Sunday, June 27, 2010

Senate Democrats and Obama abandon the jobless

Senate Democrats and Obama abandon the jobless

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Senate Democrats gave up efforts to extend unemployment benefits for millions of jobless workers after the third vote on overcoming a Republican filibuster failed. The final vote Thursday was 57 to 41, three votes short of the 60 necessary to cut off debate, with one Democrat, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, joining a unanimous Republican opposition.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, whose home state, Nevada, has the highest unemployment rate in the country, indicated there would be no further effort to revive the unemployment benefit extension unless one or more Republican senators expressed willingness to change their position. “We can’t pass it unless we get some Republicans,” Reid told reporters. “It’s up to them.”

Reid said that rather than continue efforts to pass the extension, he would move on to legislation cutting taxes for small business. “We’ve tried and tried. This is our eighth week on this legislation,” he complained.

While the Democrats, who control the Senate by a 59 to 41 majority, whine about Republican opposition, some 200,000 unemployed workers are losing extended benefits each week. The total number cut off benefits since June 2, when the last such extension expired, reached 1.2 million Friday. Assuming the deadlock continues, a total of 5.7 million workers will lose extended benefits by the time the program expires completely in November.

The benefit cutoff takes place in the midst of the deepest jobs crisis since the Great Depression, with the official jobless rate at 9.7 percent and the “underemployment” rate at 16.6 percent. It coincides with mounting signs that the “economic recovery” touted by the Obama administration has stalled. The Commerce Department issued revised figures showing GDP growth during the first quarter was only 2.7 percent, less than half the 5.6 percent rate posted in the fourth quarter, and below the level required to reduce unemployment rates to any significant extent.

Business spending rose only 2.2 percent, instead of the 3.1 percent initially reported, and state and local government spending fell at the fastest rate in 29 years. With the expiration of a federal tax credit for new home purchases, sales of new homes plunged 33 percent from April to May, and sales of existing homes also declined by 2.2 percent. Only one economic figure was revised sharply upward: corporate profits rose 5 percent in the first quarter, more than double the initial estimate of 2.1 percent.

The Senate stalemate gives a glimpse of the political physiognomy of all three major actors in the bill’s demise. The Senate Republicans are adamant in their insistence that the pittance provided for the long-term unemployed should be sacrificed on the altar of deficit reduction.

The Senate Democrats cajole, wheedle and occasionally engage in populist demagogy, as when Reid declared, in the course of the final debate, “Those who want to help middle-class America will vote ‘yes.’ Those who want to protect corporate America will vote ‘no.’” But all this is to no effect, because the Democrats accept the deficit reduction imperative themselves.

The Obama administration, while nominally in favor of the extended benefits, did little or nothing to ensure passage. As the New York Times, a reliable supporter of the White House, was compelled to admit, “The Obama administration has not fought aggressively for the legislation.”

The extension of unemployment benefits was part of a larger bill that was repeatedly whittled down and narrowed in a futile effort to win the vote of even a single Republican senator. Senate Democrats cut the average benefit by $25 a week—a significant amount for the long-term jobless—and made other reductions in the overall cost of the bill, including cutting the proposed Medicaid assistance to near-bankrupt state governments from $24 billion to $16 billion.

The bill would also have paid for Medicaid assistance to the states by using money from last year’s stimulus bill, not yet expended for a planned increase in food stamp benefits. If the bill had passed the Senate and become law, there was to be a reduction of $11 a week for each food stamp beneficiary.

In other words, one low-income group, those on food stamps, was to pay for the extension of benefits for another low-income group, the long-term jobless. In many cases, of course, the two groups overlap, so that a jobless worker on food stamps could find his or her children’s food stamps cut to pay for the unemployment check.

Rather than attack the Republicans for their brutal treatment of the unemployed, the Democrats sought to mobilize sections of big business to lobby for passage of the bill, citing a series of tax breaks incorporated into the legislation. But business lobbyists focused instead on several proposed tax increases on hedge fund managers and multinational corporations.

As the Washington Post noted, “So far, business groups have complained loudly about the tax increases but have done little to build Republican support for the tax cuts.” Bloomberg News reported, “The legislation’s failure is a win for US-based multinational companies such as International Business Machines Corp., which lobbied against proposals to increase taxes on their international operations.”

Besides aid for the long-term unemployed and bankrupt state governments, the bill also included a youth summer jobs program, already delayed beyond the beginning of summer, and now canceled altogether. There were also provisions for farm disaster aid, and $4.6 billion to settle a long-running discrimination lawsuit brought by black farmers against the Agriculture Department and another suit by American Indians against mismanagement of trust funds by the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

According to an analysis by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the defeat of the legislation significantly raises the risk of a double-dip recession as the “loss of spending power ripples through the economy,” both from the lost income of the long-term unemployed and the expected mass layoffs by state governments, which had been counting on passage of the bill to help them meet a July 1 deadline for balancing their budgets.

Six Republican senators had supported cloture resolutions on earlier extensions of unemployment benefits, in February and March. Three of them—Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine, and Scott Brown of Massachusetts—continued to negotiate and extract concessions from Reid & Co. right to the last minute. Then they joined the unanimous Republican bloc, backed by Nebraska Democrat Ben Nelson, who was seeking to block tax increases for several real estate companies based in his state.

Democratic Senator Patty Murray of Washington state summed up this protracted process by lamenting, “They asked to have it reduced, we did it. They asked to have it paid for, we did it.”

Media commentators invariably described the stance of the Republicans as a response to popular concerns about the growing federal deficit. This is a grotesque distortion. Opinion polls show that jobs and the plight of the unemployed are the greatest concerns, particularly among working people.

“Deficit reduction” has been raised as a mantra by the Democrats as well as the Republicans in response to demands by the ruling elite that the enormous cost of the bailout of the financial system be imposed on the working class in the form of reduced consumption. This is to be accomplished both by cutting jobs and wages directly and by slashing public spending on social services like education, health care and retirement benefits.

No such concerns were raised over Bush’s gargantuan tax cuts for the wealthy, or the trillions expended on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The deficit becomes the focal point of official Washington only when it is a matter of aid to the long-term unemployed or other forms of relief for the working class. The amount in question, $3 billion a year ($30 billion over ten years), is less than the money squandered in a week on the war in Afghanistan.

The role of the Obama administration in this debacle has been particularly odious. The White House put on a full-court press to ensure passage of its cost-cutting healthcare reform legislation, but could not be bothered to make any significant effort to prevent a brutal attack on a most vulnerable section of the working class.

Only hours after the Senate killed the extended unemployment benefits, Obama made a public appearance—not to denounce the Senate action, but to hail the House-Senate conference agreement on the terms of financial “reform” legislation which does nothing to restrain the speculative mania and corrupt self-dealing practices that precipitated the Wall Street crash of 2008. Bank stocks rose sharply on Friday after the agreement was announced.

After almost ten weeks: no end to BP oil spill devastation

After almost ten weeks: no end to BP oil spill devastation

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The BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, now nearly 10 weeks old, is doing untold damage to ecological and economic life. Entire industries in the region have been shut down, tens of thousands of jobs affected, and lives ruined as the result of BP’s criminal actions and the Obama administration’s impotence in the face of corporate profit hunger.

On Thursday, a beach in Florida was closed for the first time in Pensacola, some 130 miles northeast of the oilrig explosion site. According to a local television station, “Sheets of oil blanketed Pensacola beaches for several miles Wednesday.”

The area has been renowned for its white-sand beaches and “emerald waters.” No more. NorthEscambia.com, a local online newspaper described the reality: “It was the day that the World’s Whitest Beaches were no more. It was the day that the oil began to wash onto the shores of Pensacola Beach. It was the day the sands were stained black with oil; it was the day the tears of the locals stained the remaining sugar white sand.

“It was Wednesday, June 23, 2010. Masses of oil began to wash onto Pensacola Beach from the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.”

A lifeguard, wearing a red handkerchief over his nose and mouth to block the oil smell, told the media, “It’s enough to knock you down.”

Health advisories suggesting people should not fish or swim had been posted along 33 miles of Florida’s Panhandle beaches, but Thursday was the first day people were kept off one of them. Pensacola, the westernmost city in the Florida Panhandle, with a population of 53,000 people, is thoroughly dependent on tourism.

WALB television reported that the Pensacola beach “looked like a black blanket covered the sand.” The Pensacola News Journal reported that despite the efforts of 1,100 workers and heavy equipment overnight Wednesday, “massive sheets of oil remained buried in the sand.”

NorthEscambia.com bitterly reported that 44,955 pounds of tar balls and oil material were collected June 23 on Pensacola area beaches, including 10,245 pounds from a stretch of the Gulf Islands National Seashore and 7,500 pounds at West Perdido State Park; that BP has so far paid 18,694 claims in Florida at an “Average payout per claim” of $902.08; and that BP’s approximate profit “in the first three months of 2010” was $6 billion.

In nearby Alabama, reporters from the Press-Register in Mobile noted the presence Thursday afternoon of “dark sheets of oil washing ashore” in state recreation areas on the Coast not far from the Florida border.

Oil also washed up at Alabama’s popular Orange Beach. Double red flags warned swimmers to stay out of the water. The same treatment Pensacola received is predicted for Orange Beach and Perdido Key in Alabama. “It is following the track of the land,” said one expert, speaking of the spill. According to the News Journal, “Large red and orange plumes of thick oil streaked the water's surface just south of Orange Beach, covering at least 10 square miles of the Gulf. In places, the oil was as close as 100 yards to the beach.”

Alabama Department of Public Health officials are investigating claims that the spill has affected people’s health at 20 sites in Mobile and Baldwin counties, which lie on the Gulf. Thirty-one individuals in the area have sought medical treatment in emergency rooms, urgent care facilities and clinics, complaining of ailments connected to the spill, via inhalation, contact or ingestion.

Oil is expected to wash onto mainland Mississippi beaches within the next days, according to Trudy Fisher, of the state’s Department of Environmental Quality. “I think we all need to be mentally prepared to see some impact on our beaches,” she said. The oil has been closer to Alabama, “but winds shifted and began blowing it toward Mississippi over the last few days,” reported a Biloxi, Mississippi newspaper.

A developing storm in the western Caribbean threatens to dramatically worsen the situation. On Friday, the Nation Hurricane Center reported the development of what could be the season’s first tropical depression in the region. Moving at speeds of 35-miles per hour in a northwesterly direction, the storm system could pass over the Yucatan Peninsula and into the Gulf of Mexico. If this happens, high winds and waves could wash the oil on shore. Oil collection operations and the drilling of relief oil wells would have to be suspended, with some experts warning that cleanup operations could be offline for several days.

BP and the federal government continue to minimize the impact of the oil spill, but estimates on its far-reaching economic consequences are coming in from various sources. In a preliminary analysis, an economist from the University of Central Florida argued recently that the Gulf oil spill could put nearly 200,000 workers in Florida alone out of work, and cost the state some $11 billion. A report issued by the University of West Florida last week estimated 45,000 jobs associated with tourism were at risk in the Florida Panhandle.

In Grand Isle, Louisiana, only 50 miles from the rig explosion, oil has “seeped into the island’s bayous,” notes USA Today. Grand Isle’s population of some 1,500 people “normally grows from roughly 1,500 to more than 10,000 during the summer,” but now “locals count only about 100 tourists. The local camps and motels are filled instead with contract workers and members of the military, here to help with the spill cleanup effort.”

A local sports bar operator told the newspaper, “The tourism business is shot … This place is wiped out. It’s going to kill this little island.”

Tourism is big business on the Gulf Coast. “Louisiana saw $1.36 billion of its more than $8 billion in tourism dollars generated by its Gulf region last year. Alabama's beaches produced 25% of the $9.2 billion in tourism dollars reaped by the state in 2009. And of the 19 million visitors who flocked to Mississippi July 2008 through June 2009, 5.5 million traveled to the state's three coastal counties.” Much of that is now threatened.

“In Mississippi, the spill could result in a $120 million loss to non-casino tourism in the state's coastal areas this summer, according to a study released this month by the University of Southern Mississippi.”

Those are some of the direct results. But the loss of tax receipts, claims Alabama’s State Superintendent of Education Joe Morton, could be devastating for the state’s Education Trust Fund, composed of 10 different taxes collected at the state level and dedicated to funding public education from elementary to medical school.

In a press release June 10, Morton noted, “As tourism diminishes along Alabama’s Gulf Coast, as the seafood industry is crippled due to the ‘no fishing’ areas of the Gulf of Mexico, as oyster and shrimping areas are decimated by the oil spill, tax receipts to the ETF will suffer.”

He explained that because of “the BP tragedy” and corresponding loss of tax revenues, present and future, “I am declaring that I will charge BP with restoring the revenues lost so far, as well as future lost revenues to the ETF. … The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is wreaking havoc on our environment and gulf coast economy. We cannot allow it to also undermine our public schools by reducing the very tax receipts that pay our teachers’ salaries and help our classrooms keep the learning environment alive daily.

Stateline.org comments that budget officials in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida, “who badly overestimated revenue in the last two years as the national economic downturn deepened, now are facing the unexpected challenge of forecasting tax collections in the midst of a fickle environmental calamity that could last several years.”

It notes that accurate estimates are “crucial so state officials can send the bill to BP… Alabama revenue officials, among others, are trying mightily to document the costs, which include salaries and expenses of state workers involved in the cleanup. ‘Nothing of this magnitude has been done before,’ says veteran Alabama finance chief Bill Newton.”

BP, however, has no intention of paying for even a fraction of the damage its disaster will ultimately produce. Not only does it have lawyers, accountants and other highly paid experts working around the clock to come up with means, legal and otherwise, of avoiding such payouts, it can rely on the full complicity of the federal, state and local governments, and the judicial system, to connive in its efforts.

Oil spill cleanup worker commits suicide

Oil spill cleanup worker commits suicide

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The suicide of a charter boat captain from Alabama who had been working on one of BP’s cleanup crews in the Gulf of Mexico is a tragic indicator of the toll the Deepwater Horizon spill has taken on people in the region.

William Allen Kruse, 55, had been a charter boat captain in the area for 26 years. He ran a small business in which he hired his boats out to tourists and other clients for fishing in the Gulf. As a result of the oil spill, Kruse, like so many in the commercial fishing and tourism industry throughout the region, found himself out of work. As Kruse told CBS in a televised interview last month, “The day that the oil entered the Gulf my phone quit ringing.”

