Archive | May 8th, 2012

Bahraini women and children are being raped and tortured by the pro-Zionist regime


Remember as you watch this–all we hear about is how the Syrian people are being ‘brutalized’ by Assad. Dittos with Egypt and Libya before the US and Israel got what they wanted and the leaders of these countries were driven from power. Bahrain is allied with the US, and this is the reason (right now) there is no screaming for ‘intervention’ in that country by the JMSM. You don’t see demonstrations in Israel calling for the Bahraini people to be ‘liberated’ by NATO the way we see it for Syria. You don’t Israeli teachers offering to do a ‘fly in’ to protest what is being done in Bahrain.

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Ed Miliband Warns Of Crisis In Politics As Leaders Discover The Only Way Is Essex


PA/The Huffington Post


Ed Miliband has warned of a “crisis of politics” and has admitted all politicians need to do more to win back people’s trust.

He and coalition leaders Nick Clegg and David Cameron travelled to Essex on Tuesday in a fresh bid to rebuild confidence after last week’s local elections.

Speaking in Harlow, Essex, where his party seized control in last week’s encouraging council elections, Labour leader Miliband said he wanted to “reach out” to the more than two-thirds of voters who did not turn out to cast their ballot.

Miliband said he was happy with Labour’s result but admitted: “I know we have a lot more to do to rebuild that trust.”

Pointing to figures showing that 71% of people in Harlow did not vote on Thursday, he said: “I want to reach out and understand why you don’t trust any politicians, why you don’t believe any of us can answer the questions that you are facing in your life.

“I think there is a crisis of politics in this country, there is a crisis of people thinking ‘I’m not going to engage with politics, you’re all the same, you all break your promises’.”

The Labour leader said aspiration was being “blunted” by the coalition Government and insisted his party could “make a difference”, adding: “We can offer people change.”

His comments, at a question-and-answer session with members of the public, came ahead of an expected appearance in Essex by Prime Minister David Cameron and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg later today.

“What people want from them is answers not excuses, not excuses blaming something else, not excuses blaming the eurozone, but answers about why they promised change and things have got worse not better,” he said.

Miliband said Cameron and Clegg needed to learn from the election results, in which the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats each lost hundreds of council seats, that “economic failure with unfairness piled on top is not the answer”.

“They promised change, they promised an economy that would grow and things have got worse not better.

“And they promised fairness, they promised that we were all in it together, and things have got worse not better because they are standing up for the wrong people not the right people.”

Reacting to last week’s election drubbing, Cameron said on Monday that he got the message from voters “loud and clear”.

“The message people are sending is this: focus on what matters, deliver what you promise – and prove yourself in the process. I get it,” he said.

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Disinformation On Every Front

By Dr. Paul Craig Roberts
Global Research,
Some readers have come to the erroneous conclusion that the Matrix consists of Republican Party disinformation as if there is no disinformation from the left. Others think that propaganda is the business of Obama and the Democrats. In fact, propaganda from the right, the left and the middle are all part of the disinformation fed to americans.

If I may give some examples: The other day Chuck Colson, one of the Nixon officials imprisoned for Watergate crimes, died. This gave NPR the opportunity to relive the Nixon horror.

What precisely was the Nixon horror? Essentially, there was no such thing. Watergate was about President Nixon lying about when he learned about the Watergate burglary.

When Nixon learned about the burglary, he did not act on it prior to his reelection, because he reasoned, rightly, that the Washington Post would blame him for the burglary, although he had nothing to do with it, in the hopes of preventing his reelection.

By going along with a cover-up, Nixon enabled the Washington Post to make an issue of the precise date on which Nixon learned of the burglary. White House tapes indicated that Nixon had learned of the burglary before he said he learned of it. So Nixon had permitted a cover-up and had to go, but what was the real reason?

What was the Watergate burglary? We don’t really know. A group of men including former CIA operatives were hired by the Committee to Re-elect the President to break into a Democratic campaign office in the Watergate complex. We don’t know the purpose of the burglary. Some claim it was to wire-tap the telephones in the belief that the Democratic Party was getting re-election money from communists in Cuba or elsewhere. Others claim that the burglars were looking for a list of call girls, that compromised a White House official, as his fiancee was allegedly one of the call girls.

Looking back from our time during which Bush and Obama have deep-sixed the US Constitution, violated numerous US and international laws, and behaved as if they were caesars unconstrained by any law or any morality, Nixon’s “crimes” appear so trivial as to be unremarkable. Yet, Nixon was driven from office and is regarded as a criminal.

What was Watergate really about?

I doubt we will ever know. But I can offer one possible explanation. Nixon, like John F. Kennedy before him, alarmed the military/security complex with his plans to withdraw US troops from Vietnam (Vietnamization) and his determination to open communication with communist China and improve relations.

As President Eisenhower warned in his last address to the American people, conflict brings power and profit to interest groups that benefit from conflict. Nixon, like Kennedy before him, was perceived as a threat by these powerful interests, because he was working to reduce conflict.

James W. Douglass in his documented book, JFK and the Unspeakable, attributes the assassination of President John F. Kennedy to the CIA, Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Secret Service. Douglas reports that these powerful government institutions were concerned by Kennedy’s refusal to approve Operation Northwoods, to back the CIA’s invasion of Cuba, and to confront the Soviets militarily over the Cuban missile crisis and by Kennedy’s plans to end US military intervention in Vietnam. JFK also told his brother Robert that after his re-election he was going to break the CIA into a thousand pieces.

The right-wing view that Kennedy was too soft to stand up to communism was intensified when it was learned that Kennedy was working with Nikita Khrushchev through back channels to defuse the Cold War. In his “A Strategy of Peace” speech (June 1963), Kennedy announced the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty and the suspension of atmospheric nuclear testing.

“What kind of a peace do we seek?,” Kennedy asked. “Not a Pax Americana enforced on the world by American weapons of war.” With his words and deeds, President Kennedy made himself into a threat against the interests of the military/security complex.

There was enough suspicion of JFK’s assassination that yet another president assassinated by another “unhinged lone gunman” might raise more eyebrows. Nixon was disliked by the media, which made him a good candidate for political assassination. The Watergate burglary provided the opportunity. The Washington Post did the job with reports of “Deep Throat” meeting with reporters in spooky underground parking lots after midnight. Little, if any, information of consequence was contained in these reports. Instead, the newspaper’s reporting transferred the spooky danger of the deserted parking garages to Nixon and an aura of evil was attached to Nixon that eroded his support.

It is interesting that it is only presidents who work to reduce conflict who become targets for assassination. Reagan’s anti-Soviet rhetoric was strong enough to fool the left-wing, but the military-security complex knew of Reagan’s intention to end the Cold War. The CIA, formerly headed by Reagan’s vice president, opposed Reagan’s plan to put the pressure of an arms race on the creaking Soviet economy. The CIA argued that the centrally planned Soviet economy allowed the Kremlin to control investment and that the Communist Party could allocate whatever percentage of Soviet GDP to the military as was needed to win the arms race. In other words, the CIA argued that the US would lose the arms race if Reagan raised the stakes as a means of bringing the Soviets to negotiate the end of the Cold War. Did the CIA really believe this, or was the military/security complex trying to keep the profitable Cold War stalemate going?

Washington cannot exist without conflict. Now that the “Muslim threat” is wearing thin, Washington is stirring up a conflict with China. Washington is sticking its nose into every dispute China has with its neighbors and building up its military presence in the Asian-Pacific. As I wrote in my previous column, a China threat is being created as a long-term threat to take the place of the former Soviet threat.

Moving on to another topic, americans are told that education is the answer to unemployment. Get that university degree and live happily every after.

As RT recently reported, the truth is that more than half of recent US university graduates are unemployed or very underemployed. So much for the mantra that “education is the answer.”

“Education is the answer” serves the colleges and universities who want the tuition payments. It serves the companies who make student loans. It helps the offshoring corporations disguise that they are the main cause of unemployment.

