greydog

Linda Ross aka greydog is a native Chicagoan who lives and works in Prague. greydog is the founder and editor of 99GetSmart.

Jul 222014
 

Posted by snakearbusto and greydogg, 99GetSmart

Corruption-translates-to-global-anger

Written by Turkish political analyst / blogger, Gürkan Özturan:

A not-so-secretive home-raiding operation was unleashed just days after the Gulenist movement’s newspapers started revealing statistics of the AKP government’s increasing trade with the Israeli government despite the anti-Semitic, anti-Israeli rhetoric that is prevalent in the AKP party. The operation is taking place only two hours after Erdogan appeared on a TV show saying, “It’s time for a cleaning now.” This sentence was the start of an operation that spread to 22 cities into the morning.

At 2:00 AM on July 22nd, Turkey experienced yet another “first time” in its history, and contrary to the permitted rules of home-raiding operations and arrests, hundreds of doors were knocked on in the middle of the night and arrests began. According to the penal code, house searches and arrests can only be made between 5:00 AM and 11:00 PM. However, in exceptional cases when the operation is led by the Organized Crime and Terrorism Taskforce, home raids on high-level suspects can be carried out at unorthodox times.

At this very moment, hundreds of homes are being raided as this article is being written. Police officers and police chiefs are being arrested, including the ones who participated in the home-raiding operations and operations against the secret service officers who were also involved in the corruption probe investigation against the government ministers, prime minister, and their sons. Another group of police officers are allegedly the ones who uncovered secret Iranian cells operating in Turkey, especially Tawhid-i Salam (linked to Quds Forces/Jerusalem Army).

The charges against the police officers include espionage and forging legal documents that led to the corruption probe being prepared in the last two years. The same accusations had been made against Telecommunications Directorate (TIB) officers after another nighttime raid was carried out on May 31^st against TIB. After the December 17 and 25 corruption probe arrests of dozens of people related to government and business networks, Erdogan had said “we will raid their caves.”

The timing of the operation is also significant. The home raids are taking place just hours before Erdogan addresses the Parliament before it is dissolved for summer recess which, is the last time before presidential elections in August 2014. As the dawn breaks, the operation is spreading to other districts of Istanbul and several other cities. Government “Deepthroat” @fuatavni writes “psychological combat tools are being used to divert public perception right before the elections.” In social media, the operation has been likened to the“Night of the Long Knives” that happened 80 years ago in Nazi Germany.

More stories by Gürkan Özturan @ http://theradicaldemocrat.wordpress.com

More stories about Turkey @ http://99getsmart.com/category/turkey/

Jul 152014
 

By James Petras, 99GetSmart

american-slaves31

Introduction

Leading management consultants, top government officials and prominent financial journalists are proposing, what they dub, “labor reforms” as the solution for double-digit unemployment and underemployment, economic stagnation and the decline of capital investments.

“Labor Reform” as the Concentration of Power and Profits

First of all, the term “labor reform” is just a euphemism for labor regression, the reversal  of laws and practices that workers and employees secured through decades of struggle against employers.

The idea that “labor reforms” would create jobs for the unemployed has been tried and disproven over the past decade. Throughout Europe, in particular Spain, Portugal, Greece, Ireland and France, laws facilitating firings, pay differentials between short-term and long-term contract workers and speed-ups have not reduced unemployment, which still remains at depression levels.

What neo-liberal economists and journalists call “labor market flexibility” is really all about  increasing the power of the bosses to impose reductions in wages, dominate and dictate work rules, intensify management bullying in the workplace and  fire workers without just cause or redress.  Likewise “wage flexibility” means giving management the exclusive power to unilaterally lower wages, to alter work contracts, to stratify payments between workers, to downgrade job categories in order to lower wages and to increase output, and to pit unemployed workers against employed workers, temporary workers against long-term workers.

The Consequences of “Labor Reform”:  Rising Inequalities

Labor reforms” are not policies designed to end unemployment, encourage economic recovery and increase capital expenditure. They are not an economic strategy. The principle goal is to concentrate power in the hands of the bosses in order to lower labor costs, increase profits and double-up production from a reduced workforce.

The growing disparity of power between capital and labor resulting from “labor reforms” is the key factor producing inequality. Neo-liberals attribute growing inequality to technological changes, ignoring the fact that it is the growing power of capital that determines how productivity gains, from the introduction of technological innovations, are distributed between capital and labor.

Labor Reform” and the Astronomical Rise of Workplace Bullying

Most liberals focus on the problems of sexual harassment and intra-working class bullying.  These problems certainly require attention and correction. But far more pervasive and with far-reaching consequential is management harassment of all workers of both genders. Because ‘labor reforms’ allow management to fire workers without due process and because union shop stewards do not exist in 88% of the private and public workplaces, management intervenes in everyday workplaces, arbitrarily increasing work assignments and downgrading work performance. And many times it does so with verbal and some times, physical abuse. Management no longer faces workplace solidarity: it can abuse workers, isolate and harangue them, threaten and dictate ultimatums. Any self-defense is immediately interpreted as insubordination and the worker is fired – an example to others to unconditionally submit. Intimidation takes the form of hiring temporary low-wage workers to compete with permanent employees, or threatening to ‘relocate’ the factory. Macro and micro personal bullying is today an integral part of capital – labor relations.

Bullying has an economic function – it is designed to increase output, inculcate obedience and raise profits. But management bullying has profound negative psycho-social effects on workers. Verbal abuse, face to face intimidation, arbitrary downgrading without recourse and other everyday indignities cause depression, a loss of self-worth dignity. This leads  to self-abuse, worker and family violence and/or a ‘chain of bullying’ of those below … children, spouses, neighbors and outsiders (immigrants).

The bullying by management does not merely express itself in victimizing workers but also in forcing them to enter in “co-operative relations” where they are supposed to “share” tasks, responsibilities and innovations, without rewards or say in the distribution of material benefits or in the shaping of workplace power relations. It’s bad enough to be bullied and exploited, its worse to be forced to co-operate with management bullies, to smile at indignities and praise the degrading relationships.

The Most Vulnerable:  Unemployed, Temporary and Young Workers

The most brutalized sectors of the workforce are the unemployed and temporary young workers, which the neo-liberal ideologues argue will be the beneficiaries of “labor market flexibility”.  In fact, lowering the status of employed workers has not created jobs for the unemployed.  Temporary workers are hired at the lowest level, paid less than half the wage of permanent workers and can be fired with no notice. Most young ‘temps’ work with the promise of a permanent job and are driven to compete with a multitude of others . . .  yet only a few are rehired when the contract ends and, even among them, it is usually another temporary contract. Unemployed workers are subject to intense interviews that go far beyond their work capabilities: they are interrogated regarding their readiness to obey, submit and collaborate with management—this is a key factor in getting hired. Temporary workers are encouraged by management to exceed existing work norms, to work overtime without extra payment, thus fostering animosity and hostility among permanent workers. The unemployed are there to pressure the temp; the temp is employed to compete with the permanent; the young are hired to replace older workers near retirement age to lower pension payments. Veteran workers fear that the younger workers they are assigned to train will then take their jobs or force them into early retirement with a loss of their pension and benefits. Management fosters distrust, hostility, competition and bullying among workers which undermines solidarity by dividing workers between temps and ‘permanent’ workers so they can dominate, intimidate and exploit both.

The on-going drive to strip workers of all protective social legislation and eliminate trade union organization in order to increase profits has allowed capitalists to lessen capital investments in job creating activities. Management bullying at the workplace has become endemic because individual workers have no redress, lack solidarity and have the “choice” of submitting to daily abuse until it become unbearable, or quitting. Management can always find cheap replacements that are more submissive, more willing to endure added job tasks for lesser pay. In many cases, especially among public sector employees, management bullying is a tool to remove and replace competent professionals with political or family cronies. Organizational loyalty replaces professional competence, leading to a decline of public service and advocacy for the citizens, especially the most vulnerable.

Labor Market Reform as a Cover for the Failures of Capital

As we have noted, stripping labor of its rights and concentrating power in the hands of management has not created jobs. The reason is that unemployment and underemployment is a result of the behavior of the capitalist class. They are not investing in job creation!

Instead CEO’s are paying higher dividends to big stockholders, investment bankers and hedge funds. Corporate directors are channeling billions into acquisitions, buying out competitors and monopolizing markets or simply “broadening the portfolio”. They reap huge salaries and bonuses.

Corporate strategic planners and accountants relocate corporate offices overseas and stash hundreds of billions of dollars offshore to avoid taxes while reducing the availability of capital for job-creating investments at home.

