Friday, March 19, 2010

Fed loses appeal; must disclose bailout details

Federal Reserve Must Disclose Bank Bailout Records

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The Federal Reserve Board must disclose documents identifying financial firms that might have collapsed without the largest U.S. government bailout ever, a federal appeals court said.

The U.S. Court of Appeals in Manhattan ruled today that the Fed must release records of the unprecedented $2 trillion U.S. loan program launched primarily after the 2008 collapse of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. The ruling upholds a decision of a lower-court judge, who in August ordered that the information be released.

The Fed had argued that disclosure of the documents threatens to stigmatize borrowers and cause them “severe and irreparable competitive injury,” discouraging banks in distress from seeking help. A three-judge panel of the appeals court rejected that argument in a unanimous decision.

The U.S. Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA, “sets forth no basis for the exemption the Board asks us to read into it,” U.S. Circuit Chief Judge Dennis Jacobs wrote in the opinion. “If the Board believes such an exemption would better serve the national interest, it should ask Congress to amend the statute.”

The opinion may not be the final word in the bid for the documents, which was launched by Bloomberg LP, the parent of Bloomberg News, with a November 2008 lawsuit. The Fed may seek a rehearing or appeal to the full appeals court and eventually petition the U.S. Supreme Court.

Right to Know

If today’s ruling is upheld or not appealed by the Fed, it will have to disclose the requested records. That may lead to “catastrophic” results, including demands for the instant disclosure of banks seeking help from the Fed, resulting in a “death sentence” for such financial institutions, said Chris Kotowski, a bank analyst at Oppenheimer & Co. in New York.

“Whenever the Fed extends funds to a bank, it should be disclosed in private to the Congressional oversight committees, but to release it to the public I think would be a horrific mistake,” Kotowski said in an interview. “It would stigmatize the banks, it would lead to all kinds of second-guessing of the Fed, and I don’t see what public purpose is served by it.”

Senator Bernie Sanders, an Independent from Vermont, said the decision was a “major victory” for U.S. taxpayers.

“This money does not belong to the Federal Reserve,” Sanders said in a statement. “It belongs to the American people, and the American people have a right to know where more than $2 trillion of their money has gone.”

Fed Review

The Fed is reviewing the decision and considering its options for reconsideration or appeal, Fed spokesman David Skidmore said.

“We’re obviously pleased with the court’s decision, which is an important affirmation of the public’s right to know what its government is up to,” said Thomas Golden, a partner at New York-based Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP and Bloomberg’s outside counsel.

The court was asked to decide whether loan records are covered by FOIA. Historically, the type of government documents sought in the case has been protected from public disclosure because they might reveal competitive trade secrets.

The Fed had argued that it could withhold the information under an exemption that allows federal agencies to refuse disclosure of “trade secrets and commercial or financial information obtained from a person and privileged or confidential.”

Payment Processors

The Clearing House Association, which processes payments among banks, joined the case and sided with the Fed. The group includes ABN Amro Bank NV, a unit of Royal Bank of Scotland Plc, Bank of America Corp., The Bank of New York Mellon Corp., Citigroup Inc., Deutsche Bank AG, HSBC Holdings Plc, JPMorgan Chase & Co., US Bancorp and Wells Fargo & Co.

Paul Saltzman, general counsel for the Clearing House, said the decision did not address the “fundamental issue” of whether disclosure would “competitively harm” borrower banks.

“The Second Circuit declined to follow the decisions of other circuit courts recognizing that disclosure of certain confidential information can impair the effectiveness of government programs, such as lending programs,” Saltzman said in a statement.

The Clearing House is considering whether to ask for a rehearing by the full Second Circuit and, ultimately, review by the U.S. Supreme Court, he said.

Deep Crisis

Oscar Suris, a spokesman for Wells Fargo, JPMorgan spokeswoman Jennifer Zuccarelli, Bank of New York Mellon spokesman Kevin Heine, HSBC spokeswoman Juanita Gutierrez and RBS spokeswoman Linda Harper all declined to comment. Deutsche Bank spokesman Ronald Weichert couldn’t immediately comment. Bank of America declined to comment, Scott Silvestri said. Citigroup spokeswoman Shannon Bell declined to comment. U.S. Bancorp spokesman Steve Dale didn’t return phone and e-mail messages seeking comment.

Bloomberg, majority-owned by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, sued after the Fed refused to name the firms it lent to or disclose loan amounts or assets used as collateral under its lending programs. Most of the loans were made in response to the deepest financial crisis since the Great Depression.

Lawyers for Bloomberg argued in court that the public has the right to know basic information about the “unprecedented and highly controversial use” of public money.

“Bloomberg has been trying for almost two years to break down a brick wall of secrecy in order to vindicate the public’s right to learn basic information,” Golden wrote in court filings.

Potential Harm

Banks and the Fed warned that bailed-out lenders may be hurt if the documents are made public, causing a run or a sell- off by investors. Disclosure may hamstring the Fed’s ability to deal with another crisis, they also argued.

Much of the debate at the appeals court argument on Jan. 11 centered on the potential harm to banks if it was revealed that they borrowed from the Fed’s so-called discount window. Matthew Collette, a lawyer for the government, said banks don’t do that unless they have liquidity problems.

FOIA requires federal agencies to make government documents available to the press and public. An exception to the statute protects trade secrets and privileged or confidential financial data. In her Aug. 24 ruling, U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska in New York said the exception didn’t apply because there’s no proof banks would suffer.

Tripartite Test

In its opinion today, the appeals court said that the exception applies only if the agency can satisfy a three-part test. The information must be a trade secret or commercial or financial in character; must be obtained from a person; and must be privileged or confidential, according to the opinion.

The court said that the information sought by Bloomberg was not “obtained from” the borrowing banks. It rejected an alternative argument the individual Federal Reserve Banks are “persons,” for purposes of the law because they would not suffer the kind of harm required under the “privileged and confidential” requirement of the exemption.

In a related case, U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein in New York previously sided with the Fed and refused to order the agency to release Fed documents that Fox News Network sought. The appeals court today returned that case to Hellerstein and told him to order the Fed to conduct further searches for documents and determine whether the documents should be disclosed.

“We are pleased that this information is finally, and rightfully, going to be made available to the American public,” said Kevin Magee, Executive Vice President of Fox Business Network, in a statement.

Balance Sheet Debt

The Fed’s balance sheet debt doubled after lending standards were relaxed following Lehman’s failure on Sept. 15, 2008. That year, the Fed began extending credit directly to companies that weren’t banks for the first time since the 1930s. Total central bank lending exceeded $2 trillion for the first time on Nov. 6, 2008, reaching $2.14 trillion on Sept. 23, 2009.

More than a dozen other groups or companies filed friend- of-the-court briefs. Those arguing for disclosure of the records included the American Society of News Editors and individual news organizations.

“It’s gratifying that the court recognizes the considerable interest in knowing what is being done with our tax dollars,” said Lucy Dalglish, executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press in Arlington, Virginia.

“We’ve learned some powerful lessons in the last 18 months that citizens need to pay more attention to what’s going on in the financial world. This decision will make it easier to do that.”

The case is Bloomberg LP v. Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, 09-04083, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit (New York).

U.S. Revokes Visa of Irish Anti-Renditions Activist

U.S. Revokes Visa of Irish Anti-Renditions Activist

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The North Carolina News Observer reports in a March 15 article that the co-founder of ShannonWatch, Edward Horgan, a well-known Irish activist and former Irish Defense Force officer, has had his 10-year, multiple-entry U.S. visa revoked without explanation. Horgan and others believe it is because of his principled stand against the U.S. use of renditions, and in particular, the use of Shannon Airport in western Ireland as a stopover for U.S. rendition flights. ShannonWatch has documented the use of the airport as a stopover for CIA rendition flights (see their page documenting such flights).

As the NO article by Christina Cowger and Robin Kirk notes, Horgan is no long-haired radical, or bomb-making terrorist. He has been a UN peace keeper, and monitored “elections in places like Ghana, Armenia, Zimbabwe, East Timor and Ukraine.” According to his online resume, he has worked with the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and the European Union. He is getting his Ph.D. in international relations at the University of Limerick. He is also now persona non grata in Barack Obama’s supposedly more open and transparent United States.

According to Cowger and Kirk:

Last year, Horgan visited the United States to see family and attend the presidential inauguration. But this year, while observing elections in frigid Kiev, he learned that his 10-year, multiple-entry U.S. visa had been revoked.

