Mar 082014
 

Posted by SnakeArbusto, 99GetSmart

Source: CADTM Europe

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The CADTM affirms its full and complete solidarity with the people of Cyprus and their organisations struggling against privatizations in the energy, telecoms, and shipping sectors – privatizations required by the Memorandum imposed by the Troika in March 2013. Cyprus is the fourth country to be placed under the budgetary supervision of the European Union, after Greece, Ireland and Portugal.

In the face of the demonstrations of 27 February (a 3-day renewable strike by Electricity Authority of Cyprus workers and a strike by longshoremen at the ports of Limassol and Larnaca), the Parliament was unable to reach a majority to adopt the initial bill (25 votes for, 25 against, 5 abstentions; a majority of 29 is required for adoption). The following day the government handed in its resignation. The media, in total complicity with the Troika, have observed total silence over this situation – an extraordinary one, to say the least.

Despite the refusal expressed by the population in the streets, the Cypriot legislators have just adopted (4 March), by a vote of 30 to 26, a bill that is only a slightly modified version of the one they had themselves rejected the preceding week and which would result in the privatisation of the major public services: EAC (electricity), CYTA (telecoms), and CPA (the port authority). This new version of the law claims to guarantee the jobs of the employees of these companies, but no one actually believes that.

Adoption of the law was a condition for the granting of a new 236-million € tranche of the 10-Bn € loan granted by the Troika in March 2013.

The causes of the crisis in Cyprus have been clearly identified: 

1) A hypertrophied banking system
 that was completely out of control. The banks, who have considerable liquid assets provided by the “financial markets,” have recklessly made risky investments.

In 2012, Cyprus’s banks speculated on the restructuring of the Greek debt – 40% of their external commitments, which cost them 4.5 Bn €, or the equivalent of a quarter of Cyprus’s GDP, and brought on the collapse of this overinflated sector (whose assets represent seven times the country’s GDP).

These private losses were then promptly transformed into public debt. These debts are totally illegitimate and must be abolished, along with those stemming from the assistance plan!

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In 2009 and 2010, Cyprus’s public debt was only 52.4% and 60.8% of GDP, whereas in the Euro zone as a whole it was 80% of GDP in 2010.

In Germany, the percentage was 74.5% in 2009 and 82.5% in 2010.

2) A tax situation that is highly advantageous for companies: Corporate tax, which until the Memorandum was at an official rate of 10%, has only been raised to 12.5% (not enough to resolve the budget deficit).

To obtain the 10-Bn € assistance plan from the Troika (9 Bn € from the ECB and 1 Bn € from the IMF), Cyprus’s government also agreed to the restructuring of its banking system, a 10% reduction in public expenditures, and the privatization of the island’s main public sectors.

The IMF, represented in Cyprus by a former executive of Lehman Brothers, itself recognizes the economic ineffectualness of such measures. The IMF’s goal is not to provide support for the population of Cyprus, but to protect and guarantee the interests of the creditors! That is why the agents of the IMF must be run out of Cyprus, along with the representatives of the European Commission and the ECB!

Aside from the obvious risk of growth in unemployment (forecast to reach 19.4% in 2014), Cypriots fear skyrocketing prices, with wages and pensions already reduced by 20% in one year. The people’s mobilisation, practically uninterrupted for months, goes well beyond the industry sectors that are directly concerned.

Rubbish bins brought by the population are piled up in front of bank branches. There are regular interruptions of electrical power and the people are besieging the Parliament and official buildings. All sectors, both private and public, are present around the Parliament, demonstrating their opposition to the Troika’s structural adjustment plan.

The CADTM considers:

  • that the entire debt of Cyprus to the Troika is illegitimate and odious, and must be abolished in its entirety;
  • that the austerity plan imposed by the Troika must be revoked.

The population does not want to pay for the speculators and the wealthiest 1%. International solidarity must organise as soon as possible in support of this exemplary struggle. The CADTM will do all it can.

Translation by Snake Arbusto

Photo : CC – Eu Council Eurozone
Discussion before the meeting begins : Christine LAGARDE, IMF ; Thomas WIESER, President of the EFC (Economic and Financial Committee) and Michael SARRIS, Finances Minister of Cyprus (on the right).

Jul 242013
 

By James Petras, 99GetSmart

Introduction

Burning forest in Brazil. The removal of forest to make way for cattle ranching was the leading cause of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon from the mid 1960s. Soybeans have become one of the most important contributors to deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon.

Burning forest in Brazil. The removal of forest to make way for cattle ranching was the leading cause of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon from the mid 1960s. Soybeans have become one of the most important contributors to deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon.

Brazil has witnessed one of the world’s most striking socio-economic reversals in modern history: from a dynamic nationalist industrializing to a primary export economy. Between the mid 1930’s to the mid 1980’s, Brazil averaged nearly 10% growth in its manufacturing sector largely based on state interventionist policies, subsidizing, protecting and regulating the growth of national public and private enterprises. Changes in the ‘balance’ between national and foreign (imperial) capital began to take place following the military coup of 1964 and accelerated after the return of electoral politics in the mid-1980’s.  The election of neo-liberal politicians, especially with the election of the Cardoso regime in the mid-1990’s, had a devastating impact on the strategic sectors of the national economy: wholesale privatization was accompanied by the denationalization of the commanding heights of the economy and the deregulation of capital markets.[1]  Cardoso’s regime set the stage for the massive flow of foreign capital into the agro-mineral, finance, insurance and real estate sectors. The rise in interest rates as demanded by the IMF and World Bank and the speculative market in real estate raised the costs of industrial production. Cardoso’s lowered tariffs ended industrial subsidies and opened the door to industrial imports. These neo-liberal policies led to the relative and absolute decline of industrial production.[2]

The Presidential victory of the self-styled “Workers Party” in 2002 deepened and expanded the ‘great reversal’ promoted by its neo-liberal predecessors. Brazil reverted to becoming a primary commodity exporter, as soya, cattle, iron and metals exports multiplied and textile, transport and manufacturing exports declined.[3]  Brazil became one of the leading extractive commodity exporters in the world. Brazil’s dependence on commodity exports was aided and abated by the massive entry and penetration of imperial multi-national corporations and financial flows by overseas banks. Overseas markets and foreign banks became the driving force of extractive growth and industrial demise.

To gain a better understanding of Brazil’s ‘great reversion’ from a dynamic nationalist-industrializing to a vulnerable imperial driven agro-mineral extractive dependency, we need to briefly review the political-economy of Brazil over the past fifty years to identify the decisive ‘turning points’ and the centrality of political and class struggle.

Military Model: Modernization from Above

Under the military dictatorships (1964-1984) economic policy was based on a hybrid strategy emphasizing a triple alliance of state, foreign and national private capital[4] focused primarily on industrial exports and secondarily on agriculture commodities (especially traditional products like coffee).

The military discarded the nationalist-populist model based on state industries and peasant cooperatives of the ousted leftist President Goulart and put in place an alliance of industrial capitalists and agribusiness. Riding a wave of expanding global markets and benefiting from the repression of labor, the compression of wages and salaries, comprehensive subsidies and protectionist policies, the economy grew by double digits from the late 1960’s to the mid 1970’s, the so-called “Brazilian Miracle”[5]. The military while ending any threats of nationalizations, put in place a number of ‘national content’ rules on the foreign multi-nationals which expanded Brazil’s industrial base and enlarged the size and scope of the urban working class especially in the automotive industry. This led to the growth of the metal workers union and later the Workers’ Party. The ‘export model’ based on light and heavy industry, foreign and domestic producers, was regionally based (southeast). The military modernization strategy heightened inequalities and integrated the local ‘national’ capitalists to imperial MNCs. This laid the groundwork for the onset of the anti-dictatorial struggles and the return of democracy. Neo-liberal parties gained hegemony with the turn to electoral politics.

Electoral Politics, the Rise of Neo-Liberalism and the Ascendancy of Extractive Capitalism

The electoral opposition which succeeded the military regimes was initially polarized between a liberal, free market, agro-mineral elite allied with imperial MNC and on the other hand a worker, peasant, rural worker and lower middle class nationalist bloc, intent on promoting public ownership, social welfare, the redistribution of income and agrarian reform. Militant labor formed the CUT; landless peasants formed the MST and both joined the middle class to form the PT[6]

The first decade of electoral politics 1984-94, was characterized by the tug and pull between the residual statist capitalism inherited from the previous military regime and the emerging liberal ‘free market’ bourgeoisie. The debt crises, hyper-inflation, massive systemic corruption, the impeachment of President Collor and economic stagnation severely weakened the statist capitalist sectors and led to ascendancy of an alliance of agro-mineral and finance capital, both foreign and local capitalists, linked to overseas markets.  This retrograde coalition found their political leader and road to power with the election of Fernando Henrique Cardoso, a former leftist academic turned free market zealot.

