Friday, June 12, 2015

Karl Marx Was Right

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Karl Marx exposed the peculiar dynamics of capitalism, or what he called “the bourgeois mode of production.” He foresaw that capitalism had built within it the seeds of its own destruction. He knew that reigning ideologies—think neoliberalism—were created to serve the interests of the elites and in particular the economic elites, since “the class which has the means of material production at its disposal, has control at the same time over the means of mental production” and “the ruling ideas are nothing more than the ideal expression of the dominant material relationships … the relationships which make one class the ruling one.” He saw that there would come a day when capitalism would exhaust its potential and collapse. He did not know when that day would come. Marx, as Meghnad Desaiwrote, was “an astronomer of history, not an astrologer.” Marx was keenly aware of capitalism’s ability to innovate and adapt. But he also knew that capitalist expansion was not eternally sustainable. And as we witness the denouement of capitalism and the disintegration of globalism, Karl Marx is vindicated as capitalism’s most prescient and important critic.

In a preface to “The Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy” Marx wrote:

No social order ever disappears before all the productive forces for which there is room in it have been developed; and new higher relations of production never appear before the material conditions of their existence have matured in the womb of the old society itself.
Therefore, mankind always sets itself only such tasks as it can solve; since looking at the matter more closely, we always find that the task itself arises only when the material conditions necessary for its solution already exist, or are at least in the process of formation.
Socialism, in other words, would not be possible until capitalism had exhausted its potential for further development. That the end is coming is hard now to dispute, although one would be foolish to predict when. We are called to study Marx to be ready.

The final stages of capitalism, Marx wrote, would be marked by developments that are intimately familiar to most of us. Unable to expand and generate profits at past levels, the capitalist system would begin to consume the structures that sustained it. It would prey upon, in the name of austerity, the working class and the poor, driving them ever deeper into debt and poverty and diminishing the capacity of the state to serve the needs of ordinary citizens. It would, as it has, increasingly relocate jobs, including both manufacturing and professional positions, to countries with cheap pools of laborers. Industries would mechanize their workplaces. This would trigger an economic assault on not only the working class but the middle class—the bulwark of a capitalist system—that would be disguised by the imposition of massive personal debt as incomes declined or remained stagnant. Politics would in the late stages of capitalism become subordinate to economics, leading to political parties hollowed out of any real political content and abjectly subservient to the dictates and money of global capitalism.

But as Marx warned, there is a limit to an economy built on scaffolding of debt expansion. There comes a moment, Marx knew, when there would be no new markets available and no new pools of people who could take on more debt. This is what happened with the subprime mortgage crisis. Once the banks cannot conjure up new subprime borrowers, the scheme falls apart and the system crashes.

Capitalist oligarchs, meanwhile, hoard huge sums of wealth—$18 trillion stashed in overseas tax havens—exacted as tribute from those they dominate, indebt and impoverish. Capitalism would, in the end, Marx said, turn on the so-called free market, along with the values and traditions it claims to defend. It would in its final stages pillage the systems and structures that made capitalism possible. It would resort, as it caused widespread suffering, to harsher forms of repression. It would attempt in a frantic last stand to maintain its profits by looting and pillaging state institutions, contradicting its stated nature.

Marx warned that in the later stages of capitalism huge corporations would exercise a monopoly on global markets. “The need of a constantly expanding market for its products chases the bourgeoisie over the entire surface of the globe,” he wrote. “It must nestle everywhere, settle everywhere, establish connections everywhere.” These corporations, whether in the banking sector, the agricultural and food industries, the arms industries or the communications industries, would use their power, usually by seizing the mechanisms of state, to prevent anyone from challenging their monopoly. They would fix prices to maximize profit. They would, as they [have been doing], push through trade deals such as the TPPand CAFTAto further weaken the nation-state’s ability to impede exploitation by imposing environmental regulations or monitoring working conditions. And in the end these corporate monopolies would obliterate free market competition.

