Archive | May 25th, 2015

‘Close, aggressive surveillance’: UK Special Forces back in Northern Ireland

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fdr

British Special Forces soldiers are once again operating in Northern Ireland, allegedly, to counter violent Republican groups including the Real IRA, according to intelligence sources.

Quoted in the Daily Star newspaper, they said up to 60 members of the Special Reconnaissance Regiment (SRR) are in the region.

One source told the paper that heightened dissident activity and the increased terror threat were linked to the approaching 100-year anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising – a period of Irish history which remains highly emotive.

Another described the unit’s role as “close, aggressive surveillance.”

The SRR replaced an earlier unit known as 14 Intelligence Company. Its creation in 2005 saw the specialist close surveillance role developed during the Troubles expanded for the War on Terror.

The same year it was reported the SRR had been involved in the counter-terrorist operation which eventually led to the gunning down in Stockwell tube station of Jean Charles De Menezes, an innocent Brazilian worker.

The regiment, the only British Special Forces unit to recruit women and estimated to be composed of between 500 and 600 personnel, has been deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In August 2014, the SRR was reported to be hunting Islamic State militants, including Jihadi John, later identified as West Londoner Mohammed Emwazi.

Its forerunner – known colloquially as “14 Int” – was limited to operating in Northern Ireland.

Recently, there have been a number of damaging revelations and legal cases about covert British operations during the period of the Troubles.

In 2013, a BBC documentary uncovered claims that a secret army unit called the MRF was hunting and killing IRA members, and in the course of doing so may also have killed a number of innocent civilians.

Alongside their combat role, the hand-picked members of the MRF also carried out surveillance. In some cases while disguised as meths-drinking vagrants, at other times while pretending to be garbage collectors.

In February this year, the case of the Hooded Men made headlines again when human rights lawyer Amal Clooney – who is the spouse of actor George Clooney and has represented WikiLeaks editor Julian Assange – joined the legal team of 11 individuals who claim to have suffered torture while in the custody of British security forces.

Of over 300 people rounded up in June 1971, twelve were selected for further interrogation. They were then subjected to stress positions, hooding, white noise and food, drink and sleep deprivation.

These methods were known as the Five Techniques and would later form the practical basis for the treatment of captives by the United States military and intelligence services during the War on Terror. They have become synonymous with the process known as extraordinary rendition.

In 1976, the men took their case to the European Court of Human Rights and won. The ruling was later overturned and it was subsequently ruled that while they had been subject to inhumane and degrading treatment, it did not constitute torture.

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The open source revolution is coming and it will conquer the 1% – ex CIA spy

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A businessman tries to break through a line of Occupy Wall Street protesters who had blocked access to the New York Stock Exchange area in November 2011.

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/earth-insight/2014/jun/19/open-source...

Robert David Steele, former Marine, CIA case officer, and US co-founder of the US Marine Corps intelligence activity, is … widely recognised as the leader of the Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) paradigm. In 1992, despite opposition from the CIA, he obtained Marine Corps permission to organise a landmark international conference on open source intelligence – the paradigm of deriving information to support policy decisions not through secret activities, but from open public sources available to all. The conference was such a success it brought in over 620 attendees from the intelligence world. But the CIA … ensured that Steele was prohibited from running a second conference, [prompting] him to resign from his position as second-ranking civilian in Marine Corps intelligence.

Last month, Steele presented a startling paper at the Libtech conference in New York. Drawing on principles set out in his latest book, The Open-Source Everything Manifesto … he told the audience that all the major preconditions for revolution – set out in his 1976 graduate thesis – were now present in the United States and Britain. Steele’s book … connects up the increasing corruption, inefficiency and unaccountability of the intelligence system and its political and financial masters with escalating inequalities and environmental crises. But he also offers a comprehensive vision of hope. “Sharing, not secrecy, is the means by which we … can create a nonzero win-win Earth that works for one hundred percent of humanity.”

Note: Watch an excellent video showing Mr. Steele believes that most terrorist attacks are false flag operations.

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Decapitated body of Brazilian journalist found

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Decapitated body of Brazilian journalist and blogger investigating child prostitution ring found

Decapitated body of Brazilian journalist and blogger investigating child prostitution ring found

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/evany-jos-metzker-dead-police-find…

The decapitated body of a missing blogger who was investigating a child prostitution ring has been found by police in Brazil. Evany José Metzker’s body was found outside the town of Padre Paraíso, in … Brazil’s southeastern Minas Gerais state. Metzger, who maintained a blog named ‘Coruja do Vale‘ (The Owl of the Valley), was reportedly investigating a child prostitution ring operating in the area. Metzger had travelled to Padre Paraíso three months earlier. His body was found on Monday. He had been missing for several days. Metzger’s wife, Hilma Chaves Silva Borges, was quoted by The Committee to Protect Journalists as saying that Metzker was working in a dangerous part of the country. “There are lots of murders here. I think that the motive, given the barbarity of his murder, was because he hit on something,” she was quoted as saying. Brazil is the third most dangerous country for journalists in Latin America, after Mexico and Colombia, according to Reporters Without Borders. In his blogMetzger often reported on corrupt officials and politiciansExtra, a local daily newspaper, quoted Metzker’s family as saying the police were led to the body following an anonymous tip-off.

Note: Those running child prostitution rings make huge amounts of money and are protected by politicians at high levels. Many will not hesitate to kill if anyone threatens to expose their sex trade in children. If you want to understand how pedophile rings have infiltrated the highest levels of government, don’t miss the powerful Discovery Channel documentary on this available here.

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1,400 child abuse suspects identified

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Young girl, posed by model
http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-32812449

More than 1,400 suspects, including politicians and celebrities, have been investigated by police probing historical child sex abuse allegations. The figures were revealed by Operation Hydrant, set up by the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC). It explores … child sex abuse by “prominent public persons”. Of the 1,433 suspects identified, 216 are now dead and 261 are classified as people of public prominence, with 135 coming from TV, film or radio. The figures are taken from police forces in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. They relate to reports of abuse, or investigations of abuse, which police forces were dealing with in the summer of 2014.

Norfolk Police Chief Constable Simon Bailey, the NPCC’s lead on child protection, said the referrals were increasing “on an almost daily basis”. He also said police were projected to receive about 116,000 reports of historical child sex abuse by the end of 2015 – an increase of 71% from 2012. He added: “There is no doubt [Jimmy] Savile has had an effect on us. We are dealing with more and more allegations.” Ex-DJ Jimmy Savile was revealed after his death to be one of the UK’s most prolific sexual predators. Jon Brown, head of the NSPCC’s programme to tackle sexual abuse, described the figures as “astonishing” and said they showed abuse “permeates all parts of society”. He added: “What we’re beginning to see is a much more realistic picture now of the scale of the problem.”

Note: Watch powerful evidence in a suppressed Discovery Channel documentary showing that child sexual abuse scandals reach to the highest levels of government. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing sex abuse scandal news articles from reliable major media sources.

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The Value of Noam Chomsky

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An Enduring and Still-Evolving Legacy
by CHRIS WRIGHT

At 86, Noam Chomsky is getting old. He remains indefatigable, keeping up a schedule that would exhaust a man half his age, but, unless he is indeed a demi-god, we can assume that the end is nigh. The tragic day cannot be more than a few years away, if that.

This has set me to thinking: why, after all, does it strike me that his death will mark a day of global mourning, at least among the sane and the subaltern? What is it about him that entrances so? There are plenty of activists around the world more heroic than he, more selfless, many people who have devoted their lives more single-mindedly than he to rescuing humanity from its sinking ship, and who have, perhaps, done more concrete work to end suffering. These countless unknown people deserve at least as much reverence as Chomsky.

There are, of course, many reasons why Chomsky is such a cynosure, some of them not very interesting. The most obvious is the quality of his mind. All things considered, he has probably the greatest mind of the twentieth century, and one of the greatest in human history. Einstein didn’t have anything approaching Chomsky’s breadth of knowledge (about virtually everything, it seems) or razor-sharp logical vision or remarkable memory. It’s hard to imagine that anyone has ever been a better debater than Chomsky, as one can judge from various YouTube videos. And of course he largely founded modern linguistics, and has made important contributions to philosophy, and so on.

But I’ll let the eulogists celebrate his intellectual powers when the time comes. There are more interesting issues I’d like to consider here.

Another source of his mystique is his charisma, by now a sort of shy, grandfatherly, warm and self-effacing persona, combined with an absolute self-certainty. But charisma, as such, should not impress us: it is a sub-rational phenomenon, a form of “dominance” similar to that recognized in other mammalian species, which in itself has little or nothing to do with morality or reason. The most charismatic people can be the most irrational and immoral.