The corporate elite relocates plants and operations “off-shore” to low-wage countries, in the process firing millions of workers and thus creating a massive pool of unemployed workers. ‘Capital flexibility’, not ‘labor inflexibility’ (job protection), is the decisive factor generating and maintaining high unemployment and underemployment: Capital has the “flexibility” to acquire existing firms instead of creating new plants and jobs; it has the ‘flexibility’ to ‘offshore’ its operations and displace millions and it has the ‘flexibility’ to hoard funds and profits overseas, hidden from domestic taxes.

Conclusion

The entire argument for “labor reform” and labor flexibility to create jobs is entirely without merit. Worse it is a subterfuge to cover up the fact that it is “capital flexibility”, which is the cause of unemployment.

Moreover, the vast imbalance between financial and productive investments has led to the diminution of stable well-paying jobs in productive sectors. The movement by the corporate and financial elite toward a high unemployment strategy is predicated on its supreme control over the executive branch of government at the top and iron-fisted control over the workplace at the bottom.

Political-corporate integration is at its highest point in history: “flexible capital”, unrestrained movements of capital, is the dominant state ideology. The inability of trade unions and other organized sectors to challenge state policy has led to their total subjection to threats of capital flight and their acceptance of the imposition of “labor reforms” destroying the social basis for organization.

Capital-State integration at the top is accompanied by worker fragmentation and isolation at the workplace. Here “labor reform” plays a major role in sustaining management absolutism: corporate power at the top corrupts and absolute power at the workplace absolutely corrupts – to paraphrase and adapt Lord Acton to the 21st century.

Workplace bullying by management, is the starting point in an extended chain or domination and exploitation that stretches from the highest levels of corporate headquarters to the lowest office and workplace. Frustrated atomized workers suffering indignities do not strike and do not vote.  They are the silent majority who tell the pollsters they oppose Wall Street, they want a national health system for their family, affordable higher education for their children and stable, secure employment for themselves—but feel powerless and voiceless!

This majority needs a movement to impose ‘capital reforms’: an end to capital flight, mergers, acquisitions and hoarding instead of capital investments. Perhaps the starting point is workplace reform: organizing and fighting management bullying in every day work.

Another response to the escalation of managements workplace bullying is the growth of self-employment, as skilled workers turn to small-scale enterprises and self-managed co-operatives to free themselves from managers constantly looking over their shoulders, barking for greater output and demanding “extra hours and overtime” without compensation.

Decades earlier, a whole generation was raised with the understanding that employment in a larger firm was a collegial experience of sharing knowledge and advancing through meritorious achievements. Today, few skilled workers hold that view:  orporate employment involves a merciless “grind”, abrupt changes in ownership, radical restructuring, high stress workloads and perpetual job insecurity.

The risk of exiting to small-scale individual enterprises may be preferable to the strains and indignities of everyday corporate bullying, even in the public sector. But the bankruptcy rates for small independents remain high.

Socialism anybody?

Jul 132014
 

By William Blum99GetSmart

pc_e2de8343b71ab015afc62f0e7e1b0b00

US Secretary of State John Kerry, July 8, 2014:
“In my travels as secretary of state, I have seen as never before the thirst for American leadership in the world.”

President Barack Obama, May 28, 2014:
“Here’s my bottom line, America must always lead on the world stage. If we don’t, no one else will.”

Nicholas Burns, former US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, May 8, 2014:
“Where is American power and leadership when the world needs it most?”

Mitt Romney, Republican Party candidate for President, September 13, 2012:
“The world needs American leadership. The Middle East needs American leadership and I intend to be a president that provides the leadership that America respects and keep us admired throughout the world.”

Paul Ryan, Congressman, Republican Party candidate for Vice President, September 12, 2012:
“We need to be reminded that the world needs American leadership.”

John McCain, Senator, September 9, 2012:
“The situation in Syria and elsewhere ‘cries out for American leadership’.”

Hillary Clinton, September 8, 2010:
“Let me say it clearly: The United States can, must, and will lead in this new century. Indeed, the complexities and connections of today’s world have yielded a new American Moment — a moment when our global leadership is essential, even if we must often lead in new ways.”

Senator Barack Obama, April 23, 2007:
“In the words of President Franklin Roosevelt, we lead the world in battling immediate evils and promoting the ultimate good. I still believe that America is the last, best hope of Earth.”

Gallup poll, 2013:

Question asked: “Which country do you think is the greatest threat to peace in the world today?”

Replies:

  • United States 24%
  • Pakistan 8%
  • China 6%
  • Afghanistan, Iran, Israel, North Korea, each 5%
  • India, Iraq, Japan, each 4%
  • Syria 3%
  • Russia 2%
  • Australia, Germany, Palestinian territories, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, South Korea, UK, each 1%

The question is not what pacifism has achieved throughout history, but what has war achieved?

Remark made to a pacifist: “If only everyone else would live in the way you recommend, I would gladly live that way as well – but not until everyone else does.”

The Pacifist’s reply: “Why then, sir, you would be the last man on earth to do good. I would rather be one of the first.”

Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution, 1947, words long cherished by a large majority of the Japanese people:

“Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice and order, the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes.

“In order to accomplish the aim of the preceding paragraph, land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained. The right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized.”

This statement is probably unique amongst the world’s constitutions.

But on July 1, 2014 the government of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, without changing a word of Article 9, announced a “reinterpretation” of it to allow for military action in conjunction with allies. This decision can be seen as the culmination of a decades-long effort by the United States to wean Japan away from its post-WW2 pacifist constitution and foreign policy and set it back on the righteous path of being a military power once again, only this time acting in coordination with US foreign policy needs.

In the triumphalism of the end of the Second World War, the American occupation of Japan, in the person of General Douglas MacArthur, played a major role in the creation of this constitution. But after the communists came to power in China in 1949, the United States opted for a strong Japan safely ensconced in the anti-communist camp. For pacifism, it’s been downhill ever since … step by step … MacArthur himself ordered the creation of a “national police reserve”, which became the embryo of the future Japanese military … visiting Tokyo in 1956, US Secretary of State John Foster Dulles told Japanese officials: “In the past, Japan had demonstrated her superiority over the Russians and over China. It was time for Japan to think again of being and acting like a Great Power.”1  … various US-Japanese security and defense cooperation treaties, which called on Japan to integrate its military technology with that of the US and NATO … the US supplying new sophisticated military aircraft and destroyers … all manner of Japanese logistical assistance to the US in Washington’s frequent military operations in Asia … repeated US pressure on Japan to increase its military budget and the size of its armed forces … more than a hundred US military bases in Japan, protected by the Japanese military … US-Japanese joint military exercises and joint research on a missile defense system … the US Ambassador to Japan, 2001: “I think the reality of circumstances in the world is going to suggest to the Japanese that they reinterpret or redefine Article 9.” 2  … Under pressure from Washington, Japan sent several naval vessels to the Indian Ocean to refuel US and British warships as part of the Afghanistan campaign in 2002, then sent non-combat forces to Iraq to assist the American war as well as to East Timor, another made-in-America war scenario … US Secretary of State Colin Powell, 2004: “If Japan is going to play a full role on the world stage and become a full active participating member of the Security Council, and have the kind of obligations that it would pick up as a member of the Security Council, Article Nine would have to be examined in that light.”  3 …

In 2012 Japan was induced to take part in a military exercise with 21 other countries, converging on Hawaii for the largest-ever Rim of the Pacific naval exercises and war games, with a Japanese admiral serving as vice commander of the combined task force. 4 And so it went … until, finally, on July 1 of this year, the Abe administration announced their historic decision. Abe, it should be noted, is a member of the Liberal Democratic Party, with which the CIA has had a long and intimate connection, even when party leaders were convicted World War 2 war criminals. 5

If and when the American empire engages in combat with China or Russia, it appears that Washington will be able to count on their Japanese brothers-in-arms. In the meantime, the many US bases in Japan serve as part of the encirclement of China, and during the Vietnam War the United States used their Japanese bases as launching pads to bomb Vietnam.

The US policies and propaganda not only got rid of the annoying Article 9, but along the way it gave rise to a Japanese version of McCarthyism. A prime example of this is the case of Kimiko Nezu, a 54-year-old Japanese teacher, who was punished by being transferred from school to school, by suspensions, salary cuts, and threats of dismissal because of her refusal to stand during the playing of the national anthem, a World War II song chosen as the anthem in 1999. She opposed the song because it was the same one sung as the Imperial Army set forth from Japan calling for an “eternal reign” of the emperor. At graduation ceremonies in 2004, 198 teachers refused to stand for the song. After a series of fines and disciplinary actions, Nezu and nine other teachers were the only protesters the following year. Nezu was then allowed to teach only when another teacher was present. 6

Yankee Blowback

The number of children attempting to cross the Mexican border into the United States has risen dramatically in the last five years: In fiscal year 2009 (October 1, 2009 – September 30, 2010) about 6,000 unaccompanied minors were detained near the border. The US Department of Homeland Security estimates for the fiscal year 2014 the detention of as many as 74,000 unaccompanied minors. Approximately 28% of the children detained this year are from Honduras, 24% from Guatemala, and 21% from El Salvador. The particularly severe increases in Honduran migration are a direct result of the June 28, 2009 military coup that overthrew the democratically-elected president, Manuel Zelaya, after he did things like raising the minimum wage, giving subsidies to small farmers, and instituting free education. The coup – like so many others in Latin America – was led by a graduate of Washington’s infamous School of the Americas.

