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Saturday 8 October 2011

Financial Polarization and Corruption: Obama’s Politics of Deception Don’t Let Him Get Away With It...

Financial Polarization and Corruption: Obama’s Politics of Deception 
Don’t Let Him Get Away With It...

by Prof. Michael Hudson

The seeds for President Obama’s demagogic press conference on Thursday were planted last summer when he assigned his right-wing Committee of 13 the role of resolving the obvious and inevitable Congressional budget standoff by forging an anti-labor policy that cuts Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, and uses the savings to bail out banks from even more loans that will go bad as a result of the IMF-style austerity program that Democrats and Republicans alike have agreed to back.
The problem facing Mr. Obama is obvious enough: How can he hold the support of moderates and independents (or as Fox News calls them, socialists and anti-capitalists), students and labor, minorities and others who campaigned so heavily for him in 2008? He has double-crossed them – smoothly, with a gentle smile and patronizing patter talk, but with an iron determination to hand federal monetary and tax policy over to his largest campaign contributors: Wall Street and assorted special interests – the Democratic Party’s Rubinomics and Clintonomics core operators, plus smooth Bush Administration holdovers such as Tim Geithner, not to mention quasi-Cheney factotums in the Justice Department.
President Obama’s solution has been to do what any political demagogue does: Come out with loud populist campaign speeches that have no chance of becoming the law of the land, while quietly giving his campaign contributors what they’ve paid him for: giveaways to Wall Street, tax cuts for the wealthy (euphemized as tax “exemptions” and mark-to-model accounting, plus an agreement to count their income as “capital gains” taxed at a much lower rate).
So here’s the deal the Democratic leadership has made with the Republicans. The Republicans will run someone from their present gamut of guaranteed losers, enabling Mr. Obama to run as the “voice of reason,” as if this somehow is Middle America. This will throw the 2012 election his way for a second term if he adopts their program – a set of rules paid for by the leading campaign contributors to both parties.
President Obama’s policies have not been the voice of reason. They are even further to the right than George W. Bush could have achieved. At least a Republican president would have confronted a Democratic Congress blocking the kind of program that Mr. Obama has rammed through. But the Democrats seem stymied when it comes to standing up to a president who ran as a Democrat rather than the Tea Partier he seems to be so close to in his ideology.
So here’s where the Committee of 13 comes into play. Given (1) the agreement that if the Republicans and Democrats do NOT agree on Mr. Obama’s dead-on-arrival “job-creation” ploy, and (2) Republican House Leader Boehner’s statement that his party will reject the populist rhetoric that President Obama is voicing these days, then (3) the Committee will get its chance to wield its ax and cut federal social spending in keeping with its professed ideology.
President Obama signaled this long in advance, at the outset of his administration when he appointed his Deficit Reduction Commission headed by former Republican Sen. Simpson and Rubinomics advisor to the Clinton administration Bowles to recommend how to cut federal social spending while giving even more money away to Wall Street. He confirmed suspicions of a sellout by reappointing bank lobbyist Tim Geithner to the Treasury, and tunnel-visioned Ben Bernanke as head of the Federal Reserve Board.
Yet on Wednesday, October 4, the president tried to represent the OccupyWallStreet movement as support for his efforts. He pretended to endorse a pro-consumer regulator to limit bank fraud, as if he had not dumped Elizabeth Warren on the advice of Mr. Geithner – who seems to be settling into the role of bagman for campaign contributors from Wall Street.
Can President Obama get away with it? Can he jump in front of the parade and represent himself as a friend of labor and consumers while his appointees support Wall Street and his Committee of 13 is waiting in the wings to perform its designated function of guillotining Social Security?
When I visited the OccupyWallStreet site on Wednesday, it was clear that the disgust with the political system went so deep that there is no single set of demands that can fix a system so fundamentally broken and dysfunctional. One can’t paste-up a regime that is impoverishing the economy, accelerating foreclosures, pushing state and city budgets further into deficit, and forcing cuts in social spending.
The situation is much like that from Iceland to Greece: Governments no longer represent the people. They represent predatory financial interests that are impoverishing the economy. This is not democracy. It is financial oligarchy. And oligarchies do not give their victims a voice.
So the great question is, where do we go from here? There’s no solvable path within the way that the economy and the political system is structured these days. Any attempt to come up with a neat “fix-it” plan can only suggest bandages for what looks like a fatal political-economic wound.
The Democrats are as much a part of the septic disease as the Republicans. Other countries face a similar problem. The Social Democratic regime in Iceland is acting as the party of bankers, and its government’s approval rating has fallen to 12 percent. But they refuse to step down. So earlier last week, voters brought steel oil drums to their own Occupation outside the Althing and banged when the Prime Minister started to speak, to drown out her advocacy of the bankers (and foreign vulture bankers at that!).
Likewise in Greece, the demonstrators are showing foreign bank interests that any agreement the European Central Bank makes to bail out French and German bondholders at the cost of increasing taxes on Greek labor (but not Greek property and wealth) cannot be viewed as democratically entered into. Hence, any debts that are claimed, and any real estate or public enterprises given sold off to the creditor powers under distress conditions, can be reversed once voters are given a democratic voice in whether to impose a decade of poverty on the country and force emigration.
That is the spirit of civil disobedience that is growing in this country. It is a quandary – that is, a problem with no solution. All that one can do under such conditions is to describe the disease and its symptoms. The cure will follow logically from the diagnosis. The role of OccupyWallStreet is to diagnose the financial polarization and corruption of the political process that extends right into the Supreme Court, the Presidency, and Mr. Obama’s soon-to-be notorious Committee of 13 once the happy-smoke settles from his present pretensions.

Michael Hudson is a frequent contributor to Global Research.  Global Research Articles by Michael Hudson

Steve Jobs' Mantra Rooted in Buddhism: Focus and Simplicity

                        Steve Jobs' Mantra Rooted in Buddhism: Focus and Simplicity


Oct. 6, 2011

Long before Steve Jobs became the CEO of Apple and one of the most recognizable figures on the planet, he took a unconventional route to find himself -- a spiritual journey that influenced every step of an unconventional career.

Jobs, who died Wednesday at the age of 56 of pancreatic cancer, was the biological child of two unmarried academics who only consented to signing the papers if the adoptive parents sent him to college.

His adoptive parents sent a young Jobs off to Reed College, an expensive liberal arts school in Oregon, but he dropped out and went to India in 1973 in search of enlightenment.

Jobs and his college friend Daniel Kottke, who later worked for him at Apple, visited Neem Karoli Baba at his Kainchi Ashram. He returned home to California a Buddhist, complete with a shaved head and traditional Indian clothing and a philosophy that may have shaped much of his corporate values.

Later, he was often seen walking barefoot in his trademark blue jeans around the office and reportedly often said that those around him didn't fully understand his way of thinking.

"I wouldn't say Steve Jobs was a practicing Buddhist," said Robert Thurman, a professor of Buddhist studies at Columbia University, who met Jobs and his "Tibetan buddies" in the 1980s in San Francisco.

"But he was just as creative and generous and went outside the box in the way that he looked to Eastern mental discipline and the Zen vision, which is a compelling one."

"He was a real explorer and very much to be mourned and too young at 56," said Thurman. "We will remember the design simplicity of his products. That simplicity is a Zen idea."

Thurman met Jobs in San Francisco in the 1980s with Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart and actor Richard Gere. The discussion was about Tibet.

"It was before the Dalai Lama, and he was very sympathetic and had advice for the Tibetans," he said. "But he was into his own thing and didn't become a major player."

Jobs used Dalai Lama in one of Apple's most famous ad campaigns: "Think Different."

"He put them up all over Hong Kong," Thurman said of the computer ads. "But then the Chinese communists squawked very violently and as my son says, 'He had to think again.'"

Zen Buddhist monk Kobun Chino Otogawa married Jobs and his now widow, Laurene Powell, in 1991.

"We did not pay too much attention to his personal life, but from his past interviews and speeches, we could see the embedded influences by the Buddhism," said Gary Li, secretary of the Buddhist Association of the United States.

Jobs could have just as easily taken his philosophy from the hippie movement of the 1960s. The Whole Earth Catalogue was his bible, with founder Stewart Brand's cry, "We are as gods."

The catalogue offered an integrated and complex world view with a leftist political calling. Jobs later adopted the catalogue's mantra: "Stay hungry. Stay foolish."

 Buddhism a Wake-Up Call for Steve Jobs?

The catalogue also delved into spirituality. In one 1974 article, author Rick Fields wrote that Buddhism is "a tool, like an alarm-clock for waking up."

That may have been the case for Jobs. He said in his now-famous 2005 Commencement speech at Stanford that he lived each day as if it were his last, admonishing graduates not to "live someone else's life."