A May 22 editorial in The New York Timesgives us a window into what Marx said would characterize the late stages of capitalism:

As of this week, Citicorp, JPMorgan Chase, Barclays and Royal Bank of Scotland are felons, having pleaded guilty on Wednesday to criminal charges of conspiring to rig the value of the world’s currencies. According to the Justice Department, the lengthy and lucrative conspiracy enabled the banks to pad their profits without regard to fairness, the law or the public good.
The Times goes on:

The banks will pay fines totaling about $9 billion, assessed by the Justice Department as well as state, federal and foreign regulators. That seems like a sweet deal for a scam that lasted for at least five years, from the end of 2007 to the beginning of 2013, during which the banks’ revenue from foreign exchange was some $85 billion.
The final stages of what we call capitalism, as Marx grasped, is not capitalism at all. Corporations gobble down government expenditures, in essence taxpayer money, like pigs at a trough. The arms industry with its official $612 billion defense authorization bill—which ignores numerous other military expenditures tucked away in other budgets, raising our real expenditure on national security expenses to over $1 trillion a year—has gotten the government this year to commit to spending $348 billion over the next decade to modernize our nuclear weapons and build 12 new Ohio-class nuclear submarines, estimated at $8 billion each. Exactly how these two massive arms programs are supposed to address what we are told is the greatest threat of our time—the war on terror—is a mystery. After all, as far as I know, ISIS does not own a rowboat. We spend some $100 billion a year on intelligence—read surveillance—and 70 percent of that money goes to private contractors such as Booz Allen Hamilton, [which] gets 99 percent of its revenues from the U.S. government. And on top of this we are the largest exporters of arms in the world. 

The fossil fuel industry swallows up $5.3 trillion a year worldwide in hidden costs to keep burning fossil fuels, according to the International Monetary Fund(IMF). This money, the IMF noted, is in addition to the $492 billion in direct subsidies offered by governments around the world through write-offs and write-downs and land-use loopholes. In a sane world these subsidies would be invested to free us from the deadly effects of carbon emissions caused by fossil fuels, but we do not live in a sane world.

Bloomberg News in the 2013 article “Why Should Taxpayers Give Big Banks $83 Billion a Year?”reported that economists had determined that government subsidies lower the big banks’ borrowing costs by about 0.8 percent.

“Multiplied by the total liabilities of the 10 largest U.S. banks by assets,” the report said, “it amounts to a taxpayer subsidy of $83 billion a year.”

“The top five banks—JPMorgan, Bank of America Corp., Citigroup Inc., Wells Fargo & Co. and Goldman Sachs Group Inc.—account,” the report went on, “for $64 billion of the total subsidy, an amount roughly equal to their typical annual profits. In other words, the banks occupying the commanding heights of the U.S. financial industry—with almost $9 trillion in assets, more than half the size of the U.S. economy—would just about break even in the absence of corporate welfare. In large part, the profits they report are essentially transfers from taxpayers to their shareholders.”

Government expenditure accounts for 41 percent of GDP. Corporate capitalists intend to seize this money, hence the privatization of whole parts of the military, the push to privatize Social Security, the contracting of corporations to collect 70 percent of intelligence for our 16 intelligence agencies, as well as the privatization of prisons, schools and our disastrous for-profit health care service. None of these seizures of basic services make them more efficient or reduce costs. That is not the point. It is about feeding off the carcass of the state. And it ensures the disintegration of the structures that sustain capitalism itself. All this Marx got.

Marx illuminated these contradictions within capitalism. He understood that the idea of capitalism—free trade, free markets, individualism, innovation, self-development—works only in the utopian mind of a true believer such as Alan Greenspan, never in reality. The hoarding of wealth by a tiny capitalist elite, Marx foresaw, along with the exploitation of the workers, meant that the masses could no longer buy the products that propelled capitalism forward. Wealth becomes concentrated in the hands of a tiny elite—the world’s richest 1 percent will own more than half of the world’s wealth by next year. 

The assault on the working class has been going on now for several decades. Salaries have remained stagnant or declined since the 1970s. Manufacturing has been shipped overseas, where workers in countries such as China or Bangladesh are paid as little as 22 cents an hour. The working poor, forced to compete with the labor of those who are little better than serfs in the global marketplace, proliferate across the American landscape, struggling to live at a subsistence level. Industries such as construction, which once provided well-paying unionized jobs, are the domain of nonunionized, often undocumented workers. Corporations import foreign engineers and software specialists that do professional work at one-third of the normal salary on H-1B, L-1 and other work visas. All these workers are bereft of the rights of citizens.

The capitalists respond to the collapse of their domestic economies, which they engineered, by becoming global loan sharks and speculators. They lend money at exorbitant interest rates to the working class and the poor, even if they know the money could never be repaid, and then sell these bundled debts, credit default swaps, bonds and stocks to pension funds, cities, investment firms and institutions. This late form of capitalism is built on what Marx called “fictitious capital.” And it leads, as Marx knew, to the vaporization of money.

