Archive | October 21st, 2014

ISIS Video: America’s Air Dropped Weapons Now in Our Hands

NOVANEWS

In a new video, ISIS shows American-made weapons it says were intended for the Kurds but actually were air dropped into territory they control.
At least one bundle of U.S. weapons airdropped in Syria appears to have fallen into the hands of ISIS, a dangerous misfire in the American mission to speed aid to Kurdish forces making their stand in Kobani.An ISIS-associated YouTube account posted a new video online Tuesday entitled, “Weapons and munitions dropped by American planes and landed in the areas controlled by the Islamic State in Kobani.” The video was also posted on the Twitter account of “a3maq news,” which acts as an unofficial media arm of ISIS. The outfit has previously posted videos of ISIS fighters firing American made Howitzer cannons and seizing marijuana fields in Syria.

ISIS had broadly advertised its acquisition of a broad range of U.S.-made weapons during its rampage across Iraq. ISIS videos have showed its fighters driving U.S. tanks, MRAPs, Humvees. There are unconfirmed reports ISIS has stolen three fighter planes from Iraqi bases it conquered.

The authenticity of this latest video could not be independently confirmed, but the ISIS fighters in the video are in possession of a rich bounty of American hand grenades, rounds for small rockets, and other supplies that they will surely turn around and use on the Kurdish forces they are fighting in and around the Turkish border city.

Video screenshot

On Monday, White House Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes said the U.S. government was confident that the emergency airdropped supplies for the Kurdish forces near Kobani were falling into the right hands.

“We feel very confident that, when we air drop support as we did into Kobani… we’ve been able to hit the target in terms of reaching the people we want to reach,” Rhodes told CNN. “What I can assure people is that, when we are delivering aid now, we focus it on the people we want to receive that assistance. Those are civilians in need. Those are forces that we’re aligned with in the fight against ISIL [the government’s preferred acronym for ISIS], and we take precautions to make sure that it’s not falling into the wrong hands.”

Rhodes was responding to questions about a Monday report in The Daily Beast that U.S. humanitarian aid was flowing into ISIS controlled areas near Kobani by truck. That aid was mostly food and medical supplies, not the kind of lethal weapons in the new ISIS video.

Senior administration officials said Sunday that three American planes dropped a total of 27 bundles near Kobani and more U.S. air drops could come as part of the joint U.S.-Iraqi effort to aid Kurdish fighters in the Kobani area. The supplies were provided by Kurdish authorities, the official said.

In the new footage, the weapons appear to be U.S. made. There have also been at least 135 air strikes against ISIS in the area, according to the State Department.

The airstrikes and air drops appear to be having an impact. The Daily Beast’s Jamie Dettmer, reporting from the Syrian border, said the morale in Kobani has shifted in the last 24 hours. But ISIS continues to hold major swaths of territory in and around Kobani, despite widespread media reports to the contrary. And the civilians there are suffering, badly.

“I think what this represents is the President recognizes this is going to be a long-term campaign against ISIL; and that we need to look for whatever opportunity we can find to degrade that enemy and to support those who are fighting against ISIL on the ground,” a senior administration official told reporters.

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Wake Up America: Police Gone Wild: Domestic Terrorist Edition ”VIDEO”

NOVANEWS

2014 Full Documentary

[BANNED VIDEO]

Published on Oct 3, 2014

My original video upload was taken down by youtube under the guise of “copyright infringement” but then later reinstated after I proved my use of the material was legal.

 

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DEATH TO I$RAHELL: TEARS OF PALESTINE ”VIDEO”

NOVANEWS

By: Dr. Anonymous

 

“The fighting in Palestine is a war between the (whole) Islamic nation and the world of arrogance ,
Today, Palestinians are representing the Islamic nation against arrogance”

 

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Rowan Atkinson : “The Jews were right” ”VIDEO”

NOVANEWS

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Turmoil in Hong Kong, Terrorism in Xinjiang: America’s Covert War on China

NOVANEWS
Global Research

China is facing increasing pressure along two fronts. In its western province of Xinjiang, terrorists have been stepping up destabilization and separatist activities.

In China’s southeast Special Administrative Region of Hong Kong, protests have disrupted normality in the dense urban streets, with protest leaders seeking to directly confront Beijing while dividing and destabilizing both Hong Kong society and attempting to “infect” the mainland.

What is more troubling is the greater geopolitical agenda driving both of these seemingly “internal” conflicts – and that they both lead back to a single source beyond China’s borders. With the so-called “Islamic State” (ISIS) now implicated in receiving, training, and employing terrorists from China’s Xinjiang province, and considering the fact that ISIS is the result of an intentional, engineered proxy war the US and its allies are waging in the Middle East, along with the fact that the unrest in Hong Kong is also traced back to Washington and London, presents a narrative of an ongoing confrontation between East and West being fought on the battlefield of fourth generation warfare.

ISIS: Washington’s Global Expeditionary Force

If one was asked to name a global-spanning military and intelligence operation opposed to Syria, Iran, Russia, and China, they might say the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the US Government – and they would be right. But they could also easily answer by saying the “Islamic State” or ISIS/ISIL as it is also known. This is especially true after revelations surfaced that US-backed Uyghur separatists in China’s western-most province of Xinjiang have joined ISIS for training with intentions of leading an armed rebellion against Beijing upon their return.

Reuters in their article,China militants getting IS ‘training’,” would claim:

Chinese militants from the western region of Xinjiang have fled from the country to get “terrorist training” from Islamic State group fighters for attacks at home, state media reported on Monday.

The report was the first time state-run media had linked militants from Xinjiang, home to ethnic minority Uighur Muslims, to militants of the Islamic State group of radical Sunni Muslims.

China’s government has blamed a surge of violence over the past year on Islamist militants from Xinjiang who China says are fighting for an independent state called East Turkestan.

However, it isn’t just China’s government that claims militants in Xinjiang seek to carve out an independent state in western China – the militants themselves have stated as much, and the United States government fully backs their agenda to do so. Indeed, first and foremost in backing the Xinjiang Uyghur separatists is the United States through the US State Department’s National Endowment for Democracy (NED). For China, the Western region referred to as “Xinjiang/East Turkistan” has its own webpage on NED’s site covering the various fronts funded by the US which include:

International Uyghur Human Rights and Democracy Foundation $187,918To advance the human rights of ethnic Uyghur women and children. The Foundation will maintain an English- and Uyghur-language website and advocate on the human rights situation of Uyghur women and children.

International Uyghur PEN Club $45,000To promote freedom of expression for Uyghurs. The International Uyghur PEN Club will maintain a website providing information about banned writings and the work and status of persecuted poets, historians, journalists, and others. Uyghur PEN will also conduct international advocacy campaigns on behalf of imprisoned writers.

Uyghur American Association $280,000To raise awareness of Uyghur human rights issues. UAA’s Uyghur Human Rights Project will research, document, and bring to international attention, independent and accurate information about human rights violations affecting the Turkic populations of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.

World Uyghur Congress $185,000To enhance the ability of Uyghur prodemocracy groups and leaders to implement effective human rights and democracy campaigns. The World Uyghur Congress will organize a conference for pro-democracy Uyghur groups and leaders on interethnic issues and conduct advocacy work on Uyghur human rights.

ISIS Conveniently Targets Washington’s Adversaries Worldwide

The next step Washington appears to be taking in China is an attempts to enhance the menace of terrorists in Xinjiang. In addition to assisting US attempts to destabilize territory in China, ISIS has also threatened to launch a campaign against another US enemy – Russia – this in addition to already directly fighting Hezbollah in Lebanon, the governments of Syria and Iraq, and with ISIS claiming to be behind attacks in Egypt against the military-led government that ousted the West’s Muslim Brotherhood proxies.

With both Russia and China now in ISIS’ sights, the global public must begin asking questions as to how and why ISIS just so happens to be arraying itself against all of Washington’s enemies, by-passing all of its allies including Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar, and where exactly they are getting the weapons, cash, intelligence, logistical, and administrative capabilities to do so.

So suspicious is ISIS’ appearance, agenda, and actions, many across the world have long-ago concluded they are simply the latest creation of the US and other Western-aligned intelligence agencies, just as Al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood was before them, So loud has this narrative become, establishment newspapers like the New York Times have begun writing columns to tamp down what they are calling “conspiracy theories.”

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The New York Times would report in a piece titled, Suspicions Run Deep in Iraq That C.I.A. and the Islamic State Are United,” that:

The United States has conducted an escalating campaign of deadly airstrikes against the extremists of the Islamic State for more than a month. But that appears to have done little to tamp down the conspiracy theories still circulating from the streets of Baghdad to the highest levels of Iraqi government that the C.I.A. is secretly behind the same extremists that it is now attacking.

The New York Times dismisses these claims, despite reporting for the past 4 years on the CIA’s presence along the Turkish-Syrian border dumping weapons and cash into the very hotbeds of extremism and terrorism ISIS rose from. Upon closer examination, not only are these claims plausible, they are documented fact.

As far back as 2007, Pulitzer Prize-winning veteran journalist Seymour Hersh would warn of the creation of just such a terror group in his 9-page report in the New Yorker titled, The Redirection Is the Administration’s new policy benefitting our enemies in the war on terrorism? He stated that (emphasis added):

To undermine Iran, which is predominantly Shiite, the Bush Administration has decided, in effect, to reconfigure its priorities in the Middle East. In Lebanon, the Administration has coöperated with Saudi Arabia’s government, which is Sunni, in clandestine operations that are intended to weaken Hezbollah, the Shiite organization that is backed by Iran. The U.S. has also taken part in clandestine operations aimed at Iran and its ally Syria. A by-product of these activities has been the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups that espouse a militant vision of Islam and are hostile to America and sympathetic to Al Qaeda.