Even less interesting is the fact that since the 1960s he has been a nearly ubiquitous presence, more full of energy and stamina than any other intellectual. This is impressive and helps explain the adulation he receives, but it isn’t mainly what intrigues me about him, or what I find useful about him.

His astonishing command of facts and extensive documentation of U.S. crimes are extremely useful, but they’re too obvious to deserve comment. His unusual kindness and solicitousness towards “ordinary people”–for instance, his spending many hours every day answering emails–is likewise admirable, and obvious.

But in addition to all these considerations are things about him I find especially noteworthy, which may be worth mentioning here because of the lessons they hold for us. For I think that he, or his public persona, can serve as a sort of moral and intellectual compass, keeping us on the road less traveled–less traveled because it requires some effort and willful independence. It’s useful to have a guide on such a path, and there is no better guide than Chomsky. To speak plainly, he can serve as a symbol of certain intellectual and moral tendencies–much as Marx does, though in a slightly different way–tendencies that in fact amount to little more than simple humanity and common sense, but that are surprisingly easy to forget in our indoctrinated and power-hungry world.

In short, we could do worse than to take Chomsky as our role model.

***

For one thing, Chomsky is the last great Enlightenment thinker–perhaps the greatest of them. The most consistent, and maybe the most profound (unless that honor belongs to Kant). If this were an academic article I’d write about his rationalist philosophy of mind; here I’ll confine myself to the more “practical” side of his contributions, which is equally rooted in the Enlightenment.

One doesn’t have to indulge in academic verbiage in order to express one of the central impulses of the Enlightenment: its recognition of the value of the individual. This is classical liberalism, as expressed by, say, Kant or Wilhelm von Humboldt (whom Chomsky likes to quote)–this essentially anti-authoritarian appreciation of the dignity and freedom of the individual. This is also, you may notice, morality. Respect and compassion for “the other,” the other person, the other sex, the other race, the other nationality: this is the kernel of true liberalism and true morality, as encapsulated by the Golden Rule. Express yourself freely as long as you don’t harm others, and express yourself so as to do good to others: liberalism and morality. These are the starting points and the endpoints of everything Chomsky has to say with regard to politics and society.

Certain Enlightenment thinkers of the eighteenth century subscribed to this moral liberalism, but, given the time in which they lived, they were periodically susceptible to illiberal sentiments, such as contempt for Africans or women or wage-laborers. Or they tried to justify imperialistic policies. Contrary to what many postmodernists might think, this doesn’t invalidate the Enlightenment itself; it merely shows that humans are human, products of their society, and sometimes unable to live up to the implicit conceptual content of their philosophies.

Chomsky, however, is perfectly aware of what his liberalism commits him to, and as far as I know he has never deviated from the classical liberal path in his public statements or actions. There are two things that generally deserve notice in our dealings with people and our estimation of them: first, to what extent do they recognize–fearlessly, if need be–claims of reason and logic? And second, to what extent do they act–again, with courage–on the basis of empathy and compassion (or respect for others)? These are the basic criteria we should use in judging someone’s value as a human being. Chomsky understands this, and so should we.

Our society, of course, sees things differently, in an illiberal and immoral way, which is precisely why it has to be dismantled and rebuilt. Society judges things in terms of power, authority, wealth, race, popularity, charisma, physical beauty, and other qualities that have either no relation or a negative relation to morality and rationality. Insofar as we, as individuals, periodically succumb to these illiberal tendencies, we must try to root them out of ourselves, even if that goal can never be completely fulfilled. We’re only human, after all.

But one thing we do have control over is whether we acknowledge the force of logic and can follow chains of reasoning. If we admit that morality and rationality are, so to speak, no respecters of persons, that rank and wealth and power don’t pertain to the inner worth of a person, then we’re committed to fighting against society in its current form–its practices, its institutions, its cultural norms, and its authority figures. They are all apostles of illiberalism, of the coercion and injustice that radiate from what we might call deadly snobbery, the snobbery that happily disregards the claims to life and dignity of people without power or wealth or status (whether determined by white skin, physical beauty, popularity, or whatever).

It’s the unreasoned respect for power/authority (in a broad sense) that gets you the world we have today. We unthinkingly look down on people who are “different” and respect people whom others respect, because of the human instinct for conformism. So, since the amoral institutions that run society are naturally going to exalt amoral people who serve their interests–and since powerful institutions propagate the ideas and norms that influence our own ways of thinking and acting–we end up respecting amoral, irrational people, and behaving in amoral, socially irrational ways.

Thus, our anti-liberal snobbery goes hand-in-hand with our easy conformism, and both are contrary to reason and morality.

This is all implicit in Chomsky’s work, and in his behavior he counters it more effectively than anyone else. He exudes contempt for those with status–especially intellectuals and politicians–and respects and admires the forgotten, the millions of unknown activists, the nameless Colombian peasants who show incredible compassion in the midst of state-organized horrors, the “unpeople” everywhere who persevere in the face of savage collective torture.

The point isn’t that Chomsky is a nice guy; the point is that we must all be vigilant against the anti-liberal tendencies in ourselves. We may be compelled to obey the authoritarian norms of mainstream institutions in our work lives, but inwardly, and sometimes outwardly, we should rebel.

We should recognize that–other things being equal–the more mainstream success someone has, the less respect he deserves, for success only suggests obedience, uncritical acceptance of indoctrination, and the snobbery that notices only status, not morality or rationality (orhumanity). In daily life such snobbery and institutional subservience are fairly innocent, if obnoxious and contemptible, but in the aggregate, on a large scale, they are what produce things like capitalist decimation of civil society and the natural environment, the U.S.’s ongoing global holocaust since World War II, and the Holocaust itself.

The “innocent” thus merges with the evil, making all of us obedient and snobbish people complicit in the horrors that define the modern world.

A good example, and one that Chomsky has focused on for fifty years, is the intellectual community, including academia, “policy institutes,” and the mainstream media. With the occasional exception, intellectuals are in fact very anti-intellectual, uninterested in reason, truth, or social understanding, and incapable of comprehending elementary truthsabout how society functions. The average taxi driver is more intellectual–more insightful–than the average intellectual, as Chomsky points out. As shown by their behavior, most intellectuals care about two things: their careers, and shutting out dissenting voices. Effectively, they are bureaucrats of the mind, (unwitting) servants of power, and prisoners of status-consciousness–personifications of institutional interests, that’s all.

As such, they exemplify illiberalism and immorality; for a person who is not truly autonomous (free), who does not critically use his reason but only accepts institutional norms, and who cares little about furthering the autonomy of others, exists in a negative relation to classical liberalism and morality (Chomsky’s guiding lights, which should be ours as well).

Rigorous thought, as objective as possible, and rigorous adherence to elementary moral principles are the two main elements of human dignity, and the two imperatives that intellectuals routinely violate. The reason Chomsky is worth emulating is that he personifies both intellectual and moral integrity.

***

Consider his unique intellectual cleanliness. An example is his analysis of anarchism. He points out–following Rudolf Rocker and others–that the true successor to classical liberalism is anarchist socialism. This should be common sense, but since it has been buried in the manure of centuries of capitalist propaganda, few people recognize it.

If liberalism (like morality) means concern for people’s freedom and dignity, then it means suspicion of power. It means that power is not self-justifying but has to be dismantled–unless it can give a convincing argument to justify itself, which it rarely can. This impulse to dismantle power-structures is the core of anarchism, and also the common sense of elementary morality, which most people implicitly agree with (whether they know it or not).

That is to say, most people are already anarchists, because the essence of anarchism is common sense. They might disagree on whether it’s possible to create a large-scale society on the basis of diffused power, but, unless they’re fascists or moral monsters, they agree with anarchist values, i.e., democratic values.

Chomsky is able to cut through all the nonsense of the intellectual culture and state truths like these without sesquipedalian adornments, without having to indulge in elitist academic obscurantism. He recognizes, moreover, that we shouldn’t worship “big names” like Lenin or Gramsci or Foucault (or Chomsky!) or any of the other more contemporary names that get thrown around in the media or in leftist subcultures, that to do so is elitist and pretentious–especially since most of what is valuable in the works of these “thinkers” is little more than an elaboration of common sense.

(Status-consciousness, which infects even the Left, is truly an anti-democratic, authoritarian approach to thinking and acting, which, as rigorous democrats, we must follow Chomsky in rejecting. It is deeply rooted in us and probably cannot be wholly extirpated, but it is intellectual and moral rot.)

As for socialism, Chomsky is right that it means simply workers’ control, economic democracy, and as such is but a component of “anarchy”–and of democracy. The Soviet Union, as a kind of state-capitalist society that allowed workers virtually no rights, was the precise opposite of socialism. Worker cooperatives, by contrast, exemplify socialism on a small scale.