Once subprime borrowers began to default, as these big banks and investment firms knew was inevitable, the global crash of 2008 took place. The government bailed out the banks, largely by printing money, but left the poor and the working class—not to mention students recently out of college—with crippling personal debt. Austerity became policy. The victims of financial fraud would be made to pay for that fraud. And what saved us from a full-blown depression was, in a tactic Marx would have found ironic, massive state intervention in the economy, including the nationalization of huge corporations such as AIG and General Motors.

What we saw in 2008 was the enactment of a welfare state for the rich, a kind of state socialism for the financial elites that Marx predicted. But with this comes an increased and volatile cycle of boom and bust, bringing the system closer to disintegration and collapse. We have undergone two major stock market crashes and the implosion of real estate prices in just the first decade of the 21st century.

The corporations that own the media have worked overtime to sell to a bewildered public the fiction that we are enjoying a recovery. Employment figures, through a variety of gimmicks, including erasing those who are unemployed for over a year from unemployment rolls, are a lie, as is nearly every other financial indicator pumped out for public consumption. We live, rather, in the twilight stages of global capitalism, which may be surprisingly more resilient than we expect, but which is ultimately terminal. Marx knew that once the market mechanism became the sole determining factor for the fate of the nation-state, as well as the natural world, both would be demolished. No one knows when this will happen. But that it will happen, perhaps within our lifetime, seems certain.

“The old is dying, the new struggles to be born, and in the interregnum there are many morbid symptoms,” Antonio Gramsciwrote.

What comes next is up to us.

