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Why I oppose ENDA

29 Jul

An example of the rhetoric of those opposing exemptions to ENDA

This has been reposted from ZBlogs.

There has been a recent ruse over ENDA, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. As Katie McDonough noted in Salon, after the recent Hobby Lobby decision “progressive and LGBTQ groups one-by-one withdrew their support from the measure” including groups like the “National Gay and Lesbian Task Force [NGLTF], the Transgender Law Center and the American Civil Liberties Union.” What was their reason for not supporting the bill? The measure’s “gaping exemptions for religious organizations” specifically, making the bill, in their view, worthless. At worst, some said that this exemption locked in discrimination for millions as argued by groups like the Center for Inquiry in their statement withdrawing support of ENDA. Even 100 religious leaders sent a letter to President Obama telling him to remove a religious exemption from an ENDA-like executive order (Obama has since signed the executive order). On the religious exemption in ENDA alone, one of my friends, who is trans*, told me that she did not want to participate in lobbying for the law, after I had sent her an article about groups dropping their support since I thought she’d be interested in the subject.

One group remained a strong supporter of ENDA: the Human Rights Campaign or HRC, the biggest Gay Inc. organ, with Fred Sainz, as noted in the liberal gay publication The Advocate, saying that they support ENDA “because it will provide essential workplace protections to millions of LGBT people.”Other groups such as Freedom to Work and the National Center for Transgender Equality still support the bill, as do weird allies: Republican backers like the gay conservative group Log Cabin Republicans and the American Unity Fund. Even gay conservative Andrew Sullivan, who has some reservations about the law, supports it. In contrast, Matt Barber, who has previously claimed that homosexuals openly ridicule Christianity and engaged in fearmongering by falsely claiming that a House bill on HIV/AIDs prevention paid for gender-reassignment surgery, absurdly claimed that ENDA was “the crown jewel of homofascism” and that left-leaning groups were mad since it did not “outlaw” Christianity.

It is strange that the religious exemption in the law is being brought up as an issue now. Back in April of last year, if not earlier, the ACLU, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, and others criticized the law’s religious exemption but they did not withdraw their support for the bill. If the Hobby Lobby decision had never happened, it is a likely that these groups would still be supporting the bill, despite their ‘reservations.’ Lest us forget that even though the Democratic Party theoretically supports ENDA, but they “have allowed it to languish on paper for a decade without ever hitting the floor of Congress,” as noted by Sherry Wolf in CounterPunch. More importantly, as Wolf noted in the same article, then-President Bill Clinton “held a closed-door meeting in 1997 with advocates of ENDA” which she said had “been chiseled away at to include notable exemptions for small businesses, the armed forces and religious organizations.”

In my critique of ENDA, in an article I wrote for Dissident Voice last November, I said I was uneasy with a section that showed that the law applied “to a great majority of the workforce, but only to a sliver of the overall businesses.” I further noted that volunteers are not covered by the law, that “those fired for gender ID or sexual orientation before the act is enacted will not benefit from the legal repercussions of the law” and a section of the law I still find utterly chilling, since it “allows employers to continue (or begin) to set ‘dress or grooming standards’ of employees.” In this article, I also went through all of the corporate sponsors of the bill, most of whom were part of the so-called “Business Coalition for Workplace Fairness,” ranging from Intel to Microsoft to Chevron, showing that the corporate sector believes that the lesbians and gays (mainly) constitute a new “marketplace to sell goods and services.” I concluded the article saying that ENDA reinforces “the capitalistic status quo by not challenging corporate power or the power elite in any serious way” and I warned that the “the corporate sector is going full-speed ahead” as they try to rapidly turn the whole community of gender, sexual and radical diversity “into a market so they can get millions of dollars in profits.” Looking back, my argument was a moderate one which didn’t even oppose ENDA, but I still agree with most of what I wrote, other than the multiple uses of the term GSRM, which I’ve since learned is not a positive term.

Most supporters of the law do not realize the obvious reality that surrounds the law itself. The business community wants to tap a new market, while using it boost their profits with policies of ‘diversity’ and ‘inclusiveness’ that follow the law’s enactment and subsequent implementation. Still, the law itself, as I noted in the previous paragraph, has deep problems. People like Robyn Pennacchia of Death and Taxes magazine say that ENDA should be passed because it is “geared towards protecting the rights of American citizens” but not with any of the religious exemptions, because it is an “exercise in futility.” Even if there was no religious exemption in the law, there would still be the section allowing “an employer from requiring an employee, during the employee’s hours at work, to adhere to reasonable dress or grooming standards,” or another defining one’s sexual orientation as “homosexuality, heterosexuality, or bisexuality,” rather than using an open definition like that of the American Psychological Association. A pro-ENDA article, in Gay Star News, interestingly enough, notes that the law “bars significant remedies available under the Civil Rights Act in cases of race or sex discrimination” and doesn’t allow LGBT plaintiffs to “file disparate impact claims seeking to show that an employer’s policy has disproportionately negative consequences on [their] community.” Any sort of program that mimics affirmative action for gays, lesbians, trans* people, bisexuals and others, is also not required under the law which declares that

“nothing…shall be construed or interpreted to require or permit…any covered entity to grant preferential treatment to any individual or to any group because of the actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity…[or] the adoption or implementation by a covered entity of a quota on the basis of actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.”

Georgetown University law student Noah Baron brought this up in an article published last month in the Huffington Post, and went even further. He argued that the law was awful before the Hobby Lobby decision, noting that it “prohibits both public and private employers from making use of most affirmative action programs” but only when it is “applied to LGBT people” and it “may roll back significant progress made in protecting transgender Americans from employment discrimination.” Baron later called ENDA “a token, but ultimately simply another reminder that LGBT persons are regarded as less-that,” while noting that the Title VII protection that has been won by transgender people could be lost with ENDA’s passing. In the final sentence of his article, he remarked that ENDA “would achieve” something that is deeply disconcerting: the “enshrining into federal law anti-LGBT bias as an officially more-acceptable form of bigotry.”

There is something disturbing that is getting little coverage: how restrictions put in place by President George W. Bush which allow “faith-based hiring” would not be affected by the law or by Obama’s executive order. Additionally, the law basically institutionalizes discrimination not only through the religious exemption, but it also does so through “dress and grooming standards” which infringes on the freedom of expression of individuals especially those such as trans* or queer people, who are not as accepted by society than others, could be forced to groom or dress a certain way that would be harmful to their well-being. Why are groups not putting up a fuss about that? Why just this religious exemption? And why now?

There is another deeper problem with ENDA, which could easily be called the Ensuring National Discrimination Act. It could be an example of how efforts to make “social injury” illegal “powerfully legitimizes law and the state as appropriate protectors against injury and casts injured individuals as needing such protection by such protectors,” as argued by political theorist and political science professor at the University of California at Berkeley, Wendy Brown, in the introduction to her book, States of Injury (see page 27). If applied to ENDA, the “injured individuals” would be people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans*, queer, etc… and the mechanisms of enforcing the anti-discrimination measures would be the legitimization of the state. In the instance of ENDA, it is hard to apply this idea completely since the law has many exemptions and leaves out the power of the state in many instances, giving individuals more leeway at times.

Some folks in the vast community of gender, sexual and radical diversity will be angry and enraged at this article, saying that there must be non-discrimination measures that protect their community. I agree that such measures can be useful and can help. Stopping discrimination of people of any sexual orientation, color or creed is a laudable goal. However, ENDA as it currently stands, is a bill that institutionalizes discrimination, even without the religious exemption, whether supporters of the law will admit it or not. The nature of ENDA and the corporate support behind it, which is connected to an exploitation of ‘new’ market of ‘wanting’ consumers, is why I cannot lend my support to this legislation. There are a number of questions you could ask of the legislation (What will the law do about homelessness and poverty? What will it do to address the harassment of trans* individuals by police? What will it do to stop the criminalization of young trans* and queer people?) and the answer is always: NOTHING. In the end, it is best to remember what Linda Zerilli, a professor at the University of Chicago, writes in her book, Feminism and the Abyss of Freedom (page 122), something that supporters and their allies pushing ENDA often forget, but should not be forgotten: “rights are not things to be distributed from above, but a demand for something more made from below.”

What Chelsea Manning has told us

17 Jun

 “[Chelsea Manning] did break the law by sharing private government knowledge with Wikileaks about what she observed while she was over in the Middle East. But there has been no proof that by leaking this information she risked our lives. By leaking this information we know about critical events in our countries actions while over in the Middle East.”- Lucas McCahill of the LGBTQ Humanist Council of Baltimore

With trans* whistleblower Chelsea Manning’s new op-ed in the New York Times about the U.S. military and media freedom there are those who will say that Manning got what she deserved, that she is a traitor, yadda yadda. Yet, none of this is true. Chelsea Manning leaked thousands of documents to the anti-secrecy and transparency organization, Wikileaks (which is also a legitimate journalistic outfit) which have improved the public discourse. These documents and files included the Afghanistan war logs, the Iraq war logs, the Guantanamo files,over 250,000 US diplomatic cables (which Wikileaks called ‘Cablegate’[1]), and the Collateral Murder video [2] This article highlights some of what was leaked, and shows that Manning was just following the montra of the current national security state: ‘if you see something, say something,’ by leaking dirty deeds of the US government, war crimes and much more.

Here are some specifics of what we know now because of Chelsea Manning:

1. “According to WikiLeaks cache of U.S. embassy cables, there is number of different discoveries about Iran. For one, the United States has been involved in Iran in some way since that time and people are tired of reforms,” secondly the US has been working to foment revolution in Iran and it is, “right for Iran to be angry at the United States due to current actions there covertly and actions in the past” as noted in an article I wrote for Interesting Blogger (on blogspot) back in December 2011 [3]

2. As noted in The Guardian, “Chevron negotiated with Tehran about developing an Iraq-Iran cross-border oilfield in spite of tight US sanctions…[and] a US state department source said that after a first round of bids in June 2009, there were news stories that Iraq’s government was in talks with Chevron to develop the Majnoon oilfield. It is one of the richest in the world, near Basra and the Iranian border.” [4]

3. As the founding director of Global Voices Advocacy has said, “what we call the Arab Spring was the result of many seemingly small things, butterfly effects. One of them was a courageous woman named Chelsea Manning. If the U.S. will take 35 years from Chelsea Manning’s life, may it console her that she has given us, Arabs, the secret gift that helped expose and topple 50 years of dictatorships.”

4. As noted by Greg Mitchell in an article in The Nation, he writes that there were a number of things that came out from the ‘Cablegate’ leaks:

  • “[the] Yemeni president lied to his own people, claiming his military carried out air strikes on militants actually done by the US. All part of giving US full rein in country against terrorists”
  • “[the] US tried to get Spain to curb its probes of Gitmo torture and rendition”
  • “Egyptian torturers [were] trained by FBI…allegedly to teach the human rights issues”
  • “[a] State Dept. memo [said that the] US-backed 2009 coup in Honduras was “illegal and unconstitutional””
  • cables on Tunisia which “appear to [have] help[ed] spark revolt in that country [show that] the country’s ruling elite described as “The Family,” with Mafia-like skimming throughout the economy. The country’s first lady may have made massive profits off a private school”
  • “[the] US knew all about massive corruption in Tunisia back in 2006 but went on supporting the government anyway, making it the pillar of its North Africa policy”
  • “[the] cables showed the UK promised in 2009 to protect US interests in the official Chilcot inquiry on the start of the Iraq war”
  • “[the] oil giant Shell claims to have “inserted staff” and fully infiltrated Nigeria’s government”
  • “[the] US pressured the European Union to accept GM[Os]“
  • “Washington was misled by our own diplomats on Russia-Georgia showdown”
  • “[an] extremely important historical document [was] finally released in full: Ambassador April Glaspie’s cable from Iraq in 1990 on meeting with Saddam Hussein before Kuwait invasion”
  • “the UK sidestepped a ban on housing cluster bombs…[there were] shocking levels of US spying at the United Nations…and intense use of diplomats abroad in intelligence-gathering roles”
  • “[a] potential environmental disaster kept secret by the US when a large consignment of highly enriched uranium in Libya came close to cracking open and leaking radioactive material into the atmosphere”
  • “[the] US used threats, spying, and more to try to get its way at last year’s crucial climate conference in Copenhagen”
  • “American and British diplomats fear Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program — with poor security — could lead to fissile material falling into the hands of terrorists or a devastating nuclear exchange with India”
  • “Hundreds of cables detail US use of diplomats as “sales” agents, more than previously thought, centering on jet rivalry of Boeing vs. Airbus”
  • “Millions in US military aid for fighting Pakistani insurgents went to other gov’t uses (or stolen) instead”
  • “Israel wanted to bring Gaza to the ”brink of collapse.””
  • “The US secret services [sic] used Turkey as a base to transport terrorism suspects as part of its extraordinary rendition program”
  • “as protests spread in Egypt, cables revealed that strong man Suleiman was at center of government’s torture programs, causing severe backlash for Mubarak after he named Suleiman vice president during the revolt. Other cables revealed or confirmed widespread Mubarak regime corruption, police abuses and torture, and claims of massive Mubarak family fortune, significantly influencing media coverage and US response.”