Education is not the answer when high value-added, high wage manufacturing and professional service jobs, such as software engineering, are moved offshore in order to enhance short-term profits for shareholders and multi-million dollar bonuses for CEOs, while domestic employment and purchasing power are destroyed. Unless American university graduates can emigrate to China and India, there is no one to employ them. Yet, we still hear the call to run up student loan debts beyond the ability of salaries to repay the loans.

Professional tradable service employment in the US is so scarce that the University of Florida has abolished its computer science department. As few of the graduates can find employment, the university has reallocated the department’s budget to football, a paying sport.

Americans plugged into the Matrix are programmed to believe that they have correct information provided by a varied and “independent media.” In fact the media is owned by 5 or 6 mega-media companies run by corporate advertising executives and Washington.

Recently, Bloomberg gave us the report that “Japan, Denmark and Switzerland are among the countries to rally this week to [IMF chief] Lagarde’s call for a bigger lending capacity beyond the current $380 billion to shield the world economy against any deepening of Europe’s debt turmoil.”

This Bloomberg report is nonsensical. The loans are not shielding the world economy. The loans are shielding the private banks from their own mistakes at the expense of the world economy. The Bloomberg report shows how completely the Western media is involved in forcing ordinary peoples to subsidize private bankers. It could not be more clear; yet, there is no embarrassment at Bloomberg for serving as the bankers’ propagandist.

Indeed, there is only honor. Serving the Matrix is where lie the rewards. Those who oppose the Matrix are the outcasts whose efforts might, as in the film, save the race of humans from the domination of evil, or else, if they lose, confine the outcasts to prosecution and death.

Across every front Americans are fed lies. The official media line is that the Japanese Fukushima nuclear threat from the earthquake and aftermath is well contained and over. However, the fact of the matter appears to be that an amazing radioactive inventory of both spent and unused fuel rods is in damaged cooling pools that could suffer collapse at any time (especially if there is another earthquake), thus releasing enormous radioactivity (reference link). This possibility presents a greater threat than the initial molten cores of the reactors themselves. Michael Chossudovsky points out that the media is yet to acknowledge the widespread contamination resulting from the Fukushima disaster, and there may be worse to come.

But who cares? Back to the Matrix and the “reality show.”

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Female Genital Mutilation,


Dear friends across the UK,

Thousands of girls across the UK are at risk of genital mutilation, but authorities do nothing to stop it. Now, a shocking press expose gives us a chance to change this. Sign the petition to demand the government investigate and prosecute those responsible for this outrage:

Sign the petition

Tens of thousands of young girls in the UK are at risk of female genital mutilation, but nobody has ever been prosecuted here for this horrendous crime. A shocking press expose has sparked outrage, so if we raise our voices now we can force the government to act.

Undercover Sunday Times reporters recently filmed a “respected dentist” and an “alternative medicine practitioner” offering to mutilate girls and women here in the UK. The practice has been illegal in the UK since 1985, but no one has ever been prosecuted for this crime and the dentist and alternative practitioner haven’t been questioned by police.Authorities are turning a blind eye and refusing to commit the resources needed to stamp out this horrific problem.

But the Times’s explosive report has put this issue on the agenda and together we can get Home Secretary, Theresa May, and Metropolitan Police head, Bernard Hogan-Howe, to start prosecuting people involved in these assaults on women in the UK. Let’s build a national outcry to demand investigations of the people identified in the Times report, and others involved in this abusive practice!

Female genital mutilation has been illegal in the UK since 1985; and in 2003 the law was tightened to stop girls being taken abroad for the operation. We know it still goes on, but it’s hard to work out just how often. A 2007 investigation funded by the Department of Health estimated that some 6,500 women and children were at risk every year. The Sunday Times put the number at 24,000, but admitted that its numbers are speculative.

The numbers may not be precise, but they are far too high. Let’s seize this chance to shame the authorities into action. Sign the petition to Theresa May and Bernard Hogan-Howe now:

Our amazing community has held power-holders to account in the UK and around the world — and now we need to come together again to save these vulnerable girls.

With hope,

Alex, Alice, Paul, Michelle and the whole Avaaz team

PS: This petition was started by an Avaaz member, Ruth. You can start your own petition in 10 minutes here:


Cruel cuts (Avaaz Daily Briefing):

Genital mutilation in the UK, an investigation (Sunday Times, paywall):

The Prevalence of Female Genital Mutilation in England and Wales (DoH study, 2007):

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Discovering the truth about Syria and Assad



On a visit to Syria as part of an international fact finding mission comprising of peace and youth activists belonging to 29 national organisations covering 24 countries, reminded me of the Charlie Chaplin classic Monsieur Verdous. Our mission was finding out the facts about the claim being continuously made bythe US and its NATO allies.

These allegations, suitably amplified by the global media, charged that the Assad regime has unleashed an unprecedented barrage of ‘violence’ against ‘peaceful opposition’ who are ‘exasperated’ with the undemocratic tyranny of the regime. This campaign blitzkrieg vociferously demanded that the Syrian government ‘mends itself’ according to what the US-led combine and its regional ‘muscle power’ Israel dictates.

Monsieur Verdous used to be a humble clerk who had a bit of Jekyll and Hyde in him.Obviously, the modest earnings from his lawful profession was notenough to ensure the huge costs of medical care to support and sustain his terribly ill and disabled wife.The need for this extra money led to Verdous marry rich divorcees or single middle aged women.

Verdous with the silken grace of a cold blooded professional killed those unsuspecting ‘wives’, eventually inheriting the property of those hapless women. After 18 such murders, Monsieur Verdous was apprehended and charged for these killings. Defending himself in the court Verdous made the insightful observation, “One murder makes a villain, millions a hero — numbers sanctify”.

Through Verdous, Chaplin made a statement on contemporary fascism.What is happening in the Middle East — West Asia and now in Syria in particular that perceptive observation seems to be very appropriate in describing the high moral ground which the US-led imperialist alliance in the region. 

Those responsible for the death of a million in Iraq, demand that Syria must be punished for a few thousands for which it is not directly responsible; monarchies in Gulf complain of lack of democracy in Syria!

Syria is no paradise. But so are so many other countries.But the Arab Spring necessitated certain urgent measures to make up for the huge loss that the imperialist camp suffered in Egypt.So, in a quickly drawn up plan taking advantage of some discontent among some sections of the people the so-called ‘peaceful opposition was foisted’.There is strong evidence to suggest that this opposition comprises of al-Qaeda operatives from outside Syria, certain fundamentalist elements and hardcore criminals who have been imported who had once left the country through the poorest borders with neighbouring country — mainly Turkey. 

My stay in Syria and numerous interactions withcross sections of the society, religious leaders, government officials, clearlyshowedthatafter the initialdifficulties, the government of president Assad is now firmly in control in most parts of the country.The Syrian regime has responded to the situation, which clearly is the outcome of a grand plan and spearheaded by the global corporate media, on several fronts simultaneously.

The government has initiated series of steps aimed at democratising the political system.Emergency laws have been withdrawn facilitating political freedom, freedom to press and media and most importantly, a new election law which allows every political party and group and individual to contest elections. 

In Damascus and other cities we visited, we were greeted with hundreds of posters of potential candidates and elaboration of their political platforms.

Syria’s economy, which is largely state driven, had ensured major gains and provisioning of basic services in the social sector. The Syrian leadership admitted that they had committed certain mistakes in opening up some of these sectors, which gave rise to apprehensions. It is playing on the fear of loosing out on the existing quality of life and basic amenities that provided the initial impetus for intervention.Clearly, there is introspection and signs of reversal.We heard students from a university in Latakia that higher education required an annual expenditure of just $12. 

With announcements by the University President that this would continue — one did not find it surprising to realise why Syria is being dubbed as the land of the devil!

Syria is engaged with the UN and its processes. Syria is cooperating and also flagging the contours of the grand plan of destabilisation. Syria is fighting for its democracy.By the looks of it — Syrian people wants to become the masters of their own destiny and not leave it to the leaders of the western world.