Hospitals Are Blatantly Ripping Us Off

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Most Americans are deathly afraid to go to the hospital these days – and it is because of the immense pain that it will cause to their wallets.  If you want to get on a path that will lead you to bankruptcy, just start going to the hospital a lot.  In America today, hospitals and doctors are blatantly ripping us off and they aren’t making any apologies for it.  As you will read about below, some hospitals mark up treatments by 1,000 percent.  In other instances, basic medical supplies are being billed out at hundreds of times what they cost providers.  For example, it has been reported that some hospitals are charging up to 30 dollars for a single aspirin pill.  It would be difficult to argue that the extreme greed that we see in the medical system is even matched by the crooks on Wall Street.  These medical predators get their hands on us when we are at our most vulnerable.  They know that in our lowest moments we are willing to pay just about anything to get better or to make the pain go away.  And so they very quietly have us sign a bunch of forms without ever telling us how much everything is going to cost.  Eventually when the bills come in the mail, it is too late to do anything about it.
How would you feel if someone sold you something for ten times the amount that it was worth?
Would you feel ripped off?
Well, that is what hospitals all over the country are doing every single day.  Just check out what one brand new study has discovered
Some hospitals are marking up treatments by as much as 1,000 percent, a new study finds, and the average U.S. hospital charges uninsured patients three times what Medicare allows.
Twenty of the hospitals in the top 50 when it comes to marking up charges are in Florida, the researchers write in the journal Health Affairs. And three-quarters of them are operated by two Tennessee-based for-profit hospital systems: Community Health Systems and Hospital Corporation of America.
“We just want to raise public awareness of the problem,” said Ge Bai of Washington & Lee University in Virginia, an accounting professor who wrote the study along with Gerard Anderson of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.
Does reading that make you angry?
It should.
They are greedily taking advantage of all of us.
Other studies have come up with similar results.  Here is one example
According to National Nurses United, U.S. hospital charges continue to soar with a handful of them, such as Meadowlands Hospital Medical Center in Secaucus, N.J., going as far ascharging more than ten times the total cost — or almost $1,200 per $100 of the cost of care. Meanwhile, the hundred priciest hospitals in the nation were found to have this cost ratio begin at 765 percent, which is more than twice the national average of 331 percent.
Much of the time, we are being overcharged for tests, services and procedures that we don’t even need.
It has been estimated that the amount of truly wasteful spending in the U.S. medical system comes to a grand total of about $600 billion to $700 billion annually.  That means that wasteful medical spending in the U.S. each year is greater than the GDP of the entire country of Sweden.
And of course almost everyone has a story about an absolutely ridiculous medical bill that they have received.  In fact, if you have one that you would like to share, please feel free to share it at the end of this article.  The following are just a few examples that were shared in an editorial in a local newspaper
Have you heard about the little girl who required three stitches over her right eye? The emergency room sent her parents a bill for $1,500 — $500 per stitch (NY Times, Dec. 3). My neighbor recently spent six hours in the emergency room with bleeding from the mouth. He was on a blood thinner, needed several blood tests, and his heart was monitored. His hospital bill came to $22,000. A California man diagnosed with lung cancer chose to fight his cancer aggressively. Eleven months later his widow received a bill exceeding $900,000.
