Amazing Photo Sphere camera. Totally wireless... OR you can pick up a very good Chinese phablet for even less....

ZOPO ZP950

Short Description

- 5.7 inch HD screen, 1280*720 pixel display
- 1GB RAM + 4GB ROM
- 1GHz dual-core MTK MT6577 processor
- Support 3G network: GSM 850/900/1800/1900 & WCDMA 850/2100 MHz
- 8MP rear camera + 2MP front camera

Price: $279

OR you can pick up a smaller form factor for over $100 less...

Zopo ZP500 Libero ICS SMARTPHONE

These are actually very good devices , without compromise. They are, in my opinion, more desirable in terms of functionality than the iPhone 5. For less than the contract sign up price for an iPhone of ATT/Sprint/Verizon late model phone, you can fully purchase one of these devices and pay for the first month of service - contract free, free to leave the county, and free to change carriers or quiet at will. That's not the gist of it...

A Smart Mentality For Dumb Pipes

 T-Mobile may actually profit where other companies take a loss by eliminating the expensive and risk subsidy/contract trap. In addiion, it will pull head of the pack by recognizing what it is, and being aware of what it is not. T-Mobile, like the other carriers (they just don't know it yet) is a utility. It's a dumb pipe through which Goog;e's customers pump data. It is not a software programmer or development house like Microsoft (so it has finally stopped trying to skin Android), and it is not a transaction company (so it has stopped trying to compete with Google Wallet). It is not a content company (so it does not attempt to compete with Netflix, Amazon or iTunes). Unfortunately, the other carriers haven't realized this yet. As a result, although they are bigger and better funded, the new T-Mobile is posed to change the industry. In recognizing that it is a dumb pipe that should compete on data throughput, volume and quality, it is on the road to creating a new business model of being a smart pipe - just as handset makers moved from dumb phones to smart phones. In order to do that though, they will need a change in mindset.

The Performance Trap: Is LTE Really the next big thing or just a thing carriers use to charge you more?

Verizon, Sprint, Metro PCS (a MVNO reseller) and AT&T all market their 4G LTE services heavily. They also charge accordingly. I purchased a Galaxy 3 LTE phone and ran up a $150 bill within 18 days (that's right, I was just over halfway through the monthly billing cycle), without even trying. I called customer service, and they offered me a $50 credit, but the damage was done. I returned the phone forthwith. T-Mobile offers its HSPDA+ service as 4G, and it is actually quite fast for what is considered an antiquated technology. As excerpted from Fiercewirelss.com and Rootmetrics:

RootMetrics: Average download and upload speeds

To the average user, T-Mobile's speeds will barely noticeable in terms of difference from AT&T. Uploads may be noticeably slower, though. Verizon seems to blow them both out of the water, but there is this real life consideration of cost  real life perofrmance issues that comes into question. With that, the equation changes considerably. The battery life on T-Mobile's HSPDA+ is practically twice that off the same devices running LTE. Until better tech is released, LTE is not a valid all day, battery operated solution IMO. Then there's the issue of cost. Uh Oh!!!!...

Price vs. Performance

Let's look at the monthly cash flows.... Yes! You actually SAVE $5,500 per bi-annual cell phone contract. Read carefully and thank me later... Click to enlarge...

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I will hold an interactive video chat on this topic at approximately 9:45 am, Friday the 11th in the Valuable Knowledge Community on Google+. I welcome all to attend.

Who ultimately benefits? 

First, you, the consumer. Thsi competition is very good. The second beneficiary also happens to be the one that started this mess in the first place, Google! You see, Google is a data company, and data companies need bandwidth. The more cheap bandwidth you have access to, the more data you will be prompted to move, access, save, search for, request and engage with. The cheaper the hardware, the more hardware you will use. The more advanced the hardware, the more you will do with it. "Do what", you ask? Do data! Do Google! This is what Android is truly all about. This is why its free! This is why Google is poised to take over the (data) world. All of those armchair pundits and silly sell side guys who constantly quip about Google not making money on Android sound similar to those who scream, "But that damn fox is not making a dime on the free trips the chicken taxi is making to the chicken coops!" "'Hens R Us' makes more fare on transporting those chickens to the fox hole than Mr. Fox does!" Yeah! Think about it for a few seconds. That's all it takes in terms of critical thought to comprehend the Google business model. Yes, sometimes it is hard to see that forest with all of the tree bark in the way...