As per the standard Western Hemisphere script, the Honduran coup was followed by the abusive policies of the new regime, loyally supported by the United States. The State Department was virtually alone in the Western Hemisphere in not unequivocally condemning the Honduran coup. Indeed, the Obama administration has refused to call it a coup, which, under American law, would tie Washington’s hands as to the amount of support it could give the coup government. This denial of reality still persists even though a US embassy cable released by Wikileaks in 2010 declared: “There is no doubt that the military, Supreme Court and National Congress conspired on June 28 [2009] in what constituted an illegal and unconstitutional coup against the Executive Branch”. Washington’s support of the far-right Honduran government has been unwavering ever since.

The questions concerning immigration into the United States from south of the border go on year after year, with the same issues argued back and forth: What’s the best way to block the flow into the country? How shall we punish those caught here illegally? Should we separate families, which happens when parents are deported but their American-born children remain? Should the police and various other institutions have the right to ask for proof of legal residence from anyone they suspect of being here illegally? Should we punish employers who hire illegal immigrants? Should we grant amnesty to at least some of the immigrants already here for years? … on and on, round and round it goes, decade after decade. Those in the US generally opposed to immigration make it a point to declare that the United States does not have any moral obligation to take in these Latino immigrants.

But the counter-argument to this last point is almost never mentioned: Yes, the United States does indeed have a moral obligation because so many of the immigrants are escaping a situation in their homeland made hopeless by American intervention and policy. In addition to Honduras, Washington overthrew progressive governments which were sincerely committed to fighting poverty in Guatemala and Nicaragua; while in El Salvador the US played a major role in suppressing a movement striving to install such a government. And in Mexico, though Washington has not intervened militarily since 1919, over the years the US has been providing training, arms, and surveillance technology to Mexico’s police and armed forces to better their ability to suppress their own people’s aspirations, as in Chiapas, and this has added to the influx of the oppressed to the United States, irony notwithstanding.

Moreover, Washington’s North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), has brought a flood of cheap, subsidized US agricultural products into Mexico, ravaging campesino communities and driving many Mexican farmers off the land when they couldn’t compete with the giant from the north. The subsequent Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) has brought the same joys to the people of that area.

These “free trade” agreements – as they do all over the world – also result in government enterprises being privatized, the regulation of corporations being reduced, and cuts to the social budget. Add to this the displacement of communities by foreign mining projects and the drastic US-led militarization of the War on Drugs with accompanying violence and you have the perfect storm of suffering followed by the attempt to escape from suffering.

It’s not that all these people prefer to live in the United States. They’d much rather remain with their families and friends, be able to speak their native language at all times, and avoid the hardships imposed on them by American police and other right-wingers.

M’lady Hillary

Madame Clinton, in her new memoir, referring to her 2002 Senate vote supporting military action in Iraq, says: “I thought I had acted in good faith and made the best decision I could with the information I had. And I wasn’t alone in getting it wrong. But I still got it wrong. Plain and simple.”

In a 2006 TV interview, Clinton said: “Obviously, if we knew then what we know now, there wouldn’t have been a vote. And I certainly wouldn’t have voted that way.” 7

On October 16, 2002 the US Congress adopted a joint resolution titled “Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq”. This was done in the face of numerous protests and other political events against an American invasion.

On February 15, 2003, a month before the actual invasion, there was a coordinated protest around the world in which people in some 60 countries marched in a last desperate attempt to stop the war from happening. It has been described as “the largest protest event in human history.” Estimations of the total number of participants involved reach 30 million. The protest in Rome involved around three million people, and is listed in the 2004 Guinness Book of World Records as the largest anti-war rally in history. Madrid hosted the second largest rally with more than 1½ million protesters. About half a million marched in the United States. How many demonstrations in support of the war can be cited? It can be said that the day was one of humanity’s finest moments.

So what did all these people know that Hillary Clinton didn’t know? What information did they have access to that she as a member of Congress did not have?

The answer to both questions is of course “Nothing”. She voted the way she did because she was, as she remains today, a wholly committed supporter of the Empire and its unending wars.

And what did the actual war teach her? Here she is in 2007, after four years of horrible death, destruction and torture:

“The American military has done its job. Look what they accomplished. They got rid of Saddam Hussein. They gave the Iraqis a chance for free and fair elections. They gave the Iraqi government the chance to begin to demonstrate that it understood its responsibilities to make the hard political decisions necessary to give the people of Iraq a better future. So the American military has succeeded.” 8

And she spoke the above words at a conference of liberals, committed liberal Democrats and others further left. She didn’t have to cater to them with any flag-waving pro-war rhetoric; they wanted to hear anti-war rhetoric (and she of course gave them a tiny bit of that as well out of the other side of her mouth), so we can assume that this is how she really feels, if indeed the woman feels anything. The audience, it should be noted, booed her, for the second year in a row.

“We came, we saw, he died.” – Hillary Clinton as US Secretary of State,giggling, as she referred to the uncivilized and utterly depraved murder of Moammar Gaddafi in 2011.

Imagine Osama bin Laden or some other Islamic leader speaking of September 11, 2001: “We came, we saw, 3,000 died, ha-ha.”

Notes

  1. Los Angeles Times, September 23, 1994
  2. Washington Post, July 18, 2001
  3. BBC, August 14, 2004
  4. Honolulu Star-Advertiser, June 23 and July 2, 2012
  5. Tim Weiner, “Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA” (2007), p.116-21
  6. Washington Post, August 30, 2005
  7. Washington Post, June 6, 2014
  8. Speaking at the “Take Back America” conference, organized by the Campaign for America’s Future, June 20, 2007, Washington, DC; this excerpt can be heard on the June 21, 2007 edition of Democracy Now!
Jul 072014
 

By James Petras, 99GetSmart

IDEAL_World_web1

Introduction

There is no question that over the past decade and a half, Europe, the US and Israel have engaged in a series of bloody wars, inequalities have increased throughout the globe, economic crisis has become endemic and, more recently, right-wing military and civilian regimes have swept to power throughout Asia, North Africa, Europe and Canada.

Yet, despite this generally gloomy picture, important positive developments have emerged raising the possibility of fundamental changes to reverse the current reactionary wave.  I will proceed by outlining these positive developments, taking account of the retrograde context in which they occur.

Reaction and Progress in Asia

The macro-political-economic picture in Asia could not be darker: Right-wing regimes rule in all the major countries. There is a military junta in Thailand and a military-civilian regime in Pakistan.  In Japan, a right-wing Prime Minister is committed to re-arming and expanding its military power.  Rightwing rulers have taken power in Australia, Indonesia, South Korea and India.  In China, inequalities intensify while the number of billionaires and millionaires will soon exceed those in the US.  Regimes in Afghanistan and Pakistan support US military intervention and drone attacks within their territory.

In the face of this reactionary setting, there is the rising class struggle of millions of Chinese workers, who have secured major gains in salaries and wages in the course of the last decade, averaging over 10% per year.  The cumulative gains have led to the doubling of monthly wages.  The main reason worker wages have increased can be found in their willingness to engage in strikes, demonstrations and other forms of militant class action.

Rising wages in China have enormous positive global consequences.  Many corporations have relocated from the coastal cities to the interior, thus ‘proletarianizing’ the provinces and widening and deepening the scope for militant labor action.  Meanwhile, many foreign and Chinese corporations have relocated their factories to low wage countries like Cambodia, Vietnam, Bangladesh and Laos, bringing intensified class struggle. In recent years, militant strikes and violent protests have broken out in Cambodia, Vietnam and Bangladesh.

There are indications that US capitalists may be ‘on-shoring’ their investments, i.e. re-locating factories and business back to the US, as wages and militancy rise in China and decline in the US.  With the drying up of China as the world’s reserve pool of passive, cheap workers, the global labor market tightens increasing the capacity of workers to successfully struggle for better working conditions and wages.