One of the most disturbing trends that we are witnessing all over the nation is something called “drive by doctoring”.  That is where an extra doctor that isn’t even necessary “pops in” to visit patients that are not his or “assists” with a surgery in order to stick the patient with a big, fat extra bill.  The following is from a New York Times article about this disgusting practice…
Before his three-hour neck surgery for herniated disks in December, Peter Drier, 37, signed a pile of consent forms. A bank technology manager who had researched his insurance coverage, Mr. Drier was prepared when the bills started arriving: $56,000 from Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan, $4,300 from the anesthesiologist and even $133,000 from his orthopedist, who he knew would accept a fraction of that fee.
He was blindsided, though, by a bill of about $117,000 from an “assistant surgeon,” a Queens-based neurosurgeon whom Mr. Drier did not recall meeting.
How would you like to receive a bill for $117,000 from a doctor that you had never met and that you did not know would be at your surgery?
This is how broken our medical system has become.
And of course this type of abuse is not just happening in New York.  It is literally happening all over the nation
In operating rooms and on hospital wards across the country, physicians and other health providers typically help one another in patient care. But in an increasingly common practice that some medical experts call drive-by doctoring, assistants, consultants and other hospital employees are charging patients or their insurers hefty fees. They may be called in when the need for them is questionable. And patients usually do not realize they have been involved or are charging until the bill arrives.
If you or a close family member has been to the hospital recently, you probably know how astronomical some of these bills can be.
And if you have a chronic, life threatening disease, you can very rapidly end up hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt.
If you doubt this, just check out the following excerpt from an article that appeared in Time Magazine.  One cancer patient out in California ran up nearly a million dollars in hospital bills before he finally died…
By the time Steven D. died at his home in Northern California the following November, he had lived for an additional 11 months. And Alice had collected bills totaling $902,452. The family’s first bill — for $348,000 — which arrived when Steven got home from the Seton Medical Center in Daly City, Calif., was full of all the usual chargemaster profit grabs: $18 each for 88 diabetes-test strips that Amazon sells in boxes of 50 for $27.85; $24 each for 19 niacin pills that are sold in drugstores for about a nickel apiece. There were also four boxes of sterile gauze pads for $77 each. None of that was considered part of what was provided in return for Seton’s facility charge for the intensive-care unit for two days at $13,225 a day, 12 days in the critical unit at $7,315 a day and one day in a standard room (all of which totaled $120,116 over 15 days). There was also $20,886 for CT scans and $24,251 for lab work.
The sad truth is that the U.S. health care system has become all about the money.
A select few are becoming exceedingly wealthy while millions go broke.  One very disturbing study discovered that approximately 41 percent of all working age Americans either have medical bill problems or are currently paying off medical debt.  And collection agencies seek to collect unpaid medical bills from approximately 30 million Americans every single year.
Once upon a time, going into the medical profession was a sacrifice and you did it because you wanted to help people.
Today, it is considered to be a path to riches.
If the U.S. health care system was a separate country, it would actually be the 6th largest economy on the entire planet.  Even though our system is deeply broken, nobody wants to rock the boat because trillions of dollars are at stake.  If it was up to me, I would tear the entire thing down and rebuild it from scratch.