"Don't be trapped by dogma -- which is living with the results of other people's thinking," Jobs said. "Don't let the noise of other's opinions drown out your own inner voice."

In that speech he told students to follow their passions, recounting the time after he dropped out, but continued to audit non-credit classes like calligraphy. The elegant typefaces -- serif and sans serif -- were later introduced for the first time in the Macintosh.

"I didn't have a dorm room, so I slept on the floor in friends' rooms, I returned coke bottles for the 5 cent deposits to buy food with, and I would walk the seven miles across town every Sunday night to get one good meal a week at the Hare Krishna temple," he said. "I loved it."

Jobs was also influenced by Richard Baker, who was head of the Zen Center in San Francisco from 1971 until 1984, when Baker resigned after a scandalous affair with a wife of one of the center's benefactors. But Baker helped the center grow to one of the most successful in the United States.

Jobs was receptive to Baker's message of change, "helping the environment and empowering the individual."

Jobs admitted to experimenting with the hallucinogenic drug LSD, which he has said was "one of the two or three most important things" in his life.

In an unauthorized biography by Alan Deutschman, a college friend said that Jobs had even been a lover of folk singer Joan Baez, who was 41 at the time, and the attraction was largely because she had also been intimate with another '60s icon, Bob Dylan.

He was a fan of the Beatles, who also embraced spirituality and made a similar pilgrimage to India. Jobs told television's "60 Minutes" he modeled his own business after the rock group.

"They were four guys that kept each other's negative tendencies in check; they balanced each other," he said. "And the total was greater than the sum of the parts. Great things in business are not done by one person, they are done by a team of people."

Jobs said that "focus and simplicity" were the foundation of Apple's ethic.

"Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple," he told Businessweek in 1998. "But it's worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains."

Even the minimalist design of his products -- from the first Macintosh to the sleek iPad have a "aesthetic simplicity and keenness of line" that smacks of Japanese Zen, according to Columbia's Thurman.

Former Pepsico President John Sculley, who eventually fired Jobs, said walking into Jobs' apartment had the same design feel.

"I remember going into Steve's house, and he had almost no furniture in it," Sculley said in a 2010 interview with Businessweek."He just had a picture of Einstein, whom he admired greatly, and he had a Tiffany lamp and a chair and a bed. He just didn't believe in having lots of things around, but he was incredibly careful in what he selected."

Jobs reportedly convinced Sculley to work for Apple when he asked, "Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water, or do you want a chance to change the world?"

 Jobs Gave People Computer Power

Thurman contends Jobs' greatest success was not necessarily financial.

"It was his initial role in making the PC available to individuals to give them computer power," said Thurman. "He was democratizing computer power. It was his own inspiration of things and not accepting the status quo and breaking through the power of the people."

Though Jobs may not have been a devout practitioner of Buddhism, his personal and corporate vision certainly struck the same tone -- "wisdom and compassion," he said.

"Zen vision is that human beings can understand reality if they focus their mind on it and develop wisdom," said Thurman. "When you do, you have the greater capacity to arrange the nature of things and to help people."

But the irony of Jobs' spirituality was that as much as it reflected the most beautiful aspects of the products he made, those very "machines" have in some ways enslaved a generation of users, according to John Lardas Modern, a professor of religious studies at Franklin and Marshall College in Pennsylvania.

Jobs made computers and hand held devices that have allowed people to become "disembodied" on a certain level -- "to escape and transcend the mundane reality of bodily existence," according to Modern.

Such spirituality begs for freedom from the trappings of tradition, he said, but they have a down side.

"These machines are amazing," said Modern. "For the last 12 hours, I have been seeing people on Facebook and Twitter in praise of how the devices he made allow ease and convenience and empowerment."

"I love my iPad, precisely because it feels like an extension of my mind and I can't live without it," said Modern. "The irony is, these products ground us in a chair behind a desk, behind a computer and in a sense they have pushed us inward -- and you don't have physical connections with others."

"It cuts both ways," he said.

What’s behind division in U.N. Security Council on Syria?

What’s behind division in U.N. Security Council on Syria?

By Mustapha Ajbaili

The often muted rivalry between Russia and China, on one side, and Western powers, on the other, honed into a clash in the United Nations Security Council this week when the eastern powers vetoed what would have been the first legally-binding resolution against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad since the start of the uprising in Syria.

American ambassador to the U.N. Susan E. Rice delivered a combative response to the Russian and Chinese decisions, accusing the two countries of wanting to continue arms sales to Syria at the expense of civilians demanding freedom. “During this season of change, the people of the Middle East can now see clearly which nations have chosen to ignore their calls for democracy and instead prop up desperate, cruel dictators,” Rice said.The last time Russia and China together vetoed a U.N. council resolution was in 2008 when they opposed proposed sanctions against Zimbabwe. Their latest move reflects serious fears of increased Western influence and domination in the Middle East and highlights Syria's strategic importance between rival world powers.

“Both countries are known for brutal crackdowns on dissent. Both will lose out if the Assad regime goes. Both have military trade and other economic interest with Syria. Both have close relations with Syria's big brother, Iran. Both are hedging their bets that Assad will survive this. Both countries will be shut out of Syria for some time after Assad is ousted,” said Paul Sullivan, professor of economics at National Defense University and an adjunct professor of security studies at Georgetown University.

Asked why Syria, unlike Libya, turned out to be so divisive in the Security Council, veteran journalist and Professor Emeritus at the American University in Cairo, Abdallah Schleifer, said both countries were concerned “that a U.N. Resolution might provide the justification for a subsequent American or Anglo-American-French intervention in Syria, since the intervention in Libya has turned out to be successful at minimal cost and now America has a positive relationship with the new leaders of Libya.

“Even commanders of the revolutionary Libyan forces with Islamist backgrounds have good words for America, and both Russia and China are rivals for world influence with the Americans-though at present Syria does not resemble Libya,” Schleifer added.

He said that what made U.S. intervention a success story in Libya was that a rebel political authority existed in Benghazi, and not in Istanbul as is the case of the Syrian opposition leadership; this was made possible because there was enough of a cohesive armed rebel force to have liberated Benghazi and that too doesn't exist in Syria.

“A more likely reason is that both Russia and China are nervous about any U.N. interventions, be they peace protests or sanctions since both countries have their own local uprisings in outlying districts to contend with,” Schleifer said.

Russia and China have expressed concern that a more aggressive approach towards Syria will only throw the region into unpredictable turmoil, especially since Syria shares borders with Israel and has strong allies in the region, mainly Hezbollah and Iran. By saying they are afraid of more people being killed if tough measures are taken against Assad, Russia and China sought to coat their stances in a humanitarian perspective, which is essentially what the West has been doing for a long time.

On the surface the difference between the two camps appears to be clear. The West says Assad must be punished because he kills; Russia and China say if he is punished there will be more killings. However, differences on humanitarian issues, as the Syrian one is proclaimed to be, often rarely develop into bitter disputes in the United Nations. Often times, only deeply strategic issues involving major geopolitical and economic interests provoke such bitter rebukes in the United Nations.
(Published on Oct. 08, 2011)

Friday 7 October 2011

Complainant blasts Swamy’s “political vendetta” charge

Complainant blasts Swamy’s “political vendetta” charge

By Md. Ali,,
New Delhi: After the Delhi Police filed an FIR against Janata Party president Subramanian Swamy for spreading enmity between two communities through a hateful newspaper article, Swamy has been on defensive and trying to project the case as political vendetta for his active role in exposing the 2G scam. But the first and original complainant against Swamy’s article has blasted the charge.
The Crime Branch of Delhi Police on Monday registered the case under Section 153A (spreading enmity between communities) of Indian Penal Code for his article published on 16th July 2011 in the DNA newspaper. Swamy said that the FIR about three months after his article was published is a clear case of political vendetta.