That “by-product” is ISIS. It is through America’s own premeditated conspiracy to plunge not only Syria, but the entire region and now potentially Russia and even China into genocidal sectarian bloodshed that gave intentional rise to ISIS. The creation of ISIS and its use as a proxy mercenary force for Western designs is once again revealed in ISIS’ otherwise irrational declaration of war on Russia first, and now China.

America Opens Second Front in Hong Kong

It was in April of 2014 that two co-organizers of the so-called “Occupy Central” protests now ongoing in Hong Kong, would sit in Washington DC giving a talk hosted by the US State Department’s National Endowment for Democracy (NED). There, Martin Lee and Anson Chan set the stage for the impending “Occupy Central” demonstrations, introducing soon-to-be famous “characters” like US-cultivated “activist” Joshua Wong, as well as repeating, verbatim, the agenda, talking points, and slogans now flooding the airwaves and headlines regarding Hong Kong’s unrest.

While the US attempts to peel off Xinjiang province by brute force, it is using a more subtle and insidious method in Hong Kong. During Lee and Chan’s talk in DC earlier this year, a representative from the Council on Foreign Relations would literally proclaim it was hoped that ongoing movements in Hong Kong would “infect” mainland China. Indeed, while militancy and terrorism is being sown in China’s west, sedition, political instability, and social divisions are being cultivated in China’s east.

America’s Long War With China

The adversarial nature of Washington’s posture toward Beijing has become increasingly obvious as tensions are intentionally ratcheted up in the South China Sea between US proxies and mainland China, as well as in Hong Kong. This is simply the latest in a much longer proxy war waged against Beijing since as early as the Vietnam War, with the so-called “Pentagon Papers” released in 1969 revealing the conflict as simply one part of a greater strategy aimed at containing and controlling China. While the US would ultimately lose the Vietnam War and any chance of using the Vietnamese as a proxy force against Beijing, the long war against Beijing would continue elsewhere.

This containment strategy would be updated and detailed in the 2006 Strategic Studies Institute reportString of Pearls: Meeting the Challenge of China’s Rising Power across the Asian Littoral where it outlines China’s efforts to secure its oil lifeline from the Middle East to its shores in the South China Sea as well as means by which the US can maintain American hegemony throughout the Indian and Pacific Ocean. The premise is that, should Western foreign policy fail to entice China into participating in the “international system” as responsible stakeholders, an increasingly confrontational posture must be taken to contain the rising nation.

This includes funding, arming, and backing terrorists and proxy regimes from Africa, across the Middle East, Central Asia, Southeast Asia, and even within China’s territory itself. Documented support of these movements not only include Xinjiang separatists and the leaders of “Occupy Central” in Hong Kong, but also militants and separatists in Baluchistan, Pakistan where the West seeks to disrupt a newly christened Chinese port and pipeline, as well as the machete wielding supporters of Aung San Suu Kyi in Myanmar’s Rakhine state – yet another site the Chinese hope to establish a logistical hub.

It is not a coincidence that ISIS is standing in for and fulfilling America’s deepest imperial aspirations from North Africa, across the Middle East, and now inching toward the borders of the West’s two largest competitors, Russia and China. Nor is it a coincidence that “Occupy Central” protesters are parroting verbatim talking points scripted in Washington earlier this year. It is no coincidence that the US State Department’s NED is found involved in every hotspot of instability and conflict both within China’s borders and beyond them. It is a documented conspiracy that is now increasingly seeing the light truth cast upon it. Whether or not that is enough to end the unnecessary barbarism and bloodshed that has resulted from the West’s hegemonic aspirations remains to be seen.

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Obama’s “Stupid Shit”: Now He’s Bombing Syria

NOVANEWS

by ANDREW LEVINE

Returning from his trip to Asia last April, Barack Obama told reporters aboard Air Force One that the guiding principle of his foreign policy is “don’t do stupid shit.”

Really?  Since Day One he has been doing nothing but.

Future historians will debate how much of this Obama did on his own initiative.  At the very least, he is culpable for opting for continuity, not change.

The dead weight of the past is, of course, a powerful constraint.  But it is not all-powerful.  An audacious leader with the political capital Obama once enjoyed could have gone up against it, and done a lot better.

Instead, Obama chose to work with, rather than clean up, the messes his predecessors had let drop –the mother lode left by Bill Clinton, and the still standing remains of earlier administrations, extending back to even before the days of Henry Kissinger.

And then there was the torrent let loose after 9/11.

This was mainly George Bush and Dick Cheney’s doing, but, for the past six years, it has been Obama’s too.   His first and now second term might as well have been Bush and Cheney’s third and fourth.  Obama also added a few wrinkles of his own; new guys do that.

So far, though, his contributions have been minimal compared to theirs.  Nevertheless, it will fall to Obama, not his predecessors, to reap the havoc they sowed.

So much for the principle “if you break it, you own it.”   Bush and Cheney no longer own their wars; Obama does.

He continued their domestic policies too, especially their assaults on basic rights and liberties.  In some areas – going after investigative reporters, for example, and shielding banksters from prosecution – his administration has been even worse.

But Obama’s foreign policy is in a class by itself.

That it would come to this was plain from the day he announced that Hillary Clinton, the doyenne of stupid shit, would be his Secretary of State.  It didn’t get any better either when we finally got to see the back of her – most likely, only temporarily.

In her place, Obama let loose the likes of John Kerry, Susan Rice and Samantha Power.    They have given Clinton’s inchoate but vaguely neoconservative foreign policy a “humanitarian” patina, making it, if anything, even more pernicious.

“Don’t do stupid shit?”   Obama’s actual principle has been just the opposite.

Had he been a one term President, future generations would probably think first, when his name is mentioned, of that moment in September 2009 when Joe Wilson, an otherwise unremarkable South Carolina Tea Party Republican, shouted out “you lie,” while Obama was addressing a joint session of Congress.

Although the evidence had yet to pour in, Wilson’s outburst was enough on track to mark a revealing contrast with the familiar fable about George Washington and the cherry tree.  Their juxtaposition says something about the moral trajectory of American politics.

But now in his second term, Obama has ratcheted up America’s involvement in the Syrian civil war.  He will therefore more likely be remembered for the stupid shit he did in foreign affairs  – in Syria especially.

*  *  *

In the months preceding Obama’s declaration of principle aboard Air Force One, he actually seemed to be getting better.

Perhaps it was his chronic irresolution shining through.  But at least he did back off from getting the United States more directly involved in Syria.

And though Russia and China were still in his crosshairs, Obama did cause American provocations to taper off.  Perhaps he realized the likely consequences of his meddling in Ukraine, and what he saw frightened him.

An optimist might even have supposed that his intent that day in April was to signal a change of course – towards common sense.

With midterm elections just months away, and the American public sick of endless wars, that would have made sense.  But it didn’t happen.  Change course, he did; but not in a good way.

Was Hillary Clinton’s needling responsible?  In a vain effort to differentiate her foreign policy from Obama’s, she faulted his – i.e. her – timidity in dealing with foreign governments, implying that, when she is fully in charge, she will be even more reckless.  One shudders to think what she has in mind.

As if to preempt her, Obama then took off up shit’s creek, leaving the proverbial paddle at home.  But why would he think it opportune to out-macho Hillary?  The plain fact that there is no good answer is revealing.

In any case, while continuing his on-going wars in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and who knows where else, the Nobel laureate set about on a course in Iraq and Syria that the words “stupid shit” hardly begin to describe.

Ratcheting up the war in Iraq that he had taken credit for winding down is the least of it.

The bigger problem is that he brought Syria into the fold, after all.  He should have known better – not long ago, he did know better — and yet he did it anyway.

There was no “shock and awe” this time, and very little fanfare.  No doubt, his team concluded that it is too close to the November elections for that.  They decided instead to proceed by small increments, Vietnam-style.

That shock and awe is a stupid way to start a Middle Eastern war was conclusively demonstrated in Iraq eleven years ago.  But the way Kennedy and Johnson deployed in Vietnam, death by a thousand escalations, is stupidity on stilts.

There is probably no one in the Pentagon – probably no minimally informed observer anywhere – who thinks that Obama’s bombs will do the Islamic State (IS) in.  Everybody agrees that even to make a start on that, those “boots on the ground” that we have lately been hearing so much about are indispensible.

The boots will come from somewhere where labor is cheap, but where will the soldiers who wear them come from?

This is a complicated question inasmuch as the several constituents of “the coalition of the willing” that Team Obama has cobbled together have different, sometimes incompatible, objectives.

Turkey, for example, is wary of empowering Kurdish militias.  But then who else can Obama get to do the dirty work for him – not that Syrian Kurds, joined by Iraqi Kurds, could do it all in any case.

The plain fact is that there are no proxy armies, adequate to the task, at hand.

Therefore, expect American troops to be on their way again soon.  No matter how often he denies it, Obama knows that this will happen.

He ought to know too that events will then spin out of control, compounding the mess already there many times over.

The state system established by the British and the French after World War I has few virtues, but at least it helped secure regional stability.  It will probably be a casualty of this latest American adventure.

And as regional instability increases, it will be harder to keep the Middle East’s only nuclear power out of the fray, especially inasmuch as Israel is also the Middle East’s most bellicose state and the conflict now goes right up to its borders.