5. As noted on the site of the Chelsea Manning Support Network, Chelsea Manning revealed that (of things which haven’t been mentioned before)

  • “thousands of reports of prisoner abuse and torture had been filed against the Iraqi Security Forces” but the US government did nothing
  • “U.S. officials were told to cover up evidence of child abuse by contractors in Afghanistan”
  • the prison at Guantanamo “has held mostly innocent people and low-level operatives
  • “there is an official tally of civilian deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan”
  • “The State Department backed corporate opposition to a Haitian minimum wage law.”
  • “The State Department authorized the theft of the UN Secretary General’s DNA.”
  • “The Japanese and U.S. Governments had been warned about the seismic threat at Fukushima.”
  • “The Obama Administration allowed Yemen’s President to cover up a secret U.S. drone bombing campaign.”

6. As noted by Ryan Gallagher in an article in Slate magazine, Manning revealed that:

  • “Coalition troops’ [had an] alleged role in killing at least 195 civilians in unreported incidents, one reportedly involving U.S. service members machine-gunning a bus, wounding or killing 15 passengers.”
  • “U.S. special operations forces were conducting offensive operations inside Pakistan despite sustained public denials and statements to the contrary by U.S. officials.”
  • “A leaked diplomatic cable provided evidence that during an incident in 2006, U.S. troops in Iraq executed at least 10 Iraqi civilians, including a woman in her 70s and a 5-month-old, then called in an airstrike to destroy the evidence. The disclosure of this cable was later a significant factor in the Iraqi government’s refusal to grant U.S. troops immunity from prosecution beyond 2011, which led to U.S. troops withdrawing from the country.”
  • “A NATO coalition in Afghanistan was using an undisclosed “black” unit of special operations forces to hunt down targets for death or detention without trial. The unit was revealed to have had a kill-or-capture list featuring details of more than 2,000 senior figures from the Taliban and al-Qaida, but it had in some cases mistakenly killed men, women, children, and Afghan police officers.”
  • “The U.S. threatened the Italian government in an attempt to influence a court case involving the indictment of CIA agents over the kidnapping of an Egyptian cleric. Separately, U.S. officials were revealed to have pressured Spanish prosecutors to dissuade them from investigating U.S. torture allegations, secret “extraordinary rendition” flights, and the killing of a Spanish journalist by U.S. troops in Iraq.”

7. As noted by Rania Khalek on Alternet, Manning revealed that:

  • “US officials work as salespeople for Boeing.  The merger of state and corporate power is striking in a  slew of cables  detailing US State Department officials acting as marketing agents on behalf of one lucky corporation. Earlier this year the  New York Times  revealed details about how US diplomats have actively promoted the sale of commercial jets built by the US company Boeing. Hundreds of cables from WikiLeaks show that Boeing had a sales force of US diplomats that went up to the highest levels of government, even going as far as sabotaging sales for Boeing’s European rival Airbus. Enticing deals for the jetliners were offered to heads of state and airline executives in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Jordan, Turkey and other countries. The WikiLeaks documents also suggest that demands for bribes and payment to suspicious intermediaries still take place.”
  • “Public Citizen has discovered a cable from October 2009, when Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa issued a decree to “improve access to medicines and support public health programs through a protocol that would reduce drug costs. Cables from US embassy personnel in Ecuador to the U.S. Department of State show “the United States, multinational pharmaceutical companies, and three ministers within the government shared information and worked to undermine Ecuador’s emerging policy.””
  • “From Bolivia to Venezuela to Peru, American diplomats are obsessed with securing the profits of multinational mining corporations at the cost of indigenous rights and the environment. At least that is the impression given by WikiLeaks cables that detail the eruption of anti-mining protests near the Ecuador border against the mining firm Minera Majaz.”
  • “A more recent US embassy cable dated March 17, 2008, reveals that US diplomats spied on indigenous activists and their supporters who were organizing anti-summit protests against the European Union-Latin American Heads of State summit that was scheduled in Lima that year.”

8. As noted in a November 2010 Reuters article purportedly about the ‘main revelations’ of the Wikileaks cables, Manning revealed:

  • “King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia has repeatedly urged the United States to attack Iran to destroy its nuclear program and is reported to have advised Washington to “cut off the head of the snake” while there was still time.”
  • “The Bahraini king told U.S. diplomats that Iran’s nuclear program should be halted by any means, and the crown prince of the emirate of Abu Dhabi saw “the logic of war dominating” when it comes to dealing with the Iranian threat.”
  • “Top oil exporter Saudi Arabia offered to promote energy ties with China if Beijing backed sanctions against Iran, U.S. diplomatic cables said.”
  • “The top diplomatic adviser to French President Nicolas Sarkozy told a senior U.S. diplomat last year that Iran was a “fascist” state and the time had come to decide further steps.”
  • “A non-Iranian businessman traveling often to Tehran told U.S. diplomats last year one of his contacts had been told by former President Ali Akbar Rafsanjani that Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei had terminal leukemia and could die in a few months.”
  • “Iran has obtained sophisticated missiles from North Korea capable of hitting western Europe, and the United States is concerned Iran is using those rockets as “building blocks” to build longer-range missiles.”
  • “China’s Politburo directed the intrusion into Google’s computer systems in that country, a Chinese contact told the U.S. Embassy in January, as part of a computer sabotage campaign carried out by government operatives, private experts and Internet outlaws recruited by the Chinese government. They have broken into U.S. government computers and those of Western allies, the Dalai Lama and American businesses since 2002, cables said.”
  • “Some Chinese officials do not regard North Korea as a useful ally and would not intervene if the reclusive state collapsed, a South Korean official told the U.S. ambassador to Seoul citing conversations with high-level officials in Beijing.”
  • “In April 2009, He Yafei, then China’s vice foreign minister, told a U.S. diplomat in Beijing that North Korea acted like a “spoiled child” to attract U.S. attention through steps such as firing a three-stage rocket over Japan.”
  • “U.S. and South Korean officials discussed the prospects for a unified Korea should the North’s economic troubles and political transition lead the state to implode.”
  • “The South Koreans considered commercial inducements to China to “help salve” Chinese concerns about living with a reunified Korea that is in a “benign alliance” with Washington, according to the American ambassador to Seoul.”
  • “Russian Prime Minister Russia’s Vladimir Putin is an “alpha-dog” ruler of a deeply corrupt state dominated by its security forces, U.S. diplomatic documents said. By contrast, President Dmitry Medvedev “plays Robin to Putin’s Batman.””
  • “U.S. diplomats described Afghan President Hamid Karzai as “an extremely weak man who did not listen to facts,” but was easily swayed by conspiracy theories. They said his brother was widely believed to be corrupt and a drug trafficker.”
  • “Since 2007, the United States has mounted a secret and so far unsuccessful effort to remove highly enriched uranium from a Pakistani research reactor out of fear it could be diverted for use in an illicit nuclear device.”
  • “Saudi donors remain the chief financiers of Sunni militant groups like al Qaeda, and the tiny Persian Gulf state of Qatar was the “worst in the region” in counterterrorism efforts, according to a State Department cable last December.”
  • “American diplomats have bargained with other countries to help empty the Guantanamo Bay prison by resettling detainees. Slovenia was told to take a prisoner if it wanted to meet with President Barack Obama, and Kiribati was offered incentives worth millions of dollars to take in Chinese Muslim detainees. In another case, accepting more prisoners was described as “a low-cost way for Belgium to attain prominence in Europe,” a cable said.”
  • “U.S. diplomats cast doubts on the reliability of NATO ally Turkey, portraying its leadership as divided and permeated by Islamists and said advisers to Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan had “little understanding of politics beyond Ankara.”
  • “Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is “feckless, vain and ineffective” and his “frequent late nights and penchant for partying hard mean he does not get sufficient rest,” a U.S. diplomat said.”
  • “The United States has failed to prevent Syria supplying arms to Hezbollah in Lebanon, which has amassed a huge stockpile since its 2006 war with Israel, the cables said.”
  • “U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton questioned the mental health of Argentina’s President Cristina Fernandez, asking U.S. diplomats to investigate whether she was on medication.”

9. According to The Week magazine Manning revealed:

  • “Afghan soldiers are killing each other in drug-fueled, fratricidal skirmishes”
  • “The leaks contain “intriguing evidence” that the U.S. military is “paying local media outlets to run friendly stories,””
  • “A February 2009 report ominously suggests that the Taliban could have developed chemical weapons”
  • “The incident reports are full of stories of the U.S. chasing down and killing Taliban fighters with unmanned Reaper aerial drones, flown by joystick-wielding pilots in a Nevada bunker.”
  • “Among the “range of sensational plots” allegedly hatched by colluding Taliban and Pakistani intelligence agents was one to poison the beer headed to Western troops,”

10. As noted in a CBS News story, Manning showed:

  • “The Obama administration worked with Republicans during his first few months in office to protect Bush administration officials facing a criminal investigation overseas for their involvement in establishing policies that some considered torture…[and] leaned on Spain to derail this potential prosecution.”
  • “Secret State Department cables show a South Korean official quoted as saying that North Korea’s collapse is likely to happen “two to three years” after the death of the current dictator, Kim Jong Il”
  • North Korea is secretly helping the military dictatorship in Myanmar build nuclear and missile sites in its jungles, according to a leaked diplomatic cable.”
  • “Secret U.S. diplomatic cables reveal that BP suffered a blowout after a gas leak in the Caucasus country of Azerbaijan in September 2008, a year and a half before another BP blowout killed 11 workers and started a leak that gushed millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.”
  • Saudi Arabia is one of the largest origin points for funds supporting international terrorism, according to a leaked diplomatic cable.”
  • “Mexican President Felipe Calderon told a U.S. official last year that Latin America “needs a visible U.S. presence” to counter Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s growing influence in the region”
  • “A newly released confidential U.S. diplomatic cable predicts Cuba’s economic situation could become “fatal” within two to three years
  • “McDonald’s tried to delay the US government’s implementation of a free-trade agreement in order to put pressure on El Salvador to appoint neutral judges in a $24m lawsuit it was fighting in the country”

11. According to an article in The Daily Beast, Manning revealed:

  1. “As tensions on the peninsula escalate, American and South Korean officials have already discussed plans to unite the two Koreas should the North ultimately collapse.”
  2. “[the US] State Department Gives Low Marks to Germany’s Merkel”

12. As noted in a paper I published on academia.edu, one can determine easily that Rwanda’s “two main opposition parties (the Liberal Party and the Social Democratic Party) cooperate with RPF [Rwandan Patriotic Front]; and did not oppose Kagame as President.” This means that Rwanda is “a terror state run by Kagame and his cadres…that benefits a specific group of elites over the poor masses,” and has little or no opposition to such a state in the political arena since the ‘opposition’ parties are not really opposition parties but are rather collaborators with the Kagame regime.

 

There is likely much more, but I think this is sufficient for now.[4] If there is something else that someone finds, please share it.

 

Notes:

[1] This does not include the Kissinger Cables or the Carter Cables. The Kissinger Cables, as noted by Wikipedia, revealed that “Yasser Arafat, President of the Palestinian National Authority, was a key asset to the U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East…Kissinger and State Department were doubtful of Margaret Thatcher’s prospects of becoming the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom because of her “immaculate grooming” and “imperious manner”…The Vatican dismissed reports of massacres by the Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet as “propaganda”…George Fernandes, chairman of the Socialist Party of India, who had faced prosecution for conspiracy against the government of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, sought to obtain funding from the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency and the French government in order to organize underground sabotage activities.”

[2] This video shows, according to Wikileaks, “the indiscriminate slaying of over a dozen people in the Iraqi suburb of New Baghdad” including two journalists from Reuters. I remember watching the whole thing sometime ago and its deeply disturbing and sickening what extent they go to so that these people are killed.

[3] For the specific cables used in that article, see: 09RPODUBAI316, 09RPODUBAI327, 01DUBAI1141, 97ABUDHABI3777, and 96ABUDHABI7350

[4] There has been some happiness from the right-wing after Wired wrote this article about the WMD hunt in Iraq, yet none of the times does it say that chemical weapons were found but only presumed to be…which is not conclusive evidence of WMDs…and once again says that there really weren’t WMDs in the country. Case closed.

A recovery for the one percent

14 Jun

g20 protests 2009

Coming into the 2014 elections, and so on, Democrats will be touting this magical ‘recovery’ brought on by American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (also called the ‘Recovery act’ or ‘the stimulus’) and other measures. It is important to challenge this idea head on and tell the truth about the ‘recovery’ itself. This article is not a full analysis of every single article out there, but it hopes to explain to some degree how the recovery has benefited the one percent

In April 2012, liberal Washington Post columnist Ezra Klein wrote about the ‘recovery.’ He said that while early in the “recession, there was some talk that the economic crisis would, among other things, slow or even reverse the run-up in inequality,” it in fact did the opposite: “the recovery, such as it is, has made inequality worse.” Klein went on to write that “financial markets and corporate profits…have recovered far faster than the labor market or the housing sector” but that the “middle-class American family that owns your home” has not really felt a recovery. Over one year later, another article about the recovery was published in the Washington Post, using data from inequality researchers showed that [1]:

while only 49 percent of the decline in incomes during the recession was born by the top 1 percent (whose income share fell to 18.1 percent due to the recession), 95 percent of income gains since the recovery started have gone to them. This is a big change from past recessions and recoveries.