Chinese outflows of capital this year will exceed inflows, for the first time.  These outflows include speculative investments in high-end real estate in the West and greater investments in extractive sectors in Africa, Latin America, Oceana, Asia, Southern Europe and Ukraine.  This expansion of productive investments will expand the working class and lead to more workers struggles.

In summary, the sharp and sustained rise in Chinese wages, resulting from the class struggle, has world historical significance as it ripples through the global economy by setting in motion a chain of positive socio-political movements.

The Larger Significance of the Afghan War

The prolonged US war in Afghanistan, now in its 13th year, and Washington’s defeat and retreat in the face of an unconquered Taliban national resistance, has enormous consequences for US empire-building, as well as domestic public opinion and nationalist resistance movements worldwide.

First and foremost the war has turned the vast majority of Americans against new military interventions, especially those involving ground troops.  The “Afghan Syndrome” (replacing the ‘Vietnam Syndrome’ of the 1970’s and 1980’s) has become an obstacle to the launching of new military empire-building projects.

Obama’s ‘humanitarian’ intervention in Libya was confined to bombing cities and infrastructure while unable to send American ground troops to effectively occupy the country, set up a secure puppet government and seize the valuable oil fields.  As a result, its flimsy puppet government in Tripoli has collapsed and Libyan oil production is minimal.  Libya is a fragmented ‘failed state’ ruled by tribal armies with its once modern infrastructure in ruin.

Likewise the US is forced to wage war against the secular nationalist government in Syria via proxy jihadi mercenaries, as the “Afghan Syndrome” blocks greater and more direct US troop involvement.

Despite enormous pressure on the US President and Congress to launch a war against Iran from Israel’s fifth column, the so-called ‘Israel Lobby’, the ‘Afghan syndrome’ has limited Washington to rely on economic sanctions.   The uncontrolled, violent deterioration in the Middle East caused by US overt and covert wars has forced an opening for diplomatic negotiations with Teheran – to the fury of militarists in Tel Aviv and their US agents.  In other words, the defeat of the US invasion and occupation of Afghanistan, as well as the enormous and destructive cost of a prolonged occupation to the US economy, has weakened the capacity of the US Empire to invade, occupy and pillage resource-rich adversaries, today and in the near future.

How Middle East Wars for Israel Weaken the US Presence in Latin America and Asia

Washington has thrown away trillions of dollars of public money and suffered major casualties in pursuit of endless wars in the Middle East, which were vigorously promoted by the domestic Zionist power configuration at the behest of Israel.

Because of this influential power configuration, the US has lost significant economic, political and diplomatic influence in its traditional spheres of control in Latin America and Asia.  US market shares in both regions have declined.  New regional organizations, excluding the US, have proliferated throughout Latin America.  China has expanded its own lucrative trade relations throughout both regions, further eroding US hegemony.

While Zionist influence over US policy is pernicious, eroding domestic sovereignty and undermining democracy within the US, the focus of US policy on the interests of Israel has clearly undermined the US presence in Latin America and Asia.

As long as the US continues to intervene in the Middle East, it will be unable to effectively intervene against popular uprisings and center-left governments in Latin America.  By channeling its resources to prop up hereditary tyrants in the Gulf and Egypt’s brutal military junta, the US has not been able pursue its more traditional role in Latin America.

The US has plenty of regional allies and clients in the Middle East and North Africa, but they lack popular legitimacy and rule through terror and repression.  In Turkey, mass protests have erupted against the Erdogan regime, including important sectors of the militant Turkish working class.  Kurds, Islamists and leftists have gained influence inside Turkey and along its borders.  Meanwhile, Turkey’s regional trading partners, such as Iraq, are in turmoil and trade has collapsed.  While Prime Minister Erdogan may win elections, his legitimacy among the population is tarnished and his ambition to be a major regional leader is severely diminished.

Israel continues to extract billions of dollars in annual US aid (tribute) while dispossessing and starving the Palestinians. Nevertheless the growing internationalboycott and divestment movement is undermining the power of Tel Aviv’s overseas “lobbies” to direct US and EU policy.  Israel has never been so isolated, feared and despised in the eyes of the world’s people.  International public opinion polls have repeatedly ranked Israel’s policies as a major source of war and instability in the world today.

In the US and EU, more voices than ever are speaking out against Israel’s crimes against humanity, despite the campaigns by major Zionist organizations to blacklist, threaten and punish critical voices.  Increasingly the power of the Israel lobby relies on its numerically small Zionist power elite – the millionaires and billionaires who own the mass media and who bankroll its political campaigns.  The leaders of major Jewish organizations in the US are facing a significant decline in membership especially among young generations of American Jews, unwilling to commit their energies and resources to a militarist, racist Israel.

The Gulf States:  Precarious Clients, Dubious Allies

            The Gulf States, including Saudi Arabia, have offered “paper” support for US wars in the Middle East at a cost.  Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Bahrain rule over their restive populations by coercion.  Majorities are demanding democratic freedom and, in some cases, have engaged in large-scale protests despite brutal repression.  US military bases in the region will be vulnerable when these pro-democracy majorities finally overthrow the family-based monarchic dictatorships.

Moreover, the Gulf regimes are playing a dangerous double game:  They publicly support the US while secretly funding the Sunni Islamist terrorists opposing US proxies, (the ‘moderate’ rebels) in Syria and the puppet government in Iraq.  The Gulf States financed the bloody ‘regime changes’ in Egypt and Libya, while the US may have been content (and better served) to arrange power-sharing agreements.  The Saudi monarchy has joined with Israel in trying to sabotage any US negotiations with Iran.  While, on paper, the US may have ‘clients and allies’ throughout the Middle East, these lack legitimacy, stability and trust . . . weak foundations from which to project US power.  They are a constant drain on financial resources and have no public sympathy among the US electorate.

Europe:  Crisis, Expansion and Resistance

While the European Union expands its territory with the de-facto annexation of the western Ukraine and Moldavia, and NATO stations its military facilities on the frontiers of Russia, the EU’s economy is suffering from the longest and deepest period of recession and stagnation since the Great Depression.

After six years of crisis with no end in sight, objective reality refutes any remaining notions of capitalism in Europe as a ‘self-rectifying’ system capable of sustaining growth and prosperity.  On the contrary, with inequalities widening and wages, salaries and the social safety net in sharp decline, class polarization is growing.  All the objective conditions for a revival of class struggle are present.

With even harsher retrograde measures (“austerity”) imposed on the populations by oligarchs in Brussels, workers and salaried employees, in both the public and private sectors, are showing uneven and sporadic signs of mass resistance.  This will lay the groundwork for more general and systematic confrontations in the not too distant future.

Even as the European Union overextends itself, seizing control of the western Ukraine via a repugnant and brutal proxy putsch regime, it has ignited a partisan revolt in the industrial eastern Ukraine.  Workers and employees have set up a popular democratic republic and are engaged in a war of national resistance against the EU collaborator junta in Kiev.

The EU and the US threats of harsher sanctions against Russia have provoked furious criticism from major sectors of the capitalist class in Germany, France, the US, Italy and elsewhere.  The US National Association of Manufacturers and the US Chamber of Commerce have published editorials and full-page ads in all the influential financial media, arguing that new sanctions against Russia will lead to losses of billions of dollars in trade and investments and cost hundreds of thousands of US jobs.

The significance of this current break between the capitalist class and the imperial state clearly highlights the conflict between Washington based-militarists and market-based producers and investors.  If and when this conflict deepens, there will be the potential for a broad-based, well-financed coalition opposed to the militarist vision of ‘globalization’

In the meantime, Russia and China have moved toward a new political, economic and military alliance in response to sanctions.  Trade in rubles and renminbi (instead of dollars and euros) is expanding.  The domestic economy is becoming the motor force of China’s new growth model.  Local industry is replacing European imports via “import substitution” in Russia.

In sum, Washington and Brussels’ sanctions and bellicose threats against Russia and China are having a boomerang effect.  They are costing Western manufacturers and exporters significant market shares in large dynamic countries and fomenting deep internal divisions within the ruling classes in the US and EU.

Rising Class and National Struggles in the EU

Class struggle from below intensifies in the EU.  In Greece, the leftwing partySyriza, controls the municipal governments in Athens and throughout Attica, and currently leads in the national polls.  In France, the neo-liberal, militarist, so-called “Socialist” regime of President Francois Hollande has lost credibility and hovers at 19% public support.  It wallows in economic stagnation with double-digit unemployment and an unending series of scandals.  The popular revolt against “austerity” and the Brussels dictatorship grows . . . So far, unfortunately, this public anger has been most effectively capitalized by the nationalist Right, but hopefully, the nationalist left will be re-energized by the crisis, intensify class contradictions in the near future and seize the opportunity to organize and lead.

