|Home||Switchboard||Unix Administration||Red Hat||TCP/IP Networks||Neoliberalism||Toxic Managers|
|May the source be with you, but remember the KISS principle ;-)|
|News||Neocolonialism as financial imperialism||Recommended Links||Greece debt enslavement||Ukraine debt enslavement||Harvard Mafia, Andrei Shleifer and the economic rape of Russia||Provisional government as an instrument for Ukraine's debt enslavement|
|The Iron Law of Oligarchy||Elite Theory||Two Party System as polyarchy||Economics of Energy||Predator state||Super Imperialism||New American Militarism|
|Neoliberalism||The Grand Chessboard||Disaster capitalism||Inside "democracy promotion" hypocrisy fair||Right to protect||Merkel as Soft Cop in Neocon Offensive on Eastern Europe and Russia||Neocons|
|American Exceptionalism||Media-Military-Industrial Complex||Mayberry Machiavellians||Neo Trotskyism aka Neoconservatism||War is Racket||Neoliberal Brainwashing -- Journalism in the Service of the Powerful Few||In Foreign Events Coverage The Guardian Presstitutes Slip Beyond the Reach of Embarrassment|
|Casino Capitalism||Financial Sector Induced Systemic Instability||Political skeptic||John Kenneth Galbraith||Financial Humor||Humor||Etc|
IMF is not the agency to help other countries with the economic development. Under neoliberalism (and that means since 80th) it became the major instrument for redistributing wealth up and enslaving countries with debt that can't be repaid. As a tool for the redistribution it works extremely efficiently both on local level (producing local oligarchs) and on international level -- ensuring prosperity of G7 and USA in particular.
The U.S. economy has benefited immensely from its ability to extract tribute from other nations, including the U.S. financial community's probable engineering of crises in developing nations in order to scoop up devalued assets on the cheap. One of the most important instruments of this extraction, plunder of weaker nations, is IMF.
The standard IMF policy is to approach countries in financial crises with the same rather crude recipies that favour large Wall Street banks. In this case IMF staff acts like like vulture fund managers rather than economists. They try to force a country with a fiscal deficit to reduce government spending, privatage industries and take on additional debt. Reducing government spending reduces aggregate demand, which in turn reduces government income, and make the deficit worse. So the country need to take more loads, inflicting more pain on the population. The reason that the IMF does this, is that it is meant to "restore confidence in the markets". But once a crisis starts, foreign investors tend to bail out anyway, so all it buys the country is a small breathing space before default. Country is better off introducing strict capital controls and accepting the fact that speculative foreign investors are gone. It should not allow them to enter the market in the first place and focus on growth.
The other thing is the immense level of hypocrisy of the US administrations that control IMF, which forced policies on emerging markets, which it would never accept itself.
In fact, the IMF more or less took instructions from the US Treasury during the 1990s, and certainly my sense at the time was that some IMF staffers were very frustrated at the policies that the US government forced them to follow. The point though, is that while the US government was battling the balanced budget amendment at home, on the reasonable grounds that it limited their freedom to manage demand, they were essentially enforcing a balanced budgets on the emerging markets via IMF condition for loans. They are forcing central banks to focus only on inflation. They are forcing emerging markets to open their markets, while protecting US farmers from imports.
The economic restructuring programs imposed on poor countries has benefited U.S. and other foreign investors while creating a small but powerful class of wealthy individuals (fifth column of neoliberalisation) in China, Mexico, South Korea, Ukraine, Russia, etc.
Unsustainable level of debt creates the potentially catastrophic financial situation for those countries that take IMF loads.
Debt that can't be paid back, won't be paid back. That simple idea is the key to debt enslavement of people and nations. One of the key mechanisms is ensuring that loads to state were looted by local oligarchy, turning being eye to money laundering or, as was the case in post 1991 Russia, actively supporting money laundering as the way to decimate former opponent and drive it into vassal status.
There is a strong alliance of Western governments and local oligarchs in this dirty game with IMF serving as an enforcer of debt slavery enabling buying countries assets by transnational for penny on a dollar. Corrupt officials burden taxpayers with unsustainable amounts of debt for unproductive, grossly overpriced projects.The TPP and TTIP are integral initiatives in this effort of extending financial obligations, debt, and control.
This is why these corporatists and statists hate gold and silver, by the way. And why it is at the focal point of a currency war. It provides a counterweight to their monetary power. It speaks unpleasant truths. It is a safe haven and alternative, along with other attempts to supplant the IMF and the World Bank, for the rest of the world. So when you say, the Philippines deserved it, Iceland deserved it, Ireland deserved it, Africa deserves it, Jefferson County deserved it, Detroit deserved it, and now Greece deserves it, just keep in mind that some day soon they will be saying that you deserve it, because you stood by and did nothing.
Because when they are done with all the others, for whom do you think they come next? If you wish to see injustice stopped, if you wish to live up to the pledge of 'never again,' then you must stand for your fellows who are vulnerable. The economic hitmen have honed their skills among the poor and relatively defenseless, and have been coming closer to home in search of new hunting grounds and fatter spoils.
You may also find some information about the contemporary applications of these methods in The IMF's 'Tough Choices' On Greece by Jamie Galbraith.
The whole mechanism of debt enslavement is polished to perfection on developing countries.
Here are some relevant Amazon reviews of the book Confessions of an Economic Hit Man that discusses IMF policies since 1980th.
gordon macgregoron May 2, 2015
IMF forced lending to poor countries of sums far in excess of their needs ...
Absolutely fascinating, pulling back the veil of the inner workings of the IMF as it does. Confirms a lot of things people have long suspected and been shouted down for voicing.
Shows the IMF as an organization bent on capturing the resources of countries around the world via various highly unethical means. e.g forced lending to poor countries of sums far in excess of their needs or means, for inappropriate purposes, leading to big profits for Western firms, the beggaring of the recipient nations, and forced capture of natural resources by large corporations. Surprising that the IMF has not been subject to deep investigation by the UN after this expose.
johnnyjohnnyon April 25, 2015
learn what's going on. read this book. gives a clue to MONSANTO's model of world domination
truly a remarkable book that has been proven with events and facts that have come out since the book was written back in the day.
the model of economic control, back in the good ole days when the International Monetary Fund & U.S. congressionally funded loans to third world countries was the way to pull the strings, and get our largest corporations huge projects that third worlders didn't need and couldn't pay for...but brought the bucks home.
if you ever had a suspicion about recent wars, the billion$ they brought to large contractors, and the reason for those interventions, go back to the early days of this model of international control from someone who was there. and yes, halliburton (aka Kellogg Brown and Root back then) was involved.
James Kenney on April 1, 2015
Should I simply take him at his own word, that he is a liar?
This is a very believable book on a topic of vital importance to the world today: the extent to which "economic development aid" is designed not to benefit the target country, but to ensnare it into the global culture as a debtor nation with assets never designed to be profitable, but merely to serve as an "economic gateway drug".
Somehow, though, while the book is eminently readable, and a bit unnerving, I just couldn't shake off a feeling that I was being "had", by Mr. John Perkins. Look at the number of reviews here! Clearly, this book touched a nerve...but if the author is as unscrupulous as he claims to be (or to have been, since he also claims to have experienced a remarkable conversion, like Paul on the road to Damascus), a fundamental question arises: why should we believe him?
This question is even more essential, since many of us who would even read such a book believe in our hearts that, yes, American capitalism, aided by the IMF, and the World Bank, is seeking to enslave the world. Of course! It's almost a given, an article of faith. No wonder the rest of the world hates us!
I too felt the lure of Perkins' mesmerizing description of an unspoken conspiracy to take over the world by bankrupting it. Certainly, the events of 2008 and 2009 showed the moral bankruptcy of the Big Banks and those who cynically packaged sliced and diced debt into impossible to understand financial instruments, then peddled them to school boards and public pension plans.
Now that I come to review the book, though, I almost feel as if I should wash my hands first. Just picking it up, seeing its jaunty cover, remembering its schmaltzy "spy coming in from the cold" ending, I feel...taken in. I don't know why I feel that way, but the feeling is definitely there. There is something exploitive about this book, as if the author had not changed his skin, only his target: as if now, instead of ensnaring struggling nations, he is ensnaring readers all too willing to believe the worst about ourselves and the economic system in which we too are ensnared.
Even the title sounds phony. Perkins may well be right, he may well be telling it like it is, he may have become a champion bravely taking on a system he helped create, a modern David fighting an economic Goliath. Heavens knows, after stories of regulators sniffing cocaine off a toaster oven with those they are supposed to be regulating, nothing seems unbelievable, and in a sense this book sounds almost inevitable, natural, and important.
It may be. But one of the things I was taught as a historian, is to consider your sources, and the chief question is, how credible are they? When a self-proclaimed liar, swindler and cheat tells me the "system is rigged", should I believe him? Or should I simply take him at his own word, that he is a liar?
I gave this ugly tale 4 stars simply for readability. Fact or fiction, it is certainly that: readable.
DH Koester on March 24, 2015
Well, well, well---another piece to the puzzle as to what constitutes the United States of America!
Besides the curse of blood-stained hands from endless wars of aggression there is another sinister side to this country's quest for empire and world domination--the enslavement of countries and peoples through cleverly devised debt imposition--the same method our government uses on its own people. This debt imposition on foreign countries serves to enrich foreign rulers and US corporations while impoverishing the common people.
Perkins was one of the people--a cog in the wheel --that made it all possible and when his conscience finally got the better of him he wrote a book about it.
Students will not read about these economic hit men ion any American textbook. Nor will they, as adults, read about it in any periodical or hear about it on any newscast. Politicians will not tell them about it nor will their religious leaders. Yet there is this book by John Perkins describing the process in detail. But those in power--those responsible for this immoral conduct--will allow it to be published and made available to the public without fear of reprisal or consequences--just as they have the countless other books that have spoken truth to power detailing corruption, war-making and deceit by those in the highest offices.
Why?? Because the average citizen in this country doesn't care one iota about anything that he perceives as not directly affecting the welfare of himself or his family. That plus the fact that very few people will ever hear of or read this book. People don't read any more--they are plugged into their machines of instant gratification and get the bulk of what they think is news from inane sources such as the Letterman show. Even if some do read it, they will soon forget and move on--continuing with their mundane lives completely oblivious to the world that is suffering and burning outside their doors.
And me?? I know the truth--but even those who know the truth, they are powerless. There is nothing that can be done to stop the insanity. It is like death---Death eventually smiles at us all and the best a man can do is smile back.
I give this book 5 Stars not because it was particularly well written but because it informs in a world desperately in need of being informed. Read it if you will but with the understanding and full knowledge that the truth shall not set you free.
"And There I Was" by DH Koester
David Lupo "David Lupo" on February 21, 2015
Do you wonder why the world hates us? Read this book.
When I was in college, I took another course after Sociology 101, called Social Issues. It was a great course, eye-opening, but sad, because I learned about how skewed the world really is today. There were discussions on the Ford Pinto death-trap story, and stories about how grocery stores sell third-rate products at high prices, to keep the poor poor. There were other stories about how the corporation wields great power over the average citizen. I went to college in the 80s, long after we were told lies about the Great Oil Shortage in the 70s, when oil companies made a killing.
The book by John Perkins gives the historical background of how our government, working with the corporation has done some nasty things in recent decades to places around the globe. Economic Hit Men, and those in league with them have played national leaders against their people for the great financial gain that the US reaps. The corporation not only wields great power over the US citizen; it seeks this same control in the world. John Perkins highlights how this has played out in his corporate life, to the people that he knew.
I also notice that despite the harm he caused as an EHM, he escapes any sort of punishment, since he is spilling the beans on how the game is played, and has been played across the globe. That was a drawback. But today he is trying to do better things for the good of humanity, and that has to count for something.
White Rabbiton January 7, 2015
soft-minded lola granola platitudes
This book can be summarized in one sentence: America "forces" loans on third world countries based on inflated projections of resulting economic growth, that we know the recipient country will never be able to repay.
we then leverage their debt to strong-arm collateral benefits such as construction and service contracts (for the industry they got loans to build) or use their land for military bases, thereby increasing and securing our growing empire.
Perkins says this on every page of his 220 page book.
there is NO analysis or explanation of why development is automatically bad, and preserving rain forests and shaman lifestyles is automatically good, and even if it is good, why it is our problem, as a sovereign nation, to devote our resources to preserving other peoples' lifestyles. i am not asserting that industrial development is automatically "good," but there is simply no thoughtful analysis of the issues at all. Nor is there any nuts-and-bolts explanations of how he structured the economic deals that are supposedly so wicked.
There is just a lot of soft-minded liberal clap-trap about "using less oil; reading a book instead of going shopping; "dreaming" the world into existence; and -- you guessed it -- "shapeshifting." While I doubt any reader of a non-fiction book without pictures with "economic" in the title thinks that industrial development is an unmitigated boon, there have always been significant discrepancies in wealth throughout history, in every culture, country, and time, and there has always been tension (& disruption) in "progress" in any form.
Perhaps there are reasons for this besides the greed and evil of white european males, especially since the "haves" have not always been white or European (and sometimes not even male). Even (or especially) in underdeveloped countries, there are LOTS of people who would prefer medicine and basic sanitation to relying on shamanistic rain dances when their children are sick.
There are compelling and undeniable reasons why manual workers get paid less than highly specialized ones, and simply reiterating Marx's Communist Manifesto is not convincing to any thinking person, or to anyone who clawed their way out of those countries that tried to implement his pipe dream. Reminds me of the rebels' kvetching in Monty Python's Life of Brian: "Well, except for the roads, and the aqueducts, and education, and bread, and medicine, and peace, and security, what else have the Romans done for us?"
A. Kumaron January 1, 2015
Read it to get a general idea of aid programs but discard personal anecdotes as fiction
The book is clearly a combination of fact and fiction. The facts are based on the well known criticisms of the IMF and World Bank and how they have destroyed various countries. The fiction part is where the author speaks of personal experiences.
Two points give away the fact that the book is semi-fiction. The first is that the author has only used criticisms that were already made on the internet at the time of publication of the book. The second is that the author subconsciously projects his political biases based on his country's Republican vs. Democrat politics and selectively attacks Republicans while letting off the Democrats. Thus, Nixon, Reagan and the Bushes are villains while Jimmy Carter is a hero and American interference in foreign economies during the Clinton era is completely missing from the book. This despite the fact that the era of globalization and the creation of WTO and foisting the American agenda through WTO happened during the Clinton regime and Jimmy Carter started the Iran-Iraq war. Clinton was also responsible for the war on Yugoslavia which lasted all through the 1990s.
The author's list of heroes is also selective and are Communists from Latin America. He is also selective in his list of villains. Bechtel and Halliburton come in for criticism just like on the internet. And just like on the internet, there is no criticism of defense contractors whose executives support the Democratic Party. So you won't see much criticism of Raytheon or Northrop Grumman.
Most of the criticism of the aid programs was well known especially in Latin America and India. In 2000, the combination of the Seattle protests against WTO and the fact that the internet was new made the information become popular. The author seems to have picked up on that data and written a book. There is also a touch of self-delusion that it is the White man's burden to save the world. Whether it is Indonesia or Panama, there is always a character in the book who appeals to the White hero and says he will show him a side of the country that only the locals have access to and that the Whites must somehow fix it. In no country do the locals lack self-respect that they will actually indulge in such behavior.
That said, writing a first person account is an innovative idea and the author is not wrong in highlighting the true nature of aid programs. The book is successful in conveying the general idea that aid programs exist to help the American corporations. The public needs to know this sort of information and the author has done a good job at it.
Margaret M. Pratton December 14, 2014
It's amazing he's still alive to tell his tale
It's amazing he's still alive to tell his tale! John Perkins is quite frank about how he became an 'economic hit man', producing inflated optimistic economic data to persuade leaders in foreign countries to invest in building up their infrastructure (think dams, etc.) through loans they will never be able to pay back, how US industries profit through this, and his own complicity for quite a few years.
And then his slow change of heart when he began to face the actual effect of his contribution to the downward spiral of these countries. It's a real eye-opener. And yes, it does matter who's President.
Malcolm McIntyre, on October 16, 2014
Groundbreaking, although naive on the role of conspiracy
BOOK REVIEW: Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, by John Perkins
“Economic hit men are highly paid professionals who cheat countries around the globe out of trillions of dollars [through the perversion of foreign aid funds … using] fraudulent financial reports, rigged elections, payoffs, extortion, sex, and murder. They play a game as old as empire, but one that has taken on new and terrifying dimensions during this time of globalisation.”
This book is a decade old and the activities that Perkins exposes have become widely known since 2004, for which his work shares much of the credit. It remains a valuable primer for anyone seeking to understand current international events; and will reward greatly even those already aware of the casual criminality of the U.S.’s political, financial and business elites.
Perkins’ career as an economic hit man (EHM) began in 1971 and ended in 1980, after his conscience prevailed. It was sandwiched between a Peace Corps stint in the jungles of South America and a post-EHM career which included establishing a successful alternative energy company. He wrote the passage at the head of this review in 1982, but was persuaded not to go ahead with the book at that time. Four more delays were occasioned by threats or bribes.
So, how does an Economic Hit Man operate? “We are an elite group of men and women who utilize international financial organisations to foment conditions that make other nations subservient to the corporatocracy running our biggest corporations, our government, and our banks. Like our counterparts in the Mafia, EHMs provide favors. These take the form of loans to develop infrastructure – electric generating plants, highways, ports, airports, or industrial parks.
“A condition of such loans is that engineering and construction companies from our own country must build all these projects. In essence, most of the money never leaves the United States; it is simply transferred from banking offices in Washington to engineering offices in New York, Houston, or San Francisco.
“Despite the fact that the money is returned almost immediately to corporations that are members of the corporatocracy (the creditor), the recipient country is required to pay it all back, principal plus interest. If an EHM is completely successful, the loans are so large that the debtor is forced to default on its payments after a few years. When this happens, then like the Mafia we demand our pound of flesh.
“This often includes one or more of the following: control over United Nations votes, the installation of military bases, or access to precious resources such as oil or the Panama Canal. Of course, the debtor still owes us the money – and another country is added to our global empire.”
Perkins is not anti-American, but rather one of the diminishing remnant of Americans who believe the U.S. Constitution still means something. “The longer version [of why he finally wrote the book] relates to my dedication to the country where I was raised, to my love of the ideals expressed by our Founding Fathers, to my deep commitment to the American republic that today promises ‘life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness’ for all people, everywhere, and to my determination after 9/11 not to sit idly by any longer while EHMs turn that republic into a global empire.”
Having finally got around to reading Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, I will certainly be following up with his 2008 The Secret History of the American Empire: The Truth About Economic Hit Men, Jackals, and How to Change the World and 2011’s Hoodwinked: An Economic Hit Man reveals why the global economy imploded – and how to fix it. One area of interest will be whether his understanding of conspiracy – or, more accurately in terms of Confessions, lack of conspiracy – has changed.
“Some would blame our current problems on an organised conspiracy. I wish it were so simple. Members of a conspiracy can be rooted out and brought to justice,” he says in the preface. “This system, however, is fuelled by something far more dangerous than conspiracy. It is driven not by a small band of men but by a concept that has become accepted as gospel: the idea that all economic growth benefits humankind and that the greater the growth, the more widespread the benefits.”
This idea of the concept of benefit for humankind driving the agenda is a somewhat naïve construction. The reality is that there is a relatively small band of psychopathic men (more women in the gang these days and they are no prettier) driving the agenda. The “benefit for mankind” schtick is merely one of the concepts used in their propaganda.
“The corporatocracy is not a conspiracy, but its members do endorse common values and goals,” Perkins says, adding shortly after: “People like me are paid outrageously high salaries to do the system’s bidding. If we falter, a more malicious form of hit man, the jackal, steps to the plate. And if the jackal fails, then the job falls to the military.”
The United States has 40,000 troops in Germany and 50,000 in Japan – they are still occupied countries, more than half a century after World War 2. The U.S. has more than 600 overseas bases. Wikipedia can usually be relied upon in simple matters such as this http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_military_deployments although not in more sensitive matters which attract hasbara and intelligence operatives to the editing function. Also worth a read are http://www.globalresearch.ca/the-worldwide-network-of-us-military-bases/5564 and http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2011/sep/14/ron-paul/ron-paul-says-us-has-military-personnel-130-nation/
Other than the EHM books mentioned so far, Perkins has written several about spiritual/indigenous matters, based on his experiences before and after his Hit Man service. They are listed at his web site http://www.johnperkins.org/books/
I found out more than I really wanted to know.
CWOK: Ex-Navy, on October 15, 2014
Dubious " Confessions "...
I just finished reading, " Confessions of an Economic Hit Man ", by John Perkins, in which the author recounts his alleged career as an ` Economic Hit Man ` (He uses the abbreviation ` EHM `) for a major corporation, exploiting the resources and people of under-developed countries for the financial gain of his company, with the support, or at least acquiescence, of the US Government, from the early 1970's until after the SEP 11 2001, when he finally wrote a book which includes descriptions about alleged ' black 'operations that occurred all over the world, including: Iran, Iraq, Indonesia, Panama, Ecuador, Saudi Arabia, & Colombia.
To be clear, I am NOT making a judgment as to the ultimate truth regarding all of the historical events referenced in Perkins's book, or all the allegations surrounding them.
However, I myself have experience in Investigative and Intelligence Work, and so my focus is Perkins's representation that he has First-Hand Knowledge of these historical events himself, and how this representation affects his own credibility:
* Perkins asserts that the Central Intelligence Agency was responsible for the deaths of at least two Latin-American leaders, " ...in a series of CIA Assassinations... (p. 161), during the Reagan-Bush Administrations of the 1980's.
Yet his source for this claim is John Dean's 1973 Watergate testimony, despite the fact that this testimony occurred BEFORE either Reagan or Bush took office (George H.W. Bush did serve under then President Nixon, but did not become head of the CIA until after Nixon left office, and Perkins presents ZERO evidence that Bush himself was ever involved in any such plot.)
Moreover, Perkins does not state anywhere in " Confessions " that he ever had any direct contact with the CIA at any time at all, & so what First-Hand Knowledge of the CIA's activities could Perkins possibly have?
* Perkins repeatedly-and frustratingly-makes vague, unattributed, & unverifiable statements such as:
" ...The EHM presence was very strong in Baghdad during the 1980's... "
* Yet despite both the gravity, and the number, of Perkins's claims, he still provides ZERO documentation of his own to corroborate any of them (merely a copy of his professional resume from the 1970's).
Of the MANY books and accounts that I have read involving the topic of international intrigue, this is the ONLY one with such a glaring omission.
Perkins instead lists his sources as previously written books and articles from news magazines, which he appears to have had no personal involvement with himself.
* Perhaps most telling of all, Perkins states how early on in his career as an EHM, he felt guilty about the ` Corrupt ` system that he was a part of.
Yet despite this supposed guilt, he STAYED in that ` Corrupt ` system, AND accepted all the benefits that came with it; Money, Women, Perks, Etc., AND stayed silent about it, for 30 years!
Perkins states his reasons/justifications/rationalizations/excuses as to why he STAYED in that ` Corrupt ` system, AND accepted all the benefits that came with it; Money, Women, Perks, Etc., AND stayed silent about it, for 30 years.
But, regardless, he nevertheless STAYED in that ` Corrupt ` system, AND accepted all the benefits that came with it; Money, Women, Perks, Etc., AND stayed silent about it, for 30 years!
This becomes all the more troubling because, according to Perkins's own statistics, 24,000 people die each day due to hunger (P. 192)!
IF this is true, then Perkins himself took all that blood-money, for all those years, while knowingly and silently acquiescing to the deaths of BILLIONS of people!!!
Therefore, based on my own professional experience in Investigative and Intelligence Work, it is my opinion that Perkins has NOT established that he is credible.
Until he does so, I regard Perkins's book not as a true autobiography, but rather an historical novel, in which Perkins uses some actual events as the bare bones, on which he adds a LOT of fiction.
Amazon Customer, on September 11, 2014
Americorp and the dictatorship kept us illiterate and very poor. We also lost many young lives fighting this ...
I am from Nicaragua and breathed and lived the consequences of the acts of these Economic Hit Men. We had a dictatorship put in place by the US, Inc.on my country for more than 40 years.
'Americorp" had the full access to our resources, one of them gold, we never saw the benefits of this gold. Americorp and the dictatorship kept us illiterate and very poor. We also lost many young lives fighting this dictatorship because it refused to give us the choice of electing who we wanted to lead us. It was until 1979 when the USA finally gave up supporting the dictatorship, not because of our lost of lives but because the dictator became an embarrassment to US, Inc. just like Noriega, Saddam, etc.
Very true though is the fact that the opposition was mostly supported by the USSR and Cuba.
Also very true is that the Sandinistas did not believe in property rights and believe everything belongs to the State. we went from Satan's arms to the Devil's bed.
Sucks being a poor underdeveloped nation with vultures waiting to pounce around you and tear out your eyes. Love the American People, hate its foreign policy which they are mostly kept blinded by propaganda.
Prissyon July 7, 2014
The Ugly Truth of Corporate America and Government's incestuous plan for Globalization
I've meant to read this book for years...the irony is I downloaded on Kindle while in Latin America and read it all the way through. I always suspected (from my own experience spending time on the Hill, knowing journalists, bankers, etc) this stuff went on. But Perkins fills in all the missing pieces.
I'm literally sick that I have a degree in American criminal justice and this book goes against everything I was taught of how "this country" operates. It may have come as a shock to have the dirty details to me, but my Latin American friends have known these empire building ways all along, because they've lived with it all of their lives.
I hope one thing people take away from this book are Perkins suggestions to begin at the grass roots level (school boards, county commissioners, etc) to change the way we do business and speak out when you know the truth. This is the raw, ugly truth, dear readers. I'm still attempting to digest what I know in my heart of hearts is that I have been fighting corruption of those who sugar coat it and when its pointed out, will do everything they can to disparage your credibility, no matter how impeccable it is or how well you present it. Hiring a private company to get around government checks and balances (not that there are that many) only makes sense from a globalists point of view.
Don't sit there-DO something, anything...I know- I sat out of the fray for a long time, it IS easier. But that's the coward's way out and the founding father's were anything but that. Remember, we are supposed to be the home of the brave. Are you right or left? I'd rather be active, accurate and correct...
Greece story is another classic of neoliberal debt enslavement: first corrupt neoliberal government (in case of Greece successive governments) got loans that were partially stolen, partially wasted, enriching top 1% of the country and improving living conditions of the top 20%. Then those loans from private banks were converted into public debt by attempt to save insolvent banks. And when the next wave of crisis occurred due to Greece inability to service those (now state) loans without drastic reduction of standard of living of most of the population IMF acts as enforcer. It now essentially dictates what should be done in Greece economy. No matter if previous recommendation led to disastrous consequences.
European neoliberal elite headed by Merkel is threatening to expel Greece from the Euro zone, scaring voters. It is very important to understand that anti-crisis policies have two main approaches – cyclical and counter-cyclical. The neo-liberals response is always "only wellbeing of banks matters"
Neoliberals key postulate is that the "invisible hand" of the market works better than government regulation, then the government should allow the market to work independently. The only think government should do is to balance the budget by slashing spending synchronously with falling revenues. Which led in cas of Greece to 60% unemployment among young people.
In other word "the invisible hand" does not work and instead country is sliding in real debt slavery when load became permagreen and interest will be paid forever. Forecasts of neoliberal institutions such as IMF that austerity will allow Greece to pay debts, were not justified.
Countercyclical stabilization policy is based on the opposite basis: with the reduction of budget revenues not need to cut spending in order to reduce the current deficit, but rather to increase them, thereby increasing the tax base, and along with receiving political support from the population. This should be done considering all the risks carefully assessing the consequences. The trouble is that in specific Greek terms it also doesn't work very well.
Even of part of the debt was written off by the creditors, if you can't grow the real economy, the budget crisis will be renewed. But the Greek industry was killed by accession to the EU. It was decided by EU brass that the specialization of southern Europe within Europe United should be the services sector. If this was somehow forgotten that in services industries (primarily tourism) tax collection is much lower than in industry and agriculture. Demands of the "Troika" to increase taxes on the tourism industry will lead to the withdrawal of this sector into the shadows, or to the ruin of a vast number of small and medium enterprises. If you go with the demands of Brussels and reduce subsidies to agriculture (and this was one of the main requirements of the latest Memorandum of the Troika) the destruction of the economy will be complete.
And while the entire Greek economy is suffering from a terrible level of unemployment, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that the borders are open, so Greeks can compete for low paid jobs in Germany. In other words, Greece has to spend money on the education of engineers, scientists and other high-demand in the EU professionals, but to find word they need have to go to Germany and most end working as janitors and other low paid jobs. Greece which spend a lot of public money to train those professionals will be left our, and all the benefits from this get more developed countries. This is actually explicit policy of the EU, which consider Southern countries to be EU "village".
Increase of exports in the current circumstances is a very difficult undertaking. It is impossible to increase export to Russia where there is some space for Greek products, as the EU has declared sanctions. That means that he crisis is expanding, and within the framework imposed on Greece anti-crisis policy there is no light at the end of the tunnel.
Cuts in public expenditure will inevitably lead to a reduction in domestic demand for the products of national industry and national agriculture. Besides falling living standards, the reduction of pensions and salaries in the public sector will be a big hit for the most vulnerable part of the population: two-thirds of Greek pensioners are already living below the poverty line.
Five months of fruitless negotiations, a new government understood that Greek people will not forgive the capitulation to EU demands. Another "cannibalistic" austerity program. So it announced the referendum on the adoption of the requirements of the Troika, shifting the responsibility for making decisions to ordinary Greeks. Still not very clear whether the Cabinet is really to declare a default, or this is only a means of pressure on the Troika. In the end, in politics the most important things is to remain in power and if Greeks vote Yes to EU demands that the end of the current government. What will happen to the country next is unclear. Probably the parties that brought the country to the current collapse (PASOK and New democracy) will return to power helped by Brussels neoliberals, who can throw a bone to them in a form of some minor compromises, compromise to which they would never agree with the current government, which is considered to be "hostile" by neoliberal stooges which now want the regime change in Greece.
But the mere decision to go the referendum caused in shakeup and hysteria in all centers of neoliberal power such as Brussels, Berlin and Washington. However, we cannot exclude that such a reaction is a mean to increase the pressure on Tsipras.As Neil Irwin's in his at The Upshot column (NYT, June 28, 2015) noted
Greek leaders think the offer on the table from European governments and the International Monetary Fund is lousy, requiring still more pension cuts and tax increases in a depressed economy, and intend to throw to voters the question of whether to accept it.
spartacus, July 1, 2015 at 1:26 pm
I think things are a little more complicated than that. According to the preliminary report of the commission set up by the Greek government to look into the origins of this debt, it appears that a big chunk of it is a consequence of the government stepping in to recapitalize troubled banks. Then the report also mentions excessive and unjustified military spending, loss of tax revenues due to illicit capital outflows. The report can be accessed via this link:
The problem is that after so much austerity the debt now stands at 177% of GDP, higher than ever, because GDP took a little bit of a nosedive. The Troika recipe for success was crap.
The “lazy Greek” line is just that. A line peddled by the MSM in order to demonize the Greek people, as opposed to the “hard working” Germans. If you look at the OECD statistic provided by the following link, you will see that, in reality, the exact opposite is true.
This is not about lavish lifestyle. Is about starvation, homelessness and suicide.
July 1, 2015 at 2:28 pm
Greece was screwed over by foremost the Germans. The whole German shtick of pretending to have “fed Greece” is grotesque obscenity.
Greek government-debt crisis - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Charges of hypocrisy
Hypocrisy has been alleged on multiple bases. "Germany is coming across like a know-it-all in the debate over aid for Greece", commented Der Spiegel, while its own government did not achieve a budget surplus during the era of 1970 to 2011, although a budget surplus indeed was achieved by Germany in all three subsequent years (2012–2014). A Bloomberg editorial, which also concluded that "Europe's taxpayers have provided as much financial support to Germany as they have to Greece", described the German role and posture in the Greek crisis thus:
In the millions of words written about Europe's debt crisis, Germany is typically cast as the responsible adult and Greece as the profligate child. Prudent Germany, the narrative goes, is loath to bail out freeloading Greece, which borrowed more than it could afford and now must suffer the consequences. [… But] irresponsible borrowers can't exist without irresponsible lenders. Germany's banks were Greece's enablers.
German economic historian Albrecht Ritschl describes his country as "king when it comes to debt. Calculated based on the amount of losses compared to economic performance, Germany was the biggest debt transgressor of the 20th century." Despite calling for the Greeks to adhere to fiscal responsibility, and although Germany's tax revenues are at a record high, with the interest it has to pay on new debt at close to zero, Germany still missed its own cost-cutting targets in 2011, and also fell behind on its goals for 2012.
There have been widespread accusations that Greeks are lazy, but analysis of OECD data shows that the average Greek worker puts in 50% more hours per year than a typical German counterpart, and the average retirement age of a Greek is, at 61.7 years, older than that of a German.
US economist Mark Weisbrot has also noted that while the eurozone giant's post-crisis recovery has been touted as an example of an economy of a country that "made the short-term sacrifices necessary for long-term success", Germany did not apply to its economy the harsh pro-cyclical austerity measures that are being imposed on countries like Greece, In addition, he noted that Germany did not lay off hundreds of thousands of its workers despite a decline in output in its economy but reduced the number of working hours to keep them employed, at the same time as Greece and other countries were pressured to adopt measures to make it easier for employers to lay off workers. Weisbrot concludes that the German recovery provides no evidence that the problems created by the use of a single currency in the eurozone can be solved by imposing "self-destructive" pro-cyclical policies as has been done in Greece and elsewhere.
Arms sales are another fountainhead for allegations of hypocrisy. Dimitris Papadimoulis, a Greek MP with the Coalition of the Radical Left party:
If there is one country that has benefited from the huge amounts Greece spends on defence it is Germany. Just under 15% of Germany's total arms exports are made to Greece, its biggest market in Europe. Greece has paid over €2bn for submarines that proved to be faulty and which it doesn't even need. It owes another €1bn as part of the deal. That's three times the amount Athens was asked to make in additional pension cuts to secure its latest EU aid package. […] Well after the economic crisis had begun, Germany and France were trying to seal lucrative weapons deals even as they were pushing us to make deep cuts in areas like health. […] There's a level of hypocrisy here that is hard to miss. Corruption in Greece is frequently singled out as a cause for waste but at the same time companies like Ferrostaal and Siemens are pioneers in the practice. A big part of our defence spending is bound up with bribes, black money that funds the [mainstream] political class in a nation where governments have got away with it by long playing on peoples' fears.
Thus allegations of hypocrisy could be made towards both sides: Germany complains of Greek corruption, yet the arms sales meant that the trade with Greece became synonymous with high-level bribery and corruption; former defence minister Akis Tsochadzopoulos was gaoled in April 2012 ahead of his trial on charges of accepting an €8m bribe from Germany company Ferrostaal. In 2000, the current German finance minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, was forced to resign after personally accepting a "donation" (100,000 Deutsche Mark, in cash) from a fugitive weapons dealer, Karlheinz Schreiber.
Another is German complaints about tax evasion by moneyed Greeks. "Germans stashing cash in Switzerland to avoid tax could sleep easy" after summer 2011, when "the German government […] initialled a beggar-thy-neighbour deal that undermine[d] years of diplomatic work to penetrate Switzerland's globally corrosive banking secrecy." Nevertheless, Germans with Swiss bank accounts were so worried, so intent on avoiding paying tax, that some took to cross-dressing, wearing incontinence diapers, and other ruses to try and smuggle their money over the Swiss–German border and so avoid paying their dues to the German taxman. Aside from these unusual tax-evasion techniques, Germany has a history of massive tax evasion: a 1993 ZEW estimate of levels of income-tax avoidance in West Germany in the early 1980s was forced to conclude that "tax loss [in the FDR] exceeds estimates for other countries by orders of magnitude." (The study even excluded the wealthiest 2% of the population, where tax evasion is at its worst). A 2011 study noted that, since the 1990s, the "effective average tax rates for the German super rich have fallen by about a third, with major reductions occurring in the wake of the personal income tax reform of 2001–2005."
Alleged pursuit of national self-interestListen to many European leaders—especially, but by no means only, the Germans—and you'd think that their continent's troubles are a simple morality tale of debt and punishment: Governments borrowed too much, now they're paying the price, and fiscal austerity is the only answer.
"An Impeccable Disaster"
Paul Krugman, 5 November 2013
Since the euro came into circulation in 2002—a time when the country was suffering slow growth and high unemployment—Germany's export performance, coupled with sustained pressure for moderate wage increases (German wages increased more slowly than those of any other eurozone nation) and rapidly rising wage increases elsewhere, provided its exporters with a competitive advantage that resulted in German domination of trade and capital flows within the currency bloc. As noted by Paul De Grauwe in his leading text on monetary union, however, one must "hav[e] homogenous preferences about inflation in order to have a smoothly functioning monetary union." Thus Germany broke what the Levy Economics Institute has called "the golden rule of a monetary union" when it jettisoned a common inflation rate.
The violation of this golden rule led to dire imbalances within the eurozone, though they suited Germany well: the country's total export trade value nearly tripled between 2000 and 2007, and though a significant proportion of this is accounted for by trade with China, Germany's trade surplus with the rest of the EU grew from €46.4 bn to €126.5 bn during those seven years. Germany's bilateral trade surpluses with the peripheral countries are especially revealing: between 2000 and 2007, Greece's annual trade deficit with Germany nearly doubled, from €3 bn to €5.5 bn; Italy's more than doubled, from €9.6 bn to €19.6 bn; Spain's well over doubled, from €11 bn to €27.2 bn; and Portugal's more than quadrupled, from €1 bn to €4.2 bn. German banks played an important role in supplying the credit that drove wage increases in peripheral eurozone countries like Greece, which in turn produced this divergence in competitiveness and trade surpluses between Germany and these same eurozone members.
Germans see their government finances and trade competitiveness as an example to be followed by Greece, Portugal and other troubled countries in Europe, but the problem is more than simply a question of southern European countries emulating Germany. Dealing with debt via domestic austerity and a move toward trade surpluses is very difficult without the option of devaluing your currency, and Greece cannot devalue because it is chained to the euro. Roberto Perotti of Bocconi University has also shown that on the rare occasions when austerity and expansion coincide, the coincidence is almost always attributable to rising exports associated with currency depreciation. As can be seen from the case of China and the US, however, where China has had the yuan pegged to the dollar, it is possible to have an effective devaluation in situations where formal devaluation cannot occur, and that is by having the inflation rates of two countries diverge. If inflation in Germany is higher than in Greece and other struggling countries, then the real effective exchange rate will move in the strugglers' favour despite the shared currency. Trade between the two can then rebalance, aiding recovery, as Greek products become cheaper. Paul Krugman estimated that Spain and other peripherals would need to reduce their 2012 price-levels relative to Germany by around 20 percent to become competitive again:
If Germany had 4 percent inflation, they could do that over 5 years with stable prices in the periphery—which would imply an overall eurozone inflation rate of something like 3 percent. But if Germany is going to have only 1 percent inflation, we're talking about massive deflation in the periphery, which is both hard (probably impossible) as a macroeconomic proposition, and would greatly magnify the debt burden. This is a recipe for failure, and collapse.
This view, that German deficits are a crucial factor in assisting eurozone recovery, is shared by leading economics commentators, by the OECD, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Deutsche Bank, Credit Suisse, Standard & Poor's, the European Commission, and the IMF. The Americans, too, asked Germany, repeatedly and heatedly, to loosen fiscal policy, though without success. This failure led to the US taking a more high-powered tack: for the first time, the Treasury Department, in its semi-annual currency report for October 2013, singled out Germany as the leading obstacle to economic recovery in Europe.
Therefore, it is argued, the problem is Germany continuing to shut off this adjustment mechanism. "The counterpart to Germany living within its means is that others are living beyond their means", agreed Philip Whyte, senior research fellow at the Centre for European Reform. "So if Germany is worried about the fact that other countries are sinking further into debt, it should be worried about the size of its trade surpluses, but it isn't."
This chorus of criticism, however, germinates in the very poorest of soil because, in October 2012, Germany chose to legislate against the very possibility of stimulus spending, "by passing a balanced budget law that requires the government to run near-zero structural deficits indefinitely." OECD projections of relative export prices—a measure of competitiveness—showed Germany beating all euro zone members except for crisis-hit Spain and Ireland for 2012, with the lead only widening in subsequent years.
Even with such policies, Greece and other countries would have faced years of hard times, but at least there would be some hope of recovery. During 2012, it seemed as though the status quo was beginning to change as France began to challenge German policy, and even Christine Lagarde called for Greece to at least be given more time to meet bailout targets. Further criticism mounted in 2013: a leaked version of a text from French president Francois Hollande's Socialist Party openly attacked "German austerity" and the "egoistic intransigence of Mrs Merkel"; Manuel Barroso warned that austerity had "reached its limits"; EU employment chief Laszlo Andor called for a radical change in EU crisis strategy—"If there is no growth, I don't see how countries can cut their debt levels"—and criticised what he described as the German practice of "wage dumping" within the eurozone to gain larger export surpluses; and Heiner Flassbeck (a former German vice finance minister) and economist Costas Lapavitsas charged that the euro had "allowed Germany to 'beggar its neighbours', while also providing the mechanisms and the ideology for imposing austerity on the continent".
Battered by criticism, the European Commission finally decided that "something more" was needed in addition to austerity policies for peripheral countries like Greece. "Something more" was announced to be structural reforms—things like making it easier for companies to sack workers—but such reforms have been there from the very beginning, leading Dani Rodrik to dismiss the EC's idea as "merely old wine in a new bottle." Indeed, Rodrik noted that with demand gutted by austerity, all structural reforms have achieved, and would continue to achieve, is pumping up unemployment (further reducing demand), since fired workers are not going to be re-employed elsewhere. Rodrik suggested the ECB might like to try out a higher inflation target, and that Germany might like to allow increased demand, higher inflation, and to accept its banks taking losses on their reckless lending to Greece. That, however, "assumes that Germans can embrace a different narrative about the nature of the crisis. And that means that German leaders must portray the crisis not as a morality play pitting lazy, profligate southerners against hard-working, frugal northerners, but as a crisis of interdependence in an economic (and nascent political) union. Germans must play as big a role in resolving the crisis as they did in instigating it." Paul Krugman described talk of structural reform as "an excuse for not facing up to the reality of macroeconomic disaster, and a way to avoid discussing the responsibility of Germany and the ECB, in particular, to help end this disaster." Furthermore, as Financial Times analyst Wolfgang Munchau observed, "Austerity and reform are the opposite of each other. If you are serious about structural reform, it will cost you upfront money." Claims that Germany had, by mid-2012, given Greece the equivalent of 29 times the aid given to West Germany under the Marshall Plan after World War II completely ignores the fact that aid was just a small part of Marshall Plan assistance to Germany, with another crucial part of the assistance being the writing off of a majority of Germany's debt.
Artificially low exchange rate
Though Germany claims its public finances are "the envy of the world", the country is merely continuing what has been called its "free-riding" of the euro crisis, which "consists in using the euro as a mechanism for maintaining a weak exchange rate while shifting the costs of doing so to its neighbors." With eurozone adjustment locked out by Germany, economic hardship elsewhere in the currency block actually suited its export-oriented economy for an extended period, because it caused the euro to depreciate, making German exports cheaper and so more competitive. The weakness of the euro, caused by the economy misery of peripheral countries, has been providing Germany with a large and artificial export advantage to the extent that, if Germany left the euro, the concomitant surge in the value of the reintroduced Deutsche Mark, which would produce "disastrous" effects on German exports as they suddenly became dramatically more expensive, would play the lead role in imposing a cost on Germany of perhaps 20–25% GDP during the first year alone after its euro exit. November 2013 saw the European Commission open an in-depth inquiry into German's surplus, which hit a new record in spring 2015. As the German current accounts surplus looked set to smash all previous records again in Spring 2015, one commentator noted that Germany was "now the biggest single violator of the eurozone stability rules. It would face punitive sanctions if EU treaty law was enforced." 2015 is "the fifth consecutive year that Germany's surplus has been above 6pc of GDP," it was pointed out. "The EU's Macroeconomic Imbalance Procedure states that the Commission should launch infringement proceedings if this occurs for three years in a row, unless there is a clear reason not to."
Advocacy of internal devaluation for peripheral economies
The version of adjustment offered by Germany and its allies is that austerity will lead to an internal devaluation, i.e. deflation, which would enable Greece gradually to regain competitiveness. "Yet this proposed solution is a complete non-starter", in the opinion of one UK economist. "If austerity succeeds in delivering deflation, then the growth of nominal GDP will be depressed; most likely it will turn negative. In that case, the burden of debt will increase." A February 2013 research note by the Economics Research team at Goldman Sachs again noted that the years of recession being endured by Greece "exacerbate the fiscal difficulties as the denominator of the debt-to-GDP ratio diminishes", i.e. reducing the debt burden by imposing austerity is, aside from anything else, utterly futile. "Higher growth has always been the best way out the debt (absolute and relative) burden. However, growth prospects for the near and medium-term future are quite weak. During the Great Depression, Heinrich Brüning, the German Chancellor (1930–32), thought that a strong currency and a balanced budget were the ways out of crisis. Cruel austerity measures such as cuts in wages, pensions and social benefits followed. Over the years crises deepened". The austerity program applied to Greece has been "self-defeating", with the country's debt now expected to balloon to 192% of GDP by 2014. After years of the situation being pointed out, in June 2013, with the Greek debt burden galloping towards the "staggering" heights previously predicted by anyone who knew what they were talking about, and with her own organization admitting its program for Greece had failed seriously on multiple primary objectives and that it had bent its rules when "rescuing" Greece; and having claimed in the past that Greece's debt was sustainable—Christine Lagarde felt able to admit publicly that perhaps Greece just might, after all, need to have its debt written off in a meaningful way. In its Global Economic Outlook and Strategy of September 2013, Citi pointed out that Greece "lack[s] the ability to stabilise […] debt/GDP ratios in coming years by fiscal policy alone",:7 and that "large debt relief" is probably "the only viable option" if Greek fiscal sustainability is to re-materialise;:18 predicted no return to growth until 2016;:8 and predicted that the debt burden would soar to over 200% of GDP by 2015 and carry on rising through at least 2017.:9 Unfortunately, German Chancellor Merkel and Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle had just a few months prior already spoken out again against any debt relief for Greece, claiming that "structural reforms" (i.e. "old wine in a new bottle", see Rodrik et al. above) were the way to go and—astonishingly—that "debt sustainability will continue to be assured".
Strictly in terms of reducing wages relative to Germany, Greece had been making 'progress': private-sector wages fell 5.4% in the third quarter of 2011 from a year earlier and 12% since their peak in the first quarter of 2010. The second economic adjustment programme for Greece called for a further labour cost reduction in the private sector of 15% during 2012–2014.
German views on inflation as a solution
The question then is whether Germany would accept the price of inflation for the benefit of keeping the eurozone together. On the upside, inflation, at least to start with, would make Germans happy as their wages rose in keeping with inflation. Regardless of these positives, as soon as the monetary policy of the ECB—which has been catering to German desires for low inflation so doggedly that Martin Wolf describes it as "a reincarnated Bundesbank"—began to look like it might stoke inflation in Germany, Merkel moved to counteract, cementing the impossibility of a recovery for struggling countries.
All of this has resulted in increased anti-German sentiment within peripheral countries like Greece and Spain. German historian Arnulf Baring, who opposed the euro, wrote in his 1997 book Scheitert Deutschland? (Does Germany fail?): "They (populistic media and politicians) will say that we finance lazy slackers, sitting in coffee shops on southern beaches", and "[t]he fiscal union will end in a giant blackmail manoeuvre […] When we Germans will demand fiscal discipline, other countries will blame this fiscal discipline and therefore us for their financial difficulties. Besides, although they initially agreed on the terms, they will consider us as some kind of economic police. Consequently, we risk again becoming the most hated people in Europe." Anti-German animus is perhaps inflamed by the fact that, as one German historian noted, "during much of the 20th century, the situation was radically different: after the first world war and again after the second world war, Germany was the world's largest debtor, and in both cases owed its economic recovery to large-scale debt relief." When Horst Reichenbach arrived in Athens towards the end of 2011 to head a new European Union task force, the Greek media instantly dubbed him "Third Reichenbach"; in Spain in May 2012, businessmen made unflattering comparisons with Berlin's domination of Europe in WWII, and top officials "mutter about how today's European Union consists of a 'German Union plus the rest'". Almost four million German tourists—more than any other EU country—visit Greece annually, but they comprised most of the 50,000 cancelled bookings in the ten days after the 6 May 2012 Greek elections, a figure The Observer called "extraordinary". The Association of Greek Tourism Enterprises estimates that German visits for 2012 will decrease by about 25%. Such is the ill-feeling, historic claims on Germany from WWII have been reopened, including "a huge, never-repaid loan the nation was forced to make under Nazi occupation from 1941 to 1945."
Analysis of the Greek rescue
The neutrality of this section is disputed. Relevant discussion may be found on the talk page. Please do not remove this message until the dispute is resolved. (June 2015)
One estimate is that Greece actually subscribed to €156bn worth of new debt in order to get €206bn worth of old debt to be written off, meaning the write-down of €110bn by the banks and others is more than double the true figure of €50bn that was truly written off. Taxpayers are now liable for more than 80% of Greece's debt. One journalist for Der Spiegel noted that the second bailout was not "geared to the requirements of the people of Greece but to the needs of the international financial markets, meaning the banks. How else can one explain the fact that around a quarter of the package won't even arrive in Athens but will flow directly to the country's international creditors?" He accused the banks of "cleverly manipulating the fear that a Greek bankruptcy would trigger a fatal chain reaction" in order to get paid. According to Robert Reich, in the background of the Greek bailouts and debt restructuring lurks Wall Street. While US banks are owed only about €5bn by Greece, they have more significant exposure to the situation via German and French banks, who were significantly exposed to Greek debt. Massively reducing the liabilities of German and French banks with regards to Greece thus also serves to protect US banks.
Creditors of Greece 2011 and 2015
According to Der Spiegel "more than 80 percent of the rescue package is going to creditors—that is to say, to banks outside of Greece and to the ECB. The billions of taxpayer euros are not saving Greece. They're saving the banks." One study found that the public debt of Greece to foreign governments, including debt to the EU/IMF loan facility and debt through the eurosystem, increased by €130 bn, from €47.8 bn to €180.5 billion, between January 2010 and September 2011. The combined exposure of foreign banks to Greek entities—public and private—was around 80bn euros by mid-February 2012. In 2009 they were in for well over 200bn. The Economist noted that, during 2012 alone, "private-sector bondholders reduced their nominal claims by more than 50%. But the deal did not include the hefty holdings of Greek bonds at the European Central Bank (ECB), and it was sweetened with funds borrowed from official rescuers. For two years those rescuers had pretended Greece was solvent, and provided official loans to pay off bondholders in full. So more than 70% of the debts are now owed to 'official' creditors", i.e. European taxpayers and the IMF. With regard to Germany in particular, a Bloomberg editorial noted that, before its banks reduced its exposure to Greece, "they stood to lose a ton of money if Greece left the euro. Now any losses will be shared with the taxpayers of the entire euro area."
Apr 20, 2018 | www.rt.com
Britain's strategic relationship with radical Islam goes back decades and continues to this day. There is no more foul a stench than the stench of hypocrisy, and there is no more foul a hypocrisy than the British government painting Bashar al-Assad as a monster when in truth he and the Syrian people have been grappling with a twin-headed monster in the shape of Salafi-jihadi terror and Western imperialism. Both are committed to destroying Syria as an independent, non-sectarian state, and both are inextricably linked.
Author and journalist Mark Curtis charts in detail the contours of this history in his book 'Secret Affairs: Britain's Collusion with Radical Islam':
" British governments, both Labour and Conservative, have, in pursuing the so-called 'national interest' abroad, colluded for decades with radical Islamic forces, including terrorist organizations. They have connived with them, worked alongside them and sometimes trained and financed them, in order to promote specific foreign policy objectives. Governments have done so in often desperate attempts to maintain Britain's global power in the face of increasing weakness in key regions of the world, being unable to unilaterally impose their will and lacking other local allies. Thus the story is intimately related to that of Britain's imperial decline and the attempt to maintain influence in the world. "
As far back as the First World War, when the Middle East began to assume strategic importance in the capitals of Western imperial and colonial powers, the British ruling class went out of its way to identify and recruit loyal local proxies in pursuit of its regional objectives. Britain's relationship with the Arab tribal chief, Ibn Saud, who would go on to establish Saudi Arabia in the early 1930s, began in 1915 with the Darin Pact, demarcating the territory then controlled by Saud as a British protectorate.
The following year, the Arab Revolt against the Ottomans erupted. Begun and inspired by Saud's fierce rival, Sharif Hussein, head of the Hashemite Arab tribe, the revolt was heavily bankrolled and supported by the British – a period immortalized in the exploits of British military agent T E Lawrence, known to the world as Lawrence of Arabia.
But whereas Sharif Hussein was a follower of orthodox Sunni Islam, Ibn Saud adhered to the radical doctrine of Wahhabism, which Winston Churchill was moved to describe as " bloodthirsty " and " intolerant ." Regardless, when it came to its imperial interests there was no tiger upon whose back the British ruling class was not willing to ride during this period, and which, as events have proved, it has not been willing to ride since.
The most egregious example of this policy, one that continues to have ramifications today, was the support provided by the UK to the Afghan mujahideen in the late 1970s and 1980s. The insurgency's objective was the overthrow of Kabul's secular and left-leaning government, whose crime in the eyes of the Islamist insurgency's US and UK sponsors was that it had embraced the social and economic model of Moscow rather than Washington during the first Cold War.
British support for the mujahideen, married to the huge support provided by Washington, was indispensable in the eventual success of these self-styled 'holy warriors' in taking control of a country that had embraced modernity and turning it into a failed state mired in religious oppression, brutality, backwardness and poverty.
Mark Curtis again:
" Britain, along with the US, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, covertly supported the resistance to defeat the Soviet occupation of the country. Military, financial and diplomatic backing was given to Islamist forces which, while forcing a Soviet withdrawal, soon organized themselves into terrorist networks ready to strike Western targets. "
While Washington's primary role in channeling military and financial support to the Afghan mujahideen, known as Operation Cyclone , may until have succeeded in overshadowing London's role in this dirty war, declassified British government cabinet papers which were made public in 2010 and reported in the UK media make grim reading.
They reveal that three weeks after Soviet forces arrived in Afghanistan at the request of the Afghan government in Kabul, struggling to deal with an insurgency that had broken out in the countryside, the Thatcher government was planning to supply military aid to the " Islamic resistance ." A confidential government memo provides a chilling insight into the insanity that passed for official policy: " We trust the Western leaders are prepared for the enormous beneficial possibilities that could just possibly open up if the Afghan rebellion were to succeed. "
It will be recalled that out of the ensuing collapse of Afghanistan emerged the Taliban, under whose rule the country was turned into a vast militant jihadist school and training camp. Many of the most notorious Islamist terrorists began their careers there, fighting the Soviets and then later broadening out their activities to other parts of the region and wider world. In this regard, Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaeda loom large.
Other notorious names from the world of Salafi-jihadism for whom Afghanistan proved indispensable include the Jordanian Abu al-Zarqawi, who founded Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) during the US-UK occupation, an organization that would over time morph into ISIS.
Abdelhakim Belhaj and other Libyan Islamists cut their jihadist teeth in Afghanistan in the 1980s. Returning to Libya, they formed the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) in the eastern city of Benghazi. Though the group may have been disbanded in 2010, having failed to topple Gaddafi despite repeated attempts to assassinate the Libyan leader with, it's been claimed , the support of Britain's MI6, former members of the LIFG, including Belhaj, were important actors in the 2011 Libyan uprising.
By way of a reminder, the uprising in Libya started in Benghazi and would not have succeeded without the air support it received from NATO. Britain's then prime minister, David Cameron, was key in pushing for that air support and the sanction of the UN under the auspices of Security Council Resolution 1973. Though protecting civilians was central in wording of this UNSC resolution, it was shamefully distorted to justify regime change, culminating in Gaddafi's murder by the 'rebels.'
Staying with the LIFG, in the wake of the Manchester suicide-bomb attack in May 2017, which left 23 people dead and 500 injured, the fact that the bomber, a young Libyan by the name of Salman Abedi, was the son of a former member of the LIFG, did not receive anything like the media attention it should have at the time.
Manchester, England is home to the largest Libyan community in Britain, and there is strong evidence to suggest that when the Libyan uprising broke out MI6 facilitated the ability of Libyan Islamists in Britain to travel to Libya to participate in the fighting. Among them was Salman Abedi, who it is thought received military training in the country before being allowed to return to the UK thereafter.
This brings us on to Syria and, as with Libya, the question of how so many British Muslims have been able to travel from the UK to Syria via Turkey to take part in the anti-Assad insurgency since 2011? It also brings into sharp focus a policy that has veered between the ludicrous and the reckless.
Emblematic of the former was ex-prime minister David Cameron's claim , which he made during a 2015 Commons debate over whether the Royal Air Force should engage in air strikes against ISIS in Syria, that fighting as part of the Syrian were 70,000 moderates.