One could not escape the feeling that Syrian people will defend their sovereignty and the liberal society where Muslim and Christians have lived in harmony for generations. Syrian people have to triumph for it is the last bastion of secular Arab nationalism in the region.

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John Bercow Tells Sky News: People ‘Suspicious And Despairing’ Of The Political System


PA/Huffington Post UK

John Bercow

John Bercow claimed people were suspicious and despairing of the political system

Commons Speaker John Bercow delivered a stinging verdict on the coalition in an interview for Sky News, suggesting that the reason why the local elections saw such a poor turnout was because people felt disillusioned as the parties are “quite similar” and there “isn’t a huge choice”.

In an interview for Sky News’ Murnaghan programme he claimed many people are “suspicious or even despairing” about the political system.

The Speaker, who is expected to remain politically impartial at all times, said: “To some extent, (people) are suspicious or even despairing of formal politics as a means to give expression and effect to what they want.

“I think there is a wider dissatisfaction that people feel, partly that the parties are still quite similar and perhaps there isn’t a huge choice, and partly they feel, well ‘I said what I wanted, and I voted accordingly, but I haven’t got what I wanted or what I voted for two years ago’.”

Bercow also suggested that more MPs are seeking help for alcoholism as Parliament attempts to crack down on Westminster’s drinking culture.

He suggested there may be politicians with “other addiction issues,” insisting the House reflects wider society.

Last week it emerged Commons staff are to be told to top up MPs’ glasses fewer times at Parliamentary receptions to encourage “responsible alcohol use”.

The move comes in the wake of the fight in the Commons Strangers Bar that saw Eric Joyce attack fellow MPs.

Mr Bercow said there is no longer a heavy subsidy on alcohol served in Parliament’s bars.

He said: “I think that there are a number of other factors. I think there are issues relating to members who have had too much to drink.

“I think it is important that the medical service in the House is aware as it can be of members with problems.

“There is some evidence now that more members and staff who have got drink-related issues are seeking help and that’s a positive.

“I think we are a reflection of society and just as there are people in every walk of life who have got issues to do with alcohol, and possibly other addiction issues, there can be problems in this place.”

Mr Bercow defended his much-criticised decision to bring back Prime Minister David Cameron to an urgent question in the Commons over Jeremy Hunt, insisting more information had come to light that needed addressing.

He admitted he is not “bosom pals” with Mr Cameron after being quizzed about pictures showing the Prime Minister scowling during his speech at the Queen’s Jubilee address in Parliament’s Westminster Hall.

The Speaker raised eyebrows by describing the monarch as a “Kaleidoscope Queen” during the historic event.

He said: “I have a good and constructive relationship with him. If you’re asking are we bosom pals, no we’re not, but we don’t need to be, nor should we be.”

He added: “I saw that he was caught in the camera shot – is that something that I’ve ever discussed with the Prime Minister? No it isn’t … Am I in any way bothered about or prickly over a thing like that, no not at all.

“I was trying to express what I thought was quite an important concept – namely that there has been dramatic change, in my view change for the better in this country which is vastly more diverse than ever before, and much of that change and increased diversity has taken place during the period that Queen Elizabeth has been our monarch.”

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University Head Shouldn’t Stand By as Universities are Treated Like a Political Football


This week is Universities Week, a chance for everyone involved in the higher education sector to shout from the rooftops about all the brilliant work that our universities do. Considering the controversy and arguments that surround the issue of education and its future at the moment it’s good that we take the time to collectively appreciate what it is we’re fighting for.

Which is why the latest comments to emerge from coalition MPs about why the Higher Education Bill was quietly dropped earlier this year, leaving parliament and the public with no chance for scrutiny of changes to higher education, are so undignified. If these MPs really wanted make Ministers to come clean on their plans for higher education we’d welcome them to the cause and stand alongside them calling on David Willetts and Vince Cable to make their intentions clear in parliament but instead they choose to brief anonymously and use something as important as the future of higher education to score a few cheap political points off the MPs they are supposed to be working with.

Not having the scrutiny in the Houses of Parliament, in the media and in public of the government’s plans that a higher education bill would provide is a dangerous attempt to bypass accountability and that is why students from all over the country came to parliament last month to lobby their MPs on this very issue. The changes proposed in the higher education white paper were as significant to universities and students as the health bill was to the NHS and they deserve the same public scrutiny rather than being slipped through the back door at the stroke of a ministerial pen.

So, Ministers are shying away from debate and backbench MPs are using universities as political football, deeply concerning in itself but it’s not just those in parliament who are endangering our universities, the people who run them have been worryingly quiet as well. Recently I spoke to the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) conference and I told the gathered heads of universities and other policymakers that our universities do a great deal of good but that many of their senior leaders had failed to stand up for their institutions.

Our universities, I told them, have great strength in depth, a wonderful and powerful range of teaching and research, diverse in style and subject that puts our university sector as a whole amongst the best in the world. I drew attention to a recent report that almost all university students would earn more money over their lifetimes than those that didn’t go into higher education. Crucially, at a time of ever increasing unemployment, graduates are much more likely to be unemployed than those with lower level qualifications. Then there are the social and cultural benefits of the melting pot campuses of the UK, the excellent representation of women and the impact of students’ unions, societies and clubs on their communities. Universities are an undoubted and provable good in society.

But yet the Vice-Chancellors who run our universities stood by quietly as budgets were slashed; they meekly accepted the imposition of a forced market in fees that they know will be bad for many universities and the consequences have been chaos and obfuscation.

The government has more changes planned, we know they do because they published a white paper outlining them all but when the going got tough and they didn’t fancy another fight on the scale of the one they got over the increased privatisation of NHS services so they dropped the bill but not the plans.

We believe changes that will increase the incursion of profit-making companies into education, destabilise the sector by moving the controversial ‘core and margin’ goalposts, retrospectively change the cost of loans and further slash core teaching funding can be made even without legislation and that making such moves in undemocratic and that the government should come clean immediately and table an HE Bill so that their plans get the scrutiny they need.

I think university leaders believe the same thing and that they should stand up and say so. When sniping MPs use one of the best education systems in the country to derail the plans of another political party they shouldn’t let it go past without taking a swing. When the government push them into offering virtually useless partial fee waivers instead of bursaries and simultaneously causing already diminished funds to diminish further then they should resist publicly. And when the government tries to introduce damaging increases in for-profit companies in universities they should stand with students, who voted at NUS Conference this month for continuing national action, in saying enough is enough.

Vice-Chancellors proudly proclaim that their institutions are core to civic society and essential to challenging accepted wisdom and yet renege on their responsibility to speak out as academic commentators on deeply damaging public policy. Until they step up it is left to students to say “Our universities are our future and we will not let you endanger them without a fight.”

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Bracing for Demographic Winter: The “Overpopulation Crisis”

By James Corbett

Global Research

image above: Thomas Malthus

A new round of calls for punishing austerity and depopulation strategies have sprung up in the wake of a Royal Society report ringing the alarm on the so-called overpopulation crisis. The report, entitled “People and the Planet” was published on April 26th and followed up by a flurry of articles by the usual suspects dutifully parroting the society’s dire warnings about the future of humanity in a crowding world. Paul Ehrlich was even trotted out to chastise the Society for not going far enough in their report, instead intimating that 5 billion people would have to disappear from the face of the earth for the population to be at a “sustainable” level.

The irony is that this is the same Paul Ehrlich who was crying wolf about the “Population Bomb” 45 years ago and was proven wrong on almost every prediction he made at the time. In 1968 Ehrlich predicted that “hundreds of millions of people (including Americans) are going to starve to death” in the 1970s, but he was wrong. In 1969 he predicted that “smog disasters” were going be killing 200,000 people per year in cities like New York and L.A. by the mid-70s, but he was wrong. Also in 1969 he actually claimed he “would take even money that England will not exist in the year 2000.” Last we checked, England is still here. In 1975 he envisioned that “food riots” in America in the 1980s would lead to the dissolution of Congress, another prediction that failed to come to pass. The next year he argued that “Before 1985, mankind will enter a genuine age of scarcity . . . in which the accessible supplies of many key minerals will be facing depletion.” Wrong again.