The election of Cardoso led to a decisive break with the national statist policies of the previous sixty years.  Cardoso’s policies gave a decisive push toward the denationalization and privatization of the economy, essential elements in the reconfiguration of Brazil’s economy and the ascendancy of extractive capital[7].  By almost all indicators Cardoso’s ultra neo-liberal policies led to a precipitous great leap backward, concentrating income and land, and increasing foreign ownership of strategic sectors. Cardoso’s “reform” of the economy at the expense of industrial labor, public ownership, landless rural workers provoked widespread strikes and land occupations[8]. The ‘extractive economy’ especially the opening of lucrative sectors in agriculture, mining and energy took place at the expense of the productive forces: the relative position of manufacturing, technology and high end services declined.  In particular labor earnings as a whole declined as a percentage of GNP[9].

The average growth rate of industry declined to a paltry 1.4%. Employment in the industrial sector fell by 26%, unemployment rose to over 18.4%, the ‘informal sector’ rose from 52.5% in 1980 to 56.1% in 1995[10].

Privatization of public enterprises like the giant and lucrative telecommunication firm Telebras led to the massive firing of workers and subcontracting of labor at lower wages and without social benefits. Under Cardoso, Brazil had the highest rates of inequality (Gini coefficient) in the world – bar one country.

Cardoso used state subsidies to promote foreign capital especially in the agrarian export and mining sectors while the small and medium size farmers were starved for credit. His program of financial deregulation led to currency speculation, massive windfall profits for Wall Street banks as the regime raised interest rates by over 50%[11]. Bankruptcy of farmers led to their dispossession by agro-export capitalists. Concentration of land took a decisive turn as .7% of large landowners owning farms over 2,000 hectares increased their acreage from 39.5% to 43% of Brazilian farmland[12].

During Cardoso’s eight years in office, (1994-2002) there was a tsunami of foreign investment:  over $50 billion flowed in just the first 5 years – ten times the total of the previous 15 years[13]. Foreign owned agro-mineral companies among the top foreign owned companies (as of 1997) numbered over one-third and growing. Between 1996-1998 foreign MNC acquired eight major food, mining and metal production firms[14].

Cardoso’s neo-liberal policies opened the door wide open for foreign capital takeover of critical industrial and banking sectors. Nevertheless, it was the subsequent “Workers Party” presidents Da Silva and Rousseff who completed the Brazilian economy’s Great Leap Backward by decisively turning to extractive capital as the driving force of the economy.

From Neoliberalism to Extractive Capital

Cardoso’s privatizations were sustained and deepened by the Lula regime.  Cardoso’s outrageous privatization of the Vale do Doce iron mine at a fraction of its value was defended by Lula; the same was the case with Cardoso’s defacto privatization of the state oil company Petrobras. Lula embraced the restrictive monetary policies, budget surplus agreements with the IMF and followed the budgetary prescriptions of the IMF directors[15].

The Lula regime (2003-2011) took Cardoso’s neo-liberal policies as a guide to further reconfigure Brazil’s economy to the benefit of foreign and domestic capital located now in the primary, raw material export sector. In 2005 Brazil exported $55.3 billion dollars in raw materials and $44.2 billion in manufacturing goods; in 2011 Brazil tripled its raw material exports to $162.2 billion while its manufacturing exports increased to a mere $60.3 billion[16].

In other words the difference between the value of raw material and manufacturing exports increased from $13 billion to over $100 billion in the last 5 years of Lula’s regime. The relative de-industrialization of the economy, the growing imbalance between the dominant extractive and manufacturing sector illustrates the reversion of Brazil to its ‘colonial style of development’.

Agro-Mining Capitalism, the State and the People

Brazil’s export sector benefited enormously from the rise in commodity prices. The prime beneficiary was its primary agro-mineral sector. But the cost to industry, public transport, living conditions, research and development and education was enormous. Agro-mineral exports provided great revenues to the state but also extracted great subsidies, tax benefits and profits.

Brazil’s industrial economy was adversely affected by the commodity boom because of the rise in the value of its currency, the real by 40% between 2010 – 2012 which increased the price of manufacturing exports and decreased the competitiveness of manufacturing products[17]. The “free market” policies also facilitated the entrance of lower priced manufactured goods from Asia, particularly from China. While Brazil, primary exports to China boomed, its manufacturing sector, particularly consumer goods like textiles and footwear, declined from 2005-2010 by over 10%[18].

Under the Lula-Rousseff regimes, the extreme dependence on a limited number of commodities led to a sharp decline in the productive forces, measured by investments in technological innovations, especially those related to industry[19]. Moreover, Brazil became more dependent than ever on a single market. From 2000 to 2010 Chinese imports of soy – the major agro export – represented 40% of Brazil’s exports; Chinese imports of iron – the key mining export – constitute over a third of the total exports of that sector.  China also imports about 10% of Brazil’s exports of petrol, meat, pulp and paper[20]. Under the Lula and Rousseff regimes, Brazil has reverted to a quasi-mono-cultural economy dependent on a very limited market. As a result the slowdown of China’s economy has predictably led to a decline in Brazil’s growth to fewer than 2% from 2011 to 2013[21].

Brazil: Finance Capital’s Economic Paradise

Under the Workers Party free market policies, finance capital has flooded into Brazil, as never before. Foreign direct investment jumped from about $16 billion in 2002 during the last year of the Cardoso regime to over $48 billion in the last year of Lula’s rule[22]. Portfolio investment – the most speculative sort – rose from a negative $5 billion in 2002 to $67 billion in 2010. Net inflows of FDI and portfolio investments totaled $400 billion during 2007 – 2011 compared to $79 billion during the previous 5 year period[23].  Portfolio investments in high interest bonds, securities returned between 8% – 15% ,triple and quadruple the rates in North America and Europe. Lula and Dilma are poster presidents of Wall Street.

By most important economic indicators the policies of the Lula-Dilma regimes have been the most lucrative for  overseas financial capital and the investors in the primary agro-mineral sectors in the recent history of Brazil.

Agro-Mineral Model and the Environment

Despite their political rhetoric in favor of family farming, the Lula-Dilma regimes have been among the biggest promoters of agro-business in recent Brazilian political history. The largest share of state resources allocated to agriculture, finances agribusiness and large landowners. According to one study, in 2008/2009 small holders received about $6.35 billion (US), while agribusiness and large landholders received $31.9 billion (US) in funding and credit[24]. Less than 4% of government resources and research was directed to family farming and agro-ecological farms.

Under Lula the destruction of the rain forests occurred at a rapid pace. Between 2002 and 2008 the Cerrado region’s vegetation was reduced by 7.5% or over 8.5 million hectares, mostly by agro-business corporations[25]. The Brazilian Cerrado is one of the world’s most biologically rich savannah regions concentrated in the center-east region of the country. According to one study 69% of all the land owned by foreign corporations is concentrated in Brazil’s Cerrado[26]. Between 1995 – 2005 the share of foreign capital in Brazil’s agro-industrial grain sector jumped from 16% to 57%.  Foreign capital has capitalized on the neo-liberal policies under Cardoso, Lula and Dilma to move into agro-fuel (ethanol) sector, controlling about 22% of Brazilian sugar cane and ethanol companies[27] – and rapidly encroaching on the Amazon forest.

Between May 2000 and August 2005, thanks to the expansion of the export sector, Brazil lost 132,000 square kilometers of forest due to the expansion of large landowners and multinationals engaged in cattle raising, soya and forestry[28].  Between 2003 – 2012 over 137 square kilometers have been deforested, aided and abetted by multi-billion dollar government infrastructure investments, tax incentives and subsidies.

In 2008 damage to the Amazon rain forest surged 67%. Under pressure from indigenous, peasant and landless rural workers’ and ecology movements the government took action to curtail deforestation. It declined from a peak of 27,772 square kilometers in 2004 (second only to the highest ever under Cardoso in 1995, 29,059 square kilometers) to 4,656 sq. km in 2012[29].

Cattle ranching is the leading cause of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon. Estimates attribute over 40% to big capitalist and MNC meat processing corporations[30]. The Lula-Dilma regimes’ major infrastructure investments, especially roads, opened previously inaccessible forest lands to corporate cattle firms. Under Lula and Dilma, commercial agriculture, especially soya beans became the second biggest contributor to deforestation of the Amazon.

