Thursday, September 6, 2012
Startling new evidence of the torture, unlawful rendition, and other abuse of Libyan anti-Gaddafi rebels in U.S. detention facilities during the George W. Bush administration was revealed Wednesday by Human Rights Watch (HRW).
The groundbreaking report, “Delivered into Enemy Hands: U.S.-Led Abuse and Rendition of Opponents to Gaddafi’s Libya”, was made public one week after Attorney General Eric Holder announced the Justice Department’s decision to cease investigations of Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) officials who may have been responsible for the deaths of two prisoners.
The investigation, which initially began with the examination of 101 prisoner cases, was reduced to that of only two already dead prisoners. Additionally, the investigation only encompassed the abuses which were unauthorised by Bush.
Thus, the investigations did not include alleged waterboarding and other forms of torture which were approved by the president, according to Laura Pitter, counter-terrorism advisor at HRW and author of the report.
Pitter told IPS, “The investigation needs to be reopened, it needs to be broadened, and the U.S. needs to make a full accounting of what went on at these sites.”
Pitter’s report unveiled, for the first time, secret service documents recovered from Tripoli, as well as many personal testimonies of former detainees who were released after the fall of Muammar Gaddafi a year ago. These documents and testimonies shed light on unlawful and unethical practices of detention programmes and CIA investigation tactics that had been kept in the dark for years following the Sep. 11, 2001 attacks.Pitter told IPS, “The investigation needs to be reopened, it needs to be broadened, and the U.S. needs to make a full accounting of what went on at these sites.”
In the literary classic “Gulliver’s Travels,” the protagonist, Lemuel Gulliver, finds himself shipwrecked on an island of tiny people called, “Lilliputians.” While he slept, the Lilliputians used their tiny rope and stakes to tie Gulliver down. When he awoke, though many times larger than any one of the Lilliputians, he was immobilized and at their mercy.
Image: Lemuel Gulliver on the island of Lilliput, having been overtaken while asleep by ropes and stakes by the diminutive but numerous Lilliputians. Western corporate-financier interests envision organizing Southeast Asia into a supranational bloc, ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations), to use the smaller nations as a combined front to “tie down” China in a similar manner. Unlike in the story “Gulliver’s Travels,” China may well break free of its binds and stomp the Lilliputian leaders flat for their belligerence.
This analogy is important because it represents the precise example used by Wall Street-London corporate-financier interests in producing policy for the containment of China. In 1997, a very different world from today, where the idea of a multipolar world order uprooting Anglo-American hegemony was still a fanciful notion, Western policy makers literally used this analogy to describe their strategy of encircling and containing China.
Containment of China Has Been US Policy for Decades.
Corporate-financier subsidized policy scribe, Robert Kagan, is a notorious warmonger and so-called “Neo-Conservative,” a signatory to many of the West’s most recent crimes against humanity, including the deceitful invasion and occupation of Iraq based on lies regarding “weapons of mass destruction,” the deceitful invasion and overthrowing of the Libyan government based on lies regarding the “responsibility to protect” (R2P), and the most insidious plot to-date, the premeditated organizing and arming of sectarian extremists aligned with Al Qaeda to violently overthrow Syria, paving the way for war with Iran.
In 1997, Kagan penned, “What China Knows That We Don’t: The Case for a New Strategy of Containment,” which spells out the policy Wall Street and London were already in the process of implementing even then, albeit in a somewhat more nebulous manner. In his essay, Kagan literally states (emphasis added):
The present world order serves the needs of the United States and its allies, which constructed it. And it is poorly suited to the needs of a Chinese dictatorship trying to maintain power at home and increase its clout abroad. Chinese leaders chafe at the constraints on them and worry that they must change the rules of the international system before the international system changes them.
Here, Kagan openly admits that the “world order,” or the “international order,” is simply American-run global hegemony, dictated by US interests. These interests, it should be kept in mind, are not those of the American people, but of the immense corporate-financier interests of the Anglo-American establishment. Kagan continues (emphasis added):
In truth, the debate over whether we should or should not contain China is a bit silly. We are already containing China — not always consciously and not entirely successfully, but enough to annoy Chinese leaders and be an obstacle to their ambitions. When the Chinese used military maneuvers and ballistic-missile tests last March to intimidate Taiwanese voters, the United States responded by sending the Seventh Fleet. By this show of force, the U.S. demonstrated to Taiwan, Japan, and the rest of our Asian allies that our role as their defender in the region had not diminished as much as they might have feared. Thus, in response to a single Chinese exercise of muscle, the links of containment became visible and were tightened.
The new China hands insist that the United States needs to explain to the Chinese that its goal is merely, as [Robert] Zoellick writes, to avoid “the domination of East Asia by any power or group of powers hostile to the United States.” Our treaties with Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, Thailand, and Australia, and our naval and military forces in the region, aim only at regional stability, not aggressive encirclement.
