Archive for December, 2009

Humanity’s Right To Life

December 31, 2009

By Fidel Castro

Climate change is already causing enormous damage and hundreds of millions of poor people are enduring the consequences.

The most advanced research centers have claimed that there is little time to avoid an irreversible catastrophe. James Hansen, from the NASA Goddard Institute, has said that a proportion of 350 parts of carbon dioxide by million is still tolerable; however, the figure today is 390 and growing at a pace of 2 parts by million every year exceeding the levels of 600 thousand years ago. Each one of the past two decades has been the warmest since the first records were taken while carbon dioxide increased 80 parts by million in the past 150 years.

The meltdown of ice in the Artic Sea and of the huge two-kilometer thick icecap covering Greenland; of the South American glaciers feeding its main fresh water sources and the enormous volume covering the Antarctic; of the remaining icecap on the Kilimanjaro, the ice on the Himalayan and the large frozen area of Siberia are visible. Outstanding scientists fear abrupt quantitative changes in these natural phenomena that bring about the change.

Humanity entertained high hopes in the Copenhagen Summit after the Kyoto Protocol signed in 1997 entered into force in 2005. The resounding failure of the Summit gave rise to shameful episodes that call for due clarification.

The United States, with less than 5% of the world population releases 25% of the carbon dioxide. The new US President had promised to cooperate with the international effort to tackle a new problem that afflicts that country as much as the rest of the world. In the meetings leading to the Summit, it became clear that the leaders of that nation and of the wealthiest countries were maneuvering to place the burden of sacrifices on the emergent and poor countries.

A great number of leaders and thousands of representatives of social movements and scientific institutions, determined to fight for the preservation of humanity from the greatest risk in history, converged in Copenhagen on the invitation of the organizers of the Summit. I’d rather avoid reference to details of the brutality of the Danish police force against thousands of protesters and invitees from social and scientific movements who traveled to the Danish capital. I’ll focus on the political features of the Summit.

Actually, chaos prevailed in Copenhagen where incredible things happened. The social movements and scientific institutions were not allowed to attend the debates. There were heads of State and Government who could not even express their views on crucial issues. Obama and the leaders of the wealthiest nations took over the conference, with the complicity of the Danish government. The United Nations agencies were pushed to the background.

Barack Obama, the last to arrive on the day of the Summit for a 12-hours stay, met with two groups of invitees carefully chosen by him and his staff, and in the company of one of them met at the plenary hall with the rest of the high-level delegations. He made his remarks and left right away trough the back door. Except for the small group chosen by him, the other representatives of countries were prevented from taking the floor during that plenary session. The presidents of Bolivia and the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela were allowed to speak because the Chairman of the Summit had no choice but to give them the floor in light of the strong pressures of those present.

In an adjacent room, Obama brought together the leaders of the wealthiest nations, some of the most important emerging States and two very poor countries. He then introduced a document, negotiated with two or three of the most important countries, ignored the UN General Assembly, gave a press conference and left like Julius Caesar after one of his victorious wars in Asia Minor that led him to say: “I came, I saw, I conquered.”

Even Gordon Brown, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, had said on October 19: “If we do not reach a deal over the next few months, let us be in no doubt, since once the damage from unchecked emissions growth is done, no retrospective global agreement in some future period can undo that choice. By then it will be irretrievably too late…”

Brown concluded his speech with these dramatic words: “We cannot afford to fail. If we fail now we will pay a heavy price. If we act now, if we act together, if we act with vision and resolve, success at Copenhagen is still within our reach, but, if we falter, the Earth will itself be at risk and, for the planet, there is no Plan B.”

But later he arrogantly said that the United Nations could not be taken hostage by a group of countries like Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua and Tuvalu. At the same time, he accused China, India, Brazil, South Africa and other emerging countries of being lured by the United States into signing a document that throws the Kyoto Protocol in the wastebasket without a binding agreement involving the United States and its wealthy allies.

I find it necessary to recall that the United Nations Organization was born hardly six decades ago, after the last World War, when there were no more than fifty independent countries.

Today, after the hateful colonial system ceased to exist thanks to the resolute struggle of the peoples, it has a membership of over 190 independent nations. For many years, even the People’s Republic of China was denied admission to the UN while a puppet regime was its representative in that institution and in the privileged Security Council.