Accompanying the degradation of the natural environment, the expansion of agro-business has been accompanied by dispossession, assassination and enslavement of indigenous peoples. The Christian, Pastoral Land Commission reported that landlord violence reached its highest level in at least 20 years in 2004 – Lula’s second year in office. Conflicts rose to 1,801 in 2004 from 1,690 in 2003 and 925 in 2002[31].

According to the government, cattle and soy corporations exploit at least 25,000 Brazilians (mostly dispossessed Indians and peasants) under “conditions analogous to slavery”. Leading NGOs claim the true figure could be ten times that number. Over 183 farms were raided in 2005 freeing 4,133 slaves[32].

Mining: The Vale Rip-off as “Privatization” and the Number One Polluter

Nearly 25% of Brazil’s exports are composed of mineral products – highlighting the growing centrality of extractive capital in the economy. Iron ore is the mineral of greatest importance, representing 78% of total mining exports. In 2008, iron ore accounted for $16.5 of a $22.5 billion of the industry’s earnings[33]. The vast majority of iron exports are dependent on a single market – China. As China’s growth slows, demand declines and increases Brazil’s economic vulnerability.

One firm, privatized during the Cardoso presidency, Vale, through acquisitions and mergers controls almost 100% of Brazil’s productive iron mines[34]. In 1997 Vale was sold by the neoliberal state for $3.14 billion, a small fraction of its value.  Over the following decade it concentrated its investments in mining, establishing a global network of mines in over a dozen countries in North and South America, Australia, Africa and Asia. The Lula – Dilma regime played a major role in facilitating Vale’s dominance of the mining sector and the exponential growth of its value: Vale’s net worth today is over $100 billion but it pays one of the lowest tax rates in the world, despite being the second largest mining company in the world, the largest producer of iron ore and the second largest of nickel.  Maximum royalties on mineral wealth rose from 2% to 4% in 2013[35]; in other words during the decade of the “progressive” government of Lula and Dilma, the tax rate was one-sixth that of conservative Australia with a rate of 12%.

Vale has used its enormous profits to diversify its mining operations and related activities. It sold off businesses such as steel and wood pulp, for $2.9 billion – nearly the price paid for the entire mineral complex.Instead it concentrated on buying up the iron mines of competitors and literally monopolizing production. Vale expanded into manganese, nickel, copper, coal, potash, kaolin, bauxite; it has bought out railroads, ports, container terminals, ships and at least eight hydroelectric plants; two-thirds of its hydro-electrical plants were built during the Lula regime[36].

In sum, monopoly capitalism flourished during the Lula regime with record profits in the extractive sector, extreme damage to the environment and massive displacement of indigenous peoples and small scale producers. The Vale mining experience underlines the powerful structural continuities between the neo-liberal Cardoso and Lula regimes: the former privatized Vale at a “fire sale” price; the latter promoted Vale as the dominant monopoly producer and exporter of iron, totally ignoring the concentration of wealth, profits and powers of extractive capital.

In comparison to the geometrical growth of monopoly profits for the extractive sector, Lula and Dilma’s paltry two dollars a day subsidy to reduce poverty hardly warrants calling the regime “progressive” or “center-left”.

While Lula and Dilma were enraptured with the growth of Brazil’s “mining champion” (Vale), others were not. Into 2002 Public Eye a leading human rights and environmental group gave Vale an “award” as the worst corporation in the world: “The Vale Corporation acts with the most contempt for the environment and human rights in the world”[37]. The critics cited Vale’s construction of the Belo Monte dam in the middle of the Amazon rain forest as having “devastating consequences for the regions unique biodiversity and indigenous tribes”[38].

The mining sector is capital intensive, generates few jobs and adds little value to its exports.  It has degraded water, land and air; adversely affected local communities, dispossessed Indian communities and created a boom and bust economy.

With the marked slowdown of the Chinese economy, especially its manufacturing sector in 2012-14, iron, copper prices have fallen.  Brazil’s export revenues have declined, undermining overall growth. Especially important, channeling resources into infrastructures for the agro-mineral sectors has resulted in the depletion of funds for hospitals, schools and urban transport – which are run down and provide poor service to millions of urban workers.

The End of the Extractive “Mega Cycle” and the Rise of Mass Protests

Brazil’s extractive led model entered a period of decline and stagnation in 2012-2013 as world market demand – especially Asia – declined especially in China[39]. Growth hovered  around 2% ,barely keeping up with population growth. The class based growth model, especially the narrow stratum of foreign portfolio investors, monopoly mining and big agro-business corporations which controls and reaped most of the revenues and profits, limited the “trickle down effects” which the Lula-Dilma regimes promoted as their “social transformation”. While some innovative programs were initiated, the follow-up and quality of services actually deteriorated.

In-patient hospital beds have declined from 3.3 beds per 1,000 Brazilians in 1993, to 1.9 in 2009, the second lowest in the OECD[40]. Hospital admissions financed by the public sector have fallen and long waits and low quality is endemic.

Federal spending on the health system has fallen since 2003, when adjusted for inflation according to the OECD study. Public spending on health is low: 41% compared to the UK at 82% and the US, 45.5%[41].  The class polarization embedded in the agro-mineral extractive model extends to government spending, taxes, transport and infrastructure:  massive financing for highways, dams, hydro-electric power stations for extractive capital versus inadequate public transport and declining spending for public health education and transport.

The deeper roots of the mass upheavals of 2013 are located in the class politics of a corporate state. The Cardoso, Lula-Dilma regimes, over the past two decades, have pursued a conservative elitist agenda, cushioned by clientelistic and paternatistic politics which neutralized mass opposition for an extended period of time, before the mass rebellion and nationwide protests unmasked the “progressive” facade.

Leftist publicists and conservative pundits who claimed Lula as a “pragmatic progressive” overlooked the fact that during his first term, state support for the agro-business elite was seven times  that offered to the family farmers who represented nearly 90% of the rural labor force and provide the bulk of food for local consumption. During Lula’s second term, the Ministry of Agriculture’s financial support for agro-business during the 2008-09 harvest was six times larger than the funds allocated for Lula’s poverty reduction program, the highly publicized “Bolsa Familia” program[42]. Economic orthodoxy and populist demagogy is no substitute for substantive structural changes, involving a comprehensive agrarian reform embracing 4 million landless rural workers, and a re-nationalization of strategic extractive enterprises like Vale in order to finance sustainable agriculture and preserve the rainforest.

Instead Lula and Dilma jumped full force into the ethanol boom: “sugar, sugar everywhere” but never asking, “Whose pocket does it fill?” Brazil’s growing structural rigidity, its transformation into an extractive capitalist economy, has enhanced and enlarged the scope for corruption. Competition for mining contracts, land grants and giant infrastructure projects encourages agro-mineral business elites to pay-off the “party in power” to secure competitive advantages. This was particularly the case for the “Workers Party” who’s executive and party leadership (devoid of workers) was composed of upwardly mobile professionals, aspiring to elite class positions who looked toward business payoffs for their ‘initial capital’, a kind of ‘initial accumulation through corruption’.

The commodity boom, for almost a decade, papered over the class contradictions and the extreme vulnerability of an extractive economy dependent on primary goods exports to limited markets. The neo-liberal policies adapted to further commodity exports led to the influx of manufactured goods and weakened the position of the industrial sector. As a result the efforts of Dilma to revive the productive economy to compensate for the decline of commodity revenues has not worked:  stagflation, declining budget surpluses and weakening trade balances plague her administration precisely when the mass of workers and the middle class are demanding a large scale reallocation of resources from subsidies to the private sector to investments in public services.

Rousseff’s and her mentor, Lula’s entire political fortunes were built on the fragile foundations of the extractive model.  They have failed to recognize the limits of their model, let alone formulated an alternative strategy. Patchwork proposals, political reforms, anti-corruption rhetoric in the face of million person protests spanning all the major and minor cities of the country do not address the basic problem of challenging the concentration of wealth, property and class power of the agro-mineral and financial elite. Their MNC allies control the levers of political power, with and without corruption and block any meaningful reforms.

Lula’s era of “Wall Street Populism” is over. The idea that high revenues from extractive industries can buy popular loyalties via consumerism, funded by easy credit ,has passed. Wall Street investors are no longer praising the BRICs as a new dynamic market.  As is predictable they are shifting their investments to more lucrative activity in new regions. As portfolio investments decline, and the economy stagnates, extractive capital intensifies its push into the Amazon and with it the terrible toll on the indigenous population and the rain forest.