In Spain, the nationalist left movements in the Basque country and Catalonia are challenging the Rightist regime in Madrid and the ‘neo-liberal nationalists’ in Barcelona and Bilbao.  A state crisis looms, where the vast army of unemployed youth (50%) could play a major role in radicalizing the independence movement.

Latin America:  The Center-Left, the Right and the Left

Into the second decade of the 21st century, many of the illusions of the Left and its fears about US Empire have faded.  So-called ‘21st century socialism’, has not ‘socialized’ any economies while the US has not succeeded in orchestrating regime change and installing its neo-liberal clients in any major South American countries.  The exception is Honduras, a nation in shambles, with tens of thousands of refugees fleeing the US-installed military-civilian junta – including thousands of Honduran children crowding US deportation camps.

What has emerged is a triangular struggle between established center-left regimes backed by electoral majorities, US-backed rightist parties and leftist-backed social movements and trade unions.

The US has secured support for its new Trans-Pacific Alliance from Colombia, Chile, Peru and Mexico. However, this has not undermined the independent regional trade and cooperation organizations, which exclude the US, such as UNASUR and ALBA. Both Chile and Peru, close US ‘allies’, depend far more on their trade with China than with the US.

Over the past decade, Washington has succeeded in orchestrating two coups – Honduras and Paraguay – both marginal and in decline.  But it has so far failed in three much larger and vibrant nations:  Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador.

Washington maintains seven military bases in Colombia, but Bogota has signed trade, military and political agreements with Venezuela to end cross border military incursions and mutually respect their political sovereignty.

The center-left has consolidated political power in Uruguay and Bolivia, and to a lesser degree in Brazil and Ecuador.  Nevertheless, the center-left’s dependence on agro-mineral exports and foreign finance capital has caused domestic economic stagnation.  This has led to the growth of right-wing electoral parties and violent coup-attempts in some countries while promoting the growth of significant left-led social movements and direct action in others.  In Venezuela, the right has engaged in election violence, bloody attacks by hired thugs, destructive street demonstrations with the burning of clinics and power stations, as well as an elite-orchestrated campaign to sabotage the economy.  In the midst of double-digit inflation, political street violence and a crime wave, the center-left’s popular base has been eroded in Venezuela.

Washington has used its courts to attack Argentina by ruling in favor of the so-called ‘vulture’ capitalists or speculative investment funds which had purchased Argentine debt after its severe economic crisis and are now pushing the country toward defaulting on its current foreign debt or depleting its foreign reserves to reward the ‘vultures’.

President Obama continues the US half-century boycott against Cuba in splendid isolation at home and abroad, in spite of both international and domestic opinion in favor of normal relations with Havana. The growing violent right-wing opposition against the center-left in Venezuela and Argentina has polarized their political systems.  As the right-wing advances and the governments give way, popular movements and mobilizations intensify and increase political volatility.  While the danger of right-wing takeovers is growing, so are opportunities for the Left to gain significant support from the traditional mass base of the Center-Left.

Africa:  The Historic General Strike in South Africa

While the former-nationalist rulers in South Africa, Angola, and Mozambique continue to pillage the treasury and enrich themselves in partnership with the US-EU-Chinese mining corporations, South African mine workers are creating a potentially radical alternative.  For five months, the South African platinum miners have been engaged in the longest, most disciplined and most successful strike in the history of Africa.  Despite the brutal massacre of 39 miners by the ruling black bourgeois regime (African National Congress), the opposition of the biggest global mining companies in Africa and the sellout leadership of the trade union confederation, the miners have held fast.  Following their success, trade union militants are organizing a new trade union confederation and a new workers’ party. Their leaders have introduced a new spirit of hope and struggle among millions of poor, unemployed and marginalized black Africans.

The United States:  Small Victories Can Lead to Big Movements

It is tempting to be pessimistic about progressive change in the United States with its anemic and politically irrelevant trade union federation and co-opted peace movement; the decline of independent grass-roots organizations; the co-optation of Black and Latino politicians by the Wall Street-dominated Democratic Party and the successful State crackdown on the “Occupy Movement”.

At the international level the Obama regime has increased its support for direct and proxy intervention in Syria, Iraq and the Gulf region.  Washington has given over 2 billion dollars in military aid to the brutal Egyptian military junta. Obama has released another five hundred million dollars in aid to the armed mercenary forces invading Syria. Hundreds of US Special Forces and thousands of armed ‘contractors’ have been sent to Iraq and one thousand US Marines are ready ‘off-shore’…

On the other hand there are signs of hope on the horizon. Over 80% of the US public have rejected Obama’s war mongering, especially his ambitions to ‘re-enter’ Iraq.

It was US public opinion and letters to their Congressional representatives that blocked Obama’s plan to bomb Syria.  His callous embrace of the Egyptian coup and dictator has alienated the vast majority of secular democrats and moderate Muslims in North Africa and the Middle East.

Obama’s spineless support of Israel’s settler land grabs and the ‘business-as-usual’ complicity of US corporations with radical Jewish colonists in the West Bank are increasingly opposed by the European Union, leading Christian churches (the US and Canadian Presbyterians, among others) and by the growing world-wide Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement.

In local US elections, we have seen a real, consequential socialist elected to the Seattle City Council.  The Chicago teachers union is leading a massive city-wide struggle, based in the Black and Mexican-American neighborhoods, against the draconian school closures and teacher lay-offs initiated by the ex-Wall Streeter, former Obama ‘Chief of Staff’, US-Israeli dual citizen, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel.  A broad trade union – community based coalition has formed to challenge Emmanuel’s corrupt money machine and austerity policies in the forthcoming mayoral elections.

Alternate media web sites, critical of politicians pandering to Wall Street and deeply opposed to new wars, now inform millions of American citizens as they seek their place in popular movements.

For the first time, the two principle business lobbies, the National Manufacturers Association (NAM) and the US Chamber of Commerce (USCC) have come out in public opposition to Washington’s sanctions against Russia.  The fact that big and small, local and international businesspeople recognized that US military interventions, economic sanctions and boycotts hurt their profits, limit their access to markets and cost thousands of domestic jobs is a major political breakthrough.  For over two decades, US business interests, especially Big Oil, have been bullied into silence, while Israel’s thuggish “Lobby” has successfully pushed for sanctions against Iraq and then a full-scale invasion, and then more sanctions targeting Iran, Syria and Lebanon.  The recognition that this has hurt US investors, cut access to international markets, eliminated hundreds of thousands of US jobs and caused the price of fuel to soar for hundreds of millions of US consumers has finally been brought home.  The current push for sanctions against Russia does not have the rabid support of the pro-Israel lobby and US businesses interests are effectively finding their courage to face the politically-isolated militarists in Washington and certain sectors of the military-industrial complex.  Nevertheless, this might not bode well for the Zionist push for future wars and sanctions in the Middle East.

Our hope is not a Panglossian dream.

The institutional power of the warmongers and the Wall Street-Washington revolving door is a major entrenched force in the US.  But we also should recognize that we can win and we have won elections at the local level through new community-based organizations.  We constitute ‘the mainstream’ in our opposition to the new wars in Iraq, Syria and elsewhere.

The enemy, “capitalism”, is powerful, but it has manifestly failed to generate new well-paying jobs needed to sustain a decent, stable standard of living for the ‘99%’.  It cannot provide efficient, quality health care and educational opportunities for US citizens.  It cannot fund an adequate national pension system or protect and build secure communities and jobs.  No one buys into the capitalist “success stories” any more, stories that bamboozled our parents and grandparents from the 1940’s – 1990’s.  The main picture of capitalism today is one of economic breakdowns, home foreclosures, Wall Street swindles, impunity for corporate criminals, rampant corruption, prolonged crisis, declining living standards, stagnation and cut backs in vital social services.

Only in their splendid isolation, far from the American public, can the overpaid academic economists and financial media mouth-pieces boast of the victory of capitalism – but they are counting only the soaring profits and increasingly concentrated wealth of the top 1% while ignoring the impoverishment of the 99%.

We are united with the majority on the economy and in opposition to the launching of more wars abroad.  We share a clear understanding of the current oligarchical nature of the US political system.  When we move from our shared vision to effective organizing, from protest to politics, from narrow to broad issues, from Democratic Party hacks to genuine, independent grass-roots leaders, we can join the rest of humanity fighting with dignity for a better world.  We can find allies and inspiration among the hundreds of millions of Chinese workers successfully doubling their wages every seven years, among the courageous armed workers in Eastern Ukraine fighting for democracy and self-determination, among the militant miners in South Africa, among the majority of democratic socialists in Greece, among the left nationalists in the Basque and Catalan nations and the popular democrats in Egypt, Palestine, Iraq and elsewhere.