But the Chinese understand U.S. interests perfectly well, perhaps better than we do. While they welcome the U.S. presence as a check on Japan, the nation they fear most, they can see clearly that America’s military and diplomatic efforts in the region severely limit their own ability to become the region’s hegemon. According to Thomas J. Christensen, who spent several months interviewing Chinese military and civilian government analysts, Chinese leaders worry that they will “play Gulliver to Southeast Asia’s Lilliputians, with the United States supplying the rope and stakes.”
Indeed, the United States blocks Chinese ambitions merely by supporting what we like to call “international norms” of behavior. Christensen points out that Chinese strategic thinkers consider “complaints about China’s violations of international norms” to be part of “an integrated Western strategy, led by Washington, to prevent China from becoming a great power.
What Kagan is talking about is maintaining American preeminence across all of Asia and producing a strategy of tension to divide and limit the power of any single player vis-a-vis Wall Street and London’s hegemony. Kagan would continue (emphasis added):
The changes in the external and internal behavior of the Soviet Union in the late 1980s resulted at least in part from an American strategy that might be called “integration through containment and pressure for change.”
Such a strategy needs to be applied to China today. As long as China maintains its present form of government, it cannot be peacefully integrated into the international order. For China’s current leaders, it is too risky to play by our rules — yet our unwillingness to force them to play by our rules is too risky for the health of the international order. The United States cannot and should not be willing to upset the international order in the mistaken belief that accommodation is the best way to avoid a confrontation with China.
We should hold the line instead and work for political change in Beijing. That means strengthening our military capabilities in the region, improving our security ties with friends and allies, and making clear that we will respond, with force if necessary, when China uses military intimidation or aggression to achieve its regional ambitions. It also means not trading with the Chinese military or doing business with firms the military owns or operates. And it means imposing stiff sanctions when we catch China engaging in nuclear proliferation.
A successful containment strategy will require increasing, not decreasing, our overall defense capabilities. Eyre Crowe warned in 1907 that “the more we talk of the necessity of economising on our armaments, the more firmly will the Germans believe that we are tiring of the struggle, and that they will win by going on.” Today, the perception of our military decline is already shaping Chinese calculations. In 1992, an internal Chinese government document said that America’s “strength is in relative decline and that there are limits to what it can do.” This perception needs to be dispelled as quickly as possible.
Clearly, however, this “perception” of US military decline has only been heightened as the Wall Street-London financier model of “economic growth” has been revealed as an untenable global Ponzi scheme versus the Chinese model of industrial production and infrastructure expansion. The military might required to contain China is also politically and economically unjustifiable, and increasingly so.
It appears possible at least, that US policy makers committed to a losing strategy based on inaccurate interpretations and projections regarding the collapse of the Soviet Union and its comparison to the Chinese. US policy makers have led the populations of Western civilization down a dead-end in pursuit of global hegemony instead of one of economic and technological progress.
The West is Now Militarily Confronting China (and Russia).
In hindsight, we see that the West has indeed applied a double game vis-a-vis China, using a combination of geopolitical-socioeconomic incentives and lures to win over Chinese corporate-financier interests -to provide them with an attractive stake in the Anglo-American “international order” while simultaneously creating a geopolitical landscape across both Asia and the world to prevent China from cultivating its own interests independent of Wall Street and London.
The hope is to undermine nationalist elements in China, while promoting and cultivating suitable proxies eager to merge China into a Wall Street-London dominated global order.
This has manifested itself in direct political attacks based on “human rights” within China itself (and here), and in the sweeping devastation of the Arab World via the US-engineered “Arab Spring.” What it has effectively done is overturn and threatened both Chinese and Russian interests across Africa, the Middle East and into Central Asia. During the early stages of the Arab Spring, where Russian and Chinese investments were literally being destroyed by US-proxy forces, hubris in Washington revealed that Western policy makers intended to drive the political instability all the way to Moscow and Beijing’s doorsteps.
Image: From the Strategic Studies Institute’s 2006 “String of Pearls” report detailing a strategy of containment for China, the evolution of Kagan’s 1997 paper.
US Senator John McCain, chairman of the International Republican Institute which played a pivotal role in organizing the so-called “spontaneous” “Arab Spring,” said in 2011 of the unrest his IRI had helped fund in Egypt, “I would be a little less cocky in the Kremlin with my KGB cronies today if I were Vladimir Putin. I would be a little less secure in the seaside resort [of] President Hu and a few men who govern and decide the fate of 1.3 billion people.”
The West is already creating a united front against both Russia and China in the Middle East. The violence in Syria is aimed directly at Iran. A successful war against Iran would leave US proxies on Russia’s doorstep, and with US occupied Afghanistan beside it, form a front threatening both Pakistan and Western China where the US is already hard at work inciting Tibetan and Uyghur terrorists.
ASEAN is Poorly Dressed Recolonization.
But China is a vast nation, and this Afro-Eurasian front stretching from Africa to the Himalayas still isn’t big enough. In Southeast Asia, the West is attempting to create a European Union-style supranational bloc – the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Its proponents and leadership are notorious servants and affiliates of institutions synonymous with Western hegemony.