Like many fisherman and small charter boat business owners whose livelihoods have been stripped away, Kruse had no other choice but to go to work for BP, the very company responsible for the disaster. Under BP’s cynically named “Vessels of Opportunity” program, in which local boat operators are hired to assist in the cleanup of the oil spill, Kruse found work laying oil containment booms in the contaminated waters. He spent the last two weeks of his life doing cleanup work for the oil giant.

Family members say Kruse was owed as much as $70,000 for his work, but he had not yet received any payment from BP at the time of his death.

On Wednesday, while getting his boat “The Rookie” ready to sail out for the day’s work, Kruse sent his crew out on an errand with plans to meet up with them soon after. When he did not show up, the crew went to check on him and found his body in the boat’s wheelhouse with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.

Coroner Stan Vinson, who worked on the case, reported, “Witnesses told investigators that Kruse had been upset about the loss of business caused by the closing of fishing grounds and public perceptions of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.”

Vinson added, “All the waters are closed. There’s no charter business anymore. You go out on some of the beaches now, with the oil, you can’t even get in the water. It’s really crippled the tourism and fishing industry here.”

Friends and family who have spoken out on Kruse’s death have described the strain caused by going to work for the very company whose criminal actions destroyed their jobs in the first place. A deckhand working on Kruse’s boat told the Washington Post on Wednesday, “We’re helping cover up the lie. We’re burying ourselves. We’re helping them cover up the [expletive] that’s putting us out of work.”

Kruse’s brother Frank told the Washington Post, “There’s no question in my mind that this is directly related to the oil spill. He had been losing weight. Every day he was worried.” Frank Kruse said his brother “was very, very upset at the way BP was handling the oil spill. There was a lot of wasted money, a lot of wasted time. They’d give him a different story of what needed to be done.”

Kruse’s brother Marc told CNN that the cleanup effort was “madness.” He added, “It’s just a dog and pony show. Send [the boats] out. Ride around. Let everybody see them. Bring them back in.”

The suicide is one expression of the growing emotional and mental health consequence of the spill. The sudden loss of jobs and the destruction of the waters on which Gulf-area workers have made their living for decades are leaving their mark. Many families are now depending on compensation checks issued by BP to replace income lost as a result of the spill. Several of those receiving checks have complained they sometimes arrive as late as eight days after they are due, forcing families to struggle without sufficient financial resources.

In Kruse’s home state of Alabama, incidences of domestic violence have risen dramatically since the spill. Bayou La Batre Mayor Stan Wright told the BBC that reports of domestic violence have increased by 320 percent, while calls coming into police stations have risen by 110 percent. In Louisiana, suicide prevention hotlines reported a rise from 400 calls coming in on June 7, to 2,400 calls on June 24.

The psychological trauma caused by the Deepwater Horizon disaster resembles the aftermath of the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill. A 1993 study of the psychological effects of that disaster called “Community patterns of psychiatric disorders after the Exxon Valdez oil spill” found significant increases in depression and anxiety.

The study surveyed 599 men and women from 13 Alaskan communities one year after the spill and found that 20.2 percent of those surveyed suffered from generalized anxiety disorder, while 9.4 percent suffered from post traumatic stress disorder.

The study used the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale to examine the prevalence of depression among the communities and found 16.6 percent of those surveyed scored higher than 16 on the scale while 14.4 percent scored higher than 18, both results indicating widespread depression. The report drew the conclusion, “The results suggest that the oil spill’s impact on the psychosocial environment was as significant as its impact on the physical environment.”

Workers in the Gulf of Mexico are now facing the same difficulties. Dr. Howard Osofsky, a psychiatrist from Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center, speaking at a hearing before the US Institute of Medicine on Tuesday, said of those affected by the Deepwater Horizon disaster, “We’re already having reports of increased drinking, anxiety, anger and avoidance.”

15,000 progressive Activists in Detroit: Why No Media or Respect?

15,000 Progressive Activists in Detroit: Why No Media or Respect?

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It’s not surprising that the mainstream media is paying little attention to the 15,000-plus community organizers and progressive activists gathered in Detroit, Michigan this week for the second United States Social Forum. After all, the center-left political establishment isn’t paying attention either.

Why is it that the Tea Party -- the right-wing edge of the conservative political sphere -- exerts a gravitational pull on the Republican party and the conservative mainstream while the United States Social Forum and the leaders and groups gathered here, who represent the left of the liberal mainstream, are disregarded as marginal and irrelevant -- that is, if they’re regarded at all?

For those of you who, like the center-left political establishment, think the United States Social Forum sounds like some sort of debutante ball, allow me to explain.

In 2001, social movement leaders in Porto Alegre, Brazil, convened the first-ever World Social Forum as a space for progressive activists from around the globe to meet, learn and strategize with one another to strengthen the fight for justice, peace and equality worldwide. The World Social Forum’s guiding vision is summed up in its motto: “Another World is Possible.” Eventually, activists in the United States, wowed by the powerful experience of attending World Social Forums in Brazil, India and Africa and responding to calls from international activists that progressive change in the United States was critical to staunching injustice around the world, initiated the United States Social Forum. The first was held in 2007 in Atlanta, Georgia; the second this week in Detroit. Both U.S. Social Forums grew out of extensive regional and local social forum processes as well as nationwide planning committees, which were integral to the bottom-up formation of the forum

The Tea Party, which few had even heard about a year ago, is courted by prospective political candidates and established Republican leadership alike. Tea Party leaders like Sarah Palin command $100,000 speaking fees and major news outlets write headline stories about Tea Party activists and actions. By comparison, there is not a single nationally recognized speaker on the dais at any of the United States Social Forum plenaries, no Democratic party candidates bombarding the Forum or its constituent organizations for endorsements and no mainstream liberal foundations are backing the effort.

There are three possible explanations for why the Tea Party is treated as a force to be reckoned with on the right while the Social Forum is treated as fringe. The first is compositional. While the United States Social Forum gathers a disproportionately large number of poor people and people of color, repeated polls have shown that the Tea Party is predominantly comprised of financially well-off white men. Well-to-do white males generally have greater influence on the powers that be in our society than poor people of color. Of course, from the perspective of progressive activists, this is one reason why the Social Forum is needed, so accepting the permanence of this dynamic would be instantly self-defeating.

A second possible explanation for the Tea Party’s power and prominence as compared with the Social Forum is temporal. Shiny, new things always catch our eye, including our collective political eye, more than old and seemingly tired things. The progressive/left conglomeration of organizations and ideological perspectives that comprise the United States Social Forum have, literally or metaphorically, been around in American politics for decades.

And even where that’s not the case — for instance, very recent and innovative formations like the Domestic Workers Union or Right to the City Alliance — the reality is that the anti-oppression, pseudo-Marxist, liberation rhetoric they adopt often finds them lumped in with their old left brethren. On the right, although it is arguably old Moral Majority social invective married with old Club for Growth fiscal constraint, the Tea Party successfully packaged itself as a new reaction against the (also supposedly new) politics of President Obama. Even in movements, marketing matters. The left either has something new to offer but is failing to package it as such or has nothing new at all.

The third possible explanation may be the most deep and intransigent — it is psychological. Perhaps because they are largely white and well-to-do and male, perhaps because they grow out of recent political movements with very significant ambitions of power (including the Moral Majority and Club for Growth), the Tea Party is profoundly majoritarian in its rhetoric and vision. The Tea Party claims to represent mainstream America. According to the “Take America Back” platform put forth by Tea Party front organization Freedom Works, trumpeted by Fox News host Glenn Beck: “The Tea Party’s common-sense agenda of fiscal conservatism now represents the very middle of the American political spectrum.”

On the opposite end of the spectrum, the left wing of progressive politics as represented at the Social Forum does not evidence equivalent majoritarian convictions or aspirations. The closest workshops along these lines at the United States Social Forum are in the vein of “new majority” organizing among black and brown constituencies that are rising in demographic proportion.

Most everything else can be summed up as parsing identity politics (the difference between being “gender queer” or “transgendered”) or perfecting a left analysis of issues (for instance, on how the ecological crisis is rooted in the shortcomings of capitalism). While some workshops focus on building policy campaigns or electoral campaigns that might necessarily mean recruiting more middle-of-the-road, mainstream constituencies, what is palpably absent — in workshop proposals and hallway conversations — is any overarching belief that the assembled grassroots movements already legitimately represent the mainstream of America.

Mainstream liberals, especially in Washington, have bought into the false dichotomy that there is a necessary trade-off between seeking political power versus sticking to one’s ideological beliefs. The Democratic party, the Obama administration and many Washington-based advocacy organizations have picked the side of political pragmatism. It would appear that the left wing of the left has also bought into this false dichotomy and chosen the ideology end of the imaginary see-saw. But what if more Americans agree with the Social Forum crowd than the DNC? Perhaps even a governing majority? In November 2009, a BBC poll found that 63 percent of Americans felt that capitalism in its current form wasn’t working for them. What if the Social Forum crowd claimed to represent that 63 percent — and then some?

In his argument for hegemony as a left-wing aspiration, Antonio Gramsci wrote that before actually winning power, a political movement must believe it can win power and have a vision for how to use it. Yet the psychological failure to claim hegemonic aspirations — let along make significant progress toward realizing majoritarian power — can be linked to what another left philosopher, Frantz Fanon, dubbed the psychology of oppression. Communities so accustomed to personal and political marginalization have a hard time even imagining themselves as the ones wielding power as opposed to those over whom power is being wielded. Such hopelessness focuses a movement inward, leading to the kind of internecine fights around identity politics and issue positions that frequently divide the left. This explains United States Social Forum workshops like “The Struggle for Single Payer in the Time of Obamacare,” piling onto the conservative attack on liberal policy in the name of left-wing ideological purity.

Without a doubt, it is easier to fight for the preservation of the political past — even if it’s a revised, overly rosy past in the case of the Tea Party and its supporters — than advance a new, progressive vision that critiques and contrasts with the status quo. And the publicity showered on the Tea Party by Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and others blows a certain wind at the back of right-wing ideas storming the mainstream media. Then again, the Social Forum motto grows directly out of the slogan put forward by neo-liberal economists and politicians who, to make the case for economic globalization when it was a relatively new concept, insisted “There is no alternative."

But perhaps, learning from the hegemonic aspirations of the economic and social right, the motto of the Social Forum left should also be “There is no alternative” — arguing that the progressive vision for a transformed and better future is, indeed, inevitable. Sure there are plenty of cultural and structural barriers that incline the left to be marginalized and, thus, languish in internal process. Nonetheless, one cannot help but wonder how the United States Social Forum and the left in general would be different if convinced they represent the majority of Americans and deserve real, ruling power.

Will Deep Gulf Life Survive the BP Spill?

Cold, Dark and Teeming With Life

The deep seabed was once considered a biological desert. Life, the logic went, was synonymous with light and photosynthesis. The sun powered the planet’s food chains, and only a few scavengers could ply the preternaturally dark abyss.

Then, in 1977, oceanographers working in the deep Pacific stumbled on bizarre ecosystems lush with clams, mussels and big tube worms — a cornucopia of abyssal life built on microbes that thrived in hot, mineral-rich waters welling up from volcanic cracks, feeding on the chemicals that leached into the seawater and serving as the basis for whole chains of life that got along just fine without sunlight.

In 1984, scientists found that the heat was not necessary. In exploring the depths of the Gulf of Mexico, they discovered sunless habitats powered by a new form of nourishment. The microbes that founded the food chain lived not on hot minerals but on cold petrochemicals seeping up from the icy seabed.

Today, scientists have identified roughly one hundred sites in the gulf where cold-seep communities of clams, mussels and tube worms flourish in the sunless depths. And they have accumulated evidence of many more — hundreds by some estimates, thousands by others — most especially in the gulf’s deep, unexplored waters.

“It wouldn’t surprise me if there were 2,000 communities, from suburbs to cities,” said Ian R. MacDonald, an oceanographer at Florida State University who studies the dark ecosystems.

The world’s richest known concentration of these remarkable communities is in the Gulf of Mexico. The life forms include tube worms up to eight feet long. Some of the creatures appear old enough, scientists say, to predate the arrival of Columbus in the New World.

Now, by horrific accident, these cold communities have become the subject of a quiet debate among scientists. The gulf is, of course, the site of the giant oil spill that began April 20 with the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon drill rig. The question is what the oil pouring into the gulf means for these deep, dark habitats.

Seep researchers have voiced strong concern about the threat to the dark ecosystems. The spill is a concentrated surge, they note, in contrast to the slow, diffuse, chronic seepage of petrochemicals across much of the gulf’s northern slope. Many factors, like the density of oil in undersea plumes, the size of resulting oxygen drops and the potential toxicity of oil dispersants — all unknowns — could grow into threats that outweigh any possible benefits and damage or even destroy the dark ecosystems.

Last year, scientists discovered a community roughly five miles from where the BP well, a mile deep, subsequently blew out. Its inhabitants include mussels and tube worms. So it seems that researchers will have some answers sooner rather than later.

“There’s lots of uncertainty,” said Charles R. Fisher, a professor of biology at Pennsylvania State University, who is leading a federal study of the dark habitats and who observed the nearby community. “Our best hope is that the impact is neutral or a minor problem.”

A few scientists say the gushing oil — despite its clear harm to pelicans, turtles and other forms of coastal life — might ultimately represent a subtle boon to the creatures of the cold seeps and even to the wider food chain.

“The gulf is such a great fishery because it’s fed organic matter from oil,” said Roger Sassen, a specialist on the cold seeps who recently retired from Texas A&M University. “It’s preadapted to crude oil. The image of this spill being a complete disaster is not true.” His stance seems to be a minority view.

Over roughly two decades, the federal government has spent at least $30 million uncovering and investigating the creatures of the cold seeps, a fair amount of money for basic ocean research. Washington has provided this money in an effort to ensure that oil development does no harm to the unusual ecosystems. Now, the nation’s worst oil spill at sea — with tens of millions of gallons spewing to date — has thrown that goal into doubt.

The agency behind the exploration and surveying of the cold seeps is none other than the much-criticized Minerals Management Service of the Department of the Interior — not its oil regulators but a separate environmental arm, which long ago began hiring oceanographers, geologists, ecologists and marine biologists to investigate the gulf seabed and eventually pushed through regulations meant to protect the newly discovered ecosystems.