The reason? No official will say, though Horgan is scheduled to attend an April conference at Duke University to speak about his opposition to extraordinary rendition.

In fact, Horgan is still listed on the speakers panel for the Duke conference — “Weaving a Net of Accountability: Taking on extraordinary rendition at the state and regional level” — along with Scott Horton; rendition victim and CIA black site torture survivor and Guantanamo prisoner, Bisher al-Rawi; psychologist-activist, and president of Psychologists for Social Responsibility, Stephen Soldz; ACLU Senior Staff Attorney Steven Watt; Co-director of the International Human Rights Clinic, Margaret Satterthwaite; and others. Christina Cowger, who, I should note, wrote the NO article referenced here, is also listed as a speaker, affiliated with North Carolina Stop Torture Now.

It seems reasonable to assume, lacking any other evidence, that Horgan is being politically targeted by the Obama administration. This is the kind of behavior we came to expect in the days of Bush and Cheney. But it goes with the territory. Barack Obama decided in the first weeks of his administration to maintain the previous administration’s rendition program, complete with fig-leaf assurances that U.S. authorities would receive no-harm promises from Egypt, Morocco, Jordan, and other rendition destination sites known for wide-spread use of torture. No human rights organization believes that promise, and U.S. State Department Human Rights Country Reports have strongly criticized many of these countries for their use of torture, arbitrary detention and prison conditions.

In Working Document No. 8 (PDF), the European Union (EU) last year summarized its investigation into CIA use of European countries for the Bush rendition program. The report notes, by the way, “It is worth to remind that, in many occasions, it is not only the CIA the single organiser of the flights included in this working document… but also other entities of US administration, among [them] the Department of Defence…”

Documenting U.S. Rendition Flights in Europe

The Working Document reports over 1000 rendition flights between the end of 2001 and the end of 2005, including the “extraordinary renditions” of Abu Omar, Maher Arar, Khaled el-Masri, Ahmed al-Giza, Mohamed El-Zari, Binyam Mohammed, Bisher al Rawi, Jamil El-Banna, Abou Elkassim Britel, among others. With destinations in Jordan, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Egypt, Morocco, Iraq, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, Libya, Guantanamo and elsewhere, these flights had stopovers in all 25 EU countries, as well as Romania, Iceland, Switzerland, Albania, Turkey, and elsewhere.

Truly, the scope of the U.S. rendition program was world-wide, and no one really knows the full extent of the massive kidnapping and torture operation. One of the airlines associated with CIA renditions, Aero Contractors, is based in Smithfield, North Carolina.

The Obama administration has done its best, as well, to keep the lid on accountability for these crimes, using legal maneuvers to keep suits by rendition victims out of the courts, citing expanded views of “state secrets” privilege to shut down such cases. The ACLU suit against Boeing subsidiary Jeppesen DataPlan is one of the key legal cases the U.S. has tried to squelch by the use of such tactics.

As one example, the EU report documents that the plane used for the “extraordinary renditions” of German citizen Khaled el-Masri from Skopje to Afghanistan on 24 January 2004, and Ethiopian citizen and British resident Binyam Mohammed from Rabat to Kabul on 22 January 2004 — a Boeing 737-7ET aircraft registered as N313P (and later N4476S) — stopped numerous times at “civilian-military airports including Frankfurt (72 times), Shannon (24), United Kingdom (23), Palma de Mallorca (7), Poland, Romania, Check [sic] Republic, Malta, Cyprus and Geneva.”

The mention of Shannon brings us back to the case of Edward Horgan. An outspoken opponent of torture, Horgan made political waves in Ireland when he publicly resigned last year from the Green Party. In 2007, the Green Party entered the Irish government of Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats. Since that time, they have been criticized for failing to keep to their ideals. Horgan’s open letter spoke to his disenchantment on the renditions issue (emphasis in original):

The Green Party, led by John Gormley claimed to be staunch opponents of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and opponents of the abandonment of Irish neutrality at Shannon airport. They have even abandoned the pretence that the programme for Government would impose searches on CIA associated aircraft at Shannon airport.

Not only have no such planes been searched and no investigations carried out on the use of Shannon airport in the US torture rendition programme, but whistle blowers such as Edward Horgan and Conor Cregan have been unjustifiable arrested, charged and spuriously brought before the courts several times for daring to ask the Gardai to investigate the presence of CIA aircraft at Shannon. Both have been repeatedly vindicated by the Irish courts for their whistle blowing actions at Shannon airport.

Who will vindicate those lives lost and those prisoners tortured with the active complicity of the present Irish Government at Shannon airport?

Rather than being kept out of the United States, Horgan should be given a medal for his outstanding courage and forthrightness in not abandoning the battle for accountability for one of the most incredible human rights crimes perpetrated by so-called democratic state in our lifetime. The Obama administration should be ashamed for its behavior in keeping Mr. Horgan from entering this country. And Americans should be ashamed for letting this happen, as the struggle for accountability for torture is shunted aside for political expediency, or staggers under the blows of right-wing propaganda and media indifference.

For further information, see the Amnesty International report, Breaking the Chain: Ending Ireland’s Role in Renditions (PDF), or if you are in Durham, NC, April 8-10, you might want to attend the public conference noted in the article, Weaving a Net of Accountability.

Antiwar coalition fined by US government

Antiwar coalition fined by US government

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Brian Becker from the ANSWER Coalition has come under pressure by the government for its antiwar campaign.

A US antiwar organization says it has been targeted by the government because it wants US troops to immediately return from Afghanistan and Iraq.

The ANSWER Coalition, which stands for "Act Now to Stop War and End Racism," has been a staunch critic of the Bush and Obama administrations for their role in the Iraqi and Afghan war.

"The government is increasingly trying to limit or eviscerate or criminalize grassroots organizing itself", said Brian Becker from the ANSWER Coalition, Reported Press TV's Colin Campbell.

ANSWER members say they have been hit with $7,500 worth of fines for putting up anti-war posters like "US Out of Afghanistan and Iraq Now!" across Washington DC.

"We put up posters and we hand out leaflets and that is why thousands of people hear the call," said Becker.

The Department of Public Works says it levied the fines on ANSWER demanding that members of the organization "remove all posted signs" around the district.

"Starting 18 months ago, these targeting events began. There is now 70,000…80,000 in fines and it is growing," said Becker.

The ANSWER Coalition has planned a march on the nation's capital over the weekend to protest against the US-led wars overseas.

Tens of thousands of people are expected to attend.

"We will not be leaving Iraq and Afghanistan unless enough people in this country stand up," said Mike Ferner, President of Veterans for Peace.

2008 Financial Collapse The Greatest Calamity The World Has Ever Known

2008 Financial Collapse The Greatest Calamity The World Has Ever Known

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The year is 2010 and to anyone not in denial, the industrialized nations have entered the greatest calamity the world has ever known:

35 Million Americans on Food Stamps: 12 Percent of U.S. Population on Food Stamps Highest Since Records Kept in 1969, and that’s before the Obama administration announced a planned three-year budget freeze on government discretionary spending. (My Budget 360)
18 Million empty houses in the United States and 39 million Americans who are no longer working or looking for work, and that’s before Federal Reserve finishes rewriting the rules of American “capitalism” as US Housing, the Automobile Industry and the American Dream are dismantled. (The 31-Year-Old in Charge of Dismantling G.M., David E. Sanger)

“There are now well over 150 million Americans who feel stress over these things on a consistent basis. Over 60 percent of Americans now live paycheck to paycheck.” (The Economic Elite vs. People of the USA, David DeGraw)

In an effort to explain our escalating financial crisis, the American Nightmare (an Environmental Dream), the “experts” are under the erroneous impression that the Fed "missed" the warning signs leading up to the October 2008 meltdown.

The pundits are focusing their angst on the 44th POTUS, who might very well go down as the single most inept president in all of American history. (How to Squander the Presidency in One Year, David Michael Green)

Barack Obama is not inept, greedy or stupid and he isn’t one of “us”.

He rose from obscurity to power with his top economics adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, the co-founder of David Rockefeller's Trilateral Commission and he travels in the same circles as other members of the super-secret Skull & Bones Society at Yale University, who pretend to be running for president every four years.

The decision to have Obama preside over the greatest financial calamity since the Great Depression was made five years ago; the November election was a formality. (Why Joseph Biden will be the Next Vice President of the United States)

To believe otherwise, is to ignore the Bradley/Palin effect and the decision by John McCain to wait until his concession speech to shed the image of a nasty "grumpy old man."