As for the recklessness of Britain's actions in Syria, look no further than the country's recent participation in the illegal missile strikes that were carried out in conjunction with the US and France, justified on the basis of as yet unproven allegations that Syrian government forces had carried out a chemical weapons attack on Douma, just outside Damascus. The only beneficiaries of such actions by the Western powers are Salafi-jihadist groups such as ISIS (whom it was later reported took advantage of the missile strike to mount a short-lived offensive), Al-Nusra and Jaysh al-Islam.
The latter of those groups, Jaysh al-Islam, is a Saudi proxy. It was the dominant group in Douma and throughout Eastern Ghouta until the district's liberation by the Syrian Army and its allies with Russian support.
Given the deep and longstanding ties between London and Riyadh; given the fact, reported towards the end of 2017, that British military personnel were embedded in a training role with Saudi forces in Yemen; given the news that a British special forces sergeant was killed in northern Syria at the end of March this year while embedded with the Kurds, revealing for the first time that British troops were operating in the country on the ground – given all that, the question of who else British special forces and military personnel may be embedded with in Syria is legitimate.
In the context of the British state's long and sordid history when it comes to riding the back of radical Islam in pursuit of its strategic objectives, readers will doubtless draw their own conclusions.
- Did an ISIS ringleader receive British taxpayer money?
- Boris Johnson throws support behind Saudi prince accused of Yemen human rights abuses
- Hotel Intercontinental siege – is Kabul falling?
John Wight has written for newspapers and websites across the world, including the Independent, Morning Star, Huffington Post, Counterpunch, London Progressive Journal, and Foreign Policy Journal. He is also a regular commentator on RT and BBC Radio. John is currently working on a book exploring the role of the West in the Arab Spring. You can follow him on Twitter @JohnWight1
Apr 18, 2018 | www.moonofalabama.orgJackrabbit , Apr 18, 2018 11:59:00 AM | 145Don Bacon
The West wins by making Syria a hell on earth. That means no reconstruction funding, no trade, and continuous harassment by "rebels".
The clearing of Ghouta puts a serious dent in this plan. Demoralizing the population of Damascus is now almost impossible.
But Lebanon is only about 15 miles from Damascus, and US/Israel would have to deal with Hez at some point anyway, so why not sooner rather than later?
Grieved | Apr 18, 2018 12:00:50 PM | 146
@131 WJ and 134 Don Bacon
I appreciate this discussion.
On a side note I would add that 3-4 years ago when Ukraine was boiling, much of the discussion by concerned people focused on countries outside of the US, and the damage caused by the US. The US, in this context, was largely regarded as an evil but coherent entity.
But that coherence has now come more and more into question. Discussion shifted gradually, as the US made more and more mistakes and lost battle after battle in so many theaters, and revealed itself as a failing actor. And in the last year or two there's much more discussion about the US itself, largely trying to pierce the obscurity of how that country is actually run and by whom. This shift was already happening, and Trump of course added to the fascination.
I was glad to see that gradual shift. To me it indicated the war itself was won, while many battles were yet to be fought. I think it's true that Russia, China, Iran and others are increasingly concerned with curtailing the damage that the US can still inflict. Every day they increase in actual, effective power, and the US decreases in that power. Yesterday's battle will be fought differently tomorrow, because the balance of that power will have shifted again by then.
Syria has been an enormously useful magnifying glass to show us so much about the relative power balances of many nations. And even as the US lashes out in its death throes, it is increasingly cornered and stymied. The same is true of Israel. It's reaching the point - if not already there - that every move made by the US will result in clear damage to itself, with no gain, and no damage to its targets.
The other side has had sufficient time to wargame countless contingencies, and think them through and make preparations for them. Increasingly, it gets to choose what damage to allow and what to stop, because the costs of every action have now been calculated - and the passage of time reduces the costs too, so the equation constantly updates.
This is true outside of Syria also, in all theaters and on many planes of activity.
Apr 18, 2018 | www.moonofalabama.org
A P | Apr 18, 2018 1:42:41 PM | 160
The US Deep State doesn't want to "conquer" any country. Then they'd have to pay the bill for the destruction they caused... think an actual Marshall Plan, not the Iraq and Afghan Debacles. It is not trying to "win". It is trying to destroy those countries' ability to function outside the iron-fist influence of the IMF/BIS/etc. banks/economy.
... ... ..
As for US operations in Syria being handed off "to others", i.e. to Prince's latest iteration of Blackwater/Xi/Academia, the last we heard of Erik was trying to sell a budget airforce/drone system to countries in Africa. What a joke.
Not going to happen in Syria, because Russia, Iran, Hezbolla and Syria would have no qualms about directly assaulting Prince's Kurd/Arab/Wahabbist mercenaries... Eric may be a self-serving parasite, but he's not stupid enough to directly take on the Russian military, or even the SAA for that matter. Especially with no NATO air cover...
Killary is not around to unilaterally impose a Libya-style no-fly-zone.
Trumpty Dumbdy is trapped, just trying to convince his base that he really is getting the US out of being Israel's and the Rothschilds' bitch, but that is not a potential reality.
It would involve dismantling the FED and cutting off the yearly $multi-billion military aid tap to Israel. I doubt he is smart or informed enough to comprehend the situation he is in. Any sane, intelligent person would walk away and tell the Zionist/Rothschild/Deep State to find another patsy.
Apr 09, 2018 | www.theamericanconservative.comTo borrow from the British definition of an ambassador, United States military leaders are honest soldiers promoted in rank to champion war with reckless disregard for the truth. This practice persists despite the catastrophic waste of lives and money because the untruths are never punished. Congress needs to correct this problem forthwith.
General Joseph F. Dunford, Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, exemplifies the phenomenon. As reported in The Washington Post , Dunford recently voiced optimism about defeating the Afghan Taliban in the seventeenth year of a trillion-dollar war that has multiplied safe havens for international terrorists, the opposite of the war's original mission. While not under oath, Dunford insisted, "This is not another year of the same thing we've been doing for 17 years. This is a fundamentally different approach [T]he right people at the right level with the right training [are in place] "
There, the general recklessly disregarded the truth. He followed the instruction of General William Westmoreland who stated at the National Press Club on November 21, 1967 that the Vietnam War had come to a point "where the end begins to come into view." The 1968 Tet Offensive was then around the corner, which would provoke Westmoreland to ask for 200,000 more American troops. The Pentagon Papers and Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster's Dereliction of Duty have meticulously documented the military's reckless disregard for the truth throughout the Vietnam War.
Any fool can understand that continuing our 17-year-old war in Afghanistan is a fool's errand. The nation is artificial. Among other things, its disputed border with Pakistan, the Durand Line, was drawn in 1896 between the British Raj and Afghan Amir Abdur Rahmen Khair. Afghanistan's population splinters along tribal, ethnic, and sectarian lines, including Pushtans, Uzbeks, Hazara, Tajiks, Turkmen, and Balochi. Its government is riddled with nepotism, corruption, ineptitude, and lawlessness. Election fraud and political sclerosis are endemic. Opium production and trafficking replenish the Taliban's coffers.
The Afghan National Army (ANA) is a paper tiger. Desertion and attrition rates are alarming. Disloyalty is widespread. American weapons are sold to the Taliban or captured. ANA soldiers will not risk that last full measure of devotion for an illegitimate, unrepresentative, decrepit government.
The Taliban also has a safe haven in Pakistan. A staggering portion -- maybe up to 90 percent -- of United States assistance to Afghanistan is embezzled, diverted, or wasted. John Sopko, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), related to Chatham House in London that "SIGAR was finding waste, fraud, and abuse nearly everywhere we looked in Afghanistan -- from the $488 million worth of aircraft that couldn't fly, to the navy the U.S. bought for a landlocked country, to the buildings the U.S. paid for that literally melted in the rain ."
"The Taliban are getting stronger, the government is on the retreat, they are losing ground to the Taliban day by day," Abdul Jabbar Qahraman, a retired Afghan general who was the Afghan government's military envoy to Helmand Province until 2016, told the New York Times last summer. ISIS has now joined the Taliban and al-Qaeda in fighting the United States. Secretary of Defense General James Mattis conceded to Congress last June that "we are not winning in Afghanistan right now," but added polyannaishly, "And we will correct this as soon as possible." Only two months earlier, the Defense Department insisted that dropping the Mother of All Bombs on Afghanistan would reverse the losing trend.
Upton Sinclair sermonized: "It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it." Thus do military leaders deceive themselves about futile wars to extract more spending, to maintain their professional reputations and public stature, and to avoid the embarrassment of explaining to Congress and the American people that astronomical sums have been wasted and tens of thousands of American soldiers have died or were crippled in vain.
To deter such self-deception, Congress should enact a statute requiring the retirement without pension of any general or admiral who materially misleads legislators or the public about prospective or ongoing wars with reckless disregard for the truth. That sanction might have prompted General Dunford to acknowledge the grim truth about Afghanistan: that the United States is clueless about how to win that war.
Bruce Fein was associate deputy attorney general under President Reagan and is the founding partner of Fein & DelValle PLLC.
Apr 05, 2018 | www.theamericanconservative.com
'Ghost Wars' author on the secret war behind the war in Afghanistan
U.S-trained Afghan Army troops. Credit: USMC Cpl. John Scott Rafoss/public domain Directorate S: The C.I.A. and America's Secret Wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Steve Coll, Penguin Press, 784 pages
Twelve days after 9/11, on the night of September 23, 2001, the CIA's Islamabad station chief, Robert Grenier, received a telephone call from his boss, Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet. "Listen, Bob," Tenet said, "we're meeting tomorrow at Camp David to discuss our war strategy in Afghanistan. How should we begin? What targets do we hit? How do we sequence our actions?"
Grenier later wrote in his book, 88 Days to Kandahar , that while he was surprised by the call he'd been thinking about these same questions -- "mulling them over and over and over," as he later told me -- so he was ready. President George Bush's address to the U.S. Congress just a few days before, Grenier told Tenet, was a good start: demand that Afghanistan's Taliban ruler, Mullah Omar, turn bin Laden over to the United States. If he refused, the U.S. should launch a campaign to oust him. Grenier had thought through the plan, but before going into its details with Tenet he abruptly stopped the conversation. "Mr. Director," he said, "this isn't going to work. I need to write this all down clearly." Tenet agreed.
Grenier set to work, and over the next three hours he laid out the battle for Afghanistan. Included in the paper was a detailed program of how the CIA could deploy undercover teams to recruit bin Laden's enemies among Afghanistan's northern Tajik and Uzbek tribes (an uneasy coalition of ethnic militias operating as the Northern Alliance), supply them with cash and weapons, and use them in a rolling offensive that would oust the Taliban in Kabul. With U.S. help, which included deploying American Special Forces teams (under CIA leadership) coupled with American airpower, the Northern Alliance (more properly, the United Islamic Front for the Salvation of Afghanistan) would start from its Panjshir Valley enclave in Afghanistan's far northeast and, recruiting support from anti-Taliban forces along the way, roll all the way into Kabul.
Grenier gave the eight-page draft paper to his staff to review, then sent it to Tenet in Washington, who passed it through the deputies committee (the second-in-command of each of the major national security agencies), then presented it to Bush. "I regard that cable," Grenier wrote, "as the best three hours of work I ever did in my twenty-seven-year career."
Three days after the Tenet-Grenier telephone conversation, on September 26, the CIA landed a covert-operations team in Afghanistan to recruit local allies in the hunt for bin Laden. The quick action was impressive, but then events slowed to a crawl. It wasn't until October 20 that the first U.S. Special Forces team linked up with anti-Taliban rebels, and it took another week for U.S. units to land in strength. But by early November al Qaeda was on the run and the Taliban's grip on the country was slipping away. On November 13, militias of the Northern Alliance seized Kabul. The Taliban was defeated, its badly mauled units fleeing south and east (its last bastion, in the south, fell on December 6), and into nearby Pakistan, while what remained of al Qaeda holed up in a series of cave complexes in the Spin Ghar mountain range of eastern Afghanistan.
By almost any measure, the CIA-led anti-al Qaeda and anti-Taliban offensive (dubbed Operation Enduring Freedom by George Bush) marked a decisive victory in the war on terror. The U.S. had set out a plan, marshaled the forces to carry it out, and then seen it to completion.
But this triumph came with problems. The first was that the offensive was hampered by Washington infighting that pitted the CIA against a puzzlingly recalcitrant U.S. military and a carping Donald Rumsfeld, who questioned George Tenet's leadership of the effort. This bureaucratic squabbling, focused on just who was responsible for what (and who exactly was running the Afghanistan war), would remain a hallmark of American efforts well into the Obama administration. The second problem was that Afghanistan's southern Pashtun tribes were only marginally included in the effort, and they remained suspicious of their northern non-Pashtun counterparts. The mistrust, CIA officers believed, would almost certainly plant the seeds of an endless inter-tribal Afghan conflict, embroiling the United States in an effort to prop up an unpopular Kabul government. The third problem was Pakistan -- or, more precisely, Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency, the ISI, and the ISI's "Directorate S," responsible for covertly supplying, training, and arming Pakistan's Islamist allies, including the Pashtun-dominated Taliban.
The intractability of these variables, and America's 17-year effort (sometimes focused but often feckless) to resolve them, form the basis of Steve Coll's Directorate S , a thick but eminently readable account of America's Afghanistan misadventure. While Directorate S stands alone as a comprehensive exposition of the Afghanistan conflict dating from 9/11, it's actually a follow-on of Ghost Wars , Coll's Pulitzer Prize-winning 2004 narrative of America's efforts to oust the Soviets from Afghanistan following their invasion in December 1979. Given the breadth of Coll's dual treatments and the depth of his research, it's likely that these books will remain the standard exposition of the period for years to come.
While the focus of Directorate S is on Pakistan and its shady intelligence services, each of the obstacles that confronted the United States in Afghanistan from the moment the Taliban abandoned Kabul is embraced in detail. These obstacles included America's post-9/11 attention deficit disorder (the pivot away from al Qaeda to Iraq was being considered in Washington even as the Northern Alliance cleared the Afghan capital) and the deeply embedded antipathy toward the new Kabul government among Pakistani-supported southern tribesman. Thus, after the United States ousted al Qaeda and its Taliban supporters, it embarked on a program to strengthen the new Kabul government, anointing Hamid Karzai as Afghanistan's president and pledging billions in reconstruction aid. And so, or so it seemed, everything had gone as planned. The Taliban was routed; al Qaeda was on the run; a new anti-terrorism government was in place in Kabul; and the United States had signed Pakistan on as a willing accomplice. On May 1, 2003, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld declared an end to major combat operations in Afghanistan. The war was over. Won.
But of course it wasn't.
Coll's account provides a disturbing catalogue of the U.S. mistakes in the wake of the Taliban defeat. Almost all of them are well known: Hamid Karzai, the consensus choice of a grand assembly (a loya jirga) as Afghanistan's interim president, proved to be a weak leader. The monies appropriated for Afghanistan's postwar reconstruction were woefully inadequate for the task -- "laughable," as one U.S. official put it. American soldiers responsible for countering the Taliban's return (and hunting al Qaeda terrorist cells) were thinly and poorly deployed (and, after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, of secondary importance in the Pentagon). Tentative Taliban efforts to engage the United States in political talks were summarily and unwisely spurned. Allegations of prisoner abuse at U.S. detention facilities consistently undermined U.S. legitimacy. American funds were funneled into Afghan ministries laced with corrupt officials. Afghani poppy production increased, despite faint-hearted U.S. eradication efforts. And U.S. counter-terrorism actions proved ham-handed and caused preventable civilian casualties, pushing Afghanis into a resurgent anti-Kabul resistance.
More crucially, Pakistan's unstinting support for America's Afghanistan efforts proved to be anything but unstinting. The reason for this was not only entirely predictable but was actually the unintended result of the American victory. When the Northern Alliance and U.S. airpower pushed what remained of the Taliban (along with the remnants of al Qaeda) out of Afghanistan, they pushed them into Pakistan, creating conditions that, as Coll tells us, "deepened resentment among Pakistan's generals, who would come to see their country's rising violence as a price of American folly . . ." Put simply, for the United States to seal the Operation Enduring Freedom victory, it had to ensure that its effects did not spill over into the one nation that could ensure that its victory would, in fact, be enduring. That didn't happen. The result was that the Taliban was able to rebuild and rearm its networks not only in Pakistan, and under the eyes of the ISI, but also in Afghanistan.
It might have been otherwise. During a series of discussions I had about America's intervention in Afghanistan in the months immediately following 9/11, a number of currently serving and former senior U.S. officials told me they believed that, given enough time, the Taliban might well have handed bin Laden over to the Americans, obviating the need for a full-on invasion. One of these officials was Milton Bearden, a famed CIA officer (his close friends refer to him as "Uncle Milty") who, during his time as a station chief in Pakistan, had helped to head up the CIA's war against the Soviets in the mid 1980s.
After 9/11, Bearden recharged his Pakistan and Afghanistan networks in an effort to convince the Taliban that turning bin Laden over to the Americans was a better option than the one they were facing. All the while, Bearden kept senior U.S. officials apprised of what he was doing, even as he was attempting to head off their rush to war. Bearden told me that, while his efforts had not reached fruition by the time the Bush White House had decided on a course of action, he believes the United States had not fully explored all of its options -- or thought through the long-term impact of its intervention. "I don't know what would have happened, I don't know," he says wistfully, "but I think we have a handhold in history. We should have seen what was coming." He notes that Alexander the Great "took one look at Afghanistan's mountains and decided against it. He thought his whole army could get swallowed up in there, and he wasn't going to take that chance. So, well, you tell me if I'm wrong, but Alexander was no slouch, right?"
Not everyone agrees with this, of course. The dissenters include Robert Grenier, the first drafter of what became the American war plan. Taliban leader Mullah Omar, he told me, was committed to his pledge to protect Osama bin Laden; he viewed it as a blood oath that could not be broken. Moreover, argues Grenier, "Omar viewed himself as a kind of world historical figure, a person on whom the axis of history would turn." One result was that he believed his fight against the Americans would be epochal.
That said, Grenier believes America's foray into Afghanistan, and the mistakes that followed, might at least have been dampened by a more diligent focus on the inherent divisions of Afghan society. "We [at the CIA]," he told me several months ago, "were very aware that the march of the Northern Alliance into Kabul would likely create real difficulties in the south. And we tried to slow it, precisely for this reason. But events overtook us, and it just wasn't possible. So, yes, things might have been otherwise, but in truth we just don't know."
The value in Coll's Directorate S comes not from the elegant telling of a story not fully known, but from the dawning realization that Afghanistan is the kind of lock for which there is no key. There is no reason to believe that a different outcome would have ensued if other events had intruded -- for example, more personnel, money, focused diplomacy, or robust and disciplined enemy-defeating and nation building; or that our war there and the occupation that followed would have yielded the same results that we realized in, say, Japan after 1945. The real hubris here is not that we tried and failed but that we thought we could actually succeed. Afghanistan is simply not that kind of place.
There is a term of art for this in the military, which found its first usage in Iraq in 2009, when U.S. commanders adopted it as an appreciation of what could and could not be accomplished. Instead of focusing on defeating corruption, inefficiency, disunity, and poor leadership, the focus shifted almost exclusively to dampening violence, to keeping the doors to Iraq open even as its factions battled for its control. More importantly, the adoption of the phrase marked the abandonment of high expectations and an embrace of realism. The United States would have to yield the business of replicating a Western-style democracy on the banks of the Euphrates. That goal, if it was going to be accomplished at all, would have to be realized by the Iraqis.
Analyst Anthony Cordesman, one of America's premier military thinkers, adopted the phrase and applied to Afghanistan in 2012 in an essay he entitled, "Time to Focus on 'Afghan Good Enough.'" His plan was simply stated but had all the elegance of actually working: keep the Taliban out of Kabul and the major cities, preserve the central and provincial government even in the face of endemic corruption, and work to provide security to large numbers of Afghanis. Cordesman conceded that this was not the kind of victory that Americans had hoped for on September 12. And it was difficult to describe the outcome as even vaguely passable -- or "good." But it was far better than adopting goals that could not be realized or embracing an illusion that disappeared even as it was grasped. For the time being at least, it would have to be "good enough."
Mark Perry is a foreign policy analyst, a contributing editor to The American Conservative and the author of The Pentagon's Wars .
Jun 09, 2017 | www.amazon.com
It was during the spring of 2006 that I began this project. I wanted to investigate whether the growing volume of criticism toward Russia, sometimes by people who could hardly claim to be knowledgeable about the country, concealed a political agenda.
As I researched the subject, I discovered evidence of Russophobia shared by different circles within the American political class and promoted through programs and conferences at various think tanks, congressional testimonies, activities of NGOs, and the media. Russophobia is not merely a critique of Russia, but a critique beyond any sense of proportion, waged with the purpose of undermining the nation's political reputation.
... ... ....
Although a critical analysis of Russia and its political system is entirely legitimate, the issue is the balance of such analysis. Russia's role in the world is growing, yet many U.S. politicians feel that Russia doesn't matter in the global arena. Preoccupied with international issues, such as Iraq and Afghanistan, they find it difficult to accept that they now have to nego- tiate and coordinate their international policies with a nation that only yesterday seemed so weak, introspective, and dependent on the West. To these individuals, Russophobia is merely a means to pressure the Kremlin into submitting to the United States in the execution of its grand plans to control the world's most precious resources and geostrategic sites. In the meantime, Russia has grown increasingly resentful, and the war in the Caucasus in August 2008 has demonstrated that Russia is prepared to act unilaterally to stop what it views as US unilateralism in the former Soviet region.
And some in Moscow are tempted to provoke a much greater confrontation with Western states. The attitude of ignorance and self-righteousness toward Russia tells us volumes about the United States' lack of preparation for the twenty-first century's central challenges that include political instability, weapons proliferation, and energy insecurity. Despite the dislike of Russia by a considerable number of American elites, this attitude is far from universally shared. Many Americans understand that Russia has gone a long way from communism and that the overwhelming support for Putin's policies at home cannot be adequately explained by high oil prices and the Kremlin's manipulation of the public-despite the frequent assertions of Russophobic observers.
Balanced analysts are also aware that many Russian problems are typical difficulties that nations encounter with state-building, and should not be presented as indicative of Russia's "inherent drive" to autocracy or empire. As the United States and Russia move further to the twenty-first century, it will be increasingly important to redefine the relationship between the two nations in a mutually enriching way.
Political and cultural phobias are, of course, not limited to those of an anti-Russian nature. For instance, Russia has its share of America-phobia -- a phenomenon that I have partly researched in my book Whose World Order (Notre Dame, 2004) and in several articles. Anti-American attitudes are strongly present in Russian media and cultural products, as a response to the US policies of nuclear, energy, and military supremacy in the world. Extreme hegemonic policies tend to provoke an extreme response, and Russian nationalist movements and often commentators react harshly to what they view as unilateral encroachment on Russia's political system and foreign policy interests. Russia's reactions to these policies by the United States are highly negative and frequently inadequate, but hardly more extreme than the American hegemonic and imperial discourse.
The Anti-Russian LobbyWhen the facile optimism was disappointed, Western euphoria faded, and Russophobia returned ... The new Russophobia was expressed not by the governments, but in the statements of out-of-office politicians, the publications of academic experts, the sensational writings of jour- nalists, and the products of the entertainment industry. (Rodric Braithwaite, Across the Moscow River, 2002)1
....Russophobia is not a myth, not an invention of the Red-Brovvns, but a real phenomenon of political thought in the main political think tanks in the West . .. [T]he Yeltsin-Kozyrev's pro-U.S. "giveaway game" was approved across the ocean. There is reason to say that the period in ques- tion left the West with the illusion that Russia's role was to serve Washington's interests and that it would remain such in the future. (Sergei Mikoyati, International Affairs /October 2006j)2
This chapter formulates a theory of Russophobia and the anti-Russian lobby's influence on the U.S. Russia policy. 1 discuss the Lobby's objec- tives, its tactics to achieve them, the history of its formation and rise to prominence, and the conditions that preserved its influence in the after- math of 9/11.1 argue that Russophobia has been important to American hegemonic elites in pressuring Russia for economic and political conces- sions in the post-Cold War era.
1. Goals and Means
The central objective of the Lobby has been to preserve and strengthen America's power in the post-Cold War world through imperial or hegemonic policies. The Lobby has viewed Russia with its formidable nuclear power, energy reserves, and important geostrategic location as a major obstacle in achieving this objective. Even during the 1990s, when Russia looked more like a failing state3 than one capable of projecting power, some members of the American political class were worried about the future revival of the Eurasian giant as a revisionist power. In their percep- tion, it was essential to keep Russia in a state of military and economic weakness-not so much out of emotional hatred for the Russian people and their culture, but to preserve American security and promote its val- ues across the world. To many within the Lobby, Russophobia became a useful device for exerting pressures on Russia and controlling its policies. Although to some the idea of undermining and, possibly, dismembering Russia was personal, to others it was a necessity of power dictated by the realities of international politics.
According to this dominant vision, there was simply no place in this "New American Century" for power competitors, and America was destined eventually to assume control over potentially threatening military capabilities and energy reserves of others. As the two founders of the Project for the New' American Century (PNAC), William Kristol and Robert Kagan, asserted when referring to the large military forces of Russia and China, "American statesmen today ought to recognize that their charge is not to await the arrival of the next great threat, but rather to shape the international environment to prevent such a threat from arising in the first place."4
Russia was either to agree to assist the United States in preserving its world-power status or be forced to agree. It had to either follow the U.S. interpretation of world affairs and develop a political and economic system sufficiently open to American influences or live as a pariah state, smeared by accusations of pernicious behavior, and in constant fear for its survival in the America-centered world. As far as the U.S. hegemonic elites were concerned, no other choice was available.
This hegemonic mood was largely consistent with mainstream ideas within the American establishment immediately following the end of the Cold War. For example, 1989 saw the unification of Germany and the further meltdown of the Soviet Union, which some characterized as "the best period of U.S. foreign policy ever."5 President Jimmy Carter's former national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski envisioned the upcoming victory of the West by celebrating the Soviet Union's "grand failure."6
In his view, the Soviet "totalitarian" state was incapable of reform. Communism's decline was therefore irreversible and inevitable. It would have made the system's "practice and its dogma largely irrelevant to the human conditions," and communism would be remembered as the twentieth century's "political and intellectual aberration."7 Other com- mentators argued the case for a global spread of Western values. In 1990 Francis Fukuyama first formulated his triumphalist "end of history" thesis, arguing a global ascendancy of the Western-style market democracy.®
... ... ...
Marc Plattner declared the emergence of a "world with one dominant principle of legitimacy, democracy."9 When the Soviet system had indeed disintegrated, the leading establishment journal Foreign Affairs pronounced that "the Soviet system collapsed because of what it was, or more exactly, because of what it was not. The West 'won' because of what the democracies were-because they were free, prosperous and successful, because they did justice, or convincingly tried to do so."10 Still others, such as Charles Krauthammer, went as far as to proclaim the arrival of the United States' "unipolar moment," a period in which only one super- power, the United States, would stand above the rest of the world in its military, economic, and ideological capacity.11
In this context of U.S. triumphalism, at least some Russophobes expected Russia to follow the American agenda. Still, they were worried that Russia may still have surprises to offer and would recover as an enemy.12
Soon after the Soviet disintegration, Russia indeed surprised many, although not quite in the sense of presenting a power challenge to the United States. Rather, the surprise was the unexpectedly high degree of corruption, social and economic decay, and the rapid disappointment of pro-Western reforms inside Russia. By late 1992, the domestic economic situation was much worsened, as the failure of Western-style shock ther- apy reform put most of the population on the verge of poverty. Russia was preoccupied not with the projection of power but with survival, as poverty, crime, and corruption degraded it from the status of the indus- trialized country it once was. In the meantime, the economy was largely controlled by and divided among former high-ranking party and state officials and their associates. The so-called oligarchs, or a group of extremely wealthy individuals, played the role of the new post-Soviet nomenklatura; they influenced many key decisions of the state and suc- cessfully blocked the development of small- and medium-sized business in the country.13 Under these conditions, the Russophobes warned that the conditions in Russia may soon be ripe for the rise of an anti-Western nationalist regime and that Russia was not fit for any partnership with the United States.14
The mid-1990s saw the emergence of post-Soviet Russophobia. The Lobby's ideology was not principally new, as it still contained the three central myths of Sovietophobia left over from the Cold War era: Russia is inherently imperialist, autocratic, and anti-Western. This ideology now had to be modified to the new conditions and promoted politically, which required a tightening of the Lobby's unity, winning new allies within the establishment, and gaining public support.15
... ... ...
The impact of structural and institutional factors is further reinforced by policy factors, such as the divide within the policy community and the lack of presidential leadership. Not infrequently, politicians tend to defend their personal and corporate interests, and lobbying makes a difference in the absence of firm policy commitments.
Experts recognize that the community of Russia watchers is split and that the split, which goes all the way to the White House, has been responsible for the absence of a coherent policy toward the country. During the period of 2003-2008, Vice President Richard Dick Cheney formed a cohesive and bipartisan group of Russia critics, who pushed for a more confrontational approach with the Kremlin. The brain behind the invasion of Iraq, Cheney could not tolerate opposition to what he saw as a critical step in establishing worldwide US hegemony. He was also harboring the idea of controlling Russia's energy reserves.91
Since November 2004, when the administration launched a review of its policy on Russia,92 Cheney became a critically important voice in whom the Lobby found its advocate. Secretaries of State Condoleezza Rice and, until November 2004, Colin Powell opposed the vice president's approach, arguing for a softer and more accommodating style in relations with Moscow.
President Bush generally sided with Rice and Powell, but he proved unable to form a consistent Russia policy. Because of America's involvement in the Middle East, Bush failed to provide the leadership committed to devising mutually acceptable rules in relations with Russia that could have prevented the deterioration in their relationship. Since the end of 2003, he also became doubtful about the direction of Russia's domestic transformation.93 As a result, the promising post-9/11 cooperation never materialized. The new cold war and the American Sense of History
It's time we start thinking of Vladimir Putin's Russia as an enemy of the United States. (Bret Stephens, "Russia: The Enemy," The Wall Street Journal, November 28, 2006)
If today's reality of Russian politics continues ... then there is the real risk that Russia's leadership will be seen, externally and internally, as illegitimate. (John Edwards and Jack Kemp, "We Need to Be Tough with Russia," International Herald Tribune, July 12, 2006)
On Iran, Kosovo, U.S. missile defense, Iraq, the Caucasus and Caspian basin, Ukraine-the list goes on-Russia puts itself in conflict with the U.S. and its allies . . . here are worse models than the united Western stand that won the Cold War the first time around.
("Putin Institutionalized," The Wall Street Journal, November 19, 2007) In order to derail the U.S.-Russia partnership, the Lobby has sought to revive the image of Russias as an enemy of the United States. The Russophobic groups have exploited important differences between the two countries' historical self-perceptions, presenting those differences as incompatible.
1. Contested History
Two versions of history
The story of the Cold War as told from the U.S. perspective is about American ideas of Western-style democracy as rescued from the Soviet threat of totalitarian communism. Although scholars and politicians disagreed over the methods of responding to the Soviet threat, they rarely questioned their underlying assumptions about history and freedom.' It therefore should not come as surprise that many in the United States have interpreted the end of the Cold War as a victory of the Western freedom narrative. Celebrating the Soviet Union's "grand failure"-as Zbigniew Brzezinski put it2-the American discourse assumed that from now on there would be little resistance to freedom's worldwide progression. When Francis Fukuyama offered his bold summary of these optimistic feelings and asserted in a famous passage that "what we may be witnessing is not just the end of the Cold War... but the end of history as such,"3 he meant to convey the disappearance of an alternative to the familiar idea of free- dom, or "the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government."4
In Russia, however, the Cold War story has been mainly about sovereignty and independence, rather than Western-style liberalism. To many Russians it is a story of freedom from colonization by the West and of preserving important attributes of sovereign statehood.
In a world where neocolonialism and cultural imperialism are potent forces, the idea of freedom as independence continues to have strong international appeal and remains a powerful alternative to the notion of liberal democracy. Russians formulated the narrative of independence centuries ago, as they successfully withstood external invasions from Napoleon to Hitler. The defeat of the Nazi regime was important to the Soviets because it legitimized their claims to continue with the tradition of freedom as independence.
The West's unwillingness to recognize the importance of this legitimizing myth in the role of communist ideology has served as a key reason for the Cold War.5 Like their Western counterparts, the Soviets were debating over methods but not the larger assumptions that defined their struggle.
This helps to understand why Russians could never agree with the Western interpretation of the end of the Cold War. What they find missing from the U.S. narrative is the tribute to Russia's ability to defend its freedom from expansionist ambitions of larger powers. The Cold War too is viewed by many Russians as a necessarily defensive response to the West's policies, and it is important that even while occupying Eastern Europe, the Soviets never celebrated the occupation, emphasizing instead the war vic- tory.6 The Russians officially admitted "moral responsibility" and apolo- gized for the Soviet invasions of Hungary and Czechoslovakia.7 They may be prepared to fully recognize the postwar occupation of Eastern Europe, but only in the context of the two sides' responsibility for the Cold War. Russians also find it offensive that Western VE Day celebrations ignore the crucial contribution of Soviet troops, even though none of the Allies, as one historian put it, "paid dearer than the Soviet Union for the victory. Forty Private Ivans fell in battle to every Private Ryan."8 Victory over Nazi Germany constitutes, as another Russian wrote, "the only undisputable foundation of the national myth."9
If the two sides are to build foundations for a future partnership, the two historical narratives must be bridged. First, it is important to recognize the difficulty of negotiating a common meaning of freedom and accept that the idea of freedom may vary greatly across nations. The urge for freedom may be universal, but its social content is a specific product of national his- tories and local circumstances. For instance, the American vision of democracy initially downplayed the role of elections and emphasized selection by merit or meritocracy. Under the influence of the Great Depression, the notion of democracy incorporated a strong egalitarian and poverty-fighting component, and it was not until the Cold War- and not without its influence-that democracy has become associated with elections and pluralistic institutions.10 Second, it is essential to acknowledge the two nations' mutual respon- sibility for the misunderstanding that has resulted in the Cold War. A historically sensitive account will recognize that both sides were thinking in terms of expanding a territorial space to protect their visions of security. While the Soviets wanted to create a buffer zone to prevent a future attack from Germany, the Americans believed in reconstructing the European continent in accordance with their ideas of security and democracy. A mutual mistrust of the two countries' leaders exacerbated the situation, making it ever more difficult to prevent a full-fledged political confronta- tion. Western leaders had reason to be suspicious of Stalin, who, in his turn, was driven by the perception of the West's greed and by betrayals from the dubious Treaty of Versailles to the appeasement of Hitler in Munich. Arrangements for the post-World War II world made by Britain, the USSR, and the United States proved insufficient to address these deep-seated suspicions.
In addition, most Eastern European states created as a result of the Versailles Treaty were neither free nor democratic and collaborated with Nazi Germany in its racist and expansionist policies. The European post-World War 1 security system was not working properly, and it was only a matter of time before it would have to be transformed.
Third, if an agreeable historical account is to emerge, it would have to accept that the end of the Cold War was a product of mutually beneficial a second Cold War, "it also does not want the reversal of the U.S. geopolitical gains that it made in the decade or so after the end of the Cold War."112 Another expert asked, "What possible explanation is there for the fact that today-at a moment when both the U.S. and Russia face the common enemy of Islamist terrorism-hard-liners within the Bush administration, and especially in the office of Vice President Dick Cheney, are arguing for a new tough line against Moscow along the lines of a scaled-down Cold War?"113
Yet another analyst wrote "at the Cold War's end, the United States was given one of the great opportunities of history: to embrace Russia, the largest nation on earth, as partner, friend, ally. Our mutual interests meshed almost perfectly. There was no ideological, territorial, his- toric or economic quarrel between us, once communist ideology was interred. We blew it. We moved NATO onto Russia's front porch, ignored her valid interests and concerns, and, with our 'indispensable-nation' arrogance, treated her as a defeated power, as France treated Weimar Germany after Versailles."114
Apr 01, 2018 | www.counterpunch.org
As usual there is amnesia of the ever-recurring big-lie pretext, the need for another crisis to keep the two-billion-dollar a day NATO war machine going, the baleful puppet moves of Canada in the process, the crisis of legitimacy of the lead attacker's government, and the silent diversion from the whole nightmare scenario unfolding by all NATO-member governments, mass media and even 'peace activist' organisations.
This time the big-lie pretext is about the alleged poisoning by the Kremlin/Putin of a double-agent, usually a stock move in the espionage entertainments, but here with no evidence of the claimed origin of the lethal nerve-agent, but rather expert denial within British defence and weapons research itself, with devious political word games to get around the absence of any corroborated evidence in familiar denuciations of Russia full of aggression and hate. Not even a death is recorded while US-led nd UK-armed ally forces are still mass-murdering poor civilian Yeminis, drone-murdering endless targets and civilians abroad, continuing on unblamed for the ongoing NATO-executed eco-genocides of Iraq and Libya societies, and on the 19-years anniversary of the mass bombing of, once again a society, Yugoslavia, with the most evolved social infrastructures of health, education, housing and life security in the region.
What this latest war pretext for US and NATO-backed aggression is really about is justifying more war in the Ukraine now that the massive war preparations along all of Russia's Western borders following the self-declared Nazi-led and proven US- orchestrated and commanded mass-murder coup d'etat in February 2014 . As usual there is amnesia of the ever-recurring big-lie pretext, the need for another crisis to keep the two-billion-dollar a day NATO war machine going, the baleful puppet moves of Canada in the process, the crisis of legitimacy of the lead attacker's government, and the silent diversion from the whole nightmare scenario unfolding by all NATO-member governments, mass media and even 'peace activist' organisations.
This time the big-lie pretext is about the alleged poisoning by the Kremlin/Putin of a double-agent traitor, usually a stock move in the espionage entertainments. Yet here there is no confirmed evidence whatever of the claimed origin of the lethal nerve-agent, but rather expert denial within British defence and weapons research itself that is silence in the press, with devious political word games crafted to get around the absence of any corroborated facts in the familiar denuciations of Russia full of team aggression and hate. Not even a death is recorded while US-led nd UK-armed ally forces are still mass-murdering poor civilian Yeminis, drone-murdering endless targets and civilians abroad, continuing on unblamed for the ongoing NATO-executed eco-genocides of Iraq and Libya societies, and on the 19-years anniversary of the mass bombing of Yugoslavia -- once again a socialist society with the most evolved social infrastructures of health, education, housing and life security in the region.
What this latest war pretext for US and NATO-backed aggression is really about is justifying more war in Ukraine now that the massive war preparations along all of Russia's Western borders following the self-declared Nazi-led and proven US- orchestrated and commanded mass-murder coup d'etat in February 2014 . As always, this US-directed mass murder was reverse-blamed on the ever shifting Enemy face -- Russia's allied but duly elected government of the Ukraine. It was only after this violent-coup Nazi-led and US directed overthrow of the elected government of the very resource-rich Ukraine -- "the breadbasket of Europe" and sitting on newly discovered rich fossil fuel deposits -- that Russia annexed its traditional territory of the Crimea next to Eastern Ukraine, the latter after the violent coup put under the rule of a US-Nazi-led government until its people fought back with Russia assistance for the now NATO-targeted zones of the new Donetsk and Lugansk republics.
What is new now is that we are about to enter yet another NATO-member war build-up against the cornerstone of Western ideology, the designated Enemy Russia. As usual there is amnesia of the ever-recurring big-lie pretext, the need for another crisis to keep the two-billion-dollar a day US-led NATO war machine going, the baleful puppet moves of Canada in the process, the crisis of legitimacy of the lead attacker's UK government, and silent diversion from the whole nightmare scenario unfolding in NATO-member states, mass media and even 'peace activist' organisations.
The UK and the US followed by Canada and some of the EU have by expulsion of Russia diplomats prepared the diplomatic way for war in the Ukraine to seize back these lost coup-territories, and it will be in the name of "freedom", "human rights" and "the rules of civilised nations". But there is much officially suppressed colour to the warring parties political conflict which reveals who the truly heinous suppressor of human rights is. Under mass media and corporate-state cover, the US-UK-NATO axis about to make war in Ukraine is doing so under the factually absurd but non-stop pretext of "Russia aggression" constructed out of the double-agent poisoning affair, with the guilty agents and poison having no proof but the ever louder UK-led and NATO-state assertion of it in unison. Yet there is a clear answer to the cui bono question -- which party does all this benefit? Clearly once the question is posed, as opposed to completely gagged in the corporate press, Theresa May's slow-motion collapsing Tory government -- now even challenged for its fraudulent Brexit referendum protecting the big London banks from EU regulation -- has to have such a war-drum distraction to survive. The old war of aggression pattern reverse-blamed on the official enemy unwinds yet again.
It is revealing in this context how Canada's government has no such ruler need of war -- unless it be its Ukraine-descendent Foreign Minister up front and the very powerful and widely Nazi-sympathizing Ukraine Liberal vote bank and leadership brought to Canada after 1945 to overwhelm the preceding active socialist Ukrainian community in Canada. Canada's government -- not its people -- is in any case used to being a puppet regime in foreign affairs as a twice-colonized rule by big business (why the NDP is not allowed to govern unless so subjugated).
The Human Rights Question
In light of all of this suppressed factual background and motive for more war in Ukraine which is unspeakable in the official news, interaction with the United Nations is of revealing interest. While it has been the cover for US-led NATO executed genocidal wars of aggression in the past as in Libya, Afghanistan, Iraq, Yugoslavia and Korea, the pretexts of 'human rights', 'responsibility to protect' and 'stopping communist aggression', which are in fact always been the spectacular opposite on the ground in terms of diseased, mass-murdered and destituted bodies, these pretexts may not sell well when the background facts are no longer suppressed from public view.
It is worthwhile recalling how Science for Peace leadership used to be against but has since Afghanistan collaborated with these false-pretext wars in sustaining their illusions and thus the war crimes and crimes against proceeding underneath them.
The NATO-executed Ukraine war now being orchestrated is especially revealing in its actual record of 'protecting human rights' through 'international law' and 'norms of civilised nations'. Completely buried in official records is a United Nations resolution n on Ukraine that the US and Canada repudiated on November 20 2015 after the US-led bloody coup d'etat in Ukraine was in full motion of claiming all the vast tracts of land and resources that were Russia-speaking territory in the past.
The resolution was straightforwardly against "Nazi symbols and regalia" as well as "holocaust denial". The Social, Humanitarian and Cultural Affairs Committee of the UN General Assembly overwhelmingly voted for a resolution to enable measures against "the glorification of Nazism, neo-Nazism and other practices that facilitate the escalation of modern forms of racism, xenophobia and intolerance". A total of 126 member-states of the UN voted for it for the second time. Over 100 countries voted for a similar resolution in 2014 including "denial of the holocaust and glorification of the Nazi movement, former members of the Waffen SS organization, including the installation of memorials to them, and post-coup attempts to desecrate or destroy the monuments to those who fought against Nazism in Ukraine during World War II".
How could any civilised state vote against these United Nations Resolutions for human rights as Canada and the US have done and stood by ever since? Well instituted group hatred of the officially designated enemy can justify anything whatsoever, and does so right into next NATO-executed orgy of war crime and crimes against humanity, again inside Europe itself flaunting reverse-blame lies and slogans as red meat for psychotically trained masses. It is not by accident that Canada's Foreign Minister is in this near century-old Nazi loyalist vs Russia-speaking conflict was before her appointment the "proud "granddaughter of a leading Nazi war propagandist during its occupation of Poland and Ukraine described as a "fighter for freedom".
Yet on the other hand, we must not lose ourselves in ad hominem responsibility. Crystina Freeland, her Canada name, is interestingly propagandist in itself from her birth -- Christian Free Land -- but not observed in the corporate press. Minister Freeland is only a symptom of something far deeper and more systemically murderous and evil in state-executed unlimited greed and immiserization of innocent millions of people masked as 'human rights' , 'freedom' and 'rule of law' . Her more sinister double in the US is also a renamed person of the region, Victoria Nuland (read New Land) who orchestrated the whole 2014 mass-murder coup in Ukraine and now tub-thumps on public television for the 'need to teach Putin and Russia a hard lesson', aka another war attack by US-led NATO on Russia's borders.
The difference now is that the absurd pretext and geostrategic mechanisms now in motion beforehand can be seen in front of our eyes -- that is, if we can still see through the engineered prism of the US-UK led NATO war machine. This alone will stop it.
John McMurtry is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada whose work is translated from Latin America to Japan. His most recent book is The Cancer Stage of Capitalism: From Crisis to Cure .
Mar 27, 2018 | www.unz.com
JR , Next New Comment March 27, 2018 at 6:24 am GMTWithin a week after Brennan's 'routine' visit in April 2014 to the Ukraine the Ukrainian army launched a civil war. That was within 2 weeks of the CIA instigated coup an the end of February 2014.
Mar 23, 2018 | craigmurray.org.uk
J , March 22, 2018 at 22:36Je , March 23, 2018 at 00:01
On a related note, this article by Prof. Niels Harrit claims that a document declassified in 2008 was the basis for the ongoing war in Afghanstian, and that the document is as evidence free as the Novichok claims:
Is there any forensic evidence provided in this document to serve as a legal basis for the invocation of Article 5? Nothing. There is absolutely no forensic evidence in support of the claim that the 9/11 attacks were orchestrated from Afghanistan. Only a small part of the introductory text deals with 9/11, in the form of summary claims like the citation in Lord Robertson's press release. The main body of the text deals with the alleged actions of Al-Qaeda and the Taliban in the nineties.
On 4 October, NATO officially went to war based on a document that provided only 'talking points' and no evidence to support the key claim.
Sound familiar? Of course, I've no idea if he's right.lysias , March 23, 2018 at 00:27
The Taliban foreign minister at the time tried to warn the Americans of the attack they learned about it from a third party that is about as far removed from being behind the attack as it gets. Didn't help them did it the Americans were after vengeance and wanted to satisfy their bloodlust by bombing a country which didn't even have a single one of its citizens involved in the attack. Classic scapegoating.
https://www.webcitation.org/query?url=http%3A%2F%2Fnews.bbc.co.uk%2F1%2Fhi%2Fworld%2Fsouth_asia%2F2242594.stm&date=2008-05-29Je , March 23, 2018 at 00:41
They had other reasons to want to attack Afghanistan . In fact, they warned the Taliban that they would if the Taliban did not permit the desired pipeline.Tom , March 22, 2018 at 22:37
There's an article on that here, written at the time (in 2001):
http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/tangled_web/2001/12/pipe_dreams.htmlHerbie , March 22, 2018 at 22:45
What do you expect from Johnson? A grindingly stupid man who has never got a job on merit and is now desperately hoping the public don't see through his lies for the Americans. No wonder the government don't want to bring back grammar schools.CanSpeccy , March 22, 2018 at 22:45
The Ghouta connection:
http://www.unz.com/article/four-days-to-declare-a-cold-war/Clark , March 22, 2018 at 22:57
The evidence so far supports Putin's claim that that allegations against Russia are "drivel."m , March 22, 2018 at 23:02
New Viz character; Boris the Bullshitter. Textbook bullshitting:
-- "Let me be clear with you" (though what is to follow is as clear as mud,) " When I look at the evidence, I mean" (not me, actually, I mean) "the people from Porton Down, the laboratory So they have the samples They do." (believe me) "And they were absolutely categorical" (about what?) "and I asked the guy myself," (what did you ask him, Boris?) "I said, "Are you sure?" And he said there's no doubt" (no doubt of WHAT, Boris?)
What CAN you do with people like this?Ross , March 22, 2018 at 23:18
It's obvious when Johnson is lying, it's whenever he opens his mouth.Clark , March 22, 2018 at 23:26
Has PC Plod managed to make a public appearance yet, or is he still speaking through media surrogates?J , March 23, 2018 at 00:36
Craig, I have to set you straight on this. Boris is as incapable of lying as he is of telling the truth. As strange as it may seem to rational minds, the concepts of truth and falsity simply do not exist in minds such as his. To him, everything is merely an opportunity for achieving his goals, or a threat to his credibility that needs to be bluffed over, and to those ends every statement he makes will be as vague as he can get away with under the circumstances.
Sounds about right.
Mar 08, 2018 | wipokuli.wordpress.com
The US Power Elite ... would be rightfully called the „Deep State" of the USA ( http://tinyurl.com/ho2nz87 ).
And this Deep State has become more and more ruthless over the time. They have brought nightmares over the Southern Hemisphere by installing brutal dictatorships ( http://tinyurl.com/kkpvcf7 ) in their interest and waging bloody colonial wars, in the last one and a half decades especially with their „War on Terror" ( http://tinyurl.com/nrxxej5 ).
One of their aims is to prevent countries of Africa, Latin America, Near and Middle East and Southern Asia from choosing their trade partners freely and from making use of their resources and industrialize, since that would mean a division of resources and allowing them their part of „consuming ecologic Earth capacity".
Mar 03, 2018 | www.fort-russ.com
The Ukrainian economy is in a catastrophic state after four years of "euro-reforms," said Viktor Medvedchuk, head of the public movement "Ukrainian Choice – People's Right." "At the end of 2013. Ukraine's state and publicly guaranteed debt was 40% of GDP, and by the end of 2017 it had more than doubled, exceeding 80% of GDP. In 2013, Ukraine's GDP per capita was more than $ 4,075, and in 2016 decreased to $ 2221.
The average monthly salary in 2017 as a whole for the country was $ 267 (in 2013 it exceeded $ 408), pensions are also 2.3 times lower than before the euro reform. Today, it is slightly more than $ 48, while in 2013 it was almost $ 112, " Medvedchuk said.
Feb 25, 2018 | www.unz.com
Dmitry , Next New Comment February 25, 2018 at 7:15 pm GMT@Felix KeverichFelix Keverich , Next New Comment February 25, 2018 at 8:16 pm GMT
Poland's level of GDP per capita is 6 times bigger than Ukraine's. They started out around the same level in 1991 and were supposed to follow the same playbook. To the extent that their paths diverged can be explained by Ukrainian corruption and incompetence.
Poland received hundreds of billions of dollars in EU subsidies and transfers. Not a fair comparison. Even still today they are receiving this transfer of wealth from net contributor countries in the EU (there's another good reason EU became unpopular in net contributor countries like the UK and the Netherlands):
Energy subsidies from Russia to the Ukraine are estimated at hundreds of billions of dollars since 1991. The Ukraine has been well subsidized since independence. What they have been desperately lacking is governance.
Feb 25, 2018 | www.nakedcapitalism.com
YankeeFrank , February 25, 2018 at 7:38 amSkip Intro , February 25, 2018 at 11:03 am
Bill mentions the brain drain from Latvia, but I seem to recall a quite massive general emigration from the country during austerity, which also helped to "reduce unemployment" as well. The neoliberal "methodology" for "showing economic success" is moral and economic bankruptcy masquerading as "science". And wow. So we have Latvia to thank for the coming nuclear holocaust as well. A true neoliberal market miracle.
Lambert's two principles of neoliberalism are once again brought to mind:
#1 Because markets.
#2 Go die.The Rev Kev , February 25, 2018 at 8:40 am
All those 'excess' workers who left were helping keep wages low in the EU
In the sense that Latvia's future productivity is sacrificed for short-term benefits on the books, it starts to look like another asset-stripping scheme, and the costs are borne by workers in the EU.DJG , February 25, 2018 at 9:11 am
This is not the first time that Latvia has appeared on NC ( https://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2013/01/latvias-economic-disaster-as-a-neoliberal-success-story-a-model-for-europe-and-the-us.html ) and probably won't be the last. What is it about neoliberalism that that seems to have corruption as part of its DNA?
Latvia already has one of the highest levels of poverty and income inequality in the EU and its population has dropped by about a fifth in the past 18 years which is a bit of a record considering that there was no war, that is, unless you count the neoliberal war on people. Some moved to the capital Riga but most bailed out of the country altogether and are not coming back. You can find whole blocks of empty buildings in some towns.
But don't worry. The Latvians are on the case. The head of the Latvian Central Bank detained for extortion and the Latvian Ministry of Defense both blame, you guessed it, Russia!
Lambert's two principles of neoliberalism may have to be updated. He already has
#1 Because markets.
#2 Go die.
He may have to modify the second one to say
#2 Go die or get the hell outta Dodge.edmondo , February 25, 2018 at 10:53 am
Now I may be prejudiced because the Gs came from deepest darkest Lithuania–and we're talking out in the endless woods in a village along a lake.
When people talk about population decline in Latvia, you are talking about part of the corruption. The native Latvians wanted a way of getting rid of the Russian population, many of whom are considered immigrants. So dropping 20 percent of the population means throwing out the Russians. When your "population policy " is based on something like that, you can image what the country's economic policies are like.
In contrast–although Lithuania, too, has lost some 10 – 15 percent of its population since restored independence–the Lithuanians came to terms, imperfect terms, with their smaller Polish and Russian minorities. Nevertheless, the Lithuanians didn't go whole-hog free-market fundamentalism. And when a recent president was found to be corrupt, they impeached him and threw him out.
So you have different models for how to survive as a Baltic State. Latvia has made a mess of its "model."Altandmain , February 25, 2018 at 12:15 pm
"Now of course that's still in a land where they had really severely repressed wages for the working class and for middle class, and continued to tolerate a fair degree of unemployment and underemployment for folks, as well. So, yeah it works really well for the oligarchs. And they do employ people. The unemployment rate drops, but the country invariably becomes extremely corrupt."
Was he still talking about Latvia or did he switch over to the USA?Massinissa , February 25, 2018 at 12:27 pm
There is a strong correlation between inequality and corruption.
Furthermore, in the medium term there is a causal relationship:
This would suggest that inflicting austerity on a population, which worsens inequality, will set the precedent for corruption in the future.Eustache De Saint Pierre , February 25, 2018 at 12:42 pm
Half a decade ago when Latvia was considered a success story for neoliberal austerity, one animator made this great satire video making fun of how farcical it was to consider it such.
Latvia also being part of that running sore which involves according to the US state department's last global estimate, about 800,000 to a million victims per annum of people trafficking. Of which around 80% are female, with a not stated amount being children, used for both labour & sexual purposes.
I suppose that it comes as little surprise that the 2 main flows of these commodities is from East to West & South to North.
Feb 17, 2018 | isreview.org
Haiti after the quake
By Ashley Smith Issue #70 : Features
THE EARTHQUAKE that shook Haiti's capital Port-au-Prince on January 12 is one of the worst disasters in human history. The quake flattened houses, hotels, and government buildings, including the National Palace and UN headquarters. By some estimates, 60 percent of Port-au-Prince's buildings collapsed. Even more damage struck some of the smaller towns near the capital like Leogane and Jacmel. At least 230,000 people were left dead, 300,000 in need of medical attention, 1.5 million homeless, and over 2 million bereft of food and water.
The Obama administration reacted immediately. "I have directed my administration to respond with a swift, coordinated, and aggressive effort to save lives," Obama told the nation in a speech he delivered the day after the quake. "The people of Haiti will have the full support of the United States in the urgent effort to rescue those trapped beneath the rubble, and to deliver the humanitarian relief -- the food, water, and medicine -- that Haitians will need in the coming days. In that effort, our government, especially USAID and the Departments of State and Defense are working closely together and with our partners in Haiti, the region, and around the world." 1
This seemed a far cry from the reaction of the Bush administration to Hurricane Katrina, where tens of thousands of the city's poor, mostly Black, residents were left stranded and without help as Bush sent troops and Blackwater paramilitaries to police the city. The lack of a prompt humanitarian response prompted rap artist Kanye West to famously state, "George Bush doesn't care about Black people."
Yet while Obama said all the right things, the gap between his words and deeds has been immense. When all is said and done, the Haitian relief effort looks eerily like a replay of Katrina, only on a larger scale. A month into the disaster, the U.S. and UN were managing to feed only 1 million people, leaving more than a million people without relief aid. 2 Instead of mobilizing to provide water, food, and housing for the victims, the U.S. focused on occupying the country with 20,000 U.S. troops and surrounding it with a flotilla of U.S. Navy and Coast Guard ships.
This military effort actually impeded the delivery of urgent aid. In an op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal entitled "Haiti: Obama's Katrina," three doctors who volunteered to provide emergency services wrote, "Four years ago the initial medical response to Hurricane Katrina was ill equipped, understaffed, poorly coordinated and delayed. Criticism of the paltry federal efforts was immediate and fierce. Unfortunately, the response to the latest international disaster in Haiti has been no better, compounding the catastrophe." After they describe the horrific conditions in Haiti's hospitals, the doctors continue, "The U.S. response to the earthquake should be considered an embarrassment. Our operation received virtually no support from any branch of the U.S. government, including the State Department . Later, as we were leaving Haiti, we were appalled to see warehouse-size quantities of unused medicines, food and other supplies at the airport, surrounded by hundreds of U.S. and international soldiers standing around aimlessly." 3
The U.S. government and media have covered up these realities with puff pieces about the supposed success of U.S. relief efforts. They have also wrongly portrayed this catastrophe as simply a natural disaster, ignoring the historical and social causes of Haiti's poverty -- principally the imperialist stranglehold over the nation -- that exacerbated the impact of the earthquake.