The minerals service is joining with other federal agencies to study whether the BP spill is harming the dark habitats. Scientists say ships may go to sea as soon as July, sending tethered robots down to the icy seabed to examine the seep communities and take samples for analysis.

It is a bittersweet moment for scientists like Dr. MacDonald of Florida State University, who has devoted his career to documenting the ecosystem’s richness and complexity. In an interview, he said the sheer difficulty of trying to fathom the ecological impacts of the spill had left some of his colleagues dejected.

“Once, we had this career studying obscure animals down there,” he said. “And now, it’s looking at this — probably for the rest of my career. It becomes this huge unknown.”

Inky darkness, icy temperatures and crushing pressures conspire to make studying the deep oceans arduous and remarkably costly. Humans are estimated to have glimpsed perhaps a millionth of the ocean floor.

By contrast, people looking at the surface of the gulf have known about the seeping oil for centuries. Spanish records dating from the 16th century note floating oil.

In the early 1980s, scientists investigating the oil seeps wondered if nearby creatures on the seabed might suffer chronic harm from pollution and serve as models for petrochemical risk. They lowered nets about a half mile down and pulled up, to their surprise, riots of healthy animals.

“We report the discovery of dense biological communities associated with regions of oil and gas seepage,” six oceanographers at Texas A&M wrote in the journal Nature in September 1985.

The animals included snails, crabs, eels, clams and tube worms more than six feet long. The founding microbes of the food chain turned out to feed on seabed emissions of methane and hydrogen sulfide — a highly toxic chemical for land animals that has the odor of rotten eggs.

Plants derive energy from sunlight and make living tissue in a process known as photosynthesis. The corresponding method among the microbes of the dark abyss is known as chemosynthesis.

The minerals service proceeded to finance wide expeditions. It issued thick reports in 1988, 1992 and 2002. By then, scientists had discovered dozens of seep communities and found some of their inhabitants to be extraordinarily old.

In the journal Nature, Dr. Fisher of Pennsylvania State University and two colleagues reported that gulf tube worms could live more than 250 years — making them among the oldest animals on the planet.

The latest expeditions have looked at seep communities as deep as 1.7 miles — far down the continental slope toward the gulf’s nether regions. In an interview, Dr. Fisher said investigations of the deeper communities suggested that tube worm species there grew slower and lived longer.

How long? “It’s likely they can live a lot longer,” he answered. “I’m uncomfortable with an exact number, but we’re talking centuries — four, five or six centuries.”

Over the years, scientists have found that the deep microbes not only eat exotic chemicals but also make carbonate (a building block of seashells) that forms a hard crust on the normally gooey seabed. The carbonate crusts can grow thick enough, they say, to reduce the flow of gas and oil through the seep communities and form attachment points for a variety of other sea creatures, especially deep corals and other filter feeders like brittle stars.

By probing the gulf’s deep waters with sound and other imaging technologies, scientists have found evidence for the existence on the northern continental slope of roughly 8,000 regions of hard crust — all, they say, potentially home to old or new seep communities.

On its Web site, the minerals service freely admits “a management conflict” between encouraging oil development and protecting the dark ecosystems. It issued regulations in 1989 and has periodically toughened the rules, most recently in January.

Now, in the wake of the oil disaster, many seep researchers have voiced strong concern about the threat to the dark ecosystems. Dr. Fisher said that thick oil could coat the respiratory structures of the animals and cause them to suffocate, and that high concentrations might otherwise prove toxic.

Samantha B. Joye, a cold-seep scientist at the University of Georgia, told a House science subcommittee on June 9 that the BP blowout represented “an unprecedented perturbation to the Gulf of Mexico system.”

She expressed particular concern about the dispersants that BP is injecting a mile down into the spewing oil — in a largely successful effort to reduce the flow reaching the surface.

Dr. Joye said the surge of oil into subsurface waters could feed microbes that consume oxygen. If their numbers explode, she said, the result could be a spike in oxygen consumption so large that its deep levels drop precipitously.

The dark ecosystems, she noted, “can tolerate reduced oxygen concentrations.” But she cautioned that the BP spill will challenge their tolerance “beyond any previous insult.”

Now, oceanographers are preparing to dive deep to see how the dark communities are holding up. The lessons for oil precautions and regulatory care, they say, could have application not only for creatures in the inky depths of the Gulf of Mexico but also around the world.

“Everywhere they looked, they’ve found them,” said Norman L. Guinasso Jr., director of Geochemical and Environmental Research at Texas A&M. He cited discoveries of seep communities off Angola, Indonesia and Trinidad.

In exploring the gulf, Dr. Guinasso said, scientists are struggling to fathom the strengths and vulnerabilities of some of the planet’s oldest and most novel creatures. “People,” he said, “are still learning.”

Corporate Con Game

Corporate Con Game

How the private prison industry helped shape Arizona’s anti-immigrant law.

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Beside my brothers and my sisters, I'll proudly take a stand. When liberty's in jeopardy, I'll always do what's right. I'm out here on the frontline, sleep in peace tonight. American soldier, I'm an American soldier..."

So goes the ringtone of Arizona State Sen. Russell Pearce's (R-Mesa) phone--as performed by Toby "we put a boot up your ass, it's the American way" Keith. Seconds into any conversation with Pearce about illegal immigration, you'll discover that the song fits. In his mind, Pearce is an "American soldier" fighting a war that he believes threatens the very fiber of the nation.

"There's been 133 nations identified crossing that border. Not just Mexicans, not just Hondurans, not just El Salvadorians, but 133 nations. Many of those are nations of interest, which means that they either harbor, aid and abet, or are somehow connected to terrorist activities," says Pearce. "And yet they continue to cross that border. We've got prayer rugs that have been found down there, other things that have been found down there--and yet they [the federal government] continue to do nothing."

So Pearce decided to do something. He became the proud and primary sponsor of S.B. 1070--the Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act--signed into law by Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer in April and set to take effect on July 29.

Yet the fact is, some backers of S.B. 1070 are wrapping themselves in the flag all the way to the bank.

An In These Times investigation shows that the bill's promoters are as equally dedicated to border politics as they are to promoting the fortunes of private prison companies, like Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and Geo Group, which stand to reap substantial profits as more undocumented residents end up in jail.

Pearce and the policy pushers

In early December 2009--a full month and a half before S.B. 1070 was introduced to the Arizona Senate and nearly two months before its counterpart was first read in the House--Pearce formally submitted a version of his drafted legislation to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), an organization to which he and 35 other Arizona legislators belong.

A 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, ALEC bills itself as "the nation's largest bipartisan, individual membership association of state legislators" and as a public-private legislative partnership. As such, ALEC claims as members more than 2,000 state lawmakers (one-third of the nation's total legislators) and more than 200 corporations and special-interest groups.

The organization's current corporate roster includes the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA, the nation's largest private jailer), the Geo Group (the nation's second largest private jailer), Sodexho Marriott (the nation's leading food services provider to private correctional institutions), the Koch Foundation, Exxon Mobil, Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Boeing, Wal-Mart and Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation, to name just a few.

ALEC is comprised of 10 task forces, each responsible for developing "model legislation," which ALEC member lawmakers then sponsor and introduce in their home states. This occurs despite the fact that federal tax law explicitly forbids 501(c)(3) organizations such as ALEC from taking part in the formation of legislation. ALEC promotional material boasts that each year member legislators typically carry 1,000 pieces of legislation back to their home states, 20 percent of which is passed into law.

As a testament to ALEC's efficacy as a pipeline for corporate-backed legislation, since the passage of the federal healthcare overhaul package in late March, legislators in at least 38 states have introduced the ALEC-crafted Freedom of Choice Health Care Act (Health Care Act). Ironically, given the fetish Pearce and other ALEC lawmakers have for adherence to federal immigration laws, the Health Care Act is marketed as an assertion of the states' sovereignty under the Tenth Amendment. Interestingly, ALEC claims that the Health Care Act is based on an Arizona proposition that was defeated on the ballot in 2008.

Pearce is an executive member of ALEC's Public Safety and Elections Task Force. The private-sector executive members of this task force include CCA, the American Bail Coalition (which is comprised of nine of the nation's top bail bond insurer/bounty hunter associations), the National Beer Wholesalers Association, the Wine and Spirit Wholesalers Association, the National Pawn Brokers Association and Prison Fellowship Ministries. The private-sector chair of the Public Safety Task Force is the National Rifle Association (NRA).

Although ALEC's legislative members far outnumber corporate members, a look at the group's finances illustrates not only the price corporations are willing to pay for a seat at the table with state lawmakers, but where the group's loyalties likely lie. According to ALEC's most recent tax records, in 2008 the group reported a total of $6.9 million in revenue--$93,387 of which was brought in through legislative membership dues (a two-year membership is available to lawmakers for $100, or four years at $200). On the other hand, ALEC received $5.6 million (all but $1.3 million of the group's annual budget) in contributions from its corporate and special-interest members.

According to Michael Hough, director of ALEC's Public Safety and Elections Task Force, every bill introduced by any member legislator or corporation must go through a 30-day review process of approval by both public and private sector ALEC members before it can become model legislation. This process, Hough says, was set in motion for Pearce's immigration bill when he submitted it to the Public Safety and Elections Task Force during the group's December 2009 meeting in Washington, D.C.

Pearce denies that he submitted the bill to ALEC for any purpose other than to gain its endorsement and strengthen the legislation's ability to weather legal challenges both in Arizona and other states.

However, ALEC does not issue endorsements, says Hough, but rather works with lawmakers in the formation and dissemination of model legislation. And, according to Hough, the model legislation that emerged from Pearce's ALEC task force in early January is virtually identical to the bill introduced by Pearce in the Arizona Legislature later that month.

Sanctuary city 'anarchists'

All Arizona is seeking to do, says Pearce, is enforce current federal immigration laws--laws that liberal lawmakers and "loudmouth anarchist" groups in so-called "sanctuary cites" flagrantly violate.

"It's illegal to have sanctuary policies in this state under federal law, but we have them all over this country. I mean, L.A. and San Francisco being--if you will--the poster cities of what's wrong with America," says Pearce.

To remedy this situation, the ALEC model legislation ("No Sanctuary Cities for Illegal Immigrants Act") and Pearce's Arizona bill both feature anti-sanctuary cities provisions that prohibit any municipal, county or state policy from hampering the ability of any government agency to comply with federal immigration law. The ALEC model legislation and the Arizona law also both include sanctions aimed at those who employ illegal immigrants and tougher penalties for human smugglers.

The Arizona law has drawn the most fire for its so-called "Breathing While Brown" provision that allows law enforcement officers to arrest anyone whom they have probable cause to believe may have committed a crime--such as being in Arizona without proper documentation. When the law goes into effect on July 29, any person in Arizona found to be without legal papers will be charged with the new state crime of "willful failure to complete or carry an alien registration document," under Arizona's criminal trespass statutes.

These new criminal offences carry a maximum fine of $100, up to 20 days in jail (30 days for a second offense) and restitution of jail costs. By creating these state level offenses--and by forbidding localities from ignoring them--Pearce's Arizona law and ALEC's model legislation effectively convert every state, county and municipal police officer into an enforcer of federal immigration law.

According to Hough, the main difference between the final version of the Support Our Law Enforcement Act as signed into law in Arizona and the Sanctuary Cities Act that ALEC is promoting across the country is that the ALEC legislation carries more stringent penalties under the criminal trespass section than the Arizona law.

Under the Sanctuary Cities Act's criminal trespassing provision, first offences are still Class 1 misdemeanors, but there is no 20- to 30-day cap on incarceration as the final version of Arizona's S.B. 1070 provides. Additionally, the Arizona legislation classifies subsequent offenses as misdemeanors and the Sanctuary Cities Act classifies repeat offenses as felonies, which carry lengthier terms of incarceration.

'Enhanced opportunities'

Questions of justice aside, the immigration dragnet created by S.B. 1070 in Arizona and the Sanctuary Cities Act, will greatly increase the numbers of undocumented residents who are arrested and jailed. And that bodes well for the bottom lines of private detention corporations such as CCA and Geo Group. (Neither Geo Group nor CCA responded to repeated requests for comment.)

Over the past decade, the private-prison industry has increasingly shifted its attention to the burgeoning fields of undocumented and criminal alien detention. From January 2008 to April 2010, CCA spent $4.4 million lobbying the Department of Homeland Security, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the Office of the Federal Detention Trustee, the Office of Budget Management, the Bureau of Prisons, and both houses of Congress. Of the 43 lobbying disclosure reports CCA filed during this period, only five do not expressly state intent to monitor or influence immigration reform policy or gain Homeland Security or ICE appropriations.

Looking at the numbers, it is easy to see why the private-prison industry is eager to expand into immigrant detentions. According to ICE Public Affairs Officer Gillian Brigham, in fiscal year 2009, ICE detained 383,524 individuals, with an average daily prisoner population of 32,098 spread across the nation's 270 immigrant detention centers.

Due to the rising numbers of immigrant detentions in recent years, coupled with the rising tide of economic shortfalls at both the state and federal level (ICE reported a $140 million budget deficit for fiscal year 2010), ICE has farmed out the operations of many of these facilities to either county operators under inter-government service agreements (IGSAs) or to private-prison contractors who operate the facilities on a per diem, per inmate basis.

Currently, seven of these facilities are "contract detention facilities" (CDFs) owned and operated by either CCA or Geo Group. However, according to Brigham, ICE uses several types of facilities for immigrant detention, including county or state-owned jails and prisons contracted out by ICE under IGSAs, and "service processing centers," which are facilities operated by both federal and private detention staff.

An example of one of these IGSA enterprises would be the nation's largest immigrant detention facility, the Willacy County Processing Center in Raymondville, Texas. This jail, though owned by the county, is operated by Management and Training Corporation, a Utah-based private prison manager. Consisting of several massive dome-like structures, the Willacy "Tent City" can warehouse more than 3,000 immigrant detainees awaiting deportation at any given time.

However, according to Brigham, ICE does not keep tabs on who is operating these detention centers at the state or county level through IGSAs, so it is difficult to assess how many of these facilities are run by private firms. In addition, ICE is not the only federal agency to contract out immigrant detention beds to these corporations. The detention of undocumented aliens, who are convicted of a crime and must serve a sentence before deportation, is also farmed out to private-prison contractors through the Bureau of Prisons and the U.S. Marshals Service.