In September 2008, when the Obama campaign seemed to be slumping and their candidate's long-standing lead in the polls had evaporated, the senator's supporters openly worried that a potential victory might be slipping away. Then, providence joined the campaign: The failure of the giant investment bank Lehman Brothers followed by a global financial meltdown in the month of October.

“Things do not happen. Things are made to happen.” John F. Kennedy

And, “speaking of change”, the escalation of the war in Afghanistan and Iraq and his policies on Guantanamo, state secrets, renditions, executive power, bailouts and the stimulus packages are for the most part identical to those of George W. Bush.

However, the policies at the Federal Reserve have changed inexplicably, monumentally and historically:

As of October 2008, the men behind the Federal Reserve, all connected to the House of Rothschild, are no longer giving up what’s left of their real wealth so the middle class can live the American Dream, a nightmare for the planet.

Brian Deese, special assistant to president Obama for economic policy, in his first government position, shuffles back and forth from the West Wing to the Treasury Department (Federal Reserve) rewriting the rules of American “capitalism” as he dismantles the US Housing, Automobile Industry and the American Dream. (The 31-Year-Old in Charge of Dismantling G.M., David E. Sanger)

Deese’s First Rule: Withdraw Credit and Liquidity:

Causing spending to fall even further, forcing companies to cut back on inventory and staff - Creating even more unemployment…263,000 jobs eliminated bringing the total to 39 million Americans who are no longer working or looking for work. (The September Employment Rate is 90%)

And that’s before the recently announced “planned three-year budget freeze on government discretionary spending.”

Capitalism never made sense

    “The Fed didn’t miss anything; the October meltdown was an inside job”

Professor Ebeling, the Ludwig von Mises professor of Economics at Hillsdale College, understood something was wrong when he wrote, "The perverse development and evolution of historical capitalism, the institutions necessary for a truly free-market economy have been either undermined or prevented from emerging."

But when he claimed, "It is the principles and the meaning of a free-market economy that must be rediscovered" in order to overcome the burden of historical capitalism and save liberty, he should have written that principles must be rediscovered in order to prevent the planet from attempted murder (ecocide).

American "capitalism" and our consumer economy never made economic, environmental or common sense—unless the goal was ecocide.

Capitalism and a not-so-free market economy based on consumer products, that is, products we are manipulated to want, not need, was never sustainable. Consumers consume…the resources of the planet.

Who is Responsible?

The “experts” are under the impression this is the natural order of things.

Allegedly, this is another “example” of the private credit monopoly of rich and predatory moneylenders that “prey upon the people of the United States” for the benefit of themselves. [1]

    “For the benefit of the middle class is a more accurate statement.”

The people responsible for the October collapse, our Federal Reserve, also get credit for the windfalls of “Monopoly Money”, created out of thin air, which financed our consumer society.

Those predatory moneylenders gave the middle class the highest standard of living in the world.

Recall when the American economy appeared headed into a recession at the end of the dot-com bubble, the Federal Reserve began slashing short- term interest rates until they reached a historically low one percent. The move re-inflated the economy by allowing homeowners to extract $750 billion in equity from their homes—up from $106 billion in 1996—and apply the dollars toward a multitude of consumer items and other credit card debt.

As interest rates plummeted and alleged home equity artificially soared, buyers were able to afford first and second homes, and they did it by taking out risky mortgages with "teaser rates" similar to those offered by the credit card industry. Even as interest rates adjusted upward, the sponsoring banks used complicated financial derivatives to resell the risky mortgages as "asset-backed paper."

As housing prices edged downward and mortgage rates inched upward, the recession was put on hold with the help of an astonishing 10 to 12 credit card offers per month being delivered to some consumer mailboxes. The credit card companies issued 1.5 billion cards to 158 million cardholders and promised an improbable zero percent interest—some deals for up to 18 months. (Similar to mortgage debt, the credit card debt is put into pools also known as derivatives that are then resold to investment houses, other banks and institutional investors.)

Thank those rich and predatory moneylenders for the short-term interest rates and the liquidity that allowed the debt to be pooled, sold and resold.

But blame them because our hyper-shopping has wreaked havoc on the planet.

Who is Behind the Federal Reserve?

Rockefeller, Kuhn, Loeb and Morgan—all connected to The Global Financial Elite (TGFE), direct the Federal Reserve to create money out of thin air.

The process that the Federal Reserve, or any bank, uses to create money “consists of making an entry in a book, that is all,” said Graham Towers, governor of the Bank of Canada. “Each and every time a bank makes a loan (a debt) . . . new bank credit is created—brand new money.”

Money used to pay for the Industrial Revolution, orchestrate the Great Depression, the stagflation of the 1970’s, the dot-com and the housing market bubbles, resulted in 60 years of unprecedented prosperity for the middle class.

These scoundrels at the beginning of the 20th century, owned or controlled one-sixth of the world’s real wealth: raw materials, commodities, copper, iron ore, petroleum, lead, silver and gold.

So how do they get rich exchanging real wealth for about $500 trillion of the Monopoly money they printed?

They don’t, they are the losers, not the middle class!

Remember those trees we chopped down so just about anyone in America could afford their dream house, or those mountains we blew up so we could have that fat station wagon in our driveway? All of those resources “now used up”, were once owned or controlled by the robber barons of our history books.

Their real wealth, not yours or mine has been "cut, mined and hauled away so Americans could trash the planet with houses, second houses, cars, RVs, TVs and DVDs— the cheap stuff we associate with the good life that put the planet on the downward spiral to ecocide. (Dem Bones is Connected To De Debt Bone)

The middle class should be thanking those scoundrels for all that "stuff"—but blame them for conning us into trashing the planet.

The Story of Stuff

The Story of Stuff, an animated video about the underside of our consumer society, believes the scoundrels are a bloated corporation sporting a top hat with a dollar sign etched on its front.

Film narrator, Annie Leonard argues our environmental damage is the result of the greedy corporations externalizing costs (shift them onto the public and the environment) so they can make more money.

But that premise is contradicted on film when Annie stands in line to buy a radio for $4.99 and correctly realizes the price couldn’t possibly capture the cost of the radio but incorrectly concludes that the greedy corporations pollute the environment so they can make more profit. [2]

If profits were the motive, then why wasn’t the radio $5.99? A price anyone would consider a "throw away" or loss leader.

We have come to believe that everything wrong in America is about someone getting rich while we are getting swindled.

That our economy runs on profits is a true statement, but imagine how much those moneygrubbers would have made if the radio was $5.99.

That $1.00 would be 100% pure profit.

The swindlers and scoundrels downward-manipulate the costs of what was in 1910 their real wealth:

    Raw materials, commodities, copper, iron ore, petroleum, lead, silver and gold, to industry at prices lower,

not higher as you would expect, so the corporations can still make a profit selling you a radio for $4.99.

Downward manipulation is an uneconomic aberration discovered in the precious metals market by the noted silver analyst Ted Butler.

We are conditioned to believe that prices are always inflated so the greedy corporations can make more money but Ted Butler’s research confirmed the price of silver has been manipulated to stay at the $4-5 price range for years. The beneficiaries of this type of manipulation are the consumers since industrial users can sell their products cheaply and still make a profit. (The Myth of the "Free" Enterprise Economic System)

    Behind every consumer society is the reality of a credit-based monetary system and a fiat currency. Behind every fiat currency is a Federal Reserve or a Central Bank controlled by The Global Financial Elite including, Rockefeller, Kuhn, Loeb and J.P. Morgan, Ted Butler’s prime suspect in the “ongoing intentional not accidental” great crime of keeping the price of silver low so consumers can buy a lot more ‘radio’ (silver) for their dollar.” (The Real Story, Theodore Butler, Silver But No Silver Lining)

Annie should be asking herself why those scoundrels intentionally sold their raw materials cheaply so just about everyone could afford the American Dream, a nightmare for the Planet.

Ecocide Results in Cognitive Dissonance

The premise that anyone would intentionally damage the planet, which future generations will inherit, results in Cognitive Dissonance (CD). CD is the discomfort felt at the discrepancy between what you already know or believe, and new information or interpretation that contradicts a strongly held belief system.

But what if the attempted murder of the environment was the goal from the beginning and not the unintended consequence?

Then we were "conned" into shopping for stuff to intentionally because The Global Financial Elite are in a metaphysical war with mother-earth (Gaea) and hope to attain immortality in the New World Order. [3]

Now the world around you will finally make sense.