We are deeply aware of the obstacles, the human costs and the long road ahead.  Nothing is inevitable or pre-determined.  Progress depends on personal commitment and intervention.  We are not alone, we are gaining adherents and we are advancing.  Each of us has a particular national and cultural context, but we all share the universal values of freedom, social justice and solidarity. In the last analysis, it is the struggle for freedom that gives meaning to our everyday life.The institutional power of the warmongers and the Wall Street-Washington revolving door is a major entrenched force in the US.  But we also should recognize that we can win and we have won elections at the local level through new community-based organizations.  We constitute ‘the mainstream’ in our opposition to the new wars in Iraq, Syria and elsewhere.

The enemy, “capitalism”, is powerful, but it has manifestly failed to generate new well-paying jobs needed to sustain a decent, stable standard of living for the ‘99%’.  It cannot provide efficient, quality health care and educational opportunities for US citizens.  It cannot fund an adequate national pension system or protect and build secure communities and jobs.  No one buys into the capitalist “success stories” any more, stories that bamboozled our parents and grandparents from the 1940’s – 1990’s.  The main picture of capitalism today is one of economic breakdowns, home foreclosures, Wall Street swindles, impunity for corporate criminals, rampant corruption, prolonged crisis, declining living standards, stagnation and cut backs in vital social services.

Only in their splendid isolation, far from the American public, can the overpaid academic economists and financial media mouth-pieces boast of the victory of capitalism – but they are counting only the soaring profits and increasingly concentrated wealth of the top 1% while ignoring the impoverishment of the 99%.

We are united with the majority on the economy and in opposition to the launching of more wars abroad.  We share a clear understanding of the current oligarchical nature of the US political system.  When we move from our shared vision to effective organizing, from protest to politics, from narrow to broad issues, from Democratic Party hacks to genuine, independent grass-roots leaders, we can join the rest of humanity fighting with dignity for a better world.  We can find allies and inspiration among the hundreds of millions of Chinese workers successfully doubling their wages every seven years, among the courageous armed workers in Eastern Ukraine fighting for democracy and self-determination, among the militant miners in South Africa, among the majority of democratic socialists in Greece, among the left nationalists in the Basque and Catalan nations and the popular democrats in Egypt, Palestine, Iraq and elsewhere.

We are deeply aware of the obstacles, the human costs and the long road ahead.  Nothing is inevitable or pre-determined.  Progress depends on personal commitment and intervention.  We are not alone, we are gaining adherents and we are advancing.  Each of us has a particular national and cultural context, but we all share the universal values of freedom, social justice and solidarity. In the last analysis, it is the struggle for freedom that gives meaning to our everyday life.

Jul 032014
 

Posted by snakearbusto and greydogg, 99GetSmart

Written by Turkish political analyst / blogger, Gürkan Özturan:

640x480-netclean

Due to legal obstacles in prohibiting social media shares from political dissidents in Turkey, the government has a new strategy: to act as internet pirates. Much different than the political pirate movement, Turkey will now try to hack into ISPs’ systems and surveil on users’ browsing/sharing habits. With this aim, recently the internet watchdog has sent “secret orders” note to ISPs, to prepare necessary software infrastructure in order to detect the users that share unwanted content on social media platforms. Daily Taraf’s Tunca Ogreten’s article reveals government’s plans to intervene in internet users’ privacy and basic freedoms yet again.

The method to intervene in between the user agreement which secures privacy of the user regarding the service s/he signs up for, will hack into the HTTPS protocol and surveil on user habits. The government’s request from ISSs to establish a bug that will work as a spyware is planned to enable browsing all user behavior and data without his/her consent. This includes not only the content of social media updates a person shares but also the e-trade flow and all related data; and the system is planned to be open for immediate interventions.

ISPs will be declared Guilty, not the State

Taraf writes that an ISP manager who does not want to share his name states that s/he has tried telling the TIB authorities that HTTPS security protocol breach is unlawful and a crime but internet watchdog still wants to carry on with the spying plans. The blunt answer from TIB is “there are countries that are able to breach HTTPS traffic, figure it out and do the same.” ISPs state that this is going to be a major violation of human rights and will create security risks. However the strangest part may be that TIB does not install this system by its own; demands the private companies to do it. When it becomes possible to intervene in banking processes and millions of users’ accounts get drained, the internet watchdog that is probably after political surveillance and censorship, will not even be responsible for causing a crash in the economy. On the other hand, the internet regulations bill that is updated last January allows such applications as the law is not clear as to how state will block access to certain content.

Putting Students under Pressure

Another new regulation regarding use of internet is prepared to put more pressure on the most vibrant protesting group in the country: the students. In a country where distribution of wealth is quite uneven, millions of students are urged to live in state-run dormitories, however with the new regulations if a student criticizes government policies or complains of the conditions of universities/dormitories that student will be kicked out of the place. In case of a mass protest at a university or a dormitory, the minister of youth will be allowed to close down the dormitories for a time the minister pleases.

The new regulations and preparations do not cite what methods will be used to surveil on students media, social media appearance. However in certain crowds there are parallels being drawn between real-time censorship, interventions and surveillance, and the recently revealed NetClean software purchase.

More stories by Gürkan Özturan @ http://theradicaldemocrat.wordpress.com

More stories about Turkey @ http://99getsmart.com/category/turkey/

Jun 252014
 

By James Petras, 99GetSmart

20.us.oncoffins.04

Introduction

There are two major beneficiaries of the two major wars launched by the US government: one domestic and one foreign.  The three major domestic arms manufacturers, Lockheed Martin (LMT), Northrop Grumman (NOG) and Raytheon (RTN) have delivered record-shattering returns to their investors, CEOs and investment banks during the past decade and a half.  The Israeli regime is the overwhelming foreign beneficiary of the war, expanding its territory through its dispossession of Palestinians and positioning itself as the regional hegemon.  Israel benefited from the US invasion which destroyed Iraq, a major ally of the Palestinians; the invasion provided cover for massive Israel’s settler expansion in the Occupied Palestinian territories.  In the course of its invasion and occupation Washington systematically destroyed Iraq’s armed forces and civil infrastructure, shredding its complex modern society and state.  By doing so, the US occupation removed one of Israel’s major regional rivals.

In terms of cost to the United States, hundreds of thousands of soldiers who had served in the war zones have sustained severe physical and mental injuries, while thousands have died directly or indirectly through an epidemic of soldier suicides.  The invasion and occupation of Iraq has cost the United States trillions of dollars and counting.  Despite the immense costs to the American people, the military-industrial complex and the pro-Israel power configuration continue to keep the US government on a wartime economy – undermining the domestic social safety net and standard of living of many millions.

No peaceful economic activity can match the immense profits enjoyed by the military-industrial complex in war.  This powerful lobby continues to press for new wars to sustain the Pentagon’s huge budget.  As for the pro-Israel power configuration, any substantive diplomatic peace negotiations in the Middle East would end their naked land grabs, reduce or curtail new weapons transfers and undermine pretexts to sanction or attack countries, like Iran, that stand in the way of Tel Aviv’s vision of “Greater Israel”, unrivaled in the region.

The costs of almost 15 years of warfare weigh heavily on the US Treasury and electorate.  The wars have been dismal failures if not outright defeats.  New sectarian conflicts have emerged in Syria, Iraq and, now, Ukraine – opportunities for the US arms industry and the pro-Israel lobbies to make even greater profits and gain more power.

The on-going horrendous costs of past and continuing wars make the launch of new military interventions more difficult for US and Israeli militarists.  The US public expresses wide-spread discontent over the burden of the recent past wars and shows even less stomach for new wars to profit the military-industrial complex and further strengthen Israel.

War Profits

The power and influence of the military-industrial complex in promoting serial wars has resulted in extraordinary rates of profit.    According to a recent study by Morgan Stanley (cited in Barron’s, 6/9/14, p. 19), shares in the major US arms manufacturers have risen 27,699% over the past fifty years versus 6,777% for the broader market.  In the past three years alone, Raytheon has returned 124%, Northrup Grumman 114% and Lockheed Martin 149% to their investors.

The Obama regime makes a grand public show of reducing the military budget via the annual appropriation bill, and then, turns around and announces emergency supplemental funds to cover the costs of these wars. . .thereby actually increasing military spending, all the while waving the banner of ‘cost cutting’.  Obama’s theatrics have fattened the profits for the US military-industrial complex.