By 1980, economist Julian Simon had grown weary of listening to the doom and gloom of those who, like Ehrlich, continued to predict one disaster scenario after another in the name of this supposed overpopulation crisis. He offered a wager to anyone who was willing to take him up on it that the price of any given raw material would be lower on any given future date than it was at the time. Paul Ehrlich took him up on the wager, and the two drafted a futures contract obligating Ehrlich to buy $1000 worth of copper, chrome, nickel, tin, and tungsten from Simon in 1990 at 1980 prices. By the time the contract matured, the prices had fallen and Ehrlich was forced to cut Simon a check for $576.07. Simon offered a further $20,000 wager with the added incentive that Ehrlich could pick whatever resources and whatever time frame he wished, but Ehrlich had learned the valuable lesson not to put his money where his mouth was.

Despite a career of failed arguments and predictions that never came true, Ehrlich won a MacArthur Foundation genius grant and is still treated as a venerated, knowledgeable figure on the subject of population. The problem, of course, is that adherents of his particular brand of doomsaying are inclined to believe these predictions of doom because it affirms their Malthusian worldview. Thomas Malthus was an employee of the British East India Company who hit upon the idea that food production increases arithmetically while population increases exponentially. Thus, argued Malthus in his infamous 1798 “Essay on the Principle of Population,” it was a mathematical certainty that the world was on a crash course for demographic disaster. The problem for Malthus and his acolytes, however, is that they have in each and every generation failed to understand that the question of population and resources is not a zero-sum game. In each and every generation since Malthus first wrote his treatise, human ingenuity has developed technologies and techniques that have helped to expand the arable land for farming and agriculture and increased the number of crops that can be grown in each acre, even as the number of people required to work that land has fallen. Every generation a new crop of Malthusians emerge to argue that this time the expansion of the food supply will fail and the world will be plunged into chaos, and in each and every generation the predicted apocalypse has failed to arrive. Worse yet for those who argue so strenuously for the Here we are over 200 years later and the Malthusians of our own time continue to argue that the same disaster that has failed to arrive for two centuries is now just around the corner.

Unfortunately we don’t have to dig very deep to see the dark side of this Malthusian bent.  In 1969, Ehrlich stated that if voluntary birth control methods did not curb population growth fast enough for his liking, governments might have to consider “the addition of a temporary sterilant to staple food or to the water supply.” In 1972 UN climate guru Maurice Strong argued that governments should license couples to have children. In 1977, Obama “science czar” John Holdren co-authored with Ehrlich a tome called “Ecoscience” that mused once again about the possibility of forced abortions and sterilants in the water supply as a way of curbing population growth. In 2002, the editor of the Earth Island Institute’s online magazine lamented the introduction of electricity to Africa. The Malthusian philosophy is the perfect false front for an ideology that bemoans economic development and technological progress.

Interestingly, even the UN’s own population and fertility estimates show that overpopulation is not the real problem. The UN is projecting a world population of 9 billion by 2050 and a leveling off after that point. The global fertility rate (children per couple) was 4.95 in 1950-1955. It was 2.79 in 2000-2005. It is expected to be 1.63 in 2095-2100. To put that in perspective, the replacement fertility rate that would be required to maintain the population at current levels is projected to be 2.1 in developed countries and as high as 3.4 in developing countries due to higher child mortality rates. With a global fertility rate of 1.63 by the end of the century, the human race will be essentially breeding itself out of existence.

Quite contrary to the projections of the Malthusians, the very real danger to the economy and the species itself is the very real demographic shift that happens in a shrinking population. This phenomenon is referred to as demographic winter and has been understood by demographers for decades. Population is still growing because of high fertility rates in previous generations and longer life spans, but declining fertility rates will turn into population decline in a number of nations within the century should these trends hold. The countries of the developed world, with their fertility rates already in decline, will be the first to experience the effects of this transition. Countries like Greece, Russia, Taiwan, Lithuania, South Korea and others that already have a fertility rate below 1.5 and little influx of immigrants are either already declining in population or are expected to within a decade.

Japan is one of the countries on the forefront of this decline. Having some of the longest-lived people on the planet and ranking 202 out of 220 countries and regions for fertility rates, Japan is already starting to cope with the effects of a rapidly aging population. The Japanese government is increasingly turning to politically painful measures just to try to keep the country’s massive social security program going. Accounting for 29 percent of its $1.12 trillion dollar 2012 budget, the cost of taking care of Japan’s pensioners is only going to increase as more and more of the post-war boomer generation begin to come up for retirement. The workers per retiree ratio is falling across the majority of the globe, with Japan falling from 9.1 workers per retiree in 1965 to a projected worker/retiree parity in 2050. In effect, by the middle of the century each Japanese worker will be asked to pay for the retirement of one of their elders. This is of course completely untenable, but the political will to make changes to the system is utterly lacking, especially since the majority of the population is retired or retiring in the near future and is unlikely to vote themselves out of an entitlement system they have spent their life paying into. Instead, the Japanese Prime Minister du jour, Yoshihiko Noda, is trying to rally the country around tax hikes that are explicitly aimed at making up social security shortfalls.

The situation, while perhaps more acute in Japan, is common to countries across the developed world, including the United States. No one entering the work force today expects there to be a social security system of the kind that exists today by the time they reach retirement, but there is no way to put the brakes on a system of unfunded liabilities that today’s retirees spent their life “paying into.” Reforming the system seems a politically quixotic quest, and is the ultimate Catch-22 inherent in the program itself since the moment of its inception under FDR in the 1930s. A population suffering from the effects of the Great Depression was promised a program that would take care of them in old age. Now during our current ongoing depression, what little social security payouts that the boomers have inherited after a lifetime of paying in is being inflated away into nothing by Helicopter Ben and the quantitative easing crew. Europe is even worse, with retirees and pensioners committing public suicide in places like Greece rather than subject themselves to a life of picking through garbage in the wake of Eurocrat-dictated austerity measures.

Other economic effects of the greying population will begin to make themselves felt in the coming years, as well. Real estate and stock market declines are inevitable in a society with an increasing number of aging retirees cinching up the purse strings and fewer young couples buying houses or investing in the markets.  Declines in saving rates, outputs per capita and living standards are all likewise projected as inevitable in a world of shrinking population. Given the immensity of the problems generated by this demographic transition, it is becoming increasingly obvious that the Malthusians have placed the problem of the “population bomb” on its head: the real “Population Bomb” of the 21st century is not the problem of too many people, but too few.

The Malthusians tend to argue that their end goal is that imagined state of “sustainability” by which the economy of the future will not be predicated on growth, but instead will be a static system that will maintain itself via renewability. Whatever one thinks of the viability or desirability of such a system, the stark fact is that such a system is impossible in the paradigm of declining fertility rates. In fact, in order to achieve sustainability, the human race would have to find a way to reverse the fertility decline. It’s an irony that aging doomsayers like Ehrlich and Holdren may not live long enough to behold come to fruition in their lifetime, but to achieve the very goals they claim to be aiming toward, there may be only one hope for the human species: Bring on the babies.      

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Fahd al-Quso Dead: Airstrike Kills Senior Al-Qaida Leader In Yemen



Airstrike Kills Al Qaeda Leader

SANAA, Yemen — An airstrike Sunday killed a top al-Qaida leader on the FBI’s most wanted list for his role in the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole warship, Yemeni officials said. The drone attack was carried out by the CIA, U.S. officials said.

Fahd al-Quso was hit by a missile as he stepped out of his vehicle, along with another al-Qaida operative in the southern Shabwa province, Yemeni military officials said. They were speaking on condition of anonymity in accordance with military regulations.