The year 2012 was one of the worst years for the indigenous peoples. According to the Indigenous Missionary Council, affiliated with the Catholic Church, the number of violent incidents against the Indian communities increased 237%[43]. The Rousseff regime has given Indians the least number of legal title (homologado) to land of any president since the return of democracy (seven titles). At this rate the Brazilian state will take a century to title land requests of the Indian communities. At the same time in 2012, 62 Indian territories were invaded by landowners, miners and loggers, 47% more than in 2011[44]. The biggest threat of dispossession is from mega dam projects in Belo Monte and giant hydro-electric projects being promoted by the Rousseff regime. As the agro-mineral economy falters the Indian communities are being squeezed (“silent genocide”) to intensify agro-mineral growth.

The biggest beneficiaries of Brazil’s extractive economy are the world’s top commodity traders who, worldwide, pocketed $250 billion over the 2003-2013 period, surpassing the profits of the biggest Wall Street firms and five of the biggest auto companies. During the mid-2000’s, some traders enjoyed returns of 50 – 60 percent. Even as late as 2013 they were averaging 20 – 30% (Financial Times 4/15/13, p. 1).  Commodity speculators earned more than 10 times what was spent on the poor.  These speculators profit from price fluctuations between locations, from the arbitrage opportunities offered by an abundance of price discrepancies between regions. Monopoly traders eliminated competitors and low taxes (5-15%) have added to their mega wealth. The biggest beneficiaries of the Lula-Dilma extractive model, surpassing even the agro-mineral giants are the twenty biggest commodity traders-speculators.

Extractive Capital, Internal Colonialism and the Decline of the Class Struggle

The class struggle, especially its expression via strikes led by trade unions and by rural workers located in campsites (campamentos) who launch land occupations has declined precipitously over the past quarter of a century. Brazil during the period following the military dictatorship (1989) was a world leader in strikes with 4,000 in 1989. With the return of electoral politics and the incorporation and legalization of the trade unions especially in tripartite collective bargaining framework, strikes declined to an average of 500 during the 1990’s. With the advent of the Lula regime (2003-2010) strikes declined further from 300-400 a year[45].  The two major trade unions CUT and Forca Sindical allied with the Lula regime became virtual adjuncts of the Ministry of Labor:  trade unionists secured positions in government and the organizations received major subsidies from the state, ostensibly for ‘job’ training and worker education  With the commodity boom and the rise in state revenues and export earnings, the governments formulated a trickle down strategy, increasing the minimum wage and launching new anti-poverty programs. In the countryside, the MST continued to demand an agrarian reform and engaged in land occupations but its position of critically supporting the Workers Party in exchange for social subsidies led to a sharp decline in campsites (campamentos) from which to launch land occupations.  At the start of Lula’s presidency (2003) the MST had 285 campamentos, in 2012 it had 13[46].

The decline of class struggle and the co-optation of the established mass movements coincided with the intensification of extractive capitalist exploitation of the interior of the country and the violent dispossession of the indigenous communities. In other words, the heightened exploitation of the ‘interior’ by agro-mineral capital facilitated the concentration of wealth in the large urban centers and the established rural areas, leading to co-optation of trade unions and rural movements. Hence despite some declaratory statements and symbolic protests, agro-mineral capital encountered little organized solidarity between urban labor and the dispossessed Indians and enslaved rural workers in the ‘cleared’ Amazon.  Lula and Dilma played a key role in neutralizing any national united front against the depredations of agro-mineral capital.

The degeneration of the major labor confederations is visible not only in their presence in government and in the absence of strikes but also in the organization of the annual May 1 workers meetings. The recent events have included virtually no political content. There are music spectacles, spiced with lotteries offering automobiles and other forms of consumerist entertainment, financed and sponsored by major private banks and multi-nationals[47]. In effect this relation between city and Amazon resembles a kind of internal colonialism, in which extractive capital has bought off a labor aristocracy as a complicit ally to its plunder of the interior communities.

Conclusion Mass Movements The Extractive Model under Siege

If the CUT and Forca Sindical are co-opted, the MST is weakened and the low income classes received monetary raises how and why did unprecedented mass movements emerge in close to a hundred major and minor cities throughout the country?

The contrast between the new mass movements and the trade unions was evident in their capacity to mobilize support during the June/July(2013) days of protest: the former mobilized 2 million ,the latter 100,000

What needs to be clarified is the difference between the small student and local groups (Movemiento Passe Livre-MPL) which detonated  the mass movements over a raise in bus fares and the pharaonic state expenditure on the World Cup (soccer championship) and Olympics and the spontaneous mass movements which questioned the state’s budgetary policies and priorities in their entirety.

Many publicists for the Lula-Dilma regimes accept at face value, the budgetary allocations destined for social and infrastructure projects, when in fact only a fraction is actually spent as much is stolen by corrupt officials. For example between 2008-12

R$6.5 billion was designated for public transport in the principal cities but only 17% was actually spent.(Veja ano 46,no29 7/17/2013) According to the NGO “Contas Abertas” (Open Accounts) over a ten year period Brazil spent over R$160 billion in public works which are unfinished, never left the drawing board or were stolen by corrupt officials. One of the most egregious cases of corruption and mismanagement is the construction of a 12 kilometer subway in Salvador, with the provision that it would be completed in 40 months at the cost ofR$307 million. Thirteen years later (2000-13) expenditures increased to nearly 1 billion reales and barely 6 kilometers have been completed. Six locomotors and 24 wagons purchased for 100 million reales have broken down and the manufacturers warranty has expired (Veja ano 46.no 29 7/17/13). The project has been paralyzed by claims of corrupt  overcharging (sobrefacturacion) involving federal, state and municipal officials. Meanwhile 200,000 passengers are forced daily to travel on dilapidated buses.

The deep corruption which infects the entire Lula-Dilma administration has driven a deep wedge between the achievements claimed by the regime and the deteriorating everyday experience of the great majority of the Brazilian people. The same gap exists regarding expenditures to preserve the Amazon rain forest, the Indian lands, and to fund the anti-poverty programs: corrupt PT officials siphon funds to finance their election campaigns rather then reduce environmental destruction and reduce poverty.

If the wealth from the boom in the agro-mineral extractive model “percolated” into the rest of the economy and raised wages, it did so in a very uneven, unequal and distorted fashion. The great wealth concentrated at the top found expression in a kind of new caste-class system in which private transport – helicopters and heliports – private clinics, private schools, private recreation areas, private security armies for the rich and affluent was funded by state promoted subsidies. In contrast the masses experienced a sharp relative and absolute decline in public services in the same essential life experiences. The raise in minimum wage did not compensate for 10 hour waits in crowded public emergency rooms, irregular and crowded public transport, daily personal threats and insecurity (50,000 homicides). Parents, receiving the anti-poverty dole sent their children to decaying schools where poorly paid teachers rushed from one school to another barely meeting their classes and providing meager learning experiences. The greatest indignity to those receiving subsistence handouts was to be told that, in this class-caste society, they were “middle class”; that they were part of an immense social transformation that lifted 40 million out of poverty, as they crawled home from hours in traffic, back from jobs whose monthly salary paid for one tennis match at an upscale country club. The agro-mineral extractive economy, accentuated all Brazil’s socio-economic inequalities and the Lula-Dilma regime accentuated these difference by raising expectations, claiming their fulfillment and then ignoring the real social impacts on everyday life. The government’s large scale budgetary allocations for public transport and promises of projects for new subway and train lines have been delayed for decades by large scale, long term corruption. Billions spent over the years have yielded minimum results-a few kilometers completed. The result is that the gap between the regime’s optimistic projections and mass frustration has vastly increased. The gap between the populist promise and the deepening cleavage between classes could not be papered over by trade union lotteries and VIP lunches. Especially for an entire generation of young workers who are not attached to the ancient memories of Lula the “metal worker” a quarter century earlier. The CUT, the FS, the Workers’ Party are irrelevant or are perceived to be part of the system of corruption, social stagnation and privilege. The most striking feature of the new wave of class protest is the generational and organizational split: older metal workers are absent, young unorganized service workers are present. Local, spontaneous organizations replace the co-opted trade unions.

The point of confrontation is the street – not the workplace. The demands transcend monetary wages and salaries – the issues are the social wage, living standards, national budgets. Ultimately the new social movements raise the issue of national class priorities. The regime is dispossessing hundreds of thousands of residents of favelas – a social purge – to build sports complexes and luxury accommodations. Social issues inform the mass movements. Their organizational independence and autonomy underline the deeper challenge to the entire neo-liberal extractive model; even though no national organizations or leadership of these mass movements has emerged to elaborate an alternative. Yet the struggle continues. The traditional mechanisms of co-optation fail because there are no identifiable leaders to buy off. The regime, facing the decline of export markets and commodity prices, and deeply committed to multi-billion dollar non-productive investments in the Games has few options. The PT long ago lost its anti-systemic cutting edge.  Its politicos are linked with and funded by the banks and agro-mining elites. The trade union leaders protect their fiefdoms, automatic dues deductions and stipends. The mass movements of the cities like the Indian communities of the Amazon will have to find  new political instruments. But having taken the path of “direct action” they have taken a big first step.