Image: The supranational ASEAN bloc consists of Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia and the Philippines with a combined population of 600 million (as of 2010). The logo of bound rice padi stalks allegedly represents all of Southeast Asia “bound together in friendship and solidarity.” In reality, it represents Southeast Asia bound together for a Wall Street-London corporate-financier “harvest.” With English made the official “working language” of ASEAN, harking back to the age of British imperialism, and the US already tasking ASEAN to form a “united front” against China, it is clear whose interests it serves.
The current ASEAN secretary general for example, Surin Pitsuwan of Thailand, leads current efforts to implement the Asian Economic Community (AEC) 2015 blueprint. Pitsuwan sits as a Member of the Board of Trustees of the globalist Asian Foundation, funded by amongst many others, Boeing, Chevron, The Ford Foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Halliburton, Raytheon Company, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. He joined the Rockefeller Foundation’s Board of Trustees in 2010. He also sat on the Council on Foreign Relations’ (CFR) International Advisory Board as of 2009, and even gave a talk before the CFR on May 14, 2008, regarding a “one unified Southeast Asia.”
The official language of ASEAN is English – bizarre since only one ASEAN member counts English as its official language – the minute city-state of Singapore which also counts Mandarin, Malay, and Tamil as official languages. Modern day Singapore is increasingly shifting demographically and linguistically toward Chinese, with English use a vestigial feature of British colonialism. The irony of consolidating Southeast Asia under a supranational English-speaking bloc extends to other former British holdings including Malaysia and Myanmar, both of whom fought hard to achieve relatively recent independence.
The Asian Economic Community (AEC) being pushed for implementation by 2015 mirrors other supranational, Wall Street-London dominated free trade blocs and monetary unions, including the European Union, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFA), and the upcoming US-led Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) with which the AEC will mesh.
Military cooperation is defined under the ASEAN Security Community “plan of action.” It is designed to incrementally integrate the foreign policy of ASEAN members. Since ASEAN is dominated by leadership entwined with Western hegemonic interests, ASEAN’s collective foreign policy will be thus aligned with that of the West, enforcing its corporate-financier as well as geopolitical agenda. Already, the US is employing a strategy of tension to mobilize ASEAN to do its bidding.
Hillary Clinton Test Drives ASEAN as Vehicle of US Foreign Policy.
Geopolitical shake ups, although less chaotic than the US-engineered “Arab Spring” have also recently unfolded in Southeast Asia. While US State Department trained and funded mobs cluttered the streets of Egypt and Tunisia, and terrorists rampaged through Libya and Syria, US State Department-funded opposition groups staged protests in Malaysia, Bangkok, and Myanmar. US proxies, including Thailand’s Thaksin Shinawatra and Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi have made political resurgences while the US’ Anwar Ibrahim of Malaysia is positioning himself for upcoming elections with the US-funded Bersih street movement.
“As the war in Iraq winds down and America begins to withdraw its forces from Afghanistan, the United States stands at a pivot point. Over the last 10 years, we have allocated immense resources to those two theaters. In the next 10 years, we need to be smart and systematic about where we invest time and energy, so that we put ourselves in the best position to sustain our leadership, secure our interests, and advance our values. One of the most important tasks of American statecraft over the next decade will therefore be to lock in a substantially increased investment — diplomatic, economic, strategic, and otherwise — in the Asia-Pacific region.”
It would continue by stating:
“Harnessing Asia’s growth and dynamism is central to American economic and strategic interests and a key priority for President Obama. Open markets in Asia provide the United States with unprecedented opportunities for investment, trade, and access to cutting-edge technology. Our economic recovery at home will depend on exports and the ability of American firms to tap into the vast and growing consumer base of Asia. Strategically, maintaining peace and security across the Asia-Pacific is increasingly crucial to global progress, whether through defending freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, countering the proliferation efforts of North Korea, or ensuring transparency in the military activities of the region’s key players.”
Clearly, by “open markets” and American firms’ ability to “tap into the vast and growing consumer base of Asia,” we see an overt declaration of intent for Wall Street and London’s corporate-financier interests to overrun and dominate Asian markets with the same monopolies they have pillaged and exploited their own populations with – to devastating socioeconomic consequences.
As we update our alliances for new demands, we are also building new partnerships to help solve shared problems. Our outreach to China, India, Indonesia, Singapore, New Zealand, Malaysia, Mongolia, Vietnam, Brunei, and the Pacific Island countries is all part of a broader effort to ensure a more comprehensive approach to American strategy and engagement in the region. We are asking these emerging partners to join us in shaping and participating in a rules-based regional and global order.
Mention of a”global order” harks back to Kagan’s 1997 piece and is a theme that pervades all Western corporate-financier driven policy papers (and consequently actual policy). In fact, Clinton’s entire tirade is merely Kagan’s policy paper, updated and repackaged for public consumption, touching on each and every facade Kagan had suggested the US use to lure the Chinese into Western ambitions to encircle and contain its growth while maintaining US global preeminence.