War profits have soared with the series of military interventions in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia.  The arms industry lobbyists pressure Congressional and Pentagon decision-makers to link up with the pro-Israel lobby as it promotes even deeper direct US military involvement in Syria, Iraq and Iran.  The growing ties between Israeli and US military industries reinforce their political leverage in Washington by working with liberal interventionists and neo-conservatives.  They attack Obama for not bombing Syria and for his withdrawal of troops from Iraq and Afghanistan.  They now clamor for sending US troops back to Iraq and call for intervention in Ukraine.  Obama has argued that proxy wars without direct US troop involvement do not require such heavy Pentagon expenditures as the arms industry demands.  The Obama regime has presented the withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan as a necessary step to reduce US financial and military losses.  This was in response to Wall Street’s pressure to cut the budget deficit.  Obama’s attempt to meet the demands of the US financial sector has come at the price of cutting potential profit for the military industrial complex as well as infuriating Israel and its fanatical supporters in the US Congress.

The Fight over the Military Budget:  Veterans versus the Complex and the Lobby

In the face of rising domestic pressure to reduce the budget deficit and cut military spending, the US military-industrial complex and its Zionist accomplices are fighting to retain their share by eliminating programs designed to serve the health needs of active and retired soldiers.  Soaring disability costs related to the recent wars will continue for decades.  Veteran health care costs are expected to double to 15% of the defense budget in the next five years.  The huge public cost of caring for soldiers and veterans means “bad news for defense stocks” according to financial analysts (Barron’s, 6/9/14, p. 19).

This is reason  why the arms industries promote the closure of scores of Veterans Administration hospitals and a reduction in retiree benefits, using the pretext of fighting fraud, incompetence and poor quality service compared with the ‘private sector’.  The same corporate warlords and lobbyists who clamor to send US troops to back to Iraq and to new wars in Syria and Ukraine, where young lives, limbs and sanity are at great risk, are also in the forefront of a fight to slash funding for the veterans’ medical care.  Economists have long noted that the more dollars spent on veterans’ and military retirees’ health care, the less allocated for war materials, ships and aircraft. Today it is estimated that over $900 billion dollars will have been spent on long-term VA medical and disability services for veterans of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.  That number is clearly set to rise with each new intervention.

The corporate warlords are urging Congress to increase co-pays, enrollment fees and deductibles for veterans, retirees and active duty personnel enrolled in military health insurance plans, such as Tricare, as well as limiting access to the VA.

The fight over Pentagon expenditures is a struggle over war or social justice:   health services for troops and veterans versus weapons programs that fatten corporate profits for the arms industry.

Jun 212014
 

Posted by snakearbusto and greydogg, 99GetSmart

Written by Turkish political analyst / blogger, Gürkan Özturan:

Is the Gothenborg-based NetClean software as innocent as it is presented or is it used for silencing political dissent?

nocensor-636x265

Are Turkey’s notorious attempts to limit freedom of expression on the Internet adopting yet another powerful tool? This is the question that comes to mind when reading the news of the Swedish digital security company NetClean’s possible deal with the Turkish government. It was announced on a pro-government media outlet, Daily Sabah, that the government is to purchase the software for €40 million in order to combat “unwanted content” in the digital public space. As usual, the excuse given to cover the censorship is “child pornography.”

Since last year’s Gezi Park protests and protesters’ intensive use of social-media tools to organize and regroup, Turkey’s government has been taking steps – including a full ban – to discourage millions from using social media to spread political dissent and criticism of government policies. As all other forms of public space and media are under almost absolute control of the governing AKP, social-media platforms and the Internet still serve as the only tool citizens have to express themselves with a degree of freedom.

The head of the Turkish government, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, declared that Twitter was a “menace to society, to all societies,” upon which the government began seeking new ways to prevent the use of the platform for political criticism. The excuse presented was that “all kinds of immorality takes place there, families get separated; this is against the party’s conservative agenda.”

By definition, NetClean presents itself as a company working on software that aims to create a more secure society in the digital sphere by scanning, analyzing and blocking content. Moreover, its primary goal is supposedly to fight child pornography. The software is purchased by governments and ISPs around the world. Yet at what expense?

When one considers the world map of censorship and surveillance, it is not hard to guess which countries would be among the top buyers of this software. The software extends the effects of censorship a step further than WhiteBox initially did. WhiteBox is a software application based on URL blocking that allows users to browse content through filters, using DNS spoofing and ban lists of unwanted URLs. While WhiteBox can be used globally to combat child pornography, various governments have declared intentions to purchase even more advanced software to block content in real time.

In Turkey’s case, one has to remember Prime Minister Erdoğan’s approach to social media platforms, calling them a “source of immorality” and threatening to “eradicate twitter-mwitter all of them.” Moreover, it is important to remember that Turkey’s top general called social media “a threat to state order.”

Last December was a month of chaos for Turkey’s intelligence service. Not only did the intelligence service fail to prevent the spread of news of Turkey’s biggest corruption fiasco yet, but it also proved incapable of detecting the source of the information leak. The leaked sound recordings were allegedly of the Prime Minister’s phone calls with several people, asking for bribes and telling his son to hide the money before a police raid. Although Turkey’s top science institute declared that the sound recordings were a montage, sound/video clips continued leaking and circulating online for months.

Upon the intelligence service’s inability to combat such information leaks, the governing party AKP passed a controversial censorship bill in the parliament in February, allowing state officials to ban Web sites with a simple order, with no requirement of a court warrant or statement of a reason for the blocking. Although this action is in direct violation of the European Convention on Human Rights and the Constitution of the Republic of Turkey, the government has repeated its intention to block “unwanted content” and even remove it from the Web.

Currently Turkey leads the world in demands for removal of content from global digital corporations, even though in most cases these demands are in violation of freedom of expression or the right to acquire information. If the Turkish government showed more respect for democratic governance and human rights, perhaps use of this software would not have caused this level reaction from notable intellectuals, academics, NGOs and individual citizens. But censorship always seems to wear the mask of providing more security, while in fact stripping citizens of yet more liberties.

A question that needs to be answered is why Sweden, a country that claims to promote human rights and stand up for human dignity globally, has agreed to sell software that will obviously target political opposition in Turkey. Looking at current uses of censorship mechanisms in Turkey, it can be seen that content regarding Armenian newspapers, Kurdish political movements, LGBT rights and lifestyle, opposition parties’ Web sites and critical articles, anti-racist Web sites, etc. have been banned. One can’t help but wonder how many of these groups Sweden supports as a nation, yet will contribute to repressing in Turkey… Moreover, when one considers the fact that the company was founded with donations from Queen Sylvia of Sweden, the question arises of what statement Sweden’s royal head of state is making.

Lastly, it might make one issue very clear: Turkey is one of the top countries for censorship of pornography, yet also tops the charts for searches for porn content. The Turkish government cooperates with global allies to combat child pornography, yet unfortunately Turkey is the leading country when it come to searches for child porn. Obviously blocking access or applying censorship does not solve a sociological problem emerging from a mentality of prohibition in the country. If the Turkish government were sincere in protecting children, would it not be more useful to prohibit child labor and child marriage and imprison pedophile rapists rather than letting them go? When children are subjected to bullying and violence on the streets, in schools, and at home and are killed by policemen on streets, how sincere is the government’s attempt to implement a censorship policy with the excuse of combating child pornography when at the same time it declares political dissent illegal?

Many governments use the excuse of protecting children, but somehow the policy rapidly turns into a centralized structure of censorship and surveillance – a system of digital detention of citizens. While decentralization of the Internet is vital for the spread and defense of our liberties and knowledge as global citizens, governments’ policy of blocking access, removing content and censoring the Internet is the greatest obstacle to the advancement of democratic governance globally.

More stories by Gürkan Özturan @ http://theradicaldemocrat.wordpress.com

More stories about Turkey @ http://99getsmart.com/category/turkey/

Jun 172014
 

By James Petras, 99GetSmart

D30jIWiRCWClNPBvgSnh_Greece_2296452b

Introduction

Greece is experiencing a triple crisis which has a profound impact on the economy, society and political system.  The economy has experienced a deep, prolonged depression lasting six years and continuing.  Workers and employees have suffered a 40% loss in income and a commensurate decline in medical, pension, educational and welfare benefits.  The political system has witnessed a precipitous decline in electoral support for previously dominant right and center left parties and the rapid rise of  radical democratic-socialist and fascist parties.

The socio-economic effects of the crash of the economy have been exacerbated by the “austerity programs” imposed by the European Unions’ triumvirate. The economic cuts have undermined any economic recovery and accentuated the reductions in employment, social welfare and public investments.

The political consequences resulting from the extremely harsh policies of the EU and their forceful implementation by the right and center parties have been dramatic.  A vast upheaval has shaken the entire political system.  Previously dominant mainstream parties have been increasingly rejected, while formerly marginal democratic socialist and radical right wing parties have made major advances.