Hot, flat, and crowded Thomas L. Friedman will finally know what planet George W. Bush is on.

Bush lost the war on terrorism and the war in Iraq, but is winning the war waged on the environment.

Dubya was deadly serious about Ecocide when, after rejecting the global climate change targets of the July 2008 G8 summit, he said, "Goodbye, from the (then) world's biggest polluter." China is now the world’s biggest polluter, Meat, Milk and Motors: The New China Syndrome

Ecocide Eliminates the Stupid Explanations

We see the collapse of GM and Chrysler as the result of failed public policy, government action, inaction and conclude the leadership is inept, arrogant or just "stupid" because only Ecocide could explain an industry that failed to keep up with the competition and adjust to new market demands.

Did Detroit forget the Volkswagen Beetle was the most successful car in history?

An incredible 21,529,464 Beetles were produced with the same body style and the same taillight (World's 5 Most Successful Cars).

The policies and decisions for the last 31 years aren’t inept or stupid if the goal was pollution.

The Beetle as a mobile pollution device was a failure. Its effects on the environment were minimal compared to the Detroit lineup of egocentric gas-guzzlers, all designed with a different taillight and eco-unfriendly accessories.

The “Evil” Federal Reserve made sure that shiny new automobile with the V8 engine, chrome wheels and bumpers was so cheap just about everyone in America could afford the mobile pollution device of their dreams.

Ecocide Explains Why Alaska is in the Picture

Most analysts point to the oil shock of the mid-1970s, set off by the Arab oil embargo of 1973 as the turning point for the US economy and automobile industry.

Why didn’t our then-President Richard Nixon and the rest of the U.S. government promote mass transit, renewable energy, and high-mileage vehicles?

Because the objective that makes the most sense was to disturb 800 miles of the most pristine country in Alaska with the Trans-Alaska Pipeline.

In 2008 we had a similar shock when $4.50 a gallon gasoline convinced Americans they should give up their last Arctic wilderness (U.S. Economy in Free Fall, Why is the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve in this picture?).

Ecocide Explains why Electricity is so Cheap

Electricity radically transformed and expanded our energy use. To a large extent, electricity defines modern technological civilization and made the Industrial Revolution and therefore our consumer society possible.

Electric power arrived barely a hundred years ago, but high costs and the Great Depression dried up most investment capital and delayed electric service to rural Americans until President Franklin Roosevelt signed into law the Rural Electrification Administration (REA) in 1935.

The REA loaned money created by the Federal Reserve at low interest rates and helped to set up electricity cooperatives.

Historically, energy is priced below its actual environmental and social cost in order to create excessive demand and discourage conservation. In other words such pricing diminishes the value of energy to users and causes them to use it irresponsibly and increase the amount of pollution coal-fired plants generate.

Why is electricity priced so cheap that "only the rich can afford to burn candles"?

Because cleaner alternatives like wind, solar or even natural gas don’t require mining companies to use dynamite to blast away 800 to 1,000 feet of 500 mountaintops and bury over 1200 miles of rivers and streams. [4]

Ecocide explains why 54% of electricity comes from the most abundant raw energy, coal and is the dirtiest source of power for much of the world. Coal-fired plants harm wildlife, generate smog, soot, acid rain, global warming, toxic air emissions and require billions of gallons of our most precious resource—water.

He Ruined the Country

The private credit monopoly of rich and predatory moneylenders do not “prey upon the middle class” to get rich.

You don’t become wealthier by exchanging gold, silver and raw materials for about $500 trillion of the Monopoly money you print.

Moneylenders created the middle class and then conned us into trashing the planet because Ecocide was the goal not the unintended consequence.

American "capitalism" and our consumer economy make perfect sense if the goal was the attempted murder of the planet.

Maybe ecocide is what Woodrow Wilson meant when he confessed that he "ruined the country."

Footnotes:

[1] Congressman Louis T. McFadden, Chairman of the House Banking & Currency Committee, speech on the floor of the House of Representatives, June 10, 1932.

[2] “Corporations Rule the World”, David Korten (1995): “If some portion of the cost of producing a product are borne by third parties who in no way participate in or benefit from the transaction, then economists say the costs have been externalized and the price of the product is distorted accordingly.

[3] Ecuador Approves New Constitution: Voters Approve Rights of Nature, Mari Margil, Associate Director The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund. An Ominous Drilling Sign for the Truth

[4] On March 25, Democrats introduced legislation that would prohibit the dumping of mining waste into streams. More than one million acres of Appalachia have already been affected by this practice, Senator Alexander says, "An estimated 1,200 miles of headwater streams have been buried under tons of mining wastes. More than 500 mountains have been impacted, and homes have been ruined and drinking water supplies contaminated" (Enviros Win Injunction Against Mountaintop Removal Mining).

Iran’s Natural Gas Riches: US Knife to the Heart of World Future Energy

Iran’s Natural Gas Riches: US Knife to the Heart of World Future Energy

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The scheduled start of drilling this month by China National Petroleum Company (CNPC) in Iran’s South Pars gas field could be both a harbinger and explanation of much wider geopolitical developments.

First of all, the $5 billion project – signed last year after years of foot dragging by western energy giants Total and Shell under the shadow of US-led sanctions – reveals the main arterial system for future world energy supply and demand.

Critics have long suspected that the real reason for US and other western military involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan is to control the Central Asian energy corridor. So far, the focus seems to be mainly on oil. For example, there have been claims that a planned oil pipeline from the Caspian Sea via Afghanistan and Pakistan to the Arabian Sea is the main prize behind the US’s seemingly futile military campaign in those countries.

But what the CNPC-Iranian partnership shows is that natural gas is the bigger prize that will be pivotal to the world economy, and specifically the dual flow of this fuel westwards and eastwards from Central Asia to Europe and China.

Michael Economides, editor of the Huston-based Energy Tribune, is one of a growing number of industry observers who is convinced that natural gas will supplant oil as the primary energy source, not only in the coming decades but over the next several centuries.

He points to the recent forecast by the International Energy Agency (IEA), based in Paris, which has dramatically revised its estimates of recoverable global natural gas reserves by 100 per cent. Economides ascribes this huge upgrade to rapid technological improvements in tapping hitherto inaccessible gas fields. He says that the IEA estimates of natural gas amount to 300 years of supply at current world demand. "If one only just fantasises any future contributions from the orders-of-magnitude larger resource in the form of natural gas hydrates, it is easy to see how natural gas is almost certainly to evolve into the premier fuel of the world economy," he adds.

The rising importance of natural gas as an energy source has been steady and inexorable over many years. Between 1973 and 2007, oil’s contribution to world energy supply dropped from 46.1 per cent to 34.0 per cent, with the increasing use of natural gas accounting for that decline, according to the IEA. Other sources, such as the US-based Energy Information Administration (EIA), predict that global natural gas consumption will treble between 1980 and 2030, by which date it will mostly likely become the primary energy source of choice for industrial and public needs.

There are sound scientific reasons why natural gas (methane) is becoming the kingpin of fossil fuels. Firstly, it has a much greater calorific value than either oil or coal. That is, more heat is produced per unit of fuel. Secondly, it is a cleaner fuel, emitting 30 per cent less carbon dioxide when burned compared with oil and 45 per cent less compared with coal. Thirdly, gas is more efficient for transport, both as a raw material in compressed form along land-based pipelines, and as a fuel to drive transport.

All energy industry agencies recognize that far and above the premier sources of future natural gas are the Middle East and Eurasia, including Russia. The US-based EIA puts the natural gas reserves in these regions as nine and seven times those of North America’s total – the latter itself being one of the world’s top sources for that fuel.

Within the Middle East, Iran is the undisputed top holder of gas reserves. Its South Pars gas field is the world’s largest. If converted to barrel-of-oil equivalents, Iran’s South Pars would dwarf the reserves of Saudi Arabia’s giant Ghawar oilfield. The latter is the world’s largest oilfield and since it came into operation in 1948, Ghawar has effectively been the world’s beating heart for raw energy supply. In the soon-to-come era of natural gas dominance over oil, Iran will oust Saudi Arabia as the world’s beating heart for energy.