[1] James Petras and Henry Vettmeyer Cardoso’s Brazil:  A land for Sale (Lanham, Maryland:  Rowman and Littlefield 2003/Chapter 2.

[2] ibid Chapter 1.

[3] James Petras, Brasil e Lula – Ano Zero (Blumenau: EdiFurb 2005) Chapter 1.

[4] Peter Evans, Dependent Development:  The Alliance of Multinational State and Local Capital in Brazil (Princeton NJ: Princeton University Press 1979.

[5] Jose Serra “The Brazilian Economic Miracle” in James Petras Latin America from Dependence to Revolution (New York:  John Wiley 1973) pp. 100 – 140.

[6] Brasil e Lula op cit. Ch. 1

[7] Cardoso’s Brazil  Ch. 5

[8] ibid, Ch.3 and 6

[9] ibid, Table A.12, p. 126

[10]iIbid, Ch. 3.

[11] ibid, Ch. 1, 2.

[12] ibid, Ch. 5

[13] ibid, Ch. 2.

[14] ibid, Table A. 6.

[15] Brasil e Lula, Ch. 1.

[16] Brazil Exports by Product Section (USD) http:\\www.INDEXMUNDI.com/trade/exports/Brazil

[17] Peter Kingstone “Brazil’s Reliance on Commodity Exports threatens its Medium and Long Term Growth Prospects” http://www.americasquarterly.or/icingstone.

[18] Brazil Exports op cit.

[19] Kingstone op cit.

[20] Kingstone op cit. World Bank Yearbook 2011.

[21] Financial Times 3/26/13, p. 7.

[22] Brazil’s Surging Foreign Investment:  A Blessing or Curse?  VSITC Executive Briefing on Trade Oct. 2012.

[23] ibid

[24] http://rainforests:mongabay.com/amazon_destruction

[25] Ibid.

[26] Bernard Mancano Fernandes and Elizabeth Alice Clements “Land Grabbing, Agribusiness and the Peasantry in Brazil and Mozambique” Agrarian South (April 2013).

[27] Rainforests op cit.

[28] Rainforests op cit.

[29] Rainforests op cit.

[30] ibid

[31] Jose Manual Rambla “La agonia de los pueblos indigenas, buera de la agenda reivindicativa de Brasil” rebellion.org/notice, 5/7/13.

[32] Rainforests ibid p. 8

[33] Brazil Mining http://www.e-mj.com/index.php/reatures/850-Brazil-,mining.

[34] Wikipedia Vale http://en.wilkipedia.org/wiki/vale_miningcompany.

[35] The Economist, June 2, 2013.

[36] Wikipedia, p. 9.

[37] Guardian, Jan. 27, 2012.

[38] ibid

[39] Financial Times, July 13, 2013, p. 9.

[40] Financial Times, July 1, 2013.

[41] ibid

[42] Rainforest op cit.

[43] ibid

[44] ibid

[45] Raul Zibechi “Elfindel consenso lulista” rebellion 7/7/13

[46] Ibid.

[47] Ibid.

 

Jun 262013
 

El análisis de James Petras, 99GetSmart

image001

“Esa coexistencia entre corrupción, enriquecimiento y la incapacidad de atender las exigencias populares queda latente por muchas razones. Por razones de la mistificación de Lula como demagogo populista y después con Rousseff con la esperanza de que ella podría –por lo menos- eliminar la corrupción que estaba fuertemente ubicada en todos los niveles del gobierno y del partido. Sin embargo, se acaba la paciencia, el gobierno involucrado con enormes gastos multimillonarios para la Copa, los juegos olímpicos, etcétera, y la gente no aguanta más”, dijo el sociólogo norteamericano James Petras al analizar este lunes (*) en CX36, lo que está pasando en Brasil. Además, Petras explicó en que está el ‘caso Snowden’, habló de lo que dejó la reunión del G8 y adelantó un trabajo que está concluyendo sobre la demagogia política en Estados Unidos. Transcribimos este análisis a continuación.

Efrain Chury Iribarne: Estamos saludando con mucho gusto a James Petras que ya está en contacto con CX36.

Tenemos muchos temas hoy, si te parece comenzamos con Brasil que vive una situación de agitación popular realmente fuerte.

Petras: Si es muy importante discutir de Brasil porque tiene implicaciones para todos los países de América Latina que combinan un tipo de populismo con el neoliberalismo.

Hace más de 6 años yo escribí sobre los primeros años de gobierno de Lula enfatizando la continuidad entre su política económica y las expresiones populistas que él articulaba. En realidad, Brasil sigue la política de privatización del enfoque sobre el modelo agro mineral, con enormes proyectos que no tienen nada que ver con las necesidades populares y todo disfrazado bajo una imagen de Lula como amigo de los pobres y los programas supuestamente anti pobreza. Ahora, mientras Brasil acumulaba enormes recursos económicos a partir de los altos precios de los commodities, mucha gente academica pensaba que los programas anti pobreza está levantando mucha gente a la clase media y con el gasto de los consumidores eso formaba un nuevo proyecto progresista. Pero en realidad lo que estaba pasando en Brasil era una enorme concentración de ganancia, una enorme acumulación de riqueza y mucho pasaba directamente a las multinacionales y a las cuentas externas. Hemos visto como en Nueva York, en Florida, en Miami, los brasileños venían comprando departamentos de un millón, dos millones de dólares y nosotros pensábamos que algo de enorme concentración de riqueza venía pasando.

Pero los progresistas, los académicos propagandistas del régimen como Emir Sader decían que realmente Lula -y después Rousseff- formaron un nuevo modelo progresista que combinaba bienestar social con el crecimiento económico. En realidad mientras algunos ingresos aumentaran el estandard  de vida,especialmente  la vida cotidiana, se estaba deteriorando. Es decir que si siempre mirabas el ingreso del pobre aumentó en un 20, 30% en términos nominales, pero los gastos para vivir, las condiciones de vida, los hospitales, el transporte, las escuelas no recibieron las subvenciones. Las subvenciones fueron a tres lados, fueron primero al sector agro mineral que era el motor de crecimiento -exportaciones de minerales, petróleo y agricultura, soja, carne,; por otro lado los enormes gastos en proyectos que beneficiaban los grandes contratistas; y tercero a partir de los contratos en los mega proyectos una enorme explosión de corrupción.

Esa coexistencia entre corrupción, enriquecimiento y la incapacidad de atender las exigencias populares queda latente por muchas razones. Por razones de la mistificación de Lula como demagogo populista y después con Rousseff con la esperanza de que ella podría por lo menos eliminar la corrupción que estaba fuertemente ubicado en todos los niveles del gobierno y del partido.

Sin embargo, se acaba la paciencia, el gobierno involucrado con enormes gastos multimillonarios para la Copa, los juegos olímpicos, la gente no aguanta más. Pero pensar que sólo eran los 20 centavos de aumento por el transporte es una de las cosas más ignorantes y pensar que sólo es en exigencia en los servicios públicos también es falso.

Es el conjunto del sistema, la construcción de una economía, donde toda la riqueza y todas las subvenciones están concentrados en una pequeña elite agro mineral y los banqueros y contratistas que se benefician de este proyecto.

El problema es sistémico, no es por un simple cambio de políticas públicas, es la estructura de poder que está influyendo sobre las políticas de Lula y Rousseff, la estructura que concentra poder en los grandes agro negociosos, dueños de minas como Vale de Doce,  y otras empresas

EChI: ¿Qué le han parecido los resultados de la reunión del Grupo de los 8 que tuvo como centro el problema de Siria?

JP: No resolvieron nada en serio. Porque en realidad los países de Europa y Estados Unidos estaban canalizando armas y dinero, junto con las monarquías del Golfo hacia los terroristas, eso ya lo sabemos. Ahora hay una escalada, armas más pesadas que están entregando a los terroristas.

La clave de la reunión era un fracaso de negociar un trato de libre comercio entre Estados Unidos y Europa.Hay tanta discrepancias sobre diferentes sectores económicos que no quieren abrir el mercado, el conflicto entre Francia y Estados Unidos sobre los medios de comunicación y la independencia cultural, las subvenciones norteamericanas sobre la agricultura, las prohibiciones en Europa contra Monsanto y las químicas que están involucrados en diferentes productos norteamericanos; esto sí fue un enorme fracaso.