The political consequences of the demise of Greek capitalism require a closer look at the prospects for an electoral victory for the democratic socialists in the immediate future.

The Rise of Syriza

The rise of the democratic socialists, more specifically Syriza, has been rapid and substantial.  Between October 2009 and 2014 it has grown by a multiple of five:  In the elections of October 2009 Syriza got 4.6% of the vote (315,665); in May 2012 16.8% (1,061,928) and in the most recent elections for the Euro parliament 26.l6% (1,516,699).  In contrast the two previously dominant parties, the rightwing New Democracy (ND) and the Panhellenic Socialist Party (PASOK) have experienced a precipitous decline.  In October 2009, combined ,they got 77.4%, (5,308, 261); in May 2012, 32% (2,025,555); and in the recent Europarlimentary elections 30.7% (1,753,592).

The Greek Communist Party has also declined, despite the crises, and the militancy of its trade union sector.  In the October 2009 elections, they got 8.4% (428,151); in the June 2012 elections 4.5% (277,227); and in the 2014 elections 6.1% (347,487).

In contrast the neo-fascist Golden Dawn has grown substantially over the same period.  In the October 2009 elections Golden Dawn got .5% (23,566); in June 2012 7% (440,966); and in the Europarlimentary elections of 2014, 9.4% (536,442).

The demise of the neo-liberal right (New Democracy) is accompanied by the rise of the radical nationalist right.  The collapse of the neo-liberal social democrats (PASOK) is accompanied by the rise of the radical left (Syriza) and a new self-styled “center-left”party calling itself “The River” (POTAMI).

The current electoral map of Greece is not defined by a dominant party or coalition.  The bi-party break-down is accompanied by fragmentation and polarization.  Moreover, the most intransigent opponents of the European Union’s austerity program and its executors in Greece are profoundly divided.  The Communist Party and Golden Dawn are mortal enemies of Syriza, thus eliminating any possibility of an “anti-EU” coalition.

The same problem is evident on the Right.  New Democracy and allied parties combine for only 27.4% of the electorate and are on a downward slope.

PASOK’s embrace of the neo-liberal agenda has led to the loss of nearly 85% of its voters (2.5 million) over the past 5 years. Many of their supporters among public sector employees have turned to Syriza.

The new ‘center-left’ party, “The River”, which gained 6.7% of the electorate has yet to decide which bloc to support, essentially bargaining to see with whom it can gain the most government posts.

Given the current dynamics of declining pro-EU support and increasing radicalization, what options does Syriza have, if it is to come to power?

Syriza:  Perspectives and Options

Syriza is the only realistic political vehicle on the Left with mass support, trade union backing and the electoral machinery for forming a government.  Its political trajectory has been in ascendance – up to point.

The fundamental problem is that after its spectacular rise between 2009 and 2012, it has stagnated.  In the June 2012 elections it got 26.9% and in the May 2014 elections 26.6%.  It appears that Syriza has hit an electoral barrier.  Despite the fact that it is Greece’s leading electoral party; it appears to be unable to advance further and secure a parliamentary majority.  This raises the question of alliances with political parties to the Left or Right.  Moreover, the internal divisions within Syriza complicate any overtures to possible electoral partners.  Syriza has drawn leaders, cadres and supporters from the former Maoist, Trotskyist and radical left.  Numerous PASOK middle level leaders and electoral supporters have flocked to Syriza.  Many defected as a result of PASOK’s responsibility for the crises and support for the “austerity” pact with the EU.  In addition a number of ex-Communist trade unionists are now backing Syriza as the only realistic alternative to the Right; many have repudiated Communist Party sectarianism and hostility toward other leftist formations.  The current leadership of Syriza has, so far, been able to maintain cohesion by balancing harsh critiques of the austerity pact, which satisfies the radical sectors, with a refusal to exit the EU, which accommodates the social-democratic wing of the Party.

At some point in the coming period Syriza will have to make some hard choices,if it is to form an alternative government.  Each of the following options has advantages and disadvantages, costs and benefits.

The Radical Option

Syriza opts to ally with the Communist Party.  This is a very difficult choice as the CP demands full compliance with its program, an equal sharing of key posts in a future government and recognition of its vanguard role.  Given the fact that, electorally, the CP represents less than one-quarter of the voting strength of Syriza these are totally unacceptable terms to all sectors of the democratic left.  The CP would have to accept that it will be a minority partner and that it would have to moderate some of its radical demands.  The CP fears that Syriza is just another version of PASOK – a party that gives left signals and makes right turns.  Its basic argument  that Syriza’s refusal to exit the EU is a sign of its basic opportunism, has some merit.  But it refuses to even consider tactical electoral alliances, or offer critical support in forming municipal governments.

In any case, even if the CP and other smaller radical left groups joined a Left  coalition, it would only add 8.6% to the electoral total, resulting in a precarious parliamentary majority subject to defections from the social-democratic wing of Syriza and face constant threats of defections by Communist maximalists.

The Moderate Option

Syriza could form an alliance with the so-called center-left parties – PASOK and River parties – on the bases of a minimum program which would involve a commitment to remain in the EU based on renegotiating debt payments and the austerity programs, increasing public spending and ending the privatization of strategic economic sectors.  This opening to the Right, would endanger the internal equilibrium of Syriza:  it risks a split with the powerful radical sector, thus reducing its overall representation in Parliament.

Even if the Syriza left were to be pacified by offers of ministerial posts and promises of ‘hard negotiations’ with the EU, it is not likely to succeed in securing substantial concessions from the EU.  Sectors of the latter are likely to welcome a Greek exit.  Others will insist on full compliance with only slight modifications regarding the size of budget surpluses, increases in public spending and the terms of privatization.  For the EU, the substance of the austerity program, the scope and depth of privatization, and the obligations to meet interest payments are non-negotiable.  In other words to remain in the EU, Syriza would have to continue the basic policies of its rightwing predecessor.  To remain in the EU Syriza would have to capitulate and become an updated version of PASOK – and lose its mass base in the next elections.  Syriza leaders could procrastinate, with phony  promises of a future break with the EU when ‘the time is more propitious’ or it could exit from the EU, losing its center-left allies, but hoping to recoup new supporters through alternative policies.

The ‘Middle Road’

Syriza could continue as an independent political movement, without radical left or center-left coalitions, working to accumulate forces from the stagnant Communists and the disintegrating right-center regime.  It could use its leadership of local and regional governments to demonstrate its effectiveness and capacity to govern and ameliorate harsh national policies.  It could transform its voting pluralities in Athens and Attica into majorities via community based councils, administrating social programs, food kitchens, public works, clinics and public security.

Conclusion:  Perspectives

Syriza, in government and out of the EU, could re-allocate debt payments, based on a debt moratorium, to public investments.  It could revert to a national currency and end the fiscal constraints of the EU strait-jacket on budgets, incomes and employment.  Control over monetary policy would allow Syriza to devaluate, to raise the effective taxes on the kleptocratic millionaires.  It could stimulate the economy and end the deflationary effects of the austerity programs.  Protective tariffs, foreign exchange controls and revitalization of public sector enterprises could stimulate the local market.  Flexible monetary policy could increase tourism.  The cut-off of funding from the EU could be compensated by a 50% cut in military spending and an exit from NATO.  The government could finance start-ups of high tech, small and medium size enterprises by the large numbers of educated Greeks currently overseas or unemployed.  Greece could increase its ties with non EU countries across the globe.  Greece would pay a price, especially from the financial markets.  In the immediate period liquidity , external financing and capital flows would dry-up.  Internal opposition from sectors tied to EU markets and imports would intensify.

No doubt sectors of the old right will turn to the neo-fascist Golden Dawn Party, as part of a sharper political polarization.  Sectors of the police and army, with the support of NATO, will conspire to destabilize.

But with mass support in civil society and the civil bureaucracy, with a majority in the armed forces and police backing the constitutional government, a Syriza led recovery of sovereignty and a robust stimulus package could defeat a destabilization conspiracy.

The key to a successful Syriza government is unity and internal cohesion, and sound and equitable economic policies which balance economic growth and job creation with the gradual recovery of social benefits.

Above all Syriza should resist the populist-clientelistic policies which some of its followers will demand.  It must not take the easy and disastrous road of expanding the public bureaucracy.  There must be greater reliance on highly skilled professionals and entrepreneurial local innovators who produce useful goods for the market.  Public firms must be reformed.  The trade unions must understand that the first priority of the economic recovery is to create jobs for the 60% of unemployed youth.

Syriza is Greece’s last best hope . . . because waiting in the wings are the EU aligned oligarchs, fascists and disloyal NATO military officials eager to take advantage of any misstep in order to seize power and turn Greece into another Egypt, Thailand or Ukraine.