The widespread view there — that the whole world is against them and that they have nothing to lose by throwing their American-sustained and American-enabled weight around — is fast becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Israeli intransigence and brutality are only part of the problem.  Western public opinion is also, finally, taking notice of the injustices Palestinians suffer at Israel’s hands.  In just the past few weeks, Sweden recognized the state of Palestine, and the British parliament passed a (non-binding) resolution to that effect!

Does Obama really want to introduce Israel into his wars in Syria and Iraq?  That would be like throwing a super-flammable liquid into an already raging fire.

And, for that matter, does he really want to encourage the recruitment of yet more “terrorists” — more young men and women willing, even eager, to die as martyrs – by intensifying the murder and mayhem in Syria and Iraq?

It sure looks like he does.  Or is he just not thinking?

* * *

It is natural to assume that people do what they do for a reason; typically, a compelling reason.

And for as long as economics has been a recognized discipline, economists have found it useful – and explanatory – to suppose that economic agents adapt means to ends in the most efficient way possible, given the constraints they face; in other words, that they are rational and therefore that their reasons are rationally compelling.

On some philosophically important accounts, rationality involves more than this, but, on all accounts, it involves at least this much.

Nowadays, means-ends rationality figures in explanations of a wide array of non-economic human activities.  In academic political science, the idea is almost axiomatic.

Needless to say, even the most ardent defenders of rational choice explanations know that people are not always rational.   Rationality often fails; in the extreme, it can fail completely — people sometimes go berserk.

But not, we like to think, in politics; when we reflect on that sphere of human life, the  berserk hypothesis is ruled out.  Instead, rationality is imputed to the people whose behavior one is trying to make sense of, even when it is hard to imagine what they could possibly be thinking.

The working assumption is that there are always reasons, putative justifications, for what people do.  The reasons may be, and often are, defective; people in politics, as elsewhere, can be just plain nuts.  But, even when they are, their actions make sense in light of what their reasons are.

The more powerful a political figure is, the harder this assumption is to dislodge.  It is as if people suppose that the incumbents of political offices must be clever to have gotten where they are, and that the people who land at the top must be very clever indeed.

Of course, everyone knows that there are many ways to come out on top.  Nearly all of them involve brute luck; many of them involve being to the manor born.  People seldom make it on their wits alone.

But there is a will to believe that political leaders know what they are doing, even when an abundance of evidence suggests that they do not.   It is a comforting assumption.  No one wants clueless dullards running the show, especially when means of violence capable of destroying the world a thousand times over are involved.

And so, the belief persists — no matter how stupid or inept or both the people calling the shots actually are.

This is why there is now a frantic search on for explanations for Obama’s latest move into Syria.  No one wants to think that he and his advisors aren’t acting for reasons that they, at least, somehow find compelling.

* * *

Proposed explanations fall into three categories: those that take what Obama and his people say at face value, those that blame forces trying to undo his presidency or otherwise to lead the country astray for political or commercial gain, and those that discern a geopolitical objective behind Obama’s flagrant lapse of common sense.

The word the administration has put out, and that corporate media have bought into, is that the United States had to revive the Iraq War and then to extend it into Syria because there was no other way to fight “terrorism.”

In their view, the IS is the problem; or rather ISIS or ISIL is.  The Obama administration and Hillary Clinton call it by one or another of its older, discarded names because, they say, it is neither Islamic nor a state.

No doubt, Muslims around the world await the judgments of these learned scholars with rapt anticipation.   If only for the sake of consistency, they ought also to declare that Torquemada wasn’t really a Catholic, and that, whatever else Netanyahu may be, he is certainly not a Jew.

However it is called, the IS is currently ensconced in Syria as well as Iraq, and is scoring impressive military victories in both countries.  Because it is zealous, barbaric, and militarily adept, it poses an unprecedented danger.  It must therefore be attacked, degraded and, as far as possible, obliterated.  QED.

George W. Bush would have had America do the job all by itself, if need be.  Obama took pains, like Bush the father, to cobble together a coalition of the willing – though, in this case, it is far from clear how helpful any of the partners he has brought in will be.

On the other hand, Obama didn’t bother even to ask for authorization from any competent international body, or from the United States Congress.   Evidently, with allies in name only signing on for their own reasons, he thinks that he can do without it.  Bombs away!

That this bombing campaign of his is therefore manifestly illegal under international law is of no consequence.  Just as only the little people need obey the law in the Age of Obama – banksters, for example, are exempt and so are most polluters — international law only applies when and where the United States wants it to apply.

This may be reprehensible, but, in view of how awful the IS is, the administration’s there-is-no-alternative rationale for bombing Syria does make sense; or rather it would, but for the plain fact, confirmed countless times, that, in the real world, fighting terrorism militarily, the way America does, makes for more terrorists and terrorism, not less.

Wiser leaders than ours would have realized this even before the evidence began to accumulate.  When the United States, or any foreign power, invades another country and occupies it, there is bound to be resistance.

In most cases, this will not involve army-to-army combat.

Typically, the resistance has no army at all.  Its only resort, therefore, is to launch a protracted and “asymmetrical” war of attrition, a guerilla war – waged not with a view to doing the impossible, defeating the occupier’s forces outright, but to inflicting costs on the occupying power.

This can go on for as long as need be — until war weariness in the aggressors’ home country forces the hostilities to end.  In Afghanistan, it has been going on for nearly fourteen years.

When an occupation is also an intervention into an on-going civil war, it is inevitable that civilian populations and infrastructure will suffer even more egregiously than otherwise, and that terror will become a more than usually commonplace instrument of war.

Add religious zealotry to the mix and the situation becomes more harrowing by orders of magnitude.  Martyrs to a transcendent cause are far more willing than ordinary soldiers – especially, the economic conscripts America puts in harm’s way — to take casualties and to inflict them.

The United States has been fostering militant Islamism ever since Jimmy Carter and Zbigniew Brzezinski decided that it would be a good idea to get the Soviet Union bogged down in Afghanistan.  And at least since the first Bush’s Iraq War in 1991, American military interventions in historically Muslim regions have been stirring the pot.

The process continued on from there; it has finally come to a head with the IS’s conquests of large swathes of Syria and Iraq.

In this sense, the IS was made in the USA.  It is a product of the never-ending violence the United States unleashed in Afghanistan and throughout the Middle East, especially in Iraq and now in Syria as well.

The IS is inspired by and effectively funded by reactionary forces in the Arabian Peninsula.  Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf states are longstanding American allies.  Their ruling elites owe their wealth and their very survival to Uncle Sam.  In this sense, indirectly too, the US made the IS what it is today.

American support for those reactionary Gulf regimes has only grown in the post-9/11 period.  No matter that it was mainly Saudis, not Afghanis and certainly not Iraqis or Syrians, who were involved in 9/11.  The attacks that day unleashed the spirit of revenge – somebody had to pay, even if the actual perpetrators were too important to the empire to be the ones.

Obama knows this.  He may have continued the policies of his predecessors but, unlike them, he inhabits the real world, not the world neoconservatives imagine.

What, then, could he be thinking?

In explaining political behavior, it is always hazardous to make inferences to the best explanation.  Down that road “conspiracy theories” lie.   Of course, some conspiracy theories are true, or partly true.   Most often, though, they are not.

In this case, the best explanation that can be inferred from the available evidence is that Obama et. al. do not want what they call “terrorism” to end; more likely, they want it to continue.

They are certainly doing their level best to augment the supply of ready and willing terrorists.  This is about the only thing, other than death and destruction, that bombing Syria will achieve.

A conspiracy theorist could even identify a motive: that, consistent with his dedication to serving corporate America, Obama wants to keep America’s perpetual war regime flourishing.

It is wise, though, to resist this way of thinking.  It gives Obama and his underlings too                                                                         much credit; they are not that clever.  And there is a more likely explanation available: that Team Obama is in over its head, and is mindlessly flailing about.  Obama and the others may not have gone berserk, but they are hovering close to the line.

* * *

Another possibility is that there are political reasons that Obama and his advisors find compelling, even if they risk disaster by doing so.

There are other examples of this phenomenon: for instance, the administration is courting, indeed inviting, ecological catastrophes by refusing to challenge defenders of the status quo.  Corporate America is the main culprit.   But workers concerned about jobs also keep the government from doing the right thing.

The Obama administration’s lackadaisical attitude towards providing retraining and jobs for workers made worse off because of urgently needed environmental regulations speaks volumes about how willing Obama and his fellow Democrats are to take the line of least resistance – no matter how damaging the consequences.

This penchant of theirs explains Obama’s ceaseless quest for “bipartisanship.”  It almost always fails because Republicans won’t play along.

Apologists for Obama have made a fetish out of this state of affairs.  Their standard excuse is that, no matter how awful this or that Obama misdeed is, Republicans made him do it.

This excuse is so widely invoked that even Obama’s critics, trying desperately to discern a method to his madness, have taken it on board.  Their idea is that but for Republican pressure, the bombers would still be in their hangars, and America would still be less engaged in Syria than it now is.

A less flattering variant of this search for a rationale has it that Obama opportunistically follows public opinion, and is therefore overly susceptible to being influenced by corporate public relations operatives and corporate media.  In other words, the media made him do it.

These views are exaggerated at best.  Obama does let Republicans shape the political agenda; all Democrats do.  But even the GOP’s most militaristic stalwarts didn’t force Obama to embark on this latest phase of the so-called war on terror.

Obama won two elections by rejecting – or rather appearing to reject – Republican warmongering.

And although the case for the media’s untrammeled venality is beyond dispute, the idea that their hyping the IS threat caused Obama to let loose with his bombers strains credulity.  Even if they had the power, which they don’t, they don’t have a plausible incentive.