The predication the US is using to not only reassert itself in Asia Pacific, but to both create and dominate the agenda of ASEAN was alluded to as well:
To pave the way, the United States has opened a new U.S. Mission to ASEAN in Jakarta and signed the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation with ASEAN. Our focus on developing a more results-oriented agenda has been instrumental in efforts to address disputes in the South China Sea. In 2010, at the ASEAN Regional Forum in Hanoi, the United States helped shape a regionwide effort to protect unfettered access to and passage through the South China Sea, and to uphold the key international rules for defining territorial claims in the South China Sea’s waters.
The US is openly encouraging confrontation with China over disputes in the South China Sea. These disputes will be expanded to economic and eventually geopolitical issues. As US proxy-regimes claw their way into power across Southeast Asia, this confrontation will become more pronounced.
The Washington Post has recently reported in their article, ” Clinton to press for ASEAN unity in South China Sea disputes with Chinese,” that, “U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton called Monday for Southeast Asian states to present a united front to the Chinese in dealing with territorial disputes in the South China Sea to “literally calm the waters.”
Clearly, this is just the first step in creating a much wider and more permanent “united front,” just as the US is doing in the Middle East regarding Iran, and eventually Russia and China directly.
Throwing A Wrench Into the Cogs of Imperialism.
The morbid machinations of Wall Street and London are driven by and for their collective corporate-financier interests. These are corporations, institutions, and services we use (globally) on a daily basis. For Americans and Asians alike, recognizing that our daily patronage of seemingly benign corporations like Unilever, Pepsi, and Coca-Cola is in fact the engine driving global conflict and wars of hegemony, is the best first step. Effectively boycotting and replacing them with local alternatives is the next step.
By boycotting and replacing these corporate-financier interests with local alternatives, specifically with a model of local and national self-sufficiency, we not only hem in the global-spanning machinations of megalomaniacs, we also shift the balance of power back into our own hands. Because freedom cannot exist when individuals, communities, even entire provinces and nations are dependent on multinational corporations and institutions. Economics, policy, and progress both technological and social must be organized and driven from the grassroots up, not the other way around.
Organizations like ASEAN are created to enhance and further empower the collective corporate-financier interests that are represented throughout its leadership and by the sponsors of its various arms and initiatives. These benefit special interests at the cost of the vast majority of the population – as clearly demonstrated by the European Union as it finally reveals its true purpose – consolidating the wealth of nations for economic exploitation and plundering.
Image: Greek riots unfold as the European Union’s economy collapses and austerity measures are imposed on vast swaths of the population to bail out corporate-financier interests – the very ones behind the reckless “globalization,” economic and monetary interdependencies that made the plundering and destruction of Europe’s economies possible in the first place. It is painfully obvious that the ASEAN union will unfold in a similar manner with the exact same Western corporate-financier interests behind its creation, and already plotting to plunder the collective economies of Southeast Asia while proxy-regimes bleed national treasuries dry in pursuit of Western foreign policy objectives.
Through reckless systems of interdependence, Europeans had been led into regional economic collapse. Had each nation been building up a sustainable, self-reliant, full-set economy with trade as a supplement rather than an imperative, the economic woes of one nation would be effectively isolated from the next.
Southeast Asians should be asking themselves who will be the first “Greece” or “Iceland” amongst ASEAN should the same economic, monetary, and political interdependencies be foisted upon them – victims of financial speculators brought in under the auspices of “free trade” seeking new marks for their global Ponzi scheme, uninhibited by national borders and protectionist measures.
As individuals we can pursue models of local and national full-set, self-reliant economics that trade only to supplement our prosperity. We can do this by voting with our wallets for local businesses, becoming entrepreneurs ourselves, and supporting local and national leaders who promote localism and the primacy of the nation-state.
To proceed with the development of ASEAN and the 2015 Asian Economic Community in the face of an unraveling West – Asia prevailing solely because it has not yet implemented the vast economic and political unions and interdependencies the West has – will be looked back at by future generations as supreme folly.
Among the corporate sponsors at the Charlotte convention: AT&T Inc., Bank of America, Duke Energy, Time Warner Cable, Coca-Cola, Wells Fargo, UnitedHealth Group, Piedmont Natural Gas, US Airways and law and lobbying firm McGuireWoods.
The corporate sponsorship appears to fly in the face of the Democrats’ pledge to host a “people’s convention.”
The party’s 2012 “host committee” is not accepting contributions from corporations, lobbyists and political action committees. Democrats also capped how much money individuals can give at $100,000.
But the party is accepting in-kind donations from corporate firms. In addition, a second nonprofit, called “New American City” was established in May to “defray” administrative expenses and other costs. New American City does accept corporate money.
The exact levels of these companies’ financial support won’t be known until mid-October when filings will be submitted to the Federal Election Commission.
Like their GOP counterparts, the Democrats received about $18 million in public funding to finance their convention. And both parties raised tens of millions of additional dollars, funneled through nonprofit host committees that help facilitate the events.
Host committees have traditionally relied on corporate funders but top Democratic leaders — including President Barack Obama, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, DNC Chairwoman Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla. and San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro — all penned solicitations aimed at small-dollar donors.
“This convention is relying on a grassroots network made up of people like you to give small amounts to help make this convention a success,” Obama wrote in one typical fundraising appeal.