Understandably, Geo Group and CCA are optimistic about their industry's future. They plan to expand operations or fill thousands of detention bed "inventory surpluses" around the country (including in Arizona) in response to what these corporations refer to as "organic growth opportunities." The drivers of this growth include the increase of immigrant detentions and the inability of the federal and state governments to meet detention needs due to budgetary constraints.

In May, during the Geo Group's first-quarter investor conference call, a prospective investor asked Geo CEO George Zoley what impact Arizona's immigration law might have on business. Zoley responded with levity: "What? They have some new legislation? I never heard about it. I think I'm increasingly convinced of their need for 5,000 new beds."

Wayne Calabrese, Geo Group's chief operating officer, offered a more straightforward appraisal.

"I can only believe that the opportunities at the federal level are going to continue at pace as a result of what's happening. I think people understand there is still a relatively low threshold of tolerance for people coming across the border and those laws not being enforced," Calabrese said. "And that to me at least suggests there are going to be enhanced opportunities for what we do."

Why the Wall Street-BP Double Standard?

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"In reality, credit pollutants pose the same kind of threat to our economy as chemical toxins do to our environment. Like their chemical counterparts, they tend to concentrate in the weakest and most vulnerable parts of the financial system, and that's where the toxic effects show up first: the subprime mortgage market collapse is essentially the Love Canal of our ongoing risk-pollution disaster." Eric Janszen, Harper's Magazine, February 2008

We're living through two of the most catastrophic ecological disasters in history. BP's spill is wrecking the Gulf's ecosystem. It slaughtered 11 workers and destroyed the livelihoods of thousands in the fishing and tourist industries. And soon, we'll start hearing about the terrible toll exposure to oil-related toxics is taking on the bodies of clean-up workers.

Meanwhile, Wall Street, led by financial giants like Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America and A.I.G., polluted our financial system with toxic assets. The wreckage includes $6 trillion in lost economic value and at least 8 million US jobs destroyed in a matter of months. And like the Gulf spill, the Wall Street catastrophe will have deadly long-term consequences, as hundreds of dislocated workers die prematurely from the economic shock.

The Gulf and Wall Street disasters are oddly parallel in many ways, except one: BP is paying for some of its sins. Wall Street isn't. (And what better evidence than the watered down financial reform bill the Congressional conferees hashed out last night, which gives banks plenty of latitude to keep doing business as usual).

Both calamities were predictable and preventable. BP--and the rest of the oil industry--relies on very risky technology to operate flawlessly under extreme pressure, in deeper and deeper water. According to the New York Times , Transocean commissioned a confidential study of safety records at some 15,000 deep sea wells. In 11 cases, crews "lost control of their wells and then activated blowout preventers to prevent a spill. In only six of those cases were the wells brought under control, leading the researchers to conclude that in actual practice, blowout preventers used by deepwater rigs had a 'failure' rate of 45 percent." In short, a BP-like disaster was inevitable. But the industry and its allies studiously ignored that study and all other evidence of our offshore ticking time bombs. Drill baby drill! Just make sure you get the cash in your pocket before she blows.

Back on dry ground, we had similarly strong evidence that a Wall Street disaster was inevitable. Many thoughtful public and private officials cautioned us that Wall Street had recreated the very conditions that led to the crash in 1929 - financial deregulation plus too much speculative money in the hands of the few. In 1995, Brooksley Born, as chair of the Commodities Futures Trading Commission, warned President Clinton, Alan Greenspan and Congress that the fast-growing Wall Street derivatives casino could collapse at any time, taking the financial system with it. Her reward was to be driven out of government by Alan Greenspan, Robert Rubin and Senator Phil Gramm. The financial industry went into overdrive, creating and selling hundreds of billions of these risky products, which later turned into toxic trash. But till then, let the good times roll...for the elites.

In both the deep sea and on Wall Street, regulation was slack or non-existent. At BP, officials fudged or ignored equipment tests for key failsafe drilling systems. Regulators were clueless at best, corrupt at worst. On Wall Street, the financial ratings agencies pretended the toxic assets smelled like roses. Financial regulators from the Fed on down were not just clueless, but collaborating in the scheme.

If the Wall Street and BP disasters are eerily parallel, consider this connection between the big bankers and the BP spill. Apparently Wall Street analysts didn't like all the extra time and money it took to conduct tests on deepwater rig failsafe devices. In a conference call with investment analysts, Transocean's CEO virtually apologized for the annoying "anomaly" of having to repair blowout preventers. (New York Times, 6/21/10). It reportedly costs $700 a minute to pull up a blowout preventer for repairs. Investors surely didn't want to see that kind of cash wasted on tests that could be avoided with a little guile and regulatory manipulation.

But the many parallels and connections between the Wall Street and Gulf disasters end when it comes to how the government is handling these crises. BP is paying a price for what it has done. Wall Street is being rewarded. (Populist rhetoric aside, the financial reform bill just announced will keep those rewards coming through a myriad of exemptions and loopholes. Too big to fail is here to stay.)

The Obama Administration pressured BP into canceling dividend payments and setting aside a $20 billion victims fund that will be administered by a neutral third party.

Where's Wall Street's victims fund? The one that will help the millions of people who lost their jobs or homes because of the crash? Instead of paying out, Wall Street is getting paid for its sins. After the crash, both the Bush and Obama administrations showered the perpetrators with at least $10 trillion in taxpayer bailouts, guarantees, toxic asset swaps and liquidity programs. The largest financial institutions were permitted, even encouraged, to become even bigger as they gobbled up distressed banks at bargain basement prices. What aid there is for Wall Street's victims comes from us, the taxpayers, in the form of stimulus money.

In the very year in which they destroyed eight million jobs, the finance industry big boys got away with paying themselves $150 billion in bonuses all of which came by way of taxpayer support. In the worst economic year since the Great Depression, the top ten hedge fund managers (who would have earned next to nothing without taxpayer-financed bailouts) awarded themselves an average of $1.8 billion each - that's about $900,000 an hour (not a typo).

Why was Wall Street rewarded for nearly destroying the financial system, while BP is (rightly) being punished for polluting the Gulf and killing workers?

Blame the Brits?The Brits have one answer: BP is British and therefore easy game for American politicians. The idea makes for a nice rhetorical flourish, but I don't think it accounts for much. My guess is that if a volcano of Exxon oil erupted in the Gulf, our response would be roughly the same. (And I sure hope we won't find out any time soon.)

We can see oil but not finance? Another explanation for the double standard is that while Wall Street's financial shenanigans are an invisible abstraction, the Gulf spill is a graphic nightmare - the oil- coated birds, the once pristine marshes covered with goo - not to mention the oil gushing live and in color on your computer screen.

However, losing your job overnight because of a financial collapse is pretty tangible. Watching your nice neighborhood become a shabby ghost town because of mortgage foreclosures and plummeting housing prices is not too subtle either. Knowing that Wall Street dons are rolling in dough again while you're fighting off debt collectors is quite immediate. Seeing your town lay off teachers because the Wall Street-induced crash caused tax revenues to tank is almost as sad as looking at an oil-soaked pelican.

So what's really behind the double standard? Power: bankers have more of it than oil execs. Big Oil just isn't as big as the financial industry anymore.

Look at it this way: Citigroup was too big to fail. BP isn't. If it goes under the markets will not crash. Millions won't lose their jobs. In fact the other oil giants will be only too glad to suck up the business. But when a single major financial entity goes under, the entire economy is at risk.

That immense power gives the financial sector the moxie to cover up its culpability. We know who to blame for the Gulf spill. But how many people know who to blame for the Wall Street crash? The culprits have spent millions to convince us that they are totally innocent. Instead, it's the government's fault for failing to adequately regulate them. Or it's all those hapless Americans buying houses they couldn't really afford, touching off a housing bubble.

BP officials appear red-faced before the congressional committee and admit guilt. But when Goldman Sachs' Lloyd Blankfein gets before Congress, he assures us that he's doing "God's work." He might look innocent, but Blankfein and his Wall Street brethren are guilty as sin for polluting our financial system with toxic assets--and walking away with billions (See The Looting of America for all the evidence you need.)

Politicians know they can get away with slapping BP around. But you better not slap Wall Street--you might upset the markets. God knows we don't want to give Wall Street the jitters and cause a Dow Jones tumble. Let's not risk a run on currencies or any other scary reaction that might endanger our feeble jobless recovery. Taking a knock at BP might lose you some oil industry campaign contributions. But the financial industry is the biggest campaign contributor of all--to both Democrats and Republicans.

Now that Wall Street has collected its bailout billions, it wants the rest of us to tighten our belts. The captains of high finance are demanding that we reduce public debt, which we ran up to bail them out and deal with the mass unemployment they caused. It takes a hell of a lot of nerve. First they crash the system and run away with a fat pocket of cash. They we bail them out and they use the money to pay themselves tens of billions in bonuses. Then they demand that WE clean up our financial act or they won't loan out any money.

And sadly, they're getting away with it. A generation of deregulation and regressive tax policies gave them the keys to the world economy. They now control so much capital that they have the power to veto policiies instantly, just by rapidly moving money around. The porous financial reform bill won't stop them. The too-big-to-fail giants will grow even bigger. Get ready for more financial toxic shock as Wall Street's financial engineers drill through the bill's countless loopholes.

So next time an oil-blackened snowy egret gets you furious at BP, remember to save some righteous indignation for the financial polluters who are picking your pockets.

G20 protests turn ugly

G20 protests turn ugly

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Masked protesters smashed windows of a bank branch and other buildings, including a Starbucks coffee shop, and set a police car ablaze.

Black-clad anarchists protesting at the G20 summit in Toronto have smashed storefronts and wrecked a police car, while riot police donned gas masks in anticipation of an escalation of violence.

Masked protesters smashed windows of a bank branch and other buildings, including a Starbucks coffee shop, and set a police car ablaze. Two media trucks were also damaged.

An Emergency Services spokeswoman said at least three people had been wounded in the protest, but that paramedics were unable to reach them due to the protest.

By midafternoon, demonstrators numbered in the thousands, while hundreds of police massed and authorities shut down public transit and blocked streets leading into the downtown core of the city.

Most protesters remained peaceful, with many bearing signs and chanting slogans aimed both at the G20 and police tactics.

"Whose streets, our streets," roared the crowd, while TV images focused on "anarchists" who had promised to infiltrate the crowd and face off against police at the three-metre high barrier that encircles the Group of 20 meeting site.

Soon after the demonstrators arrived near the G20 barriers, groups of black-clad protesters appeared to separate themselves from the larger group and confronted the hundreds of police shadowing the march.

TV reports said protesters at the front of the march were hurling objects such as golf balls at police.

A reporter earlier witnessed some demonstrators chipping pieces off concrete planters lining the path of the march before scuffles between the two sides. Police used plastic shields to shove demonstrators back into the crowds.

Canada has budgeted more than $US970 million for security for the two summits.

Police earlier this week arrested a man and a woman a few blocks from the summit site and said they had found incendiary devices.

Overnight, police conducted raids on houses of suspected protest organisers in Toronto and arrested four people on charges of conspiracy to commit mischief, in what police said was a protest-related move.

Police given greater arrest powers near G20 security zone

Police given greater arrest powers near G20 security zone

Province quietly passed regulation that gives police the right to search and arrest anyone who refuses to self-identify near zone

Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair on Friday defended his move to seek what he called a "clarification" of police powers around the walled security zone that allows officers to demand anyone approaching the fence to identify themselves.

He dismissed criticism that the expanded police powers were "sweeping" or obtained secretly.

The Chief said police approached the province several months ago to have the security zone designated under an existing Ontario law that gives police expanded powers in places such as Union Station or police headquarters.

The government of Ontario quietly designated the entire G20 security zone as a "public work" nearly a month ago under a little-used act that vastly expands police arrest powers.

The move means anyone entering, or even approaching, a designated area can be searched without a warrant. All the streets inside the security fence in Toronto, where the summit is being hosted, have been temporarily designated under the Public Works Protection Act.

The act usually covers highways and canals used for the transmission of power and other public utilities, which are permanently designated. It also covers public provincial and municipal buildings. It gives "guards" of these sites the ability to demand a visitor's name and purpose for the visit and to refuse permission to enter, and arrest without warrant.

"This is not new powers. It is not sweeping powers. It's powers which are clearly defined in law," Chief Blair told a press conference at police headquarters. "... It was not a secret."

The temporary designation went into effect June 21, and will be rescinded the day after the summit ends, on June 28. Those found guilty under the act are subject to imprisonment for no longer than two months or a $500 fine.

A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Community Safety says the Ontario Public Works Protection Act dates back to 1939, and was simply extended to the G20 security perimeter for one week.

The same law gives police the power to ask anyone entering a courthouse for identification and to search any bags they have.

"It's a very clever way to expand police powers," said Nathalie Des Rosiers of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. The group stated in a press release that it was "very concerned" about the implications of the measure and noted it "dramatically altered" the advice lawyers gave to protesters and the public.

The CCLA believes this is the first time an area has been designated temporarily.

The move was passed June 2 and only appeared on e-laws June 16. It won't be published in the regular paper format until July 3, after the summits are over.

A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Community Safety says the cabinet passed the law after a request from Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair.

With files from CP

CIA Hires Blackwater in Afghanistan

CIA Hires Private Security Firm Xe, Formerly Blackwater, In Afghanistan

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The CIA has hired the private security firm Xe Services to guard its facilities in Afghanistan and elsewhere, it was reported Thursday.

An industry source tells The Washington Post the contract, worth about $100 million, is for "protective services... guard services, in multiple regions."

CIA contract is worth about $100 million, said the source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the deal, which is classifiedIt's for protective services . . . guard services, in multiple regions," the source said.

Xe, formerly known as Blackwater Worldwide, won the deal over two other security contractors, Triple Canopy and DynCorp International, the source told the newspaper.

News of the contract comes after a federal commission investigating war-zone contractors criticized the State Department this week for granting Xe a $120 million deal to guard U.S. consulates under construction in Afghanistan. The North Carolina-based firm has been under scrutiny since its paramilitary employees, acting as security personnel, were involved in a shooting incident in Iraq that left 17 people dead in 2007.


A Xe spokesman had no comment on the CIA contract.

A U.S. official familiar with the deal told the Post that the company "has undergone some serious changes" since the incident in Iraq.