The drone strike that killed Quso was carried out by the CIA, after an extended surveillance operation by the CIA and U.S. military, two U.S. officials said. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

The strike was authorized by the Yemeni government, which then made the announcement after the operation was complete, the officials said, part of the U.S. strategy to give the host government more public ownership of the operation being carried out on Yemeni soil.

The airstrike came as the U.S. and Yemen cooperate in a battle against al-Qaida in southern Yemen.

Al-Quso, 37, was on the FBI’s most wanted list, with a $5 million reward for information leading to his capture. He was indicted in the U.S. for his role in the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole in the harbor of Aden, Yemen, in which 17 American sailors were killed and 39 injured.

He served more than five years in a Yemeni prison for his role in the attack and was released in 2007. He briefly escaped prison in 2003 but later turned himself in to serve the rest of his sentence.

A telephone text message claiming to be from al-Qaida’s media arm confirmed al-Quso was killed in the strike.

Al-Quso was also one of the most senior al-Qaida leaders publicly linked to the 2009 Christmas airliner attack. He allegedly met with the suspected Nigerian bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, in Yemen before he left on his way to execute his failed attack over Detroit with a bomb concealed in his underwear.

In December 2010, al-Quso was designated a global terrorist by the State Department, an indication that his role in al-Qaida’s Yemen offshoot, al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, had grown more prominent.

Local Yemeni official Abu Bakr bin Farid and the Yemeni Embassy in Washington confirmed al-Quso was killed in Rafd, a remote mountain valley in Shabwa. It is the area where many al-Qaida leaders are believed to have taken cover, including the U.S.-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, who was killed in a U.S. airstrike in Yemen last year.

Yemeni government officials reported that al-Quso and al-Awlaki were killed in an airstrike in 2009 in Rafd, but they both resurfaced alive.

Al-Quso was known for his ability to move in disguise. He was from the same tribe as al-Awlaki, and local tribesmen said he was a close aide. He studied ultraconservative Salafi Islam as a teenager in northern Yemen, then returned home to learn welding.

The White House and the State Department had no immediate comment.

Yemen’s government has been waging an offensive on al-Qaida militants, who have taken advantage of the country’s political turmoil over the last year to expand their hold in the south.

The new Yemeni president has promised improved cooperation with the U.S. to combat the militants. On Saturday, he said the fight against al-Qaida is in its early stages.

Al-Quso’s association with al-Qaida dated back more than a decade, when he met with Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan. Bin Laden allegedly told him to “eliminate the infidels from the Arabian Peninsula.”

From there he rose through the ranks. He was assigned in Aden to videotape the 1998 suicide bombing of the USS Cole, but he fell asleep.

Despite the lapse, the local leader, Nasser al-Wahishi, declared him the regional leader in Aden. He was also believed to have played a prominent role in al-Qaida’s attack and capture last year of Zinjibar, the capital of Abyan province.

Government troops are trying to drive al-Qaida out of Zinjibar.

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Extractive Capitalism and the Divisions in the Latin American Progressive Camp

By Prof. James Petras


The leading agro-mineral exporting countries, including those engaged with the world’s leading mining and energy multi-national corporations(MNC) are also those characterized as having the most independent and progressive foreign policies. Apparently the primacy of “extractive capitalism” and commodity-export based economies are no longer correlated with ‘neo-colonial’ regimes.

It can be argued that the concessions to the extractive MNC and local ‘leading’ classes assures stability, steady revenues and finances the incremental social expenditures which permit the re-election of the center-left regimes. In other words a de facto alliance between the “top” and “bottom” of the class structure is the unstated bases for center-left electoral successes despite the growing political divergence between the regimes and sections of the social movements.

The Progressive Camp

There is a general consensus that regimes in seven countries in Latin America form what can be called the “progressive camp”: Bolivia , Ecuador , Argentina , Brazil , Uruguay , Peru and Venezuela .

The identifying features usually attributable to regimes in these countries include

(1) their past political trajectory: most are led by former leaders and activists from social movements, trade unions or guerrilla formations

(2) their relatively independent foreign policy pronouncements especially regarding US intervention and sanctions policies

(3) their ideology rhetoric rejecting US led regional bodies and favoring Latin American centered organizations

(4) their populist electoral campaign programs regarding social equity, environmentalism and human rights

(5) their vehement rejection of ‘neo-liberalism’ and traditional neo-liberal personalities, parties and privatizations

(6) their strategic perspective that envisions a prolonged process of social transformation that emphasizes an agenda featuring modernization, developementalist priorities and high levels of investment oriented toward global markets (7) their prolonged political incumbency based on constitutional reforms permitting re-election justified by the need for completing the transformative vision.

The progressive camp has a self-image, projected inward to its electorate as representing a rupture or ‘historical’ break with the past, first with regard to the traditional neo-liberal oligarchy and secondly with the ‘statist’ left. In the case of Bolivia , Ecuador and Venezuela they frequently resort to rhetoric evoking “21st century socialism”. The potency of the appeal to radical novelty has a limited time span dependent on the degree to which the regimes pursue policies in variance with the preceding neo-liberal regime.

The’Left-Right Division’ as Represented by the Progressive Camp (PC)

The perceptions of the objective and subjective divergence between the progressive camp and the right vary according to whether they emanate from official sources or from a critical empirical investigation.

According to the ideologues of the “Progressive Camp” (PC) there are at least five major policy areas which reflect the radical rupture with the traditional neo-liberal right.

(1) Nationalism:

(a) the PC through renegotiations of contracts with extractive MNC secures a higher rate of taxation, increasing revenues for the national treasury;

(b) via increased state investment it converts wholly owned private firms into public-private joint ventures;

(c) through increases in royalty payments it lessens ‘foreign exploitation’; (d) through the greater presence of ‘local technocrats’ it increases national oversight of strategic economic decisions.

(2) Foreign Policy:

The progressive camp has pursued an independent, if not explicitly anti-imperialist foreign policy. The progressive camp has established several Latin American and Caribbean regional organizations which deliberately exclude the presence of North American and European imperial countries such as ALBA (Bolivarian Alliance of the Americas ) and UNASUR (Union of South American Nations). The PC has rejected sanctions against Cuba , Iran , Syria and Gaza and opposed the US backed NATO war against Libya . They criticized the US position at the Summit of the America ’s meeting in april 2012 on at least three major issues – inclusion of Cuba , opposition to British colonial control of the Malvinas and the de-penalization of drugs. The PC has expressed its opposition to US hegemony, to IMF “structural reforms” and Euro-US control over international lending institutions. With the exception of Venezuela , the PC has diversified its export markets. For example Brazil exports to the US only 12.5% of its goods and services; Argentina 6.9% and Bolivia 8.2%.

(3) Social Policy:

The PC has increased social expenditures, especially toward reducing rural poverty; increased the minimum wage; approved salary and wage increases. In a few countries they provide easy credit and financing to small and medium businesses, have given legal title to land squatters and distributed plots of uncultivated public lands as a kind of ‘agrarian reform’.

(4) Regulation:

The PC has, with varying degree of consistency, imposed controls over the financial sector, regulating the flow of speculative capital and the volatility of financial markets. With regard to the extractive sector regulations have been relaxed to permit the large scale inflow of capital and the pervasive use of toxic chemicals and genetically modified seeds by agro-business. They have permitted the expansion of mining, agriculture and the timber industry into Indian and natural reservations. They have financed large scale infrastructure projects linking extractive enterprises to export outlets trespassing onto previously regulated, protected natural habitats. Regulatory norms have been harnessed to facilitate ‘productive’ extractive developmentalism and to limit the financialization of the economy.