A few lucky donors won trips to Charlotte and many had their names memorialized on the exterior of on a pro-Obama NASCAR stock car displayed at the convention.
When asked by the Center for Public Integrity about this fundraising experiment during a press conference Monday, Democratic National Convention Committee CEO Steve Kerrigan said it was a “huge success.”
“We’re thrilled to have done it this way,” Kerrigan said. “[We are] thrilled with the way it worked.”
Several unions were listed as sponsors, despite their displeasure with the selection of "right-to-work" state North Carolina as host of the convention.
Service Employees International Union
American Federation of Teachers
United Food and Commercial Workers
American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees
National Education Association
United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipe Fitting Industry of the United States, Canada and Australia
International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers
National Air Traffic Controllers Association
United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America.
In 2008, when the Democrats hosted their national convention in Denver, unions accounted for about $9 million of the approximately $63 million raised by the host committee, according to a Center for Public Integrity analysis of federal records.
That year, the SEIU, Laborers' International Union, National Education Association, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and the American Federation of Teachers each gave the host committee between $1 million and $1.5 million, according to FEC records.
Many of the sponsors of the Democratic convention were also sponsors of the host committee in Tampa for last week’s Republican National Convention.
“The Coca-Cola Company believes we have a role to play in the political process and that includes helping to make the political conventions a success,” said Coca-Cola spokeswoman Nancy Bailey.
For John Sebree, the senior vice president of public policy with Florida REALTORS, which had a role in supporting events at both conventions, the appeal of being involved as a sponsor is clear.
“Out of sight is out of mind,” said Sebree. “If we’re not there, then someone else is telling their story — and not ours.”
The opening night of the Democratic National Convention provided a grossly distorted picture of the Obama administration, presenting a right-wing, pro-corporate, anti-working-class government as though it was the second coming of the New Deal.
Speaker after speaker bashed Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney as the candidate of wealth and privilege and portrayed Obama as the advocate of working people and his reelection as the key to social and economic progress.
The utter cynicism of this claim was demonstrated by the continual references to Obama’s bailout of the auto industry as the high point of his concern for the working class. This action supposedly “saved a million jobs,” but there was no examination of the actual impact of the government intervention into General Motors and Chrysler on autoworkers.
Using the threat of imminent liquidation of the two companies, Obama’s auto task force, drawn from the top circles of investment banking, cut the wages of new hires by 50 percent, released the auto bosses of their obligation to pay healthcare benefits to retirees, and even stole dental and optical care from retired workers and their families.
White House officials—themselves largely drawn from Wall Street—spoke with contempt about the “unsustainable” pay and “gold-plated” benefits for which autoworkers had fought over two generations.
This was not just an attack on autoworkers. It was a signal to corporate America of White House backing for a ruthless campaign of cost-cutting which has spread from bankrupt and near-bankrupt companies to corporations like Caterpillar, reaping massive profits while slashing wages and benefits, and to public employees at the local, state and federal level.
In the assault on public workers, Democratic office-holders at the state and local level have taken just as hard a line as their Republican counterparts on cutting jobs, wages and benefits. Several of them spoke at the convention Tuesday, including Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, former Obama chief of staff, who is demanding drastic concessions from teachers and city workers.
Deval Patrick, the Democrat who followed Romney as governor of Massachusetts, boasted that he had succeeded in cutting pensions and benefits for state employees where Romney had “only talked” about it. The difference, he pointed out, was that he imposed the cuts “with labor at the table.”
In other words, the Democrats prefer to enlist the unions to help them cut the living standards of the working class, while the Republicans seek to dispense with the union officials and do the job themselves. The end result for the workers is the same.
The convention’s first night added a particularly noxious note of economic nationalism to the populist demagogy.
Former Ohio governor Ted Strickland denounced Romney’s opposition to the auto bailout as a sign that he lacked “economic patriotism,” prompting the delegates to embark on inane chants of “USA! USA!,” echoing similar chauvinist outpourings at the Republican convention last week.
Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley went even further, citing the multi-millionaire Republican’s possession of bank accounts in Switzerland and the Cayman Islands, not as an indicator of obscene wealth, but as unpatriotic. “Governor Romney,” he declared, “just because you’re willing to bank against America, doesn’t mean the rest of us are willing to sell her out.”
Both Obama and Vice President Joseph Biden sounded similar themes during the last days of campaigning before the convention. Both candidates appeared at Labor Day rallies in centers of the auto industry—Biden in Detroit, Obama in Toledo, Ohio—and touted the auto bailout as one of their principal achievements.
Obama claimed that without the auto bailout, “more than one million Americans across the country would have lost their jobs in the middle of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. In communities across the Midwest it would have been another Great Depression.”
Actually, in cities like Detroit and Toledo, and communities in the Midwest and across the entire country, the worst economic collapse since the Great Depression is a dismal reality.
Obama was introduced to the Toledo crowd, consisting largely of autoworkers, by a trio of top union leaders, underscoring the complete prostration of the unions before the Democratic Party wing of the capitalist class: Bob King, president of the United Auto Workers, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, and Dennis Van Roekel, president of the National Education Association.