El hecho de que llegaran allá y que no pudieran firmar ningún acuerdo sobre la gran crisis europea y el estancamiento norteamericano, es notable. Y tratar de concentrar ahora sobre lo que arreglaron con Siria, me parece una indicación de que son incapaces de superar la crisis económica y simplemente postergaran cualquier decisión para el futuro

EChI: Petras recién mencionabas Monsanto, el otro día recibió un premio muy importante ¿cómo consecuencia de qué recibió ese premio?

JP: No sé sobre el premio que refieres…

Pero Monsanto tiene mucho poder económico, tiene acciones multimillonarias, tienen directores involucrados con todos los sectores económicos, enorme influencia en los medios, en los gobiernos y también con los grandes productores en el campo, entonces es un complejo financiero químico agricultor y siempre pueden conseguir cualquier premio en cualquier contexto.

El hecho es que hay una conciencia cada vez más amplia y profunda del daño que Monsanto produce con los químicos, las fumigaciones y la química en la comida .Y también el hecho que tratan de imponer la semilla transgénica que pueden costar a agricultores pequeños y medianos una enorme pérdida de ingresos y costos.

Yo creo que Monsanto es el principal enemigo de muchos agro ecologistas en este mundo que vivimos. En Europa tiene tanta fuerza que limitan la aplicación de la química de Monsanto. El eje de Monsanto está en Norteamérica, en Estados Unidos, en Canadá, en México, y en Inglaterra también. El problema es que cuando la gente aprende es demasiado tarde y por eso Estados Unidos tiene problema al exportar carne y diferentes granos a muchos países, tratan de decir que es un problema de proteccionismo, cuando es un problema de Salud.

EChI: Pasemos a las denuncias de espionaje, el denominado ‘caso Snowden’. ¿En qué está esto?

JP: Lo que pasa con Edward Snowden, es que las revelaciones que hizo sobre el espionaje tuvo enormes repercusiones en todo el mundo, muestra la proyección del estado policíaco interno hacia todo el mundo. No es simplemente para recopilar información sobre todas las comunicaciones entre todo el mundo, sino utilizándola para arreglar la política norteamericana, consiguen información a través del espionaje que después utilizan en cualquier situación militar, económica, negociaciones, etc.

Más allá de eso, el señor Snowden, por su posición en la CIA y después en la Agencia de seguridad Nacional, consiguió el nombre de muchos agentes y las operaciones que realizan a lo largo y ancho del mundo. Pero de eso no se habla hasta ahora.

Es por eso que Estados Unidos entró en pánico y desesperado para de cualquier manera capturarlo y silenciarlo, ya sea poniéndolo en la cárcel o incluso matarlo. También por eso se puso un alto precio a su captura, amenazando con romper relaciones con los países que le ofrezcan refugio como perseguido político; empezando por China a quien informaron que si no lo entregaba sufriría las consecuencias, ahora lo mismo con Rusia, tratan de presionar para que se lo entreguen. Y Rusia obviamente no va a entregarlo pero tampoco le da el asilo.El asunto pasa a ser  qué país lo acogerá, y surge la idea de América Latina. Se ha comentado que puede ir a Cuba en tránsito a Venezuela o Ecuador. Ahora, el caso es que Cuba está tratando de mejorar sus relaciones con Estados Unidos y Venezuela también, y sabemos que Venezuela no tiene el mejor antecedente en cuanto dar asilo a refugiados, como han entregado personas sospechas de estar con el FARC, que en el pasado entregaron a Colombia. Por tanto queda Ecuador, donde el gobierno de Rafael Correa es muy estable, no tiene el tipo de oposición que existe en Venezuela y además, el gobierno ecuatoriano ha dado refugio a Julián Assange y mantiene sus principios firmemente.

Hay que reconocer que mundialmente e incluso en gran parte de los Estados Unidos, el señor Snowden es un héroe, es una persona que tuvo el valor de denunciar toda la máquina de espionaje y las represalias que el gobierno estadounidense puede tomar a partir de las informaciones que consiguen a través del espionaje.

También descalifica  todas las denuncias del gobierno de Estados Unidos de que está bajo el ciber ataque. Ahora la gente dice ‘qué ridículos (el presidente estadounidense Barack) Obama y (el secretario de Estado, John) Kerry que denuncian todo eso mientras son ellos los más grandes ciber agresores en todo el mundo’.

Por tanto, todo esto ha desprestigiado mucho a los Estados Unidos, ha demostrado que no tiene nada que ver con la defensa de la libertad de Internet ya que es el primer violador y Snowden ha jugado en eso un papel muy importante.

EChI: ¿En qué otro tema está trabajando?

JP: Bueno, estoy terminando un análisis sobre cómo los políticos presidenciables norteamericanos logran ser elegidos. Y hay que ver aquí que lo que importa no es lo sustancial en la política, no es la política económica lo que influye en la campaña electoral. Aquí en Estados Unidos todos los candidatos tratan de adoptar un tipo de populismo de Wall  Street, hablan con un acento populista, un lenguaje populista caminan sin corbata aunque con diferentes estilos.

Por ejemplo, Jimmy Carter habló mucho de los derechos humanos,  de los presos políticos en Argentina o Chile, mientras apoyaba a (Anastasio) Somoza (en Nicaragua); mientras lanzó una agresión junto a los yihadistas en Afganistán, matando a miles de personas y lanzando la segunda guerra fría. Ronald Reagan, tocaba la guitarra y hablaba como un vaquero de los westerns de Hollywood, mientras apoyaba baños de sangre en Guatemala con Ríos Mont. Y Bill Clinton fue a las Iglesias negras, mientras aplicaba recortes federales al Presupuesto eliminando los beneficios sociales a las madres jefas de hogar, lanzó guerras ‘humanitarias’ en Yugoslavia. Y podríamos repetir al gran maestro de toda esta demagogia, que es (Barack) Obama  que promete terminar con las guerras y en cambio las multiplica; y sigue presentándose como el gran libertador negro mientras que fue el que lanzó más guerras y agresiones bélicas contra el pueblo africano que cualquier  otro en el mundo; y el que  multiplicó por cinco a los encarcelados mexicanos que cruzan las fronteras, comparado con lo que hizo George W. Bush.

Entonces, hay que entender que el engaño, lo que nosotros llamamos ‘confidence man’ o sea el engañador, el que defrauda a la gente diciendo una cosa y haciendo lo opuesto; y en ese sentido Obama ha superado a todos los que hemos tenido en los últimos 40 años. Es un maestro de la mistificación. Pero cada vez más la gente entiende que es un fraude, lo que falta ahora es ver como formalizar esta denuncia y desenmascararlo.

EChI: Muy bien Petars, te agradecemos todos estos aportes y nos reencontramos el próximo lunes.

JP: Muchas gracias, un saludo para toda la audiencia.

(*) Escuche en vivo los lunes a las 11:30 horas (hora local) la audición de James Petras por CX36, Radio Centenario desde Montevideo (Uruguay) para todo el mundo a través de www.radio36.com.uy

Jun 222012
 

 

* THE SCAM WALL STREET LEARNED FROM THE MAFIA

How America’s biggest banks took part in a nationwide bid-rigging conspiracy – until they were caught on tape

By Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone

[…] But this just-completed trial in downtown New York against three faceless financial executives really was historic. Over 10 years in the making, the case allowed federal prosecutors to make public for the first time the astonishing inner workings of the reigning American crime syndicate, which now operates not out of Little Italy and Las Vegas, but out of Wall Street.

The defendants in the case – Dominick Carollo, Steven Goldberg and Peter Grimm – worked for GE Capital, the finance arm of General Electric. Along with virtually every major bank and finance company on Wall Street – not just GE, but J.P. Morgan Chase, Bank of America, UBS, Lehman Brothers, Bear Stearns, Wachovia and more – these three Wall Street wiseguys spent the past decade taking part in a breathtakingly broad scheme to skim billions of dollars from the coffers of cities and small towns across America. The banks achieved this gigantic rip-off by secretly colluding to rig the public bids on municipal bonds, a business worth $3.7 trillion. By conspiring to lower the interest rates that towns earn on these investments, the banks systematically stole from schools, hospitals, libraries and nursing homes – from “virtually every state, district and territory in the United States,” according to one settlement. And they did it so cleverly that the victims never even knew they were being ­cheated. No thumbs were broken, and nobody ended up in a landfill in New Jersey, but money disappeared, lots and lots of it, and its manner of disappearance had a familiar name: organized crime. […]

[…] More interesting, though, were the stories about political payoffs. In 2001, CDR hired a consultant named Ron White, a Philadelphia bond attorney who happened to be the chief ­fundraiser for then-mayor John Street. CDR gave White two tickets to the 2003 Super Bowl in San Diego plus a limo – a gift worth $10,000. As his “guest,” White took Corey Kemp, the city treasurer for Philadelphia, who, 16 days later, awarded CDR a $150,000 contract to advise the city on swap deals. But that wasn’t the end of the gravy train: CDR doled out those swap deals to selected banks, who in return kicked back $515,000 to CDR for steering city business their way.