West Coast of North America to be Slammed with 80% As Much Fukushima Radiation As Japan by 2016

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A professor from Japan’s Fukushima University Institute of Environmental Radioactivity (Michio Aoyama) told Kyodo in April that the West Coast of North America will be hit with around 800 terabecquerels of Cesium- 137 by 2016.
EneNews notes that this is 80% of the cesium-137 deposited in Japan by Fukushima, according to the company which runs Fukushima, Tepco:
(a petabequeral or “PBq” equals 1,000 terabecquerels.)
This is not news for those who have been paying attention.  For example, we noted 2 days after the 2011 Japanese earthquake and tsunami that the West Coast of North America could be slammed with radiation from Fukushima.
We pointed out the next year that a previously-secret 1955 U.S. government report concluded that the ocean may not adequately dilute radiation from nuclear accidents, and there could be “pockets” and “streams” of highly-concentrated radiation.
The same year, we noted that 15 out of 15 bluefin tuna tested in California waters were contaminated with Fukushima radiation.
In 2013, we warned that the West Coast of North America would be hit hard by Fukushima radiation.
And we’ve noted for years that there is no real testing of Fukushima radiation by any government agency.
Indeed, scientists say that the amount of the West Coast of North America could end up exceeding that off the Japanese coast.
What’s the worst case scenario? That the mass die-off of sealife off the West Coast of North America – which may have started only a couple of months after the Fukushima melt-down – is being caused by radiation from Fukushima.

Corruption is Legal in America

The Super-Rich Are Taking Us For A Ride: The Obscene Concentration Of Wealth At The Top

A nauseating new IRS report reveals just how much money the top one-thousandth of the 1 percent is hoarding

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Why are our seniors paying higher taxes on their social security benefits than billionaires pay on stocks?
The IRS released a new report that reveals the staggering amount of money that the top one-thousandth of the 1% in the US is hoarding.
While the top earners in the bottom 50 percent of Americans only make 36,000 dollars a year – the bottom earners in the top one-thousandth of the 1% “only make” more than 62 million dollars a year.
Sixty-two million dollars per year is what it takes to be a top one-thousandth one percenter – and those are the poorest of the richest households – on average the top earners make more than 160 million dollars a year.
That’s 160 times richer than the average one percenter who only makes about 1.5 million dollars.
That’s an obscene concentration of wealth – but that’s not the most outrageous part of the story, because those top earners are paying a lower tax rate than working class Americans and retirees.
The highest tax rate on income taxes in 2014 was 39.6 percent for households earning more than 439,000 dollars – and the majority of US households paid an income tax rate of between 15 percent and 28 percent.
Those are households of plumbers, bus drivers, doctors and engineers – the average working Americans who create real wealth for the economy.
Meanwhile the banksters and vulture capitalists – the billionaires who make most of their income by moving money back and forth – pay a maximum rate of 20 percent of their earnings from the stock market.
How does this happen? Why did Mitt Romney pay a lower effective tax rate in 2011 than a waitress earning $2.13 an hour?
It started with the memo that Lewis Powell wrote in 1971 – just a few months before Nixon nominated him to the Supreme Court.
In no unclear terms – Powell wrote: “Business must learn the lesson, long ago learned by labor and other self-interest groups. This is the lesson that political power is necessary; that such power must be cultivated; and that when necessary, it must be used aggressively and with determination – without embarrassment and without the reluctance which has been so characteristic of American business.”
And for the last 40 years – business has followed Powell’s advice to a “T”: by taking over our education system; purchasing the nation’s newspapers, TV and radio stations; filling the courts with activist judges; and filling Washington with lobbyists and corporate-owned lawmakers.
And what have they done with that power?
They’ve rigged the system against the average American and in favor of themselves.
They’ve punched holes in our tax system so that seniors and working Americans can pay a higher tax rate than vulture capitalists and bankers.
Vice President Henry Wallace, in 1944 in the New York Times, warned about how corporatists might try to undermine US Democracy: “They claim to be super-patriots, but they would destroy every liberty guaranteed by the Constitution. They demand free enterprise, but are the spokesmen for monopoly and vested interest. Their final objective toward which all their deceit is directed is to capture political power so that, using the power of the state and the power of the market simultaneously, they may keep the common man in eternal subjection.”
And this IRS report shows that Wallace was prescient – that’s exactly what’s happened.
The vulture capitalists and bankers make money without creating wealth.
Adam Smith, back in 1776 in Wealth of Nations, said that real wealth is created for a nation by manufacturing. His simple example was a person adding labor to raw materials to create a new object with greater value – he used the example of a person taking a valueless tree branch and using their skill and labor to carve it into a valuable axe handle that then becomes part of the wealth of the nation for years.
That’s what working Americans do every day – building cars; making consumer products; an engineer designing a bridge.
But the top earners in the United States? The Wall Street executives and vultures?
They don’t make anything – they don’t create wealth – and they actually can increase their profits – but not the wealth of our nation – by gutting a company, slashing employee benefits and decimating the workforce.
But after 40 years of corporate America infiltrating and subverting our democracy – they’ve grabbed so much power and influence over our politics that they’ve essentially written themselves out of our tax code.
So now – only the regular working people in the US – the doctors, plumbers, servers and small business owners – pay taxes in the US.
Regular people – like the seniors who have paid into social security all their lives only to have their benefits taxed at a higher rate than Mitt Romney’s capital gains.
And that needs to change – we need to get money out of politics so that billionaires can’t buy elected officials and get special tax rules written just for themselves.
We need to stop the superrich from punching more holes in our tax code and get them to pay their fair share.
If we want the US to be a strong and truly wealthy nation, we need to tax the people who strip money out of companies without creating wealth at least at the same rate as that of bus drivers and doctors.