If the military flotilla is not there to deliver aid, why is it there? The Obama administration has used the cover of humanitarian aid to occupy the country in pursuit of several goals. First and foremost, after disastrous wars that have discredited U.S. interventionism, Obama hopes through the operation in Haiti to win back domestic support for military intervention. What better means to do that than to present a military invasion and occupation as a humanitarian relief effort?
With a flotilla of ships surrounding the country, the U.S. also aims to repatriate desperate Haitians and prevent a wave of refugees reaching Florida. Through this assertion of power, the U.S. aims also to reassert its dominance in the Caribbean and Latin America over regional rivals like Venezuela and international ones like China. Finally, the U.S. intends to impose a traditional neoliberal economic program on Haiti itself in the interest of U.S. multinational corporations and the Haitian ruling class.
Not just a natural disaster
Most of the media reported the earthquake as a natural disaster. While this is no doubt true, that is only part of the story. Certainly, there was talk of Haiti being the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, with over 80 percent of its population making about $2 a day. Media acknowledged that the Haitian state was completely unprepared and unable to respond to the crisis not only in Port-au-Prince, but throughout the country. However, the reason for these conditions -- the historical context -- is left out. The story of Haiti's poverty is merely an excuse to further justify why Haiti needs help from the United States, even though the "help" Haiti has received from the U.S. and other world powers is precisely the reason for Haiti's extreme poverty.
Some conservative commentators blamed Haitians for their situation. Pat Robertson on The 700 Club claimed that the disaster was the result of a pact that Haitians made with the devil during their revolution from 1791 to 1804. The devil was merely taking his revenge on Haitians more than 200 years later. 4 In a more polite, but no less racist manner, David Brooks argued that the root cause of the social problems in Haiti was their "progress-resistant" culture. He claimed,
There is the influence of the voodoo religion, which spreads the message that life is capricious and planning futile. There are high levels of social mistrust. Responsibility is often not internalized. Child-rearing practices often involve neglect in the early years and harsh retribution when kids hit 9 or 10. We're all supposed to politely respect each other's cultures. But some cultures are more progress-resistant than others, and a horrible tragedy was just exacerbated by one of them. 5
These are extreme versions of a dominant media story that essentially blames the victims of the earthquake. None of this answers the real questions. Why are the majority of Haitians so poor? Why according to the mayor of Port-au-Prince, were 60 percent of the buildings unsafe in normal conditions? Why is there no building regulation in a city that sits on a fault line? Why was the Haitian state so weak and disorganized before and after the earthquake? To answer these questions, we must delve into Haiti's history.
European slavery, revolution, and U.S. domination
The answer lies in Haiti's history of European conquest, slavery, resistance, and U.S. imperial domination. At every step, instead of aiding the Haitian majority, the U.S. has manipulated the country's politics and exploited its poverty in pursuit of profit, and used it as a pawn in its competition with regional and international rivals. In doing so the U.S. has reduced Haiti to abject poverty and incapacitated its government to manage the society and the current crisis. This history, a second and unnatural fault line, interacted with the natural one to make the earthquake so devastating.
Columbus set off the first tremors when he landed on the island he called Hispaniola in 1492. He proceeded to enslave the Taino natives, whose population was estimated to be more than half a million. The combination of European disease, massacre, and brutal exploitation led to the genocide of the native population. Spain ceded the western section of the island in 1697 to France, which renamed it San Domingue. Spain remained in control of the eastern section of the island, Santo Domingo, which would become the Dominican Republic. French merchants and planters turned their colony into a vast slave plantation and slaves from Africa replaced Indians and white indentured servants. The colony was a killing field where slaves were literally worked to death -- half the African slaves who arrived died within a few years. But it was an enormously profitable one. San Domingue was the richest colony in the new world; the slave plantations produced half of the world's coffee, 40 percent of its sugar, as well as a host of other commodities. 6
In 1791, Toussaint L'Ouverture, a literate freed slave, led the world's first successful slave revolution. Toussaint defeated the three great empires of the age -- France, Spain, and England -- which all attempted to defeat the great slave army. During the struggle, the French managed to kidnap Toussaint and jail him in France, where he died. His second-in-command, Jean-Jacques Dessalines, led the final victory and established the new nation of Haiti in 1804.
Haiti's very existence was a threat to all the empires and their colonies. They all lived off profits from plantation slavery. So the great powers quarantined the country, attempting to prevent the spread of slave revolution. France finally recognized Haiti in 1824, but on the condition that it pay reparations to France for the loss of its property -- its slaves. In today's terms this sum amounted to $21 billion. Thus France shackled Haiti with debt at its birth that it did not finish repaying until 1947, fundamentally distorting the nation's development. 7
Under the eagle
The U.S. was one of the last powers to recognize Haiti, finally doing so in 1862. It became interested in Haiti not to help it, but instead to plunder it. In the late nineteenth century the U.S. became an imperialist power, extending its talons to snatch control of the Caribbean, Latin America, and the Pacific from potential rivals like Spain, Britain, and Germany. The U.S. launched its imperial conquest under the guise of liberating Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines from Spain. Puerto Rico and the Philippines became U.S. colonies -- U.S. marines killed hundreds of thousands of Filipinos to conquer the island -- while Cuba became a colony in all but name. The U.S. then policed the Caribbean as if it were an American lake. The number of occupations and invasions over the following decades is too many to list.
A leader of this conquest was Major General Smedley Butler, who became one of the most decorated marines in history. After he turned against U.S. imperialism later in life, he summed up his experience:
I spent thirty-three years and four months in active military service as a member of this country's most agile military force, the Marine Corps . And during that period, I spent most of my time being a high-class muscle-man for Big Business, for Wall Street and for the Bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism . I helped make Mexico, especially Tampico, safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefits of Wall Street. The record of racketeering is long. I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers in 1909–1912 . I brought light to the Dominican Republic for American sugar interests in 1916. In China I helped to see to it that Standard Oil went its way unmolested. During those years, I had, as the boys in the back room would say, a swell racket. Looking back on it, I feel that I could have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents. 8
The U.S. saw Haiti as one of the key sites to establish client governments to protect U.S. interests in the Caribbean. 9 In 1915 the U.S. used the pretext of political turmoil in Haiti to invade the country and occupy it until 1934. The U.S. plundered the island, forced it to repay its debts to the U.S., and established involuntary corvee gang labor to build roads. United States corporations, hoping to take advantage of Haiti's cheap labor, gained control of 266,000 acres of Haitian land, displacing thousands of Haitian peasants. Haitians rose up against this exploitation in a mass liberation movement, the Cacos Rebellion, led by Charlemagne Peralte. The U.S. slaughtered thousands of resistance fighters, crucifying Peralte in Port-au-Prince.
The U.S. also established one of the most reactionary institutions in Haitian society, the Haitian National Army. The U.S. designed that army not to fight foreign wars but to repress the country's peasant masses.
The neoliberal "plan of death"
While the U.S. ended its occupation of Haiti -- prompted in part by a renewed wave of protests and strikes by workers and students -- it continued to intervene in the country's politics and economics with devastating consequences. From 1957 to 1986, the U.S. supported the father-son dictatorship of Francois "Papa Doc" Duvalier and Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier. The Duvaliers' dictatorship maintained power through the army and a vast network of death squads called the Tonton Macoutes. The U.S. backed them as a counterweight to Fidel Castro who had aligned Cuba with Russia in the Cold War struggle for Latin America and the Caribbean. Most observers believe that Papa Doc Duvalier's Macoutes killed tens of thousands. 10 The Duvaliers' economic vision for Haiti -- one that has continued to motivate U.S. plans for Haiti -- was to establish Haiti as low-tax, low-wage, non-union offshore assembly site for U.S. corporations.
Though half of Haitians lived in dire poverty, Haiti until the mid–1980s was self-sufficient in the production of rice, its most important staple. All this changed with the imposition of neoliberal policies, pushed by the United States, that required Haiti to slash tariffs, privatize state-owned industries, and cut the state's agricultural budget. Haitian activists would come to call it a "plan of death."
President Reagan pushed this plan as part of his Caribbean Basin Initiative that aimed to open up the area to U.S. corporations and U.S. agricultural products. Baby Doc opened up the Haitian market to a wave of U.S. agribusiness exports like rice and wheat, which are heavily subsidized. The Haitian peasants were simply unable to compete with these cheap, subsidized imports, and Haiti's rural economy gradually collapsed. Hundreds of thousands of peasants abandoned the countryside for the cities to seek some kind of employment. Deprived of their livelihood, peasants turned to cutting down trees to make charcoal for cooking fuel, leading to the massive deforestation of the country, and the further destruction of Haiti's already depleted soil. 11 As a result, Port-au-Prince, which had been a small town of 50,000 in the 1950s, exploded in size to nearly 800,000 in the 1980s and well over 2 million today. 12
Reagan and Baby Doc claimed that they would absorb these dislocated peasants into an enlarged sweatshop industry. But the various factories in the export processing zones only created about 60,000 jobs. As a result, the masses in Port-au-Prince gathered in slums, left to survive on remittances from relatives who had fled abroad and income scraped together in a highly unstable informal economy.
Finally, the U.S. tried to subject Haiti to the same tourist industry that swept the rest of the Caribbean. Baby Doc cut deals with Club Med and various hotel chains to offer the country's beaches for tourism. Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton first came to Haiti on their honeymoon as part of the jet set that Baby Doc welcomed into the swank resorts on the island. It would not be the last time the Clintons played around in Haiti.
Baby Doc took out $1.9 billion in loans from the U.S., other powers, and international financial institutions to bankroll this neoliberal "reform" of the country. 13 Meanwhile, Haitians suffered a calamitous drop in their standard of living; during the 1980s, absolute poverty increased by 60 percent -- from 50 to 80 percent of the population. 14 The dictator and his family joined the American and Haitian ruling class to party and profit at the expense of Haitian peasants, workers, and the urban poor.
Killing social reform
Peasants, workers, and the urban poor rose up against Baby Doc in opposition to this social catastrophe in a tremendous social movement called Lavalas (the Creole word for a cleansing flood). A young Catholic priest and advocate of liberation theology, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, became the spokesperson of the struggle. In 1986, Lavalas succeeded in driving Baby Doc from power. The U.S. whisked him away into exile in France along with $505 million stolen from the country. 15 Duvalier left behind a shattered country, shackled again with the odious debt accrued by a dictator to finance the neoliberal disaster.
Under pressure from the movement -- but also to stem the tide of impoverished Haitian refugees pouring out of the country -- the U.S. and Haitian governments finally agreed to hold elections in 1990. The U.S. spent $36 million to try to get their candidate, a former World Bank employee, elected. He received only 14 percent of the vote. Aristide defeated fourteen rivals, winning two-thirds of the vote, on a platform of extensive popular social reforms. The U.S. and the Haitian ruling class literally saw red. They thought that, in the words of a U.S. embassy official in Port-au-Prince, a "Marxist maniac" had been elected to the Haitian government. 16 President George Bush Sr. backed a military coup against Aristide in 1991 and tacitly backed the brutal regime that ruled Haiti from 1991 to 1994.
The military massacred thousands of Lavalas activists and drove 38,000 more out of the country. Bush Sr. and his successor President Bill Clinton repatriated most of these refugees and jailed others in Krome Detention Center in Florida and Guantánamo in Cuba. After an international outcry, the U.S. opted for a face-saving intervention to restore Aristide to power in 1994, but on the condition that he agree to the neoliberal plan of death. Aristide signed on to the deal but resisted its full implementation during his remaining two years in office. He did abolish the Haitian military in 1995 -- a great victory for the movement -- and implemented some reforms, but it was far from what he had promised during the struggle against Duvalier. "The author of a text entitled 'Capitalism is a Mortal Sin,'" wrote Paul Farmer at the time,
now meets regularly with representatives of the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and AID [U.S. Agency for International Development]. He was once the priest of the poor; now he's president of a beleaguered nation, run into the ground by a vicious military and business elite and by their friends abroad. Aristide finds himself most indebted to the very people and institutions he once denounced from the pulpit. 17
Aristide's Lavalas ally and successor, René Préval, implemented much of the U.S. neoliberal agenda during his term from 1996 to 2000. 18
Aristide would again run for and win the presidency in 2000, to the great irritation of Clinton and then-President George W. Bush. In his second term, Aristide implemented reforms such as raising the minimum wage and building schools. He also began to demand that France refund the $21 billion that it forced Haiti to pay from 1824 to 1947. 19 At the same time, however, Aristide backed new sweatshop developments in Ounaminthe and agreed to other neoliberal measures. 20 But the U.S. was not appeased and France was outraged.
Another coup and U.S. occupation
The U.S., France, and Canada used the pretext of charges that Aristide manipulated the parliamentary elections, something they usually tolerate with their own allies, to justify a destabilization campaign against Aristide and yet another coup. Bush, of course, had no ground to stand on as he himself had stolen the 2000 U.S. presidential election. Nevertheless, the U.S., Canada, and France imposed economic sanctions, mounted a vast propaganda campaign against Aristide, backed the ruling-class political opposition in the Group of 184, and aided the right-wing death squads. Finally, in 2004, as the death squads swept through the country, the U.S. kidnapped Aristide, whisked him out of the country to temporary exile in the Central African Republic and to final exile in South Africa. Thus, on the two hundredth anniversary of its declaration of independence, Haiti was occupied by the U.S., yet again.
Soon the U.S. delegated the occupation to the UN and its 9,000 mostly Brazilian troops, who continue to patrol the country to this day. This UN force, MINUSTAH, protected the U.S.-installed puppet regime headed up Gérard Latortue who they brought out of retirement from Boca Raton, Florida. The coup regime was utterly corrupt and brutal. With its death squad allies, the regime conducted a terror against the remnants of the social movements and Aristide's party, Fanmi Lavalas. The combination of death squad and UN repression killed an estimated 3,000 people. 21 The UN troops either joined the slaughter or stood aside while repression swept the island. 22
While the U.S. and UN allowed elections in 2006, they banned Aristide's party, the most popular party in the country. Aristide's former ally, René Préval, again won the presidency, but by this time he had become a servant for the U.S. political and economic agenda in Haiti. For example, Préval banned Fanmi Lavalas from running in elections and refused to sign a bill passed in the parliament to raise the minimum wage. 23 In fact, the real power was no longer in the hands of the Haitian government. The U.S.- backed UN occupation rules the country in colonial style, dictating policy to the Haitian government.
The occupation has completely failed to develop the country. It has done nothing to improve living conditions for Haitians, to rebuild the country's ravaged infrastructure, or to reforest the countryside. Before the earthquake, two rounds of natural disasters swept Haiti and exposed the U.S. and UN's callous neglect of the country. Hurricanes hit in 2004 and 2008, killing thousands. 24 The pattern of impoverishment, deforestation, and degradation of the country's infrastructure, which has accelerated in recent years, has rendered natural disasters in Haiti far more devastating than anywhere else. In what is perhaps the worst exposure of the result of U.S. and UN refusal to improve conditions in Haiti, the food crisis in Haiti spiraled out of control on their watch. Even before the food crisis in 2008, the urban poor were reduced to eating mud cakes flavored with salt as a regular meal. When capitalists speculated on the international food market, they drove up the prices of Haiti's imported staples, especially rice. In response Haitians rioted, only to be repressed by the UN troops. 25
Imposing a new plan of death on Haiti
During the UN occupation, the U.S. imposed the same neoliberal economic plan on Haiti in the interests of multinational capital and the Haitian ruling class. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appointed Bill Clinton as special envoy to Haiti in 2009 and tasked him with revitalizing the country's economy. Clinton developed a new version of the plan of death along with Oxford economics professor and former research director for the World Bank, Paul Collier. Collier outlined their program in his paper, "Haiti: From natural catastrophe to economic security." 26 It advocated investment in the tourist industry, redevelopment of the sweatshop industry in cities, export-oriented mango plantations in the countryside, and construction of infrastructure to service that development.
As Polly Pattullo documents in Last Resorts: The Cost of Tourism in the Caribbean , the tourist industry is largely controlled by U.S. multinational corporations. She quotes one critic of the tourist industry who argues, "When a third world economy uses tourism as a development strategy, it becomes enmeshed in a global system over which it has little control. The international tourism industry is a product of metropolitan capitalist enterprise. The superior entrepreneurial skills, resources and commercial power of metropolitan companies enable them to dominate many third world tourist destinations." 27
Clinton has orchestrated a plan for turning the north of Haiti into a tourist playground, as far away as possible from the teeming slums of Port-au-Prince. He lured Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines into investing $55 million to build a pier along the coastline of Labadee, which it has leased until 2050. From there, Haiti's tourist industry hopes to lead expeditions to the mountaintop fortress Citadelle and the Palace of Sans-Souci, both built by Henri Christophe, one of the leaders of Haiti's slave revolution. 28
For the cities, Collier promotes sweatshop development. Without a hint of shame, he notes, "Due to its poverty and relatively unregulated labor market, Haiti has labor costs that are fully competitive with China, which is the global benchmark. Haitian labor is not only cheap it is of good quality. Indeed, because the garments industry used to be much larger than it is currently, there is a substantial pool of experienced labor." 29 Given the abolition of tariffs on many Haitian exports to the U.S., Haiti is primed, according to Collier, for a new sweatshop boom.
But this is no sustainable development plan in the interests of Haitian workers. At best, Collier promises 150,000 or so jobs. As anthropologist Mark Shuller argues, "subcontracted, low-wage factory work does not contribute much to the economy besides jobs. Being exempt from taxes, it does not contribute to the financing of Haiti's social services." 30 Moreover these jobs themselves do not even pay enough to support life -- they pay for transport and lunch at about $1.60 a day. The U.S. will want to keep these wages low, since that is the profitable basis for the investment.
For the peasant majority in the country, Clinton and Collier advocate the construction of vast new mango plantations. According to them, such new plantations will both create an export crop and aid the reforestation of the country. While it may create jobs for poor peasants, such plantations will not rebuild the agricultural infrastructure of the country so that it can return to the self-sufficient food system it had before the 1980s. As TransAfrica founder Randall Robinson told Democracy Now! , "That isn't the kind of investment that Haiti needs. It needs capital investment. It needs investment so that it can be self-sufficient. It needs investment so that it can feed itself." 31 Such self-sufficiency runs against the grain of U.S. policy to control the international food market with its subsidized crops.
Collier finally argues for investment in infrastructure -- airports, seaports, and roads -- not so much to meet people's needs as to service these new investments in tourism, sweatshops, and plantations. As a result, Collier's plan will actually increase infrastructural inequities; businesses will get what they need to export their products, while the Haitian masses' infrastructural needs, like navigable roads, will be left unaddressed. Even worse, Collier advocates increased privatization of Haiti's infrastructure, especially the port and the electrical system.
It is not incidental that Collier is also the author of The Bottom Billion , 32 a book that calls for outside intervention by wealthy nations such as the United States into what he calls "post-conflict" poor nations, combining targeted aid and economic restructuring under long-term military occupation. In a modern recasting of the old colonialist "civilizing mission," this is meant to lift these nations out of a vicious cycle of violence and poverty.
On his whirlwind tour of the country in 2009, Bill Clinton promised investors that Haiti was open for business with Aristide and Lavalas out of the way and the U.S. and UN in effective control of the country. "Your political risk in Haiti" he declared at a press conference "is lower than it has ever been in my lifetime." 33
Failing to deliver relief to victims
In the aftermath of the earthquake, the press has cooperated with the Obama administration in giving the impression that the U.S. military has been busy delivering aid to desperate Haitians. The facts don't bear this out. To begin with, Obama's promise of $100 million in aid to the country is a pittance -- less than the winnings of a Kentucky couple in a recent Powerball lottery. 34 It is a paltry amount compared to the hundreds of billions that the U.S. shelled out to American banks and the $3 trillion the U.S. will have expended on the Iraq War alone.
There were early warning signs that this humanitarian mission was not all it was cracked up to be. Obama's decision to appoint former presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton to oversee the collection of donations through the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund displays incredible callousness toward the Haitian masses. Clinton imposed the plan of death on Lavalas. Bush let New Orleans get washed out to sea and backed the 2004 coup that overthrew Aristide. Appointing Bush is like putting Nero in charge of the fire department.
Aid was slow to arrive, and what did turn up was inadequate. Amid a crisis where the first forty-eight hours are decisive in saving people's lives, the U.S. and UN failed to come anywhere near addressing the needs of the 3 million people impacted by the earthquake. Every minute that aid was delayed meant more people died from starvation, dehydration, injury, and disease. It also meant that the hospitals and doctors desperately trying to help the victims were left stranded without the basics to heal the injured.
As Dr. Evan Lyon of Partners in Health, speaking from Port-au-Prince's main hospital just as heavily-armed U.S. troops were arriving, told Democracy Now! ,
In terms of supplies, in terms of surgeons, in terms of aid relief, the response has been incredibly slow. There are teams of surgeons that have been sent to places that were, quote, "more secure," that have ten or twenty doctors and ten patients. We have a thousand people on this campus that are triaged and ready for surgery, but we only have four working ORs without anesthesia and without pain medications. And we're still struggling to get ourselves up to twenty-four-hour care. 35
In the week after the quake, Partners in Health estimated as many as 20,000 Haitians were dying daily from lack of surgery. 36
The U.S. and UN used all sorts of technical alibis to justify the delay in meeting people's needs. They complained that the damage done to Haiti's airport, seaport, and roads impeded delivery of doctors, nurses, food, water, and rescue teams. Such claims are unconvincing. Clearly the means exist to deliver aid quickly to a country only 700 miles away from Miami, Florida, and only 156 miles from a fully functional international airport in the Dominican Republic. Other countries had no difficulty sending planes of aid and volunteers. China, from half way around the world, got a plane of aid to Haiti earlier than the United States. Iceland sent a rescue team within forty-eight hours of the quake. Cuba sent dozens of doctors to join the several hundred doctors already working the country.
This failure of the U.S. to respond produced a chorus of denunciations from relief experts. One official from the Italian government, Guido Bertolaso, who was acclaimed for his successful handling of the April 2009 earthquake in Italy, denounced the U.S. effort as a "pathetic failure." He declared, "The Americans are extraordinary but when you are facing a situation in chaos they tend to confuse military intervention with emergency aid, which cannot be entrusted to armed forces. It's truly a powerful show of force but it's completely out of touch with reality." 37
Guns over aid
As with Katrina, Obama prioritized the deployment of the U.S. military over provision of aid. He sent Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to Haiti right away to get President Préval to secure emergency powers. "The decree would give the government an enormous amount of authority, which in practice they would delegate to us," she stated. 38 The U.S. has taken effective control of Haiti. It has secured control of the airport and seaport and deployed 20,000 U.S. troops to bolster the enlarged UN force of 12,500 already in the country. Thus, for the fourth time since 1915, Haiti is under a U.S. occupation.
How did the U.S. justify the fact that six days into the relief effort only a trickle of aid had gotten through to those who needed it? The U.S. government claimed that aid could not be delivered properly until security was first established. When asked why the U.S. hadn't used its C-130 transport planes to drop supplies in Port-au-Prince, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said, "Air drops will simply lead to riots." 39 However, precisely the opposite is the case; people will riot because they lack food and water.
In lockstep, the corporate media's coverage shifted from its initial sympathy with victims of the disaster to churning out scare stories. "Marauding looters emptied wrecked shops and tens of thousands of survivors waited desperately for food and medical care," Reuters claimed. "Hundreds of scavengers and looters swarmed over wrecked stores in downtown Port-au-Prince, seizing goods and fighting among themselves." 40
These scare stories in turn became an excuse for not delivering aid. Writer Nelson Valdes reported,
The United Nations and the U.S. authorities on the ground are telling those who directly want to deliver help not to do so because they might be attacked by "hungry mobs." Two cargo planes from Doctors Without Borders have been forced to land in the Dominican Republic because the shipments have to be accompanied within Port-au-Prince by U.S. military escorts, according to the U.S. command. 41
The scare stories led relief workers and military personnel to treat Haitians in a dehumanizing fashion. Democracy Now!'s Amy Goodman reported an incident where an aid helicopter refused to distribute food on the ground and instead dropped it on people. An angry Haitian compared the incident to "throwing bones to dogs." 42
Many non-governmental organizations (NGOs), because of their close relation with the U.S., have adopted a paranoid obsession with security to the detriment of providing relief. Ecologist and human rights activist Sasha Kramer reported on Counterpunch,
One friend showed me the map used by all of the larger NGOs where Port-au-Prince is divided into security zones, yellow, orange, red. Red zones are restricted, in the orange zones all of the car windows must be rolled up and they cannot be visited past certain times of the day. Even in the yellow zone aid workers are often not permitted to walk through the streets and spend much of their time riding through the city from one office to another in organizational vehicles. The creation of these security zones has been like the building of a wall, a wall reinforced by language barriers and fear rather than iron rods, a wall that, unlike many of the buildings in Port-au-Prince, did not crumble during the earthquake. Fear, much like violence, is self-perpetuating. When aid workers enter communities radiating fear it is offensive, the perceived disinterest in communicating with the poor majority is offensive, driving through impoverished communities with windows rolled up and armed security guards is offensive . Despite the good intentions of the many aid workers swarming around the UN base, much of the aid coming through the larger organizations is still blocked in storage, waiting for the required UN and U.S. military escorts that are seen as essential for distribution, meanwhile people in the camps are suffering and their tolerance is waning. 43
Yet this disastrous "beware of the Haitian people" line is simply not borne out by reports coming from Haiti. "There are no security issues," argues Dr. Lyon:
I've been with my Haitian colleagues. I'm staying at a friend's house in Port-au-Prince. We're working for the Ministry of Public Health for the direction of this hospital as volunteers. But I'm living and moving with friends. We've been circulating throughout the city until 2:00 and 3:00 in the morning every night, evacuating patients, moving materials. There's no UN guards. There's no U.S. military presence. There's no Haitian police presence. And there's also no violence. There is no insecurity. 44
As the real nature of the U.S. operation became clear, an array of forces criticized the U.S. for imposing an occupation, not supplying relief. Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez rightly declared on his weekly television show, "Marines armed as if they were going to war. There is not a shortage of guns there, my God. Doctors, medicine, fuel, field hospitals -- that's what the United States should send. They are occupying Haiti undercover." 45
The U.S. occupation actually prevented relief efforts. Once the U.S. was in charge of the airport it prioritized military flights over relief flights. Jarry Emmanuel, the air logistics officer for the World Food Program, complained, "There are 200 flights going in and out every day, which is an incredible amount for a country like Haiti. But most of those flights are for the United States military. Their priorities are to secure the country." 46
Hillary Clinton herself brought relief missions to a halt when she flew into Port-au-Prince to seize emergency powers from Préval. The U.S. military shut the airport down for three hours, preventing the desperately needed delivery of aid. Outraged, Alain Joyandet, the French Cooperation Minister, called on the UN to investigate America's dominant role in the relief effort and protested: "This is about helping Haiti, not occupying it." 47
The chorus of complaints further escalated not only from governments but also from aid organizations. Richard Seymour reports that,
Since the arrival of the troops, however, several aid missions have been prevented from arriving at the airport in Port-au-Prince that the U.S. has commandeered. France and the Caribbean Community have both made their complaints public, as has Médecins Sans Frontières [MSF] on five separate occasions. UN World Food Program flights were also turned away on two consecutive days. Benoit Leduc, MSF's operations manager in Port-au-Prince, complained that U.S. military flights were being prioritized over aid flights. 48
The U.S. military has even turned back masses of health care workers who wanted to volunteer to provide needed medical care in Haiti. The National Nurses Union organized an emergency conference call to mobilize thousands of nurses to go to Haiti. More than 1,800 nurses called in and they proceeded to recruit 11,000 others to the project. Initially the U.S. military said that it would accept them, but then, inexplicably, they reversed themselves and told them that the U.S. had plenty of military personnel to address the health care disaster in Haiti. Nothing could be further from the truth. 49
The U.S. military, Florida's state government, and the Obama administration also colluded in one of the worst examples of the callous treatment of Haitian victims. They refused to allow landing of planes loaded with injured people in desperate need of medical treatment. The Obama administration and Florida's governor were locked in a battle over who would pay for the cost of the medical care. So for five days, the U.S. let injured people suffer in Haiti because budget battles mattered more than people's lives. 50
Al Jazeera captured the nature of the U.S. and UN military occupation in a January 17 report:
Most Haitians here have seen little humanitarian aid so far. What they have seen is guns, and lots of them. Armored personnel carriers cruise the streets. UN soldiers aren't here to help pull people out of the rubble. They're here, they say, to enforce the law. This is what much of the UN presence actually looks like on the streets of Port-au-Prince: men in uniform, racing around in vehicles, carrying guns. At the entrance to the city's airport where most of the aid is coming in, there is anger and frustration. Much-needed supplies of water and food are inside, and Haitians are locked out. "These weapons they bring," [an unidentified Haitian says], "they are instruments of death. We don't want them; we don't need them. We are a traumatized people. What we want from the international community is technical help. Action, not words." 51
Problems with the NGOs
Haiti has approximately 10,000 NGOs operating within its borders, one of the highest numbers per capita in the world. The international NGOs are unaccountable to either the Haitian state or Haitian population. So the aid funneled through them further weakens what little hold Haitians have on their own society. These NGOs have taken deep hold in Haiti at the very same time that the conditions in the country have gone from bad to apocalyptic.
Amid this crisis, some of the NGOs and their employees have tried valiantly to fill the vacuum left by the U.S. and UN. But most of them did not have real forces inside the country to respond to the disaster. The Red Cross, for example, only had 15 employees on the ground, but has received the bulk of donated money -- more than $200 million -- from people around the world. Add to this the reluctance of the big NGOs to act without "security," as mentioned above.
Moreover, as the British medical journal The Lancet argues, many of the international NGOs are engaged in a fierce battle for funds and have allowed that competition to distort their provision of food, water, medical aid, and services amidst the crisis. After calling aid an "industry in its own right," the Lancet noted that NGOs are
jostling for position, each claiming that they are doing the most for earthquake survivors. Some agencies even claim that they are "spearheading" the relief effort. In fact, as we only too clearly see, the situation in Haiti is chaotic, devastating, and anything but coordinated. Polluted by the internal power politics and the unsavory characteristics seen in many big corporations, large aid agencies can be obsessed with raising money through their own appeal efforts. Media coverage as an end in itself is too often an aim of their activities. Marketing and branding have too high a profile. Perhaps worst of all, relief efforts in the field are sometimes competitive with little collaboration between agencies, including smaller, grass-roots charities that may have better networks in affected countries and so are well placed to immediately implement emergency relief. 52
Repatriating and jailing refugees
As Haitians' needs continued unmet, the U.S. occupation devolved into policing the disaster, including preventing the flight of refugees from Haiti. It is true that activists finally compelled Obama to grant Haitians Temporary Protected Status (TPS). Obama's decision delayed the deportation of 30,000 Haitians and will make TPS available to 100,000 to 200,000 more. These provisions, however, have strict limitations.
First of all, the U.S. plans to exclude victims of the earthquake, offering TPS only to those who arrived in the U.S. without legal documents before January 12. Those who quality must prove they are indigent and at the very same time pay $470 in application fees. 53 Those Haitians who are granted TPS will only be allowed to stay in the U.S. for eighteen months before they must return to Haiti. If they do qualify for the program they will become known to the authorities and thus make themselves more vulnerable to repatriation. Moreover, given the scale of destruction in Port-au-Prince, there is no way that the city or country will be in better condition in a year and a half. So if the U.S. enforces this eighteen-month limitation, it will return Haitians to an ongoing disaster area.
To enforce the bar on Haitians coming to the U.S., a flotilla of military vessels has surrounded the country. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano tried to spin this in humanitarian terms. "At this moment of tragedy in Haiti," she lectured, "it is tempting for people suffering in the aftermath of the earthquake to seek refuge elsewhere, but attempting to leave Haiti now will only bring more hardship to the Haitian people and nation." 54 In a far more blunt statement of the actual policy, Coast Guard Lieutenant Commander Chris O'Neil, in charge of Operation Vigilant Sentry declared, "The goal is to interdict them at sea and repatriate them." 55
The U.S. made sure to broadcast this threat to Haitians. A U.S. Air Force transport plane spends hours in the air above Haiti every day, not ferrying food and water, but broadcasting a radio statement in Creole from Haiti's ambassador to the U.S., Raymond Joseph. "I'll be honest with you," Joseph says, according to a transcript on the State Department's Web site. "If you think you will reach the U.S. and all the doors will be wide open to you, that's not at all the case. And they will intercept you right on the water, and send you back home where you came from." 56
To prepare for the eventuality that some Haitians may get through the military cordon around Haiti, Obama, like Bush and Clinton before him, has prepared jail space to incarcerate refugees at Krome Detention Center in Florida and at the U.S. military base in Guantánamo, Cuba. 57
Asserting who's boss in Latin America
Days after the quake, the conservative think tank Heritage Foundation posted an article detailing what it considered should be Washington's aims in occupying Haiti. The U.S. military presence, they argued, in addition to preventing "any large scale movements by Haitians to take to the sea to try to enter the U.S. illegally," also "offers opportunities to re-shape Haiti's long-dysfunctional government and economy as well as to improve the public image of the United States in the region." At the same time, it argues, the U.S. military presence could "interrupt the nightly flights of cocaine to Haiti and the Dominican Republic from the Venezuelan coast and counter the ongoing efforts of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez to destabilize the island of Hispaniola." There is no evidence of Venezuelan cocaine flights or efforts to "destabilize" Haiti, but the point is clear: The U.S. sees Haiti as part of an effort to assert more control over the region and contain "unfriendly" regimes. 58
The military response to Haiti's crisis cannot be separated from Washington's regional interests. As Greg Gandin writes in the Nation ,
In recent years, Washington has experienced a fast erosion of its influence in South America, driven by the rise of Brazil, the region's left turn, the growing influence of China and Venezuela's use of oil revenue to promote a multipolar diplomacy. Broad social movements have challenged efforts by US- and Canadian-based companies to expand extractive industries like mining, biofuels, petroleum and logging. 59
Faced with such regional and international competition, the U.S. under Bush and now Obama is angling to launch a counteroffensive. The U.S. tried to topple Chávez in 2002, it succeeded in overthrowing Aristide in 2004, and last year backed the coup against President Zelaya in Honduras. As Grandin reports, the U.S. is actively promoting the right-wing opposition to the various reform socialist governments in the region. It is backing up this political initiative with an expansion of its military bases in the region, particularly in Colombia. "In late October," Grandin writes, "the United States and Colombia signed an agreement granting the Pentagon use of seven military bases, along with an unlimited number of as yet unspecified 'facilities and locations.' They add to Washington's already considerable military presence in Colombia, as well as Central America and the Caribbean." 60 Haiti is thus a stepping-stone for further U.S. interventions in the region.
"Shock doctrine" for Haiti
For Haiti itself, the U.S. is preparing to impose its old neoliberal plan at gunpoint. In The Shock Doctrine , Naomi Klein documents how the U.S. and other imperial powers take advantage of natural and economic disasters to impose free-market plans for the benefit of the American and native capitalists. The U.S., other powers, the IMF, and World Bank had their shock doctrine for Haiti immediately on hand. Hillary Clinton declared, "We have a plan. It was a legitimate plan, it was done in conjunction with other international donors, with the United Nations." 61 This is the Collier Plan, the same old plan of sweatshops, plantations, and tourism.
The U.S., a few other imperial powers, a few lesser countries, and the UN convened a meeting on January 26 in Montreal to profess their concern and promises to aid Haiti. The fourteen so-called "Friends of Haiti" made sure to include the Haitian prime minister, Jean-Max Bellerive, to at least give the illusion of respect for the country's sovereignty. But outside a protest organized by Haiti Action Montreal opposed the meeting with signs demanding "medical relief not guns," "grants not loans," and "reconstruction for people not profit."
In the Guardian , Gary Younge criticized the summit for failing to produce any solutions to the crisis in Haiti. "Even as corpses remained under the earthquake's rubble," he wrote, "and the government operated out of a police station, the assembled 'friends' would not commit to canceling Haiti's $1 billion debt. Instead they agreed to a 10-year plan with no details, and a commitment to meet again -- when the bodies have been buried along with coverage of the country -- sometime in the future." 62
By contrast, Venezuela's Hugo Chávez and his Latin American and Caribbean allies assembled in the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA) announced their opposition to America's shock doctrine. They denounced Washington's neoliberal plans, called for relief not troops and for the cancellation of Haiti's debt. Venezuela itself immediately cancelled Haiti's debt and began sending shiploads of relief offering over $100 million in humanitarian aid with no strings attached. 63
No such humanitarian motives animate the U.S., its capitalist corporations, and the international financial institutions. These vultures began circling above Haiti almost immediately. The Street, an investment Web site, published an article misleadingly entitled, "An opportunity to heal Haiti," that lays out how U.S. corporations can cash in on the catastrophe. "Here are some companies," they write, "that could potentially benefit: General Electric (GE), Caterpillar (CAT), Deere (DE), Fluor (FLR), Jacobs Engineering (JEC)." 64 The Rand Corporation's James Dobbins wrote in the New York Times, "This disaster is an opportunity to accelerate oft-delayed reforms." 65
Over the last few years, the U.S. has been trying to give a facelift to the international financial institution that it uses to impose its plans in Haiti. As Jim Lobe reports,
Last June, 1.2 billion dollars in Haiti's external debt, including that owed to the Washington-based International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank, and Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), was cancelled after the Préval government completed a three-year Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) program. Over half of that debt had been incurred by Haiti's dictatorships, notably the Duvalier dynasty that ruled the country from 1957 to 1986. But the cancellation covered debt incurred by Haiti only through 2004. In the last five years, the country has received new loans -- some of them to help it recover from the floods and other hurricane damage -- totaling another 1.05 billion dollars. 66
In other words, the U.S. and the financial institutions exchanged the old debts for new so-called "legitimate loans," trapping Haiti yet again in debt. Eric Toussaint and Sophie Perchellet call this "a typical odious debt-laundering maneuver." 67
In the wake of the crisis, the bankers were at Haiti's door yet again, ready, incredibly, to loan Haiti money with the usual conditions. The IMF offered Haiti a new loan of $100 million with the usual strings attached. As the Nation 's Richard Kim writes,
The new loan was made through the IMF's extended credit facility, to which Haiti already has $165 million in debt. Debt relief activists tell me that these loans came with conditions, including raising prices for electricity, refusing pay increases to all public employees except those making minimum wage, and keeping inflation low. They say that the new loans would impose these same conditions. In other words, in the face of this latest tragedy, the IMF is still using crisis and debt as leverage to compel neoliberal reforms. 68
Debt cancellation activists like Jubilee pushed back against the IMF and scored a victory over it. "On Jan. 21," Lobe reports,
the World Bank announced a waiver of Haiti's pending debt payment for five years and said it would explore ways that the remaining debt could be cancelled. The IDB [Inter-American Development Bank] has said it is engaged in a similar effort and will present alternatives for reducing or canceling the debt to its board of governors. On Jan. 27, the IMF, which lacks the authority to provide outright grants, announced that it would give Haiti a 102 million-dollar loan at zero-percent interest and that would not be subject to any of the Fund's usual performance conditions. 69
The pressure even forced the U.S. to call for all new monies extended to Haiti to be in the form of grants, and U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner called for debt relief in the run up to the G-7 conference in February. 70
While activists can claim these concessions by the U.S. and the international financial institutions as victories that open up the possibility for even more progress in demanding full cancellation of Haiti's debt and all third world debt, no one should look at this situation through rose-colored glasses. The U.S. is using this promise -- and it is just a promise at this point -- to cover up its determination to implement the Collier Plan for tourism, sweatshops, and mango plantations to exploit Haiti's desperately poor workers and peasants. In fact, the U.S. does not need to use the leverage of debt to force Haiti to agree to the plan; it has secured colonial rule over the country and can impose its plans directly at gunpoint.
Resistance and solidarity
The left has a responsibility to cut through the propaganda of the Obama administration and the mainstream media. The U.S. is not engaged in humanitarian relief, but old-fashioned imperialism in Haiti. Humanitarianism has long been one of the means the U.S. uses to provide a cover story for its military actions abroad. But whether it was saving the Cuban people from Spanish brutality, sending the marines into Mogadishu in 1993 to feed starving Somalis, or overthrowing the Taliban to "liberate women," the real aims and practical results of these interventions diverged radically from their alleged noble intentions.
Humanitarian military intervention was heavily promoted in the 1990s during the latter part of the first Bush administration and the Clinton administration -- in particular during the wars in the former Yugoslavia. Its purpose was to reestablish the legitimacy of U.S. military intervention in the wake of the U.S. defeat in Vietnam, as part of a policy intended to erase what was known as the "Vietnam syndrome." It is being revived again in the wake of the unpopularity of the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan and weariness toward the "war on terror," for similar reasons. The U.S. hopes that it can re-legitimize its military as a force for good so that it can lay the groundwork for more U.S. interventions in the region and around the world.
Even if the U.S. gets away with its new plans for Haiti, it will inevitably breed resistance in the population and throughout the region where through bitter experience workers and peasants have learned to oppose U.S. designs on their countries. In Haiti, workers and peasants will find their way to organize in the countryside on the plantations, in the sweatshops, and in the shantytowns.
Already Haitian organizations have come out against the U.S. agenda. A statement issued on January 27 from the Coordinating Committee of Progressive Organizations announced:
We must declare our anger and indignation at the exploitation of the situation in Haiti to justify a new invasion by 20,000 U.S. Marines. We condemn what threatens to become a new military occupation by U.S. troops, the third in our history. It is clearly part of a strategy to remilitarize the Caribbean Basin in the context of the imperialist response to the growing rebellion of the peoples of our continent against neo-liberal globalization. And it exists also within a framework of pre-emptive warfare designed to confront the eventual social explosion of a people crushed by poverty and facing despair. We condemn the model imposed by the U.S. government and the military response to a tragic humanitarian crisis. The occupation of the Toussaint L'Ouverture international airport and other elements of the national infrastructure have deprived the Haitian people of part of the contribution made by Caricom, by Venezuela, and by some European countries. We condemn this conduct, and refuse absolutely to allow our country to become another military base. 71
The Haitian left has thus already started building opposition to the U.S. occupation and the Collier Plan. Every year since the U.S. coup in 2004, activists have marched on February 28 in Port-au-Prince against the UN occupation and to demand the end of Aristide's exile. Workers' organizations just last year protested in the thousands for an increase in the minimum wage that Préval opposed. Lavalas activists had protested before the earthquake against their exclusion from the scheduled parliamentary elections. Now amid crisis and occupation, Préval, who has proved to be a puppet for the U.S. agenda, thus losing what little political support he had, has cancelled those elections. No doubt Préval's behavior will provoke political opposition from below against his government's collaboration with the United States.
Outside Haiti, the left must build solidarity with that struggle and make several demands on the Obama administration. First, Obama must immediately end the military occupation of Haiti, and instead flood the country with doctors, nurses, food, water, and construction machinery. Second, the U.S. must also stop its enforcement of Jean-Bertrand Aristide's exile and the ban on his party, Fanmi Lavalas, from participating in elections. Haitians, not the U.S., should have the right to determine their government.
Third, the left must demand that the U.S., other countries, and international financial institutions cancel Haiti's debt, so that the aid money headed to Haiti will go to food and reconstruction, not debt repayment. More than that -- France, the U.S., and Canada, the three countries that have most interfered with Haiti's sovereignty -- should pay reparations for the damage they have done. France can start by repaying the $21 billion dollars that it extracted from Haiti from 1824 to 1947. Fourth, leftists must agitate for Obama to indefinitely extend Temporary Protected Status to Haitians in the U.S. -- and open the borders to any Haitians who flee the country. Finally, the left must direct all its funds to Haitian grass-roots organizations to provide relief and help rebuild resistance to the U.S. plan for Haiti.
Only through agitating for these demands can we stop the U.S. from imposing at gunpoint its shock doctrine for Haiti. In this struggle, the left must educate wider and wider layers of people, already suspicious of U.S. motives after Hurricane Katrina, and the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, that the U.S. state never engages in military actions for humanitarian motives. As the great American revolutionary journalist John Reed declared, "Uncle Sam never gives anybody something for nothing. He comes along with a sack stuffed with hay in one hand and a whip in the other. Anyone who accepts Uncle Sam's promises at their face value will find that they must be paid for in sweat and blood." 72
- "President Obama on U.S. rescue efforts in Haiti, www.America.gov .
- Bill Quigley, "Haiti: still starving 23 days later," Huffington Post, posted February 4, 2010.
- Soumitra Eachempati, Dean Lorich, and David Helfet, "Haiti: Obama's Katrina," Wall Street Journal , January 26, 2010.
- Rich Schapiro, "Rev. Pat Robertson says ancient Haitians' 'pact with the devil' caused earthquake," New York Daily News , January 13, 2010.
- David Brooks, "The underlying tragedy," New York Times , January 14, 2010.
- For an overview of the French colony and the slave revolution see Ashley Smith, "The Black Jacobins," International Socialist Review (ISR) 63, January–February 2009.
- Peter Hallward, Damming the Flood: Haiti, Aristide, and the Politicsw of Containment (New York: Verso Books, 2007), 12.
- Quoted in Sidney Lens, The Forging of the American Empire (Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2003), 270.
- For an overview of the history of U.S. imperialism in Haiti see Helen Scott, "Haiti under siege," ISR 35, May-June 2004.
- Paul Farmer, The Uses of Haiti (Monroe, Maine: Common Courage Press, 1994), 108.
- Alex Dupuy, Haiti in the New World Order (New York: Westview Press, 1996), 37.
- For an analysis of Baby Doc's neoliberal plans see chapter 2 of Alex Dupuy, The Prophet and the Power (New York: Rowman and Littlefield, 2007).
- Eric Toussaint and Sophie Perchellet, "Debt is Haiti's real curse," Socialist Worker , January 20, 2010.
- Regan Boychuck, "The vultures circle Haiti at every opportunity, natural or man-made," Znet, February 3, 2010.
- Dupuy, Haiti in the New World Order , 31.
- Quoted in Amy Wilentz, The Rainy Season (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1989), 137.
- Quoted in Ashley Smith, "The new occupation of Haiti: Aristide's rise and fall," ISR 35, May–June, 2004.
- For an analysis of Lavalas after Aristide's restoration see chapter 5 of Robert Fatton, Haiti's Predatory Republic (Boulder: Lynne Reiner Publishers, 2002).
- For a perhaps overly generous portrait of Aristide in his second term see chapters 6 and 7 of Peter Hallward, Damming the Flood .
- Clara James, "Haiti free trade zone," Dollars and Sense , November/December 2002.
- Hallward, Damming the Flood , 155.
- See Bill Quigley, "Haiti human rights report," www.ijdh.org/pdf/QuigleyReport.pdf .
- Mo Woong, "Haiti's minimum wage battle," Caribbean News Net, August 25, 2009.
- See Ashley Smith "Natural and unnatural disasters," Socialist Worker , September 23, 2008.
- Mark Shuller, "Haiti's food riots," ISR 59, May–June 2008.
- Paul Collier, "Haiti: From natural catastrophe to economic security," FOCALPoint, Volume 8, Issue 2, March 2009.
- Quoted in Polly Pattullo, Last Resorts: The Cost of Tourism in the Caribbean (New York: Monthly Review Press, 2005), 20.
- Jacqueline Charles, "Royal Caribbean boosts Haiti tourism push," Miami Herald , September 26, 2009.
- Collier, "Haiti from natural catastrophe to economic security."
- Mark Shuller, "Haiti needs new development approaches, not more of the same," Haiti Analysis , June 18, 2009.
- Quoted in Ashley Smith "Catastrophe in Haiti," Socialist Worker , January 14, 2010.
- Jacqueline Charles, "Bill Clinton on trade mission on Haiti," Miami Herald , October 1, 2009.
- Paul Collier, The Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest Countries are Failing and What Can Be Done About It (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008).
- Bill Quigley, "Too little too late for Haiti? Six sobering points," Huffington Post , January 15, 2010.
- "With foreign aid still at a trickle," Democracy Now! , January 20, 2010.
- Marc Lacey "The nightmare in Haiti: untreated illness and injury," New York Times , January 21, 2010.
- Quoted in Nick Allen "West urged to write off Haiti's $1 billion debt," Telegraph.co.uk , January 25, 2010.
- Mark Lander, "In show of support, Clinton goes to Haiti," New York Times , January 17, 2010.
- "U.S. military begins aid drops in Haiti," CBS News, January 18, 2010.
- Andrew Cawthorne and Catherine Bremer, "U.S., U.N. boost Haiti aid security as looters swarm," Reuters, January 19, 2010.
- Nelson P. Valdés, "Class and race fear: The rescue operation's priorities in Haiti," Counterpunch, January 18, 2010.
- Quoted in Lenora Daniels, "We are Haitians. We are like people like anybody else," Common Dreams, January 31, 2010.
- Sasha Kramer, "Fear slows aid efforts in Haiti: Letter from Port-au-Prince," Counterpunch, January 27, 2010.
- "Doctor: Misinformation and racism have slowed the recovery effort," Democracy Now! , January 19, 2010.
- "Chávez says U.S. occupying Haiti in name of aid," Reuters, January 17, 2010.
- Rory Carroll, "U.S. accused of annexing airport," Guardian (UK), January 17, 2010.
- Quoted in Giles Whittell, Martin Fletcher, and Jacqui Goddard, "Haiti has a leader in charge, but not in control," The Times (UK), January 19, 2010.
- Richard Seymour, "The humanitarian myth," Socialist Worker , January 25, 2010.
- "Union nurses respond to Haiti," Socialist Worker, January 27, 2010.
- Shaila Dewan, "U.S. suspends Haitian airlift in cost dispute," New York Times , January 30, 2010.
- The Al Jazeera report is available at www.youtube.com/watch?v=0F5TwEK24sA .
- "The growth of aid and the decline of humanitarianism," Lancet , Volume 375, Issue 9711, January 23, 2010; 253.
- James C. McKinley Jr., "Vows to move fast for Haitian immigrants in the U.S.," New York Times , January 21, 2010.
- Richard Fausset, "U.S. to change illegal immigrants status," Los Angeles Times , January 16, 2010.
- "U.S. to repatriate most Haitian refugees, Washington Times , January 19, 2010.
- Curt Anderson, "U.S. prepares for Haitian refugees," Washington Examiner , January 19, 2010.
- Tom Eley, "Washington shuts door to Haitian refugees" Global Research, February 8, 2010.
- Jim Roberts, " Things to remember while helping Haiti ," The Foundry .
- Greg Grandin, "Muscling Latin America," Nation, January 21, 2010.
- Nicholas Kralev, "Clinton says plan exists for Haiti," Washington Times , January 26, 2010.
- Gary Younge, "The West owes Haiti a big bailout," Guardian (UK), January 31, 2010.
- Magbana, "Venezuela cancels Haiti's debt," January 26, 2010.
- Quoted in Isabel McDonald, "New Haiti: Same old corporate interests," Nation, January 29, 2010.
- James Dobbins, "Skip the graft," New York Times , January 17, 2010.
- Jim Lobe, "Haiti: U.S. lawmakers call for debt cancellation," IPS, February 4, 2010.
- Eric Toussaint and Sophie Perchellet, "Debt is Haiti's real curse."
- Richard Kim, "IMF to Haiti: freeze public wages," Nation , January 15, 2010.
- Lobe, "Haiti: U.S. lawmakers call for debt cancellation."
- Haiti After the Catastrophe, " What Are the Perspectives? Statement by the Coordinating Committee of the Progressive Organizations ."
- Quoted in John Riddell ed., To See the Dawn (New York: Pathfinder, 1993), 136.
Feb 11, 2018 | www.theguardian.com
Revolving door in actionBrand attracted interest because of her potential to assume a key role in the Trump-Russia investigation. The official overseeing the special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation, the deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein, has been repeatedly criticized by Trump. If Rosenstein had been fired or quit, oversight would have fallen to Brand. That job would now fall to the solicitor general, Noel Francisco.
"She felt this was an opportunity she couldn't turn down," her friend and former colleague Jamie Gorelick said. Walmart sought Brand to be head of global corporate governance at the retail giant, a position Gorelick said has legal and policy responsibilities that will cater to her strengths.
"It really seems to have her name on it," Gorelick said.
Feb 11, 2018 | www.nytimes.com
After 16 years of war in Afghanistan, experts have stopped asking what victory looks like and are beginning to consider the spectrum of possible defeats.
All options involve acknowledging the war as failed, American aims as largely unachievable and Afghanistan's future as only partly salvageable. Their advocates see glimmers of hope barely worth the stomach-turning trade-offs and slim odds of success.
"I don't think there is any serious analyst of the situation in Afghanistan who believes that the war is winnable," Laurel Miller, a political scientist at the RAND Corporation, said in a podcast last summer, after leaving her State Department stint as acting special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan.
This may be why, even after thousands have died and over $100 billion has been spent, even after the past two weeks of shocking bloodshed in Kabul , few expect the United States to try anything other than the status quo.
It is a strategy, as Ms. Miller described it, to "prevent the defeat of the Afghan government and prevent military victory by the Taliban" for as long as possible.
Though far from the most promising option, it is the least humiliating. But sooner or later, the United States and Afghanistan will find themselves facing one of Afghanistan's endgames -- whether by choice or not.
Feb 05, 2018 | www.moonofalabama.org
Posted by: nottheonly1 | Feb 4, 2018 3:53:08 PM | 17
Speaking about Europe and the advancement of neo-liberal policies by the hands of unelected officials, this news is not boding well:
EU Imposes Anti-Union Law On Greece
The question is, how much longer will European workers remain peaceful dissenters to 'laws' that resemble the prohibition of Unions in NS-Germany? A number of member states are threatening their own exit from the EU, although for entirely different reasons. But more "Exit"-Nations will weaken neo-liberal EU to the much desirable breaking point.
As it stands, EU/NATO policies are the biggest threat to European citizens.
Jan 31, 2018 | www.yahoo.com
His comments came hours after SIGAR said in a quarterly report on the conflict that the Pentagon prohibited the inclusion of information on the number of districts in Afghanistan, and the population therein, controlled by the Afghan government or the Taliban or contested by both sides.
"The number of districts controlled or influenced by the Afghan government had been one of the last remaining publicly available indicators for members of Congress -- many of whose staff do not have access to the classified annexes to SIGAR reports -- and for the American public of how the 16-year-long U.S. effort to secure Afghanistan is faring," SIGAR said in a statement. "This is the first time SIGAR has been specifically instructed not to release information marked 'unclassified' to the American taxpayer."
In his emailed statement, Gresback said that, as of October 2017, about 56 percent of the country's 407 districts were under Afghan government control or influence, 30 percent remained contested, and roughly 14 percent were now under insurgent control or influence.
R Roger47 yesterday
Afghanistan is too big and too poor for their own government and military to ever be able to control. Much of the country is controlled by tribal leaders associated loosely with the Taliban. They want to continue to live their lives as they have done for hundreds of years. We can either let them do so, or occupy their country forever. I say make an agreement to leave them alone as long as they keep terrorists out, and bring our troops home.
e edward yesterday
For being "intelligence" agencies who no one is apparently allowed to question or criticize, they sure make a lot of "mistakes", "lose" a lot of documents, and just get a lot of things "wrong".
C CBVET2003 yesterday
Iraq was invaded and occupied as well. Control resources!! That is the end game...As a Combat Veteran served during 9/11 and tip of the spear in 2003 we found ZERO weapons of mass destruction....So many young Americans impacted and suffered for pure profit at the hands of greedy Men...
V Vegasvince 22 hours ago
Several things he promised to work on are traditional Democratic issues. Since they also agree, I'd hope we can see quick congressional action. Infrastructure, prescription drug costs, terminal patients access to drug trials, Job training investment, Paid family leave, former prisoner job training, etc... These should be fast tracked through Congress and to the Presidents. We can agree on things in America and need a productive governement to get thing s done!
Jan 30, 2018 | www.theamericanconservative.com
The Unseen Wars of America the Empire By Patrick J. Buchanan • January 30, 2018, 12:01 AMForward Operating Base Torkham, in Nangahar Province, Afghanistan (army.mil) If Turkey is not bluffing, U.S. troops in Manbij, Syria, could be under fire by week's end, and NATO engulfed in the worst crisis in its history.
Turkish President Erdogan said Friday his forces will cleanse Manbij of Kurdish fighters, alongside whom U.S. troops are embedded.
Erdogan's foreign minister demanded concrete steps by the United States to end its support of the Kurds, who control the Syrian border with Turkey east of the Euphrates all the way to Iraq.
If the Turks attack Manbij, America will face a choice: stand by our Kurdish allies and resist the Turks, or abandon the Kurds.
Should the U.S. let the Turks drive the Kurds out of Manbij and the entire Syrian border area, as Erdogan threatens, American credibility would suffer a blow from which it would not soon recover.
But to stand with the Kurds and oppose Erdogan's forces could mean a crackup of NATO and a loss of U.S. bases inside Turkey, including the air base at Incirlik.
Turkey also sits astride the Dardanelles entrance to the Black Sea. NATO's loss would thus be a triumph for Vladimir Putin, who gave Ankara the green light to cleanse the Kurds from Afrin.
Yet Syria is but one of many challenges facing U.S. foreign policy.