“I wrote the article in July. The FIR is filed in October. The motive seems to be my stand on 2G (spectrum scam)," Swamy has been quoted as saying.
But the first complainant against Swamy’s hateful article, Mr Shehzad Poonawala, a 24-years law student in Delhi, said the complaint against Swamy was registered with the Delhi Police within 24 hours of the publication of his article in July itself. Harvard-educated economics scholar, Swamy’s article 'How to wipe out Islamic terror' was published on 16th July in Mumbai-based English daily DNA. Aggrieved with the highly inflammatory and hateful article, Shehzad Poonawa had approached Defence Colony Police Station in Delhi on 17th July with a written complaint against Swamy.
In July the 2G scam probe was not as hot as it is today and the Central Government was not facing as much humiliation as it is today particularly after the exposure of PMO note making the thing messier than ever. Rather the Congress-led UPA had an upper hand for not hesitating to send even cabinet minister to jail for his alleged involvement in the scam.
When Shehzad approached the Defence Colony police to file FIR against Swamy on 17th July the police using their discretionary powers filed a complaint, not an FIR, pending it for further enquiry. In his complaint, Shehzad said that Swamy “intentionally promoted, by written words, enmity on the grounds of religion and disharmony, hatred and ill will between different communities namely Hindus and Muslims which is in contravention of Section 153A(1) (b) and 153B(1) (c) of the Indian Penal code, 1860.”
Two days later i.e. on 19th July, Shehzad approached the Delhi Police Commissioner. The Commissioner’s office referred the case to the Joint Commissioner of Police/Southern Range for further necessary action. Shehzad also approached the National Commission for Minorities. Promptly acting on his complaint the commission shot a letter to Delhi Police for registering an FIR and to Election Commission of India to deregister Swamy’s party Janata Party.
A Delhi court had also asked Delhi police to go into the merits of several complaints against Swamy’s article and take proper action.
After a thorough probe now the Delhi Police has registered an FIR and it informed the minority commission on Monday about the FIR. Swamy has been booked under section 153 of IPC for promoting enmity and hatred between two communities which entails a non-bailable warrant and could land him in prison up to three years.
“Pointing out false reason of political vendetta, Swamy is just trying to portray himself as a victim and a martyr, who is being made a victim of political vendetta. But the truth is that it’s Muslims whom he targeted and who are victims of his hatred,” Shehzad told on Tuesday
“In totality, if you see across the country, there was not just one complaint but a series of complaints against Swamy for his hate filled article,” Shehzad added.
Shehzad said that what Swamy wrote and later celebrated on, is against law and constitution of India. That’s precisely the reason why legal action should be taken against him.

Swamy in his article had suggested to Indian Hindus to collectively respond to terror acts. His article was published three days after the Mumbai serial bombings of July 13. "We need a collective mindset as Hindus to stand against the Islamic terrorist... If any Muslim acknowledges his or her Hindu legacy, then we Hindus can accept him or her as a part of the Brihad Hindu Samaj (greater Hindu society) which is Hindustan," Swamy wrote in the article.
Swamy had said that the terror attacks are done by Muslims in order to scare the “Hindu psyche and create the fear of civil war.” He appealed to all the Hindus of the country to unite against radical Muslims and asks them to take inspiration from Jews. “Fanatic Muslims consider Hindu-dominated India “an unfinished chapter of Islamic conquests,” said Swamy.
"Others, who refuse to acknowledge this, or those foreigners who become Indian citizens by registration, can remain in India but should not have voting rights (which means they cannot be elected representatives)," he added in his edit page article.

Speculation in Agricultural Commodities: Driving up the Price of Food Worldwide and plunging Millions into Hunger

Speculation in Agricultural Commodities: Driving up the Price of Food Worldwide and plunging Millions into Hunger
CFTC treads water on world hunger

By Edward Miller

URL of this article:

Global Research, October 5, 2011

The Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) has again delayed the introduction of position limits required under the Dodd-Frank Act. These limits are intended to prevent speculation in (among other things) agricultural commodities, speculation which, many critics argue, have driven up the price of food worldwide and plunged millions into hunger.

In late 2006, the price of food and other commodities began rising precipitately, continuing throughout 2007 and peaking in 2008. Millions were cast below the poverty line and food riots erupted across the developing world, from Haiti to Mozambique. While analysts initially framed the crisis in terms of market fundamentals (such as rising population, increased demand for resource-intensive food, declining stockpiles, biofuel and agricultural subsidies, and crop shortfalls from natural disasters), a growing number of experts have tied the massive spikes to financial intermediation. As economist Jayati Ghosh explains:

“It is now quite widely acknowledged that financial speculation was the major factor behind the sharp price rise of many primary commodities , including agricultural items over the past year ... Even recent research from the World Bank (Bafis and Haniotis 2010) recognizes the role played by the “financialisation of commodities” in the price surges and declines, and notes that price variability has overwhelmed price trends for important commodities.”

Trading Regulation for Financialisation

This kind of speculation was made possible by deregulation in the US financial sector, in particular the Commodity Futures Modernization Act 2000 (CFMA), exempting commodity futures trading from regulatory oversight. Crucially for our narrative, this removed limits on the number of contracts that could be held at any one time (called position limits) from the equation. Firms like Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and Barclays began developing index funds (collective investment schemes) based on these commodities, specializing in buying futures contracts in the belief that the future price will be higher than the present price. Journalist Fred Kaufman eloquently stated this in his Harpers article ‘The Food Bubble’:

“Goldman Sachs envisioned a new form of commodities investment, a product for investors who had no taste for the complexities of corn or soy or wheat, no interest in weather and weevils, and no desire for getting into and out of shorts and longs - investors who wanted nothing more than to park a great deal of money somewhere, then sit back and watch that pile grow.”

All manner of institutional investors began dumping capital into these funds, driving prices, and profits, through the roof:

“As the global financial system became fragile with the continuing implosion of the US housing finance market, large investor, especially institutional investors such as hedge funds and pension funds and even banks, searched for other avenues of investment to find new sources for profit. Commodity speculation increasingly emerged as an important area for such financial investment.”

Traditionally, futures contracts play an important role in price discovery, reducing the price risk of the commodity itself. However without a limit to the number of commodity futures contracts that could be held, investors were able to withhold huge amounts of food from entering the market. When combined with the real supply and demand factors mentioned above, this spelt volatile price spikes; between 2005 and 2008 the price of maize nearly tripled, wheat prices increased by 127%, and rice by 170%. Throughout the crisis, at least 40 million people went driven into hunger, and the number of people driven into extreme poverty rose from 130 to 150 million.

And worse, this speculation wasn’t limited to the 2007-2008 period. While commodity prices fell again in 2009, the latter half of 2010 saw them again skyrocket, reaching an all-time high at the end of that year, and remaining high into this year. Today, over a billion people remain hungry, while wealthy investors continue to reap huge profits by gambling on the stomachs of the world’s most vulnerable.

Dodd-Frank Reform

Following the global financial crisis, Representative Barney Frank and the Chairman of the Senate Banking Committee Chris Dodd proposed legislation to boost US financial stability. The Dodd-Frank Act provided sweeping financial reforms to the US financial sector, including reforms to commodity futures regulation. Section 737 (4) requires the CFTC to ‘establish limits on the amount of positions, as appropriate, other than bona fide hedge position, that may be held by any person with respect to contracts of sale for future delivery or with respect to options on the contracts or commodities traded on or subject to the rules of a designated contract market.’ These limits should, ‘to the maximum extent practicable ... diminish, eliminate, or prevent excessive speculation ... [and] deter and prevent market manipulation, squeezes and corners...”.

So far so good right, problem solved? Think again. The legislation provided a 270-day window in which position limits were to be put in place, meaning that by the 17th of April this year, this problem should have been solved, or, at the very least, ameliorated. However that date came and went, and the CFTC failed to reach agreement. A new date was set for the 4th of October, however that date also came and went with no further advance. CFTC Chairman Gary Gensler responded, saying “We’re not trying to do this against a clock. We’re trying to do this in a way that gets it right. So a few more weeks is a small thing for us to be concerned with if we’re going to get it thought through in a better way.” The rules have now been delayed until October 18.

The Speculators Fight Back

The CFTC isn’t so much concerned with world hunger as its reason for regulating commodity futures, and has hardly addressed the issue in public statements. However futures trading also affects other commodities such as oil, gold and silver, all of which have risen sharply over the past few years. Robert Pollin and James Heintz of the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts calculate that,

“...the average US consumer paid a 83-cent-per-gallon premium in May for their gasoline purchases due to the huge rise in the speculative futures market for oil. Considering the US economy as a whole, this translates into a speculation premium of over $1 billion for May alone. Of the May price were to hold for a year, that would mean that the speculative premium would total $12 billion.”

The price of oil seems to be the CFTC’s main focus regarding position limits. And its something that is hotly contested, as speculative investors recoil in horror at the idea of their profit blade being diminished. Their effect is indeed being felt, as Reuters reported in mid-September that internal strife at the CFTC had slowed the progress of the position limits rule, and they were struggling to harmonise it with other regulations required under Dodd-Frank.

Leaked documents give us a picture of what the final regulation might look like. The CFTC has proposed a limit of 25% of the deliverable supply of the underlying commodity, a pitifully weak threshold that would allow four financial entities to dominate an entire commodity market. Indeed these limits might even encourage speculation, while other proposed rules would allow companies to avoid aggregating positions in different trading accounts, provided accounts are independently controlled and firewalls are imposed between trading desks. This would be very difficult to regulate, and provides banks with a set of loopholes big enough to drive a Wall Street bailout or bonus through. Traders who exceed futures limits would also be able to use swaps (derivatives that allows parties to exchange benefits of their respective financial instruments) to reduce their net position.