"They've had to prove to the government that they're a responsible outfit. Having satisfied every legal requirement, they have the right to compete for contracts," the official said. "They have people who do good work, at times in some very dangerous places. Nobody should forget that, either."

CIA spokesman Paul Gimigliano told the Post that Xe personnel would not be used only for security and would not be involved in operations.

"We have a very careful process when it comes to procurement, and we take it seriously. We've also made it clear that personnel from Xe do not serve with the CIA in any operational roles," Gimigliano said.

The Global Political Awakening and the New World Order

The Global Political Awakening and the New World Order

The Technological Revolution and the Future of Freedom, Part 1

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There is a new and unique development in human history that is taking place around the world; it is unprecedented in reach and volume, and it is also the greatest threat to all global power structures: the ‘global political awakening.’ The term was coined by Zbigniew Brzezinski, and refers to the fact that, as Brzezinski wrote:

For the first time in history almost all of humanity is politically activated, politically conscious and politically interactive. Global activism is generating a surge in the quest for cultural respect and economic opportunity in a world scarred by memories of colonial or imperial domination.[1]

It is, in essence, this massive ‘global political awakening’ which presents the gravest and greatest challenge to the organized powers of globalization and the global political economy: nation-states, multinational corporations and banks, central banks, international organizations, military, intelligence, media and academic institutions. The Transnational Capitalist Class (TCC), or ‘Superclass’ as David Rothkopf refers to them, are globalized like never before. For the first time in history, we have a truly global and heavily integrated elite. As elites have globalized their power, seeking to construct a ‘new world order’ of global governance and ultimately global government, they have simultaneously globalized populations.

The ‘Technological Revolution’ (or ‘Technetronic’ Revolution, as Brzezinski termed it in 1970) involves two major geopolitical developments. The first is that as technology advances, systems of mass communication rapidly accelerate, and the world’s people are able to engage in instant communication with one another and gain access to information from around the world. In it, lies the potential – and ultimately a central source – of a massive global political awakening. Simultaneously, the Technological Revolution has allowed elites to redirect and control society in ways never before imagined, ultimately culminating in a global scientific dictatorship, as many have warned of since the early decades of the 20th century. The potential for controlling the masses has never been so great, as science unleashes the power of genetics, biometrics, surveillance, and new forms of modern eugenics; implemented by a scientific elite equipped with systems of psycho-social control (the use of psychology in controlling the masses).

What is the “Global Political Awakening”?

To answer this question, it is best to let Zbigniew Brzezinski speak for himself, since it is his term. In 2009, Zbigniew Brzezinski published an article based on a speech he delivered to the London-based Chatham House in their academic journal, International Affairs. Chatham House, formerly the Royal Institute of International Relations, is the British counterpart to the US-based Council on Foreign Relations, both of which were founded in 1921 as “Sister Institutes” to coordinate Anglo-American foreign policy. His article, “Major foreign policy challenges for the next US President,” aptly analyzes the major geopolitical challenges for the Obama administration in leading the global hegemonic state at this critical juncture. Brzezinski refers to the ‘global political awakening’ as “a truly transformative event on the global scene,” since:

For the first time in human history almost all of humanity is politically activated, politically conscious and politically interactive. There are only a few pockets of humanity left in the remotest corners of the world that are not politically alert and engaged with the political turmoil and stirrings that are so widespread today around the world. The resulting global political activism is generating a surge in the quest for personal dignity, cultural respect and economic opportunity in a world painfully scarred by memories of centuries-long alien colonial or imperial domination.[2]

Brzezinski posits that the ‘global political awakening’ is one of the most dramatic and significant developments in geopolitics that has ever occurred, and it “is apparent in radically different forms from Iraq to Indonesia, from Bolivia to Tibet.” As the Economist explained, “Though America has focused on its notion of what people want (democracy and the wealth created by free trade and open markets), Brzezinski points in a different direction: It's about dignity.” Further, argues Brzezinski, “The worldwide yearning for human dignity is the central challenge inherent in the phenomenon of global political awakening.”[3]

In 2005, Brzezinski wrote an essay for The American Interest entitled, “The Dilemma of the Last Sovereign,” in which he explains the geopolitical landscape that America and the world find themselves in. He wrote that, “For most states, sovereignty now verges on being a legal fiction,” and he critically assessed the foreign policy objectives and rhetoric of the Bush administration. Brzezinski has been an ardent critic of the “war on terror” and the rhetoric inherent in it, namely that of the demonization of Islam and Muslim people, which constitute one of the fastest growing populations and the fastest growing religion in the world. Brzezinski fears the compound negative affects this can have on American foreign policy and the objectives and aspirations of global power. He writes:

America needs to face squarely a centrally important new global reality: that the world's population is experiencing a political awakening unprecedented in scope and intensity, with the result that the politics of populism are transforming the politics of power. The need to respond to that massive phenomenon poses to the uniquely sovereign America an historic dilemma: What should be the central definition of America's global role?[4]

Brzezinski explains that formulating a foreign policy based off of one single event – the September 11th terror attacks – has both legitimized illegal measures (torture, suspension of habeas corpus, etc) and has launched and pacified citizens to accepting the “global war on terror,” a war without end. The rhetoric and emotions central to this global foreign policy created a wave of patriotism and feelings of redemption and revenge. Thus, Brzezinski explains:

There was no need to be more precise as to who the terrorists actually were, where they came from, or what historical motives, religious passions or political grievances had focused their hatred on America. Terrorism thus replaced Soviet nuclear weapons as the principal threat, and terrorists (potentially omnipresent and generally identified as Muslims) replaced communists as the ubiquitous menace.[5]

Brzezinski explains that this foreign policy, which has inflamed anti-Americanism around the world, specifically in the Muslim world, which was the principle target population of ‘terrorist’ rhetoric, has in fact further inflamed the ‘global political awakening’. Brzezinski writes that:

[T]he central challenge of our time is posed not by global terrorism, but rather by the intensifying turbulence caused by the phenomenon of global political awakening. That awakening is socially massive and politically radicalizing.[6]

This ‘global political awakening’, Brzezinski writes, while unique in its global scope today, originates in the ideas and actions of the French Revolution, which was central in “transforming modern politics through the emergence of a socially powerful national consciousness.” Brzezinski explains the evolution of the ‘awakening’:

During the subsequent 216 years, political awakening has spread gradually but inexorably like an ink blot. Europe of 1848, and more generally the nationalist movements of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, reflected the new politics of populist passions and growing mass commitment. In some places that combination embraced utopian Manichaeism for which the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, the Fascist assumption of power in Italy in 1922, and the Nazi seizure of the German state in 1933 were the launch-pads. The political awakening also swept China, precipitating several decades of civil conflict. Anti-colonial sentiments galvanized India, where the tactic of passive resistance effectively disarmed imperial domination, and after World War II anti-colonial political stirrings elsewhere ended the remaining European empires. In the western hemisphere, Mexico experienced the first inklings of populist activism already in the 1860s, leading eventually to the Mexican Revolution of the early 20th century.[7]

Ultimately, what this implies is that – regardless of the final results of past awakenings – what is central to the concept of a ‘political awakening’ is the population – the people – taking on a political and social consciousness and subsequently, partaking in massive political and social action aimed at generating a major shift and change, or revolution, in the political, social and economic realms. Thus, no social transformation presents a greater or more direct challenge to entrenched and centralized power structures – whether they are political, social or economic in nature. Brzezinski goes on to explain the evolution of the ‘global political awakening’ in modern times:

It is no overstatement to assert that now in the 21st century the population of much of the developing world is politically stirring and in many places seething with unrest. It is a population acutely conscious of social injustice to an unprecedented degree, and often resentful of its perceived lack of political dignity. The nearly universal access to radio, television and increasingly the Internet is creating a community of shared perceptions and envy that can be galvanized and channeled by demagogic political or religious passions. These energies transcend sovereign borders and pose a challenge both to existing states as well as to the existing global hierarchy, on top of which America still perches.[8]

Brzezinski explains that several central areas of the ‘global political awakening’, such as China, India, Egypt, Bolivia, the Muslims in the Middle East, North Africa, Southeast Asia and increasingly in Europe, as well as Indians in Latin America, “increasingly are defining what they desire in reaction to what they perceive to be the hostile impact on them of the outside world. In differing ways and degrees of intensity they dislike the status quo, and many of them are susceptible to being mobilized against the external power that they both envy and perceive as self-interestedly preoccupied with that status quo.” Brzezinski elaborates on the specific group most affected by this awakening:

The youth of the Third World are particularly restless and resentful. The demographic revolution they embody is thus a political time-bomb, as well. With the exception of Europe, Japan and America, the rapidly expanding demographic bulge in the 25-year-old-and-under age bracket is creating a huge mass of impatient young people. Their minds have been stirred by sounds and images that emanate from afar and which intensify their disaffection with what is at hand. Their potential revolutionary spearhead is likely to emerge from among the scores of millions of students concentrated in the often intellectually dubious "tertiary level" educational institutions of developing countries. Depending on the definition of the tertiary educational level, there are currently worldwide between 80 and 130 million "college" students. Typically originating from the socially insecure lower middle class and inflamed by a sense of social outrage, these millions of students are revolutionaries-in-waiting, already semi-mobilized in large congregations, connected by the Internet and pre-positioned for a replay on a larger scale of what transpired years earlier in Mexico City or in Tiananmen Square. Their physical energy and emotional frustration is just waiting to be triggered by a cause, or a faith, or a hatred.[9]

Brzezinski thus posits that to address this new global “challenge” to entrenched powers, particularly nation-states that cannot sufficiently address the increasingly non-pliant populations and populist demands, what is required, is “increasingly supranational cooperation, actively promoted by the United States.” In other words, Brzezinski favours an increased and expanded ‘internationalization’, not surprising considering he laid the intellectual foundations of the Trilateral Commission. He explains that “Democracy per se is not an enduring solution,” as it could be overtaken by “radically resentful populism.” This is truly a new global reality:

Politically awakened mankind craves political dignity, which democracy can enhance, but political dignity also encompasses ethnic or national self-determination, religious self-definition, and human and social rights, all in a world now acutely aware of economic, racial and ethnic inequities. The quest for political dignity, especially through national self-determination and social transformation, is part of the pulse of self-assertion by the world's underprivileged.[10]

Thus, writes Brzezinski, “An effective response can only come from a self-confident America genuinely committed to a new vision of global solidarity.” The idea is that to address the grievances caused by globalization and global power structures, the world and America must expand and institutionalize the process of globalization, not simply in the economic sphere, but in the social and political as well. It is a flawed logic, to say the least, that the answer to this problem is to enhance and strengthen the systemic problems. One cannot put out a fire by adding fuel.

Brzezinski even wrote that, “Let it be said right away that supranationality should not be confused with world government. Even if it were desirable, mankind is not remotely ready for world government, and the American people certainly do not want it.” Instead, Brzezinski argues, America must be central in constructing a system of global governance, “in shaping a world that is defined less by the fiction of state sovereignty and more by the reality of expanding and politically regulated interdependence.”[11] In other words, not ‘global government’ but ‘global governance’, which is simply a rhetorical ploy, as ‘global governance’ – no matter how overlapping, sporadic and desultory it presents itself, is in fact a key step and necessary transition in the moves toward an actual global government.

Thus, the rhetoric and reality of a “global war on terror” in actuality further inflames the ‘global political awakening’ as opposed to challenging and addressing the issue. In 2007, Brzezinski told the US Senate that the “War on terror” was a “mythical historical narrative,”[12] or in other words, a complete fiction.

Of Power and People

To properly understand the ‘global political awakening’ it is imperative to understand and analyze the power structures that it most gravely threatens. Why is Brzezinski speaking so vociferously on this subject? From what perspective does he approach this issue?

Global power structures are most often represented by nation-states, of which there are over 200 in the world, and the vast majority are overlooking increasingly politically awakened populations who are more shaped by transnational communications and realities (such as poverty, inequality, war, empire, etc.) than by national issues. Among nation-states, the most dominant are the western powers, particularly the United States, which sits atop the global hierarchy of nations as the global hegemon (empire). American foreign policy was provided with the imperial impetus by an inter-locking network of international think tanks, which bring together the top political, banking, industrial, academic, media, military and intelligence figures to formulate coordinated policies.

The most notable of these institutions that socialize elites across national borders and provide the rationale and impetus for empire are an inter-locking network of international think tanks. In 1921, British and American elite academics got together with major international banking interests to form two “sister institutes” called the Royal Institute of International Affairs (RIIA) in London, now known as Chatham House, and the Council on Foreign Relations in the United States. Subsequent related think tanks were created in Canada, such as the Canadian Institute of International Affairs, now known as the Canadian International Council (CIC), and other affiliated think tanks in South Africa, India, Australia, and more recently in the European Union with the formation of the European Council on Foreign Relations.[13]

Following World War I, these powers sought to reshape the world order in their designs, with Woodrow Wilson proclaiming a right to “national self determination” which shaped the formation of nation-states throughout the Middle East, which until the war was dominated by the Ottoman Empire. Thus, proclaiming a right to “self-determination” for people everywhere became, in fact, a means of constructing nation-state power structures which the western nations became not only instrumental in building, but in exerting hegemony over. To control people, one must construct institutions of control. Nations like Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Kuwait, etc., did not exist prior to World War I.

Elites have always sought to control populations and individuals for their own power desires. It does not matter whether the political system is that of fascism, communism, socialism or democracy: elites seek power and control and are inherent in each system of governance. In 1928, Edward Bernays, nephew of the father of psychoanalysis Sigmund Freud, wrote one of his most influential works entitled “Propaganda.” Bernays also wrote the book on “Public Relations,” and is known as the “father of public relations,” and few outside of that area know of Bernays; however, his effect on elites and social control has been profound and wide-ranging.

Bernays led the propaganda effort behind the 1954 CIA coup in Guatemala, framing it as a “liberation from Communism” when in fact it was the imposition of a decades-long dictatorship to protect the interests of the United Fruit Company, who had hired Bernays to manage the media campaign against the democratic socialist government of Guatemala. Bernays also found a fan and student in Josef Goebbels, Hitler’s Minister of Propaganda, who took many of his ideas from Bernays’ writings. Among one of Bernays’ more infamous projects was the popularizing of smoking for American women, as he hired beautiful women to walk up and down Madison Avenue while smoking cigarettes, giving women the idea that smoking is synonymous with beauty.