Both Europe and China stand to be arterial routes for Iranian and Central Asian gas generally. Already, the infrastructure is shaping up to reflect this. The Nabucco pipeline is planned to supply gas from Iran (and Azerbaijan) via Turkey and Bulgaria all the way to Western Europe (signaling an end to Russian dominance). Iran also exports gas via pipelines separately to Turkey and Armenia and it is also following up export deals with other Gulf countries, including the United Arab Emirates and Oman. Another major arterial route is the so-called peace pipeline from Iran to Pakistan and on to India, through which Iran will export this fuel to two of the region’s most populous countries. But perhaps the most tantalizing prospect for Iran is the 1,865-kilometre pipeline that supplies natural gas from Turkmenistan through Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan into China and is due to operate at full capacity in 2012. Turkmenistan shares a 300-kilometre border with Iran to its south and already has a gas export deal with Tehran. If the Iranian-Chinese South Pars gas field development can be incorporated into the above transnational pipelines that would confirm Iran as the beating heart of a world economy in which gas is the primary energy source. This is amplified further by rapidly growing demand for gas by China which the EIA predicts could be dependent on imports for over a third of its natural gas consumption by 2030.

In this context of a major realignment in the world’s energy economy – one where there will be a continuing diminished role for the US – Washington’s blustering rhetoric about democracy and peace and war on terror or alleged Iranian nuclear weapons can be seen as a desperate attempt to conceal its fear that it stands to be a big loser. Encircling Iran with wars and threatening gas supplies to possibly the world’s top future gas customer – China – is the real deal. US actions are more accurately seen as putting a knife to the energy arteries of a world economy that it will no longer be able to dominate.

A further twist in this tale is the position of Russia. With its own vast reserves of natural gas, it can be seen as a competitor to Iran. Arguably less well positioned than Iran to supply both Europe and China, Russia is nevertheless a major player and has been assiduously courting China with an export deal since 2006. However, as Economides observes, "negotiations between the two countries have been on and off and, especially, the pipeline construction has been painfully slow".

But Russia’s ambitions to expand its natural gas exports may explain why it has shown itself to be such a mercurial ally to Iran. Moscow’s ambivalent position towards US-led sanctions against Iran, suggests that Russia has its own agenda for hampering the Islamic republic as a regional energy rival.

Pacific North American Regional Integration and Control

Pacific North American Regional Integration and Control

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U.S.-Canadian state and provincial integration is being achieved in areas of transportation, the economy, energy and the environment. With some national, trilateral and global initiatives being discredited, stalled or ineffective, it appears as if the strategy has further shifted to a regional and local level in an effort to lay the groundwork for new agreements.
 
In 2008, the Pacific Coast Collaborative was established between Alaska, British Columbia, California, Oregon and Washington as, “a formal basis for cooperative action, a forum for leadership and information sharing, and a common voice on issues facing Pacific North America.” Some of its key priorities include action on clean energy, regional transportation, emergency management, sustainable regional economy, ocean conservation and climate change, as well as other issues. The inaugural Leaders’ Forum of the Pacific Coast Collaborative was held in Vancouver, British Colombia on February 12, 2010. It was hosted by Premier Gordon Campbell and chaired by California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. The meeting was also attended by Washington Governor Christine Gregoire and Oregon Secretary of State Kate Brown. Although Alaska is also a member of the group, they were not able to send a representative to the meeting. It was announced that Oregon will be hosting the next forum to be held later this year.

The Pacific Coast Leaders signed two action plans. The first being- Innovation, the Environment and the Economy which, “sets out a series of co-operative initiatives to promote renewable and low-carbon energy and energy conservation, including developing Interstate 5/Highway 99 as a green transportation corridor. It also promotes development of high-speed rail from San Diego to Vancouver and the move to ‘Green Ports’ through co-operation to reduce local air pollutants and greenhouse gas emissions.” The second action plan on Ocean Conservation and Coastal Climate Change Adaptation, “focuses on co-operation on invasive species, reductions in toxins and other pollutants, promoting sustainable fisheries management and research into impacts from climate change and adaptation options.” The leaders also released a document entitled Vision 2030: Positioning Pacific North America for Sustainable Prosperity which sets out a strategic outlook for regional collaboration.
 
One of the Pacific Coast Collaborative top priorities includes a high speed rail system. On its website it states, “For the Pacific Coastal region to remain competitive, we need transportation systems that will facilitate the movement of people and goods north to south while reducing the number of vehicles on our highways. Rail, particularly high speed rail, can deliver significant benefits to the region including advancing climate change goals, energy conservation, congestion reduction, and job creation for the citizens of the region.” Cassandra Anderson’s article Agenda 21 Alert: Obama Railroads Us With the Bullet Train details how in many ways a high speed rail system in the U.S. would be impractical and costly, with the majority of the trains running off of diesel fuel. President Obama has promised that such an undertaking would create many jobs, but it has been reported that much of the needed equipment and supplies would have to be outsourced. The article also lays out how future transportation systems could restrict auto and personal mobility in an effort to further control the population.
 
At the recent meeting, Pacific Coast Leaders urged further local action in combating environmental issues. Governor Schwarzenegger acknowledged that, "We're united, there's no two ways about it. Politically, ecologically, we speak with one voice.” He also added that, "We saw at Copenhagen that national governments and the national community has not yet been able to come to an agreement to reducing green house gas emissions. The UN and the national governments have realized that the sub-national governments are really the ones in the end who can put the pressure on and engage the kind of action that is needed." In her article Agenda 21 Alert: Schwarzenegger’s ‘True Lies’ in Copenhagen Cassandra Anderson stated that, “The globalists’ battle for complete control over all populations is from ‘global to local.’ This is why Arnold was brought to speak at the Copenhagen Summit. He truthfully revealed the power that state and local governments have in accomplishing carbon reduction goals.” Anderson went on to say that, “States can enact their own carbon emission reduction laws and Cap and Trade schemes- it is not necessary for international treaties and federal regulations to be passed.”
 
The Western Climate Initiative (WCI) was launched in 2007 and includes some U.S. states and Canadian provinces as member partners and observers. Their website states that, “The WCI is a collaboration of independent jurisdictions working together to identify, evaluate, and implement policies to tackle climate change at a regional level.” In September of 2008 the WCI unveiled the centerpiece of their strategy, a regional cap-and-trade program to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. “The first phase of the cap-and-trade program begins on January 1, 2012, covering emissions from electricity, including imported electricity, industrial combustion at large sources, and industrial process emissions for which adequate measurement methods exist. The second phase begins in 2015, when the program expands to include transportation fuels and residential, commercial and industrial fuels not otherwise covered.” With an eye on the future, the WCI also admitted that their, “cap-and-trade program is designed in such a way that it can provide a model for, be integrated into, or work in conjunction with any future U.S. or Canadian emissions-reduction programs.”
 
President Obama has been forced to delay his push for a national cap-and-trade plan as legislation has been stalled in the U.S. Senate. Many critics of the program argue that it could lead to millions of jobs being lost and the push for a green economy might further hamper economic recovery. A North American climate change strategy is moving forward which includes more emphasis being placed at a regional and local level. The threat of man-made global warming has been discredited in the eyes of many, yet the environmental agenda continues. Protecting our planet has turned increasingly more political and profitable. Under the guise of safeguarding the environment, many solutions being offered are in the form of more taxes and more control over our lives.

Chinese premier warns of economic instability and US protectionism

Chinese premier warns of economic instability and US protectionism

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In a press conference following the end of the annual National Peoples Congress, Premier Wen Jiabao last Sunday offered a rather candid assessment of the bleak situation facing the Chinese regime domestically and internationally—the threat of a renewed global slump, rising tensions with the US and the prospect of social unrest at home.

In contrast to the generally optimistic tone in the world’s financial press over recent months, Wen warned: “The unemployment rate of the world’s main economy is still high, some countries’ debt crises are still deepening, and the world’s commodity prices and exchange rates are not stable, which are likely to become the cause of any setback in the economic recovery.”

The premier declared that the world faced major challenges and problems that were not being addressed, posing the risk of a “double dip” recession. “Without a recovering world economy, China’s recovery cannot be sustained,” he said. Last year’s 8.7 percent growth was based largely on the government’s huge stimulus measures. Wen noted that many Chinese enterprises had not witnessed improvements in performance and were operating with government support.

Wen’s comments highlight the economic dilemmas confronting Beijing. The government boosted the economy with a $US586 billion stimulus package and $1.4 trillion of new bank loans in 2009, but this has led to rampant speculation in property and shares that threatens to provoke a major financial crisis. However, any attempt to rein in bank lending or cut stimulus spending will lead to a sharp slowdown. Wen said any move to end the stimulus package would be “very cautious and flexible”.