The Winter Olympics in South Korea may have taken the menace of a North Korean ICBM out of the news, but no one believes that threat is behind us.
Last week, China charged that the USS Hopper, a guided missile destroyer, sailed within 12 nautical miles of Scarborough Shoal, a reef in the South China Sea claimed by Beijing, though it is far closer to Luzon in the Philippines. The destroyer, says China, was chased off by one of her frigates. If we continue to contest China's territorial claims with our warships, a clash is inevitable.
In a similar incident Monday, a Russian military jet came within five feet of a U.S. Navy EP-3 Orion surveillance jet in international airspace over the Black Sea, forcing the Navy plane to end its mission.
U.S. relations with Cold War ally Pakistan are at rock bottom. In his first tweet of 2018, President Trump charged Pakistan with being a false friend.
"The United States has foolishly given Pakistan more than 33 billion dollars in aid over the last 15 years, and they have given us nothing but lies & deceit, thinking of our leaders as fools," Trump declared. "They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help. No more!"
As for America's longest war in Afghanistan, now in its 17th year, the end is nowhere on the horizon. A week ago, the International Hotel in Kabul was attacked and held for 13 hours by Taliban gunmen who killed 40. Midweek, a Save the Children facility in Jalalabad was attacked by ISIS, creating panic among aid workers across the country.
Saturday, an ambulance exploded in Kabul, killing 103 people and wounding 235. Monday, Islamic State militants attacked Afghan soldiers guarding a military academy in Kabul. With the fighting season two months off, U.S. troops will not soon be departing. If Pakistan is indeed providing sanctuary for the terrorists of the Haqqani network, how does this war end successfully for the United States? Last week, in a friendly fire incident, the U.S.-led coalition killed 10 Iraqi soldiers. The Iraq war began 15 years ago.
Yet another war, where the humanitarian crisis rivals Syria, continues on the Arabian Peninsula. There, a Saudi air, sea, and land blockade that threatens the Yemeni people with starvation has failed to dislodge Houthi rebels who seized the capital Sanaa three years ago. This weekend brought news that secessionist rebels, backed by the United Arab Emirates, seized power in Yemen's southern port of Aden from the Saudi-backed Hadi regime fighting the Houthis. These rebels seek to split the country, as it was before 1990.
Iran, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE appear to be backing different horses in this tribal-civil-sectarian war into which America has been drawn. There are other wars -- Somalia, Libya, Ukraine -- where the U.S. is taking sides, sending arms, training troops, flying missions.
Like the Romans, we have become an empire, committed to fighting for scores of nations, with troops on every continent and forces in combat operations of which the American people are only vaguely aware. "I didn't know there were 1,000 troops in Niger," said Senator Lindsey Graham when four Green Berets were killed there. "We don't know exactly where we're at in the world, militarily, and what we're doing."
No, we don't, Senator. As in all empires, power is passing to the generals. And what causes the greatest angst today in the imperial city? Fear that a four-page memo worked up in the House Judiciary Committee may discredit Robert Mueller's investigation of Russia-gate.
Patrick J. Buchanan is the author of a new book, Nixon's White House Wars: The Battles That Made and Broke a President and Divided America Forever . To find out more about Patrick Buchanan and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators website at www.creators.com.
Jan 29, 2018 | www.defenddemocracy.press
Yiğit Bulut: "I am sorry for the Greeks. They have been left with nothing." 13/11/2017
Greece will be in a "non-functional condition" until 2020, predicts the advisor to the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan Yiğit Bulut, who characterizes the Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras as a "tool of the imperialists".
Speaking on the state television programme "Deep Analysis" he gave the example of Greece to show the consequences of imperialism for global political developments.
"They sold off everything. The banks have passed into the hands of the Germans. They have been left with nothing. People in Greece wait for products from Germany and Italy. There is a film about 300 Spartans who fall heroically in battle. Those 300 of Leonidas should come back to Greece now, because nothing has remained standing.
The plundering of Greece is so huge that the Greek people don't realize it. Tsipras doesn't wear a tie. He was going to stop imperialism. But Tsipras works for them. Do you remember? There was a finance minister who rode around on a motorcycle. An academic. They got rid of him. I mentioned that on this programme in the past. They will sack that Greek finance minister and then Greece will sign the agreement with the INF. I said it. When they had got rid of the finance minister they brought an Englishman and the Englishman became a minister of the Greek government and they signed. We said that on our programme here before it happened.
The imperialist model hasn't changed. Countries get into debt. They sink into crisis. The property of the people is transferred and after that they simply change the government. The same thing happened in Turkey in 2001. They sent Kemal Derviş to Turkey to put things in order for the imperialists. They appointed him Roman governor in Turkey. But fortunately Devlet Bahçeli was found to spoil their game for them," Erdoğan's advisor stated, and continued: "I feel sorry for the Greeks. They are victims of imperialism."
The above declaration by the Turkish official was made to the Turkish state television. It was translated for DDP from the Greek sites that reproduced it, under the headline "Erdogan's advisor makes provocative declarations".Read also: Prepare for the Trade Wars
Turkey still occupies a large part of Cyprus after having invaded the island in 1974 and expelled more than 200,000 Greeks from their homes. It has territorial claims on Greek Aegean islands and deploys the world's largest fleet of landing craft some miles from them. The Turkish National Assembly has voted a resolution threatening Greece with war in the event of use by Athens of its right to expand Greek territorial waters to 12 miles. It is only natural that Greeks do not much appreciate a Turkish official speaking of their country in this way. It is indeed a "provocation" from the point of view of rules of diplomatic behavior, given that Mr. Erdogan is preparing his visit to Greece.
Of course Greeks know only too well that the description of the Turkish official is quite close to the truth. It is probable that the advisor of the Turkish President does not so much have the intention of provoking Greeks as influencing Turkish politics by showing his public opinion what happens to a country that surrenders to "Western Imperialism".
There is a deep irony to Turkey depicting, as it does here, the EU, Germany, the Eurozone, NATO and big finance destroying a member-state of the EU, and using this argument rhetorically!
D.K.Also read Dijsselbloem Speaks: The Confessions of an Economic Hit Man
Jan 21, 2018 | www.defenddemocracy.pressOriginally from: Germany's dystopian plans for Europe: from fantasy to reality?By Thomas Fazi 4 December 2017
For Germany, the idea of Europeanism has provided the country's elites with the perfect alibi to conceal their hegemonic project behind the ideological veil of 'European integration'
After Emmanuel Macron's election in France, many (including myself) claimed that this signalled a revival of the Franco-German alliance and a renewed impetus for Europe's process of top-down economic and political integration – a fact that was claimed by most commentators and politicians, beholden as they are to the Europeanist narrative, to be an unambiguously positive development.
Among the allegedly 'overdue' reforms that were said to be on the table was the creation of a pseudo-'fiscal union' backed by a (meagre) 'euro budget', along with the creation of a 'European finance minister', the centre-points of Macron's plans to 're-found the EU' – a proposal that raises a number of very worrying issues from both political and economic standpoints, which I have discussed at length elsewhere .
The integrationists' (unwarranted) optimism, however, was short-lived. The result of the German elections, which saw the surge of two rabidly anti-integrationist parties, the right-wing FDP and extreme right AfD; the recent collapse of coalition talks between Merkel's CDU, the FDP and the Greens, which most likely means an interim government for weeks if not months, possibly leading to new elections (which polls show would bring roughly the same result as the September election); and the growing restlessness in Germany towards the 13-year-long rule of Macron's partner in reform Angela Merkel, means that any plans that Merkel and Macron may have sketched out behind the scenes to further integrate policies at the European level are now, almost certainly, dead in the water. Thus, even the sorry excuse for a fiscal union proposed by Macron is now off the table, according to most commentators.
At this point, the German government's most likely course in terms of European policy – the one that has the best chance of garnering cross-party support, regardless of the outcome of the coalition talks (or of new elections) – is the 'minimalist' approach set in stone by the country's infamous and now-former finance minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, in a 'non-paper' published shortly before his resignation.
The main pillar of Schäuble's proposal – a long-time obsession of his – consists in giving the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), which would go on to become a 'European Monetary Fund', the power to monitor (and, ideally, enforce) compliance with the Fiscal Compact. This echoes Schäuble's previous calls for the creation of a European budget commissioner with the power to reject national budgets – a supranational fiscal enforcer.
The aim is all too clear: to further erode what little sovereignty and autonomy member states have left, particularly in the area of fiscal policy, and to facilitate the imposition of neoliberal 'structural reforms' – flexibilisation of labour markets, reduction of collective bargaining rights, etc. – on reluctant countries.
To this end, the German authorities even want to make the receipt of EU cohesion funds conditional on the implementation of such reforms , tightening the existing arrangements even further. Moreover, as noted by Simon Wren-Lewis , the political conflict of interest of having an institution lending within the eurozone would end up imposing severe austerity bias on the recovering country.
Until recently, these proposals failed to materialise due, among other reasons, to France's opposition to any further overt reductions of national sovereignty in the area of budgetary policy; Macron, however, staunchly rejects France's traditional souverainiste stance, embracing instead what he calls 'European sovereignty', and thus represents the perfect ally for Germany's plans.
Another proposal that goes in the same direction is the German Council for Economic Experts' plan to curtail banks' sovereign bond holdings. Ostensibly aimed at 'severing the link between banks and government' and 'ensuring long-term debt sustainability', it calls for: (i) removing the exemption from risk-weighting for sovereign exposures, which essentially means that government bonds would no longer be considered a risk-free asset for banks (as they are now under Basel rules), but would be 'weighted' according to the 'sovereign default risk' of the country in question (as determined by credit rating agencies); (ii) putting a cap on the overall risk-weighted sovereign exposure of banks; and (iii) introducing an automatic 'sovereign insolvency mechanism' that would essentially extend to sovereigns the bail-in rule introduced for banks by the banking union, meaning that if a country requires financial assistance from the ESM, for whichever reason, it will have to lengthen its sovereign bond maturities (reducing the market value of those bonds and causing severe losses for all bondholders) and, if necessary, impose a nominal 'haircut' on private creditors.
As noted by the German economist Peter Bofinger , the only member of the German Council of Economic Experts to vote against the sovereign bail-in plan, this would almost certainly ignite a 2012-style self-fulfilling sovereign debt crisis, as periphery countries' bond yields would quickly rise to unsustainable levels, making it increasingly hard for governments to roll over maturing debt at reasonable prices and eventually forcing them to turn to the ESM for help, which would entail even heavier losses for their banks and an even heavier dose of austerity.
It would essentially amount to a return to the pre-2012 status quo, with governments once again subject to the supposed 'discipline' of the markets, particularly in the context of a likely tapering of the ECB's quantitative easing (QE) program. The aim of this proposal is the same as that of Schäuble's 'European Monetary Fund': to force member states to implement permanent austerity.Read also: Lack of Credible Leftist Alternatives is fueling national movements. Catalonia wants independence from the small Madrid Empire, but inside Brussels Great Empire
Of course, national sovereignty in a number of areas – most notably fiscal policy – has already been severely eroded by the complex system of new laws, rules and agreements introduced in recent years, including but not limited to the six-pack, two-pack, Fiscal Compact, European Semester and Macroeconomic Imbalances Procedure (MIP).
As a result of this new post-Maastricht system of European economic governance, the European Union has effectively become a sovereign power with the authority to impose budgetary rules and structural reforms on member states outside democratic procedures and without democratic control.
The EU's embedded quasi-constitutionalism and inherent (structural) democratic deficit has thus evolved into an even more anti-democratic form of 'authoritarian constitutionalism' that is breaking away with elements of formal democracy as well, leading some observers to suggest that the EU 'may easily become the postdemocratic prototype and even a pre-dictatorial governance structure against national sovereignty and democracies'.
To give an example, with the launch of the European Semester, the EU's key tool for economic policy guidance and surveillance, an area that has historically been a bastion of national sovereignty – old-age pensions – has now fallen under the purview of supranational monitoring as well. Countries are now expected to (and face sanctions if they don't): (i) increase the retirement age and link it with life expectancy; (ii) reduce early retirement schemes, improve the employability of older workers and promote lifelong learning; (iii) support complementary private savings to enhance retirement incomes; and (iv) avoid adopting pension-related measures that undermine the long term sustainability and adequacy of public finances.
This has led to the introduction in various countries of several types of automatic stabilizing mechanisms (ASMs) in pension systems, which change the policy default so that benefits or contributions adjust automatically to adverse demographic and economic conditions without direct intervention by politicians. Similar 'automatic correction mechanisms' in relation to fiscal policy can be found in the Fiscal Compact.
The aim of all these 'automatic mechanisms' is clearly to put the economy on 'autopilot', thus removing any element of democratic discussion and/or decision-making at either the European or national level. These changes have already transformed European states into 'semi-sovereign' entities, at best. In this sense, the proposals currently under discussion would mark the definitive transformation of European states from semi-sovereign to de facto (and increasingly de jure ) non-sovereign entities.
Regardless of the lip service paid by national and European officials to the need for further reductions of national sovereignty to go hand in hand with a greater 'democratisation' of the euro area, the reforms currently on the table can, in fact, be considered the final stage in the thirty-year-long war on democracy and national sovereignty waged by the European elites, aimed at constraining the ability of popular-democratic powers to influence economic policy, thus enabling the imposition of neoliberal policies that would not have otherwise been politically feasible.
In this sense, the European economic and monetary integration process should be viewed, to a large degree, as a class-based and inherently neoliberal project pursued by all national capitals as well as transnational (financial) capital. However, to grasp the processes of restructuring under way in Europe, we need to go beyond the simplistic capital/labour dichotomy that underlies many critical analyses of the EU and eurozone, which view EU/EMU policies as the expression of a unitary and coherent transnational (post-national) European capitalist class.
The process underway can only be understood through the lens of the geopolitical-economic tensions and conflicts between leading capitalist states and regional blocs, and the conflicting interests between the different financial/industrial capital fractions located in those states, which have always characterised the European economy. In particular, it means looking at Germany's historic struggle for economic hegemony over the European continent.
It is no secret that Germany is today the leading economic and political power in Europe, just as it is no secret that nothing gets done in Europe without Germany's seal of approval. In fact, it is commonplace to come across references to Germany's 'new empire'. A controversial Der Spiegel editorial from a few years back event went as far as arguing that it is not out place to talk of the rise of a 'Fourth Reich':
"That may sound absurd given that today's Germany is a successful democracy without a trace of national-socialism – and that no one would actually associate Merkel with Nazism. But further reflection on the word 'Reich', or empire, may not be entirely out of place. The term refers to a dominion, with a central power exerting control over many different peoples. According to this definition, would it be wrong to speak of a German Reich in the economic realm?"
More recently, an article in Politico Europe – co-owned by the German media magnate Axel Springer AG – candidly explained why 'Greece is de facto a German colony'. It noted how, despite Tsipras' pleas for debt relief, the Greek leader 'has little choice but to heed the wishes of his "colonial" masters', i.e., the Germans.
This is because public debt in the eurozone is used as a political tool – a disciplining tool – to get governments to implement socially harmful policies (and to get citizens to accept these policies by portraying them as inevitable), which explains why Germany continues to refuse to seriously consider any form of debt relief for Greece, despite the various commitments and promises to that end made in recent years: debt is the chain that keeps Greece (and other member states) from straying 'off course'.Read also: Boris Johnson: Why not a preemptive strike on Korea?
Even though the power exercised by Europe's 'colonial masters' is now openly acknowledged by the mainstream press, it is however commonplace to ascribe Germany's dominant position as an accident of history: according to this narrative, we are in the presence of an 'accidental empire', one that is not the result of a general plan but that emerged almost by chance – even against Germany's wishes – as a result of the euro's design faults, which have allowed Germany and its satellites to pursue a neo-mercantilist strategy and thus accumulate huge current account surpluses.
Now, it is certainly true that the euro's design – strongly influenced by Germany – inevitably benefits export-led economies such as Germany over more internal demand-oriented economies, such as those of southern Europe. However, there is ample evidence to support the argument that Germany, far from having accidently stumbled upon European dominance, has been actively and consciously pursuing an expansionary and imperialist strategy in – and through – the European Union for decades.
Even if we limit our analysis to Germany's post-crisis policies (though there is much that could be said about Germany's post-reunification policies and subsequent offshoring of production to Eastern Europe in the 1990s), it would be very naïve to view Germany's inflexibility – on austerity, for example – as a simple case of ideological stubbornness, considering the extent to which the policies in question have benefited Germany (and to a lesser extent France).
Germany (and France) have been the main beneficiaries of the sovereign bailouts of periphery countries , which essentially amounted to a covert bailout of German (and French) banks, as most of the funds were channelled back to the creditor countries' banks, which were heavily exposed to the banks (and to a lesser degree the governments) of periphery countries. German policy, Helen Thompson wrote , overwhelmingly 'served the interests of the German banks'.
This is a telling example of how Germany's policies (and the EU's policies more in general), while nominally ordoliberal – i.e., based upon minimal government intervention and a strict rules-based regime – are in reality based on extensive state intervention on behalf of German capital, at both the domestic and European level.
As Andy Storey notes, not only did the German government, throughout the crisis, show a blatant disregard for ordoliberalism's non-interference of public institutions in the workings of the market, by engaging in a massive Keynesian-style programme in the aftermath of the financial crisis and pushing through bailout programmes that largely absolved German banks from their responsibility for reckless lending to Greece and other countries; German authorities have also been more than happy to go along with – or to encourage – the European institutions' 'exercise of unrestrained executive power and the more or less complete abandonment of strict, rules-based frameworks' – Storey is here referring in particular to the ECB's use of its currency-issuing monopoly to force member states to follows its precepts – 'to maintain the profitability of German banks, German hegemony within the Eurozone, or even the survival of the Eurozone itself'.
Germany (and France) are also the main beneficiaries of the ongoing process of 'mezzogiornification' of periphery countries – often compounded by troika -forced privatisations –, which in recent years has allowed German and French firms to take over a huge number of businesses (or stakes therewithin) in periphery countries, often at bargain prices. A well-publicised case is that of the 14 Greek regional airports taken over by the German airport operator Fraport.
France's corporate offensive in Italy is another good example: in the last five years, French companies have engaged in 177 Italian takeovers, for a total value of $41.8 billion, six times Italy's purchases in France over the same period. This is leading to an increased 'centralisation' of European capital, characterised by a gradual concentration of capital and production in Germany and other core countries – in the logistical and distribution sectors, for example – and more in general to an increasingly imbalanced relationship between the stronger and weaker countries of the union.
These transformations cannot simply be described as processes without a subject: while there are undoubtedly structural reasons involved – countries with better developed economies of scale, such as Germany and France, were bound to benefit more than others from the reduction in tariffs and barriers associated with the introduction of the single currency – we also have to acknowledge that there are loci of economic-politic power that are actively driving and shaping these imperialist processes, which must be viewed through the lens of the unresolved inter-capitalist struggle between core-based and periphery-based capital.
From this perspective, the dichotomy that is often raised in European public discourse between nationalism and Europeanism is deeply flawed. The two, in fact, often go hand in hand. In Germany's case, for example, Europeanism has provided the country's elites with the perfect alibi to conceal their hegemonic project behind the ideological veil of 'European integration'. Ironically, the European Union – allegedly created as an antidote to the vicious nationalisms of the twentieth century – has been the tool through which Germany has been able to achieve the 'new European order' that Nazi ideologues had theorised in the 1930s and early 1940s.
In short, the European Union should indeed be viewed a transnational capitalist project, but one that is subordinated to a clear state-centred hierarchy of power, with Germany in the dominant position. In this sense, the national elites in periphery countries that have supported Germany's hegemonic project (and continue to do so, first and foremost through their support to European integration) can thus be likened to the comprador bourgeoisie of the old colonial system – sections of a country's elite and middle class allied with foreign interests in exchange for a subordinated role within the dominant hierarchy of power.
From this point of view, the likely revival of the Franco-German bloc is a very worrying development, since it heralds a consolidation of the German-led European imperialist bloc – and a further 'Germanification' of the continent. This development cannot be understood independently of the momentous shifts that are taking place in global political economy – namely the organic crisis of neoliberal globalisation, which is leading to increased tensions between the various fractions of international capital, most notably between the US and Germany.
Trump's repeated criticisms of Germany's beggar-thy-neighbour mercantilist policies should be understood in this light. The same goes for Angela Merkel's recent call – much celebrated by the mainstream press – for a stronger Europe to counter Trump's unilateralism. Merkel's aim is not, of course, that of making 'Europe' stronger, but rather of strengthening Germany's dominant position vis-à-vis the other world powers (the US but also China) through the consolidation of Germany's control of the European continental economy, in the context of an intensification of global inter-capitalist competition.
This has now become an imperative for Germany, especially since Trump has dared to openly challenge the self-justifying ideology which sustains Germany's mercantilism – a particular form of economic nationalism that Hans Kundnani has dubbed ' Exportnationalismus' , founded upon the belief that Germany's massive trade surplus is uniquely the result of Germany's manufacturing excellence ( Modell Deutschland ) rather than, in fact, the result of unfair trade practices.
This is why, if Germany wants to maintain its hegemonic position on the continent, it must break with the US and tighten the bolts of the European workhouse. To this end, it needs to seize control of the most coveted institution of them all – the ECB –, which hitherto has never been under direct German control (though the Bundesbank exercises considerable influence over it, as is well known). Indeed, many commentators openly acknowledge that Merkel now has her eyes on the ECB's presidency. This would effectively put Germany directly at the helm of European economic policy.
Even more worryingly, Germany is not simply aiming at expanding its economic control over the European continent; it is also taking steps for greater European military 'cooperation' – under the German aegis, of course. As a recent article in Foreign Policy revealed , 'Germany is quietly building a European army under its command'.
This year Germany and two of its European allies, the Czech Republic and Romania, announced the integration of their armed forces, under the control of the Bundeswehr. In doing so, the will follow in the footsteps of two Dutch brigades, one of which has already joined the Bundeswehr's Rapid Response Forces Division and another that has been integrated into the Bundeswehr's 1st Armored Division.
In other words, Germany already effectively controls the armies of four countries. And the initiative, Foreign Policy notes, 'is likely to grow'. This is not surprising: if Germany ('the EU') wants to become truly autonomous from the US, it needs to acquire military sovereignty, which it currently lacks.
Europe is thus at a crossroads: the choice that left-wing and popular forces, and periphery countries more generally, face is between (a) accepting Europe's transition to a fully post-democratic, hyper-competitive, German-led continental system, in which member states (except for those at the helm of the project) will be deprived of all sovereignty and autonomy, in exchange for a formal democratic façade at the supranational level, and its workers subject to ever-growing levels of exploitation; or (b) regaining national sovereignty and autonomy at the national level, with all the short-term risks that such a strategy entails, as the only way to restore democracy, popular sovereignty and socioeconomic dignity. In short, the choice is between European post-democracy or post-European democracy.
There is no third way. Especially in view of the growing tensions between Germany, the US and China, periphery countries should ask themselves if they want to be simple pawns in this 'New Great Game' or if they want to take their destinies into their own hands.
Some portions of this article previously appeared in this article published by Green European Journal. Thomas Fazi is the co-author (with William Mitchell) of Reclaiming the State: A Progressive Vision of Sovereignty for a Post-Neoliberal World (Pluto, 2017).
Jan 16, 2018 | www.moonofalabama.org
Christian Chuba | Jan 16, 2018 8:48:12 AM | 101
Okay, the segment with the shooting through the truck window is still only 5 seconds but I'd argue that the fact that it is part of a 3 minute montage 'our guys are kicking ass in Afghanistan' actually gives it a much worse context. If this was some innocent procedural, 'we had to reluctantly do it' incident, no one in their right mind would have popped it into such a sequence.
Jan 05, 2018 | www.nakedcapitalism.com
by lan Cibils and Mariano Arana, Political Economy Department, Universidad Nacional de General Sarmiento, Buenos Aires, Argentina. Originally published at Triple Crisis
In Argentina's 2015 presidential run-off election, the neoliberal right-wing coalition "Cambiemos" (literally, "lets change"), headed by Mauricio Macri, defeated the populist Kirchnerista candidate by just two percentage points. Macri's triumph heralded a return to the neoliberal policies of the 1990s and ended twelve years of heterodox economic policies that prioritized income redistribution and the internal market. The ruling coalition also performed well in the October 2017 mid-term elections and has since begun implementing a draconian set of fiscal, labor, and social security reforms.
One of the hallmarks of the Cambiemos government so far has been a fast and furious return to international credit markets and a very substantial increase in new public debt. Indeed, since Macri came to power in 2015, Argentina has issued debt worth more than $100 billion. This marks a clear contrast to the Kirchner administrations, during which the emphasis was debt reduction.
The Kirchner Years: Debt Reduction?
Both Néstor and Cristina Kirchner pointed to desendeudamiento -- debt reduction -- as one of the great successes of their administrations. To what extent was debt reduced during the twelve years of Kirchnerismo?
Figure 1 shows the evolution of Argentina's public debt stock and the debt/GDP ratio between 2004-2017. One can see that there was a substantial reduction in the debt to GDP ratio between 2004-2011 -- the first two Kirchner terms -- due primarily to: a) the 2005 and 2010 debt restructuring offers, b) a deliberate policy of desendedudamiento (debt cancellation), and c) high growth rates. Indeed, debt/GDP dropped from 118.1% in 2004 to 38.9% in 2011. One can also see that the actual stock of public debt fell after the 2005 debt restructuring process, and then remained relatively stable until 2010. In 2011, it began a slow upward trend, due to the re-appearance of the foreign exchange constraint once the commodity bubble burst and capital flight increased.
Figure 1: Public Debt Stock (millions of dollars) and Debt/GDP ratio
Source: Ministry of Finance, Argentina.
An additional, fundamental change occurred during the first two Kirchner administrations: the change in currency composition of Argentina's public debt. Indeed, as Figure 2 shows, peso-denominated public debt reached 41% of total debt after the 2005 debt-restructuring process. Between 2005 and 2012 it remained relatively stable, and then, after 2012, dollar-denominated public debt began to grow again although never reaching pre-2005 debt-restructuring levels. The currency composition change is key, since it reduces considerably the pressure on the external accounts.
Figure 2: Currency Composition of Argentina's Public Debt (as a % GDP)
Source: Ministry of Finance, Argentina.
Fast and Furious
Since Macri became president in December 2015, there has been a dramatic change in official public debt strategy, radically reversing the process of debt reduction of the previous decade. As shown in Figure 1, there was a substantial jump in the stock of public debt in 2016, and it has continued to grow in 2017.The result to date has been a substantial increase in the stock of Argentina's dollar-denominated public debt, as well as an increase of the debt service to GDP ratio. New debt has been used to cover the trade deficit, pay off the vulture funds, finance capital flight, and meet debt service payments. All of this has resulted in growing concerns about Argentina's future economic sustainability, not to mention any possibility of promoting economic development objectives.
Upon taking office, the Macri Administration rapidly implemented a series of policies to liberalize financial flows and imports, and a 40% devaluation of the Argentine peso.  In this context, it also went on a debt rampage, increasing dollar denominated debt considerably. Between December 2015 and September 2017, Argentina's new debt amounts to the equivalent of $103.59 billion.  This includes new debt issued by the Treasury (80%), provincial governments (11%), and the private sector (9%). While Argentina's debt had been increasing slowly since 2011, the jump experienced in 2016 was unlike any other in Argentina's history.
If the increase in debt is alarming, the destination of those funds is also cause of concern. Data from Argentina's Central Bank (Banco Central de la República Argentina or BCRA) show that during the first eight months of 2017, net foreign asset accumulation of the private non-banking sector totaled $13.32 million, 33% more than all of 2016, which itself was 17% more than all of 2015. This means that since December 2015, Argentina has dollarized assets by approximately $25.29 billion.
According to the BCRA, during the same period there was a net outflow of capital due to debt interest payments, profits and dividends of $8.231 billion. Additionally, the net outflow due to tourism and travel is calculated at roughly $13.43 billion between December 2015 and August 2017.
In sum, the dramatic increase in dollar-denominated debt during the two first Macri years served to finance capital flight, tourism, profit remittances, and debt service, all to the tune of roughly $50 billion.
Where is This Headed?
Argentina's experience since the 1976 military coup until the crash of 2001 has shown how damaging is the combination of unfavorable external conditions and the destruction of the local productive structure. The post-crisis policies of the successive Kirchner administrations reversed the debt-dependent and deindustrializing policies of the preceding decades. However, since Macri took office in December 2015, Argentina has once again turned to debt-dependent framework of the 1990s. Not only has public debt grown in absolute terms, but the weight of dollar-denominated debt in total debt has also increased. Despite significant doubts regarding the sustainability of the current situation, the government has expressed intentions of continuing to issue new debt until 2020.
What are the main factors that call debt-sustainability into question? First, capital flight, which, as we have said above, is increasing, is compensated with new dollar-denominated public debt. Second, Argentina's trade balance turned negative in 2015 and has remained so since, with a total accumulated trade deficit between 2015 and the second quarter of 2017 of $6.53 billion. Import dynamics proved impervious to the 2016 recession, therefore it is expected that the deficit will either persist as is or increase if there are no drastic changes. Furthermore, in the 2018 national budget bill sent to Congress, Treasury Secretary Nicolás Dujovne projects that the growth rate of imports will exceed that of exports until at least 2021, increasing the current trade deficit by 68%.
Finally, according to the IMF's World Economic Outlook (October 2017), growth rate projections for industrialized countries increase prospects of a US Federal Reserve interest rate increase. This would make Argentina's new debt issues more expensive, increasing the burden of future debt service and increasing capital flight from Argentina (in what is generally referred to as the "flight to safety").
The factors outlined above generate credible and troublesome doubts about the sustainability of the economic policies implemented by the Macri administration. While there are no signs of a major crisis in the short term (that is, before the 2019 presidential elections), there are good reasons to doubt that the current level of debt accumulation can be sustained to the end of a potential second Macri term (2023). In other words, there are good reasons to believe that Argentines will once again have to exercise their well-developed ability to navigate through yet another profound debt crisis. This is not solely the authors' opinion. In early November 2017 Standard & Poor's placed Argentina in a list of the five most fragile economies.  It looks like, once again, storm clouds are on the horizon.
-  For details, see " Macri's First Year in Office: Welcome to 21 st Century Neoliberalism ."
-  Observatorio de la Deuda Externa, Universidad Metropolitana para la Educación y el Trabajo (UMET).
-  https://www.cnbc.com/2017/11/06/these-are-now-the-5-most-fragile-countries-exposed-to-higher-interest-rates-according-to-sp.html
Jim Haygood , January 5, 2018 at 11:02 amJon S , January 5, 2018 at 11:21 am
'What are the main factors that call debt sustainability into question? First, capital flight.'
Capital flees Argentina whenever the opportunity arises because successive governments -- whether leftist or conservative -- refuse to control inflation and maintain a stable currency.
Since 2001, the Argentine peso has slid from one-to-one with the US dollar to about 19 to the dollar today. With Argentine inflation running in the low to mid twenties (according to INDEC and Price Stats), the peso can be expected to carry on weakening against the dollar indefinitely.
A hundred years during which the peso has lopped off thirteen (13) zeros owing to chronic inflation shows that Argentina is politically and culturally incapable of responsibly managing its own currency.
Argentines know this. Unfortunately, only the richer ones have assets they can move to safety outside the country. The hand-to-mouth poor will continue being ravaged by inflation, not to mention the large quantities of counterfeit pesos in circulation.
Letting Argentines play with fiat currency is like handing out loaded pistols to rowdy 5-year-olds. In both these sad cases, adult supervision is urgently needed.Tim Smyth , January 5, 2018 at 11:53 am
The grand history of Latin America: borrow billions of $$$ from U.S. banks, hand the money to the wealthy who immediately deposit it right back in American banks, and let the poor pay back the principal and interest. Hmmm . seems more and more the way this country is going.Anonimo2 , January 5, 2018 at 1:05 pm
The fixed exchange rate under Kirchner was totally unsustainable. One difference between Macri's neoliberalism and his predecessors is Macri is allowing much more of a floating currency than in the pre 2001 time period (We can debate how much it is actually is floating and clearly a lot of this debt issuance is for currency stabilization that I personally don't approve of).Joel , January 5, 2018 at 2:12 pm
And who are the adults? Let me guess, bankers and bondholders?Wukchumni , January 5, 2018 at 11:14 am
I'm not an expert in this at all, but in Peru, you could hold bank accounts in either national currency or dollars. The national currency accounts spared you currency exchange fees and also had higher interest rates. Most people who could hedged their bets by putting money in both accounts.
It seems like a happy medium between abandoning national currencies and letting savers get ravaged? No?MisterMr , January 5, 2018 at 11:31 am
While not as spectacular of a return as Bitcoin, but impressive nonetheless, the escape route for an Argentinean @ the turn of the century was the golden rule, an ounce of all that glitters was 300 pesos then and now around 25,000 pesos, a most excellent 'troy' horse.a different chris , January 5, 2018 at 12:41 pm
So, is austerity good or is austerity bad? And in what conditions?
I'm for expansionary government expense (and direct government ownership of some industries, such as with an NHS) balanced by taxes on high incomes.
So in my view the problem happens when the government lowers taxes on the rich, as seems likely in this case.
On the other hand taxes on the rich are likely to cause capital flight.nonsense factory , January 5, 2018 at 5:07 pm
So why did Macri get elected to do this? Yeah he didn't win by much, but he won.
>The hand-to-mouth poor will continue being ravaged by inflation
Which is freaking weird. Argentina has cropland. They have energy sources (and I won't bore everybody ok, I will with the observation that the Industrial Age is generously a 300/8000 year ratio part of human history).
And doesn't the below need some unpacking?:
>only the richer ones have assets they can move to safety outside the country
What are these assets? Why are said assets mobile? How did they come to "own" them? What percentage of the population is encompassed by "the richer ones" phrasing?JohnnyGL , January 5, 2018 at 6:21 pm
Question: why doesn't MMT thinking work for countries like Argentina?
As wikipedia notes:
"The key insight of MMT is that "monetarily sovereign government is the monopoly supplier of its currency and can issue currency of any denomination in physical or non-physical forms. As such the government has an unlimited capacity to pay for the things it wishes to purchase and to fulfill promised future payments, and has an unlimited ability to provide funds to the other sectors. Thus, insolvency and bankruptcy of this government is not possible. It can always pay."
Is this a general flaw in MMT? Does MMT only apply to dominant nation-states like the U.S., who can use foreign military and financial pressures to protect the currency, aka the petrodollar? Is the petrodollar a true 'fiat currency' or is it somehow based on control of commodities (especially oil)? Is there something peculiar about Argentina and other countries facing currency devaluation that MMT doesn't handle well? Any ideas on this?
That wikipedia write up isn't wrong, but it could be better. Probably need to hammer home the point that the sovereign can always pay IN THE CURRENCY THAT IT ISSUES.
Most of the MMT related conversations on this site, and the posts that are written up on the subject are mostly about explaining how there are constraints that many people THINK exist in the USA, but don't actually exist, at least in economic terms (political constraints notwithstanding). A country cannot be forced to default on a currency it issues. If the USA had significant debts in EUR or JPY, then it'd be a very different conversation.
External constraints are a big deal for most countries, especially developing countries that depend on exports of primary commodities. Chile, for instance, is constrained by balance of payments problems when the price of copper declines. Also, developed countries that are relatively smaller have much more limited sovereignty. The Swiss Central Bank has to follow what the ECB does, to a large degree.
On the other hand, there's episodes where some countries have found room for maneuver when they give up their sovereign currency. I didn't expect that Ecuador's economy would perform quite as well as it has in recent years. But, they've shown that you can find ways to get creative to compensate for loss of monetary sovereignty. Of course, the fiscal constraints are real since Ecuador can't print USD.
Brazil's recent neoliberal turn was frustrating for a variety of reasons, but being a big, diverse economy, they've got more sovereignty than their neighbors. However, the business and political elites in Brazil decided to hammer through austerity (spending cuts and interest rate hikes) because they WANTED to, not because external forces made them do it.
No doubt an MMT prescription for Argentina would advice them to lay off the $ denominated debt and stick to pesos as much as possible. I'd imagine Stephanie Kelton or any of the UMKC crew would advise curtailing imports or doing some import substitution in order to take pressure off balance of payments issues. They'd also take a look at what was driving inflation domestically and try to find ways to relieve it with a targeted approach, instead of risking recession and unemployment. Neoliberal/Washington Consensus type economists would say hike interest rates, cut government spending in order to curtail demand. They'd argue that the private sector will make the best decisions about where to reign in spending to reduce inflation.
Dec 22, 2017 | www.unz.com
What makes a Harvey Weinstein moment? The now-disgraced Hollywood mogul is hardly the first powerful man to stand accused of having abused women. The Harveys who preceded Harvey himself are legion, their prominence matching or exceeding his own and the misdeeds with which they were charged at least as reprehensible.
In the relatively recent past, a roster of prominent offenders would include Bill Clinton, Bill Cosby, Roger Ailes, Bill O'Reilly, and, of course, Donald Trump. Throw in various jocks, maestros, senior military officers, members of the professoriate and you end up with quite a list. Yet in virtually all such cases, the alleged transgressions were treated as instances of individual misconduct, egregious perhaps but possessing at best transitory political resonance.
All that, though, was pre-Harvey. As far as male sexual hijinks are concerned, we might compare Weinstein's epic fall from grace to the stock market crash of 1929: one week it's the anything-goes Roaring Twenties, the next we're smack dab in a Great Depression.
How profound is the change? Up here in Massachusetts where I live, we've spent the past year marking John F. Kennedy's 100th birthday. If Kennedy were still around to join in the festivities, it would be as a Class A sex offender. Rarely in American history has the cultural landscape shifted so quickly or so radically.
In our post-Harvey world, men charged with sexual misconduct are guilty until proven innocent, all crimes are capital offenses, and there exists no statute of limitations. Once a largely empty corporate slogan, "zero tolerance" has become a battle cry.
All of this serves as a reminder that, on some matters at least, the American people retain an admirable capacity for outrage. We can distinguish between the tolerable and the intolerable. And we can demand accountability of powerful individuals and institutions.
Everything They Need to Win (Again!)
What's puzzling is why that capacity for outrage and demand for accountability doesn't extend to our now well-established penchant for waging war across much of the planet.
In no way would I wish to minimize the pain, suffering, and humiliation of the women preyed upon by the various reprobates now getting their belated comeuppance. But to judge from published accounts, the women (and in some cases, men) abused by Weinstein, Louis C.K., Mark Halperin, Leon Wieseltier, Kevin Spacey, Al Franken, Charlie Rose, Matt Lauer, Garrison Keillor, my West Point classmate Judge Roy Moore, and their compadres at least managed to survive their encounters. None of the perpetrators are charged with having committed murder. No one died.
Compare their culpability to that of the high-ranking officials who have presided over or promoted this country's various military misadventures of the present century. Those wars have, of course, resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths and will ultimately cost American taxpayers many trillions of dollars. Nor have those costly military efforts eliminated "terrorism," as President George W. Bush promised back when today's G.I.s were still in diapers.
Bush told us that, through war, the United States would spread freedom and democracy. Instead, our wars have sown disorder and instability, creating failing or failed states across the Greater Middle East and Africa. In their wake have sprung up ever more, not fewer, jihadist groups, while acts of terror are soaring globally. These are indisputable facts.
It discomfits me to reiterate this mournful litany of truths. I feel a bit like the doctor telling the lifelong smoker with stage-four lung cancer that an addiction to cigarettes is adversely affecting his health. His mute response: I know and I don't care. Nothing the doc says is going to budge the smoker from his habit. You go through the motions, but wonder why.
In a similar fashion, war has become a habit to which the United States is addicted. Except for the terminally distracted, most of us know that. We also know -- we cannot not know -- that, in places like Afghanistan and Iraq, U.S. forces have been unable to accomplish their assigned mission, despite more than 16 years of fighting in the former and more than a decade in the latter.
It's not exactly a good news story, to put it mildly. So forgive me for saying it ( yet again ), but most of us simply don't care, which means that we continue to allow a free hand to those who preside over those wars, while treating with respect the views of pundits and media personalities who persist in promoting them. What's past doesn't count; we prefer to sustain the pretense that tomorrow is pregnant with possibilities. Victory lies just around the corner.
By way of example, consider a recent article in U.S. News and World Report. The headline: "Victory or Failure in Afghanistan: 2018 Will Be the Deciding Year." The title suggests a balance absent from the text that follows, which reads like a Pentagon press release. Here in its entirety is the nut graf (my own emphasis added):
"Armed with a new strategy and renewed support from old allies, the Trump administration now believes it has everything it needs to win the war in Afghanistan. Top military advisers all the way up to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis say they can accomplish what two previous administrations and multiple troop surges could not: the defeat of the Taliban by Western-backed local forces, a negotiated peace and the establishment of a popularly supported government in Kabul capable of keeping the country from once again becoming a haven to any terrorist group."
Now if you buy this, you'll believe that Harvey Weinstein has learned his lesson and can be trusted to interview young actresses while wearing his bathrobe.
For starters, there is no "new strategy." Trump's generals, apparently with a nod from their putative boss, are merely modifying the old "strategy," which was itself an outgrowth of previous strategies tried, found wanting, and eventually discarded before being rebranded and eventually recycled.
Short of using nuclear weapons, U.S. forces fighting in Afghanistan over the past decade and a half have experimented with just about every approach imaginable: invasion, regime change, occupation, nation-building, pacification, decapitation, counterterrorism, and counterinsurgency, not to mention various surges , differing in scope and duration. We have had a big troop presence and a smaller one, more bombing and less, restrictive rules of engagement and permissive ones. In the military equivalent of throwing in the kitchen sink, a U.S. Special Operations Command four-engine prop plane recently deposited the largest non-nuclear weapon in the American arsenal on a cave complex in eastern Afghanistan. Although that MOAB made a big boom, no offer of enemy surrender materialized.
$65 billion in U.S. taxpayer dollars. And under the circumstances, consider that a mere down payment.
According to General John Nicholson, our 17th commander in Kabul since 2001, the efforts devised and implemented by his many predecessors have resulted in a "stalemate" -- a generous interpretation given that the Taliban presently controls more territory than it has held since the U.S. invasion. Officers no less capable than Nicholson himself, David Petraeus and Stanley McChrystal among them, didn't get it done. Nicholson's argument: trust me.
In essence, the "new strategy" devised by Trump's generals, Secretary of Defense Mattis and Nicholson among them, amounts to this: persist a tad longer with a tad more. A modest uptick in the number of U.S. and allied troops on the ground will provide more trainers, advisers, and motivators to work with and accompany their Afghan counterparts in the field. The Mattis/Nicholson plan also envisions an increasing number of air strikes, signaled by the recent use of B-52s to attack illicit Taliban " drug labs ," a scenario that Stanley Kubrick himself would have been hard-pressed to imagine.
Notwithstanding the novelty of using strategic bombers to destroy mud huts, there's not a lot new here. Dating back to 2001, coalition forces have already dropped tens of thousands of bombs in Afghanistan. Almost as soon as the Taliban were ousted from Kabul, coalition efforts to create effective Afghan security forces commenced. So, too, did attempts to reduce the production of the opium that has funded the Taliban insurgency, alas with essentially no effect whatsoever . What Trump's generals want a gullible public (and astonishingly gullible and inattentive members of Congress) to believe is that this time they've somehow devised a formula for getting it right.
Turning the Corner
With his trademark capacity to intuit success, President Trump already sees clear evidence of progress. "We're not fighting anymore to just walk around," he remarked in his Thanksgiving message to the troops. "We're fighting to win. And you people [have] turned it around over the last three to four months like nobody has seen." The president, we may note, has yet to visit Afghanistan.
I'm guessing that the commander-in-chief is oblivious to the fact that, in U.S. military circles, the term winning has acquired notable elasticity. Trump may think that it implies vanquishing the enemy -- white flags and surrender ceremonies on the U.S.S. Missouri . General Nicholson knows better. "Winning," the field commander says , "means delivering a negotiated settlement that reduces the level of violence and protecting the homeland." (Take that definition at face value and we can belatedly move Vietnam into the win column!)
Should we be surprised that Trump's generals, unconsciously imitating General William Westmoreland a half-century ago, claim once again to detect light at the end of the tunnel? Not at all. Mattis and Nicholson (along with White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster) are following the Harvey Weinstein playbook: keep doing it until they make you stop. Indeed, with what can only be described as chutzpah, Nicholson himself recently announced that we have " turned the corner " in Afghanistan. In doing so, of course, he is counting on Americans not to recall the various war managers, military and civilian alike, who have made identical claims going back years now, among them Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta in 2012 .
From on high, assurances of progress; in the field, results that, year after year, come nowhere near what's promised; on the homefront, an astonishingly credulous public. The war in Afghanistan has long since settled into a melancholy and seemingly permanent rhythm.
The fact is that the individuals entrusted by President Trump to direct U.S. policy believe with iron certainty that difficult political problems will yield to armed might properly employed. That proposition is one to which generals like Mattis and Nicholson have devoted a considerable part of their lives, not just in Afghanistan but across much of the Islamic world. They are no more likely to question the validity of that proposition than the Pope is to entertain second thoughts about the divinity of Jesus Christ.
In Afghanistan, their entire worldview -- not to mention the status and clout of the officer corps they represent -- is at stake. No matter how long the war there lasts, no matter how many " generations " it takes, no matter how much blood is shed to no purpose, and no matter how much money is wasted, they will never admit to failure -- nor will any of the militarists-in-mufti cheering them on from the sidelines in Washington, Donald Trump not the least among them.
Meanwhile, the great majority of the American people, their attention directed elsewhere -- it's the season for holiday shopping, after all -- remain studiously indifferent to the charade being played out before their eyes.
It took a succession of high-profile scandals before Americans truly woke up to the plague of sexual harassment and assault. How long will it take before the public concludes that they have had enough of wars that don't work? Here's hoping it's before our president, in a moment of ill temper, unleashes " fire and fury " on the world.
Andrew J. Bacevich, a TomDispatch regular , is the author, most recently, of America's War for the Greater Middle East: A Military History .
anonymous , Disclaimer December 11, 2017 at 3:31 am GMTIt's astonishing to see people make the claim that "victory" is possible in Afghanistan. Could they actually believe this or are they lying in order to drag this out even longer and keep the money pit working overtime? These are individuals that are highly placed and so should know better. It's not really a war but an occupation with the native insurgents fighting to oust the foreign occupier. The US has tried every trick there is in trying to tamp down the insurgency. They know what we're trying to do and can thwart us at every step. The US lost even as it began it's invasion there but didn't know it yet in the wake of it's initial success in scattering the Taliban, not even a real army and not even a real state. They live there and we don't; they can resist for the next thirty years or fifty years. When does the multi-billion bill come due and how will we pay it?Issac , December 12, 2017 at 4:07 am GMT"How long will it take before the public concludes that they have had enough of wars that don't work?"USAMNESIA , December 14, 2017 at 3:32 am GMT
It already happened, but Progressives like you failed to note that Republican voters subbed the Bush clan and their various associates for Trump in the Primary season, precisely because he called the Iraq and Afghan wars mistakes. The Americans suffer under a two party establishment that is clearly antagonistic to their interests. As a part of that regime, a dutiful Progressive toad, you continue to peddle the lie that it was the war-weary White Americans who celebrated those wars. In reality, any such support was ginned up from tools like you who wrote puff pieces for their Neocon Progressive masters.
Thus far, Trump's interventionism has been a fragment of what the Hillary campaign promised. Might you count that among your lucky stars? Fat chance. You cretinous Progressive filth have no such spine upon which to base an independent thought. You trot out the same old tiresome tropes week after week fulfilling your designated propagandist duty and then you skulk back to your den of iniquity to prepare another salvo of agitprop. What a miserable existence.This is the center of a world empire. It maintains a gigantic military which virtually never stops fighting wars, none of them having anything to do with defense. It has created an intelligence monstrosity which makes old outfits like Stazi seem almost quaint, and it spies on everyone. Indeed, it maintains seventeen national security establishments, as though you can never have too much of a good thing. And some of these guys, too, are engaged full-time in forms of covert war, from fomenting trouble in other lands and interfering in elections to overthrowing governments.nsa , December 18, 2017 at 5:36 am GMT
Obama ended up killing more people than any dictator or demagogue of this generation on earth you care to name, several hundred thousand of them in his eight years. And he found new ways to kill, too, as by creating the world's first industrial-scale extrajudicial killing operation. Here he signs off on "kill lists," placed in his Oval Office in-box, to murder people he has never seen, people who enjoy no legal rights or protections. His signed orders are carried out by uniformed thugs working at computer screens in secure basements where they proceed to play computer games with real live humans as their targets, again killing or maiming people they have never seen.
If you ever have wondered where all the enabling workers came from in places like Stalin's Gulag or Hitler's concentration camps, well, here is your answer. American itself produces platoons of such people. You could find them working at Guantanamo and in the far-flung string of secret torture facilities the CIA ran for years, and you could find them in places like Fallujah or Samarra or Abu Ghraib, at the CIA's basement game arcade killing centers, and even all over the streets of America dressed as police who shoot unarmed people every day, sometimes in the back.
https://chuckmanwords.wordpress.com/2017/01/12/john-chuckman-essay-of-wizards-and-washington-and-the-dreary-unrelenting-reality-of-american-politics-a-raw-and-sometimes-darkly-comic-survey-of-americas-treacherous-political-terrain/ZOG has now asserted the right to kill anyone, anywhere, anytime, for any reason. No trial, no hearing, no witnesses, no defense, no nothing. Is this actually legal? Any constitutional lawyers out there care to comment? Has ZOG now achieved the status of an all-powerful all-knowing deity with the power of life and death over all living things?Waiting too , December 18, 2017 at 10:36 am GMTIt's unlikely that the USA would be remaining in Afghanistan if its goals were not being attained. So the author has merely shown that the stated goals cannot be the real goals. What then are the real goals? I propose two: 1) establish a permanent military presence on a Russian border; 2) finance it with the heroin trade. Given other actions of the Empire around the globe, the first goal is obvious. The bombing of mud huts containing competitors' drug labs, conjoined with the fact that we do not destroy the actual poppy fields (obvious green targets in an immense ocean of brown) make this goal rather obvious as well. The rest of the article is simply more evidence that the Empire does not include mere human tragedy in its profit calculation.War for Blair Mountain , December 18, 2017 at 1:09 pm GMT5.6 TRILLION $$$$$$ FOR GULF WAR 1 AND GULF WAR 2DESERT FOX , December 18, 2017 at 1:43 pm GMT
The Native Born White American Working Class Teenage Male Population used as CANNON FODDER for Congressman Steven Solarz's and Donald Trump's very precious Jewish only Israel .
WAR IS A RACKET!!!! don't you think?Israel and the deep state did the attack on 911 and thus set the table for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and Libya and Syria and the Zionist neocons who control every facet of the U.S. gov and the MSM and the MIC and the FED ie the BANKS set in motion the blood sacrifice for their Zionist god SATAN, that is what they have done.Michael Kenny , December 18, 2017 at 2:17 pm GMT
The Zionist warmongers and Satanists will destroy America.It's not so much that America is addicted to war as that the American "business model" makes permanent war inevitable. US global dominance rests on economic domination, in particular, the dollar as world reserve currency. That has allowed the US economy to survive in spite of being hollowed out, financialised and burdened with enormous sovereign debt. Economic dominance derives from political dominance, which, in its turn, flows from military dominance. For that military dominance to be credible, not only must the US have the biggest and best military forces on the planet, it must show itself willing to use those forces to maintain its dominance by actually using them from time to time, in particular, to unequivocally beat off any challenge to its dominance (Putin!). It also, of course, must win, or, more correctly, be able to present the outcome credibly as a win. Failure to maintain military dominance will undermine the position of the dollar, sending its value through the floor. A low dollar means cheap exports (Boeing will sell more planes than Airbus!), but it also means that imports (oil, outsourced goods) will be dear. At that point the hollowed out nature of the US economy will cut in, probably provoking a Soviet-style implosion of the US economy and society and ruining anyone who has holdings denominated in dollars. I call that the Gorbachev conundrum. Gorby believed in the Soviet Union and wanted to reform it. But the Soviet system had become so rigid as to be unreformable. He pulled a threat and the whole system unravelled. But if he hadn't pulled the thread, the whole system would have unravelled anyway. It was a choice between hard landing and harder landing. Similarly, US leaders have to continue down the only road open to them: permanent war. As Thomas Jefferson said of slavery, it's like holding a wolf by the ears. You don't like it but you don't dare let go!TG , December 18, 2017 at 2:36 pm GMT"How long will it take before the public concludes that they have had enough of wars that don't work?" Answer: Never.Intelligent Dasein , Website December 18, 2017 at 2:37 pm GMT
In Alabama when people would rant about how toxic Roy Moore was, I would politely point out that his opponent for Senate was OK with spending trillions of dollars fighting pointless winless wars on the other side of the planet just so politically connected defense contractors can make a buck, and ask if that should be an issue too? The response, predictably, was as if I was an alien from the planet Skyron in the galaxy of Andromeda.
We are sheep. We are outraged at these sexual transgressions because the corporate press tells us to be outraged. We are not outraged at these stupid foreign wars, because the corporate press does not tell us to be outraged. It's all mass effect, and the comfort of being in a herd and all expressing the same feelings.Andrew Bacevich is wrong about a couple of things in this article.Ilyana_Rozumova , December 18, 2017 at 3:04 pm GMT
First, he says that the American public is both apathetic and credulous. I agree that we have largely become apathetic towards these imperial wars, but I disagree that we have become credulous. In fact, these two states of mind exclude one another; you cannot be both apathetic and credulous with respect to the same object at the same time. The credulity charge is easy to dismiss because virtually no one today believes anything that comes out of Washington or its mouthpieces in the legacy media. The apathy charge is on point but it needs qualification. The smarter, more informed Americans have seen that their efforts to change the course of American policy have been to no avail, and they've given up in frustration and disgust. The less smart, less informed Americans are constrained by the necessity of getting on with their meager lives; they are an apolitical mass that possesses neither the understanding nor the capacity to make any difference on the policy front whatsoever.
Second, Andrew Bacevich calls for a Weinstein moment without realizing that it already happened more than ten years ago. The 2006 midterm elections were the first Weinstein moment, which saw the American people deliver a huge outpouring of antiwar sentiment that inflicted significant congressional losses on the neocon Republicans of George W. Bush. An echo of that groundswell happened again in 2008 when Barack Obama was elected to office on an explicitly antiwar platform. But Obama turned out to be one of the most pro-war presidents ever, and thus an angry electorate made one final push in the same direction by attempting to clean house with Donald Trump. Now that Donald has shown every sign of having cucked out to the war lobby, we seem to be left with no electoral solutions.
The only thing that's going to work is for the American Imperium to be handed a much-deserved military and financial defeat. The one encouraging fact is that if the top ten percent of our political and financial elite were planed off by a foreign power, the American people would give as few damns about that as they currently do about our imperial wars.@Michael KennyAnonymous , Disclaimer December 18, 2017 at 3:17 pm GMT
Very good but some little errors. Concerning Russia and China, Russia vent all or nothing. China was much smarter. First they allowed self employment, than small business and long time after they started to sell state enterprises,If Tom's Dispatch continues to be successful, Americans will continue to be asleep.nebulafox , December 18, 2017 at 4:00 pm GMT
Masterful propaganda. War, according to our favorite spooks, is necessary to win, but otherwise reprehensible.
Sex is otherwise necessary for human life but Harvey Weinstein is ugly. Hold tightly to your cognitive dissonance, because you're expected to remember John F Kennedy who got it on, but is the expendable martyr you should care about, not that other guy
Let's review: terror attacks are wins. Superior or effective anti-war propaganda comes from the military
itself. They really don't want war, but really they do.@anonymousnebulafox , December 18, 2017 at 4:08 pm GMT
We're trying to make Afghanistan not Afghanistan: aka, trying to be a miracle worker. We can throw as much money as we like at that place, and it isn't going to happen, least of all with troops on nine month shifts.
Let Iran and Pakistan squabble over it. Good riddance.@Waiting tooAnonymous , Disclaimer December 18, 2017 at 4:28 pm GMT
1) doesn't really make much sense, given that Poland and the Baltic States would be more than happy to take all US forces in Europe to give us a presence near Russia in a part of the world that would be far easier to justify to the American public-and to the international community. Afghanistan? Who exactly is Russia going to mess with? Iran is their-for now, longer term, the two have conflicting agendas in the region, but don't expect the geniuses in the Beltway to pick up on that opportunity-ally, and unlike the USSR, the Russians don't want to get involved in the India-Pakistan conflict. Russia's current tilt toward China makes a strategic marriage with India of the kind that you found in the Cold War impossible, but they obviously don't want to tilt toward the basketcase known as Pakistan. The only reason that Russia would want to get involved with Afghanistan beyond having a more preferable status than having American troops there is power projection among ex-Soviet states, and there are far more effective ways to do than muddle about with Afghanistan.
2, on the other hand, given Iran-Contra who knows? The first generation of the Taliban pretty much wiped the heroin trade out as offensive to Islamic sensibilities, but the newer generations have no such qualms.