(5) Labor Policy:

has been based on a ‘corporatist model’ of business-state-trade union (tri partite) negotiations and conciliation to limit lockouts and strikes and maintain growth, exports and revenue flows. Labor policy has been conditioned by the policy of limiting budget deficits, fixing wage increases, to the rate of inflation. In line with orthodox fiscal policies, pensions for public sector workers have been frozen or reduced especially among the middle and high end functionaries. Traditional job security guarantees have been maintained not augmented and severance pay has not been raised. Strikes by public sector workers, especially among teachers, medical staff and social service workers have been frequent and have led to government mediation and marginal gains. Government policy has been oriented toward protecting managerial prerogatives, while respecting and upholding the legal status, collective bargaining rights of trade unions.

Within nationalized firms, state-appointed directors rule; there is no move toward worker self-management or ‘co-management’-except in limited cases in Venezuela . The structure of labor relations follows the private corporate hierarchical model Labor has, at best, an advisory role regarding health and safety but no determining influences or investment within this corporate framework. Pressure via strikes and protest by trade unions have been necessary, frequently in alliance with community groups, to rectify the most egregious corporate violations of health and safety rules. While the progressive regimes publically eschew neo-liberal “labor flexibility” policies they have done little to expand and deepen labor prerogatives over the labor and productive process.

The principle difference in labor policy between the progressive regimes and the traditional right is the ‘open door’ to labor leaders, their willingness to mediate and grant incremental wage increases, especially of the minimum wage and generally, the reduction of harsh, violent repression.

Continuities and Similarities between Past Neoliberal and Contemporary Progressive Regimes

Writers, academics and journalists on the Right and Center-left emphasize the difference between the progressive and the past neo-liberal regimes, overlooking the large scale socio-economic and political structural continuities. A more nuanced, balanced and objective analysis requires that these continuities be taken into account because they play a major role in discussing the limitations and emerging conflicts and crises facing the progressive regimes. Moreover, these limitations, based on the continuities, highlight the importance of alternative development models proposed by popular social movements.

The agro-mineral export model has demonstrated profound strategic deficiencies in its very structure and performance. The promotion of agro-mineral exports has been accompanied by the large-scale, long-term entrance of foreign capital which in turn determines the rates of investment, the sources for inputs of machinery, technology and ‘know-how’, as well as control over the marketing and processing of raw materials. The MNC “partners” of the progressive regimes have conditioned their involvement on the bases of (a) the de-regulation of environmental controls; (b) the termination of price controls and the introduction of “international prices” for sales to the domestic market; (c) freedom to control foreign exchange earnings and to remit profits overseas.

They also control decisions regarding the exploitation of mineral reserves. Expansion of production is dependent on their own global criteria rather on the needs of the ‘host’ country. As a result, despite the “re-negotiated” contracts, which the progressive regimes hail as a “giant advance” toward “nationalization”, the cumulative losses in revenues and in rebalancing the economy are substantial. If one looks beyond the agro-mineral enclave the negative impact to further development are substantial. The very limited impact that the agro-mineral model has on the economy as whole has led to occasional conflicts between the MNC and the progressive host governments.

A case in point is the conflict between the nominally Spanish oil company Repsol and the Argentine government of Cristina Fernandez in April 2012. Repsol’s behavior illustrates all the pitfalls of collaboration with foreign overseas extractive corporations. Repsol refused to increase investments, claiming that local regulated prices reduced profit margins.

As a result Argentina ’s energy bill rose three-fold between 2010 and 2011 from $3 billion to $9 billion. Furthermore, Repsol repatriated its profits, paid high dividends to overseas stockholders and thus had little impact in creating domestic industries producing inputs or refineries to process petroleum. The attempt by the deceased President Kirchner to increase ‘national ownership’ by bringing in a local private capitalist, (the Peterson Group) had no positive impact, merely entrenching Repsol’s control. When Fernandez took majority shares in order establish public control and increase local production, the entire Eurozone leadership led by the Spanish government and the Western financial press launched a virulent campaign, threatened litigation and predicted economic disaster. The problem of ‘inviting’ foreign MNCs to invest is that it is hard to disinvite them. Once they enter a country no matter how unfavorable their performance, it is difficult to rectify or undo the damage and move onto a new public centered model of development.

All the progressive regimes with the possible exception of Venezuela have signed long-term large-scale contracts with major foreign extractive multi-nationals. Apart from the increase in royalties these agreements do not differ greatly from contracts signed by preceding right-wing neo-liberal regimes.

Evo Morales signed a large scale exploitation contract with Jindal, and Indian multi-national to exploit the iron-mine Mutun with virtually all inputs – machinery, transport, etc. – imported and with very limited ‘industrializing’ of the raw iron ore – mostly simple iron ‘nuggets’. The bulk of Bolivia’s gas and oil is exploited by foreign MNC-public ‘joint ventures’ and is shipped abroad, leaving most of the 60% rural households without piped gas,and resulting in Bolivia’s importing most of its diesel.

Ecuador under President Correa, another leading progressive president, signed two big contracts with foreign oil groups in February 2012, despite the opposition of the majority of Indian organizations including CONAI. In Ecuador , as in Bolivia , big oil and gas companies, while raising objections to the re-negotiations of contracts leading to an increase in royalty payments and an increased presence of public officials, retain a privileged position in crucial decisions regarding management, marketing, technology and investment. Despite claims to the contrary, the leaders of the progressive regimes sign off on these strategic agreements without consulting the communities affected. Decisions are based exclusively on executive privilege. The style and substance of the distribution of the powers and privileges in the oil and gas agreements between the progressive governments and the multi-nationals are no different than what transpired under previous ‘neo-liberal’ regimes. Moreover, in both Ecuador and Bolivia many of the “technocrats” and administrators who worked under the previous neoliberal regimes play a prominent role in running the joint venture.

While progressive regimes have pursued anti-poverty programs and have registered some successes in reducing poverty levels, they do so as a result of the growth of the economy not via the redistribution of wealth. In fact the progressive regimes have not pursued redistributive polices: income and land concentrations, including high levels of inequality remain intact. In fact the hierarchy of the class structure has not been altered and in most cases has been reinforced by the inclusion of new entrants into the upper and middle class. These include many former leaders and activists from the lower middle and working class who have entered the government as well as ‘new capitalists’ benefiting from state contract agreements with the progressive regime.

The financial system has remained intact and prospered under the progressive regimes, especially because of the regimes tight fiscal policies, build-up foreign reserves, control over government spending and low rates of inflation. Financial sector profits are especially high in Brazil , Uruguay , Peru , Bolivia and Ecuador . Brazil in particular has attracted large inflows of speculative capital from Wall Streets and the City of London because of its high interest rates relative to the rates in North America and Europe .

Alongside the concentration of ownership in the extractive and financial sector, the progressive regimes have not introduced progressive taxes to reduce the disparities of wealth. The income of the agro-business elites in Bolivia , Argentina , Uruguay , Brazil and Ecuador are several hundred times that of the bulk of subsistence farmers, peasants and rural laborers. Many of latter remain subject to brutal working and living conditions. In many cases the progressive regimes have done little to enforce the labor and health codes in the giant agro-business plantations while workers are subject to unregulated toxic chemical sprays.

If the configuration of ownership and wealth remains relatively unchanged from the neo-liberal past, the progressive governments have accentuated the tendencies toward export specialization. Under the progressive governments the economies have become less diversified and more dependent on agro-mineral and energy exports, and more dependent on large scale long term foreign investments for growth. State revenue and growth are more dependent on primary product exports.

The free market policies of the progressive agro-mineral export regimes have stimulated the growth of large scale commercial activity. The commercial sector is increasingly influenced by the large scale entrance of foreign owned multi-nationals, like Wal-Mart, who source their products overseas, undermining local small scale producers and retailers.

The appreciation of the currency has adversely affected traditional manufacturers and the transport industry causing significant job losses especially in textiles, footwear and automobiles in Brazil , Bolivia , Peru and Ecuador . Moreover, favorable polices promoting large scale agro-mineral exporters has been accompanied by a credit squeeze on local small business people, especially, producers for local markets who have been bit hard by the import of cheap consumer goods (from Asia). Farmers producing food for local markets have been downgraded in the drive to expand cultivation of export crops like soya.