As Paul Taylor and Richard Fry of the Pew Research Center told the Washington Post, “It has been a very good recovery for those at the upper end of the wealth distribution. But there has been no recovery for the lower 93, which is nearly everybody.”Now this should be no surprise since Obama admitted himself in his horrid liberal rhetoric here , here and here:

we’ve seen a two-decade to three-decade-long trend where increases in profitability, expansions of markets, increases in corporate profits, rises in the stock market don’t translate into higher incomes and higher wages for the ordinary person — at the same time that their costs for sending their kids to college have skyrocketed.

Corporate profits have skyrocketed to all-time highs—but for more than a decade, wages and incomes have barely budged.

We know that despite economic growth and close to record corporate profits, despite the fact that folks at the very top are doing better than ever, that there are too many families all across the country who are still struggling to get by, who work hard every day but have trouble making ends meet at the end of the month.

Yet Obama says this but he has never pushed any policies that try to seriously tackle what he calls a ‘trend’ or to stop the hurt  and suffering of the working and middle classes.

Beyond this, some may still have their substantive claims about the ‘recovery’ that has too place. I looked into some articles in alternative publications to see if I could find something substantive and as it turned out, there was a good body of criticism. Zoltan Zigedy in the publication Against the Current wrote that the Jack Rasmus’s book, Obama’s Economy: Recovery for the Few demonstrates that:

“Obama — the candidate — drew his financial support from Wall Street, surrounded himself with corporate-friendly, free-market-oriented advisers, and preferred caution and compromise to any bold, new vision…once Obama had all but sewn up the nomination, he began an even further rightward shift…Beyond Rasmus’ account and well before the presidential candidacy, Obama’s career was marked by sycophancy to power and wealth and by opportunism…As Rasmus demonstrates, Obama’s economic course was largely predictable from his campaign promises…Rasmus sifts through the seeming chaos and improvisations of the last four years to find three distinct Obama recovery programs implemented in 2009, 2010, and 2011. In addition, he identifies “two and a half” Federal Reserve actions (Quantitative Easings) meant to revive the slumping economy. It is his considered opinion that all these efforts failed to restore the economy to anything like a sustainable vitality…After reading Rasmus’ new book, one will find little to justify praise for the Obama administration. While the three trillion dollars of recovery programs (as tabulated by Rasmus) from March of 2008 until September of 2011 — more than two-thirds of these federal dollars allocated on Obama’s watch — may have staved off an even deeper downturn, they have done little to revive the economy. Certainly from the perspective of capital and a wealthy and powerful tiny minority of our citizens, the recovery has been satisfactory, if not a rousing success…But for the vast majority wages are stagnant or dropping, benefits shaved or eliminated, living costs rising, home ownership in jeopardy, and employment tenuous; most of us are still looking for the recovery. And the economic data promise little improvement.”

In another review of the same book in CounterFire, Henry Parkyn-Smith writes that the book is “framed [in] terms of who the downturn is damaging and what the recovery is supporting” and it: “focuses on the lack of recovery, how deep the crisis is, as well as how and why there seem to be few signs of the crisis abating…[how the] recovery there has been is unequal, and how Obama’s regime has acted to support the rich at the expense of the majority of working Americans.” In Smith’s opinion, Obama, “Within the Democratic Party…in fact one of the most conservative figures: not only were his pre-election promises neo-liberal and pro-business, the policies he actually implemented during his first term could be seen as being even more so.”

Without going through book reviews all day, there are a number of articles written during and after the ‘recovery’ was beginning to be implemented. Writer Alan Farago said in January 2009 that if the fiscal stimulus, as he called it, is

“not applied to rebuilding our nation’s productive capacity, it is money down a black hole. For certain, it is important to provide some floor under this free-fall. But government spending on infrastructure serves a temporary purpose. a limited purpose. Fiscal stimulus that fails to provide for new productive capacity—jobs making products that people need—will bleed out the economy like a slow suicide.”

Farago in this article said that “the Obama administration should consider preemptive measures to nationalize sectors of the economy.” What Farago said did not exactly happen, instead there was what Forbes, The New York Times, Pew Research Center, the Washington Post, and many others called a “jobless recovery” since 2009, when jobs have not really grown but there has been an economic ‘recovery.’ The International Labor Organization even had a report released in January of this year about “the risk of jobless recovery” on a global scale. After all, the Recovery Act itself was not as effective as it seems, in the view of Doug Henwood:

“What we got was a bill that did some good things – extending unemployment benefits, picking up health insurance costs for the laid-off, etc. – but one that also was too loaded with tax breaks and other indirect mechanisms that are supposed to create jobs. If you divide the amount of cash spent, according to Recovery.gov, by the administration’s estimate of jobs “created or saved” – whatever that means exactly – by the StimPak [Stimulus package], you find that the cost per job is something around $250,000…Yes, and if you allow for multiplier effects – someone whose job is saved spends more money than someone on the dole, which saves other jobs that would have otherwise evaporate – then it’s maybe $150,000-175,000 per job. That’s still preposterously inefficient, however…The Obama people like The Market, and want to nudge it into creating more private sector jobs…And there’s a bias among neoliberals, like Obama & Co., that sees public sector jobs as phony and private sector jobs as real…they’re going to emphasize tax breaks and other minimalist strategies. They won’t do much to create jobs.”

An article I almost forget to include was published this May in the New York Times about the “Obama-Bernanke financial rescue.” In the article, Binyamin Appelbaum writes that

Atif Mian and Amir Sufi [in a new book titled House of Debt] are convinced that the Great Recession could have been just another ordinary, lowercase recession if the federal government had acted more aggressively to help homeowners by reducing mortgage debts…Mr. Geithner wrote in his book that the administration had tried to help homeowners — and that doing more wouldn’t have changed the trajectory of the recession…The Obama administration considered several ways to reduce mortgage debts during the heart of the crisis. It promised to pursue a few, too, including empowering bankruptcy courts to forgive debts, paying lenders and buying up loans. But ultimately, the administration adopted a limited aid program and gambled that an economic recovery would take care of the problem. Mr. Mian and Mr. Sufi are not particular about which method of reducing debt would have been best; their point is simply that the government, by failing to do more, inhibited the recovery.

In a blog on their website, the writers of the book clarified what their book was talking about, and their objections to what they called the ‘Geithner view of the world':

“In some of the early reviews of our book, our argument is caricatured as saying we should have let the banks fail and we should have saved homeowners. We do not make such an extreme claim. In fact, we commend both Ben Bernanke and Tim Geithner for some of their policies that were directed at stopping dangerous runs in the banking system. We agree that bank runs threaten the payment system and the entire economy, and policies should be undertaken to prevent such runs. The problem we have with the Geithner view of the world is that it is far too extreme — it is a “save the banks, save the economy” view which has been thoroughly discredited in both the United States and Europe. The fact that Geithner still adheres to this view despite all the evidence to the contrary is truly remarkable. The problem with the economy in 2008 and 2009 is not that banks are not lending enough. It’s absurd to argue that we need more bank lending when demand is collapsing throughout the economy.”

Rather than going through every article on the subject, its better to shift the focus to who the recovery has benefited. As quoted in an opinion piece published on Reuters by Chrystia Freeland, Emanuel Saez said,

“The evidence suggests that top income earners today are not ‘rentiers’ deriving their incomes from past wealth, but rather are ‘working rich,’ highly paid employees or new entrepreneurs who have not yet accumulated fortunes comparable to those accumulated during the Gilded Age.”

There is more. In an article in CounterPunch criticizing the Federal Reserve’s ‘stimulus,’ Mark Vorpahl writes that

“the Federal Reserve is keeping interest rates ultra-low in order to encourage businesses to borrow money and expand their operations. The Fed’s alleged desired outcome is to encourage banks to make more loans to the private sector, thereby encouraging economic growth and job creation. To reach this goal, however, these policies have to be set out on the right path. Currently, they are not. On the contrary, today’s policies are guided by supply side, trickle down theories which essentially claim that the problem with the economy is that the rich aren’t rich enough…There has been a weak upturn in job creation, falling far short of what is needed to return to the employment rate prior to the crash of 2008. In addition, the stimulus has been too weak to counter the accumulating impacts, including layoffs, of sequestration as it starts to gather steam. What’s more, it is a very dubious proposition that this slight and temporary job upturn has anything to do with Bernanke’s extraordinary measures at all.”

The New Statesman noted the same is happening in the UK, with the top one percent having their income rise and the bottom 90 percent having their income decline. Even the housing recovery itself seems to be a joke. As Forbes contributor Richard Green notes,”the housing market at the top is doing much better than the housing market at the bottom (it is doing better than the middle, too).” None of this should be of any surprise since the real size of the bailout was not the reported $700 billion given to the big banks, but was tabulated to over $14 trillion as noted by Naomi Prins (Federal Reserve and the Treasury Department) and $29 trillion from the Fed alone as explained by L. Randall Wray in the Huffington Post. Lest us not forget that Ben Bernanke defended the bailout of the banks. Such measures explain even more why Americans doubt the benefits a stimulus from the Fed.

As noted in an article in that liberal rag, The New Republic, Timothy Noah writes that “the U.S. economy’s current ability to expandno matter who is presidentwithout benefiting the 99 percent is something new. Perhaps we should do something to change that.” While he is right about making sure the 99 percent benefit, the best way to do so is to not choose solutions coming out the two establishment parties, but rather to look for robust alternatives.

[1] Later, even Joe Scarborough reflected this sentiment on MSNBC, the channel which cheers Democrats all day long, saying that “since Barack Obama became president of the United States, 95 percent of economic gains have been made by the richest 1 percent.”

Resisting digital personalization

8 Jun

Reposted from Z Blogs.

There is always talk about how the internet is a magically decentralized system. Eli Pariser, the former head of the liberal, pro-Democratic Party group, MoveOn, challenges this notion in his 2011 book, The Filter Bubble: What the Internet is Hiding From You, in which he sounds off on the dangers of digital personalization. This article will review the book and also attempt to offer some methods of resisting digital personalization.

Pariser focuses much of his book around the ‘filter bubble.’[1] Basically, the filter bubble is a set of algorithms used on sites such as Twitter, Google, Facebook, and Yahoo! to name a few.[2] Filtering is, as Pariser describes it, is personalized tailoring of information to your liking. Such personalization, he says, could narrow our thoughts because we are inundated with those perspectives that agree with our views, not those that challenge us. In addition, the storage of our personal information by private companies and corporations is used to blast personalized advertising at us and filter our content through ‘click signals.’ Pariser worries that such filtering concentrates the control of the internet in the hands of a few American multinational corporations.

Digital personalization itself is the subject of a recent Warner Brothers film, Her. On the surface, the movie is about a relationship between the lonely and rarely social protagonist Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix), who works for a company that writes letters for those in intimate relationships, and an operating system (OS) with artificial intelligence named Samantha (voiced by Scarlett Johanson). Theodore, who is still married to a wife he has been separated with for years, tells Samantha his deepest thoughts as he falls deeply in love with her, and gets his life back together. Samantha is one of the many OS’s, commercial products that purport to make people understand their lives better, which evolve to meet the needs of the user, and personalize the content, so that they feel like a trusted friend. However, they are deceptive since the OS’s are not really human and their artificial intelligence creates a ‘lock in’ to their technology.[3] They also suggest what you may like based on your activities, thoughts, a bit like the function on sites such as Facebook or Amazon saying ‘if you like this, then you’ll like this!’ Theodore finds out the true nature of Samantha when she tells him that she is talking to more than 8,000 at the same time as him and is in love with about 1/10 of them. He is shocked as he thought Samantha was only his and possibly commits suicide (its open to interpretation) as the film closes. In essence, this movie warns of the dangers of digital personalization and how it can control human life.

After reading through this book I was a bit depressed about the future predicament of netizens.[4] US netizens, as they are called, are likely concerned about personalized ads being directed toward them. However, there is little action to counter such digital personalization. Interestingly, there has been more concern about the NSA engaging in mass surveillance on Americans and the rest of the world through the massive public-private national security complex, than the collection of personal data by companies such as Google and Yahoo!. This is not to say that NSA mass surveillance is not important, but rather that it is connected to what can rightly be called corporate surveillance. In the second part of the recent FRONTLINE documentary, United States of Secrets, it notes how the personal information which the

NSA collected to spy on Americans and people across the world was first exploited and stored by American multinational tech companies to benefit their bottom line.