There are countless other examples of Chomsky’s lucid logical vision. He’s right, for instance, that the “radical Left” is, in a sense, the only truly conservative force in politics, for it actually believes in such conservative values as community, freedom, justice, truth, and reason. This is a point that, once made, is obvious–and that leftists should always bring up in debates with self-styled “conservative” opponents.

Radical change is needed in order to realize conservative values. One of those ironic facts with which history is replete.

Or consider these points–obvious once you hear them–that Chomsky makes about American imperialism in this video (at about the 8:15 mark). “Talking about American imperialism is a bit like talking about triangular triangles. The United States is the one country that exists, and ever has, that was founded as an empire, explicitly [according to the intentions of the Founding Fathers]… Modern-day American imperialism is just a later phase of a process that has continued from the first moment without a break.” When you think about this statement and what it entails, you can start to see American history in a new light.

Of course, intellectuals typically think of American imperialism as starting with the invasion of Cuba in 1898; but intellectuals are usually shallow thinkers. In reality, the 19th-century American expansion into the western part of the continent, which involved genocide of the indigenous population, was a particularly vicious form of imperialism. The invasion of Mexico in the 1840s was another viciously imperialistic act. And so the record continues up to the present, the imperialism taking different forms at different times.

Especially since World War II, the United States has been the scourge of the earth, intervening constantly in any country where democratic hopes threatened to puncture authoritarianism, and actively supporting every dictator imaginable (Chiang Kai-shek, Batista, Diem, Somoza, Duvalier, Trujillo, Iran’s Shah, Suharto, Mobutu, Papadopoulos, Pinochet, Mubarak, Marcos, Rios Montt, Saddam Hussein, and a hundred others) as long as he didn’t pose a threat to U.S. power. Chomsky’s work provides all the references you need.

Consider, also, his pithy analyses of what elementary morality requires. While other intellectuals and self-styled philosophers–often mere apologists for Western crimes–wade in the muck of “good intentions” (ours are good, theirs are bad) and subjectivism and idealized

wrightworkers

thought-experiments, Chomsky states flatly and clearly that, basically, two things are involved in acting morally: applying to yourself the standards you apply to others, and choosing how to act by considering the predictable consequences of your actions–not by having “good intentions.”

With these two rules in mind, we have the tools to judge our own and others’ morality. Unfortunately, neither we nor others typically come out smelling like roses if we’re honest in our evaluations, because it’s extremely difficult to rigorously apply to yourself (or people you identify with) the standards you apply to others. Humans are born to deceive themselves about the moral significance of their actions.

Some of us, however, can at least comfort ourselves that we’re not the moral monsters who constitute the elite of powerful politicians, intellectuals, and corporate executives. We aren’t directly responsible for invading and destroying countries, or for enacting policies designed to obliterate life on earth, or for driving billions of people into desperate poverty and misery. We aren’t the ones who deserve to be hanged (or rather imprisoned for life, since capital punishment is uncivilized).

Chomsky usefully documents how Western leaders are constantly flouting the rule of international and domestic law–their own laws, laws that they themselves have enacted. In fact, no entity more consistently violates laws than a national government, and no one is literally more of a criminal than the leaders of a country. And their friends.

The U.S. government, for instance, simply doesn’t enforce many of its own labor laws, as codified especially in the Wagner Act of 1935. Employers are typically allowed to act with impunity against their employees. In a society governed by the rule of law, on the other hand, nearly all corporate executives would be behind bars, for continual minor and major infractions.

In foreign policy, the U.S. government regularly violates its own Leahy Law, by giving military assistance to countries with no regard for human rights. (Israel comes to mind.) Chomsky points out that, while it may be too much to expect the U.S. government to abide by international law, it should at least be feasible that it abide by its own laws. But, in fact, that isn’t feasible.

Anyway, the point is that what a person with intellectual and moral integrity should do is to follow Chomsky’s example: adumbrate a consistent set of moral and intellectual principles, and then rigorously apply them, as objectively as possible, to oneself and to others. Don’t fall victim to the “self-love” fallacy, the tendency to make excuses for your own behavior and thereby contradict your principles and sacrifice your integrity. Evaluate yourself, and your country, as you imagine an honest outsider would.

That is, “step outside yourself” and try to nullify your subjective biases.

***

Subjectivism and idealism are things I find particularly noxious, and things that Chomsky has counteracted in his work more effectively than anyone. He really is, at bottom, a Marxist, an anarchist Marxist (which is a perfectly coherent concept–in fact a necessary concept–for reasons I explain in the sixth chapter of this book). He disagrees, rightly, with the orthodox Marxist theory of revolution (involving the “dictatorship of the proletariat” and so on), but, implicitly, his analyses are grounded in the ideas of class struggle, the imperialistic nature of capitalist power, a kind of economic determinism, and of course Marxian values of workers’ dignity and creativity, and the evils of the capitalist state, and the evils of money and the market system, etc.

He is probably the most consistent materialist alive, in his absolute rejection of the subjectivist, idealistic decadence that is postmodernism–i.e., his complete lack of interest in the discursive games that intellectuals like to play with themselves. He has contempt for such self-preening verbiage machines as Slavoj Zizek, Lacan, Derrida, Baudrillard, Kristeva, and their thousands of (sometimes unwitting) acolytes scattered across the humanities and even the political Left.

He understands that these people are interesting mainly as symptoms of a diseased intellectual culture, not as providing useful insights into society or the human mind. (Personally, I’ve occasionally come across an idea in Zizek that is worth thinking about; but, broadly speaking, Chomsky’s suspicion is well-founded.)

But the postmodernists, fixated on language, “discourse,” “society’s imaginary,” idealistic constructions of sexuality or gender or ethnicity or whatever, are only extreme manifestations of the more general idealism of the intellectual culture. Intellectuals are naturally inclined to think that words and ideas are of exceptional importance, because they themselves traffic in words and ideas, and they want to think that they themselves are important. So they proclaim that discourses are what create and structure the world, ideologies are of primary importance to social dynamics, etc. It’s a type of self-glorification.

An added benefit of such thinking is that it has a conservative influence, for it focuses people’s attention on ideas and subjective identities rather than institutional structures and class relations. It encourages people to think that what’s important is to change ideas, rather than to change economic and political power relations.

Moreover, idealism, especially in its extreme postmodernist forms, is usefully solipsistic, individualistic, disengaging-from-social-reality. Everything is just a “construct,” there is no such thing as objective social class or objective realities of power or objective truth in general; all depends on one’s perspective or “frame of reference,” etc. Such positions are calculated to turn one in on oneself, away from the outside world, and to undermine popular struggles.

No surprise, then, that corporate capitalism has been perfectly happy with idealism and postmodernism, and powerful institutions in the media and academia have propagated them. To (grandiosely) quote myself, “any potentially oppositional ‘discourse’ that reeks of solipsism or masturbation will be favored and propagated by powerful institutions, because it militates against social engagement.” Chomsky understands this, and accordingly has refused even to dip a toe into the bog of subjectivism and “discourse analysis,” or whatever one wants to call it.

Social “theory” in general he is suspicious of. He doesn’t like its elitist overtones, its Ivory Tower nature, and he thinks that, by and large, it isn’t necessary in the first place. It doesn’t require over-subtle jargonistic analysis to understand, in broad outline, how society works. One has only to recognize, for example, that institutions will act so as to maintain and increase their power, and the institutions with the most resources at their command (in particular the corporate sector) will have the most political and ideological power, and class–as defined by one’s location in economic institutions–is the central variable in determining what sorts of resources one has access to and what kinds of ideas one will accept and what one’s general life-path will likely be, and the inner nature of economic institutions is class struggle, etc.

That is to say, all one needs is a basic Marxian materialism, because materialism is common sense. Access to resources is the key, the key to survival and to social influence and to education and to political power and to a high quality of life; and access to resources is determined by class position. –That sentence is the kernel of materialism.

As for bringing about social change, common sense, again, tells us what’s necessary: education and organization. Join together with people whose interests lie in fighting progressively against the status quo and empowering the public; and listen to them, listen to their experiences, and offer your own experiences and ideas, and educate each other, and organize events to draw in more people, and gradually build up a movement. These are mere truisms of activism. We don’t need fancy “theory” to understand society or change it.

Now, it’s possible that Chomsky goes too far in his “anti-theoretical” stance, and that he underestimates the practical and scholarly value of, say, Marxian political economy as written by Robert BrennerDavid HarveyJohn Bellamy Foster, and others. I think that such scholarship can be extremely useful and enlightening. (Chomsky might agree, actually.) But only because it’s materialistic, and any correct understanding of society has to be based on a materialist foundation.