China remains highly dependent on exports. While the international financial press has urged Beijing to expand domestic consumption, steps in that direction would increase wages and undermine China’s position as the world’s premier cheap labour platform. According to a Reserve Bank of Australia study, consumer spending in China has fallen sharply from 52 percent of the national output in the early 1980s to just 35 percent by 2008.

Chinese exports have recovered in recent months, but that trend could go into reverse. The sovereign debt crisis impacting on Greece, Spain and Portugal is reverberating throughout Europe and resulting in austerity measures that will inevitably hit consumer spending. Taken as a whole, the European Union is the largest market for Chinese exports.

China is also confronting the threat of protectionist measures, particularly from the US, if it fails to revalue the yuan against the dollar. Sections of the US Democrats and the unions, looking for a means of diverting attention from mounting unemployment and poverty at home, are pressing the Obama administration to formally name China as a “currency manipulator,” thus paving the way for economic retaliation. Last week US President Obama again called on China to adopt a “more market-oriented exchange rate”.

At his press conference, Wen emphatically rejected US demands, declaring that the yuan was “not undervalued” and accusing the US of being “protectionist”. “What I don’t understand is depreciating one’s own currency, and attempting to pressure others to appreciate, for the purpose of increasing exports. In my view, that’s trade protectionism,” he said.

Washington insists that China’s exports and trade surpluses are the main source of “global imbalances”. But Wen pointed the finger at the US, saying, “The major cause of imbalances is the imbalance between consumption and savings in some developed countries and some financial institutions who have blindly pursued their own profit”. Wen warned that protectionist measures would rebound on American and European corporations operating in China, noting that 60 percent of “Chinese” exports were produced by foreign firms or joint-ventures.

The Chinese regime is fearful that any downturn in exports—whether as a result of the revaluation of the yuan or protectionist measures against China—will slow the economy and lead to higher unemployment and social unrest. Beijing re-pegged the yuan against the dollar in 2008 amid the global financial meltdown in order to stem the collapse of Chinese exports. In late 2008 and early 2009, more than 20 million workers lost their jobs mainly in the export sector.

Wen bluntly raised the dangers of social unrest on a massive scale in response to any economic downturn. He warned, “If there is inflation, plus unfair income distribution and corruption, it will be strong enough to affect our social stability and even the consolidation of state power.” A major preoccupation of the just completed National Peoples Congress was the social tensions being produced by widespread poverty and unemployment.

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leadership is still haunted by the spectre of the nationwide protests of workers and students that erupted in 1989 over rising prices, deepening social inequality and widespread official corruption. The regime crushed the protest movement through police-state repression, including the use of the military against demonstrators in Tienanman Square. Two decades later, the working class has grown enormously, as has the social gulf between rich and poor.

Since Wen’s speech, US pressure on China has only intensified. On Monday, 130 members of the US Congress wrote to the Obama administration, demanding it name China as a currency manipulator in a report due next month. On the same day, New York Times economic columnist Paul Krugman called for what amounted to trade war with China through the imposition of across-the-board duties as high as 25 percent on all Chinese goods. (See: “US-China tensions threaten to ignite trade war”).

Strained relations over trade and exchange rates are a symptom of more deep-seated tensions that are being exacerbated by the intensifying global economic crisis. Determined to assert US strategic and economic interests against what Washington regards as a rising rival, the Obama administration has taken a more aggressive stance toward China over a range of issues—including giving the green light for a major new arms sale to Taiwan and proceeding with Obama’s meeting last month with the Dalai Lama. The White House is also pressing Beijing to agree to harsh new UN sanctions against Iran over its nuclear programs.

At his press conference, Wen declared that China was not responsible for deteriorating relations with the US. Pointing to the arms sale and the meeting with the Tibetan leader, the premier said: “These moves violated China’s territory integrity. The responsibility does not lie with the Chinese side but with the United States.” A good China-US relationship, he added, “makes both sides winners, while a confrontational one makes both sides losers”.

The pessimistic character of Wen’s remarks underscores the dangers of a worsening international economic crisis, intensified rivalry between the major powers and slide toward trade war and conflict.

Detroit—a model for nationwide assault on public education

Detroit—a model for nationwide assault on public education

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The city of Detroit’s plan to shut down dozens of schools will have devastating consequences for communities and thousands of working class youth. It is part of moves, backed by the Obama administration, to dismantle public education in the city, expand charter schools and shut off services in the most impoverished areas.

The aim is to more directly subordinate education to the profit interests of the corporate elite that controls Detroit. On Tuesday, Detroit Public Schools Emergency Financial Manager Robert Bobb said that his new proposal “has a very strong market-driven component to it.”

On Wednesday, the Detroit Public Schools released a plan to close 45 facilities by June, bringing the number of schools closed in the city to more than 100 since 2006. This amounts to nearly half of the total number of public schools. Another 13 schools would be closed by 2012.

The plan was drawn up by Bobb, who was appointed by Democratic Governor Jennifer Granholm. Included in Bobb’s list of schools to be shut down are many well-known fixtures of communities, including Cooley, Osborn, Kettering, Northwestern and Southwestern High Schools. Dozens of elementary and middle schools in surrounding areas will also be closed.

The drastic steps being taken in Detroit are part of a nationwide process, in which states and local school districts are responding to budget deficits through the dismantling of the public education system. Last week, the Kansas City, Missouri school district voted to close 28 of 61 schools and cut 700 of 3,000 jobs.

The measures are being spearheaded by the Obama administration, which is aggressively pushing for the expansion of for-profit charter schools and the closure of the worst performing schools—i.e., those in the most impoverished areas. The federal government is also backing a campaign to victimize teachers for the crisis in education, including Obama’s public support for the mass firing of teachers in Central Falls, Rhode Island last month. (See “Obama education plan to push competitive funding”)

Detroit is seen as a test case for this right-wing campaign, as indicated last year by Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who declared the city “ground zero” in the fight for education reform. Duncan has publicly praised Bobb.

Bobb is also working closely with a series of philanthropic organizations to expand charter schools in Detroit. (See “Detroit media, politicians back corporate plan to privatize education”)

In addition to closing dozens of schools, Bobb has also led an attack on Detroit teachers, working with the Detroit Federation of Teachers to push through major concessions in pay and benefits last year. The district is planning on eliminating an additional 2,100 teacher and staff positions next year.

The Detroit Schools and other school districts justify the destruction of schools by citing declining enrollment, but this is a self-fulfilling prophecy. The closing of schools will increase the drop-out rate while also driving more students into charter schools, many of which are controlled by business interests with close ties to the Detroit political establishment.

The collapse of enrollment has in fact proceeded at a far more rapid pace than the decline in the population as a whole. A report in Crain’s Detroit Business noted, “While the city has lost roughly half its population in the last fifty years, decline in the DPS has dropped by almost half in the last eight years, dropping from 164,496 in the 2002-03 school year to 87,754 in the current year…”

The city expects a decline of 30,000 over the next five years. In other words, by 2015 the number of students in the public school system is expected to be about a third of what it was at the beginning of the century.

As if to underscore his hope that many students will leave the public school system, Bobb said that high school students will have to take the city bus to attend schools that will now be located much further from their homes. This is under conditions in which the city has severely cut back on bus services.

Bobb has said that he hopes the city will invest in upgrading the remaining schools, but much of this proposed work is conditioned on the approval of a $500 million bond issued at some unspecified later date.

Bobb’s proposal for schools to be shut down was drawn up in coordination with plans announced by Detroit Mayor David Bing to significantly downsize Detroit, including shutting down of city services in the most impoverished areas. (See, “Mayor plans to relocate poor residents to ‘downsize’ Detroit”)

Broad sections of Detroit are mired in Depression-like conditions, with real unemployment at over 50 percent, abandoned and burnt-out homes and desperate poverty. Earlier this month, the mayor declared, “If we can incentivize some of the folks that are in those desolate areas, they can get a better situation. If they stay where they are I absolutely cannot give them all the services that they require.”

The push to “rationalize” services in cities throughout the country has been promoted in particular by the Brookings Institute, a Democratic Party-oriented think tank.

In an article published in the Detroit News on Wednesday (“School closure plan dovetails with Detroit’s downsizing effort”), the newspaper wrote, “In choosing which schools to close, district planners consulted with the city to try to mesh the plan with efforts to retain population in stable areas or those targeted for revitalization.”