The claim that media jump at the opportunity to stir up war fever because wars sell papers – or, these days, ads on websites — has been strained at least since the William Randolph Hearst – Citizen Kane era.

Corporate media outlets don’t need to incite overseas wars, especially not unwinnable ones, to peddle their wares.  For that, they have Clooney weddings and Kardashians.

And even if there were money to be made by selling a new bombing campaign in Iraq and Syria, the media are too mindless to think of it, much less to pull it off.   They just go with whatever the political figures they report on say and do.  They are shamefully complicit, but they don’t instigate; they follow.

On the other hand, the IS is able to shape events, not just reflect them.  It knows how to push America’s buttons.

It knows, for example, that beheadings spark fear, loathing and outrage, and that drones, bombs, depleted uranium, and liquid phosphorus do not.  Why?  Because Americans are crazy?  Because they have no sense of proportion?  Maybe.  But, whatever the reason, politicians pick up on this, and the media dutifully follow along.

We are bombing Syria now not because media tycoons want us to or because it somehow benefits their bottom line.  We are doing it because this is what the IS wants us to do.   The IS wants America back in the quagmire; and it knows how to get America’s Commander-in-Chief to bend to its will.

The evidence might even suggest to a conspiracy theorist who cannot imagine that religious fanatics could be smart enough to figure it out on their own, that they have been consulting with Brzezinski or someone similarly devious.

It is certain, in any case, that there is no political advantage, even in the short run, in going down the route Obama has taken.

He wrested the nomination away from Hillary Clinton in 2008 because he could present himself as an opponent of the war in Iraq while she could not.  Unlike her, he had never voted to authorize it, and, ironically, he had once called it “dumb.”

Moreover, at least part of the reason why Obama beat Mitt Romney in 2012 is that he seemed, finally, to be ending that dumb war.   Why would he think that a complete about face would be politically beneficial now?

Obama surely knows that the American public is war weary; and if he forgets, he has plenty of handlers around to remind him.

So what, then, if John McCain and Lindsey Graham do their saber rattling routine, and if a few pundits echo their rants?  In the very recent past, Obama resisted similar pressures; he could easily do so again.

The impending midterm elections can hardly be the cause.  Now that Obama has crossed the line, McCain and Graham are saying that his moves against the IS are too timid to accomplish much of anything.  They may be right.  People who actually know a thing or two about military matters seem, without exception, to agree.

Why then is Obama pulling his punches?   The only plausible explanation is that he fears the political consequences of punching even as much as he already has; he fears that voters will punish Democrats on this account.

If that is not his reason, the only alternative is to concede that he has no reason at all.

It looks increasingly like this is the case.

* * *

The idea that Republicans or media moguls are making him do it is, if anything, even more of a non-starter than the idea that terror can be fought by visiting death and destruction upon Syria and Iraq.  A plausible geopolitical explanation is similarly unlikely.

To be sure, the United States has a history of turning on formerly friendly dictators in the region – Saddam Hussein is the most conspicuous example, Hosni Mubarak is another.  Now that Bashar al-Assad is damaged goods, American planners would no doubt like to replace him too with a more biddable strongman.

Among other things, this would tighten America’s control over world oil supplies by making the semi-feudal rulers of Saudi Arabia and other Gulf States more secure – more invulnerable to popular insurgencies and to pressure from regional powers like Turkey and Iran.

And because America is currently on the lookout for ways to stick it to Russia, Obama has yet another reason to opt now for “regime change” in Syria.   Since Assad is more or less an ally of Vladimir Putin’s, going after him makes sense on that account.

Replacing Assad with someone more compliant would also harm two of America’s – and Israel’s — longstanding enemies in the region, Iran and Hezbollah.

Therefore, one might think that Obama decided to bomb Syria in order to overthrow its government.  This is plausible; for several years now, replacing Assad has been one of America’s stated goals.

But for Obama to justify his bombing campaign against IS targets in Syria and Iraq on these grounds, he would have to abandon either his opposition to the Syrian government or the light of reason itself.

No matter how one tries to square the circle, the facts remain: the IS is by far the greatest threat to Assad’s rule today, and his government, along with Iran and Hezbollah, are America’s best, indeed only, hope for defeating the IS militarily.

Therefore, to degrade the IS’s military capabilities is to strengthen Assad’s hold over Syria, and vice versa.

Attacking the IS to undo Assad therefore makes no sense.  The irrationality is blatant, the policy incoherent.  The Turks know this; it is why, despite their membership in the collation of the willing and despite Obama’s entreaties, they are still holding back.  Why  can’t the Obama administration figure it out?

Obama has to face up to this problem soon, because he cannot remain in denial about the efficacy of his bombs and drones for long.

Over the next few weeks, Obama could well find it impossible to hold off sending in American troops without Assad’s help – and Hezbollah’s and Iran’s too.  With midterm elections just a few weeks off, this is not a happy place for him to be.

And so, we are left with only one conclusion: that unless Obama’s aim really is to keep the war on terror going indefinitely, there is no way to account for what he has lately been doing.  There are no reasons that can justify it.  It doesn’t make sense.

“Don’t do stupid shit” is good advice.  Too bad Obama doesn’t follow it, and worse still that, in defying his own dictum, he goes to such irrational extremes.

Posted in USAComments Off on Obama’s “Stupid Shit”: Now He’s Bombing Syria

Neoliberal Economics Comes to Iran: Why President Rouhani’s “Economic Package” is Empty

NOVANEWS

by ISMAEL HOSSEIN-ZADEH

Tired of the oppressive financial hardship, wrought largely by the imperialist economic war against Iran, the Iranian people elected Hassan Rouhani president (June 2013) as he promised economic revival. He premised his pledge of economic recovery mainly on his alleged ability to bring the brutal sanctions against Iran to an end and integrate the Iranian economy into the world capitalist system. His promise of removing or alleviating sanctions, however, seems to have been based on an optimistic perception that a combination of the so-called charm offensive and far-reaching compromises over Iran’s nuclear technology would suffice to alter the Western powers’ sanctions policy against Iran.

More than a year later, while Iran’s peaceful nuclear technology is reduced from a fairly advanced to a relatively primitive level (from 20% to below 5% uranium enrichment), critical sanctions remain in place and economic recovery remains a dream.

To mitigate the oppressive burden of the so-called stagflation, a combination of stagnation and inflation, the president and his economic team recently crafted an economic package, “Proposed Package to Turn Stagnation to Expansion,” which turns out to be disappointingly devoid of any specific guideline or clear policy for economic recovery. Slightly more than 40% of the package is devoted to a withering criticism of economic policies of the previous (Ahmadinejad’s) administration, which is not only full of factual falsehoods and distortions but is also dubious on theoretical grounds. The rest of the package consists of a series of vague statements and general descriptions that fall way short of a meaningful economic plan or program.

Reading through the package feels like reading through lecture notes of an academic economist on neoclassical/neoliberal macroeconomic theory, not a policy prescription or an economic agenda. Accordingly, the sentences and, indeed, the entire text of the package make use of an exclusively passive voice (which is characteristic of a theoretical narrative, or a self-protective language designed to avoid responsibility for action) instead of an active voice characteristic of a policy agenda to be acted upon. Implicit in the use of the passive voice in the composition of the text of the package is that the subject/agent, or do-er, is market mechanism, not public policy [1].

The purpose of this essay is not to show the emptiness of Mr. Rouhani’s economic package, as this is amply established by many other critics of the package [2]. It is rather to show why it is empty, and why this should not come as a surprise to anyone familiar with his economic outlook or philosophy, as reflected, for example, in his book, National Security and Economic System of Iran (2010).

Neoliberal Economic Outlook

President Rouhani’s economic policy package is devoid of specific development plans or industrialization projects because the president and most of his economic advisors subscribe to an economic doctrine that frowns upon government intervention in economic affairs—unless such interventions help “pave the way” for unfettered market operations. According to this doctrine, called supply-side or neoliberal economics, solutions to economic stagnation, poverty and under-development lie in unhindered market mechanism and unreserved integration into world capitalist system. Recessions, joblessness and economic hardship in many less-developed countries are not so much due to economic mismanagement or the nature of global capitalism as they are because of government intervention and/or exclusion from world capitalist markets.

Neoliberal prescriptions that are portrayed as enabling the less-developed countries to harness “benevolent dynamics” of capitalism include: tax breaks for the wealthy and/or big business; privatization of public sector assets, enterprises and services; undermining labor unions and minimizing workers’ wages and benefits; eliminating or diluting environmental and workplace safety standards; deregulating markets; opening of the domestic market to unrestricted foreign investment/trade; and the like.

The claim that President Rouhani is a proponent of neoliberal economics is no speculation; it follows from his many speeches and statements, from his recently proposed “economic package” to fight stagflation and, as mentioned earlier, from his book, National Security and Economic System of Iran [امنیت ملّی و نظام اقتصادی ایران]. It is also evident from his policy prescriptions.

The president’s book deplores Iran’s “very oppressive” labor laws. It argues that the minimum wage must be slashed and restrictions on the laying off of workers eliminated if Iran’s “owners of capital” are to have the “freedom” to create prosperity. “One of the main challenges that employers and our factories face,” Rouhani writes, “is the existence of labor unions. Workers should be more pliant toward the demands of job-creators” [3].