I think you give America's rulers far too much credit. The truth is probably far scarier: the morons who work in the Beltway honestly believe their own propaganda-that we can make Afghanistan into some magical Western democracy if we throw enough money at it-and combine that with the usual bureaucratic inertia.@Waiting tooArt , December 18, 2017 at 4:45 pm GMT
Another bonus is that Afghan heroin seeps into Russia and wreaks havoc in the regions bordering Afghanistan -- krokodil and all that.According to General John Nicholson, our 17th commander in Kabul since 2001,MarkinLA , December 18, 2017 at 5:59 pm GMT
We have been killing these people for 17 years. Now our generals say that if we indiscriminately kill enough men, women, and children who get in the way of our B52s, that they will see the light and make peace. How totally wonderful.
My solution is to gage the Lindsey Grahams for a year.
What will do more good for peace – B52s or shutting up Graham's elk?
Think Peace -- ArtI remember when Trump said he knew more than the generals and was viciously attacked for it. It turns out he did know more than the generals just by knowing it was a waste. Trump was pushed by politics to defer to the generals who always have an answer when it comes to a war – more men, more weapons, more time.Sollipsist , December 18, 2017 at 6:20 pm GMT@Intelligent DaseinpeterAUS , December 18, 2017 at 6:46 pm GMT
"The less smart, less informed Americans are constrained by the necessity of getting on with their meager lives; they are an apolitical mass that possesses neither the understanding nor the capacity to make any difference on the policy front whatsoever."
I wonder if any Abolitionists criticized the slaves for failing to revolt? Probably not; I'm guessing they were mostly convinced that the negro required intervention from outside, whether due to their nature or from overwhelming circumstance.
If the enslaved American public is liberated, I hope we'll know what to do with ourselves afterwards. It'd be a shame to simply end up in another kind of bondage, resentful and subject to whatever oppressive system replaces the current outrage. Perhaps the next one will more persuasively convince us that we're important and essential?@Michael KennypeterAUS , December 18, 2017 at 6:47 pm GMT
Very good post, IMHO.
That phrase "a choice between hard landing and harder landing" is good and can be easily applied to USA today.
Interesting times.@TGSowhat , December 18, 2017 at 7:29 pm GMT
This is well written, IMHO:
We are sheep. We are outraged at these sexual transgressions because the corporate press tells us to be outraged. We are not outraged at these stupid foreign wars, because the corporate press does not tell us to be outraged. It's all mass effect, and the comfort of being in a herd and all expressing the same feelings.Thank you, Andrew J. Bacevich, for your words of wisdom and thank you, Mr. Unz, for this post.Delinquent Snail , December 18, 2017 at 8:57 pm GMT
This corporation needs to be dissolved. I've read about "the inertia" of Federal Government that has morphed into a cash cow for a century of wasted tax dollars funding the MIIC, now the MIIC. Does our existence have to end in financial ruin or, worse yet, some foreign entity creating havoc on our soil?
The Founders NEVER intended that the US of A become a meddler in other Sovereignty's internal affairs or the destroyer of Nation States that do not espoused our "doctrine." Anyone without poop for brains knows that this is about Imperialism and greed, fueled by money and an insatiable luster for MORE.
This should be easier to change than it appears. Is there no will? After all, it Is our Master's money that lubricates the machinery. So, we continue to provide the lubrication for our Masters like a bunch of imbeciles that allow them to survail our words and movements. Somebody please explain our stupidity.@nebulafoxjoe webb , December 18, 2017 at 8:58 pm GMT
If americans would just go all in and commit genocide. That would lead to victory.
No afgans, no enemy.the folks in the US are sick of the wars, contrary to Bacevich. They simply will vote come next election accordingly. They register their disgust in all the polls.Jim Christian , December 18, 2017 at 9:07 pm GMT
This article is not very useful. More punditry puff.
No comments on the Next War for Israel being cooked up by the new crop of neocon youngsters, I guess, and Trump who will trump, trump, trump into the next War for the Jews.
How about some political science on Iran, Syria, Hisbollah, Hamas and the US, Arabia, Judenstaat axis of evil?
Joe WebbHey Bacevich? When you link to WashPost and NYTimes to make your points, you don't. They block access if you've already read links to those two papers three times each and can no longer, for the month, read there. When folks link to papers that won't let you read, it makes one wonder why.Simply Simon , December 18, 2017 at 10:26 pm GMTI believe Americans are damned sick and tired of the stupid, needless war in Afghanistan. But then they should have been sick and tired of stupid , needless wars like Korea, Vietnam and Iraq, and probably most of them were. But it's easy to be complacent when someone else's son is doing the fighting and dying And it's easy to be complacent when your stomach is full and you have plenty of booze and pain killers available. There will be a day of reckoning when the next big economic bust arrives and which may make the Great Depression paltry by comparison. America is a far different place then it was in the 1930s when our population was 140 million. Americans were not so soft and the conveniences we now take for granted not available. When the supermarkets run out of food, watch out. There may not even be any soup lines to stand in.Joe Franklin , December 18, 2017 at 11:21 pm GMTDruid , December 19, 2017 at 12:41 am GMT
In truth, U.S. commanders have quietly shelved any expectations of achieving an actual victory -- traditionally defined as "imposing your will on the enemy" -- in favor of a more modest conception of success.
Your assumptions are wrong about the US goal of the invasion of Afghanistan. Afghanistan and Iraq were not invaded to establish democracy or impose American will whatever that is. Afghanistan and Iraq were invaded to establish a temporary military staging ground for a US invasion of Iran, the designated regional enemy of Israel. As long as the current regime in Iran remains, the US will remain in Iraq and Afghanistan.
... ... ...@Waiting tooanno nimus , December 19, 2017 at 1:53 am GMT
And minerals! Eric Prince himself recently tried to sell the idea of having his private militias do the fighting in Afghanistan for the US and finance it by mining said country's minerals, thus making himself even richer."i can live without a friend, but not without an enemy."Cloak And Dagger , December 19, 2017 at 5:03 am GMT@SolontoCroesusJoe Wong , December 20, 2017 at 2:25 pm GMT
I was onboard with Mr. Bacevich, until I got to this:
Almost as soon as the Taliban were ousted from Kabul, coalition efforts to create effective Afghan security forces commenced. So, too, did attempts to reduce the production of the opium that has funded the Taliban insurgency
What utter rubbish! The Taliban was instrumental in shutting down the poppy production until the CIA came along and restarted it to fund their black ops.
We have the reverse Midas touch. Everything we touch (Iraq, Libya, Syria, Yemen, etc., etc.) turns to shit. We supposedly attack countries to liberate them from their tyrants who are supposedly killing their own people, and end up killing more people than all of them put together. And, oh yes, we have our favorite tyrants (Saudis, Israelis) whom we provide with horrible weapons (like cluster bombs) to help them kill people we hate.
Mr. Bacevich is right about the lack of outrage about our wars, but the current Weinstein explosion consists of hordes of mostly American female victims, mostly white, a (very) few jews, and a few men, who have the stage to complain about their oppressors. What would be the counterpart of that w.r.t. the wars? Millions of brown victims in far away lands that most of us couldn't even find on a map? How likely is that to happen?
So yes, no outrage, and none likely. The last 17 years have proven that.@anonymous
You don't know the American has been paying everything through monopoly money printed through the thin air since WWI, i.e. a keystroke on the Federal Reserve's computer? No wonder the Americans have been waging reckless wars all over the world on the fabricated phantom WMD allegations as humanitarian intervention relentlessly.
Romans did not stop waging reckless wars until their empire collapsed; the British imitates the Romans and the American is born out of the British, hence the Americans will no stop waging reckless wars until their empire collapsed like the Romans.
Dec 25, 2017 | theduran.com
On Friday 21st December 2017 the Stockholm Arbitration Court made a ruling in the legal dispute between Ukraine's state owned gas monopoly Naftogaz and Russia's largely state owned gas monopoly Gazprom.
In the hours after the decision – which like all decisions of the Stockholm Arbitration Court – is not published, Naftogaz claimed victory in a short statement. However over the course of the hours which followed Gazprom provided details of the decision which suggests that the truth is the diametric opposite.The Duran recommends using WP Engine >>
Here is how the Financial Times reports the competing claims
Both Ukraine's Naftogaz and Russia's Gazprom both on Friday claimed victory as a Stockholm arbitration tribunal issued the final award ruling in the first of two cases in a three-year legal battle between the state-controlled energy companies, where total claims stand at some $80bn.
An emailed statement from the Ukrainian company was titled:
"Naftogaz wins the gas sales arbitration case against Gazprom on all issues in dispute."Start your own website here >>
The Stockholm arbitration tribunal -- in its final award ruling in a dispute over gas supplies from prior years -- had, according to Naftogaz, struck down Gazprom's claim to receive $56bn for gas contracted but not supplied through controversial "take-or-pay" clauses. They were included in a supply contract Ukraine signed in 2009 after Gazprom dented supplies to the EU by cutting all flow amid a price dispute -- including transit through the country's vast pipeline systems. In a tweet Ukraine's foreign minister
Pavlo Klimkin wrote: "The victory of Naftogaz in the Stockholm arbitration: It's not a knockout, but three knockdowns with obvious advantage."
But later Gazprom countered that arbitors "acknowledged the main points of the contract were in effect and upheld the majority of Gazprom's demands for payment for gas supplies", worth over $2bn. A Naftogaz official responded that the company never refused to pay for gas supplied, but challenged price and conditions.
Given the tribunal does not make its decisions public, doubt loomed over which side was the ultimate winner. Anticipation also grew over the second and final tribunal award expected early next year over disputes both have concerning past gas transit obligations.
Friday's final Stockholm arbitration ruling follows a preliminary decision from last May after which both sides were given time to settle monetary claims outside of the tribunal but failed to reach agreement.
Here is the full Naftogaz statement:
"Today, the Tribunal at the Arbitration Institute of the Stockholm Chamber of Commerce has completely rejected Gazprom take-or-pay claims to Naftogaz amounting to USD 56 billion for 2009-2017.
- – Naftogaz succeeded at reducing future contract volume obligations by more than 10 times and made them relevant to its actual import needs.
- – Price for gas off-taken by Naftogaz in 2Q 2014 reduced 27% from USD 485/tcm to USD 352/tcm. – Naftogaz saved USD 1.8 billion on gas purchased in 2014-2015 due to revision of the contract price.
- – Destination clause and other discriminatory provisions were declared invalid to bring the contract in line with current European market standards.
- – Naftogaz estimates the total positive financial effect of the arbitration over the lifetime of the supply contract at over USD 75 billion.
- – Naftogaz claims up to USD 16 billion in transit contract arbitration against Gazprom; decision expected on 28 February 2018."
Gazprom said that in a separate decision on May 31 of this year, the tribunal denied Naftogaz's application to review prices from May 2011 to April 2014, ordered it to pay $14bn for gas supplies during that period, and said that the take-or-pay conditions applied for the duration of the contract. Gazprom claimed that Naftogaz would have to pay it $2.18bn plus interest of 0.03 per cent for every day the payments were late, and then pay for 5bn cm of gas annually starting next year.
When the different sides give opposite accounts of the same decision it obviously becomes difficult to say what the real decision actually is. However Gazprom says that the court upheld (1) the main provisions of the contract; (2) the contract's take-or-pay provisions, these being a particularly contentious issue in the contract; and (3) that Naftogaz has been ordered to pay Gazprom $2 billion, presumably immediately, with interest for every day the amount is unpaid.
By contrast the reduction in the gas price Naftogaz refers to from $485/tcm to $352 tcm which Naftogaz makes much of in its statement appears to apply only to gas supplied to Ukraine by Gazprom in the second quarter of 2014 and still sets the price of gas supplied to Ukraine by Gazprom higher than was demanded by Ukraine during this period.
The key point here is that Russia agreed to reduce the price of gas supplied to Ukraine by an agreement Russia's President Putin reached with Ukraine's President Yanukovich in December 2013. After the Maidan coup the new Ukrainian government went back on the agreement causing the Russians to demand payment of the original price. However over the course of 2014, as energy prices began first to slide and then crashed, and as it became clear that Ukraine was simply not paying for its gas, Russia again reduced the price of the gas Ukraine had to pay.
What seems to have happened is that the Stockholm Arbitration Court decided to smooth out the price of gas payable by Ukraine throughout 2014, which is the sort of thing arbitration tribunals are regularly known to do, whilst leaving the essentials of the contract unchanged.
If so then this is not a victory by Ukraine but a clearcut defeat, which Naftogaz and the Ukrainian government have tried to spin into a victory by citing the reduction in the gas price in the second quarter of 2014 and the reduction in future gas import volumes, neither of which were contentious issues. By contrast it is clear that Ukraine and Naftogaz must pay the full contractual price and abide by the contract's take-or-pay provisions for the whole of the period of the contract prior to the second quarter of 2014.
What this means in terms of hard cash is that Ukraine must now pay Russia a further $2 billion on top of the $3 billion it was recently ordered to pay by the High Court in London. Just as it is holding back on paying the $3 billion it was ordered to pay by the High Court until the appeal process in London is finished, so it will try to hold off paying the $2 billion it has just been ordered to pay to Gazprom until the final decision of the Stockholm Arbitration Court (thus the brave talk of Naftogaz's claims of "up to $16 billion transit contract arbitration against Gazprom") but thereafter payment of the $2 billion will fall due. I say this because the claim Gazprom owes Naftogaz "up to" $16 billion in transit fees looks like it has been plucked out of the air.
What this means is that over the course of 2018 Ukraine will have to pay Russia $5 billion ($3 billion awarded by the High Court in London and $2 billion awarded by the Stockholm Arbitration Court). Since the $2 billion awarded by the Stockholm Arbitration Court is technically an arbitration award, Gazprom will need to convert it into a court Judgment before it can enforce it, but that is merely a formality. At that point this debt will become not merely due but legally enforceable as well.
Ukraine recently borrowed $3 billion on the international financial markets at very high interest almost certainly in order to pay the $3 billion the High Court in London has ordered it to pay Russia. Whilst the $2 billion is technically a debt owed by Naftogaz not Ukraine and its non-payment would does not place Ukraine in a state of sovereign default, Gazprom is in a position to enforce the debt against Naftogaz's assets (including gas it buys) in the European Economic Area. It is difficult to see how Naftogaz and Ukraine can avoid payment of this debt.
Has Ukraine actually gained anything from its long running gas dispute with Russia?
Naftogaz brags that Ukraine has saved up to $75 billion because it is no longer buying gas from Russia. However this begs the question of whether the gas Ukraine is now importing from Europe really is significantly cheaper than the gas Ukraine was buying from Russia? This is debatable and with energy prices rising it is likely to become even less likely over time.
Dec 23, 2017 | www.nakedcapitalism.com
December 23, 2017 Interview with Michael Hudson, a research professor of Economics at University of Missouri, Kansas City, and a research associate at the Levy Economics Institute of Bard College. His latest book is J is for Junk Economics . Cross-posted from Hudson's site .
As many people turn towards their Christian and Jewish faiths this Christmas and Hanukkah in an attempt to make sense of the year that was, at least one economist says we have been reading the bible in an anachronistic way.
In fact he has written an entire book on the topic. In And Forgive them their Debts: Credit and Redemption (available this spring on Amazon), Professor Michael Hudson makes the argument that far from being about sex, the bible is actually about economics, and debt in particular.
The Ten Commandments Were About Debt
People tend to think of the Commandment 'do not covet your neighbour's wife' in purely sexual terms but actually, the economist says it refers specifically to creditors who would force the wives and daughters of debtors into sex slavery as collateral for unpaid debt.
"This goes all the way back to Sumer in the third millennium," he said.
Similarly, the Commandment 'thou shalt not steal' refers to usury and exploitation by threat for debts owing.
But the rulers of classical antiquity who cancelled their subjects' debts tended to be overthrown with disturbing frequency – from the Greek 'tyrants' of the 7th century BC who overthrew the aristocracies of Sparta and Corinth, to Sparta's Kings Agis and Cleomenes in the 3rd century BC who sought to cancel Spartan debts, to Roman politicians advocating debt relief and land redistribution, Julius Caesar among them.
Jesus Died for Our Debt
Professor Hudson says Jesus Christ paid the ultimate price for his activism.
What Would Jesus Do?
To understand how to fix today's economy, Hudson says that the Bible's answers were practical for their time.And Forgive them their Debts: Credit and Redemption will be available for purchase just in time for Easter on Amazon.
Patrick Donnelly , December 23, 2017 at 6:32 amSteven , December 23, 2017 at 8:35 am
Reckless lending is a valid concept and has been put into law by Judges and almost unbelievably, lawmakers as well, in some jurisdictions.
The debt is void.
Tricking a borrower into overcommittment is worse and that is what happened in Ireland during the 80s onwards. The Prime ministers of different parties over that time had unlimited overdrafts with several banks, most notably the AIB. A conspiracy that meant only a very few were fully aware of the final result: bondholders would be reimbursed, with the scam being paid for by those who made money and also those who lost money in the asset Ponzi that was always the end.
Emigration was also the intended end, which worked quite well.AbateMagicThinking but Not money , December 23, 2017 at 9:21 am
With you right up to that last sentence. Why couldn't the simple banker theft, the 'free lunch', have been "the intended end"? Critics of the status quo IMHO often attribute way too much intelligence and foresight to the powers that be. There is such a thing as intelligent self-interest (greed). Germany's Bismark and Hudson's ancient rulers understood it. The West's ruling class apparently doesn't.flora , December 23, 2017 at 10:48 am
No more IMHOs please! It starts to read like Uriah Heap. No more humility. Just state your case.
Pip Pipflora , December 23, 2017 at 11:09 am
an aside: It's important to distinguish sentences of opinion from sentences of claimed fact, imo. ;) Opinion is just that, and can't be called out for malice or falsity. Incorrect statements of fact can be so called out. This is an important distinction in written comments. It's important for the reputation of the publication itself, and why LTEs insist on this distinction being made in the letters.
Uriah Heep's "umbleness" was a mask covering his scheming; a very different thing from making a simple written distinction between opinion and fact.St Jacques , December 23, 2017 at 3:33 pm
There's always 'IMNSHO', but that's more typing. :)Blue Pilgrim , December 23, 2017 at 9:57 am
I only ever make true statements, OK !!!
Trouble is that the next day I have a headache and everything looks yellow.Robert McGregor , December 23, 2017 at 11:56 am
'Lead us not into temptation' -- odious debt and liar loans, sounds like.Kurtismayfield , December 23, 2017 at 12:32 pm
> "Reckless lending is a valid concept and has been put into law by Judges and almost unbelievably, lawmakers as well, in some jurisdictions.
The debt is void.
Tricking a borrower into overcommittment . . ."
Take your average 21 year-old today or 40 years ago! Put him in the US and . . .
1) Expose him through the MSM to relentless advertising and propaganda that he should spend, spend, spend!
2) Don't teach him in school about personal finance and debt.
3) Give him a credit card.
What do you expect will happen? Through trickery the bankers have rigged a very profitable system for themselves. It is not a good system where a young person has to have way-above-knowledge-and-discipline in order to protect themselves from credit racketeers. That's why there is the ancient wisdom of the "Debt Jubilee"nilavar , December 23, 2017 at 1:59 pm
I blame credit card debt on the banks themselves.. they should know when to cut someone off, they are tracking your every move these days.OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL , December 23, 2017 at 3:55 pm
if only, all the LENDERS and the Banks (Banksters!) had followed the the cardinal rules(of Finance) of FIDUCIARY DUTY & DUE DILIGENCE, we wouldn't have 2008 crisis.
Banksters were bailed out and the 'DEBT' became the new money, world wise!
Now we have 2008 x10 (Mother of all Bubbles!) crisis at our door step!
Happy Holidays!Alopex , December 23, 2017 at 2:20 pm
The article doesn't distinguish "whose debts?"
When Citi takes too much debt they get Jubilee, when John Q. Public does, they get bankruptcy.
So let's not say "we should bring back Jubliee", we already have it, to the tune of tens of trillions of dollars. Jubliee for billionaires and bankers, just not for you and me.
It's similar to the debate over "Socialism", Bernie gets trashed for even daring to mention the word. But if "socialism" is loosely defined as direct transfers of assets from the State, we have massive socialism in this country already. For Big Wall St, Big Pharma, Big Oil, Big Military, Big Incarceration, Big Surveillance. But propose it for Big Citizen and you will get shouted down and shamed as some kind of pinko.Kathleen Smith , December 23, 2017 at 8:07 am
At a major bank in the late 80s, I heard the Controller describe the ideal credit card customer: the one with account just below the credit limit who makes the minimum monthly payment a few days late.JEHR , December 23, 2017 at 11:57 am
I agree with all that Michael Hudson has to say -- only problem is that the bankers have been so effective in dividing and conquering the genernal public that they can't see who the real enemy is. We have middle class people hating those that have been set up and abused by a corrupt banking establishment that many in this country actually blame the victims. Question is how is this all going to end? and what can we do to stop the world take over by a corrupt banking elite?OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL , December 23, 2017 at 3:43 pm
I have come to believe (from my reading) that the bankers have successfully used algorithms to speed up computing in order to make a profit no matter what the markets are doing. The AI of their machines does not have an ethical basis or empathy for those who lose money. The financialization of the economy is part of the role that AI performs in the profiteering of the bankers and other financial institutions. That I suppose is the first step to using AI algorithms to achieve the goal of the banker: to always and forever make a profit. Watch AI move into other areas for the same profitable purpose.Arizona Slim , December 23, 2017 at 8:12 am
It's much bigger, and much worse, than you describe:
https://thebaffler.com/salvos/oculus-grift-shivaninilavar , December 23, 2017 at 2:04 pm
How is this all going to end? Well, it's going to end because of people like us. We're questioning the current way of the world, and that's the first step in changing it.Sam Adams , December 23, 2017 at 8:25 am
Any DEBT which cannot be paid, will NEVER get paid (Hello Greece!) will be resolved by default and or Bankptcy as shown in history!
2008 was just a walk in the park!Carla , December 23, 2017 at 2:28 pm
I love the irony: "And Forgive them their Debts: Credit and Redemption will be available for purchase just in time for Easter on Amazon."
BravoKaren , December 23, 2017 at 9:09 am
If only Michael Hudson would decline to feed the Amazon beast!Henry Moon Pie , December 23, 2017 at 9:13 am
What a fascinating analysis, thank you!Jim Haygood , December 23, 2017 at 9:26 am
It's best to be cautious when making any kind of assertion about "the Bible says " or "Jesus believed ." The Hebrew bible is an amalgam of many different, often conflicting theological and moral points of view. The Gospels reflect that diversity of thought with some non-Semitic strains added as well.
The Ten Commandments provide a good example of this. The reason given for honoring the Sabbath in Exodus 20:
for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day
but in Deuteronomy (i.e. the "Second Law" in Deuteronomy 5), it's
You shall remember that you were a servant in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out thence with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm
The Exodus version's rationale is drawn completely from awe for YHWH and his creation, but the Deuteronomist asks the Sabbath observers to think empathetically by remembering their ancestors' (mythical) enslavement.
Another example is the Deuteronomist's amendment of the law of debt slavery. The Exodus version did limit debt slavery to 7 years (Exodus 21:2), but D goes further:
And when you send a male slave[b] out from you a free person, you shall not send him out empty-handed. Provide liberally out of your flock, your threshing floor, and your wine press, thus giving to him some of the bounty with which the Lord your God has blessed you. Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God redeemed you; for this reason I lay this command upon you today.
Prophets like Micah and Amos took the D point of view even further, issuing prophecies of condemnation for the rich and compassion for the poor, but the compiler of Proverbs, while extolling moderation, offers a perspective respectful toward the rich and powerful as long as they behave decently.
These differences persist into the time when the Gospels were written. Luke-Acts clearly reflects the D/Prophetic strain. While Matthew's Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5) contains only blessings, Luke 6 includes curses:
But woe to you that are rich, for you have received your consolation.
25 "Woe to you that are full now, for you shall hunger.
"Woe to you that laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep.
26 "Woe to you, when all men speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.
Where did the historical Jesus line up in this millennia-old debate? There's not that much firm evidence either way. Dominic Crossan, relying on gospels outside the canon, tries to make a case for a revolutionary Jesus, but a strong argument can also be made that Jesus didn't care much about earthly politics and socio-economic issues because he believed the end of the world was near.nilavar , December 23, 2017 at 2:09 pm
After the next recession (which I have penciled in for 2019-2020), US fiscal deficits will rise to the $1.5 to 2 trillion level and stay there. Should Trump serve two terms, federal debt will reach $30 trillion, and by then will constitute 130 to 150% of GDP.
At this point Amerisclerosis sets in, growth being impossible as debt service paralyzes any former dynamism in the corrupt and petrified imperial empire.
The Washington DC regime has two ways of defaulting: outright (hard) default, or soft default via inflating away the principal. Naturally politicians will prefer the latter, as it may permit milking a few more years out of their hollowed-out Potemkin economy.
WWJD -- what would Jesus do? Long gold, short bitcoin ought to be a pretty good "set and forget" trade whilst awaiting the Second Coming, though it may be a bit early yet.The Rev Kev , December 23, 2017 at 6:43 pm
Japan's DEBT to GDP ratio is over 300% but it is still here!
'Japanification' to the rescue!
DEBT and QEs to infinity! There are over 8-9 Trillions of Global Sovereign bonds with NRP!ChiGal in Carolina , December 23, 2017 at 9:30 am
What would Jesus do? We know exactly what Jesus would do! Remember him clearing out the money-lenders from the temple? There is your answer right there. Today he would go into the central banks, kick a** and take names after clearing them out. The big banks would then find themselves under the gun without federal backup which mean that they could be shrunk small enough to drown in a bath tub.marieann , December 23, 2017 at 1:26 pm
I seem to recall in one of the mainstream Protestant churches I went to as a child, when we recited the Lord's prayer we DID say " and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors".
In another, we said, "forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespassed against us". That might've been the Winnetka Congregational Church–oh, that property owning legacy of our founding fathers!
Not really up on my biblical exegesis this morning (it's B.C. here: Before Coffee), but don't we "sin" against God? As opposed to our fellow mortals, I mean.Dan Lynch , December 23, 2017 at 9:43 am
Yes, I remember it was said that way also, not in the catholic church I went to but Protestant ones.
I just googled it and there are versions that speak about debt.
I find this article very interesting.
Being non religious now I could get behind a Socialist religious figurejsn , December 23, 2017 at 10:10 am
I like Hudson and agree with much of his philosophy, but I don't think his book will change many minds because religion has nothing to do with logic.
If you want to make a moral or economic case for debt forgiveness, fine, but if you start talking about what Jesus really believed then you're wading into religion and most religious people's minds are already made up on that subject, so I don't think this tactic is a useful approach.
As one of my right wing friends said in response to Hudson's article, "liberation theology has already been debunked." Well, in my friend's mind it has been debunked so that's all that matters.
In my mind all religion is bunk so I am not going to defend Hudson's theology.
Ditto with the recent debate over Steve Keen's "theses." Just leave religion out of economics, OK?mpalomar , December 23, 2017 at 10:55 am
We are all born in ignorance, religion is what we call earlier concatenations of human perception and memory that sustained societies across generations. The current religion, the one we call science, has exploded the human population to a mass the ecosphere cannot long support. Science, for all its knowledge has failed to provide anything remotely approaching a sustainable society or the politics that might create one. Science provides no wisdom, only knowledge.
It's a long game: minds that are are made up; minds yet to be will form around the ideas presented them.
An argument can be made we no longer have enough time.jsn , December 23, 2017 at 1:02 pm
Interesting points. Yet if science provides knowledge how can it be possible that it does not lead to wisdom. Philosophy, wisdom, religion and science are all bundled or linked, science being the latest iteration. Is it possible that there is such a clear, distinct division between wisdom and knowledge? Wisdom must be a product of knowledge as it is hard to imagine wisdom that does not conform to knowledge.
It is a long game but our individual lives are played out on a different time reference. Keynes of course famously acknowledged this, regarding the useless task of economists if they do not recognize the human time frame in their theories and calculations.
Civilization's tragic but expedient go-to-move is the ever prevalent dismissive shrug of complicity elite consensus employs to excuse the generational destruction visited by poverty and war because the march of history must proceed at a desultory stroll in relation to the span of a human life.
It does appear we no longer have time and probably never have.Jamie , December 23, 2017 at 11:27 am
For some time I've wondered if life itself isn't just an exhilarating acceleration of entropy with consciousness being a kind of waste heat.
It denies us free will, but when you look at how we treat one another at scale and the curves for population and energy use it's hard to avoid the comparison to bacteria in a petri dish.
But I still cling to free will understanding it might be an illusion!jsn , December 23, 2017 at 12:45 pm
Who is the "we" you refer to? Religion is simply codified superstition. It is a parasitic excrescence of stable societies, not the cause of their stability. Without the science you deplore you would not be able to criticize science for not achieving the sustainability you claim to value. Sustainability was not a thing until the science of ecology made it so. If you think you can make an argument that we don't have enough time to be rational, go ahead and make it. But "hurry up and abandon science because we only have time for superstition before the world ends" does not sound like a promising argument to me. By the way, if you attempt the argument I suggest you start by distinguishing science from technology and the ability and knowledge to do something from the political decisions to do (or not do) what science tells us is in our power. The same science that gave us the green revolution and the ability to support a huge global population has also given us birth control and the ability to adjust the size of our population to any value we choose. It is not science's fault if we make poor choices.jsn , December 23, 2017 at 1:14 pm
What did you know when you were born? There are embedded assumptions about me in almost every line you wrote.
I don't deplore science, I'm just humble about what it can achieve. It has no agency, only people do. People made science so science can hardly be better than people, which gets us back to the problem of how to get people to sustain the ecology necessary for the species.
Why are you proposing to abandon science? I didn't. I simply said that it will not cause us to change our collective agency, it can't, it only has agency through us.
Additionally, there is decent science on cognitive bias that suggests, as the reader I was responding to did, that rational arguments don't change minds. I accept that science. Ipso facto, as you finished "It's not science's fault we make poor choices", with which I completely agree. It won't be science's success on the outside chance we make some good ones. That is my point: it is a political issue not a scientific one.
The religions you call superstition, while incorporating a great deal about the material world that science has proven (within a certain tolerance) false, also include a great deal about human psychology integrated into time scales significantly longer than any individual human life.
I chose a poor metaphor in "the current religion, the one we call science" that sidetracked my intent, but science can no more solve our problems for us than god.mpalomar , December 23, 2017 at 12:53 pm
Second to last para should have read:
The religions you call superstition, while incorporating a great deal about the material world that science has proven (within a certain tolerance) false, also include a great deal about human psychology integrated into time scales and societies significantly larger than any individual human life that are both true and wise.jsn , December 23, 2017 at 1:05 pm
Perhaps scientific hypothesis is codified superstition. An indefatigable and self perfecting method for discerning the universe, here on earth employed by a cognitively limited and imperfect biological organism.
As an atheist of sorts, the definition that religion, "is a parasitic excrescence of stable societies" strikes me more a definition of economics, particularly the capitalist incantation and that science operating without parameters of elements of religion and philosophy, would be useless, impossible or possibly fatally employed, without the admittedly meager ethical constraints applied currently.jrs , December 23, 2017 at 12:23 pm
It has for a long time seemed to me that only "true believers" could have the confidence to throw out the entire body of something as ancient, vast and polyvalent as "religion".makedoanmend , December 23, 2017 at 2:25 pm
Maybe socialism really truly was the best shot at an belief system for how humans should live in the modern world.
While science is part of our knowledge of the world and it is necessary for this level of biosphere destruction, and certainly it's technologies are part of our life, I don't think it really informs the current VALUE system that much. I think the current value system is informed almost entirely by brutal capitalism, the ideology of mammon and wealth makes right period.Thuto , December 23, 2017 at 6:36 pm
Science and religion are not equivalent, and I have yet to come across a scientist who claimed it to be so.
Religion is a belief system and has been useful system of inquiry to many people in present and past history. There may be some scientists who promote some sort of technophilia future but they are in the company with many non-scientists.
Many people often conflate those who hype Technological fixes for all social ills with strictly scientific enquiry. Technological fantasies and science are not equivalent.
Science is, at its basis, a method of inquiry based upon continual observations, collection of data and the experimental method. Scientific inquiry does not rest upon predicated truths but rather that ultimate truths are not known. Every law or theory, after rigorous testing, becomes the basic dogma for future hypotheses and new experimental endeavours. The scientific method is itself tested by using laws and theories to predict future events; Newtonian physics being a case in point. When theories lose their ability to predict future events with accuracy they are either modified or discarded. Sometimes, we just have to live with seeming contradictory conditions as between differences in Newtonian and quantum physics; yet Newtonian physics theories and practices are still valid at the scales in which we Homo sapiens operate. They are not based upon belief but upon practice.
Nor does science try and engineer social structures – such as controlling populations. That is not the role of science or scientists. Science merely records the data and tries to predict the consequences of changing weather patterns, farming practices or population dynamics. However, these models are very complex. The job of scientist is to try and convey the information but scientists, like all the rest of us, operate in a political world.
And for those who are believers in a religion, I wish you a most happy holiday and success in your spiritual endeavours.jrs , December 23, 2017 at 12:13 pm
"And for those who are believers in a religion " Thank you for this statement, it's representative of true humility at work. While you do not state your religious belief system (or if indeed you have any), you're not dismissive of beliefs that others might hold as "codified superstition" (as one commentor does above). Deriding those who may believe that there's some intelligent consciousness that underpins life in the universe as superstitious is to suffer from a type of hubris. Live and let live, and this applies as well to religious fundamentalists of all stripes who've made it their mission in life to "save" others. In matters of faith (or lack thereof), one must always keep their own counsel in my view.Davidh J. , December 23, 2017 at 1:35 pm
I don't know if it's going to convince anyone, but it's not just a religious question but a historical one, only people spend their whole lives studying this stuff (how to interpret the Bible based on the culture and language of the time etc.), so while I like Hudson I think he may be out of his depth here.nilavar , December 23, 2017 at 2:17 pm
Hudson's been studying this for a long time.
Lol. Fat fingers: spelled my name wrong: David J.Norb , December 23, 2017 at 12:34 pm
What about DEBT in far Easter religions – Hinduism. Buddhism, Janism, Shinto etc?
Hinduism (1. 3Billions+) is at least 4-5 thousand years old!freedeomny , December 23, 2017 at 9:44 am
What is the nature of Political Power? In order to rule society, public sentiment must be controlled and directed in a certain trajectory. Political and Spiritual power are dependent and cannot be separated. When they are, failure ensues.
The contemporary world is in the midst of a spiritual/religious crisis. The human mind and soul need an anchor in order to deal with the chaos inherent in the universe. What is human history other than one long chain of events illustrating humanities efforts to deal with this predicament.
Belief in a righteous cause, rooted in actual experience of daily life is what all religions are based on. Humanity is characterized by being builders and myth makers. When the myths fail to provide plausible explanations for life's struggles, societal collapse or new possibilities- new myths- must be undertaken. At the very least, a reinterpretation. Building cannot occur without a viable supporting myth.
It seems to me that humanity needs to reexamine spirituality more than ever- not abandon it. The world cannot be left to fools and charlatans.Karen , December 23, 2017 at 9:55 am
Jesus as social activist .I like it!diptherio , December 23, 2017 at 10:40 am
I credit the Catholic church with developing my social conscience–back in the 1970s, when most pastors were old white men. It was a message delivered clearly and repeatedly.
Despite all of the other disappointments and hypocrisies we have seen in the years since, I do think that the church leaders I knew were sincere in this regard. In fact, I have always viewed this as the important contrast vis a vis Protestantism.
Though I am no theologian, so probably don't know what I'm talking aboutcnchal , December 23, 2017 at 9:58 am
My mother attends a United Methodist church whose minister is an ex-Catholic nun, who decided she wanted to deliver sermons rather than receive them. While not real big on organized religion myself, I have been impressed by how much work they put into actually helping people. They built a whole facility in their basement for homeless people to come in a couple times a week, take a shower, shave, and get re-upped on toothpaste and whatnot. They definitely seem to take the "whatsoever you do unto the least of these, you do to me" line much more seriously than the congregations and leadership of other United Methodist churches Mom's attended, so maybe there is something to your thoughts on Catholic/Protestant differences in this area although, I have a feeling that things might be way different in, for instance, AME churches down South.knowbuddhau , December 23, 2017 at 12:45 pm
. . . the attempt of society to cope with the fact that debts grow faster than the ability to pay ," . . .
Debt is the ultimate self licking ice cream cone. To pay off a debt and the interest implies that society as a whole is required to take on ever greater debt. From the ephor's (thank you knowbuddhau) perspective a perfect system.Help Me , December 23, 2017 at 10:03 am
You're welcome. Still a bit mindblown by that.
ISTM a SLICC is a perpetual motion machine. Creditors can turn people into them with debt + interest. It's like some kind of special purpose vessel you can get in, but can't disembark, and it never gets you to the yonder shore like they promised. All you can do is row yourself to death.
I kinda think Jesus was working on more than one level. I think he had an insight that threatened the PTB of his time with disintermediation from between people and the divine.
The way I see it, the Gospel as I've understood it never got out. The most threatening idea was safely encapsulated in the personage and later cult of Jesus the Superfreak. I've always understood it to be the breaking of this taboo that made him such a threat to the PTB.
If we're all related to divinity as offspring to parent, then we all share in divinity. No one is any more divine than anyone else. A lot hinges on the article in a specific phrase.
Did he say, "I am *a* son of god," or did he say "I am THE son of god?" According to Alan Watts, the Greek article is indefinite. The whole idea of a special lineage exceptionally favored by the cosmic PTB (and of course innocently promulgated by its beneficiaries) obviously comes straight outta our primate past. As applied to modern human affairs, it's absurd.
No, I think he said, we're all worthy.
Before this, the only way I thought of Jesus in relation to money was, of course, overturning the tables in the temples. I am in all ya'll's virtual debt. ;-)jrs , December 23, 2017 at 12:40 pm
End games, potential outcomes, so many possibilities.
Questions many would like to see answered:
What do the accumulators do with all that wealth?
When they acquire more than they can possibly spend, why acquire?
How much acquisition is to seek power over others?
What has happened in the past to acquirors and other power-seekers?
Will this current phantasm end in a Jubilee?Carolinian , December 23, 2017 at 10:04 am
I believe at a certain point wealth acquisition is all about power over others, if only more people clearly saw it that way.
One wants money to meet: basic needs, then a few consumer toys and a tiny bit of security, a little more security (get a 401k), then leisure and autonomy (win the lottery and quit your job!). Normal non-rich people can relate to these impulses, as they are basic human drives from survival to self-actualization. Though normal non-rich people's best collective shot at them would be socialism where there would be more economic security, and more autonomy, and more leisure FOR ALL.
But beyond a certain point money is ultimately about a sadistic drive for power over others. People need to see rich people for the sadistic f's they are and their hoarding of money proves it. They won't give it up because they have a sadistic drive to rule over others.JEHR , December 23, 2017 at 12:03 pm
Great stuff. We lapsed Baptists remember one Biblical precept–apparently not mistranslated–from our Sunday school lessons: "money is the root of all evil." Per Hudson it might be interesting to speculate how many other of the world's historic sins boil down to money–slavery, racism (competition between underclass groups), antisemitism. In A Distant Mirror Barbara Tuchman wrote that the French medieval kings would declare a personal debt jubilee from war debts by encouraging the masses to launch a pogrom. No more creditors meant no more debt. During the pre WW 2 Nazi period Hitler said that the Jews were free to leave as long as they left their possessions behind.
Of course in current times autocrats no longer have to reconcile their behavior with traditional religion since it is widely in decline. Instead they invent new religious beliefs, based on failed economic theories.Carolinian , December 23, 2017 at 12:59 pm
See here .lyman alpha blob , December 23, 2017 at 10:22 am
Yes, I know. In fact that's the standard comebacker for defenders of the Prosperity Gospel .they don't love money. Rather they, like Lucy in Peanuts, just want what's coming to them.
I'd say the short form versus the long form is a distinction without a difference. See Michael Hudson above.diptherio , December 23, 2017 at 10:44 am
Never much enjoyed going to church as a kid but I did have to go frequently and absorbed a lot whether I liked it or not. Every so often we would go to a service out of town and they would recite the lord's prayer with 'forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us'. It always sounded off to me and didn't exactly roll of the tongue. Our church used 'debt' and 'debtors' which in retrospect I'm quite grateful for.EyeRound , December 23, 2017 at 11:35 am
We always used the "trespass" version, growing up, so I thought for a long time that this was all to do with how to handle people in your front yard, or hunting on your acreage without permission.jrs , December 23, 2017 at 12:53 pm
Yes, indeed. This made me think:
If the (older) European cultures confounded "debt" with some notion of "sin" as with the German word "Schuld," then the newer American version is to confound "debt" with "real estate."
Hudson also has plenty of insights regarding the reciprocity between banks and land ownership.
So here's another question, the upshot of these 2 thoughts: could it be that Americans know, subliminally, that owning land is sinful?Darius , December 23, 2017 at 10:59 am
perhaps it is, or perhaps merely owning land more than meets one's own needs is sinful (being a landlord – ie a rentier), but certainly humans lived most of their time on earth without land ownership at all.Synoia , December 23, 2017 at 6:33 pm
Debts is the King James Version Lord's Prayer. We say "debts" in my church.
Hudson's approach is appealing. It would be more useful if he cited chapter and verse. Perhaps the book does.Steven Bailey , December 23, 2017 at 10:54 am
Debts is most certainly NOT in the King James version of the Lord's prayer.
It is "trespass." We recited the Laord's prayer at school once a day from age 5 to 18. It sort of sticks after a few recitations.
I can also go to a Church of England service, and automatically say the refrains after the Vicar start them.
The programming is both interesting and a little frightening.flora , December 23, 2017 at 11:00 am
Puerto Rico really needs a "debt jubilee"! for Christmas.Robert McGregor , December 23, 2017 at 12:13 pm
Great post. Thank you.
To file in the category of "the more things change ":
Last year's prez primaries were very much about the current neoliberal economic system enriching the .01% and the growing indebtedness and despair of the 99%, imo. And now we see the Dem estab pushing, imo, a sex hysteria as the greatest destructive force that needs to be addressed, while ignoring the destructive force of neoliberal economics and debt and deaths from despair. The notion of sin is again transferred from economics to sex.Mark P. , December 23, 2017 at 1:18 pm
> @flora "And now we see the Dem estab pushing, imo, a sex hysteria as the greatest destructive force that needs to be addressed, while ignoring the destructive force of neoliberal economics . . . "
Amazing the Dems are now doing the age-old distraction of diverting the discussion to sex rather than economics. I thought just the political right does that! Ancient creditors changed the discussion from "economic unfairness" to "sexual sins." Modern US Republicans changed it from "economic unfairness" to social issues like abortion, and sexuality. So why are the Dems doing the same? Yves Smith has talked about the #METOO hysteria being a rich women's movement. The news is about movie star women being wronged. Maybe it's just a "Maslow hierarchy" sort of thing. When you are a millionaire movie star–or an affluent pundit–then you can worry about being sexually harassed in your past. If you're a waitress, your economic survival is foremost in your thinking. Economic class determines taste and worry.Rates , December 23, 2017 at 11:05 am
the Dems are now doing the age-old distraction of diverting the discussion to sex rather than economics. I thought just the political right does that
The Dems are the political right. The Reps are the far right.Ian , December 23, 2017 at 12:13 pm
I don't think the rich has any objection to debt forgiveness. They already own almost everything anyway. Heck, once debt forgiveness happens, they'll take more debt and then ask for another round of forgiveness. A couple of rounds like that and they'll really own everything. Hurrah!!!
Foreclosure though for everyone will I think wipe out the rich as well since they sure have debts up the wazoo.jrs , December 23, 2017 at 12:56 pm
This is the key. Debt forgiveness for the right people, the rich.lyle , December 23, 2017 at 12:11 pm
well it might not be sufficient, probably also need wealth re-distribution from a tiny minority to the great majority.DJG , December 23, 2017 at 12:26 pm
BTW what is the reading in the oldest greek gospels, and for comparison if avaiable the Syriac gospels of the Nestorian churches (Syriac was a much closer language to Aramaic than greek)
Likewise the reading in the Hebrew language version versus the Septuigant? I maintain that even if you belive god inspired the original texts sinful humans translated it and in the old days copied it. So the version we have today may or may not be close to the original.Mark P. , December 23, 2017 at 1:08 pm
I realize that this is an excerpt from the book, but the idea that sin and debt are equated in the Bible is off. There is no mention here of hamartia, a Greek term that was used for sin.
To quote Wikipedia:
"Hamartia is also used in Christian theology because of its use in the Septuagint and New Testament. The Hebrew (chatá) and its Greek equivalent (àµaρtίa/hamartia) both mean "missing the mark" or "off the mark"."
So rather than sin as a kind of status, the Bible defines sin as not hitting standards of good behavior. This is a long way from debt, and the word hamartia isn't uncommon in the Bible.
Also, the article brushes up against the idea of poverty in Catholicism, which leads inevitably to il Poverello, Saint Francis, the "Poor Guy" from Assisi. In Catholicism, poverty doesn't ennoble. Poverty clarifies, because it removes possessions as a distraction. There is a famous legend of the "conversion" of Saint Francis, which was a long time coming. He took off his clothes in church and gave them away. That isn't nobility. It's a clarification. In return for being un-distracted, Saint Francis claimed a whole enchanted / sacred cosmos, Brother Sun, Sister Moon, the famous birds, Brother Wolf of Gubbio.
The central issue that Hudson mentions here (and likely much more so in his book) is the deterioriation of religion in the U S of A into "American Religion," which brays about being saved, is uncharitable, doesn't know the bible or church history, has no environmental ethic (unlike the Franciscans), and is now being degraded further by U.S. free-market fundamentalism. As a bad Catholic and a bad Buddhist, I am highly skeptical of the tune Amazing Grace and its many claims on the godhead.Rick , December 23, 2017 at 12:40 pm
I am highly skeptical of the tune Amazing Grace
But are you aware that the song's author, John Newton (1725-1807), was originally a slave ship captain, then experienced spiritual conversion and eventually renounced the trade, finally becoming an abolitionist and an Anglican priest? Earlier, he'd been press-ganged in the Royal Navy, during which time he received eight dozen lashes and then later was marooned in Sierra Leone, and was himself made a slave of a slaving tribe there.
Make of all that what you will, but there was probably something real there originally.Jfree , December 23, 2017 at 1:01 pm
"banning absentee ownership" – this would be a great idea for intellectual property. The creator gets protection for some set period (like patents), but it is non-transferrable. Creators get compensated, and society benefits after the set period expires.
I'm not holding my breath .Juliania , December 23, 2017 at 2:17 pm
I've always read the Bible in economic terms too so there's stuff to chew on here. But I've interpreted the Jesus story more narrowly. It is about the Tyrian shekel (the temple tax). Not legal tender at the time for anything but the temple tax – so the Sadducees basically had monopoly ownership. Distributed out to people to pay their temple tax via a raucous appearance of showy but fake competition (the moneychangers) – but the terms (exchange rate basically) are really controlled by the monopolists behind the curtain. And like any Monopoly101, they presumably screw people over time (but need to know more about prices of stuff then – were currencies being debased?). All justified/rationalized intellectually by the Pharisees then.
The problem is – the Tyrian shekel has the image of Baal on it. When Jesus overturns the money tables and then gets shown a coin – the coin he is actually commenting on is the shekel (render unto Baal what is Baals and unto God what is Gods) not the denarius (render unto Caesar what is Caesars and unto God what is Gods)
Read it that way – and he is cleverly accusing the entire establishment of serious blasphemy and exploitation of the Jewish people and directly threatening their business model. Easy to understand why it later gets written down as 'denarius' after the temple is destroyed and the message is no longer in Judaea (or even within Jewish community in diaspora) – but the real message also gets lost with thatJuliania , December 23, 2017 at 2:03 pm
Not true unless you discount the text and archeological facts completely, which I guess you do. The common coinage of the time would be of the empire, which was of Rome.Keynesian , December 23, 2017 at 5:50 pm
I love Michael Hudson, but he is not quite correct here about Jesus, at least as far as this article presents his argument. We know Jesus best through the writings of his followers, mainly the four evangelists, Matthew, Mark, Luke John.
The two who give us an explanation of what we call the Lord's prayer are Matthew and Luke, and the earliest texts are written in koine greek, not hebrew. Indeed, Matthew first uses "debt" but follows his account of the prayer immediately with an explanation that doesn't use that term, thusly:
" for if you forgive men the tresspasses (paraptomata) of them, your heavenly father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive men, neither will your father forgive your trespasses ( paraptomata) "
My big dictionary translates the above greek word as "false step" or "falling from the right way."
Professor Hudson has an economist's point of view, as does this forum, and that's perfectly fine – Matthew was a tax collector after all. But Jesus was not. The term "debt" in this instance can be likened to the use of the word "seed" in the parables. The prayer uses a narrow focus that ought to be understood in a larger sense.
Luke's version of the prayer makes this expanded meaning very clear, and that is why I prefer the word "trespasses". ( Also it sounds better and can be dwelled upon longer when one prays or sings it.)
"Synoia , December 23, 2017 at 6:23 pm
I appreciate Dr. Hudson referencing the Christian Old and New Testament about money and debt. Christianity has become so perverted in our modern times that it now represents the opposite of its original principles. And Dr. Hudson is in good company as an economist alluding to the New Testament about economic issues.
In the second chapter, sixth paragraph, of Capital Vol. I , Karl Marx's very first introduction of the concept of money is followed by a quote from the New Testament book of Revelations.
The social action therefore of all other commodities, sets apart the particular commodity in which they all represent their values. Thereby the bodily form of this commodity becomes the form of the socially recognised universal equivalent. To be the universal equivalent, becomes, by this social process, the specific function of the commodity thus excluded by the rest. Thus it becomes –money. ―Illi unum consilium habent et virtutem et potestatem suam bestiae tradunt. Et ne quis possit emere aut vendere, nisi qui habet characterem aut nomen bestiae aut numerum nominis ejus.‖ [―These have one mind, and shall give their power and strength unto the beast.‖ Revelations, 17:13; And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.‖ Revelations, 13:17.](Apocalypse.)
Marx is suggesting that money is analogous to the Christian belief in Revelation's "Mark of the Beast." Of all the criticisms of Marx, one would never believe that he would sometimes point to the New Testament while discussing economics. This is because hardly anyone reads Marx, or the Bible for that matter. Ironically, modern American Right-wing Christianity is corrupted by the "Prosperity Gospel" cult and views money as the ultimate good, or at least its possession a sign of godliness, when everything in its own dogma says something else. Could a Christian today proclaim with conviction, "Money is the Mark of the Beast!"?financial matters , December 23, 2017 at 6:56 pm
"Right Wing Christianity" is surely an oxymoron?
I refer to the "eye of the needle" and "rich men" quote in the Gospels."
Quoting Revelations to prove any point about Christ's teachings is specious at best. The Revelations of St John the Device appear as the stick of the Church to be used when the Carrot of Christ's teaching is unsuccessful.
"If you don't do what we tell you you will burn in Hell!!!"
I'd also point out that Christianity as practiced appears mostly as a peasant suppression system:
Priest: (beholden to the local Lord) "You will get you reward after you die"
Unruly peasant: "How do I know that?"
Priest "We've never had a complaint!"
A powerful statement by Marx. He recognizes the importance of a 'money of account' to give 'value' to items but at the same time questions the validity of this value.
We have definitely gotten to the point of too much monetization and lost the social values of collaboration and compassion.
Dec 22, 2017 | www.unz.com
Randal , December 18, 2017 at 8:48 pm GMT@reiner Tor
Destroying the Taliban government, yes. Building "democracy" is just stupid, though. They should've quickly left after the initial victory and let the Afghans to just eat each other with Stroganoff sauce if they so wished. It's not our business.
In fact destroying the Taliban government was both illegal and foolish (but the latter was by far the more important). It seems clear now the Taliban were quite willing to hand bin Laden over for trial in a third party country, and pretty clearly either had had no clue what he had been planning or were crapping themselves at what he had achieved. Bush declined that offer because he had an urgent political need to be seen to be kicking some foreign ass in order to appease American shame.
The illegality is not a particularly big deal in the case of Afghanistan because it's clear that in the post-9/11 context the US could easily have gotten UNSC authorisation for the attack and made it legal. Bush II deliberately declined to do so precisely in order to make the point that the US (in Americans' view) is above petty details of international law and its own treaty commitments. A rogue state, in other words.
But an attack on Afghanistan was unnecessary and foolish (for genuine American national interests, that is, not for the self-interested lobbies driving policy obviously), as the astronomical ongoing costs have demonstrated. A trial of bin Laden would have been highly informative (and some would argue that was why the US regime was not interested in such a thing), and would if nothing else have brought him out into the open. Yes, he would have had the opportunity to grandstand, but if the US were really such an innocent victim of unprovoked aggression why would the US have anything to fear from that? The whole world, pretty much, was on the US's side after 9/11.
The US could have treated terrorism as what it is, after 9/11 -- a criminal matter. It chose instead to make it a military matter, because that suited the various lobbies seeking to benefit from a more militarised and aggressive US foreign policy. The result of a US attack on the government of (most of) Afghanistan would always have been either a chaotic jihadi-riddled anarchy in Afghanistan worse than the Taliban-controlled regime that existed in 2001, or a US-backed regime trying to hold the lid down on the jihadists, that the US would have to prop up forever. And so indeed it came to pass.
Dec 14, 2017 | www.nakedcapitalism.com
December 14, 2017 by Yves Smith Yves here. Notice that Costa Rica is served up as an example in this article. Way back in 1997, American Express had designated Costa Rica as one of the countries it identified as sufficiently high income so as to be a target for a local currency card offered via a franchise agreement with a domestic institution (often but not always a bank). 20 years later, the Switzerland of Central America still has limited Internet connectivity, yet is precisely the sort of place that tech titans like Google would like to dominate.
The initiative described in this article reminds me of how the World Bank pushed hard for emerging economies to develop capital markets, for the greater good of America's investment bankers.
By Burcu Kilic, an expert on legal, economic and political issues. Originally published at openDemocracy
Today, the big tech race is for data extractivism from those yet to be 'connected' in the world – tech companies will use all their power to achieve a global regime in which small nations cannot regulate either data extraction or localisation.
n a few weeks' time, trade ministers from 164 countries will gather in Buenos Aires for the 11th World Trade Organization (WTO) Ministerial Conference (MC11). US President Donald Trump in November issued fresh accusations of unfair treatment towards the US by WTO members , making it virtually impossible for trade ministers to leave the table with any agreement in substantial areas.
To avoid a 'failure ministerial," some countries see the solution as pushing governments to open a mandate to start conversations that might lead to a negotiation on binding rules for e-commerce and a declaration of the gathering as the "digital ministerial". Argentina's MC11 chair, Susana Malcorra, is actively pushing for member states to embrace e-commerce at the WTO, claiming that it is necessary to " bridge the gap between the haves and have-nots ".
It is not very clear what kind of gaps Malcorra is trying to bridge. It surely isn't the "connectivity gap" or "digital divide" that is growing between developed and developing countries, seriously impeding digital learning and knowledge in developing countries. In fact, half of humanity is not even connected to the internet, let alone positioned to develop competitive markets or bargain at a multilateral level. Negotiating binding e-commerce rules at the WTO would only widen that gap.
Dangerously, the "South Vision" of digital trade in the global trade arena is being shaped by a recent alliance of governments and well-known tech-sector lobbyists, in a group called 'Friends of E-Commerce for Development' (FED), including Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Kenya, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Uruguay, and, most recently, China. FED claims that e-commerce is a tool to drive growth, narrow the digital divide, and generate digital solutions for developing and least developed countries.
However, none of the countries in the group (apart from China) is leading or even remotely ready to be in a position to negotiate and push for binding rules on digital trade that will be favorable to them, as their economies are still far away from the technology revolution. For instance, it is perplexing that one of the most fervent defenders of FED's position is Costa Rica. The country's economy is based on the export of bananas, coffee, tropical fruits, and low-tech medical instruments, and almost half of its population is offline . Most of the countries in FED are far from being powerful enough to shift negotiations in favor of small players.
U.S.-based tech giants and Chinese Alibaba – so-called GAFA-A – dominate, by far, the future of the digital playing field, including issues such as identification and digital payments, connectivity, and the next generation of logistics solutions. In fact, there is a no-holds-barred ongoing race among these tech giants to consolidate their market share in developing economies, from the race to grow the advertising market to the race to increase online payments.
An e-commerce agenda that claims unprecedented development for the Global South is a Trojan horse move. Beginning negotiations on such topics at this stage – before governments are prepared to understand what is at stake – could lead to devastating results, accelerating liberalization and the consolidation of the power of tech giants to the detriment of local industries, consumers, and citizens. Aware of the increased disparities between North and South, and the data dominance of a tiny group of GAFA-A companies, a group of African nations issued a statement opposing the digital ambitions of the host for MC11. But the political landscape is more complex, with China, the EU, and Russia now supporting the idea of a "digital" mandate .
Repeating the Same Mistakes?