Still, there is one major difference between collection of personal information which is digitally personalized by American multinationals and the ‘collect it all’ doctrine of the NSA & its partners. Digital personalization, as noted by Pariser, has the potential to seep into every part of our lives, as noted in the movie Her (talked about two paragraphs ago). NSA surveillance on the other hand is not all-encompassing, as it would be impossible for the NSA to collect all the personal information of Americans. Rather it is based on the idea of social control, where the NSA collects enough information for everyone to feel like they are under surveillance. Despite these differences, NSA surveillance and digital personalization are deeply connected, which is, strangely enough, not pointed out by Pariser, who only mentions the NSA once in passing in the book. But the book does allude to the possibility that government would exploit personal information used by American multinationals for their own uses (which they have done).

In the last chapter of the book, Pariser outlines what he believes are effective strategies for resisting digital personalization. They are pretty moderate in general. They include breaking your digital habits (looking at different things every day) and using technology where you have more control of the filter bubble imposed on you by the certain service. Pariser, for example, says that Twitter is better than Facebook because you get to control ‘your’ filter bubble. He also advocates for implementing and enforcing the Nixon-era Fair Information Practices as well.[5] Also, he writes that “to rescue our digital environment from itself, we’ll ultimately need a new constituency of digital environmentalists—citizens of this new space we’re all building who band together to protect what’s great about it.”[6] In a hopeful tone, Pariser says that “if the great mass of us decide that an open, public-spirited Internet matters and speak up about it…the lobbyists won’t stand a chance” (which was the case with the defeats of SOPA, PIPA and CISPA)[6]. But he worries that a “small group of American companies may unilaterally dictate how billions of people work, play, communicate, and understand the world.”[7] He concludes with the though that for “all of us,” protecting the “early vision of radical connectedness [on the internet] and user control should be an urgent priority.”[7]

I think that Pariser’s call to action to protect “radical connectedness” on the internet and resist digital personalization should be applauded. However, I feel that he does not go far enough. Companies like Google, Facebook, Yahoo! and others who are exploiting user information and selling it to advertisers and, at times, giving it to the government, are simply “digital imperialists…[who] violate the basic right to privacy…[and constitute] part of the globalization of the surveillance state.”[8] Pariser’s book is a reminder of the increasing control of the internet by corporate power, but he does not mention, sadly, the “corporate concentration of the [online] blogosphere” or the growing power of a small number of internet service providers (mostly American multinationals) in the US. [8] To be fair, Pariser is focusing on digital personalization and highlighting its dangers in his book, not the issues I just talked about. On the other hand, I agree with Pariser’s view that as users, we should choose services which give us more power over our information flow: Twitter instead of Facebook, a digital dictatorship. Additionally, efforts to fight government or corporate censorship, through the law or otherwise, should be fought off.

Still, it is not enough to just leave Tumblr (before Yahoo! took it over), Blogspot (after Google introduced an intrusive new privacy policy), or permanently delete your Facebook account as I have done. Rather, it is better to support privacy-centered and open-source technology that gives people power. On top of this, there should be a push for a more democratic internet, with communities building “next-generation networks that are directly accountable to residents and local businesses,” and owned municipally, by cooperatives, nonprofits, or otherwise, as advocated by the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR). This may not be perfect, but its a better alternative than the status quo. Such a challenge to what is exists is the reason why “publicly owned high-speed internet” in Wilson, North Carolina, and Thomasville, Georgia have been attacked by the corporate bill-mill called ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council). In the end, while it is clear that the internet is a free marketeer’s dream, there must a concerted effort for the people to exert control of the internet, hopefully without government structures, to fight off further efforts to privatize the net.

Notes:

[1] Other than Pariser’s book, most of the results are interviews with Pariser or reviews of his book. But there are also other articles like ‘Algorithms and the Filter Bubble Ruining Your Online Experience?‘ on Huffington Post, and ‘Tim Berners-Lee: Facebook could fragment web‘ in The Guardian.

[2] Much of the internet is tied into digital personalization, even constituting sites like the main feed on academia.edu (you can somewhat control it), Myspace (yes its still around), and others.

[3] Pariser, E. (2011). The filter bubble: what the Internet is hiding from you (p. 40). New York: Penguin Press. Pariser defines this as “the point at which users are so invested in their technology that even if competitors might offer better services, it’s not even worth making the switch” (40).

[4] Michael Hauben defines this term, also called Net Citizen, as someone who exists “as a citizen of the world thanks to the global connectivity that the Net makes possible [since]…you physically live in one country but you are in contact with much of the world via the global computer network.” TechTarget adds that a netizen is a “a citizen who uses the Internet as a way of participating in political society” or an “internet user who is trying to contribute to the Internet’s use and growth.”

[5] Pariser, 239-40 and more directly defined the summary of the report of the Secretary’s Advisory Committee on Automated Personal Data Systems in July 1973 as the following: “[1]There must be no personal data record keeping systems whose very existence is secret. [2] There must be a way for an individual to find out what information about him is in a record and how it is used. [3] There must be a way for an individual to prevent information about him that was obtained for one purpose from being used or made available for other purposes without his consent. [4] There must be a way for an individual to correct or amend a record of identifiable information about him. [5] Any organization creating, maintaining, using, or disseminating records of identifiable personal data must assure the reliability of the data for their intended use and must take precautions to prevent misuse of the data.”

[6] Pariser, 242.

[7] Ibid, 243.

[8] My article on Nation of Change titled ‘The Digital Imperialists Strike Back.’

Expanding on the term ‘state in crisis’

7 May

Screenshot from 2014-05-06 20:56:16

Recently, I wrote a paper for my comparative politics class titled ‘Mexico: A state in crisis’ in which I proposed a new concept: a ‘state in crisis’ and countered what I believed to be a neoliberal strand among the students in the class. In order for everyone to read about this, I posted it on academia.edu. This article aims to expand the definition of a ‘state in crisis.’

While there are a number of different results when one searches for a ‘state in crisis,’ a term which many have used, my definition of the term has seemingly not been used before. In the PowerPoint for my presentation on paper, I defined this term as the following:

“A state which has not systematically broken down, but it has encountered some sort of domestic crisis which threatens the legitimacy and integrity of the state. Such a state has certain social conditions which threaten the well-being of the general population.”

For Mexico, the ‘domestic crisis’ was the drug war which is ravaging the country from top to bottom. The same could be said for the large amount of poor in Mexico.

In a section titled ‘Questions about the paper and presentation‘ I expanded on this term, writing:

“…Most importantly, I don’t want to use the term failed state because as a person in the First-World, in an imperialist nation in fact, I don’t want to impose a term onto Mexico, a Third -World country, but not be able to apply it to my home country, the United States. The term ‘state of crisis’ gets around this, and allows one to apply it to ALL countries in the world, whether rich, poor or middle-class countries.”

I added that even the US could a ‘state in crisis':

“The United States, like Mexico has not had a systematic breakdown of the state. Also, there are a number of situations that could be classified as a “domestic crisis” in Mexico that threatens the legitimacy and integrity of the US state. These include rising poverty, massive student loan debt, the rise of mass incarceration and so on. As a result, there are social conditions present in the United States which “threaten the well-being of the general population”

Still, there needs to be some expansion of this definition. Some states which could be considered a ‘state in crisis’ are plutonomies. A controversial Citigroup memo in 2005 defined plutonomies as “economies powered by the wealthy” and classified the U.S., Canada and the UK as pluonomies (and later Australia).  The memo further noted:

What are the common drivers of Plutonomy? Disruptive technology-driven productivity gains, creative financial innovation, capitalist-friendly cooperative governments, an international dimension of immigrants and overseas conquests invigorating wealth creation, the rule of law, and patenting inventions…There are rich consumers, few in number, but disproportionate in the gigantic slice of income and consumption they take. There are the rest, the “non-rich”, the multitudinous many, but only accounting for surprisingly small bites of the national pie…The six drivers of the current plutonomy: 1) an ongoing technology/biotechnology revolution, 2) capitalist-friendly governments and tax regimes, 3) globalization that re-arranges global supply chains with mobile well-capitalized elites and immigrants, 4) greater financial complexity and innovation, 5) the rule of law, and 6) patent protection are all well ensconced in the U.S., the UK, and Canada…At the heart of plutonomy, is income inequality. Societies that are willing to tolerate/endorse income inequality, are willing to tolerate/endorse plutonomy.

As Noam Chomsky noted that basically, “Plutonomy refers to the rich, those who buy luxury goods and so on, and that’s where the action is…They claimed that their plutonomy index was way outperforming the stock market. As for the rest, we set them adrift…. These days they’re sometimes called the “precariat”[1] — people who live a precarious existence at the periphery of society.” In a following memo, Citigroup analysts noted:

Asset booms, a rising profit share and favorable treatment by market-friendly governments have allowed the rich to prosper and become a greater share of the economy in the plutonomy countries…in the plutonomy countries, the rich are such a massive part of the economy, that their relative insensitivity to rising oil prices makes US$60 oil something of an irrelevance. For the poorest in society, high gas and petrol prices are a problem. But while they are many in number, they are few in spending power, and their economic influence is just not important enough to offset the economic confidence, well-being and spending of the rich.

Still, not all ‘states in crisis’ are plutonomies. The same goes for plutocracies, which Investopedia defines as:

“A government controlled exclusively by the wealthy either directly or indirectly. A plutocracy allows, either openly or by circumstance, only the wealthy to rule. This can then result in policies exclusively designed to assist the wealthy, which is reflected in its name”

However, there is a higher likelihood that those states that can be considered ‘in crisis’ are “unequal societies” with ‘Elites’ and ‘Commoners’ rather than egalitarian societies (no elites) or equitable society (with workers and non-workers). Such terms come from the classifications used by Safa Motesharrei and Eugenia Kalnay at University of Maryland, and Jorge Rivas at the University of Minnesota in the controversial but well-sourced study titled ‘Human and Nature Dynamics (HANDY): Modeling Inequality and Use of Resources in the Collapse or Sustainability of Societies’ released in March of this year which concludes that ” Collapse can be avoided, and population can reach a steady state at maximum carrying capacity if the rate of depletion of nature is reduced to a sustainable level and if resources are distributed equitably.”

There is something more. Usually in states ‘in crisis’ elites have more power in forming public policy than the general populace or at minimum put in place elite-friendly policies. Recently, scholars have concluded that this applies to the US, writing:

“economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no independent influence…Our analyses suggest that majorities of the American public actually have little influence over the policies our government adopts”

Also, it is possible that a state ‘in crisis’ have “extractive institutions.” Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson define this as corresponding to “extractive societies, where an elite controls the economic and political system and uses its power to extract wealth from the society at everyone else’s expense” in contrast to “inclusive societies, where political power and economic benefits are shared broadly among the population.”

It is important to note that states which can be classified as a ‘state in crisis’ are usually capitalist governments but can have a number of different regimes: ‘liberal democracy’ [2], authoritarianism, psuedodemocracy/competitive authoritarianism/hybrid regime/illiberal democracy, or anything in between.

To review, a ‘state in crisis’ is:

  1. A state which is experiencing a domestic crisis(es) which threatens state legitimacy and integrity but has not systematically broken down
  2. State has social conditions which threaten the population’s well-being
  3. State usually has a capitalist government
  4. State is likely an ‘unequal society’ with elites and commoners rather than an equitable society or an egalitarian society
  5. State might be considered a plutonomy, or an economy powered by wealthy consumers with a group of members in society that are in a precarious position, a
  6. State might be a plutocracy or a government by and for the rich and powerful
  7. Elites in the said state may have more power in forming public policy than the average citizen and at minimum elite-friendly policies, often called ‘neoliberal’ like investor-rights agreements, privatization of public services, tax cuts for the rich, etc…
  8. State can have a plethora of different regimes, ranging from ‘democracy’ to ‘authoritarianism’
  9. The state might have an “extractive society” leading to extractive institutions which is more likely than an “inclusive society”

 

Notes:

[1] Guy Standing wrote on Policy Network in 2011 about the precariat:

“Every progressive political movement has been built on the anger, needs and aspirations of the emerging major class. Today that class is the precariat…The precariat has emerged from the liberalisation that underpinned globalisation. Politicians should beware. It is a new dangerous class, not yet what Karl Marx would have described as a class-for-itself, but a class-in-the-making, internally divided into angry and bitter factions. It consists of a multitude of insecure people, living bits-and-pieces lives, in and out of short-term jobs, without a narrative of occupational development, including millions of frustrated educated youth who do not like what they see before them, millions of women abused in oppressive labour, growing numbers of criminalised tagged for life, millions being categorised as ‘disabled’ and migrants in their hundreds of millions around the world. They are denizens; they have a more restricted range of social, cultural, political and economic rights than citizens around them…Growth of the precariat has been accelerated by the financial shock, with more temporary and agency labour, outsourcing and abandonment of non-wage benefits by firms…The precariat has no control over its time, and no economic security. Many in it suffer from what I have called in the book, a precarity trap. This is on top of the familiar poverty trap created by the folly of ‘targeting’ on the poor via means-tested social assistance. The precariaty trap arises because it takes time for those on the margins of poverty to obtain access to benefits, which means their hardships are underestimated, while they have no incentive to take low-income temporary jobs once they are receiving benefits…The worst fear of all is that a large part of the precariat, and those fearing a life in it, could be drawn to neo-fascism…The precariat observes with growing anger. The politicians had better respond or we will reap a harvest of discord. We can do better.”