Asleep at the Wheel? Let’s see who’s driving...

Still, it should come as no real surprise that the limits being toyed with by the CFTC fail to address the problem of excessive speculation. CFTC Chairman Gary Gensler himself spent 18 years at Goldman Sachs, had made partner by the time he was 30, and eventually became the company’s co-head of finance. He subsequently worked as the undersecretary for domestic finance at the Treasury Department during the Clinton era, during which time he advocated the passage of the CFMA mentioned above. Commissioner Jill E Sommers also worked closely with congressional staff on the drafting of the CFMA, while another Comissioner, Scott D O’Malia, lobbied for the repeal of the Public Utility Holding Company Act, legislation that was directed at curbing speculation by energy and water utilities.

These viewpoints dominate the CFTC, and they represent the extent of regulatory capture that the finance industry holds over Washington. In light of this, it is little wonder that the proposed limits leaked from the CFTC do little to rein in excessive speculation. Added to this is the fact that the CFTC’s funding hangs in the balance. While the Senate Appropriations Committee recently approved a bill raising the CFTC budget (from $202 million to $240 million for 2012), it is unclear how this will be reconciled with a House bill that cuts the CFTC’s funding to $171.9 million.

Still, all is not lost. Within the CFTC, the other camp is headed by Commissioner Bart Chilton, a vocal supporter of position limits, who has spoken out strongly against speculation in commodity markets, especially the silver market (in late 2010 he revealed that a single trader controlled 40% of the market).

Anti-Excessive Speculation Act 2011

More promising is the Anti-Excessive Speculation Act of 2011, intended to “prevent excessive speculation in commodity markets and excessive speculative position limits on energy contracts...” Democratic Senator Bill Nelson of Florida and Representative Peter Welch introduced matching bills in late September 2011 to cap position limits at a level that reflects market fundamentals of supply and demand.

Section 5(7) of that Act defines an excessive speculative position as a position that affects “more than 5 percent of the estimated deliverable supply of the same commodity,” a drastic reduction on the amount of a commodity than can be gambled on than under either the present scenario or the leaked regulations from the CFTC. While a number of Democrats support the initiative, the massive support the Democratic Party has received from the finance industry would likely mitigate its passage in the Senate, or in the Republican-led House of Representatives for that matter. Indeed, it is would be unlikely that Congress would bother intervening while the CFTC, a supposedly expert, non-partisan body, is still busy delaying in this area.

And all the while as Washington and Wall Street bounce back and forth on this issue, commodity prices hover just below their all-time high and over a billion people continue to starve.

While the zombie bankers and blood-sucking speculators mightn’t realize it, food is a human right, and we need to recognize that the rights of humanity are far too important to be left to the market.

Class Action Lawsuit Filed in Brooklyn Bridge Mass Arrest

Class Action Lawsuit Filed in Brooklyn Bridge Mass Arrest

PCJF Files Federal Constitutional Rights Class Action

Dear supporter,
Attorneys from the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (PCJF) on Oct. 4 filed a class action lawsuit against Mayor Bloomberg, Police Commissioner Kelly and the City of New York, charging mass violations of constitutional rights in the trap and detain mass arrest of 700 demonstrators on the Brooklyn Bridge this past Saturday, October 1, 2011.
Brooklyn Bridge march before mass arrest, 10-01-11
Photo: Sophia Marsh
The lawsuit charges that "the NYPD engaged in a premeditated, planned, scripted, and calculated effort to sweep the streets of protestors and disrupt a growing protest movement in New York." The class action lawsuit, Garcia v. Bloomberg, was filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, Case No: 11 CIV 6957. For more information on the lawsuit and the PCJF's work in defense of free speech rights, go to
"Police commanders led and escorted demonstrators onto the roadway of the Brooklyn Bridge in an intentional entrapment," stated Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, Executive Director of the PCJF and counsel on the litigation. "The police conducted a charade - and duly videotaped it - of speaking inaudibly into a bullhorn that could not be heard mere feet away from the officer. The NYPD knew no audible communication was given. The NYPD also knew that the Constitution requires that any ostensible command must be heard by those who are expected to be bound by it. Instead, the NYPD engaged in a performance, videotaped it, and sprang their trap. They then set their PR machine into motion, widely distributing their edited videos of events to spin a false narrative to the public and the media," she continued.
"This lawsuit is brought on behalf of all New Yorkers," stated Carl Messineo, Legal Director of the PCJF and counsel on the suit. "People from all walks of life came down to the Wall Street area on Saturday to participate in a peaceful demonstration and many others joined the spirited march along the way. They had no intention of being arrested nor could they have had knowledge that the NYPD was preparing to entrap hundreds of them on the Brooklyn Bridge in an effort to stifle dissent."
"This lawsuit is being filed now to send a clear message to the NYPD that this movement had the right to march on October 1 and has the right to march on any day without fear," continued Carl Messineo. "People have the right to speak out against Wall Street greed and growing poverty without fear that the NYPD would seek to illegally arrest them and suppress their mass assembly protest."

US-Colombia: Long-Stalled Trade Accords Move Forward

US-Colombia: Long-Stalled Trade Accords Move Forward

Written by Jim Lobe   
Wednesday, 05 October 2011 11:59
(IPS) - In a major victory for U.S.-based multinational corporations, President Barack Obama has submitted controversial and long- pending "free-trade" agreements (FTAs) between the U.S. and South Korea, Colombia, and Panama for rapid approval by Congress.

The pacts, which were originally negotiated by the George W. Bush administration, are being billed by both Obama and the Republican leadership as major job creators in the U.S., despite the fact that most U.S. unions oppose them.

"The series of trade agreements I am submitting to Congress today will make it easier for American companies to sell their products in South Korea, Colombia, and Panama and provide a major boost to our exports," Obama said in a statement Monday when they were sent to Capitol Hill. "These agreements will support tens of thousands of jobs across the country for workers making products stamped with three proud words: Made in America."

But the AFL-CIO, the country's largest trade union federation denounced the bills as based on "flawed models of that past that make CEOs richer and ship our jobs away".

"According to the Economic Policy Institute, the Korea trade deal would destroy 159,000 US jobs," the AFL-CIO said Tuesday. "Colombia continues to be the most dangerous place in the world for trade unionists where 51 trade unionists were assassinated last year and 22 so far this year. And Panama, which routinely tramples workers' rights, is a known haven for tax dodgers and money launderers."

Other critics charged that Obama's decision to seek Congressional approval of the three accords marked the latest betrayal of his 2008 campaign promises.

"At a time of nine-percent unemployment and broad public opposition to more NAFTA-style trade agreements, it's a fairly shocking shift away from the president's job-creation message to suddenly call on Congress to pass three old Bush trade deals that the federal government's own studies say will increase the U.S. trade deficit," said Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch.

All three FTAs were negotiated by the Bush administration in 2006 but were never submitted to Congress due to strong opposition by Democrats who won majorities in both houses in the November elections that year.

To make them more attractive to key Democrats, Obama re-negotiated some provisions in each pact. On the South Korean pact, the most important of the three accords by far, he persuaded Seoul to agree to give the U.S. more time to phase out its tariffs on Korean car imports. That change earned it the critical support of the United Auto Workers (UAW) and lawmakers close to the union.

On Colombia, which has recently signed FTAs with the European Union (EU) and Canada, the administration negotiated a side accord, the so- called "Labour Action Plan" which requires Bogota to take a series of steps to bolster labour rights and the protection of union leaders.

On the Panamanian FTA, Congressional concerns on tax transparency issues were addressed by the ratification by the country's National Assembly of a new Tax Information and Exchange Agreement with the U.S. In addition, the replacement of the Assembly's former speaker, Pedro Miguel Gonzalez, a suspect in the fatal ambush of two U.S. soldiers in 1992, removed a major concern by U.S. lawmakers.

In order to secure enough Democratic support, the Obama administration also tied renewal of Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA), a long-standing programme designed to help workers who lose their jobs to foreign competition train or relocate for new jobs, to his administration's submission of the three FTAs.

TAA was strongly opposed by most Republicans, especially in the House of Representatives where "Tea Party" Republicans are strongest. But, in order to move the three FTAs, House Republican leaders agreed Monday that they would send the TAA to the floor "in tandem" with the trade accords. TAA had been separately approved by the Democrat- controlled Senate last month.

Both the administration and business leaders are pressing for swift passage, which could come as soon as next week, on the eve of the state visit here of South Korean President Lee Myung-bak.

The FTAs' advance marks a major victory for big U.S. businesses with multinational interests. A recent study by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, perhaps the biggest booster of the FTAs, warned that the U.S. would lose nearly 400,000 jobs and 40 billion dollars in export sales if the agreements were not passed.