The relationships of most countries with tech companies are as imbalanced as their relationships with Big Pharma, and there are many parallels to note. Not so long ago, the countries of the Global South faced Big Pharma power in pharmaceutical markets in a similar way. Some developing countries had the same enthusiasm when they negotiated intellectual property rules for the protection of innovation and research and development costs. In reality, those countries were nothing more than users and consumers of that innovation, not the owners or creators. The lessons of negotiating trade issues that lie at the core of public interest issues – in that case, access to medicines – were costly. Human lives and fundamental rights of those who use online services should not be forgotten when addressing the increasingly worrying and unequal relationships with tech power.
The threat before our eyes is similarly complex and equally harmful to the way our societies will be shaped in the coming years. In the past, the Big Pharma race was for patent exclusivity, to eliminate local generic production and keep drug prices high. Today, the Big Tech race is for data extractivism from those who have yet to be connected in the world, and tech companies will use all the power they hold to achieve a global regime in which small nations cannot regulate either data extraction or data localization.
Big Tech is one of the most concentrated and resourceful industries of all time. The bargaining power of developing countries is minimal. Developing countries will basically be granting the right to cultivate small parcels of a land controlled by data lords -- under their rules, their mandate, and their will -- with practically no public oversight. The stakes are high. At the core of it is the race to conquer the markets of digital payments and the battle to become the platform where data flows, splitting the territory as old empires did in the past. As the Economist claimed on May 6, 2017: "Conflicts over control of oil have scarred the world for decades. No one yet worries that wars will be fought over data. But the data economy has the same potential for confrontation."
If countries from the Global South want to prepare for data wars, they should start thinking about how to reduce the control of Big Tech over -- how we communicate, shop, and learn the news -- , again, over our societies. The solution lies not in making rules for data liberalization, but in devising ways to use the law to reduce Big Tech's power and protect consumers and citizens. Finding the balance would take some time and we are going to take that time to find the right balance, we are not ready to lock the future yet.
Jef , December 14, 2017 at 11:32 amThuto , December 14, 2017 at 2:14 pm
I thought thats what the WTO is for?Mark P. , December 14, 2017 at 3:30 pm
One suspects big money will be thrown at this by the leading tech giants. To paraphrase from a comment I made recently regarding a similar topic : "with markets in the developed world pretty much sewn up by the tripartite tech overlords (google, fb and amazon), the next 3 billion users for their products/services are going to come from developing world". With this dynamic in mind, and the "constant growth" mantra humming incessantly in the background, it's easy to see how high stakes a game this is for the tech giants and how no resources will be spared to stymie any efforts at establishing a regulatory oversight framework that will protect the digital rights of citizens in the global south.
Multilateral fora like the WTO are de facto enablers for the marauding frontal attacks of transnational corporations, and it's disheartening to see that some developing nations have already nailed the digital futures of their citizens to the mast of the tech giants by joining this alliance. What's more, this signing away of their liberty will be sold to the citizenry as the best way to usher them into the brightest of all digital futures.Thuto , December 14, 2017 at 4:58 pm
One suspects big money will be thrown at this by the leading tech giants.
Vast sums of money are already being thrown at bringing Africa online, for better or worse. Thus, the R&D aimed at providing wireless Internet via giant drones/balloons/satellites by Google, Facebook, etc.
You're African. Possibly South African by your user name, which may explain why you're a little behind the curve, because the action is already happening, but more to the north -- and particularly in East Africa.
The big corporations -- and the tech giants are competing with the banking/credit card giants -- have noted how mobile technology leapt over the dearth of last century's telephony tech, land lines, and in turn enabled the highest adoption rates of cellphone banking in the world. (Particularly in East Africa, as I say.) The payoffs for big corporations are massive -- de facto cashless societies where the corporations control the payment systems –and the politicians are mostly cheap.
In Nigeria, the government has launched a Mastercard-branded national ID card that's also a payment card, in one swoop handing Mastercard more than 170 million potential customers, and their personal and biometric data.
In Kenya, the sums transferred by mobile money operator M-Pesa are more than 25 percent of that country's GDP.
You can see that bringing Africa online is technically a big, decade-long project. But also that the potential payoffs are vast. Though I also suspect China may come out ahead -- they're investing far more in Africa and in some areas their technology -- drones, for instance -- is already superior to what the Europeans and the American companies have.Mark P. , December 14, 2017 at 6:59 pm
Thank you Mark P.
Hoisted from a comment I made here recently: "Here in South Africa and through its Free Basics programme, facebook is jumping into bed with unsuspecting ISPs (I say unsuspecting because fb will soon be muscling in on their territory and becoming an ISP itself by provisioning bandwidth directly from its floating satellites) and circumventing net neutrality "
I'm also keenly aware of the developments in Kenya re: safaricom and Mpesa and how that has led to traditional banking via bank accounts being largely leapfrogged for those moving from being unbanked to active economic citizens requiring money transfer facilities. Given the huge succes of Mpesa, I wouldn't be surprised if a multinational tech behemoth (chinese or american) were to make a play for acquiring safaricom and positioning it as a triple-play ISP, money transfer/banking services and digital content provider (harvesting data about users habits on an unprecedented scale across multiple areas of their lives), first in Kenya then expanded throughout east, central and west africa. I must add that your statement about Nigeria puts Mark Zuckerberg's visit there a few months back into context somewhat, perhaps a reconnaissance mission of sorts.
Out of idle curiosity, how could you accurately deduce my country of origin from my name?Mark P. , December 14, 2017 at 3:34 pm
Out of idle curiosity, how could you accurately deduce my country of origin from my name?
Though I've lived in California for decades, my mother was South African and I maintain a UK passport, having grown up in London.Mattski , December 14, 2017 at 3:41 pm
As you also write: "with markets in the developed world pretty much sewn up by the tripartite tech overlords (google, fb and amazon), the next 3 billion users for their products/services are going to come from developing world."
Absolutely true. This cannot be stressed enough. The tech giants know this and the race is on.
Been happening with food for 50 years.
Dec 12, 2017 | www.mit.edu
Today, September 26, thousands of activists are protesting in Prague, in the Czech Republic, against the policies and institutional structures of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank. These protests are the latest action in a growing movement that is highly critical of the neoliberal economic policies being imposed on people all over the world, including those in western countries. As Robert McChesney concisely describes it, neoliberalism "refers to the policies and processes whereby a relative handful of private interests are permitted to control as much as possible of social life in order to maximize their personal profit." The major beneficiaries of neoliberalism are large trans-national corporations and wealthy investors. The implementation of neoliberal policies came into full force during the eighties under Thatcher and Reagan. Today, the principles of neoliberalism are widely held with near-religious fervor by most major political parties in the US and Britain and are gaining acceptance by those holding power elsewhere.
Although the proponents of neoliberalism extol the virtues of free markets, free trade, private enterprise and consumer choice, the effects of neoliberal policies is quite the opposite. In fact, these policies typically result in very protectionist markets dominated by a few trans-national corporations. Many sectors of the economy - ranging from food processing and distribution to the corporate media to aviation - are oligopolies and can be characterized as highly centralized command economies that are only a shade more competitive than the economy of the former Soviet Union. A major theme of neoliberal policies is deregulation and the removal of government interference in the economy. Consistently, such policies are applied in a one sided way, and always in a manner that benefits large trans-national corporations, the most influential entities in policy making. Hence, within neoliberalism as it is actually applied, capital is allowed to roam the world freely with very few restrictions, yet workers are to remain trapped within the borders of their countries. This serves trans-national corporations well, though for some, not well enough. According to Jack Welsh, CEO of GE, he and GE's shareholders would be best served if factories were on barges so that when workers demand higher wages and better working conditions, the barges could easily be moved to a country with more compliant workers. Another component of neoliberalism is the dismantling of the welfare state. Again, in practice, this policy is applied to the majority of the population, who have to accept cut backs in unemployment benefits and health care, while large corporations continue to receive massive subsidies and tax breaks.
The effects of neoliberal policies on people everywhere has been devastating. During the last two to three decades, wealth disparity has increased many fold within countries as well as between countries. In the US, inflation adjusted median wages are lower today than they were in 1973 (when median wages reached their peak) while the wealth of the top 1% of society has soared. One out of every five children in the US lives in a state of poverty characterized by continual hunger, insecurity and lack of adequate health care. This, after almost ten years of a record breaking economic boom. For the poorest people in the world, the situation has become even more desperate. John Gershman and Alec Irwin state in "Dying for growth":
100 countries have undergone grave economic decline over the past three decades. Per capita income in these 100 countries is now lower than it was 10, 15, 20 or in some cases even 30 years ago. In Africa, the average household consumes 20 percent less today than it did 25 years ago. Worldwide, more than 1 billion people saw their real incomes fall during the period 1980-1993. Meanwhile, according to the United Nations Development Program's 1998 Human Development Report, the 15 richest people in the world enjoy combined assets that exceed the total annual gross domestic product of sub-Saharan Africa. At the end of the 1990's, the wealth of the three richest individuals on earth surpassed the combined annual GDP of the 48 least developed countries.
The Thistle won't waste ink on how the wealthy have fared since the mainstream corporate press does a very commendable job in this respect.
Neoliberalism has been a disaster for the environment as well. Despite the growing awareness in the late eighties that the rate of fossil fuel consumption at that time would cause global warming and many other forms of unpredictable and dangerous environmental changes, energy consumption has continued to increase at an alarming rate. This has been facilitated by neoliberal deregulation of environmental protections championed by corporate puppets such as Newt Gingrich and Tom Delay. In their continued quest for windfall profits, for example, corporations such as Ford and GM aggressively marketed (and continue to do so) highly polluting sports utility vehicles (SUVs) while ignoring cleaner and more efficient technologies. This was made possible by loop holes in environmental laws allowing SUVs to be sold that do not meet the emission standards imposed on passenger cars. Consumer Reports Magazine (Nov. pg. 54) noted in 1997, that "the growing popularity of SUVs, has helped make the 1997 automotive model year the least fuel-efficient in the last 16 years". Due to the subservience of government to large corporations, these loop holes are still in place. Today, the qualitative predictions of a decade ago are starting to manifesting themselves. The average temperature of the world has risen over the last decade and for the first time, water has been observed on the polar caps.
One industry that has benefited significantly from neoliberal policies is the biotech industry, though not without potentially catastrophic costs for the majority of the population. While large biotech corporations such as Monsanto and Dupont are aiming for massive profits, the environment and our food supply is irreversibly being altered in the process, creating a situation where large portions of the population and all future generations are subjected to potentially severe and unpredictable health risks. As a way to promote the nascent biotech industry, the Bush administration in the early nineties adopted a policy which held that regulations should not be created in such a way as to be a burden on the industry. The Clinton administration has continued this policy, and today approximately 60% of our food is genetically modified. This transformation of our food supply has occurred with scant public knowledge or oversight. And although genes from viruses, bacteria or arctic fish with anti-freeze properties are inserted into crops, the federal regulatory agencies, with heavy industry influence, maintain that genetically modified foods are no different from crops obtained with traditional breeding techniques and therefore do not need to be approved (unless the transported genes are known to induce a human allergen). Studies investigating the long term health and environmental effects of genetically modified crops are not required by any federal agency and are rarely performed. In this atmosphere of deregulation and concentrated corporate control, it is only a matter of time before a serious biological catastrophe occurs.
What does the IMF and World Bank have to do with this?
The IMF and World Bank were both created at the end of world war II in a political climate the is very different from that of today. Nevertheless, their roles and modalities have been suitably updated to serve the interests of those that benefit from neoliberalism. The institutional structures of the IMF and World Bank were framed at an international conference in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire. Initially, the primary focus of the IMF was to regulate currency exchange rates to facilitate orderly international trade and to be a lender of last resort when a member country experiences balance of payments difficulties and is unable to borrow money from other sources. The original purpose of the World Bank was to lend money to Western European governments to help them rebuild their countries after the war. In later years, the World Bank shifted its attention towards development loans to third world countries.
Immediately after world war II, most western countries, including the US, had 'New Deal' style social contracts with sufficient welfare provisions to ensure 'stability' between labor and capital. It was understood that restrictions on international capital flow were necessary to protect these social contracts. The postwar 'Bretton Woods' economic system which lasted until the early seventies, was based on the right and obligation of governments to regulate capital flow and was characterized by rapid economic growth. In the early seventies, the Nixon administration unilaterally abandoned the Bretton Woods system by dropping the gold standard and lifting restrictions on capital flows. The ensuing period has been marked by dramatically increased financial speculation and low growth rates.
Although seemingly neutral institutions, in practice, the IMF and World Bank end up serving powerful interests of western countries. At both institutions, the voting power of a given country is not measured by, for example, population, but by how much capital that country contributes to the institutions and by other political factors reflecting the power the country wields in the world. The G7 plays a dominant role in determining policy, with the US, France, Germany, Japan and Great Britain each having their own director on the institution's executive board while 19 other directors are elected by the rest of the approximately 150 member countries. The president of the World Bank is traditionally an American citizen and is chosen with US congressional involvement. The managing director of the IMF is traditionally a European. On the IMF board of governors, comprised of treasury secretaries, the G7 have a combined voting power of 46%.
The power of the IMF becomes clear when a country gets into financial trouble and needs funds to make payments on private loans. Before the IMF grants a loan, it imposes conditions on that country, requiring it to make structural changes in its economy. These conditions are called 'Structural Adjustment Programs' (SAPs) and are designed to increase money flow into the country by promoting exports so that the country can pay off its debts. Not surprisingly, in view of the dominance of the G7 in IMF policy making, the SAPs are highly neoliberal. The effective power of the IMF is often larger than that associated with the size of its loans because private lenders often deem a country credit-worthy based on actions of the IMF.
The World Bank plays a qualitatively different role than the IMF, but works tightly within the stringent SAP framework imposed by the IMF. It focuses on development loans for specific projects, such as the building of dams, roads, harbors etc that are considered necessary for 'economic growth' in a developing country. Since it is a multilateral institution, the World Bank is less likely than unilateral lending institutions such as the Export Import Bank of the US to offer loans for the purpose of promoting and subsidizing particular corporations. Nevertheless, the conceptions of growth and economic well being within the World Bank are very much molded by western corporate values and rarely take account of local cultural concerns. This is clearly exhibited by the modalities of its projects, such as the 'Green Revolution' in agriculture, heavily promoted in the third world by the World Bank in the sixties and seventies. The 'Green Revolution' refers to the massive industrialization of agriculture, involving the replacement of a multitude of indigenous crops with a few high-yielding varieties that require expensive investments of chemicals, fertilizers and machinery. In the third world, the 'Green Revolution' was often imposed on indigenous populations with reasonably sustainable and self sufficient traditions of rural agriculture. The mechanization of food production in third world countries, which have a large surplus labor pool, has led to the marginalization of many people, disconnecting them from the economy and exacerbating wealth disparity in these countries. Furthermore, excessive chemical agriculture has led to soil desertification and erosion, increasing the occurrence of famines. While the 'Green Revolution' was a catastrophe for the poor in third world countries, western chemical corporations such as Monsanto, Dow and Dupont fared very well, cashing in high profits and increasing their control over food production in third world countries.
Today, the World Bank is at it again. This time it is promoting the use of genetically modified seeds in the third world and works with governments to solidify patent laws which would grant biotech corporations like Monsanto unprecedented control over food production. The pattern is clear, whether deliberate or nor, the World Bank serves to set the stage for large trans-national corporations to enter third world countries, extract large profits and then leave with carnage in their wake.
While the World Bank publicly emphasizes that it aims to alleviate poverty in the world, imperialistic attitudes occasionally emerge from its leading figures. In 1991, then chief economist Lawrence Summers (now US Secretary of the Treasury) wrote in an internal memo that was leaked:
Just between you and me, shouldn't the World Bank be encouraging more migration of the dirty industries to the LDCs [less developed countries]? ... The economic logic behind dumping a load of toxic waste in the lowest wage country is impeccable, and we should face up to that ... Under-populated countries in Africa are vastly under-polluted; their air quality is probably vastly inefficiently low compared to Los Angeles or Mexico City .... The concern over an agent that causes a one-in-a-million chance in the odds of prostate cancer is obviously going to be much higher in a country where people survive to get prostate cancer than in a country where under-five mortality is 200 per thousand.
And thistle thought that the World Bank tried to extend lives in developing countries, not take advantage of low life expectancy.
How do countries get into financial troubles, the Debt Crisis.
The most devastating program imposed by the IMF and the World Bank on third world countries are the Structural Adjustment Programs. The widespread use of SAPs started in the early eighties after a major debt crisis. The debt crisis arose from a combination of (i) reckless lending by western commercial banks to third world countries, (ii) mismanagement within third world countries and (iii) changes in the international economy.
During the seventies, rising oil prices generated enormous profits for petrochemical corporations. These profits ended up in large commercial banks which then sought to reinvest the capital. Much of this capital was invested in the form of high risk loans to third world countries, many of which were run by corrupt dictators. Instead of investing the capital in productive projects that would benefit the general population, dictators often diverted the funds to personal Swiss bank accounts or used the them to purchase military equipment for domestic repression. This state of affairs persisted for a while, since commodity prices remained stable and interest rates were relatively low enabling third world countries to adequately service their debts. In 1979, the situation changed, however, when Paul Volker, the new Federal Reserve Chairman, raised interest rates. This dramatically increased the cost of debtor countries' loans. At the same time, the US was heading into a recession and world commodity prices dropped, tightening cash flows necessary for debt payment. The possibility that many third world countries would default on their debt payments threatened a major financial crisis that would result in large commercial bank failures. To prevent this, powerful countries from the G7 stepped in and actively used the IMF and World Bank to bail out third world countries. Yet the bail-out packages were contingent upon the third world countries introducing major neoliberal policies (i.e. SAPs) to promote exports.
Examples of SAP prescriptions include:
- an increase in 'labor flexibility' which means caps on minimum wages, and policies to weaken trade unions and worker's bargaining power.
- tax increases combined with cuts in social spending such as education and health care, to free up funds for debt repayment.
- privatization of public sector enterprises, such as utility companies and public transport
- financial liberalization designed to remove restrictions on the flow of international capital in and out of the country coupled with the removal of restrictions on what foreign corporations and banks can buy.
Despite almost two decades of Structural Adjustment Programs, many third world countries have not been able to pull themselves out of massive debt. The SAPs have, however, served corporations superbly, offering them new opportunities to exploit workers and natural resources.
As Prof. Chomsky often says, the debt crisis is an ideological construct. In a true capitalist society, the third world debt would be wiped out. The Banks who made the risky loans would have to accept the losses, and the dictators and their entourage would have to repay the money they embezzled. The power structure in society however, prevents this from happening. In the west tax payers end up assuming the risk while the large banks run off with the high profits often derived from high risk loans. In the third world, the people end up paying the costs while their elites retire in the French Riviera.
It is important to realize that the IMF and World Bank are tools for powerful entities in society such as trans-national corporations and wealthy investors. The Thistle believes that massive world poverty and environmental destruction is the result of the appalling concentration of power in the hands of a small minority whose sights are blinded by dollar signs and whose passions are the aggrandizement of ever more power. The Thistle holds that an equitable and democratic world centered around cooperation and solidarity would be more able to deal with environmental and human crises.
Dec 05, 2017 | www.nakedcapitalism.com
Posted on December 4, 2017 by Jerri-Lynn Scofield By Jerri-Lynn Scofield, who has worked as a securities lawyer and a derivatives trader. She now spends much of her time in Asia and is currently working on a book about textile artisans.
Three Democrats and three Republicans have co-sponsored a resolution, under the Congressional Review Act (CRA), to scuttle the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's payday lending rule.
CRA's procedures to overturn regulations had been invoked, successfully, only once before Trump became president. Congressional Republicans and Trump have used CRA procedures multiple times to kill regulations (as I've previously discussed (see here , here , here and here ). Not only does CRA provide expedited procedures to overturn regulations, but once it's used to kill a regulation, the agency that promulgated the rule is prevented from revisiting the issue unless and until Congress provides new statutory authority to do so.
As I wrote in an extended October post, CFPB Issues Payday Lending Rule: Will it Hold, as the Empire Will Strike Back, payday lending is an especially sleazy part of the finance sewer, in which private equity swamp creatures, among others, operate. The industry is huge, according to this New York Times report I quoted in my October post, and it preys on the poorest, most financially-stressed Americans:
The payday-lending industry is vast. There are now more payday loan stores in the United States than there are McDonald's restaurants. The operators of those stores make around $46 billion a year in loans, collecting $7 billion in fees. Some 12 million people, many of whom lack other access to credit, take out the short-term loans each year, researchers estimate.
The CFPB's payday lending rule attempted to shut down this area of lucrative lending– where effective interest rates can spike to hundreds of points per annum, including fees (I refer interested readers to my October post, cited above, which discusses at greater length how sleazy this industry is, and also links to the rule; see also this CFPB fact sheet and press release .)
Tactically, as with the ban on mandatory arbitration clauses in consumer financial contracts– an issue I discussed further in RIP, Mandatory Arbitration Ban , (and in previous posts referenced therein), the CFPB under director Richard Cordray made a major tactical mistake in not completing rule-making sufficiently before the change of power to a new administration- 60 "session days" of Congress, thus making these two rules subject to the CRA.
The House Financial Services Committee press release lauding introduction of CRA resolution to overturn the payday lending rule is a classic of its type, so permit me to quote from it at length:
These short-term, small-dollar loans are already regulated by all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Native American tribes. The CFPB's rule would mark the first time the federal government has gotten involved in the regulation of these loans.
House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-TX), a supporter of the bipartisan effort, said the CFPB's rule is an example of how "unelected, unaccountable government bureaucracy hurts working people."
"Once again we see powerful Washington elites using the guise of 'consumer protection' to actually harm consumers and make life harder for lower and moderate income Americans who may need a short-term loan to keep their utilities from being cut off or to keep their car on the road so they can get to work," he said. "Americans should be able to choose the checking account they want, the mortgage they want and the short-term loan they want and no unelected Washington bureaucrat should be able to take that away from them."
[Rep Dennis Ross, a Florida Republican House co-sponsor]. said, "More than 1.2 million Floridians per year rely on Florida's carefully regulated small-dollar lending industry to make ends meet. The CFPB's small dollar lending rule isn't reasonable regulation -- it's a de facto ban on what these Floridians need. I and my colleagues in Congress cannot stand by while an unaccountable federal agency deprives our constituents of a lifeline in times of need, all while usurping state authority. Today, we are taking bipartisan action to stop this harmful bureaucratic overreach dead in its tracks."
As CNBC reports in New House bill would kill consumer watchdog payday loan rule , industry representatives continue to denounce the rule, with a straight face:
"The rule would leave millions of Americans in a real bind at exactly the time need a fast loan to cover an urgent expense," said Daniel Press, a policy analyst with the Competitive Enterprise Institute, in a statement after the bill's introduction.
Consumer advocates think otherwise (also from CNBC):
"Payday lenders put cash-strapped Americans in a crippling cycle of 300 percent-interest loan debt," Yana Miles, senior legislative counsel at the Center for Responsible Lending, said in a statement.
Prospects Under CRA
When I wrote about this topic in October, much commentary assumed that prospects for CRA overturn were weak. I emphasized instead the tactical error of failing to insulate the rule from CRA, which could have been done if the CFPB had pushed the rule through well before Trump took office:
If the payday rule had been promulgated in a timely manner during the previous administration it would not have been as vulnerable to a CRA challenge as it is now. Even if Republicans had then passed a CRA resolution of disapproval, a presidential veto would have stymied that. Trump is an enthusiastic proponent of deregulation, who has happily embraced the CRA– a procedure only used once before he became president to roll back a rule.
Now, the Equifax hack may have changed the political dynamics here and made it more difficult for Congressional Republicans– and finance-friendly Democratic fellow travellers– to use CRA procedures to overturn the payday lending rule.
The New York Times certainly seems to think prospects for a CRA challenge remote:
The odds of reversal are "very low," said Isaac Boltansky, the director of policy research at Compass Point Research & Trading.
"There is already C.R.A. fatigue on the Hill," Mr. Boltansky said, using an acronymn for the act, "and moderate Republicans are hesitant to be painted as anti-consumer.
I'm not so sure I would take either side of that bet. [Jerri-Lynn here: my subsequent emphasis.]
A more telling element than CRA-fatigue in my assessment of the rule's survival prospects was my judgment that Democrats wouldn't muster to defend the payday lending industry– although that assumption has not fully held, as this recent American Banker account makes clear:
After the payday rule was finalized in October , it was widely expected that Republicans would attempt to overturn it. It's notable, though, that the effort has attracted bipartisan support in the House.
Passage in the Senate, however, may be a much heavier lift. The chamber's vote to overturn the arbitration rule in late October came down to the wire, forcing Republicans to call in Vice President Mike Pence to cast the tie-breaking vote.
I continue to think that this rule will survive– as the payday lending industry cannot count on a full court press lobbying effort by financial services interests. Yet as I wrote in October, I still hesitate to take either side of the bet on this issue.
Dpfaef , December 4, 2017 at 10:53 amGF , December 4, 2017 at 11:02 am
I think this whole article is totally disingenuous. There is a serious need for many Americans to have access to small amount, short term loans. While, these lenders may appear predatory, they do serve a large sector of society.
Maybe you need to read: The Unbanking of America: How the New Middle Class Survives by Lisa Servon . It might be worth the read.Jerri-Lynn Scofield Post author , December 4, 2017 at 11:11 am
Where's the Post Office Bank when you need it. This overturning of the rule is just an effort to stop the Post Office Bank from gaining traction as the alternative non-predatory source of small loans to the people. Most pay day lender companies are owned by large financial players.Wisdom Seeker , December 4, 2017 at 3:23 pm
I agree that's a far better approach and indeed, I discussed the Post Office bank in my October post– which is linked to in today's post. Permit me to quote from my earlier post:
The payday lending industry preys on the poorest financial consumers. One factor that has allowed it to flourish is current banking system's inability to provide access to basic financial services to a shocking number of Americans. Approximately 38 million households are un or underbanked– roughly 28% of the population.
Now, a sane and humane political system would long ago have responded with direct measures to address that core problem, such as a Post Office Bank (which Yves previously discussed in this post, Mirabile Dictu! Post Office Bank Concept Gets Big Boost and which have long existed in other countries.)
Regular readers are well aware of who benefits from the current US system, and why the lack of institutions that cater to the basic needs of financial consumers rather than focusing on extracting their pound(s) of flesh is not a bug, but a feature.
So, instead, the United States has a wide-ranging payday lending system. Which charges borrowers up to 400% interest rates for short-term loans, many of which are rolled over so that the borrower becomes a prisoner of the debt incurred.lyman alpha blob , December 4, 2017 at 3:30 pm
With phrasing like "unbanked" or "underbanked", I worry that you've bought into the banking-industry framing of this issue, which I'm sure is not your intent.
Ordinary people should not need any bank (not even a government or post office bank) for everyday life, with the possible exception of mortgages. De-financialization of the medium of exchange, and basic payments, is something the public should be fighting for.Wisdom Seeker , December 4, 2017 at 3:44 pm
I would consider myself an ordinary person and I pay in cash when purchasing day to day items the vast majority of the time and yet I'd still prefer to deposit my money in a bank rather than hiding it in my mattress for any number of good reasons.
Banks aren't the problem – their predatory executives are.Cary D Berkelhamer , December 4, 2017 at 4:32 pm
But there are, or at least ought to be, safe and secure ways to store money other than by lending it to banks or stuffing it into mattresses. Or carrying wads of cash.
For instance, a debit card (or possibly cell phone) with a secure identity / password can already act as a cashless wallet. The digital cash could be stored directly on the device, and accounted for through something similar to TreasuryDirect, without any intermediaries. But this would require the Federal Government to get serious about having a modern Digital Dollar of some kind (not bitcoin, shudder)diptherio , December 4, 2017 at 11:08 am
Even better would be State Banks. Every state should have one. I believe the State Bank of North Dakota made money in 2008. While the TBTF Banks came hat in hand to our Reps. Of course OUR Reps handed them a blank check and told them to "Make it go Away". However Post Office Banks would be GREAT!!Vatch , December 4, 2017 at 11:19 am
This is the boilerplate argument that always gets brought up by payday loan defenders, and there is a good bit of truth to it. However, what you are not mentioning is that there are already far superior options available to pretty much any person who needs a small, short term loan. That solution is your friendly neighborhood Credit Union, most of which offer very low interest lines of overdraft coverage. I don't mind saying that it has saved my heiny on more than one occasion. Pay check a little late in arriving? No problem, transfer $200 from your overdraft account into your checking account on-line and you're good to go. Pay it back at your convenience, also on-line, at 7% APR.
Payday lenders are legal loansharks. The problems with their predatory lending model and the damage it does to low-income people are well documented. Simply pointing out that there is a reason that people end up at payday lenders is not a valid justification for the business practices of those lenders, especially when there are much better alternatives readily available.Off The Street , December 4, 2017 at 12:10 pm
Payday lenders are legal loansharks.
Very true! There are several web sites that point out how the fees associated with payday loans raise the effective annual percentage rate into the stratosphere, ranging from 300% to over 600%. Here's one:
http://paydayloansonlineresource.org/average-interest-rates-for-payday-loans/a different chris , December 4, 2017 at 12:57 pm
One frustration that I have with legislation in general, and finance legislation in particular, is that it does not tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
In my Panglossian world, I envision a financial services bill that lays out the following:
Define the problem
Unserviced people: X percent( for discussion, say 10% to make the math easy) of people are un-serviced (or under-, or rapaciously-serviced) by conventional financial companies, whether banks, credit unions or other, whatever other is conventionally.
Unserviced and don't want: Y percent of that X percent (say, 50% of 10%, so 5%) doesn't want services.
Unserviced and want: 1-Y percent of that X percent (say, 50% of 10%, so 5%) wants services but can not get them. That could be due to various factors, ranging from bad credit (how defined?, say FICO < 600?) to geographic remoteness (no branches within miles, no internet, precious little slow mail service, whatever).
Within that deemed unserved 5% of the population, what are the costs to serve and what are the alternatives?
What would an honest service provider need to provide service, accounting for credit risks and the like, and still make a profit sufficient to induce investment?
If I knew how to make and add a nice graphic, I'd include a waterfall chart here to show the costs and components of the interest and fees paid in regular and default mode. Sorry, please bear with me as I make up numbers.
Interest at 30%
Less: cost of funds at, say, 10%
Less: personnel, overhead, everything else at, say, 5%
Pre-tax profit: 15%
Default mode costs:
Interest at 275%
Plus: Fees at 25%
Less: cost of funds 20%
Less: personnel, overhead, etc 5%
Less: added default cost not in personnel etc line, say 25%
Pre-tax profit: 250%
In that little example, who couldn't make money at those rates?
Extending the notion of APR and Truth-In-Lending to include payday lenders and anyone else without a brick-and-mortar branch who wants to do business in the US, how about mandating some type of honest waterfall chart as dreamt of above?
Then cross-reference and publicize the voting on finance legislation with the campaign contributions from payday people and their ilk, and layer in the borrower costs and credit scores and other metrics in those Congressional districts and zip+4 codes and census tracts and whatever other level of granularity will help provide any amount of disinfecting sunlight to help see the scattering cockroaches.lyle , December 4, 2017 at 7:33 pm
The problem I suspect is that your "friendly neighborhood credit union" is actually rarely anywhere near the neighborhoods where people who need these kind of loans live.
They don't have cars and mass transit is non-existent or so slow they couldn't get to the Credit Union during business hours, and back again, anyway. That's the problem with expecting Private Enterprise to be a solution for people at the bottom. They don't set up shop where those people live, or the ones that do are not exactly do-gooders.JTMcPhee , December 4, 2017 at 1:04 pm
I just checked and a lot of credit unions let you apply for a loan online, (earlier you can set up membership online). So the issue of transport and time is lessened assuming folks have some form of net access.Wukchumni , December 4, 2017 at 1:08 pm
One might ask why there are millions of people reduced to having to get ripped off by payday and auto-title lenders, to somehow survive from week to week. Maybe because people can't make a living wage? Can't save any money, however prudent and abstemious they may be? Because inter-citizen cruelty and Calvinism are so very strong a force in this rump of an Empire?
Some of the comments here seem to build on the baseline assumption that's part of the liberal-neoliberal mantra, "You get what's coming to you (or the pittance we can't quite squeeze out of you yet)".
diptherio, I am guessing you may mean that there are models of better alternatives readily available, like paying a living wage, a social safety net for the worst off, a postal bank, national health care, stuff like that. I don't see that there are any alternatives actually available to most real people "on the ground."diptherio , December 4, 2017 at 1:27 pm
There is an alternative to excessive payday loans, but only if you're in the military, where it's capped @ 36%.
Why not 36% for everybody?mpalomar , December 4, 2017 at 1:36 pm
You are, of course, correct in that the underlying problem is that so many people are forced to live on so little that they need payday loans in the first place. Thanks for pointing that out.
My point is simply that in the short-term, as a matter of practicality for those of us who don't always make it until payday before running out of money, a CU overdraft account is a very good option.lyman alpha blob , December 4, 2017 at 1:32 pm
Agree. The AB article from October deadpans a description of the ins and outs governing the hellishness of the company town we're living in.sd , December 4, 2017 at 11:14 am
This is a far superior option and thank you for bringing it up. The only problem is most banks and credit unions will not tell you it exists because they make a lot more money if you just keep bouncing checks.
I only learned about it when I worked for WAMU. We were tasked by management with promoting various new products to customers as a condition of being paid a monthly bonus which was the only thing that made the job pay enough to live on. Funny, they never asked us to promote the overdraft line of credit (aka an ODLOC), ever. I do remember one of my managers tell me that circa 2000 or so, WAMUs operating costs for the entire company for the entire year were offset just by the fees they collected off of bounced checks etc.
The fees or interest you pay for using an ODLOC are a small fraction of what you'd pay for bouncing just one check. IIRC, if I overdrew by $200 or so and paid it back on my next payday, the interest was generally less than $1. My local credit union has since added a $5 fee for accessing the ODLOC on top of the interest, but it's still much less than a bounced check fee or interest on a payday loan. I believe that depending on your credit history, you can get an ODLOC of up to $2500 or so which pretty much negates the need for any payday loans.RepubAnon , December 4, 2017 at 11:55 am
A friend of mine was evicted from her apartment because of a payday loan. She failed to pay it off in full quick enough and it spiraled out of control tripling in a very short time. I really fail to see how usury is beneficial to society.FluffytheObeseCat , December 4, 2017 at 12:25 pm
Yes, there's a need for high-interest loans that bankrupt borrowers:
Mom-and-Pop Loan Sharks Being Driven Out by Big Credit Card Companies
Frank Pistone is part of the dying breed known as the American Loan Shark. Not so long ago, the loan shark flourished, offering short-term, high-interest loans to desperate people with nowhere else to turn. Today, however, Pistone and countless others like him are being squeezed out by the major credit-card companies, which can offer money to the down-and-out at lower rates of interest and without the threat of bodily harmJTMcPhee , December 4, 2017 at 12:35 pm
I read Servon's book. It is not a brief on behalf of the payday loan industry. She worked at a couple of payday lenders and explains how they serve the communities they're in, but a few things need to be noted:
The business she was most sympathetic with was a small, local one with only a couple of storefronts, in an east coast inner city. The owner and his help knew the customer base, often by name. Much of her sympathy came from her respect for the women who were dishing out the loans at the windows, not the owners and not the business model. This local joint operated like the most benign of old time pawnbroker/loansharking operation from the early part of the last century.
Most "Cash America" storefront shops (on shabby, midcentury shopping strips in inner ring scuburbs across the US) aren't this decent. They aren't "part of a community" in any sense. And the rates are usurious any way, for all of them.
Thank you to Ms. Scofield for continuing to cover this and related businesses. The upper, cleaner part of our finance industry derives more filthy lucre from these kinds of loan shops than they ever want you to know (sub-prime lending shops, title loans shops . there are a lot of modalities for fleecing the poor and the near-poor nowadays).ger , December 4, 2017 at 12:42 pm
The NC staff must be pleased that it seems like so many subtle apologists for the looters, predators, "intelligence community," and so forth, appear to be turning up here early in the opening of new site posts. I'm guessing the Elite are not exactly quaking in fear that NC's reporting will catalyze some change that might sweep the political economy in the direction of what the mopery would categorize as "fairness," but stillMatthew Cunningham-Cook , December 4, 2017 at 3:15 pm
Raised the dollar definition of middle class and declared a 'new middle class' or could it be 'new middle class' is actually referring to the 'new middle poor'. The former middle class is desperately trying to avoid a plunge into the pits of the 'poor poor'. Payday Loan predators are greasing the handrails.John , December 4, 2017 at 9:32 pm
"Where will the money-changers change money if not in the Holy Temple? Aren't we starving the priests of much-needed revenue? This Jesus guy is totally disingenuous."sd , December 4, 2017 at 11:11 am
In good neo liberal fashion that Jesus dude got exactly what he deserved. The effrontry of that guy to chase those hard working money lenders out of the temple square. Got exactly what was coming to him.perpetualWAR , December 4, 2017 at 12:21 pm
H.J.Res.122 – Providing for congressional disapproval under chapter 8 of title 5, United States Code, of the rule submitted by the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection relating to "Payday, Vehicle Title, and Certain High-Cost Installment Loans".
December 1, 2017
Sponsor Rep. Ross, Dennis A. [R-FL-15] (Introduced 12/01/2017)
Rep. Hastings, Alcee L. [D-FL-20]
Rep. Graves, Tom [R-GA-14]
Rep. Cuellar, Henry [D-TX-28]
Rep. Stivers, Steve [R-OH-15]
Rep. Peterson, Collin C. [D-MN-7]jawbone , December 4, 2017 at 1:44 pm
Ahhh ..look at this list. TWO Florida lawbreakers introducing this banker bill. And one from Minnesota. Y'all know that Jacksonville, FL and St. Paul, MN are the two places where the forgeries continue to be provided to the financial crooks? So, it goes to figure that the lawbreakers are attempting to protect the financial crooks committing forgery in their prospective states! How appro.Mike R. , December 4, 2017 at 1:19 pm
If any of these House critters are "representing" you, time for lots of calls to them.
And thanks, SD, for listing them. I always wonder why our vaunted free press so seldom lists the sponsors of legislation when it's reported on . Hhmm .
m .nonclassical , December 4, 2017 at 1:46 pm
I have mixed feelings about this specific issue.
The larger issue of a grossly skewed economic system is what needs to be fixed.
There will always be people that lack common sense and brains regarding money. There will always be people that will take advantage of that.
I don't know how or why you would try and legislate that away.
We need to move in the direction of solving the biggest problems and not get wrapped up in the little problems.
The numbers above sound horrendous, but 7 billion in profit on 46 billion loaned is 14% return. Credit card companies are worse. 7 billion in profit off of 12 million people is $600 per person. Alot for poor folks I recognize, but not necessarily life shattering for all.
The "system" loves to wrangle around with issues like this (trivial in my mind) so the handful of big ones go unattended.Wisdom Seeker , December 4, 2017 at 3:37 pm
some have apparently not felt it necessary to bail out family members for aggressive, egregious and immediate interest rates and escalations charged by these scammers
but there certainly appears concerted effort by (likely) shills to perpetuate scams (and to discredit Consumer Financial Protection Agency and Liz Warren )
Warren-Sanders 2020Jerri-Lynn Scofield Post author , December 4, 2017 at 8:07 pm
I think there's an error in the original article, where it says:
CRA's procedures to overturn legislation had been invoked, successfully, only once before Trump became president. Congressional Republicans and Trump have used CRA procedures multiple times to kill regulations (emphasis added)
My understanding is that CRA gives Congress the power to overturn executive branch regulations , not legislation (which Congress already can overturn anyway). Is that incorrect?
P.S. It's sad that it might not even matter. Nowadays the public can't tell the difference between regulations (written by unaccountable, unelected officials who take the revolving door back to working at the firms they regulated) and legislation (written by unaccountable, only notionally elected politicians who get paid off in various ways by lobbyists for the same firms)John k , December 4, 2017 at 8:26 pm
You're correct– fixed it! Slip of the fingers there that I didn't catch when I proofread the post. As the rest of the paragraph makes clear, CRA procedures are used to overturn regulations.
Thanks for reading my work so carefully and drawing the error to my attention.Taras 77 , December 4, 2017 at 10:40 pm
Trump loves it
Obomber woulda loved it
She who cannot be named woulda loved it, too.
Time for them all to get over that little spat she did it before trump should appoint her to something useful I bet she'd love secdef
Where is the lovely Debbie Wasserman schultz in all of this? She has not surprisingly been a leading cheerleader for these pay day lender sharks. but hey, what the hey, the lobby money is good!
Inside Casino Capitalism Barbarians at the Gate: The Fall of RJR Nabisco
By Bryan Burrough and John Helyar
Harper & Row. 528 pp. $22.95
In 1898, Adolphus Green, chairman of the National Biscuit Company, found himself faced with the task of choosing a trademark for his newly formed baking concern. Green was a progressive businessman. He refused to employ child labor, even though it was then a common practice, and he offered his bakery employees the option to buy stock at a discount. Green therefore thought that his trademark should symbolize Nabisco's fundamental business values, "not merely to make dividends for the stockholders of his company, but to enhance the general prosperity and the moral sentiment of the United States." Eventually he decided that a cross with two bars and an oval – a medieval symbol representing the triumph of the moral and spiritual over the base and material – should grace the package of every Nabisco product.
If they had wracked their brains for months, Bryan Burrough and John Helyar could not have come up with a more ironic metaphor for their book. The fall of Nabisco, and its corporate partner R.J. Reynolds, is nothing less than the exact opposite of Green's business credo, a compelling tale of corporate and Wall Street greed featuring RJR Nabisco officers who first steal shareholders blind and then justify their epic displays of avarice by claiming to maximize shareholder value.
The event which made the RJR Nabisco story worth telling was the 1988 leveraged buyout (LBO) of the mammoth tobacco and food conglomerate, then the 19th-largest industrial corporation in America. Battles for corporate control were common during the loosely regulated 1980s, and the LBO was just one method for capturing the equity of a corporation. (In a typical LBO, a small group of top management and investment bankers put 10 percent down and finance the rest of their purchase through high-interest loans or bonds. If the leveraged, privately-owned corporation survives, the investors, which they can re-sell public shares, reach the so-called "pot of gold"; but if the corporation cannot service its debt, everything is at risk, because the collateral is the corporation itself.
The sheer size of RJR Nabisco and the furious bidding war that erupted guaranteed unusual public scrutiny of this particular piece of financial engineering. F. Ross Johnson, the conglomerate's flamboyant, free-spending CEO (RJR had its own corporate airline), put his own company into play with a $75-a-share bid in October. Experienced buyout artists on Wall Street, however, immediately realized that Johnson was trying to play two incompatible games. LBOs typically put corporations such as RJR Nabisco through a ringer in order to pay the mammoth debt incurred after a buyout. But Johnson, desiring to keep corporate perquisites intact, "low-balled" his offer. Other buyout investors stepped forward with competing bids, and after a six-week-long auction the buyout boutique of Kohlberg, Kravis, Roberts & Company (KKR) emerged on top with a $109-a-share bid. The $25-billion buyout took its place as one of the defining business events of the 1980s
Burrough and Helyar, who covered the story for The Wall Street Journal, supply a breezy, colorful, blow-by-blow account of the "deal from hell" (as one businessman characterized a leveraged buyout). The language of Wall Street, full of incongruous "Rambo" jargon from the Vietnam War, is itself arresting. Buyout artists, who presumably never came within 10,000 miles of wartime Saigon, talk about "napalming" corporate perquisites or liken their strategy to "charging through the rice paddies, not stopping for anything and taking no prisoners."
At the time, F. Ross Johnson was widely pilloried in the press as the embodiment of excess; his conflict of interest was obvious. Yet Burrough and Helyar show that Johnson, for all his free-spending ways, was way over his head in the major leagues of greed, otherwise known as Wall Street in the 1980s. What, after all, is more rapacious: the roughly $100 million Johnson stood to gain if his deal worked out over five years, or the $45 million in expenses KKR demanded for waiting 60 minutes while Ross Johnson prepared a final competing bid?
Barbarians is, in the parlance of the publishing world, a good read. At the same time, unfortunately, a disclaimer issued by the authors proves only too true. Anyone looking for a definitive judgment of LBOs will be disappointed. Burrough and Helyar do at least ask the pertinent question: What does all this activity have to do with building and sustaining a business? But authors should not only pose questions; they should answer them, or at least try.
Admittedly, the single most important answer to the RJR puzzle could not be provided by Burrough and Helyar because it is not yet known. The major test of any financial engineering is its effect on the long-term vitality of the leveraged corporation, as measured by such key indicators as market share (and not just whether the corporation survives its debt, as the authors imply). However, a highly-leveraged RJR Nabisco is already selling off numerous profitable parts of its business because they are no longer a "strategic fit": Wall Street code signifying a need for cash in order to service debts and avoid bankruptcy.
If the authors were unable to predict the ultimate outcome, they still had a rare opportunity to explain how and why an LBO is engineered. Unfortunately, their fixation on re-creating events and dialogue – which admittedly produces a fast-moving book – forced them to accept the issues as defined by the participants themselves. There is no other way to explain the book's uncritical stance. When, for example, the RJR Nabisco board of directors tried to decide which bid to accept, Burrough and Helyar report that several directors sided with KKR's offer because the LBO boutique "knew the value of keeping [employees] happy." It is impossible to tell from the book whether the directors knew this to be true or took KKR's word. Even a cursory investigation would have revealed that KKR is notorious for showing no concern for employees below senior management after a leveraged buyout.
The triumph of gossip over substance is manifest in many other ways. Wall Street's deft manipulation of the business press is barely touched upon, and the laissez-faire environment procured by buyout artists via their political contributions is scarcely mentioned, crucial though it is. Nowhere are the authors' priorities more obvious than in the number of words devoted to Henry Kravis's conspicuous consumption compared to those devoted to the details of the RJR deal. In testimony before Congress last year, no less an authority than Treasury Secretary Nicholas Brady – himself an old Wall Street hand – noted that the substitution of tax-deductible debt for taxable income is "the mill in which the grist of takeover premiums is ground."
In the case of RJR Nabisco, 81 percent of the $9.9 billion premium paid to shareholders was derived from tax breaks achievable after the buyout. This singularly important fact cannot be found in the book, however; nor will a reader learn that after the buyout the U.S. Treasury was obligated to refund RJR as much as $1 billion because of its post-buyout debt burden. In Barbarians, more time is spent describing Kravis's ostentatious gifts to his fashion-designer wife than to the tax considerations that make or break these deals.
Fulminations about the socially corrosive effects of greed aside, the buyout phenomenon may represent one of the biggest changes in the way American business is conducted since the rise of the public corporation, nothing less than a transformation of managerial into financial capitalism. The ferocious market for corporate control that emerged during the 1980s has few parallels in business history, but there are two: the trusts that formed early in this century and the conglomerate mania that swept corporate America during the 1960s. Both waves resulted in large social and economic costs, and there is little assurance that the corporate infatuation with debt will not exact a similarly heavy toll.
As the economist Henry Kaufman has written, the high levels of debt associated with buyouts and other forms of corporate restructuring create fragility in business structures and vulnerability to economic cycles. Inexorably, the shift away from equity invites the close, even intrusive involvement of institutional investors (banks, pension funds, and insurance companies) that provide the financing. Superficially, this moves America closer to the system that prevails in Germany and Japan, where historically the relationship between the suppliers and users of capital is close. But Germany and Japan incur higher levels of debt for expansion and investment, whereas equivalent American indebtedness is linked to the recent market for corporate control. That creates a brittle structure, one that threatens to turn the U.S. government into something of an ultimate guarantor if and when things do fall about. It is too easy to construct a scenario in which corporate indebtedness forces the federal government into the business of business. The savings-and-loan bailout is a painfully obvious harbinger of such a development.
The many ramifications of the buyout mania deserve thoughtful treatment. Basic issues of corporate governance and accountability ought to be openly debated and resolved if the American economy is to deliver the maximum benefit to society and not just unconscionable rewards to a handful of bankers, all out of proportion to their social productivity. It is disappointing, but a sign of the times, that the best book about the deal of deals fails to educate as well as it entertains.
Sep 14, 2015 | The Guardian
The waning clout stems from the lobby siding with the revanchist Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, whose Iran strategy since the 2012 US presidential campaign has been to unabashedly side with Republican hawks. AIPAC's alignment with the position effectively caused the group to marginalize itself; the GOP is now the only place where AIPAC can today find lockstep support. The tens of millions AIPAC spent lobbying against the deal were unable to obscure this dynamic.
We may not look back at this as a sea change – some Senate Democrats who held firm against opposition to the deal are working with AIPAC to pass subsequent legislation that contains poison pills designed to kill it – but rather as a rising tide eroding the once sturdy bipartisan pro-Israeli government consensus on Capitol Hill. Some relationships have been frayed; previously stalwart allies of the Israel's interests, such as Vice President Joe Biden, have reportedly said the Iran deal fight soured them on AIPAC.
Even with the boundaries of its abilities on display, however, AIPAC will continue its efforts. "We urge those who have blocked a vote today to reconsider," the group said in a spin-heavy statement casting a pretty objective defeat as victory with the headline, "Bipartisan Senate Majority Rejects Iran Nuclear Deal." The group's allies in the Senate Republican Party have already promised to rehash the procedural vote next week, and its lobbyists are still rallying for support in the House. But the Senate's refusal to halt US support for the deal means that Senate Democrats are unlikely to reconsider, especially after witnessing Thursday's Republican hijinx in the House. These ploys look like little more than efforts to embarrass Obama into needing to cast a veto.
If Republicans' rhetoric leading up to to their flop in the Senate – Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina took to the floor during the debate and pulled out an old trick from the run-up to the Iraq war: blaming Iran for 9/11 and saying a failure to act would result in a worse attack – is any indication, even Democrats like the pro-Israel hawk Chuck Schumer will find it untenable to sidle up to AIPAC and the Republicans.
Opponents of the deal want to say the Democrats played politics instead of evaluating the deal honestly. That charge is ironic, to say the least, since most experts agree the nuclear deal is sound and the best agreement diplomacy could achieve. But there were politics at play: rather than siding with Obama, Congressional Democrats lined up against the Republican/Netanyahu alliance. The adamance of AIPAC ended up working against its stated interests.
Groups like AIPAC will go on touting their bipartisan bona fides without considering that their adoption of Netanyahu's own partisanship doomed them to a partisan result. Meanwhile, the ensuing fight, which will no doubt bring more of the legislative chaos we saw this week, won't be a cakewalk, so to speak, but will put the lie to AIPAC's claims it has a bipartisan consensus behind it. Despite their best efforts, Obama won't be the one embarrassed by the scrambling on the horizon.TiredOldDog 13 Sep 2015 21:47
a foreign country whose still hell bent on committing war crimes
I guess this may mean Israel. If it does, how about we compare Assad's Syria, Iran and Israel. How many war crimes per day in the last 4 years and, maybe, some forecasts. Otherwise it's the usual gratuitous use of bad words at Israel. It has a purpose. To denigrate and dehumanize Israel or, at least, Zionism.
ID7612455 13 Sep 2015 18:04
The problem with the right in the USA is that they offer no alternatives, nothing, nada and zilch they have become the opposition party of opposition. They rely on talking point memes and fear, and it has become the party of extremism and simplicity offering low hanging fruit and red meat this was on perfect display at their anti Iran deal rally, palin, trump, beck and phil robinson who commands ducks apparently.
winemaster2 13 Sep 2015 17:01
Put a Brush Mustache on the control freak, greed creed, Nentanhayu the SOB not only looks like but has the same mentality as Hitler and his Nazism crap.
Martin Hutton -> mantishrimp 12 Sep 2015 23:50
I wondered when someone was going to bring up that "forgotten" fact. Is it any wonder the Iranians don't trust the US. After the US's spying exploits during the Iraqi WMD inspections, why are you surprised that Iran asks for 24 days notice of inspection (enough time to clear out conventional weapons development but not enough to remove evidence of nuclear weapons development).
mantishrimp 12 Sep 2015 20:51
Most Americans don't know the CIA overthrew the Iranian government in 1953 and installed the Shaw. Most Republicans know that most Americans will believe what Fox news tells them. Republicans live in an alternate universe where there is no climate change, mammon is worshiped and wisdom is rejected hatred is accepted negotiation is replaced by perpetual warfare. Now most Americans are tired of stupid leadership and the Republicans are in big trouble.
ByThePeople -> Sieggy 12 Sep 2015 20:27
Is pitiful how for months and months, certain individuals blathered on and on and on when it was fairly clear from the get go that this was a done deal and no one was about cater to the war criminal. I suppose it was good for them, sucking every last dime they could out of the AICPA & Co. while they acted like there was 'a chance'. Nope, only chance is that at the end of the day, a politician is a politician and he'll suck you dry as long as you let 'em.
What a pleasure it is to see the United States Congress finally not pimp themselves out completely to a foreign country whose still hell bent on committing war crimes. A once off I suppose, but it's one small step for Americans.
ByThePeople 12 Sep 2015 20:15
AIPAC - Eventually everything is seen for what is truly is.
ambushinthenight -> Greg Zeglen 12 Sep 2015 18:18
Seems that it makes a lot of sense to most everyone else in the world, it is now at the point where it really makes no difference whether the U.S. ratifies the deal or not. Israel is opposed because they wish to maintain their nuclear weapons monopoly in the region. Politicians here object for one of two reasons. They are Israeli first and foremost not American or for political expediency and a chance to try undo another of this President's achievements. Been a futile effort so far I'd say.
hello1678 -> BrianGriffin 12 Sep 2015 16:42
With the threat you describe from Israel it seems only sensible for Iran to develop nuclear weapons - if my was country (Scotland) was in Iran's place and what you said is true i would only support politicians who promised fast and large scale production of atomic weapons to counter the clear threat to my nation.
nardone -> Bruce Bahmani 12 Sep 2015 14:12
Netanyahu loves to play the victim, but he is the primary cause that Jews worldwide, but especially in the United States, are rethinking the idea of "Israel." I know very few people who willingly identify with a strident right wing government comprised of rabid nationalists, religious fundamentalists, and a violent, almost apocalyptic settler community.
The Israeli electorate has indicated which path it wishes to travel, but that does not obligate Jews throughout the world to support a government whose policies they find odious.
Greg Zeglen -> Glenn Gang 12 Sep 2015 13:51
good point which is found almost nowhere else...it is still necessary to understand that the whole line of diplomacy regarding the west on the part of Iran has been for generations one of deceit...and people are intensely jealous of what they hold dear - especially safety and liberty with in their country....
EarthyByNature -> Bruce Bahmani 12 Sep 2015 13:45
I do trust your on salary with a decent benefits package with the Israeli government or one of it's slavish US lobbyists. Let's face it, got to be hard work pouring out such hateful drivel.
BrianGriffin -> imipak 12 Sep 2015 12:53
The USA took about six years to build a bomb from scratch. The UK took almost six years to build a bomb. Russia was able to build a bomb in only four years (1945-1949). France took four years to build a bomb. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/France_and_weapons_of_mass_destruction
The Chinese only took four years. http://www.china.org.cn/english/congress/228244.htm
steelhead 12 Sep 2015 12:48
As part of this deal the US and allies should guarantee Iran protection against Israeli aggression. Otherwise, considering Israel's threats, Iran is well justified in seeking a nuclear deterrent.
BrianGriffin -> HauptmannGurski 12 Sep 2015 12:35
"Europe needs business desperately."
Sieggy 12 Sep 2015 12:32
In other words, once again, Obama out-played and out-thought both the GOP and AIPAC. He was playing multidimensional chess while they were playing checkers. The democrats kept their party discipline while the republicans ran around like a schoolyard full of sugared-up children. This is what happens when you have grownups competing with adolescents. The republican party, to put it very bluntly, can't get it together long enough to whistle 'Yankee Doodle Dandy' in unison.
They lost. Again. And worse than being losers, they're sore, whining, sniveling, blubbering losers. Even when they've been spanked - hard - they swear it's not over and they're gonna get even, just you wait and see! Get over it. They lost - badly - and the simple fact that their party is coming apart at the seams before our very eyes means they're going to be losing a lot more, too.
AIPAC's defeat shows that their grip on the testicles of congress has been broken. All the way around, a glorious victory for Obama, and an ignominious defeat for the republicans. And most especially, Israel. Their primary goal was to keep Iran isolated and economically weak. They knew full well that the Iranians hadn't had a nuclear program since 2003, but Netanhayu needed an existential threat to Israel in order to justify his grip on power. All of this charade has bee at the instigation of and directed by Israel. And they lost They were beaten by that hated schwartze and the liberals that Israel normally counts on for unthinking support.
Their worst loss, however, was losing the support of the American jews. Older, orthodox jews are Israel-firsters. The younger, less observant jews are Americans first. Netanhayu's behavior has driven a wedge between the US and Israel that is only going to deepen over time. And on top of that, Iran is re-entering the community of nations, and soon their economy will dominate the region. Bibi overplayed his hand very, very stupidly, and the real price that Israel will pay for his bungling will unfold over the next few decades.
BrianGriffin -> TiredOldDog 12 Sep 2015 12:18
"The Constitution provides that the president 'shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two-thirds of the Senators present concur'"
Hardly a done deal. If Obama releases funds to Iran he probably would be committing an impeachable crime under US law. Even many Democrats would vote to impeach Obama for providing billions to a sworn enemy of Israel.