 

US officials consider nuclear strikes against Russia

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US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter is meeting today at the headquarters of the US European Command in Stuttgart, Germany with two dozen US military commanders and European diplomats to discuss how to escalate their economic and military campaign against Russia. They will assess the impact of current economic sanctions, as well as NATO’s strategy of exploiting the crisis in eastern Ukraine to deploy ever-greater numbers of troops and military equipment to Eastern Europe, threatening Russia with war.
A US defense official told Reuters that the main purpose of the meeting was to “assess and strategize on how the United States and key allies should think about heightened tensions with Russia over the past year.” The official also said Carter was open to providing the Ukrainian regime with lethal weapons, a proposal which had been put forward earlier in the year.
Most provocatively, a report published by the Associated Press yesterday reports that the Pentagon has been actively considering the use of nuclear missiles against military targets inside Russia, in response to what it alleges are violations of the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty. Russia denies US claims that it has violated the INF by flight-testing ground-launched cruise missiles with a prohibited range.
Three options being considered by the Pentagon are the placement of anti-missile defenses in Europe aimed at shooting Russian missiles out of the sky; a “counterforce” option that would involve pre-emptive non-nuclear strikes on Russia military sites; and finally, “countervailing strike capabilities,” involving the pre-emptive deployment of nuclear missiles against targets inside Russia.
The AP states: “The options go so far as one implied—but not stated explicitly—that would improve the ability of US nuclear weapons to destroy military targets on Russian territory.” In other words, the US is actively preparing nuclear war against Russia.
Robert Scher, one of Carter’s nuclear policy aides, told Congress in April that the deployment of “counterforce” measures would mean “we could go about and actually attack that missile where it is in Russia.”
According to other Pentagon officials, this option would entail the deployment of ground-launched cruise missiles throughout Europe.
Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Joe Skewers told AP, “All the options under consideration are designed to ensure that Russia gains no significant military advantage from their violation.”
The criminality and recklessness of the foreign policy of Washington and its NATO allies is staggering. A pre-emptive nuclear strike against Russian forces, many of them near populated areas, could claim millions of lives in seconds and lead to a nuclear war that would obliterate humanity. Even assuming that the US officials threatening Russia do not actually want such an outcome, however, and that they are only trying to intimidate Moscow, there is a sinister objective logic to such threats.
Nuclear warmongering by US officials immensely heightens the danger of all-out war erupting accidentally, amid escalating military tensions and strategic uncertainty. NATO forces are deploying for military exercises all around Russia, from the Arctic and Baltic Seas to Eastern Europe and the Black and Mediterranean Seas. Regional militaries are all on hair-trigger alerts.
US officials threatening Russia cannot know how the Kremlin will react to such threats. With Moscow concerned about the danger of a sudden NATO strike, Russia is ever more likely to respond to perceived signs of NATO military action by launching its missiles, fearing that otherwise the missiles will be destroyed on the ground. The danger of miscalculations and miscommunications leading to all-out war is immensely heightened.
The statements of Scher and Carter confirm warnings made last year by the WSWS, that NATO’s decision to back a fascist-led putsch in Kiev in February, and to blame Russia without any evidence for shooting down flight MH17, posed the risk of war. “Are you ready for war—including possibly nuclear war—between the United States, Europe, and Russia? That is the question that everyone should be asking him- or herself in light of the developments since the destruction of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17,” the WSWS wrote .
In March, Putin stated that he had placed Russian forces, including its nuclear forces, on alert in the aftermath of the Kiev putsch, fearing a NATO attack on Russia. Now the threat of war arising from US policy has been confirmed directly by statements of the US military.
These threats have developed largely behind the backs of the world working class. Workers in the United States, Europe and worldwide have time and again shown their hostility to US wars in Iraq or in Afghanistan. Yet nearly 15 years after these wars began, the world stands on the brink of an even bloodier and more devastating conflict, and the media and ruling elites the world over are hiding the risk of nuclear war.
US President Barack Obama is expected to escalate pressure on Russia at the G7 summit this weekend, pressing European leaders to maintain economic sanctions put in place in response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea last year. The latest outbreak in violence in Ukraine this week, which the US blames on Russia, is to serve as a pretext for continuing the sanctions.
Speaking to Parliament on Thursday, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko warned of a “colossal threat of the resumption of large-scale hostilities by Russian and terrorist forces.” He claimed without proof that 9,000 Russian soldiers are deployed in rebel-held areas of Donetsk and Luhansk, in eastern Ukraine.
“Ukraine’s military should be ready for a new offensive by the enemy, as well as a full-scale invasion along the entire border with the Russian Federation,” Poroshenko said. “We must be really prepared for this.” He said the Ukrainian army had at least 50,000 soldiers stationed in the east, prepared to defend the country.
Poroshenko’s remarks came a day after renewed fighting in eastern Ukraine between Kiev forces and Russian-backed separatists resulted in dozens of casualties. This week’s fighting marked the largest breach to date of the cease-fire signed in February.
Kremlin spokesman Dimitry Peskov told reporters on Thursday that Russia believed the previous day’s hostilities had been provoked by Kiev to influence upcoming discussions at the G7 summit this weekend and the EU summit in Brussels at the end of the month. “These provocative actions are organized by Ukraine’s military forces, and we are concerned with that,” he stated.
Each side blamed the other for initiating fighting in Marinka, approximately nine miles west of the rebel stronghold of Donetsk. Yuriy Biryukov, an adviser to Poroshenko, reported on Thursday that five Ukrainian soldiers had been killed in the fighting, and another 39 wounded. Eduard Basurin, deputy defense minister and spokesman for the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR), told Interfax that 16 rebel fighters and five civilians had been killed.
Ukrainian forces also fired artillery at the rebel-held city of Donetsk on Wednesday. Shells landed in the southwest districts of Kirovsky and Petrovsky, killing 6 people and wounding at least 90 others. The city’s Sokol market was severely damaged, with several rows of shops burned to the ground.
Responding to Wednesday’s developments, members of the fascistic Right Sector militia have been called to mobilize for battle. Andrey Stempitsky, commander of the militia’s paramilitary battalion, posted a message on Facebook calling on those who went home during the cease-fire to “return to their combat units.” He warned that the Right Sector would “wage war, ignoring the truce devotees.”