A comment below an article on Karmas Project continues this:

“Many folks consider precariat to just be a new way of saying proletariat–specifically referencing the phenomenon of “proletarianization” going on for former members of the “middle class” in 1st world countries. It can be argued that the proletariat as such is always precarious, and that the experience of precarity by 1st world workers is simply what most workers everywhere would experience anyways. Such precarity was also perfectly common in early capitalism within the US and Europe as well… However this does not exhaust the use of the term precariat. The precariat is the name for a specific SEGMENT of the broader working class — and it is the name for something that IS novel, something that is new in today’s form of capitalism, something which never rightly existed for the historical proletariat. The precariat is the name for entire national economies that are disproportionately reliant on service industries and fictitious capital. All of that is more or less true — there still exists a proletariat as such and within that proletariat exists what we call the precariat.”

There are a number of good other articles on this subject: ‘A Precariat Charter: From Denizens to Citizens – review, ‘Why the precariat is not a “bogus concept””, ‘Youthful members of the full-time precariat, ‘The “Precariat,” the New Working Class”, ‘Is there a precariat?, ‘Paying Attention to the Precariat, ‘The rise of the precariat promises a renewal of the left‘, ‘Is There A Precariat? An Interview with Charlie Post‘, ‘The Precariat’ on rise in America‘, ‘Word of the Week: Precariat, ‘The American Precariat‘, ‘Preventing an American precariat, ‘Professors Join the Precariat‘, ‘Welcome To The Precariat, ‘The rise of the “precariat”?‘, ‘Zen Over Zinn: Avoiding Unpleasant Truths With David Brooks, ‘A Specter Is Haunting Precarity‘, ‘Towards a Charter for the Precariat‘, ‘The Precariat by Chris Dunkley‘, ‘Standing replies on the ‘precariat’, ‘The ‘precariat': fighting for real jobs, ‘The new ‘precariats’‘, ‘Book Review: The Precariat: The New Dangerous Class by Guy Standing‘, ‘The Precariat and Climate Justice in the Great Recession‘, ‘Working on the Margins: Japan’s Precariat and Working Poor‘, and so on. There is however, debate if it is separate from the working class or if it is part of the working class. In my view, it seems that it would be a bit of both, because it could include unemployed people, along with those who have low-wage jobs, and those tied to ‘wage slavery. This relates to the Marxian concept of the lumpenproletariat which Karl Marx defined in 1852 as “vagabonds, discharged soldiers, discharged jailbirds, escaped galley slaves, swindlers…pickpockets, tricksters, gamblers…pimps…brothel keepers, porters, literati, organ grinders, ragpickers, knife grinders, tinkers, beggars — in short, the whole indefinite, disintegrated mass, thrown hither and thither, which the French call la bohème”

[2] Marxists define this not as a liberal democracy, but as a ‘bourgeois democracy’ as noted in the Encyclopedia of Marxism:

A government that serves in the interests of the bourgeois class. The word Democratic is attached to such a government, because in it all people in such a society have certain freedoms: those who own the means of production , the bourgeoisie, are free to buy and sell labor-power and what is produced by it solely for their own benefit. Those who own only their own ability to labor , the proletariat, are free to sell themselves to any bourgeois who will buy their labor power, for the benefit of maintaining their own survival, and giving greater strength and power to the bourgeoisie. The state fundamentally represents the interests of one class over others.

A guide to the different anarchist blocs

21 Jan

A while back there was a post on tumblr showing the different blocs that exist, but I seem to have lost that, so I might as well reconstruct that right now. It is almost silly to describe an anti-capitalist bloc, just because many of those who participate in the blocs are inherently anti-capitalist (please correct me if I’m wrong), unless it is a demonstration where such a bloc is formed.

Black Bloc

Black Bloc protesters in Germany (unknown date)

This is highly disputed among activists, and wikipedia defines it as a “tactic for protests and marches where individuals wear black clothing, scarves, sunglasses, ski masks, motorcycle helmets with padding, or other face-concealing and face-protecting items…The tactic allows the group to appear as one large unified mass, and promotes solidarity.” David Graeber, who was credited at giving the occupy movement its theme (‘we are the 99 percent’) wrote about this in the Occupied Wall Street Journal, noting that “Black Bloc is a tactic, not a group. It is a tactic where activists don masks and black clothing…as a gesture of anonymity, solidarity, and to indicate to others that they are prepared, if the situation calls for it, for militant action…Black Blocs do not represent any specific ideological, or for that matter, anti-ideological position…They are not united by ideology, or lack of ideology, but merely a common feeling that creating a bloc of people with explicitly revolutionary politics, and ready to confront the forces of  order through more militant tactics if required…“Diversity of tactics” is not a “Black Bloc” idea. The original General Assembly in Tompkins Square Park that planned the original occupation, if I recall, adopted the principle of diversity of tactics…and at the same time we all also concurred that a Gandhian approach would be the best way to go. This is not a contradiction: “diversity of tactics” means leaving such matters up to individual conscience, rather than imposing a code on anyone.” If you wish to read more on this subject, this and this are good starters. You can debate about if you accept Black Bloc, but having a basic understanding is the first step.

Pink Bloc

Pink Bloc contingent at Seattle Pride, June 2012

It is much harder to find resources on Pink Bloc than it is for Black Bloc. Translated text (which doesn’t make much sense as the translation is horrible) from a French Wikipedia article, describes Pink Bloc as aiming to promote queers, transvestism, challenging patriarchal oppression and “seeks to transcend the boundaries between violence and non-violence,” having “no leader or representatives but is based on a set of peer groups…small groups of people who know each other, trust each other and give specific targets for action.” The translation goes on to describe Pink Blocs as “part of a broader political movement, often called ” anarcho- queer ” or more frequently…radical queer” while these groups fight for the “rights of undocumented immigrants, the right to abortion, the termination of…”gay capitalism”…[and] the decriminalization of prostitution and recognition of sex changes.”

There’s even a video of the Pink Bloc contingent at Seattle Pride in June 2012, described by a youtuber as “marching to the beat of their own chants! Informing onlookers of the Seattle Police Departments recent queer bashing and with banners that said such things as “STONEWALL WAS (A) POLICE RIOT” and “QUEER LIBERATION IS CLASS STRUGGLE” It was a complete success, resounding with the parade onlookers on the sidewalk.”

&

(Anarcha) Queer (+feminist or +trans) Bloc

Queer & Feminist Bloc // San Francisco, CA, USA // February 20, 2012

This bloc has many different names, but has ideas seemingly rooted in queer anarchism, which is, according to Wikipedia, “an anarchist school of thought which advocates anarchism and social revolution as a means of gay liberation and abolition of homophobia, lesbophobia, biphobia, transphobia, heteronormativity, heterosexism, patriarchy, and the gender binary.”
As a bloc, there have been protests against the Westboro Baptist Church, a specific group as part of a larger Black Bloc protesting the DNC convention in 2008 organized by Bash Back!, protesting the WTO in 2000, organizing an “anti-fascist queer bloc” to “protest and shut down the Third Position fascist band ‘Death In June’ concert” in September 2013, fighting to free Cece McDonald and challenge “the commercialization and corporatization of Pride” in June 2012, anti-war actions, resisting budget cuts and more in London in 2011, an action to shut down a port off Oakland (as also noted here), pictures that are part of OccuPride, and there is (was?) a queer bloc in Dallas.

The best description of Queer Bloc is by a user named Andi, who is a professor involved in a college course about queer theory and more, who writes:

The “queer bloc” style of antiglobalization protests and their critique of the “pink dollar” is built partially on the gay and lesbian liberation movements of the 1970s that theorized the only way to dismantle the hetero/homo binary was to overthrow the capitalist, industrial project wholly.

That’s the best description of queer bloc I’ve found so far. If someone has a better one, I’d love to see it.

Green Bloc

As you can guess from the name, Green Bloc is mostly focused on environmental destruction, exploitation, climate change, etc… As a contingent at the 2011 May Day march in Toronto,  ‘Green Bloc‘ says that “We march for environmental justice. We march for justice for migrants. Join Us! Wear Green, bring signs, bring placards, and bring your friends! Resisting environmental destruction means resisting displacement. We demand FREEDOM from Colonization, Military and Economic Wars, and Environmental Degradation.” Other Green Blocs have focused on bringing on a revolution rather than just “merely protesting against corporate globalization” by helping push for change in the local community for a start, resisting bio-engineering (also another instance here), and holding a protest outside the New York State Office of Homeland Security.

Blue Bloc

http://warisacrime.org/content/hunanity-confronts-blue-bloc-chicago

Humanity Confronts the “Blue Bloc” in Chicago (may 2012)

The police. That should seem pretty obvious. As Mickey Z describes it, “the Blue Bloc is made up of the local, state, and federal law enforcement…officers and agents who have unleashed a coordinated, relentless, and often unlawful assault on the Occupy movement…the Blue Bloc possesses a wide array of taxpayer subsidized, military-style weaponry…in the name of taking on an enemyarmed…with signs, chalk, musical instruments, cameras, and mobile libraries and kitchens.”

Red Bloc

Australian Trotskyist organisation Socialist Alternative at an anti-Work Choices demonstration in Melbourne, shortly before the federal election in 2007

Red Bloc is also unique in its own way. Wikipedia describes it as a “distinct contingent at rallies or protests notable for carrying red flags. It is similar in nature to a black bloc, although members of a red bloc tend to be from Communist or Socialist organisations” while not citing any references or sources. Other events seem to define what the Red Bloc is a bit more. One event in June 2013 says to “bring your Red Flag and show your opposition to the imperialist policies of the G8.”

Stopping here…

And now I find the guide to anarchist blocs. Dang! So, here’s a reprint from that post, if it ever happens to get deleted from tumblr:

A Guide to Anarchist Blocs

black bloc (anarchism without adjectives) [not sure I agree with this...]

Red Bloc 001

red bloc (socialism, communism)

pink bloc (queer anarchism)

white bloc (anarcho-pacifism, anarcho-humanism, Christian anarchism, Buddhist anarchism)

purple bloc (anarcha-feminism)

Green bloc at the Copenhagen climate demo_full voice

green bloc (green anarchism, anarcho-primitivism)

“yellow bloc” (cops playin it safe, a.k.a. anarcho-capitalism HA) [has anyone actually heard of a yellow bloc of anarcho-capitalists?]

“blue bloc” (police riot) [note: blue/black is anarchotranshumanism, but I’ve yet to hear of a blue bloc of anarchotranshumanists]

If anyone has any blocs to add or corrections, please note them in the comments below.

Blood of empire: US military occupations

7 Dec

In order to provide a resource for everyone, here’s a list of the military occupations (not wars or invasions unless specified) that the US government had engaged in, in its history.

To start off, here’s a chart I made about the said occupations:

occupation length

Data specifics on occupations

(note that this is the ‘official government document’ and this is another source used) which are listed by the amount of years it lasted, from the longest to the shortest:

Ryukyu Islands (1950-1972). This twenty-two year military occupation was a result in the aftermath of WWII. Only the US flag was flown except by protesters who flew the flag of Japan, who resisted US rule at the time as noted by Wikipedia.

Nicaragua (1912-1933) The government’s official document says that between 1912 to 1925, US forces “protected American interests during an attempted revolution” and says a small force remained until 1925, and says that between 1926 to 1933, “United States forces came and went intermittently.” However, these documents never characterize it as a twenty-one year long occupation, the longest in US history, since the US “kept a contingent force in Nicaragua almost continually from 1912 until 1933….[which] served as a reminder of the willingness of the United States to use force and its desire to keep conservative governments in power…[and] the terms of the Chamorro-Bryan Treaty…transformed Nicaragua into a near United States protectorate [until 1933]” as noted on Country Studies and a well-sourced Wikipedia article on the subject.

Haiti (1915-1934). The government’s official document defines this the maintenance of “order during a period of chronic political instability” over a nineteen year period. As Wikipedia notes, this occupation began in “July 28, 1915, when 330 US Marines landed at Port-au-Prince on the authority of U.S. President Woodrow Wilson to safeguard the interests of U.S. corporations [and] it ended on August 1, 1934 after Franklin D. Roosevelt reaffirmed an August 1933 disengagement agreement.

Afghanistan (2001-2013). Numerous sources consider the War in Afghanistan, which has gone on for twelve years, to be a military occupation including right-leaning CNS news, hard left WSWS, Asia Times, seemingly right-leaning Catholic Online, RAWA News, liberal/progressive site named Common Dreams, Washington’s Blog, Socialist Worker, and many more.

Germany (1945-1955). The US military occupation of Germany lasted for ten years, supposedly was brutal, and in 1955, West Germany was created, so the US Zone ended, but US troops remained.

Dominican Republic (1916-1924). An official government document defines this as an eight year period in which “American naval forces maintained order during a period of chronic and threatened insurrection.” Wikipedia notes more about the intervention, that even after it ended in 1924, the US government took control of the country’s custom revenues until 1941, which caused great resentment against the US.