It warned that other nations were racing to conclude their own trade deals with the three countries and cited a U.S. government report that noted that the deal with South Korea, called KORUS, alone would boost U.S. gross domestic product by 12 billion dollars and generate nearly 11 billion dollars in U.S. merchandise exports.

"America is finally getting back in the game," said U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Thomas J. Donohue, who will host Lee at a luncheon next week. "As I promised nearly a year ago, the chamber will pull out all of the stops to get the votes in Congress, where the agreements already enjoy bipartisan support."

But sceptics say that the enthusiasm and rosy estimates of both the administration and the chamber are misleading and that, like the widely unpopular NAFTA, the chief beneficiaries of these new agreements are more likely to be multinational corporations than workers.

"As with any such agreement, there will be winners and losers," according to John Feffer, a Korea specialist at the Institute of Policy Studies. "The problem is that most of the winners are the wealthier players, namely major U.S. and South Korean manufacturers and financial institutions. The losers will be U.S. workers, Korean farmers, probably the environment in both countries."

As to the Colombian FTA, the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), a human rights group, sent a letter to all lawmakers Tuesday, urging a no vote on the accord and noting that 23 trade unionists have been killed this year, many of them since the adoption of the Action Plan in April.

It also noted that "human rights violations against Afro-descendants are rampant in Buenaventura, the largest port on Colombia's Pacific Coast."

WOLA's critique was echoed on the House floor by Massachusetts Rep. James McGovern of Massachusetts, who travelled to Colombia at the end of August.

"(N)othing I saw in Colombia indicated things have changed for the better on the ground for Colombia's workers," he said, calling for Congress to put that FTA aside pending "concrete improvements in labour rights and security for Colombia's workers".

The Crime Of Making Americans Aware Of Their Own History

The Crime Of Making Americans Aware Of Their Own History

By William Blum
October 04, 2011 "Information Clearing House" --  Is history getting too close for comfort for the fragile little American heart and mind? Their schools and their favorite media have done an excellent job of keeping them ignorant of what their favorite country has done to the rest of the world, but lately some discomforting points of view have managed to find their way into this well-defended American consciousness.
First, Congressman Ron Paul during a presidential debate last month expressed the belief that those who carried out the September 11 attack were retaliating for the many abuses perpetrated against Arab countries by the United States over the years. The audience booed him, loudly.
Then, popular-song icon Tony Bennett, in a radio interview, said the United States caused the 9/11 attacks because of its actions in the Persian Gulf, adding that President George W. Bush had told him in 2005 that the Iraq war was a mistake. Bennett of course came under some nasty fire. FOX News (September 24), carefully choosing its comments charmingly as usual, used words like "insane", "twisted mind", and "absurdities". Bennett felt obliged to post a statement on Facebook saying that his experience in World War II had taught him that "war is the lowest form of human behavior." He said there's no excuse for terrorism, and he added, "I'm sorry if my statements suggested anything other than an expression of love for my country." (NBC September 21)
Then came the Islamic cleric, Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen, who for some time had been blaming US foreign policy in the Middle East as the cause of anti-American hatred and terrorist acts. So we killed him. Ron Paul and Tony Bennett can count themselves lucky.
What, then, is the basis of all this? What has the United States actually been doing in the Middle East in the recent past?
  • the shooting down of two Libyan planes in 1981
  • the bombing of Lebanon in 1983 and 1984
  • the bombing of Libya in 1986
  • the bombing and sinking of an Iranian ship in 1987
  • the shooting down of an Iranian passenger plane in 1988
  • the shooting down of two more Libyan planes in 1989
  • the massive bombing of the Iraqi people in 1991
  • the continuing bombings and draconian sanctions against Iraq for the next 12 years
  • the bombing of Afghanistan and Sudan in 1998
  • the habitual support of Israel despite the routine devastation and torture it inflicts upon the Palestinian people
  • the habitual condemnation of Palestinian resistance to this
  • the abduction of "suspected terrorists" from Muslim countries, such as Malaysia, Pakistan, Lebanon and Albania, who were then taken to places like Egypt and Saudi Arabia, where they were tortured
  • the large military and hi-tech presence in Islam's holiest land, Saudi Arabia, and elsewhere in the Persian Gulf region
  • the support of numerous undemocratic, authoritarian Middle East governments from the Shah of Iran to Mubarak of Egypt to the Saudi royal family
  • the invasion, bombing and occupation of Afghanistan, 2001 to the present, and Iraq, 2003 to the present
  • the bombings and continuous firing of missiles to assassinate individuals in Somalia, Yemen, Pakistan, and Libya during the period of 2006-2011
It can't be repeated or emphasized enough. The biggest lie of the "war on terrorism", although weakening, is that the targets of America's attacks have an irrational hatred of the United States and its way of life, based on religious and cultural misunderstandings and envy. The large body of evidence to the contrary includes a 2004 report from the Defense Science Board, "a Federal advisory committee established to provide independent advice to the Secretary of Defense." The report states:
"Muslims do not hate our freedom, but rather they hate our policies. The overwhelming majority voice their objections to what they see as one-sided support in favor of Israel and against Palestinian rights, and the long-standing, even increasing, support for what Muslims collectively see as tyrannies, most notably Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Pakistan and the Gulf states. Thus, when American public diplomacy talks about bringing democracy to Islamic societies, this is seen as no more than self-serving hypocrisy."
The report concludes: "No public relations campaign can save America from flawed policies." (Christian Science Monitor, November 29, 2004)
The Pentagon released the study after the New York Times ran a story about it on November 24, 2004. The Times reported that although the board's report does not constitute official government policy, it captures "the essential themes of a debate that is now roiling not just the Defense Department but the entire United States government."
"Homeland security is a rightwing concept fostered following 9/11 as the answer to the effects of 50 years of bad foreign policies in the middle east. The amount of homeland security we actually need is inversely related to how good our foreign policy is." – Sam Smith, editor of The Progressive Review

The lies that will not die

In his September 22 address at the United Nations, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad mentioned the Nazi Holocaust just twice:
"Some European countries still use the Holocaust, after six decades, as the excuse to pay fines or ransom to the Zionists."
"They threaten anyone who questions the Holocaust and the September 11 event with sanctions and military action."
That was it.
By the term "questions the Holocaust" the Iranian president has made clear repeatedly over the years what he's referring to. He has commented about the peculiarity and injustice of a tragedy which took place in Europe resulting in a state for the Jews in the Middle East instead of in Europe. Why are the Palestinians paying a price for a German crime? he asks. And he has questioned the figure of six million Jews killed by Nazi Germany, as have many historians and others of all political stripes who think the total was probably less. This has nothing to do with the Holocaust not taking place.
But, as usual, the Western media pretends that it doesn't understand.
The New York Post (September 22) referred to the Iranian president as "the world's foremost Holocaust denier, the would-be genocidist Ahmadinejad".
Agence France Presse (September 22) stated: "The Iranian leader repeated comments casting doubt on the origins of the Holocaust."
The Washington Post wrote of "Ahmadinejad's speech suggesting larger conspiracies were behind the Holocaust and the Sept. 11 attacks caused delegates to walk out." (September 23)
And Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! (September 23) included this amongst the radio program's news headlines: "For the third straight year, Ahmadinejad sent delegates to the exits after questioning the Nazi Holocaust."
Without further explanation of that incendiary term — and none was given — what can "questioning the Nazi Holocaust" mean or imply to most listeners other than that Ahmadinejad was questioning whether the Holocaust had actually taken place?
Once again I must point out that I have yet to read of Ahmadinejad ever saying simply, clearly, unambiguously, and unequivocally that he thinks that what we know as the Holocaust never happened. For the record, in a speech at Columbia University on September 24, 2007, in reply to a question about the Holocaust, the Iranian president declared: "I'm not saying that it didn't happen at all. This is not the judgment that I'm passing here."
Indeed, I do not know if any of the so-called "Holocaust-deniers" actually, ever, umm, y'know ... deny the Holocaust. They question certain aspects of the Holocaust history that's been handed down to us, but they don't explicitly say that what we know as the Holocaust never took place. (Yes, I'm sure you can find at least one nut-case somewhere.)
Another enduring lie about Ahmadinejad is that he has called for violence against Israel: His 2005 remark re "wiping Israel off the map", besides being a very questionable translation, has been seriously misinterpreted, as evidenced by the fact that the following year he declared: "The Zionist regime will be wiped out soon, the same way the Soviet Union was, and humanity will achieve freedom." (Associated Press, December 12, 2006) Obviously, the man was not calling for any kind of violent attack upon Israel, for the dissolution of the Soviet Union took place peacefully.