So a mere $10,000 bribe to a politician – a couple of Super Bowl tickets and a limo – scored CDR a total of $665,000 of the public’s money. If you want to know why Wall Street has been enjoying record profits, here’s your answer: Corruption is a business model that brings in $66 for every dollar you invest. […]

[…] Over the years, many in the public have become numb to news of financial corruption, partly because too many of these stories involve banker-on-banker crime. The notorious Abacus deal involving Goldman Sachs, for instance, involved a hedge-fund billionaire ripping off a couple of European banks – who cares? But the bid-rigging scandal laid bare in USA v. Carollo is a totally different animal. This is the world’s biggest banks stealing money that would otherwise have gone toward textbooks and medicine and housing for ordinary Americans, and turning the cash into sports cars and bonuses for the already rich. It’s the equivalent of robbing a charity or a church fund to pay for lap dances. […]

READ @ http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/the-scam-wall-street-learned-from-the-mafia-20120620?print=true

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* THE FINANCIAL CRASH IN ICELAND IN 6 MINUTES ACCORDING TO ABC’s 20/20

Source: youtube

In the early 21st century, Iceland experienced one of the most spectacular cycles of boom and bust in history.

For centuries, Iceland was a simple fishing society, largely shut off from mainland Europe. The people survived off the sheep in the meadows and the fish in the sea. For cultural sustenance they had elaborate sagas — intricate tales of fairies and goblins, heroes and ghosts — that would inspire J.R.R. Tolkien and other fantasy writers.

At the peak of Iceland’s boom, Stefan Alfsson left his fishing boat and started trading commodities for an investment bank. “We could do more,” he said. “I got a bigger house, bigger and more cars, better snowmobiles.”

Then a modern saga began to unfold — that of a nation of fishermen who became millionaires, only to lose it all and return to the seas.

VIDEO @ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X35R_3ZN-t8&feature=player_embedded

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* ICELAND: THE MOUSE THAT ROARED (BIRGITTA JONSDOTTIR)

Source: youtube

VIDEO @ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=goAdDMfpyrA&feature=related

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* ACTIVIST CHURCHES BAIT IRS, BUT AGENCY WON’T BIT SO FAR

By Nanette Byrnes, Reuters

[…] The money involved is enormous. Combined, federal tax breaks on donations to churches and exemptions from state and local property taxes likely add up to something on the order of $25 billion in lost revenue each year.

Last year churches received $96 billion in tax-free contributions, according to estimates compiled by the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University.

Unlike other types of charities, churches do not have to file financial statements with the government. There are only rough estimates of church endowment or investment income, which is also tax-free and believed to be larger than annual contributions.

Using tax data from the U.S. Congress’s Joint Committee on Taxation and data on giving to churches from the Indiana Center, a Reuters analysis found that tax breaks on church giving shaved $12 billion or so from total U.S. tax collections in 2011 and approximately $145 billion over the last decade.

The property tax break is probably even bigger. In their 2011 book “Politics, Taxes, and the Pulpit,” law professors Nina Crimm and Laurence Winer calculated that houses of worship received $12.7 billion in property tax exemptions on $685 billion of property in 2006, a figure large enough to have played a role in city and state budget deficits of recent years.

In big cities the numbers can be dramatic. New York City’s 9,500 churches, synagogues, and mosques, for example, will avoid $626.9 million in property taxes this year thanks to their tax-free status, according to the city’s Independent Budget Office. […]

[…] The IRS did not respond to Reuters questions about its enforcement activities in recent years, or explain why they seem to have ended abruptly in 2009. […]

READ @ http://bottomline.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2012/06/21/12343407-activist-churches-bait-irs-but-agency-wont-bite-so-far?fb_ref=.T-PdI4oibgA.like&fb_source=home_multiline

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* POLICE CLASH WITH PROTESTERS AT #MicCheckWallStreet MARCH ON 6-20-12

Source: youtube

Video of a pots and pans (“casseroles”) march on 6/20/2012 in Seattle organized by #MicCheckWallStreet (http://miccheckwallst.org) protesting student debt and rising interest rates. Residents bang pots in solidarity. Police arrest someone. People yell at the cops arresting the person.

VIDEO @ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gnmRMYk9VS4&feature=player_embedded#!

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* PRISONS, PRIVATIZATION, PATRONAGE

By Paul Krugman, NYTimes

Over the past few days, The New York Times has published several terrifying reports about New Jersey’s system of halfway houses — privately run adjuncts to the regular system of prisons. The series is a model of investigative reporting, which everyone should read. But it should also be seen in context. The horrors described are part of a broader pattern in which essential functions of government are being both privatized and degraded.

First of all, about those halfway houses: In 2010, Chris Christie, the state’s governor — who has close personal ties to Community Education Centers, the largest operator of these facilities, and who once worked as a lobbyist for the firm — described the company’s operations as “representing the very best of the human spirit.” But The Times’s reports instead portray something closer to hell on earth — an understaffed, poorly run system, with a demoralized work force, from which the most dangerous individuals often escape to wreak havoc, while relatively mild offenders face terror and abuse at the hands of other inmates. […]

READ @ http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/22/opinion/krugman-prisons-privatization-patronage.html?_r=1&hp

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* I AM NOT MOVING – SHORT FILM – OCCUPY

Source: youtube

VIDEO http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RGRXCgMdz9A

Jan 232012
 

 

* POST-WAR CONSTITUTIONS: PRIVATIZATION AND EMPIRE BUILDING

By Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya, Global Research

The following is a 2011 article by Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya for the Italian journal Eurasia about the manipulation of national constitutions as a neo-colonial means of modern empire-building. The article presents an important overview of the U.S. empire-building process. The original print version was published in the Italian language and translated by Pietro Longo.

ABSTRACT: The U.S.A. has re-written the constitution of vanquished nations since the Second World War. In the last two decades, however, Washington has managed to totally restructure vanquished states economically and politically by de-centralizing them and legalizing foreign tutelage over their political structure and their national economies. From the former Yugoslavia to Afghanistan and Iraq, this process has gone hand-in-hand with war and both an immediate and extended foreign military presence. In this regard the new national constitutions of these countries have been central to the process and opened the door for the integration of these states into Washington’s empire-building project.

The geography of a nation is also fixed in its national constitution, such as the state’s definitions of its own national and internal borders. Taking this observation one step further, it has to be said that constitutions can also be utilized and redefined to meet specific geo-political objectives. This is where an important and very relevant modern geo-political issue comes into the forefront of analysis when looking at countries that have been at war with the United States of America and its allies. Looking back at the Second World War, the constitutions of Japan and Germany were re-written after their defeats either directly by Washington or under Allied supervision. The Pentagon also erected military bases in both Germany and Japan that began to alarm Soviet leaders. The reconfigured of both Germany and Japan served Washington’s geo-political interests. This is evident when studying the Japanese Constitution, which was written by the U.S. military. Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution renounces Japan’s sovereign right to declare war or to maintain a standing navy, air force, and army.[1] Japan was effectively neutralized by its new national constitution as a potential military rival or threat in East Asia and the Pacific. The last two decades have seen an even more profound interplay between new national constitutions and the geo-political and strategic objectives of Washington.

Nation-Building and Nation-Breaking: A Vital Ingredient for Empire

Roughly speaking within the last two decades the U.S.A. and its allies have been engaged in the practice of what can be called “nation-building.” National constitutions have been re-written within the dynamics of this so-called “nation-building” process in the countries that are “re-built” under the political and military supervision of Washington. This “nation-building” process is not some benign process, but part of a strategy to direct the countries that are being “re-built” to serve global empire and the process of modern-day empire building. In this regard constitutions are re-written to: (1) subordinate countries into vassals or colonial territories; (2) create a niche for these vassal states in the global imperial system of modern empire; and (3) fit Washington’s geo-political objectives of empire-building or expansion. […]

READ @ http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=28662

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* TERRORISTS CONTROL THE WHITE HOUSE

Source: youtube.com

VIDEO @ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VYTvDNg4iic&feature=share

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* CREEPING AUTHORITARIANISM ON CAPITOL HILL

What we can learn from one congressman’s convoluted defense of the NDAA

By John Knefel, Salon

On the day Occupy Congress came to Washington, I tagged along with seven Bard College students who went to talk to their representative, first-term Republican Chris Gibson from the 20th Congressional District of New York.  Listening to Gibson defend his vote for the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which President Obama signed on New Year’s Eve and which allows for the indefinite detention of American citizens, I had a rare glimpse into the contemporary authoritarian mind-set in all its banality. It illustrated how the slow erosion of civil liberties manifests itself in the halls of power in Washington.