The mayor’s communication director, Karen Dumas, said, “Closures and rehabilitation of schools should be part of a comprehensive land use strategy. As we work to stabilize Detroit’s neighborhoods, we are working with several entities, including DPS.”

Bing has also indicated that he is seeking to privatize city services, including selling the Public Lighting Department to DTE Energy, which has recently sharply increased rates for consumers and has shut off utilities for hundreds of thousands of families in the area.

As part of his plan to slash services, there are indications that the mayor is seeking to deliberately undercount Detroit’s population in the coming census. According to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal (“Detroit’s Smaller Reality: Mayor Plans to Use Census Tally Showing Decline as a Benchmark in Overhaul,” February 27), “The mayor is looking to the diminished tally, down from 951,270 in 2000, as a benchmark in his bid to reshape Detroit’s government, finances and perhaps even its geography to reflect its smaller population and tax base. That means, in part, cutting city services and laying off workers.”

The city is making no effort to try to ensure a full population count, instead allowing nonprofit groups to take the lead. However, the Journal notes, “with a population that is widely dispersed and largely poor and minority—two segments traditionally disinclined to fill out government paperwork—Detroit is already difficult to count.”

“With no high-profile census push, the city risks an undercount that would mean forgoing millions of dollars in federal funding.”

The corporate elite that runs Detroit would more than make up for the loss of federal funding through the slashing of city services and the ever more naked subordination of the city’s population to the profit demands of big business.

Chinese report documents human rights disaster in the United States

Chinese report documents human rights disaster in the United States

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On March 13, China’s Information Office of the State Council published a report titled, “The Human Rights Record of the United States in 2009.”

This document was clearly intended as a rebuttal to the annual US State Department Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2009, released two days earlier.

The Chinese report quite legitimately notes that the US government “releases Country Reports on Human Rights Practices year after year to accuse other countries, and takes human rights as a political instrument to interfere in other countries’ internal affairs, defame other nations’ image and seek its own strategic interests. This fully exposes its double standards on the human rights issue…”

Delivering the US government a well-deserved dose of its own medicine does not, of course, absolve the Chinese regime of its own gross violations of human rights. It rules autocratically over 1.3 billion people, most of them desperately poor peasants and super-exploited workers.

That being said, the Chinese report is an eye-opening document—factual, sober, even understated, drawn entirely from public government and media sources in the United States, with each item carefully documented. It presents a picture of 21st century America as much of the world sees it, one which is in sharp contrast to the official mythology and American media propaganda.

Not surprisingly, the report went unmentioned in the US mass media.

The 14-page report is divided into six major sections: Life, Property and Personal Security; Civil and Political Rights; Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; Racial Discrimination; Rights of Women and Children; US Violations of Human Rights Against Other Nations. The cumulative picture is one of a society in deep and worsening social crisis.

A few of the facts and figures cited on violence and police repression in the United States:

• Each year, 30,000 people die in gun-related incidents.
• There were 14,180 murders last year.
• In the first ten months of 2009, 45 people were killed by police use of tasers, bringing the total for the decade to 389.
• Last year, 315 police officers in New York City were subject to internal supervision due to “unrestrained use of violence.”
• 7.3 million Americans were under the authority of the correctional system, more than in any other country.
• An estimated 60,000 prisoners were raped while in custody last year.

On democratic rights, the report notes the pervasive government spying on citizens, authorized under the 2001 Patriot Act, extensive surveillance of the Internet by the National Security Agency, and police harassment of anti-globalization demonstrators in Pittsburgh during last year’s G-20 summit. Pointing to the hypocrisy of US government “human rights” rhetoric, the authors observe, “the same conduct in other countries would be called human rights violations, whereas in the United States it was called necessary crime control.”

The report only skims the surface on the socioeconomic crisis in the United States, noting record levels of unemployment, poverty, hunger and homelessness, as well as 46.3 million people without health insurance. It does offer a few facts rarely discussed in the US media:

• 712 bodies were cremated at public expense in the city of Los Angeles last year, because the families were too poor to pay for a burial.
• There were 5,657 workplace deaths recorded in 2007, the last year for which a tally is available, a rate of 17 deaths per day (not a single employer was criminally charged for any of these deaths).
• Some 2,266 veterans died as a consequence of lack of health insurance in 2008, 14 times the military death toll in Afghanistan that year.

The report presents evidence of pervasive racial discrimination against blacks, Hispanics and Native Americans, the most oppressed sections of the US working class, including a record number of racial discrimination claims over hiring practices, more than 32,000. It also notes the rising number of incidents of discrimination or violence against Muslims, and the detention of 300,000 “illegal” immigrants each year, with more than 30,000 immigrants in US detention facilities every day of the year.

It notes that the state of California imposed life sentences on 18 times more black defendants than white, and that in 2008, when New York City police fired their weapons, 75 percent of the targets were black, 22 percent Hispanic and only 3 percent white.

The report refers to the well-known reality of unequal pay for women, with median female income only 77 percent that of male income in 2008, down from 78 percent in 2007. According to the report, 70 percent of working-age women have no health insurance, or inadequate coverage, high medical bills or high health-related debt.

Children bear a disproportionate burden of economic hardship, with 16.7 million children not having enough food at some time during 2008, and 3.5 million children under five facing hunger or malnutrition, 17 percent of the total. Child hunger is combined with the malignant phenomenon of rampant child labor in agriculture: some 400,000 child farm workers pick America’s crops. The US also leads the world in imprisoning children and juveniles, and is the only country that does not offer parole to juvenile offenders.

US foreign policy comes in for justifiable criticism as well. A country with so many poor and hungry people accounts for 42 percent of the world’s total military spending, a colossal $607 billion, as well as the world’s largest foreign arms sales, $37.8 billion in 2008, up nearly 50 percent from the previous year.

The Chinese report notes the documented torture of prisoners in Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantanamo Bay, the worldwide US network of military bases, the US blockade of Cuba (opposed by the UN General Assembly by a vote of 187 to 3), and the systematic US spying around the world, utilizing the NSA’s “ECHELON” interception system, as well as the US monopoly control over Internet route servers.

The report also points out the deliberate US flouting of international human rights covenants. Washington has either signed but not ratified or refused to sign four major UN covenants: on economic, social and cultural rights; on the rights of women; on the rights of people with disabilities; and on the rights of indigenous peoples.

The report does not discuss the source of the malignant social conditions in the United States—nor should that be expected, since that would require an explanation of the causal connection between poverty, repression and discrimination and the operations of the capitalist profit system, something that Beijing is hardly likely to undertake.

Capitalist crisis invades public education

Capitalist crisis invades public education

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Capitalism is leaving tens of millions of workers without jobs. It is also abandoning millions of children to flounder in a chaotic education system, buffeted by school closings and teacher firings.

The capitalist government in Washington has sharply escalated its ongoing assault on the public education system. Using the budget crisis as leverage and seizing on the deteriorating quality of schools in impoverished districts, government officials have intensified the campaign for charter-school privatization, school closings, and the firing of teachers and staff across the country.

March 4 nationwide actions to fight tuition
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Students in Rochester, N.Y., protest during
March 4 nationwide actions to fight tuition
increases and defend public education.
WW photo: Lydia Bayoneta

But the attack is not on all public education. Virtually all the target schools and school districts are in impoverished communities marginalized by capitalism, especially those that are heavily African-American and Latino/a.

The ax falls on Kansas City

The Kansas City, Mo., school board announced on March 10 that it will close 29 of its 61 public schools. About 700 jobs will be cut, including 285 teachers. The targeted school district is majority African-American.

This school district has long been drained by redistricting and the flight to private schools and charter schools. It has been sued for racial discrimination. Its school population has gone from 77,000 to 13,400. The drop in enrollment, caused by poverty and privatization, and the budget crisis are being used as a pretext to further victimize children and their families by these brutal school closings.

The crisis goes beyond Kansas City. On Feb. 23, the school board in Central Falls, R.I., announced that all its 93 teachers, administrators and support staff would be fired. The Central Falls school district is majority Latino/a. Other schools in Rhode Island are also under threat, including in Providence.

On March 4, Boston school officials announced that all the teachers and staff at six public schools would have to reapply for their jobs. These six schools are among 35 on a target list as “underperforming.” The schools on the list face closures, firings and state takeovers.

Cleveland plans 13 school closings. This includes breaking up high schools into “academies,” leaving a big opening for charter schools to move into the vacuum and get public funds.

These examples could be multiplied many times over, from Detroit to Atlanta, Reno, Los Angeles, New York City — virtually across the country.