Carl Oglesby

The president of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), 1965-66, died September 13, age 76. I remember him best for a speech of his I heard during the March on Washington, November 27, 1965, a speech passionately received by the tens of thousands crowding the National Mall:
The original commitment in Vietnam was made by President Truman, a mainstream liberal. It was seconded by President Eisenhower, a moderate liberal. It was intensified by the late President Kennedy, a flaming liberal. Think of the men who now engineer that war — those who study the maps, give the commands, push the buttons, and tally the dead: Bundy, McNamara, Rusk, Lodge, Goldberg, the President [Johnson] himself. They are not moral monsters. They are all honorable men. They are all liberals.
He insisted that America's founding fathers would have been on his side. "Our dead revolutionaries would soon wonder why their country was fighting against what appeared to be a revolution." He challenged those who called him anti-American: "I say, don't blame me for that! Blame those who mouthed my liberal values and broke my American heart."
We are dealing now with a colossus that does not want to be changed. It will not change itself. It will not cooperate with those who want to change it. Those allies of ours in the government — are they really our allies? If they are, then they don't need advice, they need constituencies; they don't need study groups, they need a movement. And if they are not [our allies], then all the more reason for building that movement with the most relentless conviction.
It saddens me to think that virtually nothing has changed for the better in US foreign policy since Carl Oglesby spoke on the Mall that day. America's wars are ongoing, perpetual, eternal. And the current war monger in the White House is regarded by many as a liberal, for whatever that's worth.
"We took space back quickly, expensively, with total panic and close to maximum brutality," war correspondent Michael Herr recalled about the US military in Vietnam. "Our machine was devastating. And versatile. It could do everything but stop."

Items of interest from a journal I've kept for 40 years, part V

  • A Bush administration regulation on Sept. 30, 2004 said Americans cannot buy or smoke Cuban cigars even in countries where the cigars are legal, such as Canada, Mexico, Europe, indeed most of the world. The same goes for Havana Club rum and other Cuban products.
  • April 26th, 2007 posting from the courageous but anonymous Iraqi woman who has, since August 2003, published the indispensable blog Baghdad Burning. Her family, she reported, was finally giving up and going into exile. In her final dispatch, she wrote: "There are moments when the injustice of having to leave your country simply because an imbecile got it into his head to invade it, is overwhelming. It is unfair that in order to survive and live normally, we have to leave our home and what remains of family and friends. ... And to what?"
  • "God appointed America to save the world in any way that suits America. God appointed Israel to be the nexus of America's Middle Eastern policy and anyone who wants to mess with that idea is a) anti-Semitic, b) anti-American, c) with the enemy, and d) a terrorist." — John LeCarre (London Times, January 15, 2003)
  • Army Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq admonished his troops regarding the results of an Army survey that found that many U.S. military personnel there are willing to tolerate some torture of suspects and unwilling to report abuse by comrades. "This fight depends on securing the population, which must understand that we — not our enemies — occupy the moral high ground," he wrote in an open letter dated May 10 and posted on a military Web site. (Washington Post, May 11, 2007)
  • "To most of its citizens, America is exceptional, and it's only natural that it should take exception to certain international standards." — Michael Ignatieff, former Canadian politician and Washington Post columnist
  • It is easy to understand an observation by one of Israel's leading military historians, Martin van Creveld. After the U.S. invaded Iraq, knowing it to be defenseless, he noted, "Had the Iranians not tried to build nuclear weapons, they would be crazy." — Noam Chomsky
  • "It is easier for an American member of Congress to criticize an American president than to criticize an Israeli Prime Minister; it is easier for them to criticize an unjust and unwarranted US war than one launched by Israel." — Jeffrey Blankfort
  • Ken Livingston, Mayor of London, re: his visit to Cuba in 2006: "What really stood out for me was hearing first hand from people working in the medical services just how appalling the US blockade is. When you meet people who are treating eye disorders and blindness on a huge scale and they describe how difficult it is to get the equipment they need except through indirect routes because of the blockade you get a feel for the scale of the injustice that is being imposed on Cuba." Livingston might have added that the "indirect routes", even if available, are much more expensive.
  • In 1965 when UN Secretary-General U Thant tried to open back-channel ties to the North Vietnamese, US Secretary of State Dean Rusk called him off by shouting: "Who do you think you are, a country?" (Washington Post BookWorld, January 7, 2007)
  • George W. Bush: "Years from now when America looks out on a democratic Middle East, growing in freedom and prosperity, Americans will speak of the battles like Fallujah with the same awe and reverence that we now give to Guadalcanal and Iwo Jima" in World War II. (Associated Press, November 11, 2006)
  • The National Endowment for Democracy was US Government initiated, and although ostensibly "independent," has been continually funded by the US Congress, and its Board has included top level actors in the US Government's foreign policy apparatus, including former Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger and Madeleine Albright, former National Security Council Chair Zbigniew Brzezinski, and former World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz.
  • CBS News, September 9, 2006: Senator Jay Rockefeller says the world would be better off today if the United States had never invaded Iraq. Does Rockefeller stand by his view, even if it means that Saddam Hussein could still be in power if the United States didn't invade? "Yes. Yes." says Rockefeller. "He wasn't going to attack us."
  • William Appleman Williams, in his 2007 book "Empire as a way of life": Analyzing US history from its revolutionary origins to the dawn of the Reagan era, Williams shows how America has always been addicted to empire in its foreign and domestic ideology. Detailing the imperial actions and beliefs of revered figures such as Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Delano Roosevelt, this book is the most in-depth historical study of the American obsession with empire, and is essential to understanding the origins of our current foreign and domestic undertakings.
  • Compare Washington's reaction in recent years to popular uprisings alleging electoral fraud in the Ukraine and Georgia to its reaction to the same in Mexico in 2006 when the rightwing Felipe Calderon was declared the winner in a very questionable manner.
  • Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, in his talk at the United Nations, September 20, 2006, sharply criticized US president George W. Bush's foreign policies and Bush himself. Britain's Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett suggested that the Chávez comments were beyond the pale of diplomatic protocol at the UN. "Even the Democrats wouldn't say that". However, the Guardian reported that "Delegates and leaders from around the world streamed back into the chamber to hear Mr Chávez, and when he stepped down the vigorous applause lasted so long that it had to be curtailed by the chair."
  • Only the imperialist powers have the ability to enforce sanctions and are therefore always exempt from them.
William Blum is the author of:
  • Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War 2
  • Rogue State: A Guide to the World's Only Superpower
  • West-Bloc Dissident: A Cold War Memoir
  • Freeing the World to Death: Essays on the American Empire
Portions of the books can be read, and signed copies purchased, at

Declaration of the Occupation of New York City - They Include Animals, Too!

For my animal rights friends, take a look at the one I bolded! They included animals in their citing of injustices perpetrated by the corporations against our own and the world's citizens! What an inspirational document! Maybe the tipping point has finally arrived and we're going to rise up. Once millions of people come on board, the psychopaths and their puppet politicians are done.  

Article image
This doc­u­ment was ac­cepted by the NYC Gen­eral As­sem­bly on Sep­tem­ber 29, 2011, with minor up­dates made on Oc­to­ber 1, 2011. It is the first of­fi­cial, col­lec­tive state­ment of the pro­test­ers in Zuc­cotti Park.
As we gather to­gether in sol­i­dar­ity to ex­press a feel­ing of mass in­jus­tice, we must not lose sight of what brought us to­gether. We write so that all peo­ple who feel wronged by the cor­po­rate forces of the world can know that we are your al­lies.