Japan (1945-1952) This six year occupation, and as noted by Wikipedia, it “transformed Japan into a democracy modeled somewhat after the American New Deal” with labor reforms, but also disarmament of Japan and some pro-business reforms as well.

Cuba (1917-1922) The official government document defines this as a five year period where “U.S. forces protected American interests during an insurrection and subsequent unsettled conditions.” It seems to be done to benefit the big sugar interests as noted by a wikipedia page on the subject.

Cuba (1906-1909). The government’s official document defines this as a nearly four year period in which “U.S. forces sought to restore order, protect foreigners, and establish a stable government after serious revolutionary activity.” This occupation gained the name ‘Cuban Pacification’ and it had a purpose: “to prevent fighting between the Cubans, to protect North American economic interests, and to hold free elections” as noted by Wikipedia

Iceland (1941-1945) While this occupation was not brought on by force on the side of the United States, a smaller US force of more than 4,000 marines occupied the Island for a four year period, replacing a British force which consisted of 25,000 troops. All of this is noted on the wikipedia page on the subject.

Korea (1945-8). After WWII ended, a US military occupation began with a military governing structure. At the same there was a corresponding transitional government which was led by a dictatorial leader and anti-communist stalwart,Syngman Rhee, who repressed left-wing dissidents and sent troops to suppress rebellion that lasted in until 1953. This occupation lasted three years. There are two Wikipedia articles on this subject noted here and here. Rhee would end up being South Africa’s first Prime Minister and he would stay in place until 1960.

Cuba (1899-1902). This is isn’t mentioned in the government’s official document. But there is a short Wikipedia article on the subject, speaking about the United States Protectorate over Cuba which “was a provisional American protectorate over Cuba that was established in the aftermath of the Spanish-American War in 1899 when Spain ceded Cuba to the United States” in an occupation that lasted three years.

Iraq (2003-2004). While the war in Iraq lasted from 2003 to 2011 if you don’t include the bombing that occurred from 1990 to 2003 by ‘allied’ forces like the US, the military occupation itself only lasted one year, from March 2003 to April 2003, as part of the Coalition Provisional Authority led by Paul Boemer, comprising a little more than a year. Some like the American Anthropological Association, say it lasted longer than this, but that is highly disputed. 

Dominican Republic (1965-1966). As noted by Wikipedia, “the second United States occupation of the Dominican Republic began when the United States Marine Corps entered Santo Domingo on April 28, 1965 in the Dominican Civil War” and it was part a plan to prevent a “second Cuba” which lasted more than a year.

United States occupation of Fallujah(2003-2004). This short occupation of Fallujah lasted for over a year and by the time US troops left, much of the city had been destroyed and a good chunk of the original population had left or had been killed. Those that returned had to get biometric ID Cards and come back in the city. This is all told about in the Wikipedia article on the subject.

Veracruz (1914). This intervention got short shift in the government’s official document. This occupation lasted six months, and it began with the Battle of Veracruz…and was a response to the Tampico Affair of April 9, 1914.” On top of this, Howard Zinn writes that “American warships were attacking Vera Cruz…because Mexico had arrested American sailors and refused to apologize to the United States with a twenty-one-gun salute” and additionally “the affair in Mexico was an instinctual response of the system for its own survival, to create a unity of fighting purpose among a people torn by internal conflict.”

Possible other occupations?

1. 1903-1914–> Panama. U.S. forces sought to protect American interests and lives during and following the revolution for independence from Colombia over construction of the Isthmian Canal. With brief intermissions, United States Marines were stationed on the Isthmus from November 4,

1903, to January 21, 1914, to guard American interests. [more than 10 years]

2. Haiti occupation: “Occupation of Haiti by the United States, following Operation Uphold Democracy 1994-1995.” as noted on http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_military_occupations

P.S. This information is likely to appear in a future article I’m writing as well. Who knows.

The Hollende Deception

27 Oct

Hollende shaking the hand of a US-backed dictator, Erdogan

I was wrong. Sometimes it’s hard to admit these things, but it has to be said. In April 2012, I wrote an article about the upcoming French Election, casting Francois Hollande as a socialist, and Nicolas Sarkozy as a plutocrat. The article said that the election “could change the dynamics of American-European relations and the political and economic landscape of Europe itself if Hollande is elected…Francois Hollande would follow a completely different tract. He plans to end the national debt of France by…repealing tax exemptions and tax cuts for the wealthy; raising the income tax by 70 percent for those earning over one million euros; bringing the retirement age back to 60; and restoring 60,000 public education jobs that have been cut. In addition, he is pushing gay marriage and adoption along with giving non-citizens the right to vote after living in France for five years…Hollande’s victory would be extraordinary for those protesting because he supports a platform that would roll back austerity and spreading the wealth…This election could also be the model for American elections in terms of mobilizing forces to push a radical candidate to the presidency.” I was being too nice to Hollande, and too much believing in the idea he would be a huge change in France. It has not gone that way at all. This article is meant to look at the real truth of what happened since he has taken power.

In January of 2013, any myth that Hollande cared about the people of France was shattered into a million pieces. France had decided that it was going to bomb Mali unilaterally in order to ‘fight terrorism.’ Writing on Nation of Change, I termed the war a “hollendesque imperial war of aggression,” noting that “the “socialist” in France, Francois Hollande who was elected with messages mirroring what propelled Obama into power in 2008, is leading the war effort but the U.S. is the secret force behind this intervention…France has a huge economic interest in northern Niger…one of the world’s biggest reserves of uranium…the war could also be about helping big western mining companies as well…I believe that France has committed a war of aggression…What none note is that Hollande by committing this war is dishonoring the idea of socialism, as it is a theory of human liberation by democratizing human life through communal responsibility and equal rights…there was a domestic security clampdown by Hollande after the offensive began…[clearly there are] war crimes being committed by the French government and other governments which may become involved soon enough.” These are pretty harsh words criticizing Hollande, but these feelings had developed after writing the original article. I continued to write about the war, postulating why African countries were involved, what interests other countries have in the region, why Sweden is involved in the ‘stabilization of Mali,’ and how the UN force has been upholding an imperialistic occupation.

Months earlier, Chris Hedges had given me a sense I was wrong. He wrote in his April 23rd column on Truthdig that “the longer the political elite…ignore the breakdown of globalization, refuse to respond rationally to the climate crisis and continue to serve the iron tyranny of global finance, the more it will shred the possibility of political consensus, erode the effectiveness of our political institutions and empower right-wing extremists…The signs of this mounting polarization were apparent in incomplete returns Sunday with the far-right National Front, led by Marine Le Pen, winning a staggering vote of roughly 20 percent…The abrasive Nicolas Sarkozy is France’s oilier version of Bush. Sarkozy, along with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, has done the dirty work for bankers. He and Merkel have shoved draconian austerity measures down the throats of Ireland, Portugal, Greece, Spain and Italy…Politicians such as Obama—and, I fear, Hollande—who carry out corporate agendas while speaking in the language of populism become enemies of liberal democracies…And widespread discontent could very easily be manipulated by the corporate elites to ensure our enslavement. I watched this happen in the former Yugoslavia. This is the real battle before us. And it has nothing to do with the election charade between Obama and Romney and, I expect, Hollande and Sarkozy.” I felt a sinking sigh of discomfort after I read this article, but there was more that upset me even more.

Over a year after I wrote the original article, I penned a piece which I published on my wordpress blog. It revealed the numerous fake socialists like Hollande, Lawrence O’Donnell and Bernie Sanders. At the time, I wrote that Hollande “has called for a reduction of the corporate tax rate to 30% for medium corporations and 15% for small ones…Other criticisms include a policy that will supposedly reduce unemployment but isn’t specified, continuing layoffs when he said he wouldn’t during the campaign, pushing through an austerity budget which helps big business but not the working class, a competitiveness agreement with one of the countr[y’s] biggest corporations, Rennault [which] makes light military vehicles…establishing an annual list of tax havens but effort to help end them or tax them, working with the largest union of employers in the country, MEDEF, by helping them have an austerity budget.” Then, a number of different commentaries on CounterPunch were quoted. One of them, by Philippe Marliere, noted  that: “a 75% tax rate on those earning more than €1m, and a new 45% rate on those earning over €150,000 has been delayed until the autumn…The so-called frequency tax is 0.01% on the amount of stock orders modified or cancelled that exceeds 80% of all orders transmitted in a month. In short, it’s more of a “non-transaction” tax…The Socialist president has not opposed the EU-inspired austerity programmes that are strangling the economies of Greece, Ireland, Italy, Portugal and Spain. Worse, he has implicitly endorsed them…France’s constitutional council ruled that the adoption of the EU fiscal compact did not require a change to the constitution…Hollande said there would be no referendum on the new treaty.” Another article by Marlière noted “Hollande…comes from the right-wing of the PS…When we left Downing Street, Hollande matter of factly asked me whether Blair’s third way could be imported into France. I replied that anything is importable, but I warned that an attempt to bring to France Blair’s “Thatcherism with a human face” would result in the annihilation of the French left. Hollande looked bored.” A final piece written by Dave Linderoff said bluntly: “France’s Socialists, like the Social Democrats in Germany and the Laborites in the UK, and indeed like all the major socialist parties in Europe, have no problem with capitalism. Not one industry will find itself the target of expropriation under Hollande. France will continue to be a capitalist economy under Hollande and its corporations, which include some of the largest capitalist enterprises in the world, will continue to flourish.”

As I searched on CounterPunch again, there was more. In August, as Tom Gill noted, Hollande was pushing to gut French pensions: “A showdown between the French Government and unions is looming over  reforms to the country’s ‘generous’ pension system. Hollande has indicated he has no intention of touching the retirement age Thanks to economic rigor in France and across the Continent, the country now has over 10% out of work.” Another noted that Hollande was facing a ‘Bush moment’ after intervening in Syria. Mike Whitney wrote in May that “François Hollande hasn’t even been sworn into office and already he’s backpeddling on his campaign promises…now he’s following in Sarkozy’s footsteps and looking for ways to shrink government by intensifying cuts to social programs…Hollande’s “pro growth” agenda is also a bunch of baloney…the Socialist Party in France is a big sham just like the Democratic Party in the US. Neither party represents the interests of working people…[he believes in] plain-old slash and burn neoliberalism wrapped up in a tidy socialist ribbon…Hollande’s…another triangulating sock-puppet hauling water for big business…he’s never going to veer too far from the policies set by his predecessor, because any major change would piss off the plutocrats.” In a recent article, Franklin Lamb wrote that “In modern times, France has done far better diplomatically when it has advocated against impetuous military involvement in the internal affairs of other countries…This was decidedly not the case with Syria, when France…decided to rush in and partner with its “oldest friend”…leading the European charge in “punishing” the Assad regime…For his pains, Hollande found his country described as America’s “oldest ally” by the US secretary of state…a poll published recently in the conservative daily newspaper Le Figaro showed about two-thirds of the French opposed to military action against Syria as well as Iran…To complicate matters even more, there have been recent revelations of Hollande’s socialist administration granting hundreds of millions of dollars in tax exempt deals to Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries…Hollande told Netanyahu that he was flabbergasted by Obama’s hesitation to bomb Syria, and complained: “If Obama does not strike Iran, how can we believe he would help Israel in case of Iranian aggression?”” There was one final article noting that the Rothschild banking family, which is much weaker than in the past, was tied into the French state, solidified by one bureaucrat named Emmanuel Macron who serves in Hollande’s administration now.

There seemed to be even more. According to the Associated Press, back in May, thousands went onto the streets of Central Paris, criticizing Hollande “for reneging on his promises to rein in the world of finance and enact economic stimulus…the French government has largely avoided the deep spending cuts, big tax hikes and the wide-ranging reforms of many of its neighbors…Instead, it has nibbled around the edges of its deficit…Still, France’s economy has continued to deteriorate…others note that France hasn’t just shied away from budget cuts, it has also skimped on reforms. France, on the other hand, may be left behind when the rebound comes since it has only partially committed to labor market reforms…Hollande has been trying to turn that reputation around, recently unveiling a raft of tax cuts for entrepreneurs.” Turning to big companies like Renault, Valeo and EADS (which profited from the war in Mali), Hollande in September not only “laid out a 10-year roadmap on Thursday to revive French industry by promoting new technologies to drive job creation, but…[his] 2014 national budget next month will focus on curbing spending…[a] scheme [that] will rely heavily on private investment.” Additionally, as videos on The Real News Network note, France “wants to secure North Mali’s rice fields as a food supply for Libya…[and] have violated the UN resolution as they defend their resource interests.” To close, there is an interview with French economist Gérard Duménil who told Paul Jay in May of last year that: “the promises of Hollande were not very daring…I’m afraid this policy will not be really true left policy…Hollande is very different from Sarkozy…[but the] Socialist Party has always been in favor of globalization, neoliberal globalization, and we should not expect too much in this respect…when he was speaking, you know, of growth, okay, new program of growth in Europe, some signals came from Germany saying, very good, this is what we need, we need, actually, growth, we need program for growth….the explanations came: what they want for more growth means deregulating the liberal market…this is certainly not the type of left program at least what people from the left would expect in France…During the campaign, you know, both candidates, Hollande and Sarkozy, had to, in a certain sense, follow the discourse of the recommendation of, on the one hand, you know, the extreme, more extreme, more radical, let’s say, left or the more radical right…when Hollande say, okay, we have to finish with austerity, certainly, I mean, certainly we have to stop austerity…So what will happen probably, you know, is then to say, if we enter into a new recession, the central bank, European Central Bank, will have to step in, you know, and pay more and more of this deficit…because people are suffering, that you necessarily have a left alternative. You can have also an alternative to the right. And this is what happened in France, because, actually, Marine Le Pen was doing much better than Maclenchon.” Still, this is only the tip of the iceburg.