According to a report Tuesday in the New York Times, the unions will spend a staggering $400 million on behalf of capitalist politicians, mainly Democrats, running for local, state and federal office. These same unions routinely deny strike benefits to workers, or dole out only a pittance, effectively conspiring with the corporate employers to undermine strikes and smash rank-and-file opposition to cuts in jobs, wages and benefits.
Obama and Biden sought to respond to Republican criticism of the dismal performance of the US economy, summed up in the question “Are you better off than four years ago?” For working people, of course, the answer is clearly no—four years after the Wall Street crash, 23 million are unemployed or underemployed, real wages have fallen steadily, the social services on which tens of millions depend have been gutted.
For the capitalist class and their political servants in both big business parties, however, the answer is unequivocally yes: stock prices, corporate profits and CEO pay are all at record levels, and an unparalleled avalanche of cash is flowing into the two parties from billionaire backers.
The Republicans raise the impact of the slump on working people in an entirely cynical fashion, for purposes of electoral advantage, while advocating policies that will make the conditions of life for workers and their families even more difficult and oppressive.
Obama and the Democrats are basing their reelection campaign on the success of the bank bailout and other economic measures taken by the administration in restoring corporate profitability and the wealth of the ruling class. But they cannot say this openly, or it would puncture the election-year pretense that the Democratic Party stands for the interests of working people. Hence the effort to deflect the issue to the auto bailout, which allows the White House apologists to present a bonanza for corporate America as though it were a triumph for working people.
It was left to Vice President Biden to address the issue most crudely, during his Detroit appearance. “America is better off today than they left us when they left,” he said, referring to the previous Bush administration. “Let me just sum it up this way, folks... Osama bin Laden is dead, and General Motors is alive.”
This sums up, in characteristically vulgar fashion, the essential program of the Obama administration, one shared in every respect by Romney and the Republicans: it defends the worldwide interests of American imperialism, exterminating its enemies wherever it can; and it defends the profits and wealth of corporate America, at the expense of American working people.
The Democrats just put out their platform on Latin America, and it demonstrates only the loosest connection to reality. Thus, while praising the “vibrant democracies in countries from Mexico to Brazil and Costa Rica to Chile,” as well as “historic peaceful transfers of power in places like El Salvador and Uruguay,” the Democrats continue to point to Cuba and Venezuela as outliers in the region in which the Democrats plan “to press for more transparent and accountable governance” and for “greater freedom.” Of course, it is their Platform’s deafening silence on critical developments in the region which says the most about their position vis a vis the Region.
Not surprising, the Democrats say nothing about the recent coups in Honduras and Paraguay (both taking place during Obama’s first term) which unseated popular and progressive governments. They also say nothing about the fact that President Obama, against the tide of the other democratic countries in Latin America, quickly recognized the coup governments in both of these countries. Also omitted from the platform is any discussion of the horrendous human rights situation in post-coup Honduras where journalists, human rights advocates and labor leaders have been threatened, harassed and even killed at alarming rates.
As Reporters Without Borders (RWR) explained on August 16, 25 journalists have been murdered in Honduras since the 2009 coup, making Honduras the journalist murder capital of the world. In this same story, RWR mentions Honduras in the same breath as Mexico (a country the Democrats hold out as one of the “vibrant democracies” in the region) when speaking of the oppression of journalists and social activists, as well as the general climate of violence which plagues both countries. As RWR stated, “Like their Mexican colleagues, Honduran journalists – along with human rights workers, civil society representatives, lawyers and academics who provide information – will not break free of the spiral of violent crime and censorship until the way the police and judicial apparatus functions is completely overhauled.” And indeed, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, 38 journalists have been killed in Mexico since 1992, and it has been confirmed in 27 of these cases that the journalists were killed precisely because they were journalists. Meanwhile, in Mexico, over 40,000 individuals have been killed due to the U.S.-sponsored drug war – hardly a laudable figure.
Of course, in the case of Honduras, and Paraguay as well, things are going fine for U.S. interests post-coup, with Honduras maintaining the U.S. military base which President Manuel Zelaya, overthrown in the coup, had threatened to close. Similarly, in Paraguay, one of the first acts of the new coup government was agreeing to open a new U.S. military base – a base opposed by Porfirio Lobos, the President (and former liberation Bishop) overthrown in the coup. The other act of the new coup government in Paraguay was its agreement to allow Rio Tinto to open a new mine in that country, again in contravention of the deposed President’s position. The Democrats simply do not speak of either Honduras or Paraguay in their Platform.
Instead, the Democrats mostly focus on their alleged desire to bring freedom to Cuba, saying nothing about the strides already made by Cuba itself where, according to a January 27, 2012 story in the Financial Times, entitled, “Freedom comes slowly to Cuba,” “there are currently no prisoners of conscience.” This is to be contrasted with Colombia, the chief U.S. ally in the region, which houses around 10,000 political prisoners and prisoners of conscience. The Democrats, shy about such unpleasant facts, simply say nothing about Colombia – this despite the fact that Colombia just announced historic peace talks with the guerillas which have been engaged in a 50-year insurgency in that country. Apparently, this does not deserve a mention amongst the Democrats’ anti-Cuba diatribe.