In summary, the progressive regimes have pursued a multi-faceted double discourse: an anti-imperialist, nationalist and populist rhetoric for domestic consumption while putting into practice a policy of fomenting and expanding the role of foreign extractive capital in joint ventures with the state and a rising new national bourgeoisie. The progressive regimes articulate a narrative of socialism and participatory democracy but in practice pursue policies linking development with the concentration and centralization of capital and executive power.

The progressive regimes preach a doctrine of social justice and equity and a practice of co-optation of social leaders and clientalism via poverty programs for the poorest sectors of society.

The progressive regimes have combined incremented income policies with large scale structural changes, benefiting the extractive-primary sector. Stability of the PC is utterly dependent on the increasing demand for raw materials, high commodity prices and open markets. The progressive regimes have successfully linked trade union and sectors of the peasant movement to the state and have undermined or weakened independent class organizations and replaced them with corporate tri-partite structures.

The progressives have successfully ‘reformed’ or replaced the chaotic, de-regulated, conflictual, racialist policies of their predecessors and institutionalized “normal capitalism”. They have introduced rules and procedures favorable to institutional stability, fiscal discipline and incremental but unequal gains. In other words the “parameters of neo-liberalism” are now effectively administered and legitimated by faux nationalism based on greater political autonomy and market diversification. Centralized executive decision making based on agreements which require extractive MNC to invest and develop the forces of production is legitimated by an electoral framework and a multi-class political coalition.

The domestic and foreign policies of the progressive extractive regimes reflect two contradictory experiences: their radical origins in the lead-up to taking power and their subsequent adoption of an agro-mineral developementalist export strategy, favored by neo-liberal technocrats. The “synthesis” of these two apparently “contradictory” experiences finds expression in the adoption of an independent, critical political position toward imperialist militarism and interventionism and economic collaboration with the agencies of economic imperialism, namely the signing of long-term and large scale contracts with US-EU-Canadian agro-mining and energy multi-nationals. In other words the progressive extractive regimes have ‘redefined’ or reduced imperialism to mean its state structures and policies rather than its economic components (MNC) which are engaged in the extraction of raw materials and exploitation of labor. In the same fashion, they redefine ‘anti-imperialism’ to mean opposition to political-military interventions and a ‘fair distribution’ of profits between the regime and its MNC “partner”. This redefinition allows the progressive regimes to claim popular legitimacy on the bases of periodical criticisms of the policies and practices of the imperial state while collaboration and agreements with the MNC allow the progressive regimes to retain support from domestic and overseas business interests.

When a progressive regime, as is the case of Argentina ruled by Cristina Fernandez, decides to “nationalize” or more correctly secure the majority shares in Repsol, the nominally Spanish oil multi-national, the entire financial press, the European Union and Washington denounce the move and threaten reprisals. In other words the unstated pact between the progressive camp and the imperial regimes is that political differences are tolerable but nationalist economic measures are not acceptable. Renegotiations of contracts to increase state revenues may cause a temporary suspension of new investments but not a political confrontation. However, the public takeover of a foreign extractive firm evokes predictable hostility and retaliation from the imperial states. The Argentine progressive regime’s embrace of a policy of economic nationalism was, however, enterprise and sector specific.

The Fernandez regime did not, and has no future plans, to expropriate other extractive firms, nor was the measure part of a general nationalist strategy to shift toward greater public ownership. Rather Repsol’s refusal to increase investments and production was increasing Argentina ’s dependence on imported oil, which was deteriorating its balance of payments and foreign currency reserves.

Repsol’s refusal to comply with Argentina ’s developementalist agenda was based on the Fernandez policy of maintaining the retail price of oil for the domestic market below the international price. Repsol’s decline in production was a way of leveraging the regime to lift price controls. However, a higher petrol price would have a negative impact on industrial and private consumers, raising costs and reducing the competitiveness of the Argentine exporters and domestic producers. In effect Repsol’s intransigence threatened to undermine the social and political balance of forces between labor and capital and between extractive exporters and popular consumers, which sustained the regimes majoritarian coalition. In brief the measure was nationalist in form but capitalist developementalist in content.

Even so the measure polarized the global economy between the imperial west and the Latin American left, with the usual imperial satraps in Latin America ( Mexico ’s Calderon and Colombia ’s Santos ) backing Repsol.

Divisions between the Progressive Regimes and the Social Movements

Prior to coming to power via electoral processes, the progressive leaders maintained close ties and actively supported and participated in the ‘street action’ and mass struggle of the social movements. They embraced the banners of economic nationalism, ecological conservation and respect for the natural reserves of the Indian communities, social equality and reconsideration of the foreign debt including the repudiation of ‘illegal debts’.

The social movements played a major role in politicizing and mobilizing the working and peasant classes to elect the progressive Presidents. This convergence was short-lived. Once in power the progressive regime appointed orthodox economic ministers to run the economy.They adopted the extractive strategy, shifted from a nationalist public sector economy , designed to diversify the economy, to a ‘mixed economy’ based on joint ventures with overseas extractive capital. First the Indian communities of Peru , Ecuador and some sectors in Bolivia went into opposition, on the bases that their interests were neglected and they were not consulted. Secondly sectors of the working class and public employees struck demanding higher salaries, an increase in public spending .Small farmers and manufacturers demanded economic stimulus for family farms and local industry rather than subsidies for agro-mineral MNC, fiscal orthodoxy and export strategies based on lower labor costs and neglect of the domestic market.

Radical trade union peasant and Indian leaders of the social movements called into question the entire agro-mineral extractive strategy, the distribution and administration of state revenues and expenditures. They reasserted their support for a social program embracing agrarian reform, including the expropriation of large plantations and the redistribution of land to landless peasants. Workers’ leaders called for an industrial policy to process ‘raw materials’ in order to create manufacturing jobs. Some trade unionists called for the nationalization of strategic industries and banks. However, despite some major protests, the bulk of the followers of the social movements and the majority of their leaders soon shifted from radical rejection of the extractive model to demands for a bigger share of the revenues. The progressive regimes attracted the bulk of the social leaders to tri-partite councils of conciliation to negotiate and secure incremental changes. The progressive regimes highlighted their opposition to “neo-liberalism”. They redefined it as unregulated capitalism based on low royalties and underfunding of social programs. The progressive regimes successfully divided the social movements between “utopian” radical opponents and progressive reformists. In time of social strife the progressive regimes evoked a “left-right alliance”, charging their social critics of acting on behalf of imperialism, impervious to their own collaboration with imperial based multi-nationals. Presidential appeals, a nationalist populist discourse and increased revenues which funded increased social expenditures weakened the left opposition. Moderate but sustained increases in anti-poverty programs and minimum wages neutralized the appeal of the radical leaders in the social movements. Despite the progressive regime’s break with its ‘radical egalitarian roots’ it was more than able to secure large scale mass electoral support, based on the overall dynamic growth of the economy and steady growth of income. Both were underpinned by long-term high commodity prices.

Popular extractivist presidents repeatedly won elections by substantial majorities and were able to mobilize sectors of the moderate social movements to counter anti-extractivist social movements. The high prices of commodities and multiple opportunities for exploitation of resources attracted foreign investors despite higher royalty payments. Foreign investors were attracted by the social stability ensured by the progressive regimes in contrast to the instability of the previous neo-liberal regimes. The progressive regimes thrived on economic ties with the MNC and an electoral alliance with the lower classes.

Case Studies of Extractive Capitalism and the Progressive Camp

While the seven regimes which form the ‘progressive camp’ share a common development strategy based on the export of primary commodities there are significant differences in the levels of diversity of their economies, the nature and character of the commodities which they export, the degrees of social polarization and social cohesion and the size and scope of the opposition. In line with these differences there are also substantial differences in the degree to which the “progressive and extractive model” is sustainable or subject to upheaval or reversal.