Glenn Gang -> Bruce Bahmani 12 Sep 2015 12:07
"...institutionally Iranclad(sic) HATRED towards the west..." Since you like all-caps so much, try this: "B.S."
The American propel(sic) actually figured out something else---that hardline haters like yourself are desperate to keep the cycle of Islamophobic mistrust and suspicion alive, and blind themselves to the fact that the rest of us have left you behind.
FACT: More than half of the population of Iran today was NOT EVEN BORN when radical students captured the U.S. Embassy in Teheran in 1979.
People like you, Bruce, conveniently ignore the fact that Ahmedinejad and his hardline followers were voted out of power in 2013, and that Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei further marginalized them by allowing the election of new President Hassan Rouhani to stand, though he was and is an outspoken reformer advocating rapprochement with the west. While his outward rhetoric still has stern warnings about anticipated treachery by the 'Great Satan', Khamenei has allowed the Vienna agreement to go forward, and shows no sign of interfering with its implementation.
He is an old man, but he is neither stupid nor senile, and has clearly seen the crippling effects the international sanctions have had on his country and his people. Haters like you, Bruce, will insist that he ALWAYS has evil motives, just as Iranian hardliners (like Ahmedinejad) will ALWAYS believe that the U.S. has sinister motives and cannot EVER be trusted to uphold our end of any agreement. You ascribe HATRED in all caps to Iran, the whole country, while not acknowledging your own simmering hatred.
People like you will always find a 'boogeyman,' someone else to blame for your problems, real or imagined. You should get some help.
beenheretoolong 12 Sep 2015 10:57
No doubt Netanyahu will raise the level of his anger; he just can't accept that a United States president would do anything on which Israel hadn't stamped its imprimatur. It gets tiresome listening to him.
geneob 12 Sep 2015 10:12
It is this deal that feeds the military industrial complex. We've already heard Kerry give Israel and Saudi Arabia assurances of more weapons. And that $150 billion released to Iran? A healthy portion will be spent for arms..American, Russian, Chinese. Most of the commenters have this completely backwards. This deal means a bonanza for the arms industry.
Jack Hughes 12 Sep 2015 08:38
The Iran nuclear agreement accomplishes the US policy goal of preventing the creation of the fissionable material required for an Iranian nuclear weapons program.
What the agreement does not do is eliminate Iran as a regional military and economic power, as the Israelis and Saudis -- who have invested hundreds of millions of dollars to lobby American politicians and brainwash American TV viewers -- would prefer.
To reject the agreement is to accept the status quo, which is unacceptable, leaving an immediate and unprovoked American-led bombing campaign as the only other option.
Rejection equals war. It's not surprising that the same crowd most stridently demanding rejection of the agreement advocated the disastrous invasion and occupation of Iraq. These homicidal fools never learn, or don't care as long as it's not their lives at risk.
American politicians opposed to the agreement are serving their short-term partisan political interests and, under America's system of legalized bribery, their Israeli and Saudi paymasters -- not America's long-term policy interests.
ID293404 -> Jeremiah2000 12 Sep 2015 05:01
And how did the Republicans' foreign policy work out? Reagan created and financed Al Qaeda. Then Bush II invades Iraq with promises the Iraqis will welcome us with flowers (!), the war will be over in a few weeks and pay for itself, and the middle east will have a nascent democracy (Iraq) that will be a grateful US ally.
He then has pictures taken of himself in a jet pilot's uniform on a US aircraft carrier with a huge sign saying Mission Accomplished. He attacks Afghanistan to capture Osama, lets him get away, and then attacks Iraq instead, which had nothing to do with 9/11 and no ties with Al Qaeda.
So then we have two interminable wars going on, thanks to brilliant Republican foreign policy, and spend gazillions of dollars while creating a mess that may never be straightened out. Never mind all the friends we won in the middle east and the enhanced reputation of our country through torture, the use of mercenaries, and the deaths and displacement of hundreds of thousands of civilians. Yeah, we really need those bright Republicans running the show over in the Middle East!
HauptmannGurski -> lazman 12 Sep 2015 02:31
That is a very difficult point to understand, just look at this sentence "not understanding the fact in international affairs that to disrespect an American president is to disrespect Americans" ... too much emperor thinking for me. We have this conversation with regard to Putin everywhere now, so we disrespect all 143 million Russians? There's not a lot of disrespect around for Japanese PM Abe and Chinese Xi - does this now mean we respect them and all Japanese and Chinese? Election campaigns create such enormous personality cults that people seem to lose perspective.
On the Iran deal, if the US had dropped out of it it would have caused quite a rift because many countries would have just done what they wanted anyway. The international Atomic Energy Organisation or what it is would have done their inspections. Siemens would have sold medical machines. Countries would grow up as it were. But as cooperation is always better than confrontation it is nice the US have stayed in the agreement that was apparently 10 years in the making. It couldn't have gone on like that. With Europe needing gazillions to finance Greece, Ukraine, and millions of refugees (the next waves will roll on with the next spring and summer from April), Europe needs business desparately. Israel was happy to buy oil through Marc Rich under sanctions, now it's Europe's turn to snatch some business.
imipak -> BrianGriffin 11 Sep 2015 21:56
Iran lacks weapons-grade uranium and the means to produce it. Iran has made no efforts towards nuclear weapons technology for over a decade. Iran is a signatory of the NPT and is entitled to the rights enshrined therein. If Israel launches a nuclear war against Iran over Iran having a medical reactor (needed to produce isotopes for medicine, isotopes America can barely produce enough of for itself) that poses no security threat to anyone, then Israel will have transgressed so many international laws that if it survives the radioactive fallout (unlikely), it won't survive the political fallout.
It is a crime of the highest order to use weapons of mass destruction (although that didn't stop the Israelis using them against Palestinian civilians) and pre-emtive self-defence is why most believe Bush and Blair should be on trial at the ICJ, or (given the severity of their crimes) Nuremberg.
Israel's right to self-defense is questionable, I'm not sure any such right exists for anyone, but even allowing for it, Israel has no right to wage unprovoked war on another nation on the grounds of a potential threat discovered through divination using tea leaves.
imipak -> Jeremiah2000 11 Sep 2015 21:43
Iran's sponsorship of terrorism is of no concern. Such acts do not determine its competency to handle nuclear material at the 5% level (which you can find naturally). There are only three questions that matter - can Iran produce the 90-95% purity needed to build a bomb (no), can Iran produce such purity clandestinely (no), and can Iran use its nuclear technology to threaten Israel (no).
Israel also supports international terrorism, has used chemical weapons against civilians, has directly indulged in terrorism, actually has nuclear weapons and is paranoid enough that it may use them against other nations without cause.
I respect Israel's right to exist and the intelligence of most Israelis. But I neither respect nor tolerate unreasoned fear nor delusions of Godhood.
imipak -> commish 11 Sep 2015 21:33
I've seen Iranian statements playing internal politics, but I have never seen any actual Iranian threats. I've seen plenty about Israel assassinating people in other countries, using incendiaries and chemical weapons against civilians in other countries, conducting illegal kidnappings overseas, using terrorism as a weapon of war, developing nuclear weapons illegally, ethnically cleansing illegally occupied territories, that sort of thing.
Until such time as Israel implements the Oslo Accords, withdraws to its internationally recognized boundary and provides the International Court of Justice a full accounting of state-enacted and state-sponsored terrorism, it gets no claims on sainthood and gets no free rides.
Iran has its own crimes to answer, but directly threatening Israel in words or deeds has not been one of them within this past decade. Its actual crimes are substantial and cannot be ignored, but it is guilty only of those and not fictional works claimed by psychotic paranoid ultra-nationalists.
imipak -> moishe 11 Sep 2015 21:18
Domestic politics. Of no real consequence, it's just a way of controlling a populace through fear and a never-ending pseudo-war. It's how Iran actually feels that is important.
For the last decade, they've backed off any nuclear weapons research and you can't make a bomb with centrifuges that can only manage 20% enriched uranium. You need something like 90% enrichment, which requires centrifuges many, many times more advanced. It'd be hard to smuggle something like that in and the Iranians lack the skills, technology and science to make them.
Iran's conventional forces are busy fighting ISIS. What they do afterwards is a concern, but Israel has a sizable military presence on the Golan Heights. The most likely outcome is for Iran to install puppet regimes (or directly control) Syria and ISIS' caliphate.
I could see those two regions plus Iraq being fully absorbed into Iran, that would make some sense given the new geopolitical situation. But that would tie up Iran for decades. Which would not be a bad thing and America would be better off encouraging it rather than sabre-rattling.
(These are areas that contribute a lot to global warming and political instability elsewhere. Merging the lot and encouraging nuclear energy will do a lot for the planet. The inherent instability of large empires will reduce mischief-making elsewhere to more acceptable levels - they'll be too busy. It's idle hands that you need to be scared of.)
Israelis worry too much. If they spent less time fretting and more time developing, they'd be impervious to any natural or unnatural threat by now. Their teaching of Roman history needs work, but basically Israel has a combined intellect vastly superior to that of any nearby nation.
That matters. If you throw away fear and focus only on problems, you can stop and even defeat armies and empires vastly greater than your own. History is replete with examples, so is the mythologicized history of the Israeli people. Israel's fear is Israel's only threat.
mostfree 11 Sep 2015 21:10
Warmongers on all sides would had loved another round of fear and hysteria. Those dark military industrial complexes on all sides are dissipating in the face of the high rising light of peace for now . Please let it shine.
bishoppeter4 11 Sep 2015 20:09
The rabid Republicans working for a foreign power against the interest of the United States -- US citizens will know just what to do.
Jeremiah2000 -> Carolyn Walas Libbey 11 Sep 2015 19:21
"Netanyahu has no right to dictate what the US does."
But he has every right to point out how Obama is a weak fool. How's Obama's red line working in Syria? How is his toppling of Qadaffi in Libya working? How about his completely inept dealings with Egypt, throwing support behind the Muslim Brotherhood leaders? The leftists cheer Obama's weakening of American influence abroad. But they don't talk much about its replacement with Russian and Chinese influence. Russian build-up in Syria part of secret deal with Iran's Quds Force leader. Obama and Kerry are sending a strongly worded message.
Susan Dechancey -> whateverworks4u 11 Sep 2015 19:05
Incredible to see someone prefer war to diplomacy - guess you are an armchair General not a real one.
Susan Dechancey -> commish 11 Sep 2015 19:04
Except all its neighbours ... not only threatened but entered military conflict and stole land ... murdered Iranian Scientists but apart from that just a kitten
Susan Dechancey -> moishe 11 Sep 2015 19:00
Israel has nukes so why are they afraid ?? Iran will never use nukes against Israel and even Mossad told nuttyyahoo sabre rattling
Susan Dechancey 11 Sep 2015 18:57
Iran is not a made-up country like Iraq it is as old as Greece. If the Iraq war was sold as pushover and failed miserably then an Iran war would be unthinkable. War can be started in an instant diplomacy take time. UK, France, Germany & EU all agree its an acceptable alternative to war. So as these countries hardly ever agree it is clear the deal is a good one.
To be honest the USA can do what it likes now .. UK has set up an embassy - trade missions are landing Tehran from Europe. So if Israel and US congress want war - they will be alone and maybe if US keeps up the Nuttyahoo rhetoric European firms can win contracts to help us pay for the last US regime change Iraq / Isis / Refugees...
lswingly -> commish 11 Sep 2015 16:58
Rank and file Americans don't even know what the Iran deal is. And can't be bothered to actually find out. They just listen to sound bites from politicians the loudest of whom have been the wildly partisan republicans claiming that it gives Iran a green light to a nuclear weapon. Not to mention those "less safe" polls are completely loaded. Certain buzz words will always produce negative results. If you associate something positive "feeling safe" or "in favor of" anything that Iran signs off on it comes across as indirectly supporting Iran and skews the results of the poll. "Iran" has been so strongly associated with evil and negative all you have to do is insert it into a sentence to make people feel negatively about the entire sentence. In order to get true data on the deal you would have to poll people on the individual clauses the deal.
It's no different from how when you run a poll on who's in favor "Obamacare" the results will be majority negative. But if you poll on whether you are in favor of "The Affordable Care Act" most people are in favor of it and if you break it down and poll on the individual planks of "Obamacare" people overwhelming approve of the things that "Obamacare does". The disapproval is based on the fact that Republican's have successfully turned "Obamacare" into a pejorative and has almost no reflection of people feelings on actual policy.
To illustrate how meaningless those poll numbers are a Jewish poll (supposedly the people who have the most to lose if this deal is bad) found that a narrow majority of Jews approve of the deal. You're numbers are essentially meaningless.
The alternative to this plan is essentially war if not now, in the very near future, according to almost all non-partisan policy wonks. Go run a poll on whether we should go to war with Iran and see how that turns out. Last time we destabilized the region we removed a secular dictator who was enemies with Al Queda and created a power vacuum that led to increased religious extremism and the rise of Isis. You want to double down on that strategy?
MadManMark -> whateverworks4u 11 Sep 2015 16:34
You need to reread this article. It's exactly this attitude of yours (and AIPAC and Netanyahu) that this deal is not 100% perfect, but then subsequently failed to suggest ANY way to get something better -- other than war, which I'm sorry most people don't want another Republican "preemptive" war -- caused a lot people originally uncertain about this deal (like me) to conclude there may not be a better alternative. Again, read the article: What you think about me, I now think about deal critics like you ("It seems people will endorse anything to justify their political views.)
USfan 11 Sep 2015 15:34
American Jews are facing one of the most interesting choices of recent US history. The Republican Party, which is pissing into a stiff wind of unfavorable demographics, seems to have decided it can even the playing field by peeling Jews away from the Democrats with promises to do whatever Israel wants. So we have the very strange (but quite real) prospect of Jews increasingly throwing in their lot with the party of Christian extremists whose ranks also include violent antiSemites.
Interesting times. We'll see how this plays out. My family is Jewish and I have not been shy in telling them that alliances with the GOP for short-term gains for Israel is not a wise policy. The GOP establishment are not antiSemtic but the base often is, and if Trump's candidacy shows anything it's that the base is in control of the Republicans.
But we'll see.
niyiakinlabu 11 Sep 2015 15:29
Central question: how come nobody talks about Israel's nukes?
hello1678 -> BrianGriffin 11 Sep 2015 14:02
Iran will not accept being forced into dependence on outside powers. We may dislike their government but they have as much right as anyone else to enrich their own fuel.
JackHep 11 Sep 2015 13:30
Netanyahu is an example of all that is bad about the Israeli political, hence military industrial, establishment. Why Cameron's government allowed him on British soil is beyond belief. Surely the PM's treatment of other "hate preachers" would not have been lost on Netanyahu? Sadly our PM seems to miss the point with Israel.
talenttruth 11 Sep 2015 13:12
The American Warmonger Establishment (that now fully entrenched "Military Industrial Complex" against which no more keen observer than President Dwight Eisenhower warned us), is rip-shit over the Iran Agreement. WHAT? We can't Do More War? That will be terrible for further increasing our obscene 1-percent wealth. Let's side with Israeli wingnut Netanyahu, who cynically leverages "an eye for an eye for an eye for an eye" to hold his "Power."
And let's be treasonous against the United States by trying to undermine U.S. Foreign Policy FOR OUR OWN PROFIT. We are LONG overdue for serious jail time for these sociopaths, who already have our country "brainwashed" into 53% of our budget going to the War Profiteers and to pretending to be a 19th century Neo-Colonial Power -- in an Endless State of Eternal War. These people are INSANE. Time to simply say so.
Boredwiththeusa 11 Sep 2015 12:58
At the rally to end the Iran deal in the Capitol on Wednesday, one of the AIPAC worshipping attendees had this to say to Jim Newell of Slate:
""Obama is a black, Jew-hating, jihadist putting America and Israel and the rest of the planet in grave danger," said Bob Kunst of Miami. Kunst-pairing a Hillary Clinton rubber mask with a blue T-shirt reading "INFIDEL"-was holding one sign that accused Obama, Hillary Clinton, and John Kerry of "Fulfilling Hitler's Dreams" and another that queried, "DIDN'T WE LEARN ANYTHING FROM 1938?"
His only reassurance was that, when Iran launches its attack on the mainland, it'll be stopped quickly by America's heavily armed citizenry."
That is indicative of the mindset of those opposed to the agreement.
Boredwiththeusa 11 Sep 2015 12:47
AIPAC is a dangerous anti-american organization, and a real and extant threat to the sovereignty of the U.S. Any elected official acting in concert with AIPAC is colluding with a foreign government to harm the U.S. and should be considered treasonous and an enemy of the American people.
tunejunky 11 Sep 2015 12:47
AIPAC, its constituent republicans, and the government of Israel all made the same mistake in a common episode of hubris. by not understanding the American public, war, and without the deference shown from a proxy to its hegemon, Israel's right wing has flown the Israeli cause into a wall. not understanding the fact in international affairs that to disrespect an American president is to disrespect Americans, the Israeli government acted as a spoiled first-born - while to American eyes it was a greedy, ungrateful ward foisted upon barely willing hands. it presumed far too much and is receiving the much deserved rebuke.
impartial12 11 Sep 2015 12:37
This deal is the best thing that happened in the region in a while. We tried war and death. It didn't work out. Why not try this?
Feb 01, 2016 | chroniclesmagazine.orgView all posts from this blog
On January 23 Freedom and Prosperity Radio , Virginia's only syndicated political talk radio show, broadcast an interview with Srdja Trifkovic on the subject of Islam and the ongoing Muslim invasion of Europe. Here is the full transcript of the interview. ( Audio )
FPR: Your book The Sword of the Prophet was published back in 2002, yet here we are-15 years later-still scratching our heads over this problem. Defeating Jihad you wrote ten years ago, and yet we are still fumbling around in the dark. It seems like we don't have the ability to say what is right and what is wrong. We've lost the ability we had had during the Cold War to say out way is better than their way . . .
ST: I'm afraid the problem is deeper than that. It is in the unwillingness of the ruling elite in the Western world to come to grips with the nature of Islam-as-such. There is this constant tendency by the politicians, the media and the academia to treat jihadism as some sort of aberration which is alien to "true" Islam. We had an example of that in 2014, when President Obama went so far as to say that ISIS was "un-Islamic"! It is rather curious that the President of the United States assumes the authority of a theologian who can pass definite judgments on whether a certain phenomenon is "Islamic" or not. Likewise we have this constant repetition of the mantra of the "religion of peace and tolerance," which is simply not supported by 14 centuries of historical experience. What I've tried to emphasize in both those books you've mentioned, and in my various other writings and public appearances, is that the problem of Islam resides in the core texts, in the Kuran and the Hadith , the "Traditions" of the prophet of Islam, Muhammed. This is the source from which the historical practice has been derived ever since. The problem is not in the jihadists misinterpreting Islam, but rather in interpreting it all too well. This mythical "moderate Islam," for which everybody seems to be looking these days, is an exception and not the rule.
In answer to your question, I'd say that "scratching one's head" is-by now-only the phenomenon of those who refuse to face reality. Reasonable people who are capable of judging phenomena on their merits and on the basis of ample empirical evidence, are no longer in doubt. They see that the problem is not in the alleged misinterpretation of the Islamic teaching, but rather in its rigorous application and literal understanding. I'm afraid things will not get better, because with each and every new jihadist attack, such as the Charlie Hebdo slaughter in Paris a year ago, or again in Paris last November, or the New Year's Eve violence in Germany, we are witnessing-time and over again-the same problem. The Islamic mindset, the Islamic understanding of the world, the Muslim Weltanschauung , world outlook, is fundamentally incompatible with the Western value system and the Western way of life.
FPR: . . . It seems obvious, regarding Islam, that its "freedom of religion" is impacting other people, and it's dictated to do so-it must go out and fight the infidels. And that's where we have the disconnect. Maybe there is some traction to the statement, as you put it, that fundamentalism reflects a far more thorough following of Islam, and that it is simply incompatible with the Constitution?
ST: It is inevitable, because if you are an orthodox, practicing, mainstream Muslim, then you necessarily believe in the need to impose Sharia as the law of the land. Sharia is much more than a legal code. It is also a political program, it is a code of social behavior, it is the blueprint for the totality of human experience. That's why it is impossible to make Sharia compatible with the liberal principle of "live and let live": it is inherently aggressive to non-Islam. In the Islamic paradigm, the world is divided in the Manichean manner, black-and-white, into "the World of Faith," Dar al-Islam , literally "the world of submission," and "the World of War, Dar al-Harb .
It is the divine duty of each and every Muslim to seek the expansion of Dar al-Islam at the expense of Dar al-Harb until the one true faith is triumphant throughout the world. In this sense the Islamic mindset is very similar to Bolshevism. The Bolsheviks also believed that "the first country of Socialism" should expand its reach and control until the whole world has undergone the proletarian revolution and has become one in the march to the Utopia of communism. There is constant inner tension in the Islamic world, in the sense that for as long as non-Islam exists, it is inherently perceived as "the other," as an abomination. In that sense, Muslims perceive any concession made by the West-for instance in allowing mass immigration into Western Europe-not as a gesture of good will and multicultural tolerance, but as a sign of weakness that needs to be exploited and used as a means to an end.
FPR: The Roman Catholic Church has its Catechism which decides the issues of doctrine. Until there's an Islamic "catechism" which can say "no, this is no longer the right interpretation, this is not what it means any more"-and I don't think this would be a short-term thing, because you'd still have the splinter groups dissenting against the "traitors"-but is this the only way to go to the center of theological jurisprudence in the Islamic world?
ST: The problem is twofold. First of all, there is no "interpretation" of the Kuran . Classical Islamic sources are adamant that the Kuran needs to be taken at face value, literally. If it says in Sura 9, verse 5, "fight the infidels wherever you find them, and let them go if they convert," or if it says time and over again that the choice for a non-Muslim is to accept Islam, or to live as a second-class citizen-the dhimmi -under Islamic supremacy, or else to be killed it is very hard to imagine what sort of authority in the Islamic world would be capable of saying "now we are going to relativize and soften the message."
The second part of the problem is that there is no single authority in Islam. It is not organized in a hierarchical way like the Roman Catholic Church, where if the Pope speaks ex cathedra his pronouncements are obligatory for all Catholics everywhere. Islam is a diffused religion, with various centers of learning and various ullema who may or may not agree on certain peripheral details. Yet any any one of them who'd dare say "look, now we rally need to reinterpret the fundamental sources, the Kuran and the Hadith, so as to make it compatible with the pluralist society"-they'd immediately be condemned as heretics. We've seen attempts at reform in the past. In the end the orthodox interpretation always prevails, because it is-sadly-the right interpretation of the core texts. With neither the hierarchy capable of imposing a new form of teaching on the faithful, nor the existence of alternative core texts which would provide grounds for such reinterpretation, it is very hard to see how it could be done.
FPR: How do we go forward? . . . How does the end-game play out?
ST: I'd say that in modern times the main culprit was Zbigniew Brzezynski, who freely admitted in an interview with the French weekly magazine Le Nouvel Observateur in 1998 that he had this, as he called it, "brilliant idea" to let the Islamist genie out of the bottle to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan following the Soviet occupation in 1979. At that time he was President Carter's National Security Advisor. The transmission belt, from the CIA and various other U.S. agencies to the jihadists in Afghanistan, went via Pakistan. The ISI, the all-powerful military Inter-Service Intelligence-an institution which is pro-jihadist to boot-was used by the U.S. to arm elements which later morphed into al-Qaeda. The breeding ground for the modern, one might say postmodern form of jihadism, was Afghanistan-and it was made possible by U.S. policy inputs which helped its development.
But if we look at the past 14 centuries, time and over again we see the same phenomenon. The first time they tried to conquer Europe was across the Straits of Gibraltar and across the Iberian Peninsula, today's Spain. Then they crossed the Pyrinees and were only stopped at Poitiers by Charles Martel in 732AD. Then they were gradually being pushed back, and the Reconquista -- the reconquest of Spain-lasted 800 years, until 1492, when Cordoba finally fell to the Christian forces. Then came the second, Ottoman onslaught, in the XIVth century, which went across the Dardanelles into the Balkan Peninsula. The Turks were only finally stopped at the gates of Vienna in 1683. Pushing Turkey out of Europe went all the way to 1912, to the First Balkan War.
So we may say that we are now witnessing the third Islamic conquest of Europe. This time it is not using armed janissaries, it is using so-called refugees. In fact most of them are healthy young men, and the whole process is obviously a strategic exercise -- a joint venture between Ankara and Riyadh, who are logistically and financially helping this mass transfer of people from the Turkish and Middle Eastern refugee camps to the heart of Europe. The effect may be the same, but this time it is far more dangerous because, on the European side-unlike in 732, or 1683-there is no political will and there is no moral strength to resist. This is happening because the migrants, the invaders, see Europe as the candy store with a busted lock and they are taking advantage of that fact.
FPR: When you see the horrors of rapes and sexual assaults that took place across Germany, and now we see the Germans' response . . . vigilantes on their streets . . . this is something that we either control politically and with leadership, or else it falls apart into anarchy, Prof. Trifkovic?
ST: Instead of anarchy I think we will have a form of postmodern totalitarianism. The elite class, the government of Germany etc, and the media, will demonize those who try to resist. In fact we already have the spectacle of the minister of the interior of one of the German states saying that "hate speech" on the social networks and websites was far worse than the "incidents" in Cologne. And the Mayor of Cologne-an ultra-feminist who is also a pro-immigration enthusiast-said that in order to prevent such events in the future women should observe a "code of conduct" and keep distance "at an arm's length" from men. It's a classic example of blaming the victim. The victims of Islamic violence should change their behavior in order to adapt themselves to the code of conduct and values of the invaders. This is truly unprecedented.
Instead of utter anarchy, I think we are more likely to see the ever more stringent control of the social media. The German government has already imposed on Google and Twitter which is based on the German draconian "hate speech" legislation, rather than on the universally accepted standards. On the whole we see everywhere in Europe that when you have a political party or a person trying to call a spade by its name, to call for a moratorium on immigration or for a fundamental change in the way of thinking, they will be demonized. The same applies to Marine Le Pen in France and to her party, the Front National , or to Geert Wilders in Holland, or to Strache in Austria. Whoever tries to articulate a coherent plan of action that includes a ban or limits on Islamic immigration is immediately demonized as a right-wing fanatic or a fascist. Instead of facing the reality of the situation, that you have a multi-million Islamic diaspora in Europe which is not assimilating, which refuses even to accept a code of conduct of the host population, the reaction is always the same: blame the victim, and demonize those who try to articulate some form of resistance.
FPR: Dr. Trifkovic, how does a country such as ours, the United States, fix this problem . . .
ST: The answer is fairly simple, but it would require a fundamental transformation of the mindset of the political decision-makers. It is to start treating Islamic activism not as "religious" but as an eminently political activity -- subversive political activity, in the same way as communist subversion was treated during the Cold War. In both cases we have a committed, highly motivated group of people who want to effect a fundamental transformation of the United States in a way that is contrary to the U.S. Constitution, to the American way of life, and to the American values. It is time to stop the Islamists from hiding behind the "freedom of religion" mantra. What they are seeking is not some "freedom of religion" but the freedom to organize in order to pursue political subversion. They do not accept the U.S. Constitution.
To start with, every single potential U.S. citizen from the Islamic world needs to be interviewed in great detail about his or her beliefs and commitments. It is simply impossible for a believing Muslim to swear the oath of allegiance to the United States. None of them, if they are true believers, can regard the U.S. Constitution as superior to the Sharia-which is the law of God, while the U.S. Constitution is a man-made document. I happen to know the oath because I am myself a naturalized U.S. citizen. They can do it "in good faith" from their point of view by practicing taqqiya . This is the Arab word for the art of dissimulation, when the Muslim lies to the infidel in order to protect the faith. For them to lie to investigators or to immigration officials about their beliefs and their objectives does not create any conflict of conscience. The prophet of Islam himself has mandated the use of taqqiya if it serves the objective of spreading the faith.
FPR: Can a civil war come out of this? Is it conceivable?
ST: If there is to be a civil war in Europe, it would be pursued between the elite class which wants to continue pursuing multiculturalism and unlimited immigration --for example Germany, where over a million migrants from the Middle East, North Africa etc. were admitted in 2015 alone-and the majority of the population who have not been consulted, and who feel that their home country is being irretrievably lost. I do not believe that there will be many people fighting on the side of the multiculturalists' suicide, but nevertheless we still have very effective forces of coercion and control on the government side which can be deployed to prevent the articulation of any long-term, coherent plan of resistance.
FPR: Where can people continue to read you writings, Dr. Trifkovic?
ST: On Chroniclesmagazine.org where I publish weekly online commentaries, and also in the print edition of Chronicles where I have my regular column.
Nov 30, 2017 | www.unz.com
Money Imperialism Introduction to the German Edition Michael Hudson November 29, 2017 3,500 Words 1 Comment Reply
In theory, the global financial system is supposed to help every country gain. Mainstream teaching of international finance, trade and "foreign aid" (defined simply as any government credit) depicts an almost utopian system uplifting all countries, not stripping their assets and imposing austerity. The reality since World War I is that the United States has taken the lead in shaping the international financial system to promote gains for its own bankers, farm exporters, its oil and gas sector, and buyers of foreign resources – and most of all, to collect on debts owed to it.
Each time this global system has broken down over the past century, the major destabilizing force has been American over-reach and the drive by its bankers and bondholders for short-term gains. The dollar-centered financial system is leaving more industrial as well as Third World countries debt-strapped. Its three institutional pillars – the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank and World Trade Organization – have imposed monetary, fiscal and financial dependency, most recently by the post-Soviet Baltics, Greece and the rest of southern Europe. The resulting strains are now reaching the point where they are breaking apart the arrangements put in place after World War II.
The most destructive fiction of international finance is that all debts can be paid, and indeed should be paid, even when this tears economies apart by forcing them into austerity – to save bondholders, not labor and industry. Yet European countries, and especially Germany, have shied from pressing for a more balanced global economy that would foster growth for all countries and avoid the current economic slowdown and debt deflation.
Imposing austerity on Germany after World War I
After World War I the U.S. Government deviated from what had been traditional European policy – forgiving military support costs among the victors. U.S. officials demanded payment for the arms shipped to its Allies in the years before America entered the Great War in 1917. The Allies turned to Germany for reparations to pay these debts. Headed by John Maynard Keynes, British diplomats sought to clean their hands of responsibility for the consequences by promising that all the money they received from Germany would simply be forwarded to the U.S. Treasury.
The sums were so unpayably high that Germany was driven into austerity and collapse. The nation suffered hyperinflation as the Reichsbank printed marks to throw onto the foreign exchange also were pushed into financial collapse. The debt deflation was much like that of Third World debtors a generation ago, and today's southern European PIIGS (Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece and Spain).
In a pretense that the reparations and Inter-Ally debt tangle could be made solvent, a triangular flow of payments was facilitated by a convoluted U.S. easy-money policy. American investors sought high returns by buying German local bonds; German municipalities turned over the dollars they received to the Reichsbank for domestic currency; and the Reichsbank used this foreign exchange to pay reparations to Britain and other Allies, enabling these countries to pay the United States what it demanded.
But solutions based on attempts to keep debts of such magnitude in place by lending debtors the money to pay can only be temporary. The U.S. Federal Reserve sustained this triangular flow by holding down U.S. interest rates. This made it attractive for American investors to buy German municipal bonds and other high-yielding debts. It also deterred Wall Street from drawing funds away from Britain, which would have driven its economy deeper into austerity after the General Strike of 1926. But domestically, low U.S. interest rates and easy credit spurred a real estate bubble, followed by a stock market bubble that burst in 1929. The triangular flow of payments broke down in 1931, leaving a legacy of debt deflation burdening the U.S. and European economies. The Great Depression lasted until outbreak of World War II in 1939.
Planning for the postwar period took shape as the war neared its end. U.S. diplomats had learned an important lesson. This time there would be no arms debts or reparations. The global financial system would be stabilized – on the basis of gold, and on creditor-oriented rules. By the end of the 1940s the United States held some 75 percent of the world's monetary gold stock. That established the U.S. dollar as the world's reserve currency, freely convertible into gold at the 1933 parity of $35 an ounce.
It also implied that once again, as in the 1920s, European balance-of-payments deficits would have to be financed mainly by the United States. Recycling of official government credit was to be filtered via the IMF and World Bank, in which U.S. diplomats alone had veto power to reject policies they found not to be in their national interest. International financial "stability" thus became a global control mechanism – to maintain creditor-oriented rules centered in the United States.
To obtain gold or dollars as backing for their own domestic monetary systems, other countries had to follow the trade and investment rules laid down by the United States. These rules called for relinquishing control over capital movements or restrictions on foreign takeovers of natural resources and the public domain as well as local industry and banking systems.
By 1950 the dollar-based global economic system had become increasingly untenable. Gold continued flowing to the United States, strengthening the dollar – until the Korean War reversed matters. From 1951 through 1971 the United States ran a deepening balance-of-payments deficit, which stemmed entirely from overseas military spending. (Private-sector trade and investment was steadily in balance.)
U.S. Treasury debt replaces the gold exchange standard
The foreign military spending that helped return American gold to Europe became a flood as the Vietnam War spread across Asia after 1962. The Treasury kept the dollar's exchange rate stable by selling gold via the London Gold Pool at $35 an ounce. Finally, in August 1971, President Nixon stopped the drain by closing the Gold Pool and halting gold convertibility of the dollar.
There was no plan for what would happen next. Most observers viewed cutting the dollar's link to gold as a defeat for the United States. It certainly ended the postwar financial order as designed in 1944. But what happened next was just the reverse of a defeat. No longer able to buy gold after 1971 (without inciting strong U.S. disapproval), central banks found only one asset in which to hold their balance-of-payments surpluses: U.S. Treasury debt. These securities no longer were "as good as gold." The United States issued them at will to finance soaring domestic budget deficits.
By shifting from gold to the dollars thrown off by the U.S. balance-of-payments deficit, the foundation of global monetary reserves came to be dominated by the U.S. military spending that continued to flood foreign central banks with surplus dollars. America's balance-of-payments deficit thus supplied the dollars that financed its domestic budget deficits and bank credit creation – via foreign central banks recycling U.S. foreign spending back to the U.S. Treasury.
In effect, foreign countries have been taxed without representation over how their loans to the U.S. Government are employed. European central banks were not yet prepared to create their own sovereign wealth funds to invest their dollar inflows in foreign stocks or direct ownership of businesses. They simply used their trade and payments surpluses to finance the U.S. budget deficit. This enabled the Treasury to cut domestic tax rates, above all on the highest income brackets.
U.S. monetary imperialism confronted European and Asian central banks with a dilemma that remains today: If they do not turn around and buy dollar assets, their currencies will rise against the dollar. Buying U.S. Treasury securities is the only practical way to stabilize their exchange rates – and in so doing, to prevent their exports from rising in dollar terms and being priced out of dollar-area markets.
The system may have developed without foresight, but quickly became deliberate. My book Super Imperialism sold best in the Washington DC area, and I was given a large contract through the Hudson Institute to explain to the Defense Department exactly how this extractive financial system worked. I was brought to the White House to explain it, and U.S. geostrategists used my book as a how-to-do-it manual (not my original intention).
Attention soon focused on the oil-exporting countries. After the U.S. quadrupled its grain export prices shortly after the 1971 gold suspension, the oil-exporting countries quadrupled their oil prices. I was informed at a White House meeting that U.S. diplomats had let Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries know that they could charge as much as they wanted for their oil, but that the United States would treat it as an act of war not to keep their oil proceeds in U.S. dollar assets.
This was the point at which the international financial system became explicitly extractive. But it took until 2009, for the first attempt to withdraw from this system to occur. A conference was convened at Yekaterinburg, Russia, by the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). The alliance comprised Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kirghizstan and Uzbekistan, with observer status for Iran, India, Pakistan and Mongolia. U.S. officials asked to attend as observers, but their request was rejected.
The U.S. response has been to extend the new Cold War into the financial sector, rewriting the rules of international finance to benefit the United States and its satellites – and to deter countries from seeking to break free from America's financial free ride.
The IMF changes its rules to isolate Russia and China
Aiming to isolate Russia and China, the Obama Administration's confrontational diplomacy has drawn the Bretton Woods institutions more tightly under US/NATO control. In so doing, it is disrupting the linkages put in place after World War II.
The U.S. plan was to hurt Russia's economy so much that it would be ripe for regime change ("color revolution"). But the effect was to drive it eastward, away from Western Europe to consolidate its long-term relations with China and Central Asia. Pressing Europe to shift its oil and gas purchases to U.S. allies, U.S. sanctions have disrupted German and other European trade and investment with Russia and China. It also has meant lost opportunities for European farmers, other exporters and investors – and a flood of refugees from failed post-Soviet states drawn into the NATO orbit, most recently Ukraine.
To U.S. strategists, what made changing IMF rules urgent was Ukraine's $3 billion debt falling due to Russia's National Wealth Fund in December 2015. The IMF had long withheld credit to countries refusing to pay other governments. This policy aimed primarily at protecting the financial claims of the U.S. Government, which usually played a lead role in consortia with other governments and U.S. banks. But under American pressure the IMF changed its rules in January 2015. Henceforth, it announced, it would indeed be willing to provide credit to countries in arrears other governments – implicitly headed by China (which U.S. geostrategists consider to be their main long-term adversary), Russia and others that U.S. financial warriors might want to isolate in order to force neoliberal privatization policies.  I provide the full background in "The IMF Changes its Rules to Isolate China and Russia," December 9, 2015, available on michael-hudson.com, Naked Capitalism , Counterpunch and Johnson's Russia List .
Article I of the IMF's 1944-45 founding charter prohibits it from lending to a member engaged in civil war or at war with another member state, or for military purposes generally. An obvious reason for this rule is that such a country is unlikely to earn the foreign exchange to pay its debt. Bombing Ukraine's own Donbass region in the East after its February 2014 coup d'état destroyed its export industry, mainly to Russia.
Withholding IMF credit could have been a lever to force adherence to the Minsk peace agreements, but U.S. diplomacy rejected that opportunity. When IMF head Christine Lagarde made a new loan to Ukraine in spring 2015, she merely expressed a verbal hope for peace. Ukrainian President Porochenko announced the next day that he would step up his civil war against the Russian-speaking population in eastern Ukraine. One and a half-billion dollars of the IMF loan were given to banker Ihor Kolomoiski and disappeared offshore, while the oligarch used his domestic money to finance an anti-Donbass army. A million refugees were driven east into Russia; others fled west via Poland as the economy and Ukraine's currency plunged.
The IMF broke four of its rules by lending to Ukraine: (1) Not to lend to a country that has no visible means to pay back the loan (the "No More Argentinas" rule, adopted after the IMF's disastrous 2001 loan to that country). (2) Not to lend to a country that repudiates its debt to official creditors (the rule originally intended to enforce payment to U.S.-based institutions). (3) Not to lend to a country at war – and indeed, destroying its export capacity and hence its balance-of-payments ability to pay back the loan. Finally (4), not to lend to a country unlikely to impose the IMF's austerity "conditionalities." Ukraine did agree to override democratic opposition and cut back pensions, but its junta proved too unstable to impose the austerity terms on which the IMF insisted.
U.S. neoliberalism promotes privatization carve-ups of debtor countries
Since World War II the United States has used the Dollar Standard and its dominant role in the IMF and World Bank to steer trade and investment along lines benefiting its own economy. But now that the growth of China's mixed economy has outstripped all others while Russia finally is beginning to recover, countries have the option of borrowing from the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and other non-U.S. consortia.
At stake is much more than just which nations will get the contracting and banking business. At issue is whether the philosophy of development will follow the classical path based on public infrastructure investment, or whether public sectors will be privatized and planning turned over to rent-seeking corporations.
What made the United States and Germany the leading industrial nations of the 20 th century – and more recently, China – has been public investment in economic infrastructure. The aim was to lower the price of living and doing business by providing basic services on a subsidized basis or freely. By contrast, U.S. privatizers have brought debt leverage to bear on Third World countries, post-Soviet economies and most recently on southern Europe to force selloffs. Current plans to cap neoliberal policy with the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and Transatlantic Free Trade Agreement (TAFTA) go so far as to disable government planning power to the financial and corporate sector.
American strategists evidently hoped that the threat of isolating Russia, China and other countries would bring them to heel if they tried to denominate trade and investment in their own national currencies. Their choice would be either to suffer sanctions like those imposed on Cuba and Iran, or to avoid exclusion by acquiescing in the dollarized financial and trade system and its drives to financialize their economies under U.S. control.
The problem with surrendering is that this Washington Consensus is extractive and lives in the short run, laying the seeds of financial dependency, debt-leveraged bubbles and subsequent debt deflation and austerity. The financial business plan is to carve out opportunities for price gouging and corporate profits. Today's U.S.-sponsored trade and investment treaties would make governments pay fines equal to the amount that environmental and price regulations, laws protecting consumers and other social policies might reduce corporate profits. "Companies would be able to demand compensation from countries whose health, financial, environmental and other public interest policies they thought to be undermining their interests, and take governments before extrajudicial tribunals. These tribunals, organised under World Bank and UN rules, would have the power to order taxpayers to pay extensive compensation over legislation seen as undermining a company's 'expected future profits.' "
 Lori M. Wallach, "The corporation invasion," La Monde Diplomatique , December 2, 2013, http://mondediplo.com/2013/12/02tafta . She adds: "Some investors have a very broad conception of their rights. European companies have recently launched legal actions against the raising of the minimum wage in Egypt; Renco has fought anti-toxic emissions policy in Peru, using a free trade agreement between that country and the US to defend its right to pollute (6). US tobacco giant Philip Morris has launched cases against Uruguay and Australia over their anti-smoking legislation." See also Yves Smith, "Germany Bucking Toxic, Nation-State Eroding Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership," Naked Capitalism , July 17, 2014, and "Germany Turning Sour on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership," Naked Capitalism, October 30, 2014.
This policy threat is splitting the world into pro-U.S. satellites and economies maintaining public infrastructure investment and what used to be viewed as progressive capitalism. U.S.-sponsored neoliberalism supporting its own financial and corporate interests has driven Russia, China and other members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization into an alliance to protect their economic self-sufficiency rather than becoming dependent on dollarized credit enmeshing them in foreign-currency debt.
At the center of today's global split are the last few centuries of Western social and democratic reform. Seeking to follow the classical Western development path by retaining a mixed public/private economy, China, Russia and other nations find it easier to create new institutions such as the AIIB than to reform the dollar standard IMF and World Bank. Their choice is between short-term gains by dependency leading to austerity, or long-term development with independence and ultimate prosperity.
The price of resistance involves risking military or covert overthrow. Long before the Ukraine crisis, the United States has dropped the pretense of backing democracies. The die was cast in 1953 with the coup against Iran's secular government, and the 1954 coup in Guatemala to oppose land reform. Support for client oligarchies and dictatorships in Latin America in the 1960 and '70s was highlighted by the overthrow of Allende in Chile and Operation Condor's assassination program throughout the continent. Under President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the United States has claimed that America's status as the world's "indispensible nation" entitled it back the recent coups in Honduras and Ukraine, and to sponsor the NATO attack on Libya and Syria, leaving Europe to absorb the refugees.
This is not how the Enlightenment was supposed to evolve. The industrial takeoff of Germany and other European nations involved a long fight to free markets from the land rents and financial charges siphoned off by their landed aristocracies and bankers. That was the essence of classical 19 th -century political economy and 20 th -century social democracy. Most economists a century ago expected industrial capitalism to produce an economy of abundance, and democratic reforms to endorse public infrastructure investment and regulation to hold down the cost of living and doing business. But U.S. economic diplomacy now threatens to radically reverse this economic ideology by aiming to dismantle public regulatory power and impose a radical privatization agenda under the TTIP and TAFTA.
Textbook trade theory depicts trade and investment as helping poorer countries catch up, compelling them to survive by becoming more democratic to overcome their vested interests and oligarchies along the lines pioneered by European and North American industrial economies. Instead, the world is polarizing, not converging. The trans-Atlantic financial bubble has left a legacy of austerity since 2008. Debt-ridden economies are being told to cope with their downturns by privatizing their public domain.
The immediate question facing Germany and the rest of Western Europe is how long they will sacrifice their trade and investment opportunities with Russia, Iran and other economies by adhering to U.S.-sponsored sanctions. American intransigence threatens to force an either/or choice in what looms as a seismic geopolitical shift over the proper role of governments: Should their public sectors provide basic services and protect populations from predatory monopolies, rent extraction and financial polarization?
Today's global financial crisis can be traced back to World War I and its aftermath. The principle that needed to be voiced was the right of sovereign nations not to be forced to sacrifice their economic survival on the altar of inter-government and private debt demands. The concept of nationhood embodied in the 1648 Treaty of Westphalia based international law on the principle of parity of sovereign states and non-interference. Without a global alternative to letting debt dynamics polarize societies and tear economies apart, monetary imperialism by creditor nations is inevitable.
The past century's global fracture between creditor and debtor economies has interrupted what seemed to be Europe's democratic destiny to empower governments to override financial and other rentier interests. Instead, the West is following U.S. diplomatic leadership back into the age when these interests ruled governments. This conflict between creditors and democracy, between oligarchy and economic growth (and indeed, survival) will remain the defining issue of our epoch over the next generation, and probably for the remainder of the 21 st century.
 I provide the full background in "The IMF Changes its Rules to Isolate China and Russia," December 9, 2015, available on michael-hudson.com, Naked Capitalism , Counterpunch and Johnson's Russia List .
 Lori M. Wallach, "The corporation invasion," La Monde Diplomatique , December 2, 2013, http://mondediplo.com/2013/12/02tafta . She adds: "Some investors have a very broad conception of their rights. European companies have recently launched legal actions against the raising of the minimum wage in Egypt; Renco has fought anti-toxic emissions policy in Peru, using a free trade agreement between that country and the US to defend its right to pollute ( 6 ). US tobacco giant Philip Morris has launched cases against Uruguay and Australia over their anti-smoking legislation." See also Yves Smith , " Germany Bucking Toxic, Nation-State Eroding Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership ," Naked Capitalism , July 17, 2014 , and " Germany Turning Sour on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership ," Naked Capitalism, October 30, 2014 .
Priss Factor , Website November 30, 2017 at 5:28 am GMTMore like Dollar Supremacism
The Alarmist , Next New Comment November 30, 2017 at 8:02 am GMT"Austerity" is such a misused word these days. What the Allies did to Germany after Versailles was austerity, and everyone paid dearly for it.jilles dykstra , Next New Comment November 30, 2017 at 8:15 am GMT
What the IMF and the Western Banking Cartel do to third world countries is akin to a pusher hopping up addicts on debt and then taking it away while stripping them of their assets, pretty much hurting only the people of the third world country; certainly not the WBC, and almost certainly not the criminal elite who took the deal.
The Austerity everyone complains about in the developed world these days is a joke, hardly austerity, for it has never meant more than doing a little less deficit-spending than in prior periods, e.g. UK Labour whining about "Austerity" is a joke, as the UK debt has done nothing but grow, which in terms understandable to simple folk like me means they are spending more than they can afford to carry." The immediate question facing Germany and the rest of Western Europe is how long they will sacrifice their trade and investment opportunities with Russia, Iran and other economies by adhering to U.S.-sponsored sanctions "jacques sheete , Next New Comment November 30, 2017 at 11:29 am GMT
In the whole article not a word about the euro, also an instrument of imperialism, that mainly benefits Germany, the country that has to maintain a high level of exports, in order to feed the Germans, and import raw materials for Germany's industries.
Isolating China and Russia, with the other BRICS countries, S Africa, Brazil, India, dangerous game.
This effort forced China and Russia to close cooperation, the economic expression of this is the Peking Petersburg railway, with a hub in Khazakstan, where the containers are lifted from the Chinese to the Russian system, the width differs.
Four days for the trip.
The Berlin Baghdad railway was an important cause for WWI.
Let us hope that history does not repeat itself in the nuclear era.
Edward Mead Earle, Ph.D., 'Turkey, The Great Powers and The Bagdad Railway, A study in Imperialism', 1923, 1924, New YorkAnother excellent article.skrik , Next New Comment November 30, 2017 at 11:29 am GMT
The U.S. response has been to extend the new Cold War into the financial sector, rewriting the rules of international finance to benefit the United States and its satellites – and to deter countries from seeking t o break free from America's financial free ride .
Nah, the NY banksters wouldn't dream of doing such a thing; would they?jacques sheete , Next New Comment November 30, 2017 at 12:04 pm GMT
This is not how the Enlightenment was supposed to evolve
What I said, and beautifully put, the whole article.
World War I may well have been an important way-point, but the miserable mercantile modus operandi was well established long before.
An interesting A/B case:
a) wiki/Anglo-Persian Oil Company "In 1901 William Knox D'Arcy, a millionaire London socialite, negotiated an oil concession with Mozaffar al-Din Shah Qajar of Persia. He financed this with capital he had made from his shares in the highly profitable Mount Morgan mine in Queensland, Australia. D'Arcy assumed exclusive rights to prospect for oil for 60 years in a vast tract of territory including most of Iran. In exchange the Shah received £20,000 (£2.0 million today), an equal amount in shares of D'Arcy's company, and a promise of 16% of future profits." Note the 16% = ~1/6, the rest going off-shore.
b) The Greens in Aus researched the resources sector in Aus, to find that it is 83% 'owned' by off-shore entities. Note that 83% = ~5/6, which goes off-shore. Coincidence?
Then see what happened when the erstwhile APOC was nationalized; the US/UK perpetrated a coup against the democratically elected Mossadegh, eventual blow-back resulting in the 1979 revolution, basically taking Iran out of 'the West.'
Note that in Aus, the democratically elected so-called 'leaders' not only allow exactly this sort of economic rape, they actively assist it by, say, crippling the central bank and pleading for FDI = selling our, we the people's interests, out. Those traitor-leaders are reversing 'Enlightenment' provisions, privatising whatever they can and, as Michael Hudson well points out the principles, running Aus into debt and austerity.
We the people are powerless passengers, and to add insult to injury, the taxpayer-funded AusBC lies to us continually. Ho, hum; just like the mainly US/Z MSM and the BBC do – all corrupt and venal. Bah!
Now, cue the trolls: "But Russia/China are worse!"Biff , Next New Comment November 30, 2017 at 12:39 pm GMT
The immediate question facing Germany and the rest of Western Europe is how long they will sacrifice their trade and investment opportunities with Russia, Iran and other economies by adhering to U.S.-sponsored sanctions.
US banking oligarchs will expend the last drop of our blood to prevent a such a linking, just as they were willing to sacrifice our blood and treasure in WW1 and 2, as is alluded to here.:
Today's global financial crisis can be traced back to World War I and its aftermath.
The principle that needed to be voiced was the right of sovereign nations not to be forced to sacrifice their economic survival on the altar of inter-government and private debt demands Without a global alternative to letting debt dynamics polarize societies and tear economies apart, monetary imperialism by creditor nations is inevitable.
This is a gem of a summary.:
The past century's global fracture between creditor and debtor economies has interrupted what seemed to be Europe's democratic destiny to empower governments to override financial and other rentier interests. Instead, the West is following U.S. diplomatic leadership back into the age when these interests ruled governments. This conflict between creditors and democracy, between oligarchy and economic growth (and indeed, survival) will remain the defining issue of our epoch over the next generation, and probably for the remainder of the 21st century.
Instead, the West is following U.S. diplomatic leadership back into the age when these interests ruled governments. It's important to note that such interests have ruled (owned, actually) imperial Britain for centuries and the US since its inception, and the anti-federalists knew it.
Here is a revolution as radical as that which separated us from Great Britain.
You will find all the strength of this country in the hands of your enemies [ ed comment: the money grubbers ]
Patrick Henry June 5 and 7, 1788―1788-1789 Petersburg, Virginia edition of the Debates and other Proceedings . . . Of the Virginia Convention of 1788
The Constitution had been laid down under unacceptable auspices; its history had been that of a coup d'état.
It had been drafted, in the first place, by men representing special economic interests. Four-fifths of them were public creditors, one-third were land speculators, and one-fifth represented interests in shipping, manufacturing, and merchandising. Most of them were lawyers. Not one of them represented the interest of production -- Vilescit origine tali.
- Albert Jay Nock [Excerpted from chapter 5 of Albert Jay Nock's Jefferson, published in 1926]The golden rule is one thing. The paper rule is something else. May you live in interesting times.Jake , Next New Comment November 30, 2017 at 2:09 pm GMT"After World War I the U.S. Government deviated from what had been traditional European policy – forgiving military support costs among the victors. U.S. officials demanded payment for the arms shipped to its Allies in the years before America entered the Great War in 1917. The Allies turned to Germany for reparations to pay these debts." The Yank banker, the Yankee Wall Street super rich, set off a process of greed that led to Hitler.Joe Hide , Next New Comment November 30, 2017 at 2:12 pm GMT
But they didn't invent anything. They learned from their WASP forebears in the British Empire, whose banking back to Oliver Cromwell had become inextricably entangled with Jewish money and Jewish interests to the point that Jews per capita dominated it even at the height of the British Empire, when simpleton WASPs assume that WASPs truly ran everything, and that WASP power was for the good of even the poorest WASPs.To Michael Hudson,The Alarmist , Next New Comment November 30, 2017 at 2:13 pm GMT
Great article. Evidence based, factually argued, enjoyably readable.
Replacements for the dollar dominated financial system are well into development. Digital dollars, credit cards, paypal, stock and currency exchange online platforms, and perhaps most intriguing The exponential rise of Bitcoin and similar crypto-currencies.
The internet is also exponentially exposing the screwing we peasants have been getting by the psychopath, narcissistic, hedonistic, predatory lenders and controllers. Next comes the widespread, easily usable, and inexpensive cell phone apps, social media exposures, alternative websites (like Unz.com), and other technologies that will quickly identify every lying, evil, jerk so they can be neutrilized / avoidedAstuteobservor II , Next New Comment November 30, 2017 at 2:26 pm GMT
"Textbook trade theory depicts trade and investment as helping poorer countries catch up, compelling them to survive by becoming more democratic to overcome their vested interests and oligarchies along the lines pioneered by European and North American industrial economies."
I must be old; the economic textbooks I had did explain the benefits of freer trade among nations using Ricardo and Trade Indifference Curves, but didn't prescribe any one political system being fostered by or even necessary for the benefits of international trade to be reaped.to be honest, this way of running things only need to last for 10-20 more years before automation will replace 800 million jobs. then we will have a few trillionaire overlords unless true AI comes online. by that point nothing matters as we will become zoo animals.jacques sheete , Next New Comment November 30, 2017 at 2:36 pm GMT@The Alarmistjacques sheete , Next New Comment November 30, 2017 at 2:48 pm GMT
What the IMF and the Western Banking Cartel do to third world countries is akin to a pusher hopping up addicts on debt and then taking it away while stripping them of their assets, pretty much hurting only the people of the third world country; certainly not the WBC, and almost certainly not the criminal elite who took the deal.
That's true and the criminals do similar asset stripping to their own as well, through various means.
It's always the big criminals against the rest of us.@jilles dykstrajacques sheete , Next New Comment November 30, 2017 at 2:51 pm GMT
The Berlin Baghdad railway was an important cause for WWI.
Bingo. Stopping it was a huge factor. There was no way the banksters of the world were going to let that go forward, nor were they going to let Germany and Russia link up in any other ways. They certainly were not about to allow any threats to the Suez Canal nor any chance to let the oil fields slip from their control either.
The wars were also instigated to prevent either Germany or Russia having control of, and free access to warm water ports and the wars also were an excuse to steal vast amounts of wealth from both Germany and Russia through various means.
All pious and pompous pretexts aside, economics was the motive for (the) war (s), and the issues are not settled to this day. I.e., it's the same class of monstrously insatiable criminals who want everything for themselves who're causing the major troubles of the day.
Unfortunately, as long as we have SoB's who're eager to sacrifice our blood and treasure for their benfit, things will never change.Michael Kenny , Next New Comment November 30, 2017 at 3:01 pm GMT
The golden rule is one thing. The paper rule is something else.
May you live in interesting times.
The golden rule is for dreamers, unfortunately. Those who control paper money rule, and your wish has been granted; we live in times that are both interesting and fascinating, but are nevertheless the same old thing. Only the particular particulars have changed.Essentially, the anti-EU and anti-euro line that Professor Hudson has being pushing for years, which has now morphed into a pro-Putin line as the anti-EU faction in the US have sought to use Putin as a "useful idiot" to destroy the EU. Since nobody in Europe reads these articles, Ii doesn't really matter and I certainly don't see any EU leader following the advice of someone who has never concealed his hostility to the EU's very existence: note the use of the racist slur "PIIGS" to refer to certain EU Member States. Thus, Professor Hudson is simply pushing the "let Putin win in Ukraine" line dressed up in fine-sounding economic jargon.jacques sheete , Next New Comment November 30, 2017 at 3:54 pm GMTAnonymous , Disclaimer Next New Comment November 30, 2017 at 4:08 pm GMT
Since nobody in Europe reads these articles, Ii doesn't really matter
None of it rally matters anyway, no matter how valid. To paraphrase Thucydides, the money grubbers do what they want and the rest of us are forced to suck it up and limp along.
and I certainly don't see any EU leader following the advice
I doubt that that's Hudson's intent in writing the article. I see it as his attempt to explain the situation to those of us who care about them even though our concern is pretty much useless.