Gibson is a retired Army colonel, and it shows. From the Airborne division name plate on his desk, to the photographs of camouflaged soldiers that adorn his walls, to the “Beat Navy” button on his desk, his military background is on display. He spoke about serving in the military to defend American’s rights – rights that he claims to take very seriously. To his credit, Gibson joined 26 other House Republicans in voting against the extension of the Patriot Act in February 2011. But his written record, and his NDAA vote, indicate he is a politician more concerned with waging war than preserving liberty.

He believes “the West” faces an existential threat from al-Qaida. On Page 4 of his book ”Securing the State,” published in 2008,  he wrote:

The US is engaged in a difficult struggle against a determined enemy who publicly declares his strategic aim the establishment of a caliphate in the Middle East and the ultimate destruction of the West. […]

READ @ http://www.salon.com/2012/01/20/creeping_authoritarianism_on_capitol_hill/?source=newsletter

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* KENTUCKY GOVERNOR CUTS EDUCATION FUNDING WHILE PRESERVING TAX BREAKS FOR BIBLICALLY-THEMED AMUSEMENT PARK

By Travis Waldron, Think Progress

When Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear (D) proposed his 2012-2013 budget this week, he admitted that it was “inadequate for the needs” of the state’s people. “We should be making substantial investments in our physical and intellectual infrastructure to bring transformational change to our state,” Beshear said. “This budget does not allow us to do enough of that.”

Beshear’s assessment of his own budget is, unfortunately, correct. The budget makes $286 million in cuts, including a 6.4 percent cut to a higher education system that has been plagued by funding cuts and rising tuition for years. And though it attempts to preserve K-12 education funding, it will result in less spending on Kentucky’s students and schools, the Lexington Herald-Leader reports:

Although the main funding formula for K-12 schools wouldn’t be cut, population growth means spending per student would decline. Also, education officials say the current year’s population estimate was low, resulting in a cut of more than $50 million to that funding formula.

READ @ http://thinkprogress.org/economy/2012/01/20/407580/kentucky-gov-cuts-education-funding-while-preserving-tax-breaks-for-biblically-themed-amusement-park/

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* MOYERS AND COMPANY SHOW 102 CRONY CAPITALISM

By Bill Moyers,vimeo

VIDEO @ http://vimeo.com/35372114

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* CHRIS HEDGES OCCUPY THE COURTS NYC JANUARY 20, 2012

Source: youtube

Filmed January 20, 2012. Chris Hedges, Lawrence Lessig, Virginia Rasmussen on the eve of the 2nd Anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court decision “Citizens United v. F.E.C.”. The video begins with a march from Liberty Plaza aka Zuccotti Park to the rally point at Foley Square across the street from Thurgood Marshall U.S. Courthouse at 40 Centre St. The Rude Mechanical Orchestra plays their “Smash a Bank Polka” followed by Chris Hedges giving an update to his lawsuit against Barack Obama and Leon Panetta. Virginia Rasmussen offers a historic perspective on the Citizens United decision. Laurence Lessig gives an inspirational speech on restoring democracy. Other speakers: Alexis from Occupy Wall Street, Camille Rivera, and Amy Muldoon. The video ends with the Rude Mechanical Orchestra finishing of their song.

VIDEO @ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8QSzIUVlowU&amp

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* COULD ECUADOR BE THE MOST RADICAL AND EXCITING PLACE ON EARTH?

By Jayati Ghosh, CommonDreams.com

Ecuador must be one of the most exciting places on Earth right now, in terms of working towards a new development paradigm. It shows how much can be achieved with political will, even in uncertain economic times.

Just 10 years ago, Ecuador was more or less a basket case, a quintessential “banana republic” (it happens to be the world’s largest exporter of bananas), characterised by political instability, inequality, a poorly-performing economy, and the ever-looming impact of the US on its domestic politics.

In 2000, in response to hyperinflation and balance of payments problems, the government dollarised the economy, replacing the sucre with the US currency as legal tender. This subdued inflation, but it did nothing to address the core economic problems, and further constrained the domestic policy space.

A major turning point came with the election of the economist Rafael Correa as president. After taking over in January 2007, his government ushered in a series of changes, based on a new constitution (the country’s 20th, approved in 2008) that was itself mandated by a popular referendum. A hallmark of the changes that have occurred since then is that major policies have first been put through the referendum process. This has given the government the political ability to take on major vested interests and powerful lobbies. […]

READ @ http://www.commondreams.org/view/2012/01/21-0

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* THE WOMAN BEHIND THE RECALL OF WISCONSIN SENATE MAJORITY LEADER SCOTT FITZGERALD

By Rebecca Kemble, The Progressive

Yesterday afternoon’s announcement in front of the Government Accountability Board by the Democratic Party of Wisconsin that more than one million signatures to recall Governor Scott Walker had been gathered eclipsed a smaller, yet very significant event that took place hours earlier at the same location.

Lori Compas and her band of a couple dozen volunteers delivered three boxes full of petitions to recall Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald into the Government Accountability Board just before noon. The boxes were emblazoned with red hearts inked around the tops, and each bore one word: “We” “Love” “Wisconsin.” Compas’s announcement consisted of one sentence: “These boxes contain our hopes, our hard work, and 20,600 signatures!” That’s 3,858 more than the number required to trigger a recall election.

After the announcement, she fumbled around in one of the boxes amidst cheering, tears, and embraces of the sixty well-wishers who gathered in the snow and finally came up with what she was looking for: a trophy. The election “trigger” award was given to Sam Cooper, an organizer with We Are Wisconsin who, unsolicited, showed up to help for the final push in the beginning of January. […]

READ @ http://www.progressive.org/woman_behind_recall_of_wis_sen_scott_fitzgerald.html

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* RICK FALKVINGE: THE SWEDISH RADICAL LEADING THE FIGHT OVER WEB FREEDOMS

The tech entrepreneur launched the Pirate party to fight online censorship. Now, it is Europe’s fastest growing political group

By Carole Cadwalladr, Guardian UK

With his polished shoes, and formal three-piece pinstriped suit, Rick Falkvinge looks like the kind of man you might meet to discuss your tax affairs, or the finer points of your investment portfolio.

Not radical politics. Or illegal file-sharing. Or revolutionary e-currencies that may destroy the global banking system. Because, although sipping a soy latte in the Stockholm cafe that he calls his office, Falkvinge has the air of a successful corporate lawyer, he’s actually the founder and chief ideologue of Europe‘s youngest, boldest, and fastest growing political movement: the Pirate party.

The Pirates are a political force that have come out of nowhere. Dreamed up by Falkvinge in 2006, they’re an offshoot of the underground computer activist scene and champion digital transparency, freedom and access for all. In three years, they gained their first seat in the European parliament (they now have two) and became the largest party in Sweden for voters under 30. Since then they’ve gained political representation in Germany and swept large parts of Europe.

What they’ve done is to use technology in new ways to harness political power. Falkvinge describes how “we’re online 24/7″, how they operate in what he calls “the swarm” – nobody is in charge, and nobody can tell anybody else what to do – and how, essentially, they are the political embodiment of online activist culture.

The Pirates are geekdom gone mainstream and Falkvinge is the Julian Assange-style figurehead. A leading player in a fight for digital freedom that last week came to a dramatic head when the US Congress prepared to vote on the Stop Online Privacy Act (Sopa), and Wikipedia, supported by the likes of Google, led a 24-hour blackout of the internet.

The controversial legislation has, temporarily at least, been shelved, but Falkvinge is unequivocal about the gravity of the threat. The law would have given American courts the right to crack down on internet sites anywhere in the world and to monitor anybody’s private communications. It is, he claims, nothing less than an attack on fundamental human rights.

“We’re at an incredible crossroads right now. They’re demanding the right to wiretap the entire population. It’s unprecedented. This is a technology that can be used to give everybody a voice. But it can also be used to build a Big Brother society so dystopian that if someone had written a book about it in the 1950s, it would have been discarded as unrealistic.” […]

READ @ http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2012/jan/22/rick-falkvinge-swedish-radical-web-freedoms

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* SAY NO TO ACTA

Source: youtube.com

Learn more and take action about ACTA @ http://lqdn.fr/ACTA

VIDEO @ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=citzRjwk-sQ