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The Wicked Brew That Would Be Transported in the Keystone XL Pipeline

The pipeline isn't for oil, it's for a toxic fossil fuel cocktail called “DilBit.”

January 7, 2013  |  

Photo Credit: Will Wysong / Flickr

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This article was published in partnership with  GlobalPossibilities.org.

The massive exploitation of Alberta tar sands may be the biggest environmental crime in history and a new benchmark for sacrifice of public health to corporate profit.

It's so much more than converting an area of boreal forest the size of England into a cankerous and lifeless open sore bleeding tar. It's more than decimating some of the world’s last wild forests—home to 35% of Canada’s wetlands. And it's more than attacking Earth’s biosphere with a carbon weapon of mass destruction.

How far has corporate depravity driven corporate disregard for life on Earth? The exploitation of the Alberta tar sands goes the distance with the Keystone XL pipeline.

In December 11, 2012 an L.A. Times article by Molly Hennessy-Fiske revealed that Jack Sinz, Texas County Court at Law Judge, lifted his restraining order that delayed a portion of TransCanada’s Keystone XL running through eastern Texas. The restraining order resulted from landowner Michael Bishop filing suit to halt pipeline construction on his property because TransCanada fraudulently promised that Keystone XL would transport “crude oil”.

TransCanada lawyers convinced Judge Sinz that Michael Bishop “...understood what he was doing when he signed off on an easement agreement with the company three weeks ago.”

TransCanada spokesman Shawn Howard stated: “TransCanada has been open and transparent with Mr. Bishop at all times.” Then Mr. Howard further illuminates the howler of TransCanada being open and transparent: “Since Mr. Bishop signed his agreement with TransCanada, nothing about the pipeline or the product it will carry has changed. While professional activists and others have made the same claims Mr. Bishop did today, oil is oil.”

Problem is, oil is exactly what Keystone pipeline does not pipe.

Raw bitumen diluted with up to 50% natural gas liquids (condensates) at 1,440 pounds per square inch (psi) pressure, and temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit—that’s what Keystone XL pipes, a wicked brew called, “DilBit”.

What's DilBit?

That depends.

TransCanada’s spokesman, Shawn Howard, said, “...oil is oil”. But that's hardly the case. The massive exploitation of Alberta tar sands (MEATS) and Keystone XL advocates cultivate public misconception of DilBit being “crude oil”. A dangerous ruse spanning pipeline safety regulations to pipeline technology and leak detection...back to public awareness. Pawning off DilBit as crude oil is TransCanada’s public-relations Job Number One—except when it comes to the IRS.

The oil industry pays an eight-cents-per-barrel tax on crude oil produced in or imported to the U.S., proceeds earmarked for the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund that covers cleanup costs for oil spills. But in 2011, at the request of a company whose identity is kept secret, an exemption was made that frees DilBit from this tax because, as the secret company made clear: “oil” from Canada’s tar sands is so different (chemistry, behavior, how it’s produced) that it should not be considered crude oil.

Texas, and federal statutory codes define crude oil as "liquid hydrocarbons extracted from the earth at atmospheric temperatures”. Simple enough, DilBit is not crude oil.

Alberta bitumen is strip-mined and steam-melted from sands and silts; it takes two tons of earth, three barrels of water, and lots of natural gas to extract one barrel of raw bitumen , which is almost a solid.

MEATS currently consumes, per day, enough natural gas to heat 3 million Canadian homes, and fouls 400 million gallons of water. Wastewater is pumped into immense tailing ponds rich in arsenic, cyanide, ammonia, cadmium, lead, mercury, nickel, zinc -- not to mention the biocidal gumbo of hydrocarbons -- sixty-five square miles of tailing ponds, so far.