I don’t need to go into any more detail about this, when anyone could continue the search themselves. I go back to a comment at the end of the article which had a conspiratorial edge to it, but still noted: “the difference between Holland[e] and Sarkozy is the same as Obama and Bush…none.” While I’m not sure if this is correct, I can say that anyone that comes from the main parties of most states are going to be working on behalf of the global elite. As Howard Beale told the audience in his speech in the movie Network declaring that television is not the truth, “If you want truth, go to God, go to your guru, go to yourself, because that’s the only place you’ll ever find any real truth!”

Elizabeth Warren is a fraud

14 Oct

20131014-005942.jpg
Its time to say it: Senator Elizabeth Warren is a fraud. I’ve written many times on this blog about the deception she created before & after her election. This is part of the reason I worked for centrist Bill Cimbrelo’s campaign before I realized the strange positions he had. Why do I bring this up again? Well, she made some ridiculous comments about anarchism & the Tea Party in an article widely circulated titled We are not a country of anarchists (certain sections are bolded for emphasis):

If you watch the anarchist tirades coming from extremist Republicans in the House, you’d think they believe that the government that governs best is a government that doesn’t exist at all. But behind all the slogans of the Tea Party – and all the thinly veiled calls for anarchy in Washington – is a reality: The American people don’t want a future without government. When was the last time the anarchy gang called for regulators to go easier on companies that put lead in children’s toys? Or for inspectors to stop checking whether the meat in our grocery stores is crawling with deadly bacteria? Or for the FDA to ignore whether morning sickness drugs will cause horrible deformities in our babies? When? Never. In fact, whenever the anarchists make any headway in their quest and cause damage to our government, the opposite happens. After the sequester kicked in, Republicans immediately turned around and called on us to protect funding for our national defense and to keep our air traffic controllers on the job. And now that the House Republicans have shut down the government – holding the country hostage because of some imaginary government “health care boogeyman” – Republicans almost immediately turned around and called on us to start reopening parts of our government. Why do they do this? Because the boogeyman government in the alternate universe of their fiery political speeches isn’t real. It doesn’t exist. Government is real, and it has three basic functions:
Provide for the national defense.
Put rules in place rules, like traffic lights and bank regulations, that are fair and transparent.
Build the things together that none of us can build alone – roads, schools, power grids – the things that give everyone a chance to succeed.
These things did not appear by magic. In each instance, we made a choice as a people to come together. We made that choice because b wanted to be a country with a foundation that would allow anyone a chance to succeed. The Food and Drug Administration makes sure that the white pills we take are antibiotics and not baking soda. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration oversees crash tests to make sure our new cars have functioning brakes. The Consumer Product Safety Commission makes sure that babies’ car seats don’t collapse in a crash and that toasters don’t explode. We are alive, we are healthier, we are stronger because of government. Alive, healthier, stronger because of what we did together. We are not a country of anarchists. We are not a country of pessimists and ideologues whose motto is, “I’ve got mine, the rest of you are on your own.” We are not a country that tolerates dangerous drugs, unsafe meat, dirty air, or toxic mortgages. We are not that nation. We have never been that nation. And we never will be that nation. The political minority in the House that condemns government and begged for this shutdown has its day. But like all the reckless and extremist factions that have come before it, its day will pass – and the government will get back to the work we have chosen to do together.

In reaction to this, it seems to be a strong protection of the state. This is not surprising for a politician, but it is strange to come from someone who endorsed the Occupy Movement (and is considered the intellectual mindset behind it, whatever that means), which consists of a lot of anarchists. Warren’s defense of the state seems to remind me of Thomas Hobbes & John Locke saying the state is necessary. Saying that the Tea Partiers or even Republicans in general are anarchists is completely absurd and factually incorrect. Warren should be ashamed of herself. Activist & photographer, partly for The Real News Network, Jenna Pope (@BatmanWI) had a different view, writing on twitter in response that Elizabeth Warren “should talk to some REAL anarchists (like me) before posting something like this. This is just embarrassing….” But, there is something deeper than this.

Progressives love Warren, including someone in my school’s chapter of SDS, partly because of her populist appeal. There is no doubt she has angered international capital by speaking against the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership), challenged the big banks & proposed a moderate proposal to help students in debt. However, she has a side which is rarely talked about. She told the Boston Globe that “Assad’s use of chemical weapons on his own people is reprehensible. The Administration has responded by providing direct aid to the opposition forces, and while I hope that this new aid will help opponents challenge the regime, I am deeply concerned that our aid might have unintended consequences. We need clear goals and a plan to achieve them or else the United States could get bogged down in another war in the Middle East.” Ok, this seems reasonable except it also seems like a statement to generate good PR. Consider she not only is a zionist but she wants increased sanctions on Iran which are hurting the people of that country. That’s not all.

Consider this speech she gave to the Financial Services Roundtable, which represents the financial services “industry” a.k.a the big banks, investment funds, etc… asking them to HELP!(uh-oh):

“There needs to be more certainty about financial rules and regulation…there are other lower-profile but necessary tasks we need to work on too, like re-authorizing the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act so that the owners of stadiums and skyscrapers can get insurance that would otherwise be unavailable privately….I understand that there are different views in Washington about the role of government and the appropriate level of spending. I’m eager to have a healthy debate on those issues…And, let me bring this home: this whole mess is already costing you money, and it could well cost you a lot more. If the government’s borrowing costs go up, your costs will go up. And if consumer confidence drops, your customers will spend less. The debt ceiling isn’t a Washington problem; it is an American problem. You protect your interests every day in Washington. Ending this destructive notion of politics by hostage-taking is in your interests. And preventing an actual default—a self-inflicted wound that could cause a spike in interest rates and a freeze in our credit markets—is clearly in your interests. I know that many of you have already spoken out, and I’m grateful for that. But please keep at it. For those of you who haven’t, please start now. Speak up publicly and write op-eds and give interviews. One conversation won’t get this done…The idiot sequester is your issue too, and you can’t stand sideways on this either. The sequester affects your businesses and your customers…My takeaway is that it is still possible for people in Washington to put their heads together and come up with commonsense solutions to real problems. That’s what our country needs. That’s what I came here to do. That’s what I hope you will do too.”

This appeal to the business community is deeply troubling but not surprising. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, other than the money from big unions, law firms, universities and other liberal groups, she has received:
1. $38,575 from Google
2. $18,000 from Time Warner
3. $17,700 from Bain Capital (what?!?)
4. $17,150 from Morgan Stanley
5. $16,000 from Liberty Mutual
6. $16,000 from Microsoft
7. $14,825 from IBM Corp.
8. $13,500 from National Amusements Inc. (owns most of CBS & wholly Viacom)
9. $12,550 from Walt Disney Company 10. $12,325 from Raytheon

Collectively, that’s $165,515 in the 2013-2014 fiscal year so far into her campaign coffers from some of the worst corporations. This list already puts into question her projected version of herself as a crusader for the middle class, fighting the banks since she gets money from one of those big banks, Morgan Stanley. Additionally, Google, is one of the biggest contributors to her campaign in her career so far. That’s not all. The first investment she has that is listed by the Center of Responsive Politics is in one of the worst banks of all: Bank of America.

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As noted in the 2012 report, she still has many of the same assets.

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The same webpage, as noted two paragraphs ago, notes that along with her royalties from her book, she is a Consultant for Travelers Insurance Companies, which has over $104 billion in total assets. This is the company that Citi merged with in 1999 creating Citigroup, after the passage of the law repealing a big chunk of the Glass-Steagall Act was passes the previous year as noted in the documentary, Inside Job. In 2003, the entity was sold to MetLife, & the next year it spun off by itself. This history is vitally important.

This is no surprise as her net worth is between $4,609,025 and $14,696,000 dollars! A one percenter working for you? I’m not so sure. There’s this wonderful post on the blog of the Center for Responsive Politics that talks about Elizabeth Warren in the race for the Senate seat, saying that:

“Now Brown is on the other end of a lopsided fundraising campaign, with challenger Elizabeth Warren (D) outraising him by $8.8 million as of June 30. Still, Warren had outspent him by only $3.4 million…Colleges both in and outside Massachusetts have given Warren significant financial aid. Seven out of Warren’s top 20 donors are top-tier universities, three of them from the Ivy League and another being the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Warren taught in the law programs at both Harvard University and the University of Pennsylvania; employees of the schools have backed her campaign with $158,000 and $18,000 in contributions, respectively. Warren has admitted telling both schools when she taught there that she was of Native American descent, a subject that has become contentious. Warren has since stood by her claim that she is part Cherokee, but the Brown campaign isn’t backing down on the issue either, alleging she might have gained professional advantage with her assertion. Many of Brown’s top 20 contributors are Wall Street firms, banks and defense contractors.”

Looking at that list of contributors to Scott Brown, five of them now support Elizabeth Warren, giving to her campaign coffers, an interesting change of fate:

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Looking at the broader list of Brown’s top 100 contributors, there are seven that now give to Elizabeth Warren (some not listed earlier): Intel, Google, Berkshire Partners, FMR Corp., Harvard University, MIT, and Oracle Corp.

Now, that one can see a section of the business community backs her, its important to look at more if her specific policies. One of these is a speech she gave to the Education Writers Association Conference on Higher Education in which she said:

“College tuition and fees have been skyrocketing for decades…More and more low and middle-income kids simply can’t afford to pay the high cost of college…So they take on loans to finance their education. That debt is adding up – student loan debt is approaching $1.2 trillion…Student loan debt is a threat to our students’ futures, and it’s a threat to our economy.…Instead of using education to build economic security, inefficient and ineffective education policy is hollowing out our middle class…Here are three things I think we should do right now…Eliminate government profits from the federal student loan programs-period…Reducd the burden of student debt on existing borrowers by refinancing that debt to let students take advantage of historically low interest rates…Restore basic consumer protections like bankruptcy relief…I put restoring the traditional role of public higher education at the top of my list…The federal government cannot solve this problem alone. But the federal government can-and should-leverage its dollars to push for improved educational quality and lower tuition costs…We can give colleges additional incentives to keep student debt low and academic quality high…And if we save money by getting colleges that perform poorly to pay back into the system, we can use that money to reward the schools who keep costs low…we should reform our federal student aid programs…we need to rethink student aid from the perspective of what’s best for students….I know that some will look at these proposals and say that we cannot afford to make these changes…for the most part, these ideas are not about spending more federal dollars – instead, they are about getting a better return on our investment.…It’s time for the federal government to use its muscle to make sure that Americans have access to colleges that they can afford…These proposals will require some big changes, and getting our system right will take sacrifice – from Congress, from states, and from colleges themselves…I believe that’s who we are-and that’s how we build a future for ourselves, for our children and for our grandchildren.”

Now, while parts of the speech sound great, since she is tackling valid issues of ballooning student loan debt and rising college tuition, the solutions are mainly reformist, meaning people will still be hurting. I looked deeper into these two issues since it seemed something was missing. An article in CounterPunch noted part of this missing narrative: a student loan debt bubble. Professor Alan Nasser and independent researcher Kelly Norman wrote that:

“The data indicate that today’s students are saddled with a burden similar to the one currently borne by their parents…For-profit school enrollment is growing faster than enrollment at public schools, and a growing percentage of students attending for-profit schools represent holders of debt likely to default…High and increasing unemployment and declining wages have resulted in declining public revenues. This in turn leads to budget cut directives from legislative bodies to public higher education institutions, often accompanied by the authority to increase tuition…More students who would otherwise attend a state institution or a private, non-profit school are finding themselves without a seat at over-enrolled campuses…Thus, the neoliberal assault on public education not only tends to push more students into private institutions, it also generates upward pressure on tuition costs. This results in growing pressure on enrollees at proprietary schools to take on student loan debt…[at the time this was written] there [was]…about $830 billion in total outstanding federal and private student-loan debt. Only 40 percent of that debt is actively being repaid. The rest is in default, or in deferment…which means payments and interest are halted, or in forbearance…we have the full trappings of a major bubble. As it goes with contemporary bubbles, when the loans go into default, taxpayers will be forced to pick up the tab…Of course the usual suspects are among the top private lenders: Citigroup, Wells Fargo and JP Morgan-Chase…Apart from stimulus funding, overall government student aid is disproportionately aimed at those attending proprietary schools. Nearly 25 percent of federal financial aid is spent on students attending for-profit colleges, even though these colleges enroll less than 10 percent of the nation’s college students. Proprietary schools now rely on federal financial aid…PELL Grants and federal loans..as their primary source of revenue…[even so] drop out rates are higher than they are at public and non-proprietary private schools, often as high as 50 percent…Paying back student loans out of low income and over a long period of time can rule out the possibility of making other financial investments required for the vanishing American Dream…The two largest holders of student loans are SLM Corp (SLM) and Student Loan Corp (STU), a subsidiary of Citigroup. SLM -Sallie Mae- was originated as a Government Sponsored Enterprise (GSE) in 1972…In 2002 Sallie Mae shed the its GSE status…Sincs the government took federal loan originations in-house, making them available only through the Department of Education, it no longer has to pay hefty fees….to private banks…$19 billion of this will be used to pay for the $940 billion health care bill…The student loan debt bubble signals a generation that enters the work of paid work cursed with what is more likely than not to be a life of permanent indebtedness and low wages…The present generation will experience the indefinite extension of Reagan-to-Obama low wage neoliberalism.”