As one peo­ple, united, we ac­knowl­edge the re­al­ity: that the fu­ture of the human race re­quires the co­op­er­a­tion of its mem­bers; that our sys­tem must pro­tect our rights, and upon cor­rup­tion of that sys­tem, it is up to the in­di­vid­u­als to pro­tect their own rights, and those of their neigh­bors; that a de­mo­c­ra­tic gov­ern­ment de­rives its just power from the peo­ple, but cor­po­ra­tions do not seek con­sent to ex­tract wealth from the peo­ple and the Earth; and that no true democ­racy is at­tain­able when the process is de­ter­mined by eco­nomic power. We come to you at a time when cor­po­ra­tions, which place profit over peo­ple, self-in­ter­est over jus­tice, and op­pres­sion over equal­ity, run our gov­ern­ments. We have peace­ably as­sem­bled here, as is our right, to let these facts be known.
  • They have taken our houses through an il­le­gal fore­clo­sure process, de­spite not hav­ing the orig­i­nal mort­gage.
  • They have taken bailouts from tax­pay­ers with im­punity, and con­tinue to give Ex­ec­u­tives ex­or­bi­tant bonuses.
  • They have per­pet­u­ated in­equal­ity and dis­crim­i­na­tion in the work­place based on age, the color of one's skin, sex, gen­der iden­tity and sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion.
  • They have poi­soned the food sup­ply through neg­li­gence, and un­der­mined the farm­ing sys­tem through mo­nop­o­liza­tion.
  • They have prof­ited off of the tor­ture, con­fine­ment, and cruel treat­ment of count­less an­i­mals, and ac­tively hide these prac­tices.
  • They have con­tin­u­ously sought to strip em­ploy­ees of the right to ne­go­ti­ate for bet­ter pay and safer work­ing con­di­tions.
  • They have held stu­dents hostage with tens of thou­sands of dol­lars of debt on ed­u­ca­tion, which is it­self a human right.
  • They have con­sis­tently out­sourced labor and used that out­sourc­ing as lever­age to cut work­ers’ health­care and pay.
  • They have in­flu­enced the courts to achieve the same rights as peo­ple, with none of the cul­pa­bil­ity or re­spon­si­bil­ity.
  • They have spent mil­lions of dol­lars on legal teams that look for ways to get them out of con­tracts in re­gards to health in­sur­ance.
  • They have sold our pri­vacy as a com­mod­ity.
  • They have used the mil­i­tary and po­lice force to pre­vent free­dom of the press.
  • They have de­lib­er­ately de­clined to re­call faulty prod­ucts en­dan­ger­ing lives in pur­suit of profit.
  • They de­ter­mine eco­nomic pol­icy, de­spite the cat­a­strophic fail­ures their poli­cies have pro­duced and con­tinue to pro­duce.
  • They have do­nated large sums of money to politi­cians, who are re­spon­si­ble for reg­u­lat­ing them.
  • They con­tinue to block al­ter­nate forms of en­ergy to keep us de­pen­dent on oil.
  • They con­tinue to block generic forms of med­i­cine that could save peo­ple’s lives or pro­vide re­lief in order to pro­tect in­vest­ments that have al­ready turned a sub­stan­tial profit.
  • They have pur­posely cov­ered up oil spills, ac­ci­dents, faulty book­keep­ing, and in­ac­tive in­gre­di­ents in pur­suit of profit.
  • They pur­pose­fully keep peo­ple mis­in­formed and fear­ful through their con­trol of the media.
  • They have ac­cepted pri­vate con­tracts to mur­der pris­on­ers even when pre­sented with se­ri­ous doubts about their guilt.
  • They have per­pet­u­ated colo­nial­ism at home and abroad.
  • They have par­tic­i­pated in the tor­ture and mur­der of in­no­cent civil­ians over­seas.
  • They con­tinue to cre­ate weapons of mass de­struc­tion in order to re­ceive gov­ern­ment con­tracts.*
To the peo­ple of the world,
We, the New York City Gen­eral As­sem­bly oc­cu­py­ing Wall Street in Lib­erty Square, urge you to as­sert your power.
Ex­er­cise your right to peace­ably as­sem­ble; oc­cupy pub­lic space; cre­ate a process to ad­dress the prob­lems we face, and gen­er­ate so­lu­tions ac­ces­si­ble to every­one.
To all com­mu­ni­ties that take ac­tion and form groups in the spirit of di­rect democ­racy, we offer sup­port, doc­u­men­ta­tion, and all of the re­sources at our dis­posal.
Join us and make your voices heard!

The Peak Oil Crisis: Turmoil Erupts

The Peak Oil Crisis: Turmoil Erupts
By Tom Whipple
06 October, 2011
Falls Church News-Press
The Financial Times and Wall Street Journal have gone into full crisis mode with live blogs continuously reporting unfolding events.
Equity markets are falling and London oil prices have been flirting with $100 a barrel for the first time since February. Talk of recessions, depressions, and even collapse of the euro zone is everywhere. There seems to be general agreement that a Greek debt default is inevitable. This is to be followed by insolvency of many European banks, which in turn will lead to the possibility of debt defaults by Italy and Spain. These countries, of course, are too big to be bailed out by the rest of EU, which is what has everybody worried. Economic contraction in Europe - perhaps even a major contraction - looks likely.
There is growing concern that defaults in Europe would quickly engulf Wall Street financial institutions and that even the great Chinese growth engine could be hurt seriously by declining exports. Our concern here, however, is just where oil supply and oil prices fit into all this gloom and doom.
Even though NY oil prices have fallen by some $38 a barrel since peaking in April, gasoline and diesel in the US are still retailing for 70-80 cents a gallon more than last year. There is growing recognition among researchers that oil prices above $90 a barrel clearly cause significant economic damage in the US and other OECD countries. Additional dollars going into fuel tanks are not spent on other goods and services; hence discretionary consumer spending will contract and will continue to do so until oil prices fall significantly below $90 a barrel. In the winter of 2009, oil prices fell to circa $60 a barrel following the summer's oil price spike to $147 a barrel. This spectacular drop in oil prices did as much or more to quickly bring the country out of recession than the government's stimulus.
As could be expected the recent drop in oil prices has already brought forth mutterings of unhappiness from within OPEC. Unlike three years ago, many of the OPEC producers are threatened with popular unrest. In the case of the swing producer, Saudi Arabia, the immediate response to the Arab Spring has been a massive increase in social spending to keep potential dissenters satisfied with their lot. This increased spending, however, means that the Saudis now need to receive on the order of $90-$100 for their oil to afford increased social spending. They are more likely to agree to an OPEC oil production cut to maintain $90-100 oil even if a major recession engulfs much of the world.
If some of the more dire speculation about what might happen should come to pass, there is simply no telling where the world and oil prices and production might go. We know that U.S. oil consumption has recently been registering a decline of roughly four percent over last year. China, however, continues to grow its economy in excess of nine percent a year which requires an annual increase of five or six percent in oil consumption. For now it looks as if things are going to have to get a lot worse before there is a significant decline in global oil demand. All this seems to suggest that short of a major depression in which the global GDP actually declines rather than increases, oil prices do not appear headed for a lengthy slump. While the normal speculative excesses and overshoot may briefly send prices below the current costs of new production, this situation is unlikely to obtain for long.
There is a definite possibility, if not a likelihood, that the innumerable debt crises when coupled with high and ever increasing energy costs could evolve into a major economic depression. Such a depression would result in large declines in the GDP of many if not most countries.
One would expect that countries with small populations and large oil exports would be solvent for a while but many of these would be vulnerable to food or water shortages as global trade contracts. A major depression in which un- and under employment moved well into double digits would obviously result in a major drop in oil consumption as many would be forced to curtail their driving through shear economic necessity. With economic activity down by double digits, commercial use of oil products would fall and with it oil prices. Obviously producers would cut production both to support prices and to prevent gluts of unsalable oil from developing.
The permanently falling oil prices that would result from a global depression would set up a new dynamic for the oil industry. Production from our currently active oil fields is dropping at about four percent a year. In the future, most new oil will come from very expensive to find and produce offshore oil and heavy oil deposits. Leaving out the drop in costs that would be likely in a major depression, new oil will have to sell for $60 to $90 a barrel or it would be uneconomical to produce. Unless costs of production drop dramatically, the likelihood of enough oil from newly drilled fields coming into production to replace that lost through depletion does not seem good.
The last great depression lasted for a decade and was only ended by World War II. The next depression will be different. Oil and other fossil fuels will not be relatively cheap as they were in 1940 and is some cases may even be in short supply. Should the current economic situation spiral on down into something similar to the 1930's and last for an indefinite period, at least two races are likely. This first will be cost of producing new oil from expensive, difficult places vs. its selling price; and the second will be between the demand for oil and the amount available. It should make for an interesting decade.
Tom Whipple is a retired government analyst and has been following the peak oil issue for several years.

Working Class View of Twenty Years of the Liberalisation and Privatisation Program

Working Class View of Twenty Years of the Liberalisation and Privatisation Program

The monopoly corporate houses of our country called it a historic day, the 24th of July, 1991. It was the day when Manmohan Singh, then Finance Minister in the Narasimha Rao government, unveiled in his budget speech the program of globalisation of Indian capital through liberalisation and privatisation. The monopoly capitalists have been propagating through the media that Manmohan Singh must be applauded for initiating this golden period for India.
The working class has an entirely different view of this so-called reform program and its results over the past 20 years. So do the peasants and other sections of the toiling and excluded majority. The views of this toiling majority are neglected by the corporate media.
Starting with this issue, Mazdoor Ekta Lehar will publish interviews with representatives of the working class, of the peasantry and other oppressed sections, to elaborate their views on the past two decades of globalisation of Indian capital; and on their vision for the next two decades.
We begin the series with an interview of Comrade Lal Singh, General Secretary of the Communist Ghadar Party of India. The following issues will carry more interviews with representatives of the working class, peasants and other small business people.