In his 1928 book, “Propaganda,” Bernays wrote that, “If we understand the mechanisms and motives of the group mind, it is now possible to control and regiment the masses according to our will without their knowing it.” Further:

The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society... Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. . . . In almost every act of our daily lives, whether in the sphere of politics or business, in our social conduct or our ethical thinking, we are dominated by the relatively small number of persons . . . who understand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses. It is they who pull the wires which control the public mind.[14]

Following World War II, America became the global hegemon, whose imperial impetus was provided by the strategic concept of “containment” in containing the spread of Communism. Thus, America’s imperial adventures in Korea, the Middle East, Africa, Asia and South America became defined by the desire to “roll back” the influence of the Soviet Union and Communism. It was, not surprisingly, the Council on Foreign Relations that originated the idea of “containment” as a central feature of foreign policy.[15]

Further, following World War II, America was handed the responsibility for overseeing and managing the international monetary system and global political economy through the creation of institutions and agreements such as the World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF), NATO, the UN, and GATT (later to become the World Trade Organization – WTO). One central power institution that was significant in establishing consensus among Western elites and providing a forum for expanding global western hegemony was the Bilderberg Group, founded in 1954 as an international think tank.[16]

Zbigniew Brzezinski, an up-and-coming academic, joined the Council on Foreign Relations in the early 1960s. In 1970, Brzezinski, who had attended a few Bilderberg meetings, wrote a book entitled, “Between Two Ages: America’s Role in the Technetronic Era,” in which he analyzed the impact of the ‘Revolution in Technology and Electronics,’ thus, the ‘technetronic era.’ Brzezinski defines the ‘technetronic society’ as, “a society that is shaped culturally, psychologically, socially, and economically by the impact of technology and electronics – particularly in the arena of computers and communications. The industrial process is no longer the principal determinant of social change, altering the mores, the social structure, and the values of society.”[17]

Brzezinski, expanding upon notions of social control, such as those propagated by Edward Bernays, wrote that, “Human conduct, some argue, can be predetermined and subjected to deliberate control,” and he quoted an “experimenter in intelligence control” who asserted that, “I foresee the time when we shall have the means and therefore, inevitably, the temptation to manipulate the behaviour and intellectual functioning of all the people through environmental and biochemical manipulation of the brain.”[18]

Brzezinski, in a telling exposé of his astute powers of observation and ability to identify major global trends, wrote that we are “witnessing the emergence of transnational elites” who are “composed of international businessmen, scholars, professional men, and public officials. The ties of these new elites cut across national boundaries, their perspectives are not confined by national traditions, and their interests are more functional than national.” Further, writes Brzezinski, “it is likely that before long the social elites of most of the more advanced countries will be highly internationalist or globalist in spirit and outlook.” However, warns Brzezinski, this increasing internationalization of elites “could create a dangerous gap between them and the politically activated masses, whose ‘nativism’ – exploited by more nationalist political leaders – could work against the ‘cosmopolitan’ elites.”[19] Brzezinski also wrote about “the gradual appearance of a more controlled and directed society,” in the “technetronic revolution;” explaining:

Such a society would be dominated by an elite whose claim to political power would rest on allegedly superior scientific know-how. Unhindered by the restraints of traditional liberal values, this elite would not hesitate to achieve its political ends by using the latest modern techniques for influencing public behavior and keeping society under close surveillance and control. Under such circumstances, the scientific and technological momentum of the country would not be reversed but would actually feed on the situation it exploits.[20]

Further, writes Brzezinski, “Persisting social crisis, the emergence of a charismatic personality, and the exploitation of mass media to obtain public confidence would be the steppingstones in the piecemeal transformation of the United States into a highly controlled society.” Elaborating, Brzezinski writes, “The traditionally democratic American society could, because of its fascination with technical efficiency, become an extremely controlled society, and its humane and individualistic qualities would thereby be lost.”[21]

In his book, Brzezinski called for a “Community of the Developed Nations,” consisting of Western Europe, North America and Japan, to coordinate and integrate in order to shape a ‘new world order’ built upon ideas of global governance under the direction of these transnational elites. In 1972, Brzezinski and his friend, David Rockefeller, presented the idea to the annual Bilderberg meetings. Rockefeller was, at that time, Chairman of the Council on Foreign Relations and was CEO of Chase Manhattan Bank. In 1973, Brzezinski and Rockefeller created the Trilateral Commission, a sort of sister institute to the Bilderberg Group, with much cross-over membership, bringing Japan into the western sphere of economic and political integration.[22]

In 1975, the Trilateral Commission published a Task Force Report entitled, “The Crisis of Democracy,” of which one of the principal authors was Samuel Huntington, a political scientist and close associate and friend of Zbigniew Brzezinski. In this report, Huntington argues that the 1960s saw a surge in democracy in America, with an upswing in citizen participation, often “in the form of marches, demonstrations, protest movements, and ‘cause’ organizations.”[23] Further, “the 1960s also saw a reassertion of the primacy of equality as a goal in social, economic, and political life.”[24] Huntington analyzed how as part of this “democratic surge,” statistics showed that throughout the 1960s and into the early 1970s, there was a dramatic increase in the percentage of people who felt the United States was spending too much on defense (from 18% in 1960 to 52% in 1969, largely due to the Vietnam War).[25] In other words, people were becoming politically aware of empire and exploitation.

Huntington wrote that the “essence of the democratic surge of the 1960s was a general challenge to existing systems of authority, public and private,” and that, “People no longer felt the same compulsion to obey those whom they had previously considered superior to themselves in age, rank, status, expertise, character, or talents.” Huntington explained that in the 1960s, “hierarchy, expertise, and wealth” had come “under heavy attack.”[26] He stated that three key issues which were central to the increased political participation in the 1960s were:

social issues, such as use of drugs, civil liberties, and the role of women; racial issues, involving integration, busing, government aid to minority groups, and urban riots; military issues, involving primarily, of course, the war in Vietnam but also the draft, military spending, military aid programs, and the role of the military-industrial complex more generally.[27]

Huntington presented these issues, essentially, as the “crisis of democracy,” in that they increased distrust with the government and authority, that they led to social and ideological polarization, and led to a “Decline in the authority, status, influence, and effectiveness of the presidency.”[28]

Huntington concluded that many problems of governance in the United States stem from an “excess of democracy,” and that, “the effective operation of a democratic political system usually requires some measure of apathy and noninvolvement on the part of some individuals and groups.” Huntington explained that society has always had “marginal groups” which do not participate in politics, and while acknowledging that the existence of “marginality on the part of some groups is inherently undemocratic,” it has also “enabled democracy to function effectively.” Huntington identifies “the blacks” as one such group that had become politically active, posing a “danger of overloading the political system with demands.”[29]

Huntington, in his conclusion, stated that the vulnerability of democracy, essentially the ‘crisis of democracy,’ comes from “a highly educated, mobilized, and participant society,” and that what is needed is “a more balanced existence” in which there are “desirable limits to the indefinite extension of political democracy.”[30] Summed up, the Trilateral Commission Task Force Report essentially explained that the “Crisis of Democracy” is that there is too much of it, and so the ‘solution’ to the ‘crisis’ is to have less democracy and more ‘authority.’

The New World Order

Following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, American ideologues – politicians and academics – began discussing the idea of the emergence of a “new world order” in which power in the world is centralized with one power – the United States, and laid the basis for an expansion of elitist ideology pertaining to the notion of ‘globalization’: that power and power structures should be globalizaed. In short, the ‘new world order’ was to be a global order of global governance. In the short term, it was to be led by the United States, which must be the central and primary actor in constructing a new world order, and ultimately a global government.[31]

Anne-Marie Slaughter, currently the Director of Policy Planning for the US State Department, is a prominent academic within the American elite establishment, having long served in various posts at the State Department, elite universities and on the board of the Council on Foreign Relations. In 1997, Slaughter wrote an article for the journal of the Council on Foreign Relations, “Foreign Affairs,” in which she discussed the theoretical foundations of the ‘new world order.’ In it, she wrote that, “The state is not disappearing, it is disaggregating into its separate, functionally distinct parts. These parts—courts, regulatory agencies, executives, and even legislatures—are networking with their counterparts abroad, creating a dense web of relations that constitutes a new, transgovernmental order,” and that, “transgovernmentalism is rapidly becoming the most widespread and effective mode of international governance.”[32]

Long preceding Slaughter’s analysis of the ‘new world order,’ Richard N. Gardner published an article in Foreign Affairs titled, “The Hard Road to World Order.” Gardner, a former American Ambassador and member of the Trilateral Commission, wrote that, “The quest for a world structure that secures peace, advances human rights and provides the conditions for economic progress—for what is loosely called world order—has never seemed more frustrating but at the same time strangely hopeful.”[33]

Gardner wrote, “If instant world government, [UN] Charter review, and a greatly strengthened International Court do not provide the answers, what hope for progress is there? The answer will not satisfy those who seek simple solutions to complex problems, but it comes down essentially to this: The hope for the foreseeable future lies, not in building up a few ambitious central institutions of universal membership and general jurisdiction as was envisaged at the end of the last war, but rather in the much more decentralized, disorderly and pragmatic process of inventing or adapting institutions of limited jurisdiction and selected membership to deal with specific problems on a case-by-case basis, as the necessity for cooperation is perceived by the relevant nations.”[34]

He then stated, “In short, the "house of world order" will have to be built from the bottom up rather than from the top down. It will look like a great "booming, buzzing confusion," to use William James' famous description of reality, but an end run around national sovereignty, eroding it piece by piece, will accomplish much more than the old-fashioned frontal assault.”[35]

In 1992, Strobe Talbott wrote an article for Time Magazine entitled, “The Birth of the Global Nation.” Talbott worked as a journalist for Time Magazine for 21 years, and has been a fellow of the Yale Corporation, a trustee of the Hotchkiss School and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a director of the Council on Foreign Relations, the North American Executive Committee of the Trilateral Commission, and the American Association of Rhodes Scholars, and a member of the participating faculty of the World Economic Forum. Talbott served as Deputy Secretary of State from 1994 to 2001 in the Clinton administration and currently sits as President of the Brookings Institution, one of the premier American think tanks. In his 1992 article, “within the next hundred years,” Talbott wrote, “nationhood as we know it will be obsolete; all states will recognize a single, global authority.” He explained:

All countries are basically social arrangements, accommodations to changing circumstances. No matter how permanent and even sacred they may seem at any one time, in fact they are all artificial and temporary. Through the ages, there has been an overall trend toward larger units claiming sovereignty and, paradoxically, a gradual diminution of how much true sovereignty any one country actually has.[36]

Further, he wrote that, “it has taken the events in our own wondrous and terrible century to clinch the case for world government. With the advent of electricity, radio and air travel, the planet has become smaller than ever, its commercial life freer, its nations more interdependent and its conflicts bloodier.”[37]

David Rothkopf, a scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, former Deputy Undersecretary of Commerce for International Trade in the Clinton administration, former managing director of Kissinger and Associates, and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, recently wrote a book titled, “Superclass: The Global Power Elite and the World They are Making.” As a member of that “superclass,” his writing should provide a necessary insight into the construction of this “New World Order.” He states that, “In a world of global movements and threats that don’t present their passports at national borders, it is no longer possible for a nation-state acting alone to fulfill its portion of the social contract.” He wrote that, “progress will continue to be made,” however, it will be challenging, because it “undercuts many national and local power structures and cultural concepts that have foundations deep in the bedrock of human civilization, namely the notion of sovereignty.” He further wrote that, “Mechanisms of global governance are more achievable in today’s environment,” and that these mechanisms “are often creative with temporary solutions to urgent problems that cannot wait for the world to embrace a bigger and more controversial idea like real global government.”[38]

In December of 2008, the Financial Times published an article titled, “And Now for A World Government,” in which the author, former Bilderberg attendee, Gideon Rachman, wrote that, “for the first time in my life, I think the formation of some sort of world government is plausible,” and that, “A ‘world government’ would involve much more than co-operation between nations. It would be an entity with state-like characteristics, backed by a body of laws. The European Union has already set up a continental government for 27 countries, which could be a model. The EU has a supreme court, a currency, thousands of pages of law, a large civil service and the ability to deploy military force.”[39]

He stated that, “it is increasingly clear that the most difficult issues facing national governments are international in nature: there is global warming, a global financial crisis and a ‘global war on terror’.” He wrote that the European model could “go global” and that a world government “could be done,” as “The financial crisis and climate change are pushing national governments towards global solutions, even in countries such as China and the US that are traditionally fierce guardians of national sovereignty.” He quoted an adviser to French President Nicolas Sarkozy as saying, “Global governance is just a euphemism for global government,” and that the “core of the international financial crisis is that we have global financial markets and no global rule of law.” However, Rachman states that any push towards a global government “will be a painful, slow process.” He then states that a key problem in this push can be explained with an example from the EU, which “has suffered a series of humiliating defeats in referendums, when plans for ‘ever closer union’ have been referred to the voters. In general, the Union has progressed fastest when far-reaching deals have been agreed by technocrats and politicians – and then pushed through without direct reference to the voters. International governance tends to be effective, only when it is anti-democratic.”[40]

The Global Political Awakening and the Global Economic Crisis

In the face of the global economic crisis, the process that has led to the global political awakening is rapidly expanding, as the social, political and economic inequalities and disparities that led to the awakening are all being exacerbated and expanded. Thus, the global political awakening itself is entering into a period in which it will undergo rapid, expansionary and global transformation.

This ‘global political awakening’, of which Brzezinski has explained as being one of the primary global geopolitical challenges of today, has largely, up until recent times, been exemplified in the ‘Global South’, or the ‘Third World’ developing nations of the Middle East, Central and Southeast Asia, Africa and Latin America. Developments in recent decades and years in Venezuela, Bolivia, and Iran exemplify the nationalist-orientation of much of this awakening, taking place in a world increasingly and incrementally moving towards global governance and global institutions.

In 1998, Hugo Chavez became President of Venezuela, having campaigned on promises of aiding the nation’s poor majority. In 2002, an American coup attempt took place in Venezuela, but Chavez retained his power and was further emboldened by the attempt, and gained a great burst of popular support among the people. Chavez has undertaken what he refers to as a process of “Bolivarian socialism”, and has taken a decidedly and vehemently anti-American posture in Latin America, long considered America’s “back yard.” Suddenly, there is virulent rhetoric and contempt against the United States and its influence in the region, which itself is backed by the enormous oil-wealth of Venezuela.