Mr. Rouhani’s book also sheds important light on the link between his administration’s turn toward Washington and its

ISMAEL

plans to restructure the Iranian economy after the model of neoliberalism:

“There is a close correlation between economic development and political stability, which means maintaining dialogue and friendly relations with the outside world. As stable international relations paves the grounds for economic development, economic development, in turn, makes a country more secure or stable as it makes the country less vulnerable to external threats. Thus, there is a positive correlation, akin to a virtuous cycle, between the goal of economic development and the policy of establishing or maintaining friendly relations with the outside world” [4].

This passage (among many similar statements the president has made on numerous occasions) explains why Mr. Rouhani has made the solution to Iran’s economic problems contingent upon political détente or friendly relations with the United States and its allies. In general, there is of course nothing wrong with the desire to establish friendly relations with the U.S., or any other country for that matter; it could, indeed, be of mutual benefits if it is based on mutual respect for national sovereignty of countries involved. The problem with the Rouhani administration’s pursuit of an amicable relationship with the U.S., however, is that it has tied the urgently needed solutions to Iran’s economic difficulties to that unpredictable and unreliable relationship.

The administration’s misguided perception that the mere establishment of relations with the U.S. would serve as a panacea to Iran’s economic woes has basically made the fate of Iran’s economy hostage to the unforeseeable outcome of its negotiations with the United State and, therefore, hostage to the endless, and increasingly futile, nuclear negotiations with the group of the so-called 5+1 countries, dominated by the United States.

This explains Mr. Rouhani’s dilemma: he has essentially trapped himself into an illusion, the illusion that a combination of charm offensives, smiley faces and diplomatic niceties (in place of Ahmadinejad’s undiplomatic demeanor) would suffice to change imperialist policies toward Iran. In reality, however, the U.S. policy toward Iran (or any other country, for that matter) is based on an agenda, an imperialistic agenda that consists of a series of demands and expectations, not on diplomatic decorum, or the type of language its leaders use.

President Rouhani’s neoliberal economic views are abundantly evident from his occasional statements and speeches on economic policy. For example, in a 16 August 2014 (25 Mordad 1393, Iranian calendar) speech in Tehran, designed to explain his administration’s policies to fight economic stagnation, the president fervently maintained that state intervention in economic affairs is often more detrimental than beneficial, arguing that.> – needs to be paraphrased)ledent ionns inistration’ions wiht is that itmic developmment de world. As economic development can “the state must stay out of economic activities, and place those activities at the disposal of the private sector . . . . The private sector understands the economy much better, and it knows where to invest” [5]. (Incidentally, this statement is uncannily similar to what President Ronald Reagan famously said about the economic role of the government: “The government can help the economy by staying out of it.”)

The neoliberal policies of the Rouhani administration are, however, best reflected in the actual economic measures the administration has adopted. One such measure has been drastic reductions in a number of import duties, or tariffs, including reduction of tariffs on imports that have competitive domestic substitutes. For example, Mr. Mahmoud Sedaqat, vice president of the Association of UPVC Window & Door Profiles Manufacturers, recently complained (during a news briefing in Tehran) that while domestic production capacity of this petrochemical is more than twice as much as domestic needs, the government reduced import tariffs for this product from 30% to 15%. Mr. Sedaqat further pointed out that government’s careless trade policy and a lack of protection for domestic producers has led to an atmosphere of confusion and uncertainty among domestic producers, which is contributing to further aggravation of the ongoing economic stagnation [6].

Another example of the neoliberal policies of the Rouhani administration is its policy of fighting inflation. According to the president and his economic advisors, government spending and/or excessive money supply are the major cause for the hyperinflation in Iran. This view of inflation is based on the notorious IMF diagnosis for the plague of inflation not only in Iran but almost everywhere in the world. The essence of this approach to inflation, which is part of the IMF’s so-called “Structural Adjustment Program,” can be summarized as follows: (1) excessive government spending contributes to the growth of money supply; (2) growth of money supply automatically leads to inflation; and (3) to control inflation, therefore, requires rolling back government spending, or implementing austerity measures.

Real economic world is of course very different from this purely academic, nearly mechanical, correlation. An often-cited case in this context is the German experience of the immediate post-WW II period. Evidence shows that while the volume of cash and demand deposits rose 2.4 times and the volume of bank loans, both short and long term, rose more than ten-fold in the 1948-54 period, this significant rise in liquidity not only did not lead to a rise in the level of prices but it was, in fact, accompanied by a decline in the general level of prices—the consumer price index declined from 112 to 110 during that period. Why? Because the increase in liquidity was accompanied by an even bigger increase in output. While anecdotal, this experience nonetheless shows that, if or when used productively, a large money supply does not automatically lead to high inflation.

While it is true that, under certain circumstances, excess liquidity can be inflationary, I also strongly suspect that the inflationary role of liquidity is often exaggerated in order to justify and implement the anti-welfare, neoliberal policies of economic austerity. To the extent that curtailment of social spending may lead to curtailment of inflation, it also leads to curtailment of employment, purchasing power, demand and, therefore, economic growth, i.e. to stagnation—a side effect which is much worse than the plague of inflation. This explains, at least in part, the failure of the Rouhani administration’s neoliberal fight against inflation: not only has it not curtailed inflation, it has also aggravated stagnation by cutting social spending and undermining demand.

Like their neoliberal counterparts elsewhere, Iranian neoliberals view government spending as a cost that must be minimized. In reality, however, judicious government spending (whether on soft/social infrastructure such as education, health and nutrition or on physical infrastructure such as transportation and communication projects) is an investment in the long-term development of a society, not a cost. It is not surprising, then, that the IMF-sponsored curtailment of government spending in pursuit of lowering inflation has often led to economic stagnation and underdevelopment.

One of the first victims of the neoliberal economic policies of the Rouhani administration was the government-sponsored housing project that was put in place by the previous administration in order to make home-ownership affordable to working and low-income classes. CalledMaskan-e Mehr (Goodwill Housing), not only did it allow 4.4 million low-income families to become homeowners, it also significantly contributed to economic growth and employment. Despite its success, the Rouhani administration has decided to discontinue the project.

Class Interests as Economic Theory

Neoliberalism is essentially an ideology or doctrine that is designed to promote and/or justify policies of economic austerity, thereby serving the interests of the plutocratic 1% at the expense of the overwhelming majority of citizens. This is accomplished through an ad-hoc, utilitarian economic theory that postulates that unhindered market mechanism and unrestricted pursuit of self-interest lead to economic expansion and prosperity for all, that state-sponsored social safety-net programs are “burdens” or “costly trade-offs” in terms of lost productivity and that, therefore, government intervention in economic affairs must be avoided.

This neoliberal ideology is promoted and propagated so effectively that it has evolved, more or less, as a religion, market religion—or as Alex Andrews of The Guardian newspaper puts it, “the market a god and economics a form of theology.” Indeed, the faith in market mechanism is more akin to blind cultism than rational belief of intelligent people in otherworldly religion. Viewing market mechanism as almost infallible and blaming capitalism’s systemic failures on the “irrational behavior of market players” is tantamount to some simplistic interpretations of religion that attribute humans’ misfortunes or miseries to their deviations from God’s ways; that is, in the same way that humans’ “sinful” deeds are said to condemn them to a wretched Otherworld, economic agents’ deviations from market rules are believed to lead to economic crises that would doom them to financial misery in this world.

Cleverly, this theory is called supply-side economics, implying that economic policy makers should not or need not concern themselves with the demand-side of the economy, that is, with the purchasing power or the ability of the people to buy or demand. Instead, if policy makers only focused on the production side of the economy and created conditions favorable to expanded growth or a bigger supply, the resulting “trickle-down” effects would automatically benefit the demand-side of the economy. And what are those favorable conditions? They include market deregulations, lax labor and environmental standards, supply-side tax breaks, minimizing wages and benefits, removal of restrictions on international capital flows, long hours and subjection of labor to strict management discipline, denial of trade union rights and suppression of workers’ political actions, and the like.

The division or dichotomy between supply-side and demand-side of an economy is, however, a scam: an artificial, utilitarian and arbitrary division that is crafted largely on abstract theoretical grounds, and for ideological reasons. A real world economy is a totality where supply and demand are two sides of the same coin, meaning that the two sides need to be dealt with simultaneously. For example, the need for health care coverage, the critical necessity of public education, or social safety need programs such as provision of subsistence nutrition for the needy cannot be neglected or put on the backburner in the hope of some illusory effects of “trickle-down” economics. Supply side is a façade, a misleading or obfuscationist theory that is designed to camouflage the neoliberal philosophy of social Darwinism.

The experience of the IMF-sponsored “structural adjustment programs” in many “developing” countries around the world shows that curtailing critical social spending in the name of boosting the supply-side of the economy is a counterproductive policy that tends to undermine long-term growth and development by cutting vital investment in both social and physical infrastructures. This can also be seen, even more clearly, in the context of the crisis-ridden core capitalist countries since the 2008 financial collapse, where extensive neoliberal austerity cuts have resulted in widespread misery and escalating inequality without reviving the stagnant economies of these countries.

While the supply-side doctrine has a long history (going back all the way to the classical economist Jean-Baptiste Say, 1767-1832, who famously expressed the doctrine as: “supply creates its own demand”), its latest revival started in the late 1970s and early 1980s in the U.S. and U.K., which brought forth two of its most effective propagandists: Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher. It has since been systematically entrenched not only in the core capitalist countries but also in many less-developed countries, including Iran.

In Iran, the turn to neoliberal economics started under the presidency of Hashemi Rafsanjani. It was somewhat contained under the presidency of Mahmud Ahmadinejad (although he too had his share of extensive privatizations); but with the election of President Rouhani it is once again gathering speed—Rouhani is basically picking up where Rafsanjani left off.