Meanwhile, the Democrats also single out Venezuela as a country in which it is hoping to free from its alleged chains. What the Democrats fail to note is that Venezuela already has a popular, democratically President in Hugo Chavez who is making life better for the vast majority of Venezuelans, and who appears poised to receive the majority of the votes of the Venezuelan people in the upcoming October elections as a consequence. Thus, according to Oxfam, “Venezuela certainly seems to be getting something right on inequality. According to the highly reputable UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, it now has the most equal distribution of income in the region, and has improved rapidly since 1990.” Again, contrast this with the U.S.’s chief ally Colombia and with Mexico, the two countries with the worst problems of inequality in the region. As the Council on Hemispheric Affairs noted earlier this year, “both Colombia and Mexico suffer from some of the world’s most unequal distributions of wealth. In 1995, Colombia was ranked the fifth most unequal country (of those with available statistics), with a Gini coefficient of 0.57, while Mexico was ranked the eighth worst with a Gini coefficient of 0.52. Between 2006 and 2010, Colombia’s inequality ranked 0.58, while Mexico’s coefficient was 0.52, qualifying them as two of the lowest ranked countries in the world.” The Democrats, uninterested in such trivialities as social equality, simply ignore such inconvenient data.
For its part, U.S. labor, as represented (albeit very poorly) by the AFL-CIO’s Solidarity Center, continue to march in step with the U.S. government and the Democrats in their imperial delusions about the Region. Thus, while for some time simply hiding the fact that it has been working in Venezuela at all, the Solidarity Center, in response to pressure about this issue, has recently admitted on its website that it has been continuously working in Venezuela these past 13 years – i.e., to and through the coup in 2002 which the Solidarity Center aided and abetted by funneling monies from the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) to the anti-Chavez CTV union which was a major player in the coup.
Stinging from the just criticism over this, the Solidarity Center now claims — reminiscent of George W. Bush who fancied himself a “uniter” as opposed to a “divider” – claims that it is in Venezuela to unite the divided labor movement. Thus, the Solidarity Center states: “[g]iven the political fragmentation and divisions between unions in Venezuela, Solidarity Center activities work to help unions from all political tendencies overcome their divisions in order to jointly advocate for and defend policies for increased protection of fundamental rights at the workplace and industry levels. The Solidarity Center currently supports efforts to unite unions from diverse political orientations (including chavista and non-chavista, left and center) to promote fundamental labor rights in the face of anti-labor actions that threaten both pro-government unions and traditionally independent unions.” In its statement, the Solidarity Center says nothing about the progressive labor law which President Chavez just recently signed into law without any help from U.S. labor. This law, among other things, outlaws outsourcing and subcontracting, shortens the work week, increases minimum vacation time, increases maternity leave and requires employers to provide retirement benefits.
The Solidarity Center statement about Venezuela is laden with irony as well as hubris. The U.S. labor movement is itself greatly fragmented, with two competing houses of labor (the AFL-CIO and Change to Win) as well as divisions even within these two confederations. That the Solidarity Center would presume to be able to unite any union movement outside its borders is laughable. Indeed, only imagine the reception from the labor movement in this country if China’s labor confederation purported to intervene in the U.S. to help unite the labor movement here. Aside from wondering how exactly the Chinese unionists planned to do this, many would wonder about the ends to which such unity, once miraculously created, would be applied. And, one must wonder the very same about this in regard to the Solidarity Center’s role in Venezuela. First of all, the so-called “chavista” unions want nothing to do with the Solidarity Center, funded as it is by the NED and U.S.-AID, especially after the 2002 coup. Again, they would have to question what the Solidarity Center, which just received a massive grant of $3 million for its work in Venezuela and Colombia, would want to “unify” the Venezuelan union movement to do. The question appears to answer itself, and it is not a pretty one.
A modest proposal for the AFL-CIO and its Solidarity Center is to focus on uniting the labor movement at home in the U.S. to challenge the power that capital has on our political system; pressing for better U.S. labor law (on this score it could learn a lot from Venezuela and its labor movement); abandoning its labor paternalism (if not imperialism) and leaving it to the Venezuelans to unite their own labor movement. Similarly, the Democrats, instead of worrying about ostensibly bringing U.S.-style democracy (more like social inequality and militarism) to other countries in the Region, should spend more time trying to make this country less beholden to corporate and monied interests, and thereby more democratic in the process. But again, this is not what the Democrats are about. What the AFL-CIO is about, aside from blindly supporting the Democrats, is anyone’s guess.
If Citigroup is right, Saudi Arabia will cease to be an oil exporter by 2030, far sooner than previously thought.
A 150-page report by Heidy Rehman on the Saudi petrochemical industry should be sober reading for those who think that shale oil and gas have solved our global energy crunch.
I don't wish to knock shale. It is a Godsend and should be encouraged with utmost vigour and dispatch in Britain. But it is for now plugging holes in global supply rather than covering the future shortfall as the industrial revolutions of Asia mature.