In Bolivia, Evo Morales was elected President in 2005 of the poorest nation in South America, and he was also the first indigenous leader of that country to ever hold that position of power, after having long been dominated by the Spanish-descended landed aristocracy. Evo Morales rose to power on the wave of various social movements within Bolivia, key among them being the “water wars” which took place in Cochabamba, Bolivia’s third largest city, in 2000. The water wars were instigated after the World Bank forced Bolivia to privatize its water so that American and European companies could come in and purchase the rights to Bolivia’s water, meaning that people in the poorest nation in South America could not even drink rain water without paying American or European companies for the ‘right’ to use it. Thus, revolt arose and Evo Morales rose with it. Now, Morales and Chavez represent the “new Left” in Latin America, and with it, growing sentiments of anti-American imperialism.

In Iran, itself defined more by nationalism than ethnic polarities, has become a principal target of the western hegemonic world order, as it sits atop massive gas and oil reserves, and is virulently anti-American and firmly opposed to western hegemony in the Middle East. However, with increased American rhetoric against Iran, its regime and political elites are further emboldened and politically strengthened among its people, the majority of whom are poor.

Global socio-political economic conditions directly relate to the expansion and emergence of the ‘global political awakening’. As of 1998, “3 billion people live on less than $2 per day while 1.3 billion get by on less than $1 per day. Seventy percent of those living on less than $1 per day are women.”[41] In 2003, a World Bank report revealed that, “A minority of the world's population (17%) consume most of the world's resources (80%), leaving almost 5 billion people to live on the remaining 20%. As a result, billions of people are living without the very basic necessities of life - food, water, housing and sanitation.”[42]

In regards to poverty and hunger statistics, “Over 840 million people in the world are malnourished—799 million of them are from the developing world. Sadly, more than 153 million of them are under the age of 5 (half the entire US population).” Further, “Every day, 34,000 children under five die of hunger or other hunger-related diseases. This results in 6 million deaths a year.” That amounts to a “Hunger Holocaust” that takes place every single year. As of 2003, “Of 6.2 billion living today, 1.2 billion live on less than $1 per day. Nearly 3 billion people live on less than $2 a day.”[43]

In 2006, a groundbreaking and comprehensive report released by the World Institute for Development Economics Research of the United Nations University (UNU-WIDER) reported that, “The richest 2% of adults in the world own more than half of global household wealth.” An incredibly startling statistic was that:

[T]he richest 1% of adults alone owned 40% of global assets in the year 2000, and that the richest 10% of adults accounted for 85% of the world total. In contrast, the bottom half of the world adult population owned barely 1% of global wealth.[44]

This is worth repeating: the top 1% owns 40% of global assets; the top 10% owns 85% of world assets; and the bottom 50% owns 1% of global assets; a sobering figure, indeed. Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) report stated that in 2009, “an estimated 55 million to 90 million more people will be living in extreme poverty than anticipated before the crisis.” Further, “the encouraging trend in the eradication of hunger since the early 1990s was reversed in 2008, largely due to higher food prices.” Hunger in developing regions has risen to 17% in 2008, and “children bear the brunt of the burden.”[45]

In April of 2009, a major global charity, Oxfam, reported that a couple trillion dollars given to bail out banks could have been enough “to end global extreme poverty for 50 years.”[46] In September of 2009, Oxfam reported that the economic crisis “is forcing 100 people-a-minute into poverty.” Oxfam stated that, “Developing countries across the globe are struggling to respond to the global recession that continues to slash incomes, destroy jobs and has helped push the total number of hungry people in the world above 1 billion.”[47]

The financial crisis has hit the ‘developing’ world much harder than the western developed nations of the world. The UN reported in March of 2009 that, “Reduced growth in 2009 will cost the 390 million people in sub-Saharan Africa living in extreme poverty around $18 billion, or $46 per person,” and “This projected loss represents 20 per cent of the per capita income of Africa’s poor – a figure that dwarfs the losses sustained in the developed world.”[48]

Thus, the majority of the world’s people live in absolute poverty and social dislocation. This is directly the result of the globalized world order that has been and is being constructed. Now, as that same infrastructure is being further institutionalized and built upon, people are being thrown into the ‘awakening’ like never before. Their very poverty pushes them into an awakening. There is a seemingly lost notion of judging a society by how it treats it weakest members: the poor. Poverty forces one to look at the world differently, as they see the harsh restraints that society has imposed upon the human spirit. Life simply cannot be about the struggle to make payments week-to-week; to afford water, shelter, and food; to live according to the dictates of money and power.

Look to history, and you see that from some of the most oppressive societies can come the greatest of humanity. Russia, a nation which has never in its history experienced true political freedom for the individual, has managed to produce some of the greatest music, art, expression and literature as a vibrant outcry of humanity from a society so overcome with the need to control it. It the fact that such triumphs of human spirit can come from such tyrannies over human nature is a sobering display of the great mystery of human beings. Why waste humanity by subjecting it to poverty? Think of the difference that could be made if all of humanity was allowed to flourish individually and collectively; think of all the ideas, art, expression, intellect and beauty we aren’t getting from those who have no voice.

Until we address this fundamental issue, any notion of humanity as being ‘civilized’ is but a cynical joke. If it’s human civilization, we haven’t quite figured it out yet. We don’t yet have a proper definition of ‘civilized’, and we need to make it ‘humane’.

The West and the Awakening

The middle classes of the western world are undergoing a dramatic transition, most especially in the wake of the global economic crisis. In the previous decades, the middle class has become a debt-based class, whose consumption was based almost entirely on debt, and so their ability to consume and be the social bedrock of the capitalist system is but a mere fiction. Never in history has the middle class, and most especially the youth who are graduating college into the hardest job market in decades, been in such peril.[49]

The global debt crisis, which is beginning in Greece, and spreading throughout the euro-zone economies of Spain, Portugal, Ireland and ultimately the entire EU, will further consume the UK, Japan and go all the way to America.[50] This will be a truly global debt crisis. Government measures to address the issue of debt focus on the implementation of ‘fiscal austerity measures’ to reduce the debt burdens and make interest payments on their debts.

‘Fiscal austerity’ is a vague term that in actuality refers to cutting social spending and increasing taxes. The effect this has is that the public sector is devastated, as all assets are privatized, public workers are fired en masse, unemployment becomes rampant, health and education disappear, taxes rise dramatically, and currencies are devalued to make all assets cheaper for international corporations and banks to buy up, while internally causing inflation – dramatically increasing the costs of fuel and food. In short, ‘fiscal austerity’ implies ‘social destruction’ as the social foundations of nations and peoples are pulled out from under them. States then become despotic and oppress the people, who naturally revolt against ‘austerity’: the sterilization of society.

‘Fiscal austerity’ swept the developing world through the 1980s and 1990s in response to the 1980s debt crisis which consumed Latin America, Africa, and areas of Asia. The result of the fiscal austerity measures imposed upon nations by the World Bank and IMF was the social dismantling of the new societies and their subsequent enslavement to the international creditors of the IMF, World Bank, and western corporations and banks. It was an era of economic imperialism, and the IMF was a central tool of this imperial project.

As the debt crisis we see unfolding today sweeps the world, the IMF is again stepping in to impose ‘fiscal austerity’ on nations in return for short-term loans for countries to pay off the interest on their exorbitant debts, themselves owed mostly to major European and American banks. Western nations have agreed to impose fiscal austerity,[51] which will in fact only inflame the crisis, deepen the depression and destroy the social foundations of the west so that we are left only with the authoritarian apparatus of state power – the police, military, homeland ‘security’ apparatus – which is employed against people to protect the status quo powers.

The IMF has also come to the global economic crisis with a new agenda, giving out loans in its own synthetic currency – Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) – an international reserve basket of currencies. The G20 in April of 2009 granted the IMF the authority to begin phasing in the applications of issuing SDRs, and for the IMF to in effect become a global central bank issuing a global currency.[52] So through this global debt crisis, SDRs will be disbursed globally – both efficiently and in abundance – as nations will need major capital inflows and loans to pay off interest payments, or in the event of a default. This will happen at a pace so rapid that it would never be conceivable if not for a global economic crisis. The same took place in the 1980s, as the nature of “Structural Adjustment Programs” (SAPs) could not be properly assessed as detrimental to economic conditions and ultimately socially devastating, for countries needed money fast (as the debt crisis spread across the developing world) and were not in a position to negotiate. Today, this will be the ‘globalization’ of the debt crisis of the 1980s, on a much larger and more devastating scale, and the reaction will be equally globalized and devastating: the continued implementation of ‘global governance’.

As austerity hits the west, the middle class will vanish in obscurity, as they will be absorbed into the lower, labour-oriented working class.[53] The youth of the western middle class, comprising the majority of the educated youth, will be exposed to a ‘poverty of expectations’ in which they grew up in a world in which they were promised everything, and from whom everything was so quickly taken. The inevitability of protests, riots and possible rebellion is as sure as the sun rises.[54]

In the United States, the emergence of the Tea Party movement is representative of – in large part – a growing dissatisfaction with the government and the economy. Naturally, like any group, it has its radical and fringe elements, which tend to draw the majority of media attention in an effort to shape public opinion, but the core and the driving force of the movement is the notion of popular dissatisfaction with government. Whatever one thinks of the legitimacy of such protestations, people are not pleased, and people are taking to the streets. And so it begins.

Even intellectuals of the left have spoken publicly warning people not to simply and so easily discount the Tea Party movement as fringe or radical. One such individual, Noam Chomsky, while speaking at a University in April of 2010, warned that he felt fascism was coming to America, and he explained that, “Ridiculing the tea party shenanigans is a serious error,” as their attitudes “are understandable.” He explained, “For over 30 years, real incomes have stagnated or declined. This is in large part the consequence of the decision in the 1970s to financialize the economy.” This constitutes ‘class resentment’, as “The bankers, who are primarily responsible for the crisis, are now reveling in record bonuses while official unemployment is around 10 percent and unemployment in the manufacturing sector is at Depression-era levels.” This same financial industry is directly linked to Obama, who is supporting their interests, and people are noticing.[55]

Another notable feminist intellectual of the left, Naomi Wolf, who wrote a book during the Bush administration on the emergence of fascism in America, and much of her message is being picked up by the Tea Party movement, as those on the right who were listening and agreeing with Wolf during the Bush administration (a considerable minority), then provided the impetus for the emergence of the Tea Party movement and many of its core or original ideas. In an interview in March 2010, Wolf explained that her ideas are even more relevant under Obama than Bush. She explained, “Bush legalized torture, but Obama is legalizing impunity. He promised to roll stuff back, but he is institutionalizing these things forever. It is terrifying and the left doesn’t seem to recognize it.” She explained how the left, while active under Bush, has been tranquilized under Obama, and that there is a potential for true intellectuals and for people more generally and more importantly, to reach out to each other across the spectrum. She explained:

I was invited by the Ron Paul supporters to their rally in Washington last summer and I loved it. I met a lot of people I respected, a lot of “ordinary” people, as in not privileged. They were stepping up to the plate, when my own liberal privileged fellow demographic habituates were lying around whining. It was a wake-up call to the libertarians that there’s a progressive who cares so much about the same issues. Their views of liberals are just as distorted as ours are of conservatives.[56]

In regards to the Tea Party movement, Wolf had this to say: “The Tea Party is not monolithic. There is a battle between people who care about liberty and the Constitution and the Republican Establishment who is trying to take ownership of it and redirect it for its own purposes.” Further, she explained that the Tea Party is “ahead of their time” on certain issues, “I used to think “End the Fed people” were crackpots. The media paints them as deranged. But it turned out we had good reason to have more oversight.”[57]

In time, others will join with the Tea Party movement and new activist groups, the anti-war movement will have to revitalize itself or die away; since Obama became President their influence, their voice, and their dignity has all but vanished. They have become a pacified voice, and their silence is complicity; thus, the anti-war movement must reignite and reinvigorate or it will decompose. The ‘Left’s’ distrust of corporations must merge with the ‘Right’s’ distrust of government to create a trust in ‘people’. Soon students will be joining protests, and the issues of the Tea Party movement and others like it can become more refined and informed.

When the middle classes of the west are plunged into poverty, it will force an awakening, for when people have nothing, they have nothing left to lose. The only way that the entrenched powers of the world have been able to expand their power and maintain their power is with the ignorant consent of the populations of the west. Issues of war, empire, economics and terror shape public opinion and allow social planners to redirect and reconstitute society. The people of the west have allowed themselves to be ruled as such and have allowed our rulers to be so ruthless in our names. People have been blinded by consumerism and entertainment. Images of celebrities, professional sports, Hollywood, iPods, blackberrys, and PCs consume the minds of people, and especially the youth of the west today. It has been the illusion of being the consuming class that has allowed our societies to be run so recklessly. So long as we have our TVs and PCs we won’t pay attention to anything else!

When the ability to consume is removed, the people will enter into a period of a great awakening. This will give rise to major new political movements, many progressive but some regressive, some fringe and radical, some violent and tyrannical, but altogether new and ultimately global. This is when the people of the west will come to realize the plight of the rest. This will be the era in which people begin to understand the realization that there is great truth in Dr. Martin Luther King’s words, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Thus, the struggle of Africans will become the struggle of Americans: it must be freedom for all or freedom for none.

This is the major geopolitical reality and the pre-eminent global threat to world power structures. No development in all of human history presents such a monumental challenge to the status quo. As global power structures have never resembled such a monumental threat to mankind, mankind has never posed such an immense threat to institutionalized power. For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Even if elites think that they truly do run the world, human nature has a way of exposing the flaws in that assumption. Human nature is not meant to be ‘controlled,’ but rather is meant to be nurtured.