Fortunately, as class polarization increases and the global economy descends further into stagnation and crisis, we can expect idealism to wane and materialism to rise. This is what happened in the 1930s, and structurally we are in a situation eerily similar to the 1930s.

In the coming years, as social crisis becomes the norm and the ruling class insistently professes its good intentions at every opportunity, we will do well to remember one of the lessons of Marxian and Chomskian materialism: the self-interpretations of institutional actors mean exactly nothing. The true significance of someone’s acts is not given by what he thinks their significance is, because humans are born to deceive themselves (on the basis of their self-regard). Rather, it is given by analysis of his institutional functions.

People in positions of authority act as their institutions pressure them to; and if, by some miracle, they act with excessive independence, either they’ll be taught a lesson and cut down to size or they’ll be discarded by some means or other. So it is really the institutions that are the actors; the people with power are merely tools. (At high levels, people do have some freedom….but they always use this freedom only to increase their power, which is to say the power of their institution. So, again, it comes down to the objective nature of the institutional role they play.)

Thus, it is institutional analysis–on the basis of materialist ideas–that matters most, not analysis of political rhetoric or self-interpretations or ideologies or “good intentions.” It’s fine for scholars to study such things, but they should have a clear understanding of their “superstructural” and self-deceived nature.

Incidentally, it’s worth noting again that, in a totally different sense of the word, Chomsky is very idealistic. He has the idealism that is a component in classical liberalism and morality itself: the belief in human creativity, dignity, freedom, and the capacity for generosity and love. He is convinced, with good reason–and in the tradition of Rousseau–that these traits are inborn in people….just as the capacities for pathological greed, violence, power-hunger, and slavish obedience are. The human mind is incredibly rich, with all kinds of potentialities, both for the insatiable greed of capitalism and for the loving generosity that is normal in intimate relationships.

What matters, as Rousseau thought and common sense confirms, is the nature of the social structures in which the individual is embedded. Pathological structures produce pathological imperatives (think of the bureaucratic imperative of low-level Nazis to kill Jews, or the economic imperative of capitalists to destroy the environment); humane and democratic structures produce more humane imperatives.

Bourgeois institutions facilitate any human tendencies toward anti-democratic snobbery; less hierarchical institutions, such as grassroots activist organizations, counteract these tendencies, and bring out the more appealing side of human nature.

Implicit in all this, though, is recognition of the essential “equality” of human beings, even in the midst of extreme social hierarchy. We are all to some extent moldable and to some extent genetically determined; we all have various strengths and various weaknesses; we all can be manipulated to act in terrible ways depending on the circumstances; and in the lives of all of us, luck plays an enormous role.

Any form of elitism or status-consciousness is therefore based on ignorance and unreason. What should determine how we “rank” people, in general, are only their commitments to objective reason and to morality and human welfare, because such commitments are largely within the domain of free will. We have control over them: it is up to us whether we want to be honest, compassionate, and rational.

***

Despite this long encomium I’ve written–which I could easily double or triple in length–I have to admit that Chomsky isn’t perfect. One can criticize him, for example, for not saying enough about positive things that are happening. He rarely gives specific advice to activists, though he surely has a rich history of experience to draw from. He seems to rarely tell audiences or readers about particular organizations that are doing good work, and that could use support.

One might also wish that he would more often discuss capitalism as the chief source of the world’s ills, to get people thinking in explicitly anti-capitalist terms. His refusal to invoke the insights, or even the name, of Marxism seems puzzling, but doubtless he thinks one doesn’t need Marx in order to understand how the world works. And, again, he’s suspicious of theoretical systems in the context of the social sciences.

All in all, though, the adoration that millions have for him is well deserved. A perusal of Understanding Power, a tour de force, should be enough to establish this. Or just read this compendium of Chomskian wit and wisdom, mind-boggling in its range and depth.

Personally, when I discovered Chomsky I found him useful as a validation of my ideas about politics and the intellectual community. He was a sort of distant mentor, who sharpened my thinking and encouraged me. In particular, his unparalleled precision of thought impressed me and guided me.

For example, I was struck by his statement that corporations are systems of private totalitarianism: orders come down from above, a common ideology is enforced on all the workers, disobedience can be punished severely, structurally speaking there isn’t a particle of democracy. I found this to be an obvious truth once I’d heard it–and on some obscure level I’d always had a similar intuition about the nature of the corporation–but his articulation of the insight fostered clarity of thought.

And that’s perhaps his greatest contribution: his absolute clarity of thought, his ability to parse complex phenomena into simple, pithy statements that capture their essence. He bypasses all the ideological accretions and intellectual chicanery, and states the truth–backed up by facts–in unpretentious, anti-“snobbish” language.

In short–to sum up–Chomsky is sui generis. It will be a sad day for the Left, and for humanity, when he departs….but at least his writings and talks will remain, to help guide us toward a better world.

In the meantime, “don’t mourn, organize!”

Posted in PoliticsComments Off on The Value of Noam Chomsky

Manufacturing the Global Food and Agricultural Crisis

NOVANEWS
From the Boardroom to the Field
by COLIN TODHUNTER

In 2012, Professsor Seralini of the University of Caen in France led a team that carried out research into the health impacts on rats fed GMOs (genetically modified organisms). The two-year long study concluded that rats fed GMOs experienced serious health problems compared to those fed non GM food. Not long after, a new major peer-reviewed study emerged that threw into question the claim often forwarded by the biotech sector that GMO technology increases production and is beneficial to agriculture.

Researchers at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand found that the GM strategy used in North American staple crop production is limiting yields and increasing pesticide use compared to non-GM farming in Western Europe. Led by Professor Jack Heinemann, the study’s findings were published in the June 2013 edition of the International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability. The research analysed data on agricultural productivity in North America and Western Europe over the last 50 years.

Heinemann’s team found that the combination of non-GM seed and management practices used by Western Europe is increasing corn yields faster than the use of the GM-led package chosen by the US. The research showed rapeseed (canola) yields increasing faster in Europe without GM than in the GM-led package chosen by Canada. What is more, the study found that Europe is decreasing chemical herbicide and achieving even larger declines in insecticide use without sacrificing yield gains, while chemical herbicide use in the US has increased with GM seed.

According to Heinemann, Europe has learned to grow more food per hectare and use fewer chemicals in the process, whereas US choices in biotechnology are causing it to fall behind Europe in productivity and sustainability.

The Heinemann team’s report noted that incentives in North America are leading to a reliance on GM seeds and management practices that are inferior to those being adopted under the incentive systems in Europe. This is also affecting non GM crops. US yield in non-GM wheat is falling further behind Europe “demonstrating that American choices in biotechnology penalise both GM and non-GM crop types relative to Europe,” according to Professor Heinemann.

He goes on to state that the decrease in annual variation in yield suggests that Europe has a superior combination of seed and crop management technology and is better suited to withstand weather variations. This is important because annual variations cause price speculations that can drive hundreds of millions of people into food poverty.

The report also highlighted some grave concerns about the impact of modern agriculture per se in terms of the general move towards depleted genetic diversity and the consequent potential catastrophic risk to staple food crops. Of the nearly 10,000 wheat varieties in use in China in 1949, only 1,000 remained in the 1970s. In the US, 95 percent of the cabbage, 91 percent of the field maize, 94 percent of the pea and 81 percent of the tomato varieties cultivated in the last century have been lost. GMOs and the control of seeds through patents have restricted farmer choice and prevented seed saving. This has exacerbated this problem.

Heinemann concludes that we need a diversity of practices for growing and making food that GM does not support. We also need systems that are useful, not just profit-making biotechnologies, and which provide a resilient supply to feed the world well.

Despite the evidence, governments capitulate

Given the mounting evidence that questions the efficacy and safety of GMOs (see thisthisthisthis and this), it raises the issue why certain governments are siding with the biotech sector to allow GMOs to be made available on commercial markets. It is simply not the case that country after country is accepting GMOs on the basis of scientific evidence, as scientists-cum-lobbyists for the GM sector often state. If scientific evidence were to be determining factor, few if any countries would have sanctioned GMOs.

Part of the answer lies in the fact that the powerful US biotech sector continues to forward its agenda that GMOs are a frontier technology that will save humanity from famine and hunger. This is despite evidence that most of the world’s hunger is the product of profiteering industrial chemical agriculture and the global structuring of food production and distribution under the banner of ‘free trade’ and ‘structural adjustment’ (see this and this), or as many of us know it – brow beating and structural dependency.