Rat race to the top

The immediate trigger is the $4.3 billion Race to the Top fund established by the Obama administration. President Barack Obama publicly praised the drastic firing of all the teachers in the Central Falls high school as an example of progress in education reform.

The Race to the Top is a continuation of the No Child Left Behind program initiated by George W. Bush. Bush promoted charter schools, school vouchers and breaking union contracts — using merit pay and other devices — under the guise of improving teacher performance.

The Race to the Top goes further. It specifies that states can apply for grants if they adopt one of the models specified by the program. These models include moving toward charter schools; firing the teaching staff and then allowing them to reapply for their jobs, but not hiring back more than 50 percent of those fired; and closing “underperforming” schools.

This has touched off a rat race among government officials to get grant money by attacking teachers, closing schools, opening up to charter schools, using school vouchers to pay for private schools, and taking other measures to undermine public education and teacher organization.

This reactionary development is an attempt to select out a small percentage of students for exposure to a superior education while leaving the vast majority behind. Those left behind are overwhelmingly children of the poor and the oppressed. This reality is exactly the opposite of what these programs promised.

It is also important to note the motor force for charter schools: handing over the education system to private companies. It is not about these schools’ level of achievement.

To date, the most authoritative study of charter schools was conducted by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes at Stanford University in 2009. The report is the first detailed national assessment of charter schools. It analyzed 70 percent of U.S.-based students attending charter schools and compared the academic progress of those students with that of demographically matched students in nearby public schools. The report found that 17 percent of charter schools reported academic gains that were significantly better than traditional public schools; 46 percent showed no difference from public schools; and 37 percent were significantly worse than their traditional public school counterparts.

The authors of the report considered this a “sobering” finding about the quality of charter schools in the United States. Charter schools showed a significantly greater variation in quality as compared with the more standardized public schools. Many charter schools fell below public school performances and a few exceeded them significantly.

Privatization: ‘The Big Enchilada’

Jonathan Kozol, a well-known authority on public schools and author of the book “Death at an Early Age,” wrote an article entitled “The Big Enchilada” for Harper’s magazine of August 2007. It was about reading a stock market prospectus. Kozol wrote:

“A group of analysts at an investment banking firm known as Montgomery Securities described the financial benefits to be derived from privatizing our public schools. ‘The education industry,’ according to these analysts, ‘represents, in our opinion, the final frontier of a number of sectors once under public control’ that ‘have either voluntarily opened’ or, they note in pointed terms, have ‘been forced’ to open up to private enterprise. Indeed, they write, ‘the education industry represents the largest market opportunity’ since health care services were privatized during the 1970s.

“Referring to private education companies as ‘EMOs’ (Education Management Organizations), they note that college education also offers some ‘attractive investment returns’ for corporations, but then come back to what they see as the much greater profits to be gained by moving into public elementary and secondary schools. ‘The larger developing opportunity is in the K-12 EMO market, led by private elementary school providers,’ which, they emphasize, ‘are well positioned to exploit potential political reforms such as school vouchers.’ From the point of view of private profit, one of these analysts enthusiastically observes, ‘the K-12 market is the Big Enchilada.’” (See FIST statement, “Defend Education from ‘Disaster Capitalism,’” in the Workers World of March 4.)

These two items speak volumes about the Race to the Top program. It is an attempt to put a big part of the public school system on a corporate model of cutthroat competition. The funds for the education of poor children are the object of this competition.

This model has public school officials marketing their schools to the community to fend off the competition of charter schools. New York’s Harlem is a prime target of charter schools and has put the public schools under enormous pressure.

For example, “River East Elementary on East 120th Street draws students throughout Harlem and typically has more applicants than seats. But at this time of year, staff members spend hours scurrying to day care centers, churches and apartment complexes to find prospective parents, said Katie Smith, the assistant principal. ‘We have to be out there constantly representing ourselves,’ Ms. Smith said.” (New York Times, March 10)

The net result is that the capitalist establishment is using the economic crisis to accomplish three things: to wring profits out of the public education system; to solve its budget crisis on the backs of the people by closing schools; and to open up an anti-union campaign against the teachers by driving them into non-union charter schools and weakening the contracts of those who remain in the public system.

This crisis demonstrates many things about the capitalist system at its present stage of crisis, when the opportunity for profitable investment in the real economy of production is narrowed by the crisis of overproduction and the saturation of markets.

It shows that the vultures of finance capital will find every avenue possible to raid the public treasury in pursuit of profit, including forcing a crisis on the education system.

This hurts students, parents, teachers and communities. This is the basis on which to unite against this plan of divide and conquer. It calls for a united mobilization to defend public education and make the bankers and bosses pay for a quality education for all.

This is the richest country in the world, with a $14 trillion economy. There are hundreds of billions available for the schools. But these funds are being pocketed by the banks, the Pentagon, the corporations. There is enough money to give everyone a quality education.

What will it take to end the wars?

What will it take to end the wars?

There can no longer be any doubt about the character of the wars being waged by the U.S. government in Iraq and Afghanistan.

They are not just Bush-Cheney wars, although these mass murderers should not be left off the hook.

They represent more than a mistaken policy or a particularly brutal group of politicians in the pockets of the oil companies.

These wars flow from the economic system that prevails in the United States. The class that sits atop this vast capitalist economy is never satisfied. Millionaires have become billionaires largely on the super-profits wrung from their worldwide empire.

The imperialists cannot be reasoned with, made to see the error of their ways, or appealed to on a humanitarian basis. The all-mighty profit motive is too strong for that. They will not concede that their ambition to control the world — over the dead bodies of Iraqis, Afghans and U.S. soldiers — is impossible to achieve. Not until they are confronted with rebellion at home as well as abroad will they reconsider their course of action, as finally happened with the Vietnam War.

This explains why the current wars seem to go on endlessly, why the invasion of Iraq has lasted seven years and the assault on Afghanistan even longer.

It explains why a Democratic administration, elected very largely on the hope that it would bring home the soldiers and National Guard, still has 98,000 troops in Iraq, plus an equal number of mercenaries; why this administration has escalated the war in Afghanistan, is attacking Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia, and shows no sign of pulling back from the area.

The class character of these wars also explains why the war makers are vulnerable.

The system that spawned the wars is bringing unemployment and extreme poverty to tens of millions inside the United States itself. The wars grow increasingly unpopular as the public treasury is looted to pay for them. Workers’ taxes provide not only the hundreds of billions for current wars but billions in interest on the debt incurred by past wars. Every public service is being cut back — but not the military or the interest payments to the banks. While the military-financial-industrial complex wallows in cost-plus contracts, returning veterans run into a wall of unemployment and foreclosures, not the welcoming jobs they had hoped for.

Something has to give. So much long-term misery for the working class cannot be contained within the present social fabric.

That’s why the class orientation of the anti-war movement is so important. Struggles are breaking out all over for jobs, decent wages, pensions, health care, to stop foreclosures and evictions, budget cuts and layoffs. These struggles can only grow as the economic crisis becomes ever more intractable.

In these pages we have written for several months about the importance of the anti-war demonstrations on March 20 and encouraged our readers to be there. At the same time, Workers World has helped to build the national actions to save education that brought out hundreds of thousands on March 4 and the upcoming May Day demonstrations that will unite elements of the labor movement with the immigrant community.

In unity, there is strength. Uniting the struggles of the workers and the oppressed communities with the struggle against imperialist war is the only way to defeat the war makers. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. knew that. So did Malcolm X, Huey Newton and Muhammad Ali.

The turning point in the Vietnam War came when the communities of color in the U.S. refused to be used as cannon fodder any longer and recognized the Vietnamese not as their enemies but as people oppressed by the same slave masters. That’s when U.S. soldiers began refusing to go to battle against them.

Inherent in the economic crisis of today is the possibility that the working class as a whole — Black, Latino/a, Native, Arab and white — will actively turn against these wars, not just at the ballot box but in the streets, as the cost of unbridled militarism becomes unbearable.

But it can’t happen without leadership. The number one task of anti-war activists is to help build the bridges that can bring about such unity.

The demands of the workers and the oppressed for jobs, schools, union wages and an end to racism, sexism and homophobia must also be the demands of the anti-war movement, because they challenge the exploiting class of profiteers that is addicted to war. The struggle against the “chain of command” in the factory or the office is also a challenge to the military chain of command that allows officers to order young workers to kill or die on the battlefield in the interests of the boss class.

Disruption of this deadly status quo is the task of all who want peace and social justice.