A View From the Top

Again, it is important to go to Brzezinski’s own words in describing this new geopolitical reality, as it provides great insight into not only how the ‘global political awakening’ is defined; but more importantly, how it is perceived by those who hold power. In 2004, Brzezinski gave a speech at the Carnegie Council on his 2004 book, “The Choice”. The Carnegie Council is an elite think tank based in the United States, so Brzezinski is speaking to those who are potentially negatively affected by such an awakening. Brzezinski stated that America’s foreign policy in the wake of 9/11 – the “War on Terror” – is presenting a major challenge to American hegemony, as it is increasingly isolating the United States and damaging the nation’s credibility, as well as hiding the issues in virulent rhetoric which only further inflames the real and true challenge: the global political awakening. He states:

The misdiagnosis [of foreign policy] pertains to a relatively vague, excessively abstract, highly emotional, semi-theological definition of the chief menace that we face today in the world, and the consequent slighting of what I view as the unprecedented global challenge arising out of the unique phenomenon of a truly massive global political awakening of mankind. We live in an age in which mankind writ large is becoming politically conscious and politically activated to an unprecedented degree, and it is this condition which is producing a great deal of international turmoil.

But we are not focusing on that. We are focusing specifically on one word, which is being elevated into a specter, defined as an entity, presented as somehow unified but unrelated to any specific event or place—and that word is terrorism. The global challenge today on the basis of which we tend to operate politically is the definition of terrorism with a global reach as the principal challenge of our time.

I don’t deny that terrorism is a reality, a threat to us, an ugly menace and a vicious manifestation. But it is a symptom of something larger and more complicated, related to the global turmoil that takes place in many parts of the world and manifests itself in different ways.

That turmoil is the product of the political awakening, the fact that today vast masses of the world are not politically neutered, as they have been throughout history. They have political consciousness. It may be undefined, it may point in different directions, it may be primitive, it may be intolerant, it may be hateful, but it is a form of political activism.[58]

Brzezinski explains that literacy has made for greater political awareness, while TV has made for immediate awareness of global disparities, and the Internet has provided instant communications. Further, says Brzezinski, “Much of this is also spurred by America's impact on the world,” or in other words, American economic, political, and cultural imperialism; and further, “Much of it is also fueled by globalization, which the United States propounds, favors and projects by virtue of being a globally outward-thrusting society.” Brzezinski warns, “But that also contributes to instability, and is beginning to create something altogether new: namely, some new ideological or doctrinal challenge which might fill the void created by the disappearance of communism.” Brzezinski explains that Communism emerged in the last century as an alternative, however, today:

it is now totally discredited, and we have a pragmatic vacuum in the world today regarding doctrines. But I see the beginnings, in writings and stirrings, of the making of a doctrine which combines anti-Americanism with anti-globalization, and the two could become a powerful force in a world that is very unequal and turbulent.[59]

A question following Brzezinski’s speech asked him to expand upon how to address the notion of and deal with the ‘global political awakening’. Brzezinski explained that, “We deal with the world as it is and we are as we are. If we are to use our power intelligently and if we are to move in the right direction, we have no choice but do it incrementally.”[60] In other words, as Brzezinski has detailed his vision of a solution to world problems in creating the conditions for global governance; they must do it “incrementally,” for that is how to “use [their] power intelligently.” The solution to the ‘global political awakening’, in the view from the top, is to continue to create the apparatus of an oppressive global government.

On April 23, 2010, Zbigniew Brzezinski went to the Montreal Council on Foreign Relations to give a speech at an event jointly-hosted by the Canadian International Council (CIC), the Canadian counterpart to the Council on Foreign Relations in the US and Chatham House in the U.K. These are many of the intellectual, social, political and economic elite of Canada. In his speech, Brzezinski gives a breakdown of the modern geopolitical realities:

Let me begin by making just a thumbnail definition of the geopolitical context in which we all find ourselves, including America. And in my perspective, that geopolitical context is very much defined by new – by two new global realities. The first is that global political leadership – by which I mean the role of certain leading powers in the world – has now become much more diversified unlike what it was until relatively recently. Relatively recently still, the world was dominated by the Atlantic world, as it had been for many centuries. It no longer is. Today, the rise of the Far East has created a new but much more differentiated global leadership. One which in a nutshell involves a wanton hazard, an arbitrary list of the primary players in the world scene: the United States, clearly; maybe next to it – but maybe – the European Union, I say maybe because it is not yet a political entity; certainly, increasingly so, and visibly so, China; Russia, mainly in one respect only because it is a nuclear power co-equal to the United States, but otherwise very deficient in all of the major indices of what constitutes global power. Behind Russia, perhaps individually, but to a much lesser extent, Germany, France, Great Britain, Japan, certainly, although it does not have the political assertive posture; India is rising, and then in the background of that we have the new entity of the G20, a much more diversified global leadership, lacking internal unity, with many of its members in bilateral antagonisms. That makes the context much more complicated.

The other major change in international affairs is that for the first time, in all of human history, mankind has been politically awakened. That is a total new reality – total new reality. It has not been so for most of human history until the last one hundred years. And in the course of the last one hundred years, the whole world has become politically awakened. And no matter where you go, politics is a matter of social engagement, and most people know what is generally going on –generally going on – in the world, and are consciously aware of global inequities, inequalities, lack of respect, exploitation. Mankind is now politically awakened and stirring. The combination of the two: the diversified global leadership, politically awakened masses, makes a much more difficult context for any major power including, currently, the leading world power: the United States.[61]

Conclusion

So, the Technological Revolution has led to a diametrically opposed, antagonistic, and conflicting geopolitical reality: never before has humanity been so awakened to issues of power, exploitation, imperialism and domination; and simultaneously, never before have elites been so transnational and global in orientation, and with the ability to impose such a truly global system of scientific despotism and political oppression. These are the two major geopolitical realities of the world today. Reflect on that. Never in all of human history has mankind been so capable of achieving a true global political psycho-social awakening; nor has humanity ever been in such danger of being subjected to a truly global scientific totalitarianism, potentially more oppressive than any system known before, and without a doubt more technologically capable of imposing a permanent despotism upon humanity. So we are filled with hope, but driven by urgency. In all of human history, never has the potential nor the repercussions of human actions and ideas ever been so monumental.

Suddenly, global elites are faced with the reality of seeking to dominate populations that are increasingly becoming self-aware and are developing a global consciousness. Thus, a population being subjected to domination in Africa has the ability to become aware of a population being subjected to the same forms of domination in the Middle East, South America or Asia; and they can recognize that they are all being dominated by the same global power structures. That is a key point: not only is the awakening global in its reach, but in its nature; it creates within the individual, an awareness of the global condition. So it is a ‘global awakening’ both in the external environment, and in the internal psychology.

This new reality in the world, coupled with the fact that the world’s population has never been so vast, presents a challenge to elites seeking to dominate people all over the world who are aware and awakened to the realities of social inequality, war, poverty, exploitation, disrespect, imperialism and domination. This directly implies that these populations will be significantly more challenging to control: economically, politically, socially, psychologically and spiritually. Thus, from the point of view of the global oligarchy, the only method of imposing order and control – on this unique and historical human condition – is through the organized chaos of economic crises, war, and the rapid expansion and institutionalization of a global scientific dictatorship. Our hope is their fear; and our greatest fear is their only hope.

As Charles Dickens once wrote, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” That has never been so true as it is today.


This has been Part 1 in the three-part series, “The Technological Revolution and the Future of Freedom.”

Part 2 will examine the nature of the global awakening in the ‘west’, particularly the United States, and the potential for revolution within that awakening; as well as the state systems of control and oppression being constructed to deal with it; notably, the construction of a Homeland Security State.

Part 3 will examine the evolution of the idea and reality of a scientific dictatorship, the technological revolution’s effect on power, and the emergence of new systems of social control based upon a modern implementation of eugenics.





Andrew Gavin Marshall is a Research Associate with the Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG), and is studying Political Economy and History in Canada. He is co-editor, with Michel Chossudovsky, of the recent book, "The Global Economic Crisis: The Great Depression of the XXI Century," available to order at Globalresearch.ca.

Endnotes

[1] Zbigniew Brzezinski, The Global Political Awakening. The New York Times: December 16, 2008: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/16/opinion/16iht-YEbrzezinski.1.18730411.html

[2] Zbigniew Brzezinski, “Major Foreign Policy Challenges for the Next US President,” International Affairs, 85: 1, (2009), page 53 (emphasis added)

[3] AFP, A new brain for Barack Obama. The Economist: March 14, 2007: http://www.economist.com/blogs/democracyinamerica/2007/03/a_new_brain_for_barack_obama

[4] Zbigniew Brzezinski, The Dilemma of the Last Sovereign. The American Interest Magazine, Autumn 2005: http://www.the-american-interest.com/article.cfm?piece=56

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Michael Collins, Brzezinski: On The Path To War With Iran. Global Research: February 25, 2007: http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=4920

[13] Andrew Gavin Marshall, Origins of the American Empire: Revolution, World Wars and World Order. Global Research: July 28, 2009: http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=14552 ; see sections, “World War Restructures World Order,” and “Empire, War and the Rise of the New Global Hegemon,” for a look at this interlocking network of think tanks.

[14] John Stauber and Sheldon Rampton, The Father of Spin: Edward L. Bernays & The Birth of PR. PR Watch, Second Quarter 1999, Volume 6, No. 2: http://www.prwatch.org/prwissues/1999Q2/bernays.html

[15] Andrew Gavin Marshall, Origins of the American Empire: Revolution, World Wars and World Order. Global Research: July 28, 2009: http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=14552 ; Andrew Gavin Marshall, Controlling the Global Economy: Bilderberg, the Trilateral Commission and the Federal Reserve. Global Research: August 3, 2009: http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=14614

[16] Andrew Gavin Marshall, Controlling the Global Economy: Bilderberg, the Trilateral Commission and the Federal Reserve. Global Research: August 3, 2009: http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=14614

[17] Zbigniew Brzezinski, Between Two Ages: America’s Role in the Technetronic Era. (Viking Press, New York, 1970), page 10

[18] Ibid, page 12.

[19] Ibid, page 29.

[20] Ibid, page 97.

[21] Ibid.

[22] Andrew Gavin Marshall, Controlling the Global Economy: Bilderberg, the Trilateral Commission and the Federal Reserve. Global Research: August 3, 2009: http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=14614

[23] Michel J. Crozier, Samuel P. Huntington and Joji Watanuki, The Crisis of Democracy. (Report on the Governability of Democracies to the Trilateral Commission, New York University Press, 1975), page 61

[24] Ibid, page 62.

[25] Ibid, page 71.

[26] Ibid, pages 74-75

[27] Ibid, page 77.

[28] Ibid, page 93.

[29] Ibid, pages 113-114.

[30] Ibid, page 115.

[31] Andrew Gavin Marshall, Forging a “New World Order” Under a One World Government. Global Research: August 13, 2009: http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=14712

[32] Anne-Marie Slaughter, The Real New World Order. Foreign Affairs: September/October, 1997: pages 184-185

[33] Richard N. Gardner, The Hard Road to World Order. Foreign Affairs: April, 1974: page 556

[34] Ibid, page 558.

[35] Ibid.

[36] Strobe Talbott, America Abroad. Time Magazine: July 20, 1992: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,976015,00.html

[37] Ibid.

[38] David Rothkopf, Superclass: The Global Power Elite and the World They are Making. (Toronto: Penguin Books, 2008), pages 315-316

[39] Gideon Rachman, And now for a world government. The Financial Times: December 8, 2008: http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/7a03e5b6-c541-11dd-b516-000077b07658.html

[40] Ibid.

[41] Jeff Gates, Statistics on Poverty and Inequality. Global Policy Forum: May 1999: http://www.globalpolicy.org/component/content/article/218/46377.html

[42] Social & Economic Injustice, World Centric, 2004: http://worldcentric.org/conscious-living/social-and-economic-injustice

[43] Ibid.

[44] GPF, Press Release: Pioneering Study Shows Richest Own Half World Wealth. Global Policy Forum: December 5, 2006: http://www.globalpolicy.org/component/content/article/218/46555.html

[45] UN, The Millennium Development Goals Report 2009. United Nations, New York, 2009: page 4

[46] G20 Summit: Bank bailout would end global poverty, says Oxfam. The Telegraph: April 1, 2009: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/financetopics/g20-summit/5087404/G20-Summit-Bank-bailout-would-end-global-poverty-says-Oxfam.html

[47] Press Release, 100 people every minute pushed into poverty by economic crisis. Oxfam International: September 24, 2009: http://www.oxfam.org/en/pressroom/pressrelease/2009-09-24/100-people-every-minute-pushed-poverty-economic-crisis

[48] Press Release, Financial crisis to deepen extreme poverty, increase child mortality rates – UN report. UN News Center: March 3, 2009: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=30070

[49] Andrew Gavin Marshall, Western Civilization and the Economic Crisis: The Impoverishment of the Middle Class. Global Research: March 30, 2010: http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=18386

[50] Andrew Gavin Marshall, Debt Dynamite Dominoes: The Coming Financial Catastrophe. Global Research: February 22, 2010: http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=17736

[51] Reuters, G20 communique after meeting in South Korea. G20 Communiqué: June 5, 2010: http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE6540VN20100605

[52] Andrew Gavin Marshall, Forging a “New World Order” Under a One World Government. Global Research: August 13, 2009: http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=14712 ; or for a more succinct analysis, Andrew Gavin Marshall, The Financial New World Order: Towards a Global Currency and World Government. Global Research: April 6, 2009: http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=13070

[53] Andrew Gavin Marshall, Western Civilization and the Economic Crisis: The Impoverishment of the Middle Class. Global Research: March 30, 2010: http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=18386

[54] Andrew Gavin Marshall, The Global Economic Crisis: Riots, Rebellion and Revolution. Global Research: April 7, 2010: http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=18529

[55] Matthew Rothschild, Chomsky Warns of Risk of Fascism in America. The Progressive: April 12, 2010: http://www.progressive.org/wx041210.html

[56] Justine Sharrock, Naomi Wolf Thinks the Tea Parties Help Fight Fascism -- Is She Onto Something or in Fantasy Land? Alternet: March 30, 2010: http://www.alternet.org/news/146184/naomi_wolf_thinks_the_tea_parties_help_fight_fascism_--_is_she_on_to_something_or_in_fantasy_land__

[57] Ibid.

[58] Zbigniew Brzezinski, The Choice: Global Domination or Global Leadership. Speech at the Carnegie Council: March 25, 2004: http://www.cceia.org/resources/transcripts/4424.html

[59] Ibid.

[60] Ibid.

[61] Zbigniew Brzezinski, America’s Geopolitical Dilemmas. Speech at the Canadian International Council and Montreal Council on Foreign Relations: April 23, 2010: http://www.onlinecic.org/resourcece/multimedia/americasgeopoliticaldilemmas