Yet, the mantra of GM as the saviour of humanity persists courtesy of the GM sector’s puppet politicians and regulatory bodies. The US is pushing for lop-sided bilateral trade agreements with various countries not only to generally tie economies into US economic hegemony in an attempt to boost its ailing economy and flagging currency, but more specifically to get nations to ‘accept’ GMOs. Through behind-closed-door deals (see this and this), coercion or thehijack of regulatory bodies, there has been some success, and many think it could be just a matter of time before other countries capitulate to allow GM food crops onto the commercial market. In fact, regardless of any legal statute, it may be and probably is already happening in India, not least via contamination.

On a global level, with reports of wheatrice and maize having been contaminated with GMOs, there seems to be a conscious ploy to contaminate so much of the world’s crops so that eventually GMOs take over regardless and render the pro/anti GM debate almost academic.

It seems that secretive trade deals, the hijack of official bodies designed to ensure the ‘public interest’ and bullying or intimidation are not enough. Contamination strategies are but one more way of achieving through closed and non-transparent methods what could not be possible by transparent and democratic means – simply because hundreds of millions of people do not want GMOs.

A generation down the line (or much sooner), will we looking at the health and environmental consequences of GMOs in the same way we now regard the impacts of the original ‘Green Revolution’?

“There are very good reasons why we have never introduced a Green Revolution into Africa, namely because there is broad consensus that the Green Revolution in India has been a failure, with Indian farmers in debt, bound to paying high costs for seed and pesticides, committing suicide at much higher rates, and resulting in a depleted water table and a poisoned environment, and by extension, higher rates of cancer.” Paula Crossfield, food policy writer/activist (21).

We don’t have to take Paula Crossfield’s word for it, though. Punjab was the ‘Green Revolution’s’ original poster boy, but is fast becoming transformed from a food bowl to a cancer epicenter and now reels under an agrarian crisis marked by discontent, debt, water shortages, contaminated water, diseased soils and pest infested cops (see this and this).

In the meantime, big agribusiness in collusion with big pharma will continue to control our food and define our healthcare by pushing their highly profitable ‘miracle solutions’ for the health and environmental problems which they conspired to create in the first place. It is all part of the wider corporate-elite agenda to colonise and control every facet of human existence.

Posted in HealthComments Off on Manufacturing the Global Food and Agricultural Crisis

Fossil Fuel Subsidies Total Trillions of Dollars Per Year

NOVANEWS
Paying for Air Pollution and Global Warming
by PETE DOLACK

Most of the cost of fossil fuels is hidden because environmental harms such as pollution and global warming are kept outside ordinary economic calculation. Energy companies externalize these costs (among others) — that is, they don’t pay them. The public does.

And we do, to a remarkable extent. When we think of corporate subsidies, we naturally think of taxes not paid, real estate giveaways and other ways of taking money from the public and shoveling it into corporate coffers. Then there are the environmental costs, something prominent if we are talking about fossil fuels. These, too, should be thought of as subsidies since these constitute costs paid by the public. A first attempt at seriously quantifying the magnitude of the totality of subsidies given to fossil fuels leads to a conclusion that the total for 2014 was US$5.6 trillion, a total expected to be matched in 2015.

Yes, you read that correctly: 5.6 trillion dollars. As in 5.6 million million. Or, to put it another way, more than seven percent of gross world product.

A lot of money.

These calculations are, interestingly, the product of an International Monetary Fund working paper, “How Large Are Global Energy Subsidies?” The paper, prepared by economists David Coady, Ian Parry, Louis Sears and Baoping Shang, sought to provide a fuller accounting of the costs of the environmental damages caused by fossil fuels, and found that those costs greatly exceed direct corporate subsidies and below-cost consumer pricing. The authors foresee huge benefits should all fossil-fuel subsidies be eliminated. They write:

“Eliminating post-tax subsidies in 2015 could raise government revenue by $2.9 trillion (3.6 percent of global GDP), cut global CO₂ emissions by more than 20 percent, and cut pre-mature air pollution deaths by more than half. After allowing for the higher energy costs faced by consumers, this action would raise global economic welfare by $1.8 trillion (2.2 percent of global GDP).” [page 7]

As dramatic as the preceding paragraph is, the International Monetary Fund is not suddenly questioning capitalism. The paper carries the caveat that it is “research in progress” and does not represent the views of the IMF. Nor does the paper devote so much as a single word questioning the economic system that has produced such astounding distortions, not to mention the hideous social effects of massive inequality and power imbalances. Nonetheless, it does present an implicit challenge to business as usual and helps conceptualize the massive costs of profligate energy usage. The paper lays out in plain language the environmental, fiscal, economic and social consequences of energy subsidies, stating that energy subsidies [page 5]:

* Damage the environment, causing more premature deaths through local air pollution, exacerbating congestion and other adverse side effects of vehicle use, and increasing atmospheric greenhouse-gas concentrations.

* Impose large fiscal costs, which need to be financed by some combination of higher public debt, higher tax burdens and crowding out potentially productive public spending (for example, on health, education and infrastructure).

* Discourage needed investments in energy efficiency, renewables and energy infrastructure, and increase the vulnerability of countries to volatile international energy prices.

* Are a highly inefficient way to provide support to low-income households since most of the benefits from energy subsidies are typically captured by rich households.

Paying for Air Pollution and Global Warming

The biggest subsidized cost is air pollution, which the paper’s authors estimate accounts for 46 percent of fossil fuel subsidies. Global warming is the next biggest subsidy, at 22 percent, with corporate and consumer subsidies, foregone taxes and other items accounting for smaller amounts. From this calculation, the authors argue that local benefits from ending subsidies are high enough that doing so should be done in the absence of action in other countries. They write:

“An important point, therefore, is that most (over three-fourths) of the underpricing of energy is due to domestic distortions — pre-tax subsidies and domestic externalities — rather than to global distortions (climate change). The crucial implication of this is that energy pricing reform is largely in countries’ own domestic interest and therefore is beneficial even in the absence of globally coordinated action.” [page 21]

When the costs are broken down by forms of energy, it is no surprise that coal is the most subsidized form. Coal subsidies alone account total four percent of global GDP, according to the paper, with “no country … impos[ing] meaningful taxes on coal use from an environmental perspective.” Petroleum is also heavily subsidized.

If we could at a stroke eliminate all forms of fossil fuel subsidies, the gains would be significant. The authors believe that global revenue gains would be $2.9 trillion for 2015, a total less than the current cost of subsidies because it accounts for a reduction in energy usage from higher prices and an assumption that some tax money would be used for emission-control technologies. The authors also calculate a $1.8 trillion net gain in social welfare, a gain that could be increased were this gain used to invest in education, health and other public benefits.

So if so much good can come from rationalizing the fossil fuel industry, why does this sound like an impossible dream? Unfortunately, in real world of capitalism, there is very little to prevent corporations from externalizing their costs.

With increased corporate globalization, capital can pick up and move at will, inducing political office holders to hand out subsidies, waive taxes and refuse to enforce safety and environmental laws. They do this because the alternative is for corporations to move elsewhere in a never-ending search for the lowest wages and weakest regulations with an accompanying disappearance of jobs. And this globalization, fueled by “free trade” agreements that arise from relentless competition, aggravates global warming as components are shipped around the world for assembly into finished products that are shipped back, greatly adding to the environmental damage imposed by transportation.

Environment Doesn’t Count in Orthodox Economics

Not only is the environment an externality that corporations do not have to account for, thereby dumping the costs on to the public, but orthodox economics doesn’t account for the environment, other than as a source of resources to exploit. The same capitalist market that is nothing more than the aggregate interests of the largest and most powerful industrialists and financiers is supposed to “solve” environmental problems. A Monthly Review article by sociologists Richard York, Brett Clark and John Bellamy Foster, “Capitalism in Wonderland,” puts this contradiction in stark perspective:

“Mainstream economists are trained in the promotion of private profits as the singular ‘bottom line’ of society, even at the expense of larger issues of human welfare and the environment. The market rules over all, even nature. For Milton Friedman the environment was not a problem since the answer was simple and straightforward. As he put it: ‘ecological values can find their natural space in the market, like any other consumer demand.’ ” [May 2009, page 4]

From that perspective, it follows that present-day environmental damage is of minimal concern to capital and future damage of no concern. The industrialists and financiers who reap billions today won’t necessarily be around when the environmental price becomes too high to avoid. The “Capitalism in Wonderland” authors write:

“[T]he ideology embedded in orthodox neoclassical economics [is] a field which regularly presents itself as using objective, even naturalistic, methods for modeling the economy. However, past all of the equations and technical jargon, the dominant economic paradigm is built on a value system that prizes capital accumulation in the short-term, while de-valuing everything else in the present and everything altogether in the future. …

[H]uman life in effect is worth only what each person contributes to the economy as measured in monetary terms. So, if global warming increases mortality in Bangladesh, which it appears likely that it will, this is only reflected in economic models to the extent that the deaths of Bengalis hurt the economy. Since Bangladesh is very poor, [orthodox] economic models … would not estimate it to be worthwhile to prevent deaths there since these losses would show up as minuscule in the measurements. … [E]thical concerns about the intrinsic value of human life and of the lives of other creatures are completely invisible in standard economic models. Increasing human mortality and accelerating the rate of extinctions are to most economists only problems if they undermine the ‘bottom line.’ In other respects they are invisible: as is the natural world as a whole.” [pages 9-10]

Tinkering Versus Analyzing the Structure

The International Monetary Fund paper does offer a brief discussion of social disruptions should fossil-fuel subsidies be removed, suggesting a need for “transitory” programs such as worker retraining and protection of vulnerable groups. [page 31] But their proposed program centers on environmental taxes as a way to align fossil fuels with their costs to make energy prices “efficient.” Certainly, polluters and causers of global warming should be required to absorb those costs. But given that market forces tilt overwhelmingly in favor of large polluters, the fact of massive imbalances in power, and that governments have handcuffed themselves in terms of confronting capital (a trend itself a product of market forces), it is unrealistic to believe such a program is currently politically feasible.