To point out that President Rouhani and most of his economic advisors are advocates of neoliberal economics is not to say that they lack compassion, or that they do not care about the lot of the working and needy classes. It is rather to point out that their policy prescription to remedy the financial distress that plagues the overwhelming majority of the Iranian people is misguided. It rests upon the idea of capitalism as a benign sphere of human activity where innovating entrepreneurs generate wealth to such an extent that some of it is bound to “trickle-down” to the population at large.

It is necessary to point out here that trickle-down theory may have had some validity in the earlier (industrial or manufacturing) stages of capitalism where the rise in the wealth of nations also meant expanded (real) production and the rise in employment. However, in the era of heavily financialized economies, where the dominant form of capitalist wealth comes not so much from real production of goods and services as it does from asset price inflations, that is, from financial bubbles, trickle-down theory has lost whatever minimal validity it may have had at earlier phases of capitalism.

Illusion and Misconceptions

President Rouhani and his economic advisors’ perceptions that the solution to Iran’s economic problems lies in an unrestrained integration into world capitalism and a wholesale privatization of the Iranian economy is overly optimistic. Abundant and irrefutable evidence shows that, during the past several decades, neoliberalism’s dismantlement of socialist, social-democratic and other welfare state economies across the world has invariably led to drastic declines in employment, wages and living standards of the overwhelming majority of the people, thereby further aggravating poverty and inequality on a global level. In many “developing” countries that are integrated into globalized neoliberal capitalism, the living conditions of the majority of their citizens have, in fact, deteriorated. To the extent that workers can find employment, they are often paid poverty wages; and they are increasingly forced to hold several jobs, often detrimental to their health and family life. As Ben Selwyn (among many others) has pointed out:

“The contemporary world has unprecedented wealth, and mass poverty. Total global wealth was $241 trillion in 2013 and is expected to rise to $334 trillion by 2018. Yet the majority of people live in poverty. The World Bank and its defenders argue that global poverty has declined under neoliberalism. They can only make these arguments because the World Bank defines the poverty line as $1.25 a day, below which it is impossible to lead a dignified life. . . . Lant Pritchett, a critical World Bank economist, suggests a more humane $10 a day poverty line; according to his calculations, 88% of the world population lives in poverty [7].

Summarizing his study of the relationship between globalization of neoliberalism and its impact on the living conditions of the worldwide masses of citizens, Selwyn concludes: “Far from a ladder of opportunity, workers in globalized production networks are incorporated into economic systems that reproduce their poverty to sustain corporation profits” [8].

Contrary to claims of neoliberalism, major economic developments, critical infrastructural projects and significant industrialization achievements under capitalism have been made possible either directly by the public sector or by the state support for the private sector. For example, in the aftermath of the Great Depression and WW II, most European countries embarked on extensive state-sponsored industrialization and/or development projects under social-democratic, labor or socialist governments, not so much to bring about “genuine” socialism as it was to rebuild the war-torn European economies by mobilizing and pulling together national resources and funneling them toward development projects. Similar policies were successfully carried out in other major capitalist countries such as the U.S., Canada, Japan, Australia and South Korea.

In Iran too most industrialization projects and infrastructural developments since the 1979 revolution have taken place under direct or supervisory role of the state—when the country relied on its domestic talents, resources, and capabilities in pursuit of self-reliance in the face of hostile imperialist powers and their cruel economic sanctions. Such developments were brought about even under the highly inauspicious conditions of the war, the 8-year war with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, and brutal economic sanctions. By contrast, extensive privatizations and systematic spread of neoliberal capitalism of recent years, especially since the election of President Rouhani, has basically meant stagnation of the real sector and development of speculative, parasitic or financial sector of the economy.

Evidence shows that, at the early or formative stages of their development, all the presently industrialized countries vigorously carried out policies of export promotion and import substitution; that is, policies that protected their “infant industries” against the more competitive foreign exporters while promoting their own exports abroad. For example, Britain’s adoption of mercantilist and/or protectionist policies of economic development in the early stages of its industrialization, which erected prohibitive tariffs against the then more competitive Dutch exporters, played a significant role in nurturing the country’s manufacturers to excel in global markets.

Likewise, the United States pursued vigorous policies of protecting its “infant industries” against the more productive European exporters until the early to mid-twentieth century, when its producers became competitive in global markets. Similar protectionist policies were followed by Japan, South Korea and other core capitalist countries in the formative phases of their industrialization and development [9].

Thus, the neoliberal outlook of President Rouhani (and most of his economic advisors) that ties solutions to Iran’s economic difficulties to integration of the country’s economy into global capitalism and further curtailment of the economic role of the government is far from warranted; it is, indeed, contradicted by development experiences of most countries around the world.

Ismael Hossein-zadeh is Professor Emeritus of Economics (Drake University). He is the author of Beyond Mainstream Explanations of the Financial Crisis (Routledge 2014), The Political Economy of U.S. Militarism (Palgrave–Macmillan 2007), and the Soviet Non-capitalist Development: The Case of Nasser’s Egypt (Praeger Publishers 1989). He is also a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press 2012).

References

[1] The Farsi title of the proposed package is: “بسته پیشنهادی دولت برای شکستن رکود و رونق اقتصادی,” and it is available online at: < http://mehrnews.com/detail/news/2331200>.

[2] For a sample of critical reviews of the Rouhani administration’s proposed economic package see (1) Ahmad Tavakoli and Elias Naderan, “مدل بسته خروج از رکود نسخه شکست خورده صندوق بین‌اللملی پول است,” in: < http://www.siasatrooz.ir/vdcefe8v.jh8vvi9bbj.html>; (2) Farshad Moumeni, “نقدهای هشدار آمیز فرشاد مومنی به بسته خروج از رکود دولت,” in <http://www.rajanews.com/detail.asp?id=207214>; (3) Raja News, “رویکرد نادرست دولت در گره زدن معیشت مردم با رفع تحریم‌ها,” in: http://www.rajanews.com/detail.asp?id=194863; (4) Hossein Shamsyan, “بسته پوسیده,” in: <http://kayhan.ir/fa/news/20766/%D8%A8%D8%B3%D8%AA%D9%87-%D9%BE%D9%88%D8%B3%DB%8C%D8%AF%D9%87-%DB%8C%D8%A7%D8%AF%D8%AF%D8%A7%D8%B4%D8%AA-%D8%B1%D9%88%D8%B2>.

[3] As excerpted by Keith Jones, “Iranian president declares country ‘open for business’,” in <http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2014/01/27/iran-j27.html>.

[4] (Paraphrased) translation by the author from the abstract/introduction to the first edition of President Rouhani’s book,National Security and Economic System of Iran [امنیت ملّی و نظام اقتصادی ایران] (2010).

[5] “Rouhani Explains Anti-Stagnation Economic Policies,” available at: <http://www.farsnews.com/newstext.php?nn=13930519000461>.

[6] Mahmood Sedaqat, “کاهش تعرفه پروفیل «یوپی‌وی‌سی» ضربه دولت به تولید داخلی است,” Kayhan, Mordad 25, 1393 (August 16, 2014).

[7] Ben Selwyn, “Global Poverty and Neoliberalism: Development by the Elites, For the Elites,” <http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/03/07/development-by-the-elites-for-the-elites/>.

[8] Ibid.

[9] For an illuminating discussion of the impact of trade on development see Professor Michael Hudson’s Trade, Development and Foreign Debt, Pluto Press 1993.

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Ebola, Capitalism and the Idea of Society: The Plague of For-Profit Health Care

NOVANEWS


by ROB URIE

Thomas Duncan didn’t have health insurance when he entered Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital with Ebola. The hospital claims that he was initially turned away because important information about his condition didn’t find its way to the admitting physician. Without specific knowledge that he had Ebola a temperature of 103C didn’t require the hospital to admit him. With the two days it took the hospital to confirm Ebola on his return visit, Mr. Duncan risked hospital bills in the tens of thousands of dollars that he reportedly didn’t have. The hospital ‘risked’ providing expensive treatment to a man who likely couldn’t have paid for it.

Missing from this ‘process’ that now finds Mr. Duncan dead, two nurses who attended him with Ebola themselves, the American health care system revealed as wholly unprepared to deal with what at present seems a moderately communicable disease, is any notion of a public interest.  This can be seen internationally as well with the U.S. sending soldiers to West Africa while Cuba has sent a large contingent of emergency health care workers. The difference is fundamental: Cuba sees both public purpose and moral imperative to help those stricken with Ebola and the U.S. sees a threat to profits at ‘home’ and a military exercise to ‘contain’ the spread of Ebola abroad.

urieebola1

Chart (1) above: what could have and should have been a quickly contained outbreak of Ebola through response by health care workers from rich countries was instead militarized and ignored. From the CIA using fake tuberculosis screening as a premise to gain intelligence to the history of ‘humanitarian’ interventions that slaughtered thousands to illicit pharmaceutical testing and dumping by Western drug manufacturers the nations of Africa have every reason to mistrust Western intentions there. This written, the only response that the U.S. apparently could muster was to send troops to ‘contain’ the crisis. Anyone with knowledge of Western imperial history in Africa should cringe at what the word ‘contain’ might be a euphemism for.  Source: WHO

At the more fundamental level the far ‘poorer’ Cuba sees health care and education as human rights for its citizens and for those of other countries. Despite claims of capitalist ‘efficiency,’ the U.S. has the worst health care outcomes among ‘developed’ countries at a price of twice or more per person.  Illustrated in the Texas case is the radical inefficiency of a health care system whose public purpose is subverted by the profit motive. With a fever of 103C Mr. Duncan was turned away but shitting and vomiting himself he was admitted. And lest this remain unclear, it isn’t until a clear emergency can be claimed that hospitals in the U.S. are mandated to provide treatment.