I do thank him for taking the time to pen this stuff which I consider worthwhile and high quality.That sounds good but social media is the weapon of choice in the EU too. Lot's of kids know and love Hudson. Any half capable writer who empathetically explains why you're getting fucked is going to have some followers. Watering, nutrition, weeding. Before too long you'll be on the Eurail to your destination.Wally , Website Next New Comment November 30, 2017 at 4:23 pm GMT@Jakenickels , Next New Comment November 30, 2017 at 4:48 pm GMT
said: "The Yank banker, the Yankee Wall Street super rich, set off a process of greed that led to Hitler." If true, so what? That's a classic example of 'garbage in, garbage out'. http://www.codoh.comWilliam McAdoo , Next New Comment November 30, 2017 at 5:08 pm GMT
This is not how the Enlightenment was supposed to evolve
In fact, this is exactly how it was supposed to work. The wave of liberal democracies was precisely to overturn the monarchies, which were the last bulwark protecting the people from the full tyranny of the financiers, who were, by nature, one-world internationalists.The real problem with this is that any form of monetary arrangement involves an implied trusteeship, with obligations on, as well as benefits for, the trustee. The US is so abusing its trusteeship through the continual use of an irresponsible sanctions regime that it risks a good portion of the world economy abandoning its system for someone else's, which may be perceived to be run more responsibility. The disaster scenario would be the US having therefore in the future to access that other system to purchase oil or minerals, and having that system do to us what we previously did to them -- sanction us out.joe webb , Next New Comment November 30, 2017 at 10:11 pm GMT
The proper use by the US of its controlled system thus should be a defensive one -- mainly to act so fairly to all players that it, not someone else, remains in control of the dominant worldwide exchange system. This sensible course of conduct, unfortunately, is not being pursued by the US.there is fuzzy, and then there is very fuzzy, and then there is the fuzziness compounded many-fold. The latter is this article.Wally, Next New Comment December 1, 2017 at 1:49 am GMT
Here from wiki: "
" Marx believed that capitalism was inherently built upon practices of usury and thus inevitably leading to the separation of society into two classes: one composed of those who produce value and the other, which feeds upon the first one. In "Theories of Surplus Value" (written 1862-1863), he states " that interest (in contrast to industrial profit) and rent (that is the form of landed property created by capitalist production itself) are superfetations (i.e., excessive accumulations) which are not essential to capitalist production and of which it can rid itself."
Wiki goes on to identify "rentier" as used by Marx, to be the same thing as "capitalists." What the above quotation says is that capitalism CAN rid itself of genuine rent capital. First, the feudal rents that were extracted by landowners were NOT part of a free market system. Serfdom was only one part of unfree conditions. A general condition of anarchy in rules and laws by petty principalities characteristic of feudalism, both contained commerce and human beings. There was no freedom, political or economic.
The conflation (collapsing) of rents and interest is a Marxist error which expands into complete nonsense when a competitive economy has replaced feudal conditions. ON top of that, profits from a business, firm, or industrial enterprise are NOT rents.
Any marxist is a fool to pretend otherwise, and is just another ideological (False consciousness ) fanatic.
... ... ...@Michael KennyThreeCranes , December 1, 2017 at 3:34 am GMT
Indeed, Putin should be praised & supported. But where is the proof that 'Russia & Trump colluded to get Trump elected'? You also ignore the overwhelming Crimean support for returning to Russia. And you won't like this at all: Trump Declares "National Day for the Victims of Communism." https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2017/11/07/national-day-victims-communism Hence, the Liars of the scamming "Holocau$t Industry" go crazy: https://www.salon.com/2017/11/07/trumps-national-day-for-the-victims-of-communism-is-opposite-of-holocaust-statement/@jilles dykstra
Germany loans money back to the poorer nations who buy her exports just as China loans money to the United States (they purchase roughly a third of our Treasury bonds) so that Americans can continue to buy Chinese manufactured goods.
The role to be played by the USA in the "new world order" is that of being the farmer to the world. The meticulous Asians will make stuff.
The problem with this is that it is based on 19th century notions of manufacturing. Technique today is vastly more complicated than it was in the 1820′s and a nation must do everything in its power to protect and nurture its manufacturing and scientific excellence. In the United States we have been giving this away to our competitors. We educate their children at our taxpayer's expense and they take the knowledge gained back to their native countries where, with state subsidies, they build factories that put Americans out of work. We fall further and further behind.
Nov 29, 2017 | marknesop.wordpress.com
marknesop , , November 28, 2017 at 2:13 pmHa, ha!!! The Victim Of The Aggressor Country seldom fails to entertain. Here we have VR Deputy Chairperson Ira Gerashchenko bossing Europe around , and telling it that the Victim Of The Aggressor Country's parliamentary delegation will continue to insist on Russia not returning to the Council of Europe. Because, she says, Russia has stolen part of the territory of the VOTAC which was a gift from Russia in the first place (although she doesn't mention that last part), thereby setting a precedent for every country which has a province 'liberated' by the west to term it stolen by the west. But that wasn't my favourite part. No; this is – "We live at the time of a certain degrading of European institutions and their external weakening, including by Russia. You can accept it and go with the flow but you can also recognize the fact try to resist it."
Beautiful, Ira!! Inspiring!! And how many degraded European leaders are Billionaires who openly own an impressive slate of businesses and media in their countries, which they continue to operate and profit from while piously declaring their only interest is the welfare of the country? Which is, by the bye, the most corrupt country in Europe ? How many Prosecutors-General has the VOTAC had since its glorious liberation from the yoke of the Moskali? Yes, you can certainly teach Yurrup a thing or two about integrity.
It must be embarrassing to be European these days. To be dressed down by the corrupt country you support on handouts because you are not doing enough to support it. First we had the 'Me' generation. Then we had the 'Me' country.
SA is cursed with neo-liberal trickle-down baloney stifling radical economic change Kevin Humphrey, The New Age, Johannesburg, 1 December 2016
South Africa's massive inequalities are abundantly obvious to even the most casual observer. When the ANC won the elections in 1994, it came armed with a left-wing pedigree second to none, having fought a protracted liberation war in alliance with progressive forces which drew in organised labour and civic groupings.
At the dawn of democracy the tight knit tripartite alliance also carried in its wake a patchwork of disparate groupings who, while clearly supportive of efforts to rid the country of apartheid, could best be described as liberal. It was these groupings that first began the clamour of opposition to all left-wing, radical or revolutionary ideas that has by now become the constant backdrop to all conversations about the state of our country, the economy, the education system, the health services, everything. Thus was the new South Africa introduced to its own version of a curse that had befallen all countries that gained independence from oppressors, neo-colonialism.
By the time South Africa was liberated, neo-colonialism, which as always sought to buy off the libera-tors with the political kingdom while keep-ing control of the economic kingdom, had perfected itself into what has become an era where neo-liberalism reigns supreme. But what exactly is neo-liberalism? George Monbiot says: "Neo-liberalism sees competi-tion as the defining characteristic of human relations. It redefines citizens as consumers, whose democratic choices are best exercised by buying and selling, a process that rewards merit and punishes inefficiency. It maintains that 'the market' delivers benefits that could never be achieved by planning."
There is consensus between commentators who have studied the effects of neo-liberalism that it has become all pervasive and is the key to ensuring that the rich remain rich, while the poor and the merely well to do continue on a perpetual hamster's wheel, going nowhere and never improving their lot in life while they serve their masters.
Monbiot says of this largely anonymous scourge: "Attempts to limit competition are treated as inimical to liberty. Tax and regulations should be minimised, public services should be privatised. The organisation of labour and collective bargaining by trade unions are portrayed as market distortions that impede the formation of a natural hierarchy of winners and losers. Inequality is recast as virtuous, a reward for utility and a genera-tor of wealth, which trickles down to enrich everyone. Efforts to create a more equal society are both counterproductive and morally corrosive. The market ensures that everyone gets what they deserve."
South Africa's sad slide into neo-liberalism was given impetus at Davos in 1992 where Nelson Mandela had this to say to the assembled super rich: "We visualise a mixed economy, in which the private sector would play a central and critical role to ensure the creation of wealth and jobs. Future economic policy will also have to address such questions as security of investments and the right to repatriate earnings, realistic exchange rates, the rate of inflation and the fiscus."
Further insight into this pivotal moment was provided by Anthony Sampson, Mandela's official biographer who wrote: "It was not until February 1992, when Mandela went to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, that he finally turned against nationalisation. He was lionised by the world's bankers and industrialists at lunches and dinners."
This is not to cast any aspersions on Mandela, he had to make these decisions at the time to protect our democratic transition. But these utterances should have been accom-panied by a behind the scenes interrogation of all the ANC's thoughts on how to proceed in terms of the economy delivering socialist orientated solutions without falling into the minefield of neo-liberal traps that lay in wait for our emerging country.
Senior cadres co-opted Unfortunately, history shows that some key senior cadres of the ANC were all too keen to be coopted into the neo-liberal fold and any attempts to put forward radical measures that would bring something fresh to the table to address the massive inequalities of the past were and continue to be kept off the table and we are still endlessly fed the neo-liberal trickle-down baloney.
Now no one dares to express any type of radical approach to our economic woes unless it is some loony populist. Debate around these important issues is largely missing and the level of commentary on all important national questions is shockingly shallow.
Anti-labour, anti-socialist, anti-poor, anti-black The status quo as set by the largely white-owned media revolves around key neo-liberal slogans mas-querading as commentary that is anti-labour, anti-socialist and anti-poor, which sadly translates within our own context as anti-black and therefore repugnantly racist.
We live in a country where the black, over-whelmingly poor majority of our citizens have voted for a much revered liberation movement that is constantly under attack from within and without by people who do not have their best interests at heart and are brilliant at manipulating outcomes to suit themselves on a global scale.
Kevin Humphrey is associate executive editor of The New Age
July 2, 2015
Local franchise of accountancy giant Grant Thornton was working for three of the country's largest banks when $1bn was embezzled
One of the world's leading auditors has been accused of negligence and incompetence after $1bn was siphoned out of Moldova from under its nose – a sum equivalent to 15% of the former Soviet republic's GDP.
Grant Thornton, the UK based accountancy giant with local franchises in dozens of countries, was the auditor for three of Moldova's largest banks through which the money was embezzled and spirited out of the country in complex financial transactions, some through UK companies.
As a result, the authorities had to rescue the three banks with a bailout equivalent to half the annual budget. The knock-on effect was a currency collapse and a plunge towards recession, ruining the economy almost overnight. Moldova is already Europe's poorest country.
The theft was discovered in November 2014 at Unibank, Banca de Economii and Banca Sociala , which the Moldovan member of Grant Thornton, a global network of independent firms, has been auditing since 2010, 2011 and 2013 respectively.
Iurie Chirinciuc, a Moldovan MP who was part of a commission set up to investigate the affair, believes Grant Thornton was negligent and obstructive.
"All the [audit] reports give positive opinions," he said. "How can you give a positive opinion when the situation at these banks was so grave?"
Grant Thornton said it drew the attention of the banks and relevant authorities to its concerns about the banks and that its audit reports contained alerts about loans. But Chirinciuc said it should not have given the banks a generally clean bill of health.
He claims repeated requests for the auditors to give testimony to the inquiry were "vehemently opposed".
"I have made a formal request for analysis of Grant Thornton to the central bank," Chirinciuc said. "In the commission, I was shocked to see that all state institutions were informed and updated as to the situation at the banks, but did not intervene. These circumstances make me think that very high-ranking dignitaries are involved in the theft of the billion."
Chirinciuc was also aghast that after the fraud was discovered, Grant Thornton's Moldova director, Stéphane Bridé, was appointed economy minister. Bridé told the Guardian his nomination "was made in conformity with the legislation of the Republic of Moldova, according to which my professional qualities and experience were exclusively considered".
Multiple spurious loans were granted by Banca de Economii and Unibank on the basis of false guarantees to companies that then transferred the money offshore. Some went to British companies controlled by entities registered in places where directors' identities are kept secret.Two preliminary reports – one by the parliamentary commission and the other by corporate investigation firm Kroll – suggest that fraud eventually became the main occupation of the banks.
The parliamentary report says: "The management of the banks have manifested evident lapses in professionalism and integrity … by giving credits that were compromised from the beginning" and made transactions of "fictional and fraudulent character". The MPs concluded the banks had knowingly endangered their "capacity to make basic operations" such as paying out pensions and public sector salaries.
The banks consistently misrepresented cash balances by using unorthodox "overnight deposits" – zero-interest deposits from Russian banks Interprombank, Gazprombank, Alef Bank and Metrobank – to disguise the lack of capital while continuing to give out nonperforming loans. "In essence these operations were operations of manipulation," the parliamentary report says.
So contaminated have the banks become that the IMF and World Bank have suspended programmes with Moldova, and the EU is considering following suit. World Bank country manager Alex Kremer said last week: "We are advising the authorities that the three banks ... should be liquidated." He said trying to nationalise or recapitalise the banks would risk wasting more taxpayers' money.
Moldovan prosecutors have since launched an investigation that has so far put about 30 people under criminal indictment, including bank executives. Among these is Ilan Shor, chairman of the board at Banca de Economii since April 2014, allegedly the mastermind. Shor was released from house arrest on 23 May, having agreed to cooperate with investigators. The chief prosecutor has not returned a request for comment. Shor denies wrongdoing. Earlier this month, he was elected mayor of the small town of Orhei.
Kroll's confidential report was published online in April by the speaker of the Moldovan parliament, Andrian Candu. It says a group of companies under Shor's control gradually took over the banks and in 2010 started giving never-to-be-repaid loans to themselves. When watchdogs closed in, "orders were given by management of the banks to archive loan documentation relating to the suspicious transactions". A vehicle belonging to another Shor company that collected the paperwork was subsequently stolen and burned.
Between 2011, when Shor's companies were allegedly beginning to sink their teeth into the banks, and October 2014 when the scam went bust, Kroll found the number of Shor-related companies involved grew from 10 to 39. By December 2014, 90% of Unibank's loans were to Shor group companies. Deposits recorded as being from Russian banks, which enabled Banca de Economii to make huge loans, were not received.
"Ilan Shor and individuals associated with him played an integral role in coordinating this activity," Kroll says in its report, claiming there was "a deliberate intention to extract as much benefit as possible for entities connected to Mr Shor and to the detriment of the bank". A Kroll representative said the report was leaked without consent and declined to comment further.
The "missing billion" contributed to a run on the Moldovan leu in which it lost a quarter of its value against the dollar in February.
Grant Thornton had no presence in Moldova before 2010, but its ascent has been startling. Seven of the country's 14 biggest banks became its clients in the space of four years, making it by far the biggest player in the market. International competitors such as KPMG and Deloitte steadily lost Moldova to Grant Thornton, with neither having more than two major banks on their roster in the country by 2013.
Representatives of the Moldovan Grant Thornton franchise deny impropriety and say that that auditors cannot be held responsible if clients do not disclose full financial information.
"While we would like to detect all fraud, according to International Standards of Auditing, the auditors' role is not to discover fraud, or to prosecute clients for fraud," they said in a statement. "We stand by the quality of our work – which is public record - and believe the audit opinions were correct under the circumstances."
A spokesman for the global office said Grant Thornton member firms acted autonomously and their work was only scrutinised by head office every three years. It did not respond to a question asking what it planned to do about its relationship with GT Moldova.
A Moldovan financial system insider who wishes to remain anonymous said: "It's clear Grant Thornton was at least negligent if not worse. How could it not have known what was going on, especially at Unibank where the scam was almost total?"
In its response, GT Moldova said: "Various observations were mentioned annually in the letters we addressed to management and shareholders of these banks and to the National Banks of Moldova.
"We wish to remind you that in 2013, the inquiry commission for the assets of Banca de Economii was based not only on the audit of the court and reports of the International Monetary Fund but also mentions of Grant Thornton audit."
The effect of the financial loss has been felt by ordinary Moldovans. Ion Preașcă, a finance journalist in ther capital Chișinău, said: "We have organised crime specialised in finance. As a consequence of the discovery of the theft, the banks stopped issuing loans for a while. There was a domino effect which hit the leu."
Alexei, who owns a small construction business, said: "They will invent some new taxes to make up for the damage. I had an account at Banca Sociala and have stopped using it since. I opened two new accounts in banks with foreign ownership."
Natasha, a bookkeeper, said: "The resulting price rises had bad effects. The electricity price nearly doubled from one month to the next. The bill was 300 lei [£10] and it's now 500. Pensions and salaries haven't increased."
The criminal investigation is ongoing. Neither the Moldovan National Bank or government returned requests for information. An estimated 50,000 Moldovans protested on 3 May in Chișinău, demanding justice and the recovery of the stolen money.
Thanks to Iurie Sanduta, editor of www.rise.md, for help researching this article.
Nov 15, 2017 | www.nakedcapitalism.com
Alex Azar: Can There Be Uglier Scenarios than the Revolving Door? Posted on November 15, 2017 by Lambert Strether By Lambert Strether
Clearly, Alex Azar, nominated yesterday for the position of Secretary of Health and Human Services by the Trump Administration, exemplifies the case of the "revolving door," through which Flexians slither on their way to (or from) positions of public trust. Roy Poses ( cross-posted at NC ) wrote, when Azar was only Acting Secretary:
Last week we noted that Mr Trump famously promised to “drain the swamp” in Washington. Last week, despite his previous pledges to not appoint lobbyists to powerful positions, he appointed a lobbyist to be acting DHHS Secretary. This week he is apparently strongly considering Mr Alex Azar, a pharmaceutical executive to be permanent DHHS Secretary, even though the FDA, part of DHHS, has direct regulatory authority over the pharmaceutical industry, and many other DHHS policies strongly affect the pharmaceutical industry. (By the way, Mr Azar was also in charge of one lobbying effort.)
So should Mr Azar be confirmed as Secretary of DHHS, the fox guarding the hen house appears to be a reasonable analogy.
Moreover, several serious legal cases involving bad behavior by his company, and multiple other instances of apparently unethical behavior occurred on Mr Azar’s watch at Eli Lilly. So the fox might be not the most reputable member of the species.
So you know the drill…. The revolving door is a species of conflict of interest . Worse, some experts have suggested that the revolving door is in fact corruption. As we noted here , the experts from the distinguished European anti-corruption group U4 wrote ,
The literature makes clear that the revolving door process is a source of valuable political connections for private firms. But it generates corruption risks and has strong distortionary effects on the economy , especially when this power is concentrated within a few firms.
The ongoing parade of people transiting the revolving door from industry to the Trump administration once again suggests how the revolving door may enable certain of those with private vested interests to have excess influence, way beyond that of ordinary citizens, on how the government works, and that the country is still increasingly being run by a cozy group of insiders with ties to both government and industry. This has been termed crony capitalism.
Poses is, of course, correct. (Personally, I've contained my aghastitude on Azar, because I remember quite well how Liz Fowler transitioned from Wellpoint to being Max Baucus's chief of staff when ObamaCare was being drafted to a job in Big Pharma , and I remember quite well the deal with Big Pharma Obama cut, which eliminated the public option , not that the public option was anything other than a decreasingly gaudy "progressive" bauble in the first place.)
In this post, I'd like to add two additional factors to our consideration of Azar. The first: Democrat credentialism makes it hard for them to oppose Azar. The second: The real damage Azar could do is on the regulatory side.
First, Democrat credentialism. Here is one effusive encomium on Azar. From USA Today, "Who is Alex Azar? Former drugmaker CEO and HHS official nominated to head agency" :
"I am glad to hear that you have worked hard, and brought fair-minded legal analysis to the department," Sen. Max Baucus said at Azar's last confirmation hearing.
Andy Slavitt, who ran the Affordable Care Act and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services during the Obama administration, said he has reason to hope Azar would be a good secretary.
"He is familiar with the high quality of the HHS staff, has real-world experience enough to be pragmatic, and will hopefully avoid repeating the mistakes of his predecessor," Slavitt said.
So, if Democrats are saying Azar is "fair-minded" and "pragmatic" -- and heaven forfend that the word "corruption" even be mentioned -- how do they oppose him, even he's viscerally opposed to everything Democrats supposedly stand for? (Democrats do this with judicial nominations, too.) Azar may be a fox, alright, but the chickens he's supposedly guarding are all clucking about how impeccable his qualifications are!
Second, let's briefly look at Azar's bio. Let me excerpt salient detail from USA Today :
1. Azar clerked for Supreme Court Justice Antonin .
2. Azar went to work for his mentor, , who was heading the independent counsel investigation into Bill and Hillary Clinton's Whitewater land deal.
3. Azar had a significant role in another major political controversy when the outcome of hinged on a . Azar was on the Bush team of lawyers whose side ultimately prevailed 
For any Democrat with a memory, that bio provokes one of those "You shall know them by the trail of the dead" moments. And then there's this:
When Leavitt replaced Thompson in 2005 and Azar became his deputy, Leavitt delegated a lot of the rule-making process to Azar.
So, a liberal Democrat might classify Azar as a smooth-talking reactionary thug with a terrible record and the most vile mentors imaginable, and on top of it all, he's an effective bureaucratic fixer. What could the Trump Administration possibly see in such a person? Former (Republican) HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt explains:
"Understanding the administrative rule process in the circumstance we're in today could be extraordinarily important because a lot of the change in the health care system, given the fact that they've not succeeded legislatively, could come administratively."
We outlined the administration strategy on health care in "Trump Adminstration Doubles Down on Efforts to Crapify the Entire Health Care System (Unless You're Rich, of Course)" . There are three prongs:
1) Administratively, send ObamaCare into a death spiral by sabotaging it
2) Legislatively, gut Medicaid as part of the "tax refom" package in Congress
3) Through executive order, eliminate "essential health benefits" through "association health plans"
As a sidebar, it's interesting to see that although this do-list is strategically and ideologically coherent -- basically, your ability to access health care will be directly dependent on your ability to pay -- it's institutionally incoherent, a bizarre contraption screwed together out of legislation, regulations, and an Executive order. Of course, this incoherence mirrors to Rube Goldberg structure of ObamaCare itself, itself a bizarre contraption, especially when compared to the simple, rugged, and proven single payer system. ( . We might compare ObamaCare to a child born with no immune system, that could only have survived within the liberal bubble within which it was created; in the real world, it's not surprising that it's succumbing to opportunistic infections.)
On #1, The administration has, despite its best efforts, not achieved a controlled flight into terrain with ObamaCare; enrollment is up. On #2, the administration and its Congressional allies are still dickering with tax reform. And on #3 . That looks looks like a job for Alex Azar, since both essential health benefits and association health plans are significantly affected by regulation.
So, yes, there are worse scenarios than the revolving door; it's what you leave behind you as the door revolves that matters. It would be lovely if there were a good old-fashioned confirmation battle over Azar, but, as I've pointed out, the Democrats have tied their own hands. Ideally, the Democrats would junk the Rube Goldberg device that is ObamaCare, rendering all of Azar's regulatory expertise null and void, but that doesn't seem likely, given that they seem to be doing everything possible to avoid serious discussion of policy in 2018 and 2020.
 I'm leaving aside what will no doubt be the 2018 or even 2020 issue of drug prices, since for me that's subsumed under the issue of single payer. If we look only at Azar's history in business, real price decreases seem unlikely. Business Insider :
Over the 10-year period when Azar was at Lilly, the price of insulin notched a three-fold increase. It wasn't just Lilly's insulin product, called Humalog. The price of a rival made by Novo Nordisk has also climbed, with the two rising in such lockstep that you can barely see both trend lines below.
The gains came despite the fact that the insulin, which as a medication has an almost-century-long history, hasn't really changed since it was first approved.
Nice business to be in, eh? Here's that chart:
It's almost like Lilly (Azar's firm) and Novo Nordisk are working together, isn't it?
 Anyhow, as of the 2016 Clinton campaign , the Democrat standard -- not that of Poses, nor mine -- is that if there's no quid pro quo, there's no corruption.
 And, curiously, "[HHS head Tommy] Thompson said HHS was in the eye of the storm after the 2001 terrorist attacks, and Azar had an important role in responding to the resulting public health challenges, as well as the subsequent anthrax attacks "
MedicalQuack , November 15, 2017 at 10:31 amdiptherio , November 15, 2017 at 11:25 am
Oh please, stop quoting Andy Slavitt, the United Healthcare Ingenix algo man. That guy is the biggest crook that made his money early on with RX discounts with his company that he and Senator Warren's daughter, Amelia sold to United Healthcare. He's out there trying to do his own reputation restore routine. Go back to 2009 and read about the short paying of MDs by Ingenix, which is now Optum Insights, he was the CEO and remember it was just around 3 years ago or so he sat there quarterly with United CEO Hemsley at those quarterly meetings. Look him up, wants 40k to speak and he puts the perception out there he does this for free, not so.a different chris , November 15, 2017 at 2:01 pm
I think you're missing the context. Lambert is quoting him by way of showing that the sleazy establishment types are just fine with him. Thanks for the extra background on that particular swamp-dweller, though.petal , November 15, 2017 at 12:52 pm
Not just the context, it's a quote in a quote. Does make me think Slavitt must be a real piece of work to send MQ so far off his railssgt_doom , November 15, 2017 at 1:21 pm
Alex Azar is a Dartmouth grad (Gov't & Economics '88) just like Jeff Immelt (Applied Math & Economics '78). So much damage to society from such a small department!Jen , November 15, 2017 at 7:56 pm
Nice one, petal !!!
Really, all I need to know about the Trumpster Administration:
From Rothschild to . . . .
Since 2014, Ross has been the vice-chairman of the board of Bank of Cyprus PCL, the largest bank in Cyprus.
He served under U.S. President Bill Clinton on the board of the U.S.-Russia Investment Fund. Later, under New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Ross served as the Mayor's privatization advisor.jo6pac , November 15, 2017 at 2:13 pm
Or from a "small liberal arts college" (which is a university in all but name, because alumni).
Tim Geitner ('82 – Goverment)
Hank Paulson ('68 – English)Alfred , November 15, 2017 at 2:53 pm
Well it's never ending game in the beltway and we serfs aren't in it.
I don't believe that the President's "swamp" ever consisted of crooked officials, lobbyists, and cronies I think it has always consisted of those regulators who tried sincerely to defend public interests.
It was in the sticky work of those good bureaucrats that the projects of capitalists and speculators bogged down. It is against their efforts that the pickup-driving cohort of Trump_vs_deep_state (with their Gadsden flag decals) relentlessly rails.
Trump has made much progress in draining the regulatory swamp (if indeed that is the right way to identify it), and no doubt will make considerably more as time wears on, leaving America high and dry. The kind of prevaricator Trump is may simply be the one who fails to define his terms.
Henry Moon Pie , November 15, 2017 at 4:13 pm
I think we've moved past the revolving door. We hear members of the United States Senate publicly voice their concerns about what will happen if they fail to do their employers' bidding (and I'm not talking about "the public" here). In the bureaucracy, political appointees keep accruing more and more power even as they make it clearer and clearer that they work for "the donors" and not the people. Nowhere is this more true than the locus through which passes most of the money: the Pentagon. The fact that these beribboned heroes are, in fact, setting war policy on their own makes the knowledge that they serve Raytheon and Exxon rather than Americans very, very troubling.
I suspect Azar's perception is that he is just moving from one post to another within the same company.
Watt4Bob , November 15, 2017 at 5:28 pmLarry , November 15, 2017 at 8:01 pm
Perfect cartoon over at Truthout
I'm amazed there is enough private security available on this planet to keep these guys safe.
Big pharma indeed has so much defense from the supposed left. It combines their faith in technological progress, elite institutions, and tugs on the heart strings with technology that can save people from a fate of ill health or premature death. Of course, the aspect of the laws being written to line the pockets of corrupt executives is glossed over. While drug prices and medical costs spiral ever higher, our overall longevity and national health in the US declines. That speaks volumes about what Democrats really care about.
Nov 07, 2017 | marknesop.wordpress.com
Patient Observer , November 6, 2017 at 1:02 pmDid not the Kremlin Stooges predict this years ago?marknesop , November 6, 2017 at 1:15 pm
The international organization for migration has published official data which shows that every fourth prostitute in Europe is a citizen of Ukraine.
The article discusses pamphlets that are distributed to young Ukrainian girls/women advising them on how to survive and flourish in new realities of life in the EU.
the Ukrainian labor market is being formed and is growing. Even if there is no other work and none is expected, girls should know that Europe will take care of them. The younger generation of Ukrainian schoolgirls will find out how to apply themselves If you are involved in the sex business, then this brochure is for you," it is said in the introduction. "You have chosen a very dangerous profession, but if you always follow these simple rules, then you will get a chance to live a long life You shouldn't serve several clients alone, you should avoid drunk clients, and also always to take payment in advance. And when you go to the client's apartment, try to learn in what district of the city it is located, give preference to hotels".It's okay if you're a hooker, and all you have to sell is yourself. You have chosen a dangerous profession, but really the writing was on the wall, wasn't it, if only you'd had sense to read it? And the economic calamity which has come to pass in your country is really no concern of ours, while for our part we are not too upset at being offered the choice of some of the most beautiful young women on the planet, who will do anything you say for a handful of euros.
Here's to your bright new future in the EU. Incredible. I wonder if Poroshenko will tout this statistic as another validation of Ukrainians' confidence in his leadership.
Oct 25, 2017 | www.nakedcapitalism.com
Synoia , October 23, 2017 at 2:21 pmGlen , October 23, 2017 at 2:31 pm
 Too bad we don't have a Jobs Guarantee .
The most important things are guaranteed:
Funding the military, enforcing payment of debts, Profit, promises made to campaign contributors, and of course death and taxes.HotFlash , October 23, 2017 at 3:06 pm
Somehow, I think our government's response to PR/Maria will be the new norm unless there are a bunch of billionaire's calling the gov reps they bought to complain. And even they may be frustrated by the current boob in the WH.PKMKII , October 23, 2017 at 3:27 pm
although I haven't heard of private equity pushing Puerto Rican toll roads they would own
My dear Lambert, were I a vulture capitalist (which I am not!), I would not put one plugged nickel into infrastructure in PR. Not toll roads, not resorts, not power grid, not rebuilding the pharma factories, nada. Because another Maria will just happen again and trash it all before sufficient ROI, and who's gonna insure it now? Insurance companies believe in climate change, whether they will admit it or not.
But I would put a few $$$ into PR debt, and gamble that the US govt will bail *me*and my fellow vultures (not PR) out. Am I cynical enough?Code Name D , October 23, 2017 at 3:32 pm
The Intercept has a good article on a Puerto Rican recovery for Puerto Ricans and not outside interests.HotFlash , October 23, 2017 at 4:23 pm
What about the cars? I would imagine that many cars were destroyed, heavely damaged, or simply lost. Getting cars repaired and replaced will also be a major challenge. And this I bet would fall on the backs of the individual owners who will already be strapped for cash to begin with.cocomaan , October 23, 2017 at 3:41 pm
Pretty well, yup. Insurance companies gonna pay pennies on the dollar, assuming you actually have insurance for stuff like this. Poor people tend to get the very minimum needed to get their vehicle on the road, which is usually liability. If you do have bountiful; coverage for Acts O'God, where are you going to get your car repaired or replaced anyway? This may sound super-cynical, even for me, but looking at those washed out and blown-away roads, getting cargo into remote places in PR is a job for sure-footed critters like mules and horses. Dirt bikes can move people over difficult terrain. So can bicycles , and they have been preparing for such a thing.a different chris , October 23, 2017 at 5:21 pm
The crisis in PR compared to the crises in FL and TX really opened my eyes to how dangerous and precarious it must be to live on an island, even one ostensibly connected to a powerful country. The logistical nightmare of getting things there is compounded so much by that sea barrier. At least in TX, you can call in the cajun navy who can drive their boats to the location, then launch.
So now one thing is even clearer to me: the first losers of rising sea levels and climate change disasters will be islanders. Places like the Maldives and the Leewards will have a really hard time in the next few decades.cocomaan , October 23, 2017 at 6:39 pm
>is compounded so much by that sea barrier.
??? The sea is how people got things everywhere long, long before the first steam engine (and I'm talking those Roman toy ones) was even conceived?
This is just incompetence. Load up cargo ships (which are the most enormous transportation devices on the planet) and bring an aircraft carrier or two with cargo helicopters to bring the goods inland:
"The CH-53E heavylift transport helicopter can carry cargo with a maximum weight of 13.6 t internally or 14.5 t externally."
But yes, agree on the precarity of island life.rd , October 23, 2017 at 6:01 pm
I get what both of you are saying vis a vis sea travel, Jones Act and all, but even in the best of all possible human organizations, it's still a major factor in any relief effort. It's just not nearly as easy to get people from point A to point B by boat. If your car breaks down, you're stranded, if your boat breaks down, you could easily die.Joel , October 23, 2017 at 11:50 pm
Much of the sea barrier is man-made, namely the Jones Act. As a result, it is more expensive for Puerto Rico to get supplies form the US than from non-American sources because of shipping costs.Thor's Hammer , October 24, 2017 at 5:27 pm
Could NC do a post on the Jones Act?
Do we allow foreign-flagged vessels to transport goods between, say, California and Hawaii? What about Guam and the US Virgin Islands?Mark K , October 23, 2017 at 3:46 pm
We do live on a global island. Soot from Chinese coal burning lands on the few remaining glaciers in Glacier National Park and hastens their demise. Methane from melting permafrost in the Northwest Territories acts as a blanket to increase solar heating of the ocean surface. Increased ocean temperatures help hurricanes to explode from Category 1 to 5 almost overnight and stall over Houston as a Biblical deluge.
Three well-placed air-burst EMP nuclear bombs can disable communication and transport over most of the country. And a week without water and food being transported into New York would turn it into San Juan with no rescue boats on the horizon and frozen corpses piling up in the alleys in mid-winter.
We all live on an island -- one held together by a thin spider web of technology and resting upon an biosphere that we are waging war against with our insatiable imperative of growth.HotFlash , October 23, 2017 at 4:30 pm
"The political class seems to have lost the ability to mobilize on behalf of its citizens.". It wasn't always this way. Read http://northernwoodlands.org/articles/article/thirty-eight-new-england-lumber-storm .
When I read what the FDR Administration was able to accomplish amidst the devastation of New England's forests wrought by the hurricane of 1938, it brought tears to my eyes.JohnS , October 23, 2017 at 4:05 pm
"The political class seems to have lost the ability to mobilize on behalf of its citizens."
My momma used to say, "Where there's a will, there's a way." I have observed that if there's 'no way', it's because there is no will. I think this is the case in PR, as it was in NOLA, and as it seems to be in Houston (except for the *nice* neighbourhoods, of course). Cali fire victims, prepare to be On Your Own(tm).Bruce , October 24, 2017 at 1:16 pm
Great job, Lambert .insight and solid research into a topic overlooked by the MSM and the politicals .
If your interest and time permits, I would love a report on what FEMA will/has provided for LONG TERM HOUSING for PR, Northern CA, and the areas hit hard by hurricanes on the USA mainland ..
I have not been able to locate much on this topic
Last I heard was that FEMA had Zero trailers on hand and had let out a contract to some company(s) to build new trailers.
In the interim, there was a report that FEMA would be distributing TENTS to some people in need of shelter. I believe this article was a report from Florida after the fist Hurricane hit there.
A look at Puerto Rico shows that there at lots of homes without roofs ..and they are probably not accessible for a trailer delivery up in the hills. In Santa Rosa, CA, there is very little affordable and available housing close to Santa Rosa. The rains will arrive and then the Mud will Turn the Sand into YUCK and MUCK.
I remember, after Katrina and her friends beat up New Orleans, a lot of folks were flown away from New Orleans (Barbara Bush opined it was probably a good deal for a lot of 'em) and many did not return. Others were put in FEMA trailers. (TREME on HBO covered the KATRINA aftermath as only David Simon can!)
Anyone else, who can provide me with links or information, is most welcome to respond.
JohnSMel , October 23, 2017 at 4:08 pm
FEMA's mission is emergency/first response mobilization. It is not their job or within its functionality or budget to provide long-term rebuilding solutions. That falls on the island's government, with congressional financial assistance if congress allocates money for it.a different chris , October 23, 2017 at 5:29 pm
The Army Corps of Engineers are one thing, the other things are the Combat Engineers, organized perhaps as regiments and assigned to combat brigades. These are the people who do roads, airfields, etc., and the ones you would have wanted on the spot in Puerto Rico from maybe day two.rd , October 23, 2017 at 6:06 pm
I strongly believe the problem is the deployment to the Middle East. Bullies strongly believe they must never, ever show weakness. So they believe that they can't pull Combat Engineers out of Whateveristan without looking weak.
So they don't – and they bless their lucky stars that Puerto Rico isn't a state and Puerto Ricans aren't considered Americans by most Americans. However – how many of those deployed to the ME are from Puerto Rico, and how are they reacting? I gotta wonder.SerenityNow , October 23, 2017 at 7:43 pm
USGS has started mapping the landslide impacts:
To get a road open, you need to clear the trees and debris, repair bridges, and repair landslides. In rugged terrain, this is a serious effort as just one break makes the road unusable for deliveries beyond the break.Vatch , October 23, 2017 at 9:28 pm
The Bloomberg piece explains:
Puerto Rico has one of the highest rates of car ownership in the world, thanks to urban sprawl and the government's failure to build public transportation that commuters might actually use . Puerto Ricans are isolated without cars About 931,000 Puerto Ricans drive or carpool to work out of 3.4 million total residents, according to U.S. Census data. [T]he island has the fifth-highest number of vehicles per capita in the world.
The only thing I would like to mention is that people don't drive because there soley because there is no public transportation, they drive because it is the most convenient/fast/cost effective mode of travel available. You could build all the lightrail in the world, but if it wasn't more convenient/cheaper/cost effective than driving, people wouldn't take it. Disincentives for driving are much more powerful than incentives for transit.
How much road do they have per inhabitant there? Maybe disasters like these could be a wakeup call for how we lay out our development and where we spend our infrastructure dollars? Unfortunately probably not.AbateMagicThinking but Not money , October 23, 2017 at 11:40 pm
I haven't read the book or seen the movie, so maybe my comment is off base, but I'll proceed anyway. This article makes me think of the post-apocalyptic drama "The Road", by Cormac McCarthy.George Phillies , October 24, 2017 at 12:23 am
If the U.S. is not an empire, Puerto Rico would not be a protectorate or whatever. If the U.S. is an empire in decline, Puerto Rico being abandoned would be a signal to the world that the U.S. dollar is in serious trouble.
What with PR's situation and the apparent U.S. tendency to retreat from simple truths, could a collapse in preference falsification* be in progress?
From my side of the world, the U.S. is becoming more than ever a busted flush of apparent and unsustainable inconsistencies which might take us all down with it.
Here's hoping that there is a bounty of brilliant minds and and excellent administrators in the U.S. military leadership who are ready to step up.
*see Timur Kuran's 1995 work.Felix_47 , October 24, 2017 at 1:18 am
By report Puerto Rico is making a deal with a Washington (state) power company on power line repair, the issues involved in running power lines through PR and through inland Washington being rather similar. the last Saffir 3, 4, or 5 hurricanes ot hit the island did so in 1928 and 1932, or so I have read, so on one hand there is plenty of time to get a return on investment, and on the other hand, there was no rationale for building power lines that could survive a force 4 or 5 hurricane.Vatch , October 24, 2017 at 10:28 am
Puerto Rico is third world lite. They could rebuild and become a model for the third world. There are only 3 million people on the island. They dont have to pay Fed income tax. It could be a great retirement location for elderly whites. It just requires investment. Currently the single largest employer is the US govt. They need leadership from within.
Here's what the IRS says about Puerto Rico and income taxes (quoted from Wikipedia ):
In general, United States citizens and resident aliens who are bona fide residents of Puerto Rico during the entire tax year, which for most individuals is January 1 to December 31, are only required to file a U.S. federal income tax return if they have income sources outside of Puerto Rico or if they are employees of the U.S. government. Bona fide residents of Puerto Rico generally do not report income received from sources within Puerto Rico on their U.S. income tax return.
So they pay income tax, but only on income from outside Puerto Rico. Also from Wikipedia:
In 2009, Puerto Rico paid $3.742 billion into the US Treasury. Residents of Puerto Rico pay into Social Security, and are thus eligible for Social Security benefits upon retirement. However, they are excluded from the Supplemental Security Income.
The federal taxes paid by Puerto Rico residents include import/export taxes, federal commodity taxes, and others. Residents also pay federal payroll taxes, such as Social Security and Medicare taxes.
Oct 25, 2017 | www.nakedcapitalism.com
If neoliberalism is the belief that the proper role of government is to enrich the rich -- in Democratic circles they call it "wealth creation" to hide the recipients; Republicans are much more blatant -- then the " shock doctrine " is its action plan.
Click the link above for more information (or read the book ), but in essence the idea is to use any form of disaster, whether earthquake or economic/political crisis, to remake a society in the neoliberal image. To reconstruct the destroyed world, in other words, to the liking of holders of great wealth -- by privatizing everything of value held by the public (think water rights, public roads); by forcing austerity on cash-strapped governments as the price for "aid" (think loans, not grants, repaid by unwritten social insurance checks); by putting "managers," or simply loan officers, in charge of democratic decision-making.
In simple, a "shock doctrine" solution always takes this form: "Yes, we'll help you, but we now own your farm and what it produces. Also, your family must work on it for the next 50 years."
This is what happened in Chile after Pinochet and his coup murdered the democratically elected socialist Salvador Allende and took over the government. It's what's happening to Greece, victim of collusion between greedy international bankers and the corrupt Greek politicians they cultivated. And it's what happened in the U.S. during the 2008 bailout of bankers, by which government money was sent in buckets to companies like AIG so they could pay their debts in full to companies like Goldman Sachs. While millions of mortgaged homeowners crashed and burned to the ground.
The populist reaction to neoliberal "reform" is usually social revolt, often or usually ineffective, since creditors are, almost by definition, people with money, and people with money, almost by definition, control most governments. In Greece, the revolt sparked the election of an (ineffective) "socialist" government -- plus the rise of the Greek neo-Nazi party, Golden Dawn. In the U.S. the revolt still still sparks universal (and ineffective) hatred of the 2008 bank bailout -- plus the rise of the failed Sanders candidacy and the successful Trump presidency.
The form this same revolt will take in 2018 and 2020 is still to be determined.
The Shock Doctrine and Puerto Rico
The "shock doctrine" -- the stripping of wealth from the devastated by the already-way-too-wealthy -- is now being applied to Puerto Rico. Even before the hurricanes hit it, Puerto Rico was a second-class citizen relative to states of the U.S., even among its non-state territories. In contrast to Puerto Rico, for example, the American Virgin Islands were instantly much better treated when it came to relief from the Jones Act , a sign of already-established prejudice.
The reason should be obvious. In Puerto Rico , English is the primary language of less than 10% of the people, while Spanish is the dominant language of the school system and daily life. In the American Virgin Islands , English is the dominant language, and Spanish is spoken by less than 20% of the population. The fact that two-thirds of the population of the U.S. Virgin Islands is black seems to be lost on most Americans, a fact that likely benefits those inhabitants greatly in times like these.
Thus, to most Americans the citizens of Puerto Rico are conveniently (for neoliberals) easy to paint as "them," the undeserving, which changes what atrocities can be committed in the name of "aid" -- much like it did after Hurricane Katrina devastated "them"-inhabited New Orleans.
Synoia , October 24, 2017 at 6:41 amHuey Long , October 24, 2017 at 8:09 am
Puerto Rico is not Sovereign. Are its debts valid? Could they be repudiated?rd , October 24, 2017 at 10:56 am
Congress passed a law back in the 80's prohibiting PR from defaulting. Repudiation of PR debt would entail getting our current congress and prez to pass legislation to repudiate it, so in other words divine intervention ;-).Norb , October 24, 2017 at 9:28 am
The one place in the US that did get hammered by NAFTA was Puerto Rico. http://www.nytimes.com/1993/01/03/us/trade-pact-threatens-puerto-rico-s-economic-rise.html?pagewanted=all
When NAFTA was passed, Congress also stripped companies of tax benefits for having operations in Puerto Rico. In addition, the Jones Act makes shipping to and from Puerto Rico more expensive than shipping to and from Mexico. Oddly enough, many companies moved operations from Puerto Rico and Puerto Rico has been in recession/depression ever since.flora , October 24, 2017 at 10:43 am
I think Puerto Rico will be interesting to watch to see if anti neoliberal sentiment can take hold and survive. In one sense, every individual abandoned or ensnared in debt is in the same boat. Once put in a situation of debt servitude, the only recourse to extricate oneself is to become self reliant and attempt to build supporting networks. The trouble is, once those networks start to form, the traditional game plan is to bring in force and break them up.
If strong, self-supporting communities can form in PR, it will provide inspiration for communities on the mainland.
It will be also interesting to see if self-funded initiatives can make headway against the banking and financial interests.
This situation in PR is important in that it can change the focus of community building away form personal self-interest as now exists in America, and towards the common good, as it should be. The same is happening all across the mainland in economically devastated communities, but successfully blacked out in the media.
This truly is a long term endeavor, but tragically, climate change will increase the opportunities for proper action. The proper long term investment is in people and life skills. Lets roll up our sleeves.diptherio , October 24, 2017 at 11:52 am
" Once put in a situation of debt servitude, the only recourse to extricate oneself is to become self reliant and attempt to build supporting networks. "
US people born 1880 – 1900 were adults/young adults with families when the Great Depression hit. Their children, sometimes referred to as The Greatest Generation, were children or teens during the depression and saw how debt destroyed families. When those children grew up they were debt averse. The Depression/Greatest Gen's children, the Baby Boomers, would often joke their parents, who were Depression kids, could squeeze a nickel until it screamed. Boomers, having no memory of systemic economic bad times, took on large debts for school and housing on the theory their income would always increase as it had for their parents. Now the Boomers children are facing a wholly different economy, more like the Great Depression than the Booming 50's and 60's.
I expect today's younger generation will become debt averse. That would hurt the FIRE sector's reliance on ever increasing debt payment rents. Reducing the FIRE sectors influence would be good for both the Main Street economy and individuals, imo.Jim Haygood , October 24, 2017 at 9:57 am
It will be also interesting to see if self-funded initiatives can make headway against the banking and financial interests.
See my comment below. Puerto Rico already has a thriving, self-funded co-op movement, so I think they've got a better chance than most.Thor's Hammer , October 24, 2017 at 10:22 am
"What's killing the modern world is the world-wide overhang of personal debt -- not government deficits, which are entirely different."
This is an odd claim to make in an article about Puerto Rico, whose troubled debt is entirely governmental. Pie chart:
In turn, Puerto Rico's govt debt crisis led to the imposition of a crushing 11.5% sales tax, making retail prices already jacked up by the Jones Act even more unaffordable.
Puerto Rico's recovery will depend almost entirely on how much of a haircut is imposed on bondholders versus restructuring and extending in the Greek fashion, which would doom PR forevahhhh.Rakesh , October 24, 2017 at 12:18 pm
It would be interesting to compare the pace of recovery in Cuba with that of Puerto Rico. Both were hit by category 5 hurricanes within days of each other. In the case of Cuba, Havana was every much at the center of the bulls eye as San Juan Puerto Rico if I am correct. But I've not been able to uncover a single scrap of reporting that draws the comparison. Perhaps it would be embarrassing to the defenders of "free market" capitalism and social organization?
But hurricanes are last month's news. We've moved on to the startling revelations that fat pig movie directors are pussy grabbers just like our President.GlobalMisanthrope , October 24, 2017 at 1:34 pm
http://www.frontline.in/world-affairs/a-tale-of-two-islands/article9892265.eceThor's Hammer , October 24, 2017 at 6:28 pm
Thank you posting this!
I have always believed that one of the primary aims of the Cuba travel ban was to keep us Puerto Ricans from traveling there to see what isolation and poverty -- the constant threats leveled at those who support PR independence -- could look like.Jeremy Grimm , October 24, 2017 at 11:48 am
Thanks for posting this journalism from an Indian source. While it may be accurate, the writing style reads like it was copied straight from the Ideologe's Bible. So I'll file it along most commentary from outlets like the Washington Post– assume it is fraudulent propaganda until proven otherwise.diptherio , October 24, 2017 at 11:50 am
It's very nice to talk about how to rebuild Puerto Rico but how long will it be before Puerto Rico is hit by another major hurricane? And while we're thinking of Puerto Rico what about Houston, and Florida? What about the North Carolina sea coast -- or New Jersey -- NYC? I don't expect anything reasonable will be done in rebuilding any of these places or beginning an orderly retreat to higher ground.
Some parts of these areas may remain habitable -- at least long enough to make it worthwhile to build infrastructure but I believe it will be a mistake to simply "rebuild". Replacement infrastructure should be built to better withstand the future storms and rising seas. I am aware that not "rebuilding" is neither socially nor politically viable. It just seems a shame to waste what time and resources remain.Watt4Bob , October 24, 2017 at 11:58 am
I was fortunate enough to get to meet a number of Puerto Rican cooperators at this year's Assoc. of Cooperative Educators Institute in Denver. Puerto Rico has a very strong cooperative sector/movement. Co-ops in Puerto Rico don't pay tax to the gov't. Instead, each co-op provides (iirc) 2% of net revenues to Liga de Cooperativas de Puerto Rico , the apex co-op organization for the island. This provides an internally funded support mechanism for co-ops and has helped create a thriving co-op ecosystem.
So I've got some optimism that my Puerto Rican friends will be able to replace at least some of the failed systems that have been afflicting them with cooperative, sustainable, alternative solutions.
Things are moving fast, from MSN ;
Puerto Rico has agreed to pay a reported $300 million for the restoration of its power grid to a tiny utility company which is primarily financed by a private equity firm founded and run by a man who contributed large sums of money to President Trump, an investigation conducted by The Daily Beast has found.
Whitefish Energy Holdings, which had a reported staff of only two full-time employees when Hurricane Maria touched down, appears ill-equipped to handle the daunting task of restoring electricity to Puerto Rico's over 3 million residents.
As usual, donate a few thousand, reap millions.
FEC data compiled by The Daily Beast shows that Colonnetta contributed $20,000 to the "Trump Victory" PAC during the general election, $27,000 to Trump's primary election campaign (then the maximum amount permitted), $27,000 to Trump's general election campaign (also the maximum), and a total of $30,700 to the Republican National Committee in 2016 alone.
Colonnetta's wife, Kimberly, is no stranger to Republican politics either; shortly after Trump's victory she gave $33,400 to the Republican National Committee, the maximum contribution permitted for party committees in 2016.
Bears repeating, we're not only 'ruled' by whores, we're ruled by cheap whores.
Of course I make apologies to all ladies of negotiable affection.
Oct 24, 2017 | www.moonofalabama.org
Phoenix 2.0 - CIA's Vietnam Terror Unleashed Upon Afghanistan
Last week the new head of the CIA Mike Pompeo publicly threatened to make the CIA a "much more vicious agency". His first step towards that is to unleash CIA sponsored killer gangs onto the people of Afghanistan:The CIA is expanding its covert operations in Afghanistan, sending small teams of highly experienced officers and contractors alongside Afghan forces to hunt and kill Taliban militants across the country ...
The CIA's expanded role will augment missions carried out by military units, meaning more of the United States' combat role in Afghanistan will be hidden from public view
This is not going to be a counter-insurgency campaign, even when some will assert that. A counter-insurgency campaign requires political, security, economic, and informational components. It can only be successful in support of a legitimate authority.
The current Afghan government has little legitimacy. It was bribed together by the U.S. embassy after wide and open election fraud threatened to devolve into total chaos. In August CIA director Pompeo met the Afghan president Ashraf Ghani and likely discussed the new plan. But the now announced campaign has neither a political nor an economic component. A campaign solely centered on "security" will end up as a random torture and killing expedition without the necessary context and with no positive results.
The campaign will be a boon for the Taliban. While it will likely kill a some Taliban aligned insurgents here and there, it will also alienate many more Afghan people. Most of the Taliban fighters are locals. Killing them creates new local recruits for the insurgency. It will also give it better population cover for future operations.
A similar campaign during the Vietnam war was known as Operation Phoenix . Then some 50,000 South-Vietnamese, all of course 'suspected communists', were killed by the CIA's roving gangs:[Phoenix] was designed to identify and "neutralize" (via infiltration, capture, counter-terrorism, interrogation, and assassination) the infrastructure of the National Liberation Front of South Vietnam (NLF or Viet Cong). The CIA described it as "a set of programs that sought to attack and destroy the political infrastructure of the Viet Cong". The major two components of the program were Provincial Reconnaissance Units (PRUs) and regional interrogation centers. PRUs would kill or capture suspected NLF members, as well as civilians who were thought to have information on NLF activities. Many of these people were then taken to interrogation centers where many were allegedly tortured in an attempt to gain intelligence on VC activities in the area. The information extracted at the centers was then given to military commanders, who would use it to task the PRU with further capture and assassination missions.
The Phoenix program was embedded into a larger civil political and economic development program known as CORDS . The accepted historical judgement is that Phoenix failed to achieve its purpose despite its wider conceptualization. The passive support for the Viet Cong increased due to the campaign. In recent years there have been revisionists efforts by the Pentagon's RAND Corporation to change that view.
The now announced campaign looks similar to Phoenix but lacks any political component. It is not designed to pacify insurgents but to eliminate any and all resistance:The new effort will be led by small units known as counterterrorism pursuit teams. They are managed by CIA paramilitary officers from the agency's Special Activities Division and operatives from the National Directorate of Security, Afghanistan's intelligence arm , and include elite American troops from the Joint Special Operations Command. The majority of the forces, however, are Afghan militia members
There are only a few dozen officers in the CIA Special Activities Division that can support such a campaign. The lede to the article suggests that 'contractors' will have a significant role. In August the former head of the mercenary outlet Blackwater, Eric Prince, lobbied the Trump administration for a contractor led war in Afghanistan. We can safely assume that Prince and some Blackwater offspring will be involved in the new CIA campaign. The major intelligence groundwork though will have to be done by the NDS.
The Afghan National Directorate of Security was build by the CIA from elements of the former Northern Alliance, the opponents of the original Taliban. In the late 1990s the Northern Alliance under Ahmed Shah Massoud was financed by the CIA . Shah Massoud's intelligence chief Amrullah Saleh, a dual citizen, received CIA training. After the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan Saleh headed the new intelligence service, the NDS. Then President Hamid Karzai fired Saleh in 2010 when he resisted Karzai's efforts to reconcile with the Taliban. In March 2017 the current President Ashraf Ghani appointed Saleh as State Minister for Security Reforms. Saleh resigned(?) in June after Ghani reached a peace agreement with the anti-government warlord and former Taliban ally Gulbuddin Hekmatyar.
Saleh is an ethnic Tajik and an unforgiving hardliner. He is wary of Pashtun who are the most populous ethnic group in Afghanistan and the base population for the Taliban. Saleh recently founded his own political party. He obviously has further ambitions. He always had excellent relations with the CIA and especially its hardline counter-terrorism center. I find it highly likely that he was involved in the planning of this new campaign.
In the ethnically mixed north of Afghanistan the involvement of NDS led local militia will probably cause large scale ethnic cleansing. In the Pashtun south and east it will lack all local support as such militia have terrorized the country for quite some time:For years, the primary job of the CIA's paramilitary officers in the country has been training the Afghan militias. The CIA has also used members of these indigenous militias to develop informant networks and collect intelligence.
The American commandos -- part of the Pentagon's Omega program, which lends Special Operations forces to the CIA -- allow the Afghan militias to work together with conventional troops by calling in airstrikes and medical evacuations.
The units have long had a wide run of the battlefield and have been accused of indiscriminately killing Afghan civilians in raids and with airstrikes.
It is utterly predictable how this campaign will end up. The CIA itself has few, if any, independent sources in the country. It will depend on the NDS, stuffed with Saleh's Tajik kinsmen, as well as on ethnic and tribal militia. Each of these will have their own agenda. A 'security' campaign as the planned one depends on reliable intelligence. Who, in this or that hamlet, is a member of the Taliban? For lack of trusted local sources the militia, under CIA or contractor command, will resort to extremely brutal torture. They will squeeze 'informants' and 'suspects' until these come up with names of a new rounds of 'suspects'. Rinse-repeat - in the end all of the 'suspects' will be killed.
The new plan was intentionally 'leaked' to the New York Times by "two senior American officials". It is set into a positive light:[T]he mission is a tacit acknowledgment that to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table -- a key component of Mr. Trump's strategy for the country -- the United States will need to aggressively fight the insurgents
That claim is of course utter nonsense. The U.S. already has for years "aggressively fought the insurgents". The Taliban were always willing to negotiate. Their main condition for a peace agreement is that U.S. forces end their occupation and leave the country. The U.S. is simply not willing to do so. Killing more 'suspect' Taliban sympathizers will not change the Taliban's demand nor will it make serious negations more likely.
Five years from now, when the utter brutality and uselessness of the campaign will come into full light, the NYT will be shocked, SHOCKED, that such a campaign could ever have happened.
Posted by b on October 24, 2017 at 06:43 AM | Perm