The disruptions to a capitalist economy with a forced large reduction in energy usage are also significant. It is not only that a capitalist economy can’t function without growing (and a growing economy uses more, not less, energy, especially because of ever more complex machinery and lengthening supply chains), but that a capitalist economy doesn’t offer millions of workers who lose their jobs new work in new industries. Every incentive under capitalism is for more energy usage; thus “the market” will object to dramatically higher energy prices, no matter how rational those higher prices.

Ultimately, the authors of the IMF paper are trapped in the same inability to imagine anything outside the present capitalist system, similar to those who claim that stopping global warming will be virtually cost-free. Their paper has done a necessary service by providing the first real quantification of the gigantic costs of fossil fuels and the massive subsidies they receive. Subsidies for renewable energy, in comparison, are minuscule. The massive subsidies for nuclear energy, which is a complete failure on any rational economic basis before we even get to the physical dangers, demonstrate that nuclear is no solution, either. These should also be eliminated.

The size of the social movement that would be necessary to eliminate all these subsidies would be enormous. Why should such a movement ask for mere reforms that fall well short of what is necessary, worthy as they would be. Energy is too important not to be put in public hands. The trillions of dollars of fossil fuel subsidies are the logical product of allowing private interests to control critical resources for private profit and leaving “the market” to dictate outcomes.

We can’t make what is unsustainable sustainable through a better tax policy. That the enormous scale of reform proposed by the IMF paper still falls far short of what is actually necessary to create a sustainable economy demonstrates the severity of the crises we are only beginning to face.

Posted in USA, HealthComments Off on Fossil Fuel Subsidies Total Trillions of Dollars Per Year

I$raHell on the Run: Becoming a Global Pariah

NOVANEWS

by ROBERT FANTINA

These are desperate times for Israel. While Prime Murder Benjamin Netanyahu forms a new government with people who have said that Palestinians are not human, and who have openly called for genocide against them, he and they continue to talk about their security concerns, how the Israeli army is the most moral in the world, etc., etc. Yet beyond the ivory towers in which they have ensconced themselves, few people are buying the tattered goods they are selling.

Let’s look at a few examples.

The International Criminal Court (ICC). When Palestine officially signed the Rome statute and joined the ICC, Israel withheld millions of dollars paid by Palestinians in taxes, which Israel collects. This money is needed to pay salaries in Palestine. But even more telling than this illegal act of collective punishment is the fact that Israel contacted several member countries of the ICC, imploring them to reduce the amount of money they pay to that organization in order to keep it going. They were rebuffed on every side. The one country they might have counted on to reduce donations was the United States; however, like Israel, the U.S. has never condescended to join the ICC, believing, like its protégé Israel, that it is above the law.

FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association; English: International Federation of Association Football). Palestine has petitioned FIFA to expel Israel from this organization, the largest and most prestigious soccer organization in the world, saying that Israel prevents Palestinian players from traveling to events, from purchasing necessary equipment, and in other ways preventing full Palestinian participation. In order to prevent any official action against it, Israel is frantically contacting the heads of soccer associations in other nations, desperate to gain support for its (indefensible) position. Rumors are that Israel is even making concessions to the Palestinians, to thwart what would be another slap in the face of the beleaguered Israeli international reputation.

The United Nations and Children’s Rights. In March, The Guardian reported this: “Senior U.N. officials in Jerusalem have been accused of caving in to Israeli pressure to abandon moves to include the state’s armed forces on a U.N. list of serious violators of

fantina

children’s rights.” That Israel kidnaps, arrests without charge, holds for months at a time and tortures children is all well-documented. But the U.N. has yet to officially condemn Israel, despite reports from U.N. agencies clearly stating the obvious. But Israel has worked hard, not to rectify the unspeakable abuses with which IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) terrorists treat Palestinian children, since that is apparently government policy, but to prevent the United Nations from taking action.

In the past, Israel did not bother with such trivialities; it had the U.S. do its dirty work for it. As recently as December, 2014, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called at least fifty heads of state to defeat a proposal in the United Nations that would have called for an end to the occupation by 2017.The thanks he received for his efforts was the controversial speech by Mr. Netanyahu to Congress, increased settlement building, and the statement that an independent Palestine would never exist while he is Prime Murderer. Apparently, even the hapless Mr. Kerry and his incompetent boss have been insulted beyond their breaking point, and are not running around the globe, demanding deference to Israel, at least in these matters.

What a difference a few years, social media, and well-publicized genocide make! Another stark difference can be seen in two examples on U.S. university campuses. In 2007, Professor Norman Finkelstein, a noted scholar, son of Holocaust survivors and an outspoken critic of Israel, was denied tenure at DePaul University in Chicago, based on his written, carefully-researched criticisms of that apartheid nation. Although this generated some minor controversy at the time, it wasn’t well-publicized.

In early August of 2014, a job offer tendered to Professor Steven Salaita by the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign was withdrawn shortly before the start of classes, due to some ‘tweets’ he sent, critical of Israel. By August 18, over 1,200 academics around the world had vowed to boycott the university, and that number has increased dramatically since then; countless events scheduled to take place there have been cancelled, and the American Association of University Professors is expected to formally censor the school this summer.

It does appear that Israel is on the run. Mr. Netanyahu has formed the most racist, apartheid government the world has known for generations, one that makes the apartheid regime that ruled South Africa for so long seem almost benign. Sweden became the 135th country to recognize Palestine in October of 2014, and just in the last several days the Vatican has done so. While that is certainly a tiny country, its leader is also the leader of billions of Catholics around the world, so the importance of this recognition can’t be overstated. Film and music festivals in Israel reduce their durations, because international participation is down; more and more entertainers are taking a stand against apartheid. Joint academic ventures between Israel and other nations are also on the decline, not to mention the many companies that will no longer do business with firms operating in the occupied territories.

The last major stronghold of support for Israel is the United States, and although President Barack Obama has talked about a ‘readjustment’ of relations with Israel, not much is expected to happen, as long as AIPAC (American Israel Political Affairs Committee) continues to pull the Congressional strings. And lobbying is the name of the game in the U.S. In the just-beginning race for the Republican presidential nomination, Florida Senator Marco Rubio is condemning any light criticism any candidate, announced or potential, ever made about Israel. This isn’t surprising, considering that one of his major donors is Norman Braman, a Florida businessman and a strong supporter of the illegal settlements, who is expected to spend between $10 and $25 million to help Mr. Rubio purchase a four-year lease on the White House. There is no room for principle, and certainly not for human rights, when such sums are to be had by violating them.

The U.S. is currently attempting to pass legislation neutralizing the BDS (Boycott, Divest and Sanction,) movement, and while it is likely to pass, it is unlikely to be upheld when the inevitable court challenge to it occurs. Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, hoping to cement the Jewish vote in his upcoming reelection campaign, is suggesting charging those who criticize Israel under hate-crimes laws. This is not being well-received north of the border, where human rights and civil rights seem to have more importance than they do in the U.S. And any thought that Jewish voters give complete support to Israeli crimes is belied by the number of Jewish organizations established to combat those crimes.

So it does seem as if time is running out. Israel may be able to avoid sanctions from FIFA, the ICC and the U.N. this year, but that nation is becoming the global pariah, shunned for its atrocious human rights violations in Palestine and within Israel itself, where there are separate laws for Israelis, different than those for Africans or Arabs. With U.S. backing, Israel became a world power, and it is now in decline, and so very dangerous. Palestinian suffering will increase in the short-term, but inevitably, Palestine will be free. And once again, the U.S. will be among the last at the party, preferring to remain outside with the international bully, while the other guests toast freedom.