Even in capitalist economics the distinction was long ago made between ‘public’ goods that have social value, but that businesses are unwilling to provide, and ‘private’ goods whose production is best left to capitalists. This public / private frame had political leaders in the U.S. supporting public health programs paid for by the federal government, publicly funded schools and the building of the infrastructure that ultimately supported the ‘private’ economy and private profits. Whereas many of the ‘contracts’ for public programs went to private contractors, their historic purpose was public service and this was the measure of their success.

urieebola2

Graph (2) above: in the U.S. ‘private’ railroads were built with land grants (‘free’ land) from the federal government. Setting aside for the moment the goal of genocide against the indigenous population that was part of their motivation, by the end of the nineteenth century the accumulated fortunes of the railroad ‘barons’ were put forward as the bounty produced by capitalism.  Today many of the drugs being sold by ‘private’ health care companies were developed in government labs at public expense. And much of the health care infrastructure being increasingly privatized was developed either wholly or partially at public expense. Source:http://users.humboldt.edu/ogayle/hist383/CentralPacific.html

Beginning in the 1970s under Democrat Jimmy Carter what had formerly been considered quasi-public goods like transportation infrastructure was privatized under the theory that the capitalist profit motive produced more ‘efficient’ outcomes. With airlines and railroads heavily unionized at the time the major component of this ‘efficiency’ came through breaking organized labor and driving wages down. However, even in capitalist economics shifting wages to capitalists as profits is only ‘efficient’ if the increase in profits is greater than the wages lost.

What was lost in this shift was the sense of a public interest. The idea had always depended on dubious circumscription— class; race and imperial interests had left most of the world and much of the U.S. on the outside. What happened was that the private interest consumed the public interest. The railroads had been built through federal land grants and airlines flew mandatory routes to serve both public and private interests. By the 1970s the private fortunes built on this ‘partnership’ decided they wanted it all for themselves. That a Democrat President (Jimmy Carter) was behind the shift to the private takeover of the public realm ties Mr. Carter to Bill Clinton and Barack Obama as effective proponents of the neo-liberal program.

To tie this back to Cuba and the human rights view of health care and education, there was and remains no capitalist class in Cuba to subvert the public interest. The U.S. had public and private interests and the private interest consumed the public interest. Public health care and educational infrastructure were ‘public’ and served public purposes. Through privatization this public purpose has been subverted. As with the railroads and airlines, their public-private conception and the public-private resources that built them were simply taken by capitalists through privatization.

The idea that the profit motive produces ‘efficient’ outcomes in the public realm depends on redefining it. ‘Private’ drug companies didn’t develop an Ebola vaccine because doing so wasn’t estimated to be profitable. What state of the world must exist for such a vaccine to be profitable? An Ebola pandemic would provide the needed ‘customers’ to make it profitable. Stopping an epidemic and preventing it from becoming a pandemic is costly for ‘private’ interests with few profit opportunities from the direct ‘customers.’ But as was understood and inconveniently forgotten decades ago, what is ‘inefficient’ as capitalist enterprise is often astonishingly efficient as public policy.

Ebola has the public imagination because it is deadly and a horrific way to die. However, left out of press reports are the preventable and curable medical conditions that poor people face every day that go untreated. And what ‘Obamacare’ reinforced is the private takeover of the public interest for private gain.

Obamacare proceeds from the premise that health care exists to serve private interests by subsidizing ‘customers’ of private health care providers. Persons with health insurance who contract a communicable disease are forced into the ‘personal’ (‘private’) calculus of whether they can afford the insurance co-pays and deductibles of getting health care. And as ‘businesses’ health care providers calculate how to provide the most profitable health care, not the best. With stopping the spread of communicable diseases in the public interest, the profit ‘motive’ that in theory supports capitalist efficiency is the antithesis of social efficiency in the public realm.

The shift from public to private interests in the West isn’t an accident of history. It comes through bi-partisan support for the crudely ideological capitalism that re-emerged through the conflation of public and private interests. And in fact, this conflation has it perfectly backwards— private interests never served the public interest but private interests owe everything to this public interest from land grants to government research given / sold to ‘private’ corporations to bank bailouts. As Albert Camus had it in his book ‘The Plague,’ perhaps a modern plague will be the road back from the Western nation-states of the ‘self.’ But why should it come to that?

The poor and beleaguered nation of Cuba has maintained the social and moral bearing that places the public interest above private interests. Outside of the implausibility of Western ‘profits’ capitalism is the antithesis of the public interest and must be gotten rid of. Health care profiteers have taken the public interest and put it into their own pockets. And for-profit health care is a plague every day for the people who don’t get health care because they can’t afford it.

Posted in Africa, HealthComments Off on Ebola, Capitalism and the Idea of Society: The Plague of For-Profit Health Care

A Caliph in a Wilderness of Mirrors: Married to the Mob

NOVANEWS

by PEPE ESCOBAR

I’m aiming at you, lover
Cause killing you is killing myself 

– Orson Welles (director), The Lady from Shanghai,1947

He’s invincible. He beheads. He smuggles. He conquers. He’s the ultimate jack-of-all-trades. No Tomahawk or Hellfire can touch him. He always gets what he wants; in Kobani; in Anbar province; with the House of Saud (which he wants to replace) trying to make Putin (who he wants to behead) suffer because of low oil prices.

If this was a remake of Orson Welles’s noir classic The Lady from Shanghai, in the mirror sequence the lawyer (American?) and the femme fatale (Shi’ite?) would also get killed; but The Caliph of Islamic State would survive as a larger than life Welles, free to roam, plunder and “give my love to the sunrise” – as in a Brave Caliphate World shining in “Syraq” over the ashes of the Sykes-Picot agreement.

He’s winning big in Iraq’s Anbar province. The Caliph’s goons are now closing in on – of all places – Abu Ghraib; Dubya, Dick and Rummy’s former Torture Central. They are at a mere 12 kilometers away from Baghdad International. A shoulder-launched surface-to-air missile (or MANPAD) away from downing a passenger jet. Certainly not an Emirates flight – after all these are trusted sponsors.

Hit, in Anbar province, is now Caliph territory. The police forces and the province’s operational command have lost almost complete control of Ramadi. The Caliph now controls the crucial axis formed by Hit, Ramadi, Fallujah; Highway 1 between Baghdad and the Jordanian border; and Highway 12 between Baghdad and the Syrian border.

The Caliph’s goons are no less than taking over the whole, notorious Baghdad belt, the previous “triangle of death” in those hardcore days of American occupation circa 2004. Message to Donald Rumsfeld: remember your “remnants”? They’re back. And they’re in charge.

Both Ramadi and Fallujah have been reduced to an accumulation of bombed-out schools, hospitals, homes, mosques and bridges. Residential streets are virtually deserted. According to the United Nations, there are a least 360,803 internally displaced persons in Anbar, as well as 115,000 others in areas under The Caliph’s control. At least 63% of the 1.6 million people living in the province are classified as “in need” – with hair-raising minimal access to water, food and health care, and receiving little to absolutely zero humanitarian support from that fiction, the “international community.” US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power is not screaming her lungs out for R2P (“responsibility to protect”).

How could the Pentagon’s spectacular Full Spectrum Dominance possibly not see any of this happening? Of course they see it. But they don’t give a damn. The Pentagon occasionally uses AH-64 Apache helicopters to attack some of The Caliph’s goons in Ramadi and Hit. But Apaches can be easily hit with MANPADS. They are stationed at Baghdad International and their only mission is to protect the airport. Who cares about local, civilian “collateral damage”?

Married to the Mob

In Kobani, the former third-biggest town in Syrian Kurdistan, in the far northeast, The Caliph also wins big. Another biblical exodus has reached 300,000 refugees – and counting, with over 180,000 headed to Turkey.

The Caliph counts on indirect help from The Sultan (or alternate Caliph), aka Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan. Tehran is – rightfully – furious, as it sees the “West” – and Turkey – betraying the Kurds all over again. It’s no secret Sultan Erdogan is doing nothing because he wants to screw the guerrillas of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Syrian-Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD); let them die instead of repelling The Caliph and then be strong enough to threaten Turkish domination of those huge, essentially Kurdish patches of Anatolia. Thus the only thing Sultan Erdogan does support is aimless bombing by the Pentagon cum coalition of the clueless-cowards.

Anybody who believes the US Central Command’s spin that House of Saud and United Arab Emirates fighter jets conduct “bombing raids” on the outskirts of Kobani gets a one-way ticket to Oz. Imagine these clowns being able to deploy precision-guided bombs or trained laser spotters. To start with, the Pentagon has zero local intel – as in zero operatives able to paint lasers on targets. Thus the “coalition” can barely hit the odd tank (out of 25 around Kobani) or Humvee out of 2,000 crammed in a valley for almost two weeks now.

But the “coalition” certainly is able – miraculously! – to hit Syrian state infrastructure, as in energy installations. In June, the official Pentagon excuse was, “We don’t have any drone assets in Iraq.” Now there’s no excuse for drones which can read a “Smoking Kills!” warning in a packet of Marlboros not hitting The Caliph’s assets in Kobani – or in Anbar province for that matter. So it’s down to a mix of incompetence and neglect. It was so much easier to hit Pashtun wedding parties in the Waziristans. Especially because no one was paying attention.