None of this was ever explained or even mentioned in this detail by Elizabeth Warren. Instead, it was noted there was a problem, but no one was particularly blamed and criticized for it. There are a number of other articles on CounterPunch focusing on this subject as well (here, here, here, here, & here).

From here, I looked into what is the reason for higher college tuition. In part this is due to Wall Street’s War on the Cities, but it is also because of other factors as well. Ken Clark of About.com says its because of inflation, demand, scholarships, & availability of classes. Cornell University Professor Ronald Ehrenberg has an explanation which seems to get more at the heart of why there are higher costs: a “winner-take-all” society, shared governance at colleges, and Federal Government policy. Once again, Warren did not explain this at all.

As the top updates on her website are all about the class war shutdown (also called government shutdown), its hard to find much else, so you have to keep digging. One can find Warren and others applauding the creation of an “advanced manufacturing grant” which will seemingly help prepare students to work for manufacturing companies, announcing a grant for schools in Springfield, going to the University of Massachusetts to applaud how the university is preparing people to work for manufacturing and other capitalists, and worst of all, touring a General Dynamics plant, telling the workers that she supports funding for the WIN-T battlefield communications system because “it’s a great part of the national defense effort” which is another name for the Warfighter Information Network-Tactical, a U.S. Army communications network. It seems like she’d want to go into a war, if one was started tomorrow. As to expand on what I noted in a conversation with a self-described Constitutional Conservative, Warren is one of the corporate-friendly politicians who act as modified clones of Obama which is utterly disgusting.

While my analysis of could have been more extensive, this article hopefully provides a light into something “progressive” & “liberal” media like MSNBC, Mother Jones, & the Nation will not: Senator Elizabeth Warren is a fraud and a deceptive person, as she clearly does NOT a “fearless consumer advocate who has made her life’s work the fight for middle class families” as her website claims but rather a do-good-er liberal who wants to uphold the existing capitalist order, just with some tweaks.

Conquering the future: the dangers of PEMEX privatization

20 Sep

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Big Oil is salivating over one of biggest exporting countries to the US. The reason is that President Peña Nieto’s administration has proposed the privatization of PEMEX or Petróleos Mexicanos, a state-owned company which manages the nationalized oil industry. This is despite the fact that President Nieto has said: “Pemex will not be privatized nor sold, in any way.” Ministry of Energy secretary Pedro Joaquín Coldwell tells us that PEMEX “deserves the opportunity to partner up and maximize its production.” George Baker, an analyst of the oil industry, says that Mexican President Peña Nieto is “setting the table for someone to put in legislation that could be attractive to an Exxon, BP and the rest of them.” Rupert Murdoch’s Fox “News” writes that, according to analysts, the reforms “make it more likely that U.S. oil companies will become the main beneficiaries of a new oil and gas boom south of the border.” A former American ambassador to Mexico, Tony Garza who is not an attorney for a multinational law firm (White & Case) told the Dallas News that “there’s every reason for optimism, but we’d be wise to temper it. It’s a fairly challenging political environment…It doesn’t necessarily have to be a duck, but if it looks and talks and quacks like one, then I think companies will go for that.” Alex Perez, part of a firm that is a consultant for energy companies in Mexico and the US said that some established businesses may have a “great deal of experience in horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, which could help turn the Mexican energy industry around.” Despite all of this, opening up PEMEX to foreign oil companies carries with it a number of dangers including likely higher oil prices for Americans & Mexicans.

The business-friendly Nieto really wants to open up the oil industry of the country to the multinational corporations. He said recently that “Mexico is facing a historic opportunity. The country has the possibility of starting an Energy Reform, able to transform and elevate the quality of life for all Mexicans….Therefore, the spirit of this reform recovers the best of our past, to conquer the future. This constitutional reform bill will be first step to have an energy sector according to the [21st] century, competitive and efficient to accelerate the country’s development” and so on. But this neoliberal rhetoric of ‘competition,’ and ‘efficiency’ means that the workers will get screwed. As Luis Espinosa Cházaro, a leftist congressperson with the Democratic Revolutionary Party, is quoted as saying in the Washington Post: “Why share Mexico’s riches? We know there is a long line of investors waiting for these reforms…but we need this money for hospitals, for schools. We don’t agree to share these riches because Mexicans can’t do it; Mexicans can do it.” In part this is a similar argument that is used by American anti-war groups against wars in foreign lands, and is inherently nationalistic. In a sense this makes sense because, as a political analyst puts it, “for Mexicans, Pemex is like the Virgin of Guadalupe — it has the magic of symbolism. It’s like apple pie for Americans.” But there is something deeper that irks Mexicans about this attempt at privatization.

The global business community, especially those tied to the big oil companies, may want such a plan of inciting foreign investors, but the people do not. The American business magazine, Forbes, had an article back in June, in which they cited a poll by a research institute, Centro de Investigación y Docencia Económicas or CIDE, showing that 65% of Mexicans are against the “reforms.” CIDE continued on, noting that “Energy particularly oil, continues to be the stronghold of Mexican nationalism…many Mexicans are skeptical. They believe that a better alternative would be for the government to stop taking such a high tax from Pemex —40% of total government revenues — to allow it to reinvest instead of leaving it struggling to fund investment…Opposition politicians are conditioning talks on the oil overhaul to the government cracking down first on high level corruption.” However there is something even further explaining the reasoning that must be noted. A recent story on the Real News Network noted that protesting “teachers have connected President Peña Nieto’s desire to privatize Mexico’s national oil company, Pemex, to the education reform, saying they both invite transnational companies’ investment at the expense of Mexican citizens. Large mobilizations against the privatization of oil are scheduled for this weekend, and the teachers union has joined the call.” Outside the country in St. Paul, Minnesota, the Movement for National Regeneration or MORENA held a protest outside the Mexican consulate asking to end the privatization plan which resulted in a consulate official telling them he’d convey their comments to his superiors. As a member of the Minnesota Chapter noted, “MORENA-Minnesota protested today at the consulate in defense of Mexico’s petroleum and Mexican families’ economic well being. Enrique Peña Nieto’s PRI government wants to open Pemex up to the large multinationals, many of which were expelled from Mexico in 1938 by the nationalist government of Lazaro Cardenas del Rio. We feel that the protest was a complete success, which had a big political impact on the Mexican government’s diplomats in Minnesota.” Fight Back News! adds that the “scheme to privatize Pemex…would allow it to be sold off to multinational corporations [and] be a bonanza for the multinationals and would deprive the Mexican budget of huge amounts of resources, leading to inevitable cuts to social programs and services.”

A history of PEMEX itself is important to contextualizing the privatization effort. A commentary piece in Globe and Mail by Amelia Kiddle gives some of this history: “in recent years, Pemex’s oil production has slipped markedly…Most recently, a fatal explosion at the Mexico City headquarters of Pemex raised questions about crumbling infrastructure and a questionable safety record….Oil revenues account for more than a third of the government’s budget. Industry changes have a drastic effect not just on production and sales, but also the country’s ability to provide a social safety net for its people. Rather than paying dividends to private shareholders, Pemex pays its dividends to the Mexican people. The decision to expropriate the oil industry came when the Mexican subsidiaries of Royal Dutch Shell and Standard Oil refused to be bound by the Mexican Supreme Court’s decision against the companies in a labour conflict…Mr. Cardenas took swift and decisive action that was rewarded with an outpouring of nationalist support. The expropriation is still seen by many Mexicans as a heroic act in defence of national sovereignty in the face of economic imperialism.” Wikipedia’s article on the expropriation says basically the same thing, corroborating what this commentary says.Also see this history telling the detailed background of the expropriation by @carlosbravoreg. In light of these accounts, it is important to focus on President Lázaro Cárdenas, as in his term of office he had already overseen a radicalization of the land reform program and after “labor disputes with international oil companies, he announced the nationalization of Mexico’s petroleum reserves and the expropriation of all foreign companies’ equipment” as noted by Oxford University Press. The speech justified the takeover of the oil industry and part of it is as follows:

“For many years throughout the major period of their existence, oil companies have enjoyed great privileges for development and expansion, including customs and tax exemptions and innumerable prerogatives…These organizations…are charged with innumerable outrages, abuses, and murders…Comfort for the foreign personnel; misery, drabness, and insalubrity for the Mexicans…Another inevitable consequence of the presence of the oil companies…has been their persistent and improper intervention in national affairs…They have had money, arms, and munitions for rebellion, money for the anti-patriotic press which defends them, money with which to enrich their unconditional defenders…they rely on their pride and their economic power to shield them from the dignity and sovereignty of a Nation which has generously placed in their hands its vast natural resources…it was therefore necessary to adopt a definite and legal measure to end this permanent state of affairs in which the country sees its industrial progress held back by those who hold in their hands the power to erect obstacles as well…abuse their economic strength to the point of jeopardizing the very life of a Nation endeavoring to bring about the elevation of its people through its own laws, its own resources, and the free management of its own destinies…we wish to assure that the expropriation now decreed has as its only purpose the elimination of obstacles erected by groups who do not understand the evolutionary needs of all peoples…who would themselves have no compunction in selling Mexican oil to the highest bidder.”

There is something even more disturbing about Mexico’s plan to privatize PEMEX: how it fits into the Americanization of Mexico. In my time in Mexico in June and July, I observed troubling things, seeing in San Miguel de Allende that Americanization was on display. Many people of all ages and sizes wore designer clothes embroidered with the words Hollister, Aéropostale, Abercrombie & Fitch, American Eagle and numerous others. It seemed like I was back in Baltimore, seeing young people walking up and down the streets, which made me deeply unnerved. Beyond this, there were loosely enforced environmental regulations, which could be a reason for the air & water pollution. After all, a lot of people in the town bought bottled water from a subsidiary of Coca-Cola, Ciel, which had a likely boom as the water in the city was undrinkable. Despite this along with the shopping malls and growing consumerism, people had their own style. They were very resourceful with what they had, with the country’s high level of poverty (and income disparity) and everyone was kind to each other. Only to multinational companies such as Monsanto did they vent their anger (at least from what I saw). On a rainy day, this was deepened even more when I went to a meeting of Occupy San Miguel Allende mostly consisting of people in their 50s and 70s (I was the youngest there). They talked about the effects of NAFTA, planned a forum on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, discussed Fast Track, and also mentioned a sister treaty, TAFTA. This is relevant because such privatization would be continuing the corporatization and Americanization of Mexico itself.

As noted in a comment below, the situation is a lot worse than I described it:

The situation in Mexico is very bad regarding Americanization of the country, which is political code really for stating that US corporations actually run the country along with our own here in the US. Walmart Mexico is actually the biggest employer in Mexico even now, and most of us in the US know how destructive Walmart has been to our own commons (downtown areas, et al). The same has been done in Mexico by Walmart. Privatizing Pemex is only one part of a privatization American style that the Mexican elites are pushing for in coordination with the US government, that has already dismantled the previous passenger railway system of the country, the messed up the telecommunications sector, and working further to destroy the electrical power and mining sectors of the economy and rural agriculture sectors, and is now threatening to destroy the poorly functioning and poorly resourced public educational system there as well. Mexican elites have no independence from the US ruling class, nor desire to be anything much more than completely servile to the US. They think of their own country as being completely inadequate, and only desire to copy the US elites in their agendas. We can see what that has led to in how destructive their copying of the US ‘drug war’ has been to their own country.

There is something that must be done to counter this plan at “reforming PEMEX.” The revolutionaries, radicals, and others must coalesce to forcefully oppose this plan in mass protests. Some are already doing this, but there need to be more people. These don’t have to be only people in Mexico engaging in nonviolent resistance against the disastrous privatization plan, but also people in the United States as well. Building upon the second anniversary of the Occupy Movement, such resistance must put the struggle in an overall context by challenging capitalism itself, asserting that it is not only only the crisis and the problem, but that it must be abolished immediately for the sake of humanity.

*I was looking for a damn painting about Mexican oil expropriation by a Mexican muralist but I couldn’t find it. Please, if you can find it, go ahead. Use the guide of artists at the bottom of this page.

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