The Scariest Trade Deal Nobody's Talking About Just Suffered a Big Leak

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The Obama administration’s desire for “fast track” trade authority is not limited to passing the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). In fact, that may be the least important of three deals currently under negotiation by the U.S. Trade Representative. The Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) would bind the two biggest economies in the world, the United States and the European Union. And the largest agreement is also the least heralded: the 51-nation Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA).
On Wednesday, WikiLeaks brought this agreement into the spotlight by releasing 17 key TiSA-related documents, including 11 full chapters under negotiation. Though the outline for this agreement has been in place for nearly a year, these documents were supposed to remain classified for five years after being signed, an example of the secrecy surrounding the agreement, which outstrips even the TPP.
TiSA has been negotiated since 2013, between the United States, the European Union, and 22 other nations, including Canada, Mexico, Australia, Israel, South Korea, Japan, Norway, Switzerland, Turkey, and others scattered across South America and Asia. Overall, 12 of the G20 nations are represented, and negotiations have carefully incorporated practically every advanced economy except for the “BRICS” coalition of emerging markets (which stands for Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa).
The deal would liberalize global trade of services, an expansive definition that encompasses air and maritime transport, package delivery, e-commerce, telecommunications, accountancy, engineering, consulting, health care, private education, financial services and more, covering close to 80 percent of the U.S. economy. Though member parties insist that the agreement would simply stop discrimination against foreign service providers, the text shows that TiSA would restrict how governments can manage their public laws through an effective regulatory cap. It could also dismantle and privatize state-owned enterprises, and turn those services over to the private sector. You begin to sound like the guy hanging out in front of the local food co-op passing around leaflets about One World Government when you talk about TiSA, but it really would clear the way for further corporate domination over sovereign countries and their citizens.
Reading the texts (here’s an example, the annex on air transport services) makes you realize the challenge for members of Congress or interested parties to comprehend a trade agreement while in negotiation. The “bracketed” text includes each country’s offer, merged into one document, with notations on whether the country proposed, is considering, or opposes each specific provision. You need to either be a trade lawyer or a very alert reader to know what’s going on. But between the text and a series of analyses released by WikiLeaks, you get a sense for what the countries negotiating TiSA want.
First, they want to limit regulation on service sectors, whether at the national, provincial or local level. The agreement has “standstill” clauses to freeze regulations in place and prevent future rulemaking for professional licensing and qualifications or technical standards. And a companion “ratchet” clause would make any broken trade barrier irreversible.
It may make sense to some to open service sectors up to competition. But under the agreement, governments may not be able to regulate staff to patient ratios in hospitals, or ban fracking, or tighten safety controls on airlines, or refuse accreditation to schools and universities. Foreign corporations must receive the same "national treatment" as domestic ones, and could argue that such regulations violate their ability to provide the service. Allowable regulations could not be “more burdensome than necessary to ensure the quality of the service,” according to TiSA’s domestic regulation annex. No restrictions could be placed on foreign investment—corporations could control entire sectors. 
This would force open dozens of services, including ones where state-owned enterprises, like the national telephone company in Uruguay or the national postal service of Italy, now operate. Previously, public services would be either broken up or forced into competition with foreign service providers. While the United States and European Union assured in a joint statement that such privatization need not be permanent, they also “noted the important complementary role of the private sector in these areas” to “improve the availability and diversity of services,” which doesn’t exactly connote a hands-off policy on the public commons. 
Corporations would get to comment on any new regulatory attempts, and enforce this regulatory straitjacket through a dispute mechanism similar to the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) process in other trade agreements, where they could win money equal to “expected future profits” lost through violations of the regulatory cap.
For an example of how this would work, let’s look at financial services. It too has a “standstill” clause, which given the unpredictability of future crises could leave governments helpless to stop a new and dangerous financial innovation. In fact, Switzerland has proposed that all TiSA countries must allow “any new financial service” to enter their market. So-called “prudential regulations” to protect investors or depositors are theoretically allowed, but they must not act contrary to TiSA rules, rendering them somewhat irrelevant.
Most controversially, all financial services suppliers could transfer individual client data out of a TiSA country for processing, regardless of national privacy laws. This free flow of data across borders is true for the e-commerce annex as well; it breaks with thousands of years of precedent on locally kept business records, and has privacy advocates alarmed.
There’s no question that these provisions reinforce Senator Elizabeth Warren’s contention that a trade deal could undermine financial regulations like the Dodd-Frank Act. The Swiss proposal on allowances for financial services could invalidate derivatives rules, for example. And harmonizing regulations between the U.S. and EU would involve some alteration, as the EU rules are less stringent.
Member countries claim they want to simply open up trade in services between the 51 nations in the agreement. But there’s already an international deal governing these sectors through the World Trade Organization (WTO), called the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS). The only reason to re-write the rules is to replace GATS, which the European Union readily admits (“if enough WTO members join in, TiSA could be turned into a broader WTO agreement”).
That’s perhaps TiSA’s real goal—to pry open markets, deregulate and privatize services worldwide, even among emerging nations with no input into the agreement. U.S. corporations may benefit from such a structure, as the Chamber of Commerce suggests, but the impact on workers and citizens in America and across the globe is far less clear. Social, cultural, and even public health goals would be sidelined in favor of a regime that puts corporate profits first. It effectively nullifies the role of democratic governments to operate in the best interest of their constituents.
Unsurprisingly, this has raised far more concern globally than in the United States. But a completed TiSA would go through the same fast-track process as TPP, getting a guaranteed up-or-down vote in Congress without the possibility of amendment. Fast-track lasts six years, and negotiators for the next president may be even more willing to make the world safe for corporate hegemony. “This is as big a blow to our rights and freedom as the Trans-Pacific Partnership,” said Larry Cohen, president of the Communication Workers of America in a statement, “and in both cases our government’s secrecy is the key enabler.”