Erdogan’s own goons, meanwhile, have instituted a curfew on all major towns and cities in southeast Anatolia, and are even gunning down peaceful Kurdish protesters. Fifteen million Kurds in Anatolia cannot be wrong; Erdogan wants Kobani to fall. Ankara remains for all practical purposes the top logistical hub for The Caliph’s goons. The Sultan is using The Caliph as a proxy army to smash the Kurds.

Terminal evidence has been offered by the leader of the Kurdish PYD, Salih Muslim, meeting Turkish military intel and asking for help. Conditions: abandon any hope of self-determination for Syrian Kurds; give up all your self-governing towns and regions; and watch as we install a Turkish “buffer”/no-fly zone inside Syrian territory.

Don’t expect the Obama “Don’t Do Stupid Stuff/We Have No Strategy” administration to sentence, “Erdogan must go”. Besides, the pathetic club of National Security Advisor Susan Rice and her deputy Ben Rhodes has no clue about what’s goin’ on.

To the Green Zone!

Tehran, for its part, has clearly identified Erdogan’s nasty game. The Sultan knows monster B1-B bombers flying over Kobani are absolutely useless – while The Caliph’s goons deploy massive car bombs and keep advancing. “Boots on the ground” will be needed. Enter NATO asset Turkey. But with one condition: regime change in Damascus, or at least a prelude, via that “buffer”/no-fly zone over Syria.

The Big Picture remains the same. Sultan Erdogan and the House of Saud want regime change in Damascus (Erdogan dreams of a Sunni puppet as a vassal of Ankara; the Saudis want their own Wahhabi schemer). Israel merrily agrees. And if that comes with a bonus – attacking the new Iraqi government, still supported by Iran, in the American-made Green Zone – even better. The lowdown: “Don’t Do Stupid Stuff” translates as the Gulf Cooperation Council, Turkey and Israel using Washington to advance their quite explicit agenda.

Sultan Erdogan, as a Mob boss, does seem to heave learned a thing or two from watching Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas. He’s extracting the maximum pound of flesh from the bewildered “Don’t do Stupid Stuff” team. The Sultan is boldly aiming at Turkish boots on the ground gloriously invading Syria in NATO “humanitarian intervention” mode. And all this sold as NATO offering “protection” to a member-nation. NATO’s new secretary-general, former Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, has just been to Ankara. Saudi Arabia has already “voted” out loud for the “buffer”/no-fly zone. Same for General Francois Hollande, that pitiful excuse for President of France.

Once again, it’s Tehran to the rescue. The Foreign Ministry has duly announced Iran is ready to liberate Kobani from The Caliph’s goons (and they can do it) if Bashar Al-Assad says the word. Now that’s how you work the chessboard; NATO is left with zero excuses to mount an invasion of Syria, whatever Mob Boss Erdogan comes up with.

Operation Hands Off My Toyota

The Caliph also wins big in the “bleeding the Pentagon” department. A single US “strike” against his goons – involving F-15s, F-16s or F-22s – costs up to US$500,000. The Pentagon has just revealed it has spent no less than $1.1 billion against The Caliph since June.

What for? Virtually all the assets being destroyed by American bombing are made in the USA, deployed to the Iraqi army and then duly captured during The Caliph’s offensive. So here we have the Empire of Chaos spending a fortune from the US Treasury to smash tanks, Humvees and other gear already paid for by American taxpayers. No wonder taxpayers are fuming. Thus Operation Hands off My Toyota.

Additionally, the Pentagon does not have a clue on how to build its Obama-designed proxy “rebel” force to fight The Caliph (with no US soldiers or marines; only fanatic Wahhabis and assorted mercenaries).

To start with, they have no clue who the hell qualifies as a “moderate rebel”. The rabble must be “vetted” – and then sent to, of all places, Saudi Arabia for training. There the guy in charge will be – who else – a Special Ops honcho, Major General Michael Nagata. Even under the most optimistic scenario, the Pentagon won’t have its proxy “moderate rebel” army on the ground in Syria before the summer of 2015.

Hefty bottles of Chateau Margaux can be bet that all this prime US weaponized know how will ultimately end up captured by The Caliph’s goons. Same applies to reliable “rebel” intel on the ground.

But the real Dadaist masterpiece is that first these “rebels” will be politely asked by the Pentagon to forget about getting rid of Assad to fight The Caliph. At least for a while. Re-enter Stoltenberg, the new NATO head: “Next year, at the ministerial meeting, we will take decisions regarding the so-called spearhead but, even before it is established, NATO has a strong army after all. We can deploy it wherever we want to.” OK, tough guy; why not “Syraq”?

If this all sounds like a plot straight out of hit series Blacklist, that’s because it is. Why not get Red (James Spader) to fight The Caliph? And then again, what if Red is The Caliph? He pretends to fight himself – and he wins, handsomely. Back to Welles’ The Lady from Shanghai: “Killing you is killing myself”. Yet nobody could possibly want The Caliph dead when he’s such a smashing, undisputed box-office success.

Posted in Middle EastComments Off on A Caliph in a Wilderness of Mirrors: Married to the Mob

The World’s Richest Man Tries to Defend Income Inequality: Trickle-Down Bill Gates-Style

NOVANEWS

by DEAN BAKER

review of French economist Thomas Piketty’s best-selling book “Capital in the 21st Century” by the world’s richest man is too delicious to ignore. The main takeaway from Piketty’s book, of course, is that we need to worry about the growing concentration of capital, in which people like Microsoft co-founder turned megaphilanthropist Bill Gates and his children will control the bulk of society’s wealth. Gates, however, doesn’t quite see it this way.

From his evidence, he actually has a good case. If the issue is the superrich passing their wealth to their children, who will become the next generation’s superrich, he is right to point out that the biographies of the Fortune 400 — the richest 400 Americans — don’t seem to support this concern. We find many people like Gates, who started life as the merely wealthy (his father was a prosperous corporate lawyer), who parlayed their advantages in life into enormous fortunes. The ones who inherited their vast wealth are the exception, not the rule.

Gates tells readers of his plans to give away the bulk of his fortune. His children will have to get by with the advantages that accrue to the children of the ultrarich, along with whatever fraction of his estate he opts to give them. That will undoubtedly ensure that Gates’ kids enjoy a far more comfortable life than the bottom 99 percent can expect, but it likely will not guarantee a place among the Fortune 400.

As he points out, many of his fellow billionaires feel the same way about passing on their wealth. This means that we may not need to fear the perpetuation of great fortunes through generations as Piketty warns.

However, this doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t fear rising inequality. Gates gives us a textbook example of the problems. While he is undoubtedly smart and hardworking, the key to his incredible wealth was the decision by the Justice Department largely to ignore antitrust law. Gates used classic anti-competitive practices to gain and protect a near monopoly in the market for personal computer operating systems.

When the Justice Department finally brought suit in 1998, Bill Gates and the Microsoft team were so arrogant and dishonest that they managed to turn the presiding judge, an appointee of President Ronald Reagan, into an enemy. An appellate court later removed him from the case for bias.

While Gates wants us to believe that his software innovations were a great service to the world, most users of his software would probably not agree. His efforts to corner the market may have made him rich, but they slowed down the process of software development.

Bill Gates further defends wealth inequality by pointing out his philanthropy. Interestingly, the philanthropy that he says makes the situation better could actually make it worse.

Unfortunately, he is not the only one who got rich largely at the expense of the economy and society. The Fortune 400 is full of Wall Street investment bankers who make their money by trading a few minutes or milliseconds ahead of everyone else. This means that they pocket profits that otherwise might have gone to long-term investors. And of course, the Wall Street gang also includes those who made money on the mortgage-backed securities that nearly destroyed the world economy in 2008.

The fortune of the Walton family — Walmart’s largest shareholders and heirs to the wealth the company created — came in large part from being able to hire supercheap labor both in the United States and the rest of the world. Suppose that we had full employment policies that gave people a choice of jobs or that workers’ right to unionize was taken more seriously by legislators and courts. It’s unlikely that many workers would have then opted for low pay and few benefits as a Walmart “associate.”

And then there is Jeff Bezos, who made Amazon into one of the largest companies in the world in large part by avoiding state sales taxes.

To be sure, there are people in the Fortune 400 who had great innovations that provided a genuine service to humanity, but they are the exception. As the old saying goes, behind every great fortune lies a great crime.

Gates further defends wealth inequality by pointing out his philanthropy. Interestingly, the philanthropy that he says makes the situation better could actually make it worse.

Take patent monopolies, one of the largest distortions in the market today. Each year they redistribute hundreds of billions of dollars upward while making lifesaving drugs very expensive. (Think of the hepatitis C drug Sovaldi, which is being sold for $84,000 for a 12-week course of treatment. The generic version sells for $900.)

A program officer at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation once told me in unambiguous terms that people there don’t talk about patents. When I expressed surprise, she explained the reason was the nature of its founder’s fortune.

Bill Gates may do much to make drugs available to the developing world. But if his foundation obstructs the development of more efficient mechanisms than patents for financing drug research, he may well end up making the situation worse rather than better. After all, it’s nice that he is making it easier for poor people to get expensive drugs, but the real problem is that the drugs are expensive in the first place. That would not be the case without patent protection.

While philanthropy may prevent the direct inheritance of most multibillion-dollar fortunes, the charitable giving of billionaires is unlikely to go to efforts that could undermine the basis of their wealth or their peers’. We may not need to fear that the next generations’ Fortune 400 will all be descendants of this generation’s billionaires, but we do have to fear that the rules will continue to be rigged so that this group and its lackeys in the 1 percent continue to control the bulk of the country’s wealth. That is not a pretty picture, even if it is not the nightmare Piketty warns of.

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