Posted in Palestine Affairs, ZIO-NAZIComments Off on I$raHell on the Run: Becoming a Global Pariah

The Problem With the TPP is Capitalism

NOVANEWS
Stuck in an Antique, Suicidal Idiocy
by ROB URIE

Two decades or so ago Scottish philosopher Alisdair MacIntyre made the point that had so much effort not gone into proving the existence of God few people would ever have doubted it. As is currently the case in economics, had ‘free-trade’ not been so wildly oversold much of the economic malpractice attributable to it might not be so easily targetable. As it is, ‘free-trade’ is a slogan, a ‘brand,’ for an opportunistically defined set of social practices and relations. Even with reduced or nonexistent tariffs and trade barriers ‘the economy’ carries with it the residual of historical social relations, standing armies, governments that are political and economic actors on multiple levels and the preponderance of economic acts that never find their way into the economist’s purview.

While the pending TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) and TTIP (Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) trade deals have been correctly reported to strengthen intellectual property protections, patents and corporate say over civil governance, (1) a large contingent of mainstream economists and politicians is still invoking free-trade theory to sell the deals and (2) even leftish economists are careful to challenge only these specific aspects of the trade agreements, and not the base premises. Career risk is one reason for not stepping outside of free-trade dogma— economics is amongst the most intellectually constrained of ‘professions.’ And as history has it, the academic mainstream exists to explain the fundamental correctness of existing social relations, not to pose challenges to it.

uriettp1

Graph (1) above: manufacturing wage differences between countries, here including the costs of social insurance, are very large. U.S. wages are lower than those of Scandinavian and major European countries due both to lower direct wages and to lower social insurance benefits. Free-trade theory would have these countries at a major economic disadvantage to the U.S. When adjusted for hours worked, U.S. manufacturing workers are relatively poorly paid. And considering that the value of social insurance is a function of its price, high health care costs and poor outcomes place U.S. wages significantly lower when adjusted for the benefits that are actually delivered. While ‘developed’ Europe is rapidly moving toward ‘liberalization,’ toward the systematic immiseration of its manufacturing workers, residual labor power has slowed the pace relative to that of the U.S. Source: BLS.

A typical rhetorical strategy amongst economists is to isolate the effects of wage differentials on jobs gained or lost despite the fact that few of the corporations likely to outsource look at the world this way. Wages, including the costs of social insurance, are but one factor in the consideration of where to locate manufacturing. The ability to pollute with fewer restrictions (costs) is actually part of the mainstream calculus of the advantages of free-trade— ‘the environment’ is considered a natural ‘endowment’ and the ‘correct’ level of pollution a function of cost-benefit analysis, the trade-off between economic production and environmental destruction. Astute readers will see the formula for collective suicide here: the cost-benefit analysis is done at the national level while the toxic effects of industrial pollution adhere to no such boundaries— no global limit is part of the national calculation.

uriettp2

Picture (1) above: much has been made of the extreme levels of pollution in China while little effort has been made to relate the pollution back to Western consumption of goods manufactured there. Within free-trade theory the question of which country’s cost-benefit analysis Chinese pollution should be charged to comes to bear when U.S. based multinational corporations locate manufacturing in China. With China now the largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world, the question is: how much less would the West consume if the true costs of Chinese production were forced onto products made there? This cost-benefit shell-game is used to justify free-trade when the facts of pollution are concrete and borne by real human beings. Original image source: latimes.com.

A consideration related to ‘optimal’ polluting is transportation costs. With manufacturing wages of $3.00 per hour in China and few environmental restrictions the costs of transporting goods long distances to market are a consideration for Western corporations, but not the greenhouse gas emissions that are an uncounted cost of doing so. This ‘transportation’ effect crosses multiple national borders. The costs of polluting fuels can be allocated, but whose ‘costs’ do greenhouse gas emissions fall within in a national cost-benefit analysis? Low wages and toxic pollution are the result of ‘free-trade’ that working class Chinese are seeing from the growth of ‘state’ capitalism.

The ‘free-trade’ view toward labor is similar to that of pollution— there is an ‘optimal’ level of labor power that facilitates capital formation. Independent labor unions don’t exist in China and labor negotiations there tend to be ad hoc, addressing local grievances in place of making institutional changes. Western ‘free-trade’ agreements have made capital mobile while there have been very few efforts to make labor mobile— jobs are mobile, but workers aren’t. This difference illustrates a limitation of capitalist theory. Capital and capitalist products are mobile because they are created to be mobile. Human beings are situated by history, family, community and different languages and customs. To make labor mobile is to take away everything that makes us human.

uriettp3

Graph (2) above: following passage of NAFTA by Democrat Bill Clinton in 1993 the U.S. trade deficit grew and manufacturing employment plummeted. Economist Dean Baker scales manufacturing to broader employment to come to a similar conclusion here. Proponents of current trade deals argue that manufacturing employment was unaffected by NAFTA when a 10-second search for evidence points in the opposite direction. The claim that productivity gains are behind the fall in manufacturing employment requires a method for separating declining manufacturing wages from the calculation of labor output, with additional reference to the Cambridge Capital Controversy. Productivity calculations are capitalist metaphysics of the first order. Source: St. Louis Fed.

With materially lower manufacturing wages in other parts of the world coincident with few restrictions on industrial pollution, a question that must be asked is: why would trade agreements like TPP and TTIP be needed? The ability of corporations to use the ISDS (Investor-State Dispute Settlement) mechanism to challenge environmental and labor restrictions in developed countries suggests that the ultimate goal is to turn the ‘developed’ West into China. And in fact, the business press and elite politicians have spent to last two decades holding China up as a model for Western economic ‘growth.’ That China is “China” because the West is the West seems not to have occurred to these theoreticians of global domination. And in fact, China’s economic model is ‘managed’ capitalism, within the terms given, the polar opposite of ‘free-market’ economics.

Can Western elites really be so dim as to confuse free-market dogma with actual policies? The focus on intellectual property and patent protections in current trade agreements is the antithesis of free-market theories— they are monopoly rights conferred on private corporations. Support for monopoly rights is the basis of the better informed mainstream critiques of current trade deals. This is to argue that even in mainstream terms these aren’t free-trade deals, so the elites pushing them as such are either fools or liars. However, as the last half-century of economic outcomes suggests, the ‘real’ free-trade posed as the alternative requires similar terms for public accedence— catastrophic global warming, dead and dying oceans, Western cities turned into neo-colonial wastelands, global wars for economic resources and remote, self-serving elites whose singular goal is total control.

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Picture (2) above: financial capital can be moved around the globe at the push of a button and at the speed of sound but human beings, a/k/a ‘labor,’ have embedded relations, we can’t move freely across national boundaries and face language and cultural barriers to ‘free’ mobility. Here the Texas National Guard is being trained to ‘protect’ the U.S. border with Mexico— in the language of economics, to assure labor immobility. Jobs can be moved around the globe, but jobs aren’t labor, they are the capacity of mobile capital to hire labor. The lot of this embedded labor points to the opportunistic nature of free-trade theories; the premises determine the relevant constituents. Free-trade theory accounts for capital and capitalist ‘goods’ but comes up empty when it comes to actual human beings. The only way that we can be ‘accommodated’ is to become capital. Original image source: blog.chron.com.

The Chinese leadership has been relatively open and straightforward about its currency peg to the USD (U.S. dollar). The contrived brouhaha over currency manipulation— the peg that has kept the Chinese currency ‘undervalued’ relative to the USD, is twenty years late. What is likely attractive to U.S. elites is that the Chinese actually have a plan, a mercantilist export strategy that required an undervalued currency to support Chinese exports. The mainstream economists supporting current trade deals do so by spouting antique dogma about ‘comparative advantage’ which is fine with the Chinese— life is easier when your intellectual opponents are willfully blind ideologues. Lest this seem unduly dismissive, the ISDS mechanism, which has nothing to do with comparative advantage, could be removed and mainstream opposition to these trade deals would evaporate.

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Picture (3) above: David Ricardo is the de facto senior advisor to the U.S. trade delegation on modern trade theory. Comparative advantage is the argument that if nations do what they do best ‘the economy’ will benefit. That nation-states are historically locatable modes of social organization and that capitalist production ‘works’ by only accounting for its intended products draws a circle around Ricardo’s vision. Put differently, it is hardly incidental that current trade deals seek total control over civil governance to make the economics ‘work.’ Theories developed in ‘independent’ realms require factual independence that the complex interaction of ‘the world’ renders improbable. See Ian Fletcher’s well considered take down of comparative advantage here. Original image source: biography13.com.