The basic point – common to other Gulf oil producers – is that Saudi local consumption is rocketing. Residential use makes up 50pc of demand, and over two thirds of that is air-conditioning.
The Saudis also consume 250 litres per head per day of water – the world's third highest (which blows the mind), growing at 9pc a year – and most of this is provided from energy-guzzling desalination plants.
All this is made far worse across the Gulf by fuel subsidies to placate restive populations.
The Saudis already consume a quarter of their 11.1m barrels a day of crude output. They are using more per capita than the US even though their industrial base as a share of GDP is much smaller.
The country already consumes all its gas. (Neighbouring Kuwait is now importing LNG gas from Russia:
From Heidy Rehman at Citi:
• Saudi Arabia Could be an Oil Importer by ~2030 — Saudi Arabia is the world’s largest oil producer (11.1mbpd) & exporter (7.7mbpd). It also consumes 25% of its production. Energy consumption per capita exceeds that of most industrial nations. Oil & its derivatives account for ~50% of Saudi’s electricity production, used mostly (>50%) for residential use. Peak power demand is growing by ~8%/yr. Our analysis shows that if nothing changes Saudi may have no available oil for export by 2030.
• It Already Consumes All Its Gas Production — Saudi Arabia produces 9.6bn ft3/day of natural gas. This is entirely consumed domestically. It is looking to raise gas production to 15.5bn ft3/day by 2015E, implying a 2011-15E CAGR of 12.7%. However, peak power demand is growing at almost 8% pa. We believe Saudi Arabia will need to find new sources to meet residential & industrial demand.
This may concentrate a few minds in The Kingdom. The country is already planning an 80GW nuclear blitz though they are woefully short of nuclear power experts.
It has big hopes from solar projects based on successes of solar farms in California. Both nuclear and solar would allow it export more of its oil output.
A great deal could change. New desalination filters should reduce energy use drastically, for instance. Saudi fuel subsidy policies may change.
While I don't wish to judge the claims of this report – I merely pass it on to readers since I don't know enough about the Saudi system – but it is yet another piece of evidence pointing to Peak Cheap Oil.
Jeremy Leggett, the head of the UK Taskforce on Peak Oil and Energy Security, says Britain is sleepwalking into a potential disaster by failing to prepare fully for a global supply crunch.
The refusal to listen to warning signals is comparable to the complacency in the build-up to the financial crisis, he argues, but with graver implications for the British economy.
The two journalists, Kevin Gosztola of Firedoglake.com and Steve Horn, a Truthout contributor credentialed to cover the DNC for WORT-FM in Madison, Wisconsin, took notice of four burly middle-aged white males during a public march. The four were taking photos of the undocumented immigrant contingent in the march. They were carrying "No Papers, No Fear" blue flags and had put stickers from Code Pink on their person to make it seem like they were protesters in the demonstration. One man in an orange shirt had a black piece in one of his ears.
Horn and Gosztola followed one of the men when they left the demonstration. At the corner of North Church Street and West Fifth Street, the man in the orange shirt claimed he was a protester and did not like having his picture taken. He threatened to punch Gosztola "in the teeth." He belligerently commanded the two journalists to cross the street. The agent in the orange shirt then grabbed Horn and pulled him to the corner where Molly MacPherson's Scottish Pubs is located.
The orange shirt called for uniformed police officers to stop the two journalists in front of the restaurant. One of the agents chased down Gosztola, who tried to walk away. Then, on Fifth Street, a uniformed police officer ran after Gosztola, who turned when he saw the officer. He was stopped and searched.
The officer that stopped Gosztola said the men were just people who did not like having their picture taken. He asked Gosztola to turn over his phone. Gosztola deleted his photos in front of the officer in order to avoid arrest or confiscation of the device. The officer searched through Gosztola's backpack demanded identification which he reported to authorities.
The uniformed police officer that stopped Horn told him the men were officers. The uniformed officer referred to one of the men as an "officer" when speaking with Horn.
Many of the people in the undocumented immigrant contingent came to Charlotte on a bus from Phoenix, Arizona, called the "No Papers, No Fear" bus. Four were arrested in Knoxville, Tennessee, while protesting the possible implementation of a proposed immigration law. The four were held for three days and then released.
It was the two journalists' concern with the fact that the photos being taken by the undercover agents of undocumented immigrants exercising universal freedom of assembly and free speech rights would be for the purpose of targeting them for deportation.
"There's nothing illegal about photographing people on the street" says Jane Hamsher, publisher of Firedoglake. "There was absolutely no provocation that could have possibly justified the thuggery and bullying by law enforcement agents of journalists who were legitimately covering a public event. It was an outrageous abridgement not only of freedom of the press, but of individual civil liberties."
Below are photos of at least two of the men who were at the march undercover that Horn took. If you have any information regarding the identity of these individuals, or details about their illegal activities at the Democratic Convention please call Gosztola or Horn.
For more details, please contact Kevin Gosztola or Steve Horn.
Orange shirt and red shirt
Orange shirt and red shirt