MEL Correspondent: What has been the result of the two decades of the so-called economic reform program since 1991?
Comrade Lal Singh: “The result of implementing this program has been highly uneven and lopsided economic growth. It has led to the intensification of class contradictions within our society.
“If we look at who has benefited the most, we find a miniscule proportion of the population that has amassed enormous wealth in this period. The turnover of the Tata group jumped from Rs. 14,000 crore to Rs. 3,50,000 crore over the past 20 years. That of the K.M. Birla group grew from Rs. 3,100 crore to Rs. 1,35,000 crore. The turnover of the Reliance Group was Rs. 2,300 crore twenty years ago; now it has split into two groups, and the turnover of the Mukesh Ambani group alone is over Rs. 2,00,000 crore.
“Several new names have joined the top circle of monopoly groups, such as the Sunil Bharti Mittal group and Gautam Adani group. The combined wealth of the 10 richest capitalists in our country reached the astronomical level of Rs. 8,40,000 crore in 2008, more than one-fifth the national income. At the other pole, more than 80% of the rural population spent less than Rs. 900 per head every month, according to the National Sample Survey of 2006/07. This is equivalent to just 30 rupees per day. Over 80% of the urban population spent less than Rs. 1800 per month, or 60 per day.
“The monopoly capitalists naturally consider the liberalisation and privatisation program a great success because they have minted money. But India remains the land with the maximum number of poor people. It is the country with maximum number of victims of numerous diseases. Infant mortality and maternal mortality remain high in most parts of the country. Even safe drinking water is not assured for millions of our people. Enormous time is spent every day to fetch a pail of water.
“The Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission makes the preposterous claim that a working person can live on 30 Rupees per day! It shows that the monopoly capitalists and their spokesmen have no clue about the actual conditions of life of the toiling majority, their needs and aspirations. By defining the poverty line absurdly low, they claim that poverty is being tackled in our country.
“The relatively rapid economic growth, which our rulers proudly applaud, is being achieved through the most ruthless exploitation of workers and robbery of peasants. To make sure that the workers and peasants do not fight back as a united force, all kinds of diabolical acts are carried out, to divert them and set them against one another.
“The economic offensive has been accompanied by a fascistic political offensive in the form of state terrorism, communal violence and other blatant forms of violation of the rights of nations, classes and individual human beings.
“We cannot forget that Manmohan Singh’s maiden budget was followed by the criminal act of demolition of Babri Masjid in 1992, followed by state-organised communal violence. Both the principal parties in Parliament collaborated in these monstrous crimes against our people and their unity. Our Party responded to those developments by taking a historic step in February 1993, of initiating a mass campaign along with numerous organisations, giving birth to a committee for people’s empowerment.
“If we look at the composition of the high rate of GDP growth, we find that the fastest growing sectors of the economy in this period have been services for export markets, banking and other financial agencies, the land market, stock market and commodity futures markets. None of these activities add even one paisa to the real wealth of our country. They do not contribute to the living standards of the workers and peasants. The growth of the stock market and futures markets have enable a few giant gamblers and profiteers to steal the value in the hands of smaller businesses and from the savings of working individuals.
“If we discount the fictitious value addition that is imputed to banking, trade, public administration and defence, etc., the growth rate in the production of material wealth in our country is not as high as our rulers claim. It is obvious, for instance, that not enough is being produced of the various essential food items that working people need, which is reflected in the soaring rate of food price inflation. Food price inflation is being further fuelled by speculative commodity trading and hoarding.
“Ensuring the prosperity of those who toil requires enhanced production of the articles of mass consumption and their adequate availability at affordable prices. This is not being assured at all by the present orientation of the economy and economic policy. Only exorbitant profits in the hands of monopoly capitalists are being assured, through highly lopsided growth.
MEL: What was the context and main thrust of the policy reforms?
Com LS: “By the end of the decade of the eighties, the monopoly capitalists of India had become big enough to handle competition with the biggest corporations of the world in various sectors. They were willing to open the doors to foreign capital in order to upgrade their technological base and to bargain for greater access to foreign markets.
“The old method of developing capitalism, the Nehruvian model, had reached a dead-end. It was no longer appropriate for the big capitalists. The collapse of the Soviet Union and end of the bipolar division of the world meant that India had to redefine her position afresh in a newly evolving global scenario. The big capitalists used this as the occasion for embarking on an aggressive imperialist course.
“The program of globalisation, through liberalisation and privatisation, is aimed at enabling Indian monopoly capitalists to emerge as contenders for big power status on the global scale. It is based on intensified exploitation of labour and robbery of natural resources as the premise. It is an anti-worker, anti-peasant and anti-social program with imperialist aims.
 “The Rupee has been devalued from Rs. 18 to Rs. 45 per US Dollar in this period. This has made production for foreign markets more profitable in comparison to producing for the domestic market. It has made investing in India more profitable for foreign companies and banks. Restrictions have been progressively removed from the path of domestic capitalist corporations to access financing from abroad and to acquire companies abroad. The path has been cleared for foreign companies to invest in diverse sectors of industry and services in our country. Speculation is rampant and so are land scandals and various forms of swindling of public funds.
 “The capitalist propaganda claims that state control has been replaced by a free market. In actual fact, the competition in the market is highly uneven and monopolistic, with a few big players squeezing the small players dry. One form of control over the state by the monopoly houses has been replaced with another form of control by the same interests, at a higher level of domination and degree of monopoly.
MEL Correspondent: What is your assessment of Manmohan Singh’s role and contribution?
“Manmohan Singh did not design the liberalisation and privatisation program that has been pursued over the past 20 years. It is a program designed by a class of billionaire capitalists, who selected Manmohan Singh as a capable candidate to justify and market this program to the public.
“To justify and promote the program of big monopoly capital, Manmohan Singh claimed that once the wealthy start expanding their wealth at a rapid rate, it will trickle down to the toiling masses. When this did not happen, he claimed that further adjustments to the program would give it a ‘human face’. Then he further claimed that his party would make sure that rapid GDP growth does not enrich only a small minority but is ‘inclusive’.
“The actual results are the opposite of what he and other advocates of privatisation and liberalisation claim. The working class is suffering in all sectors. Wages are not keeping pace with the soaring prices of food and other essential consumption articles. Inflation is also much higher than the rate of interest received on bank deposits, so the savings of working families are falling in value alongside monthly incomes. Peasants are sinking into debt as their net income is not able to cover the debt servicing burden and also provide for health care, nutritious food and other needs of the family.
MEL: What is the alternative orientation and vision of the Communist Ghadar Party for the next two decades, i.e., 2010-30?
Com LS:“Our vision is that the creators of wealth must become the masters and the main beneficiaries of wealth creation. Who creates wealth? Manmohan Singh and other bourgeois economists claim that monopoly houses like the Tatas and Ambanis are creating wealth, and all restrictions must be removed from their path. The truth is that it is human labour, in interaction with nature and with past products of labour, which creates wealth. Workers and peasants create wealth through their toil. The capitalists pocket what others have created. They are the robbers of wealth and not its creators.
“The conditions in our country are crying out for a reorientation of the economy and reconstitution of political power. These together constitute the program for the Navnirman of India that our Party advocates.
“Only if workers and peasants become the decision-makers can they ensure that the economy works for them and not for the robbers of the wealth they produce. With political power in their hands, the workers, peasants and revolutionary intelligentsia will ensure that the economic system provides them with prosperity and stability, that is, it raises their living standard steadily without any crises or shocks.
“Fulfilling the ever-rising material and cultural needs of the population must become the overriding objective of social production, in place of the maximisation of private profits. A country of continental dimension like ours can be largely self-reliant. Imports and exports are needed only in a relatively small scale in some selected commodities.
“We agitate for the formation of a worker-peasant government to begin implementing the reorientation of the economy. We agitate for socialisation of finance, foreign trade and domestic wholesale trade on an immediate basis, to eliminate any scope for private profiteering in these spheres.
“To sort out the unresolved national question in our country and end the brutal violation of rights as in Kashmir, Nagaland and Manipur, we call for the reconstitution of the Indian Union on a voluntary basis, with every constituent enjoying the right to join or not join the union.
“We call for radical changes in the political process, so as to end party rule and establish rule of and by the people, organised in samitis in every constituency. The right to vote must be accompanied by the right to be elected, right to have a say in the selection of candidates and the right to recall the one who gets elected at any time.
“There is an acute clash that is developing between those who desire a radical change and those who want to preserve the status quo. The outcome of this great struggle will determine whether India will stumble along on its present crisis-ridden and dangerous imperialist course, or lift herself out of crisis and advance on the high road of civilisation.
 “Our party represents the outlook and standpoint of the working class, which is interested in empowering the toiling majority of people so as to achieve the anti-colonial, anti-feudal, anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist revolution that Indian society needs. Navnirman is the decisive stage of ending the legacy of the past, and laying the foundation for a bright future.”


New Delhi,