The progressive camp can be divided in many ways: between those regimes based on charismatic leaders and extreme dependence on primary exports ( Bolivia , Peru , Ecuador and Venezuela ) and those with developed industrial sectors and ‘institutionalized political leadership ( Brazil , Argentina , Uruguay ). There are also significant differences in the degree of class and ethnic conflict: Peru , Bolivia and Ecuador are experiencing significant mass resistance from substantial Indian communities, while in Brazil , Argentina and Uruguay , where the Indian population is sparse there is only isolated opposition. In terms of class struggles, Bolivia , has experienced wide spread protests by health, education, mining and factory workers. Venezuela has faced lockouts and boycotts organized by the economic elite (“class struggle from above”). Ecuador faced widespread protests from the police. Most of the rest of the countries ( Brazil , Argentina and Uruguay ) faced limited strikes largely on wage issues. With the exception of Bolivia , the major trade union confederations work closely and collaborate with the progressive regimes; in contrast the peasant and rural workers movements in Brazil , Ecuador and Peru have retained a greater degree of independence and militancy largely because they have been the most prejudiced by the agro-mineral export strategies. In Venezuela and Brazil landlord’s private armies have played a major role in combatting land reform beneficiaries with relative impunity.

The most pervasive and environmental degradation has occurred in Brazil , where millions of acres of rainforest have been “cleared” during the decade of Workers Party rule. Chemical exploitation of agriculture is strong in most countries especially in Brazil , Argentina and Uruguay where soya production has become a dominant crop. All the major agro-industrial exporters ( Brazil , Argentina and Uruguay ) rely on toxic chemicals and GM seeds with numerous cases of toxic consequences for indigenous residents and their natural habitat. The issue of toxicity and environmental degradation resulting from the giant mining and timber companies has been well documented in Peru , Ecuador and Uruguay . Overall, the greater the urban population and the more dispersed the rural communities adversely, affected, the smaller the environmental protest and the likelihood that NGO ecologists play a leading role in protest.

Since the extractive industries are outside of the major urban centers; since most of the major trade union confederations collaborate with the progressive regimes and secure incremental wage increases and since the overall economy has been growing and unemployment has declined, macro-economic imbalances, commodity dependency and related structural vulnerabilities have not resulted in major confrontations between labor and capital. The most contentious conflicts which have occurred have been between the orthodox neoliberal elites backed by US and European powers and the progressive regimes. Several cases come to mind.

On April 12, 2002 and in December – February 2003 the Venezuelan capitalist class backed by the US and Spain organized an abortive coup which was reversed and a petrol industry lockout that was defeated. An uprising in 2011 led by the police in Ecuador and an abortive coup in Bolivia were put down successfully, before they gained traction. A large scale agro business protest in Argentina in 2008 which paralyzed the agro-export sector against an export tax ended with regime concessions.

In large part, these “class struggles from above” worked in favor of the progressive regimes because it allowed them to pose the issue as one between a popular democratic regime and a retrograde authoritarian oligarchy. As a result the progressive regimes were able to neutralize, at least temporarily, internal critics from the left. The defeat of “the Right” burnished the credentials of the progressive camp and raised their popularity.

While popular support was important in sustaining the progressive regimes against US and EU backed rightest destabilization campaigns, of equal or greater importance was the backing of the military, sectors of the business elite and extractive capitalists. The progressives by adopting “moderate policies” – including business subsidies and generous pay hikes to the military – were able to divide the elite, retain support of the military and isolate the rightwing opposition. The rightwing has remained electorally marginal and provide very limited leverage for US-EU interference and influence over the progressive agenda.

The degree of “progressiveness” within the progressive extractive capitalist camp varies substantially.

The Chavez government has advanced an anti-imperialist and socialist agenda involving the rejection of US coups, wars and blockade of independent states:it has supported the re-renationalization of oil, aluminum and other raw material, mining and energy sources.Its extensive agrarian reform benefiting 300,000 families is aimed at food self-sufficiency. Universal free public health and higher education and subsidized basic food prices via publicly owned supermarkets; and large scale low cost public housing for the poor along with literacy campaigns and the formation of thousands of neighborhood councils to adjudicate and resolve local issues have deepened and extended the socialization process

On a far lesser scale, Bolivia , Ecuador and Argentina have pursued independent foreign policies. Their partial and selective nationalizations are designed to increase revenues rather than as part of a long term, large scale strategy of transformation. They have not followed Chavez’s lead on agrarian reform and on greater enhancement of social spending on health, housing and higher education. They offer remote, public lands of dubious quality as “land reform”. They have been advocates of incremental changes involving wage and social benefits commensurate with the rise in revenues from commodity exports and in line with the rate of inflation, Bolivia and Ecuador have dislodged land squatters and defended the major agro-business land holdings.

The least ‘reformist’ regimes with the most dubious ‘progressive’ credentials are Brazil, Uruguay and Peru (under Humala) which have adopted a free market agenda; they actively promote large inflows of unregulated foreign investments, degrade millions of acres of the rain forests (Brazil especially) , promote agro-business and oppose agrarian reform in all of its forms, relying on the dispersion of peasants and landless to the cities, towns where they serve as a labor reserve for capital or join the low paying informal sector. These “moderate” progressive regimes have signed military accords with the US , and adopt a low profile in opposition to US imperial policies in the Middle East .

Their “progressiveness” is found in their support of regional integration, their opposition to US hemispheric hegemonism (opposing the US coup in Honduras , blockade of Cuba and interference in Venezuela ) and the diversification of overseas markets. Brazil leads the way in catering to Wall Street speculators and in government anti-poverty spending on minimum food baskets. Poverty reduction is matched by the spectacular growth of millionaires linked to the finance and agro-mineral export sector. The “moderate” progressives have the most egregious (and well documented) record of ongoing environmental degradation. In Peru , Humala has given the green light to mining exploitation threatening the livelihood of thousands of peasants and local business in Cajamarca; Presidents Lula da Silva and Dilma Rouseff, of the Workers Party, promoted the destruction of millions of acres of the Amazon rain forest and displacement of scores of Indian communities in a decade. In Uruguay the Broad Front Presidents Tabaré Vasquez and Mujica promoted the highly polluting Botina cellulose factory contaminating the Parana River despite mass protests.

In summary it is difficult to generalize about the performance of the progressive camp given the divergences in social and economic policies. But a “report card” of sorts can be drawn up.

All regimes have lowered poverty levels and increased dependence on agro-mineral exports and investments. All have signed and/or renegotiated contracts with extractive MNC’ few have diversified their economies. Those with a substantial industrial base ( Argentina , Brazil , Peru ) have suffered a severe decline in the manufacturing sector because of appreciating currencies and loss of competitiveness resulting from high prices for commodity exports. Incremental wage agreements have led to low level social conflicts in the cities (except in Bolivia ) but displacement of peasants and degradation have intensified conflicts in the interior between rural communities and the MNC leading to state repression ( Peru ).

The social impact of the progressive regimes has the widest variation, with Venezuela registering the most far-reaching structural changes and the rest lacking any vision or project for redistributing wealth, income or land. Their common support for regional integration is matched by important divergences in accommodation to US military policy. Venezuela , Ecuador and Bolivia , the members of ALBA, reject military treaties, while Brazil , Uruguay and Peru have signed military agreements with the Pentagon.

The overall economic performance is mixed. Brazil’s economy, especially its manufacturing sector, is stagnating with zero or negative growth in 2011-2012, Venezuela is recovering, but with over a 20% rate of inflation ,while the rest of the PC is experiencing steady growth, but increasing dependence on commodity exports to the Asian (China) market.

Alternatives to the status quo extractive economies vary enormously. In Venezuela the regime has made diversification a high priority; the Brazilian and Argentine regimes are taking protectionist measures to promote industry with limited success especially as their policies are countermanded by the real expansion of acreage for soya production and exports. Uruguay , Peru , Ecuador and Bolivia talk of diversification but have avoided taking measures to shift to food production and family farming and have yet to take concrete measures to stimulate local industry via a publicly funded industrialization polic

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