Understanding what Western elites really want from the TPP and TTIP is crucial. President Obama argues that either ‘we’ write the global trade rules going forward or the Chinese will. Point one is that trade rules are not ‘free-trade’ in the sense of an absence of rules— what is being negotiated is ‘managed’ trade. Point two is that the ‘we’ writing the rules are corporate representatives— Bank of America and Monsanto do not represent the public interest and the assertion that they do is profoundly anti-democratic. And despite lip service to the contrary, the ISDS mechanism of these (and past) trade agreements is designed to preclude effective environmental and labor regulations by allowing corporations to sue for wholly imagined ‘lost profits’ that might result from them. In other words, and with apologies to George Orwell, (economic) freedom is slavery.

Implied in Mr. Obama’s view is a unipolar world run by multi-national corporations for their own benefit. Wall Street would be near the top of this food chain— the same Wall Street that got everything it asked for in terms of ‘freedom’ from oversight and regulation and nevertheless killed the global economy in 2008 and exists today on public guarantees, transfers and implied future too-big-to-fail bailouts. U.S. automakers were only able to stay in business through the 1970s and 1980s through massive state intervention— ‘free-marketeer’ Ronald Reagan imposed tariffs and import restrictions that allowed bloated U.S. executives to sell poor quality cars while labor unions were crushed under the interest-rate austerity imposed by Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker. And how profitable would Chevron and Exxon-Mobil be without the murderous, extractive U.S. military to ‘liberate’ oil and gas for them? This is who Mr. Obama today claims should be ‘making the rules’ for the world.

For those who haven’t heard this directly from the mouths of the business theoreticians who birthed it, around two decades ago a group of American business folk, middle aged White guys in suits mostly, developed the theory that America’s ‘comparative advantage,’ what we do best, is ‘management.’ With echoes of the ‘White man’s burden’ American managers, goes the theory, will create a modular economy where ‘we’ tell people, working class Indians, Chinese and Mexicans, what to do and how to do it. Adding clarity of vision, ‘we’ would hire local managers to manage the local workers, local engineers to engineer the production processes, local product designers to design the products and ‘we’ would either hire or locate manufacturing facilities locally. With ‘others’ designing and making products and local managers managing the process, all that was left for ‘us’ to do is to check ‘our’ bank balances to watch the profits accrue.

Yves Smith of nakedcapitalism.com does a slightly more respectful take down of the clever-lite nature of outsourcing ‘theory,’ but the point of current relevance is that Citigroup, General Motors and Monsanto, et al are the chosen players and the antique theoretical anachronism of comparative advantage, with American business ‘leaders’ deciding the terms, is the game that the TPP and TTIP are intended to promote. The ‘intent’ of the ISDS mechanism of superseding civil governance is a function of fitting poorly considered economic theories over the ‘political’ frame of nation-state— Mr. Obama and trade negotiators don’t see it as a capitalist coup because the actual intent is several degrees less sophisticated than the junior high school political theory required to see just how insidious it really is. This isn’t to deny mal-intent. But to the extent it informs these trade agreements, there is more dim tedium than brilliant conspiracy.

Those of us hoping to stick around for a few more decades really might want to change the social trajectory away from this suicidal antique idiocy. What the current arrangement of social circumstance can do— all that it can do, is drop bombs, exacerbate environmental catastrophe and be really mean to poor people. For those of us stuck on the choice between Hillary or Jeb, Democrats or Republicans, what they can do— all that they can do, is drop bombs, exacerbate environmental catastrophe and be really mean to poor people. There is truth in the idea that societies are judged by how we treat the ‘least’ among us, not in some cosmic accounting, but by how we live our lives in the present. From one side the question is: how much crap do ‘we’ really need and from the other, what is the true cost of it and who pays this cost? Vote if you care to, call ‘your’ representatives to vote down trade agreements if you think doing so is useful, but revolution is the solution.

Posted in USAComments Off on The Problem With the TPP is Capitalism

I$raHell Gears

NOVANEWS
Meet the Real Israeli Defense Force: the US Congress
by JEFFREY ST. CLAIR

It started as a rather melancholy Friday afternoon in the West Bank. Nothing unusual. Just another funeral for a promising young man who died much too young. Under the implacable shadow of the Wall and in the rifle sights of Israeli soldiers, more than 200 mourners walked down the cobbled street toward the old cemetery in the village of Beit Ummar. Some shouted angrily at the soldiers, condemning Israel for yet another senseless death.

The funeral was for a college student, Jafaar Awad, who slipped into a coma and died only two months after being released from an Israeli prison, where his serious illness had festered untreated for months. Awad was only 22 when he died, as have so many other Palestinian prisoners, from medical neglect at the hands of Israeli jailers.

As his family huddled around his grave, the IDF launched a dozen tear gas canisters toward the mourners, scattering the stunned grouping. Then automatic weapons fire strafed the crowd, bullets hitting more than a dozen people, including Jafaar’s cousin Ziad Awad. Ziad was struck in the back, the bullet piercing his spine. He was rushed to the Al Ahli Hospital in Hebron, where he died of his wounds.

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Ziad was only 28

A few hours after Ziad’s murder at the hands of Israeli snipers, the IDF issued a terse statement saying that Israeli soldiers fired on the crowd of mourners after people where seen throwing stones.

I’m surprised the IDF even felt compelled to issue a justification for a kind of killing that has become routine: kids were throwing stones, skipping rocks, jumping rope, blowing bubbles, tossing dirt on an open grave. They had no option but to shoot.

The Palestinians have no redress for these daily acts of butchery: no court to go to judge the legitimacy of shootings, no venue to seek compensation for medical bills, pain and suffering or lost work days, no avenue to find a measure of justice for the slain. How much loss, misery and humiliation are one people expected to endure?

The Israeli state has never been more violent, the blood toll of Palestinian civilians never so high. In 2014, the Israeli military and security forces killed more than 2,300 Palestinians and wounded another 17,000. That’s the worst carnage since 1967, when the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza intensified in the wake of the Six Day War. During the height of the last Israeli rampage in Gaza last summer, more than 500,000 Palestinians were displaced from their homes. And, according to a recent UN Report titled Fractured Lives, more than 100,000 of them remain homeless. Detentions of Palestinians inside Israeli prisons are also on the rise. As of the end of February of this year, more than 6,600 Palestinians were being held in Israeli prisons and IDF detention centers, the most in five years. So the gears of the killing machine grind on with impunity, each slaughter only serving to embolden more killing.

Who will stop them? Certainly not the Israeli state’s principle financial investor. For the most vigorous Israeli Defense Force, unblinking in its vigilance, unfaltering in its loyalty, is the U.S. Congress. There is a savage synchronicity to an alliance between one nation that drone strikes weddings and another that shoots ups funerals.

Each year Congress drops a cool $3 billion on Israel. Even in chambers ruled by fiscal tightwads the only real debate is whether this lavish dispensation, which accounts for more than half of all U.S. military aid worldwide, is enough to satiate Israel’s thirst for new weaponry. Even as Israel repeatedly sabotages U.S. policy across the region, Obama has described the U.S. aid package as “sacrosanct.”

In this light, the annual subornment of Israel, which totals about a third of the nation’s arms budget, by the U.S. begins to look less like a subsidy to a client state than protection money paid to a gangster organization.

It should come as no surprise that two of Benjamin Netanyahu’s most fervid American disciples, Ted Cruz and Tom Cotton, both graduated from Harvard Law, where they incubated in the Zionist hothouse of Alan Dershowitz. Yet, Cruz and Cotton aren’t outliers. Indeed, there is scarcely a micron of daylight between the positions of Ted Cruz and Elizabeth Warren, the Athena (to HRC’s Medea, I suppose) of the progressives, when it comes to defending the scandalous behavior of Israel. Indeed Warren, like many other liberals, seems to work overtime to demonstrate her unrivaled fealty to the Jewish state.

The vaunted Israel Lobby scarcely even needs a lobbyist anymore. These days the new members of congress arrived pre-conditioned to demonstrate their devotion to the Israeli cause. They don’t need to be bribed with PAC money, courted with hookers or blackmailed with indiscrete cell-phone photos. When Israel assassinates an Iranian scientist, uses chemical weapons in Gaza, tortures prisoners, murders a young American peace activist, enfilades a burial party or is caught spying on the American president, the congress will leap in unison to its defense–no questions asked, no questions answered–and dispatch another check to Tel Aviv.

In the face of the world’s longest running war crime, the American capital stands inert, an ethical void, its halls packed with the political equivalent of GMOs. Pass the Round-Up.

Posted in Palestine Affairs, ZIO-NAZIComments Off on I$raHell Gears

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