The tenacious support of the growing number of Third World nations would prove indispensable to China’s international recognition and become an extremely significant element for the acceptance of that country’s rights at the UN by the United States and its NATO allies.

It was the Soviet Union that made the greatest contribution to the heroic fight against fascism. More than 25 million of its people perished while the country was terribly devastated. It was from that struggle that it emerged as a superpower with the capacity to partly balance the absolute domination of the US imperial system and the former colonial powers to plunder the Third World countries unrestrictedly.

Following the demise of the USSR, the United States extended its political and military power to the East, –up to Russia’s heart– and enhanced its influence on the rest of Europe. Therefore, what happened in Copenhagen came as no surprise.

I want to insist on how unfair and outrageous were the remarks of the Prime Minister of the UK and the Yankee attempt to impose as the Summit Accord a document that was at no time discussed with the attending countries.

During his press conference of December 21, Cuba’s Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez made a statement that cannot be disproved. I will quote from some of its paragraphs: “I would like to emphasize that no agreement of the Conference of the Parties was reached in Copenhagen, that no decision was made as to binding or nonbinding commitments or pertaining to International Law; that simply did not happen. There was no agreement in Copenhagen.”

“The Summit was a failure and a deception for the world […] the lack of political will was left in the open…”

“…it was a step backward in the actions of the international community to prevent or mitigate the effects of climate change…”

“…the average world temperature could rise by 5 degrees…”

Right then our Foreign Minister adds other interesting data on the likely consequences of climate change according to the latest scientific research.

“…from the Kyoto Protocol until today the developed countries’ emissions rose by 12.8%… and 55% of that volume corresponds to the United States.”

“The average annual oil consumption is 25 barrels for an American, 11 barrels for a European, less than 2 barrels for a Chinese and less than 1 barrel for a Latin American or Caribbean citizen.”

“Thirty countries, including those of the European Union, are consuming 80% of the fuel produced.”

The fact is that the developed countries signatories of the Kyoto Protocol increased their emissions dramatically. Now, they want to replace the adopted bases of the emissions from 1990 with those of 2005. This means that the United States, which is the main source of emissions, would be reducing its emissions of 25 years ago in only 3%. It is a shameful mockery of the world public opinion.

The Cuban foreign minister, speaking on behalf of a group of ALBA member countries, defended China, India, Brazil, South Africa and other important emerging-economies states. He stressed the concept adopted in Kyoto that “common but differentiated responsibilities mean that the responsibility of the historical accumulators and the developed countries, who are the culprits of this catastrophe, differs from that of the small island states and the South countries, above all the least developed…”

“Responsibility means financing; responsibility means technology transfer on adequate terms. But, at this point, Obama resorts to a game of words and instead of talking of common but differentiated responsibilities, he speaks of ‘common but differentiated responses.'”

“…he then leaves the plenary hall without taking the trouble of listening to anybody; he had neither listened to anybody before taking the floor.”

In a subsequent press conference, before departing from the Danish capital, Obama had said: “There has been a meaningful and unprecedented breakthrough here in Copenhagen. For the first time in history, the largest economies have come to jointly accept responsibilities.”

In his clear and irrefutable presentation, our Foreign Minister said: “What does it mean that ‘the largest economies have come to jointly accept responsibilities’? It means that they are placing a large part of the burden of financing the relief and adaptation of countries, mostly the South countries, to climate change on China, Brazil, India and South Africa. Because it must be said that in Copenhagen we witnessed an assault, a holdup against China, Brazil, India and South Africa, and against every other euphemistically called developing country.”

These were the resounding and undeniable words used by our Foreign Minister to describe what happened in Copenhagen.

I must add that, when at 10:00 a.m. on December 19 our Vicepresident Esteban Lazo and the Cuban Foreign Minister had already left, a belated attempt was made to resurrect the Copenhagen cadaver as a Summit Accord. At that moment, practically every head of State had left and there was hardly any minister around. Again, the denunciation by the remaining members of the delegations from Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua and other countries could defeat the maneuver. That was the end of the inglorious Summit.

Another fact that should not be overlooked is that at the most critical moment of that day, in the wee small hours, the Cuban Foreign Minister, together with the delegations waging the honorable battle, offered UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon their cooperation in the ever harder struggle being fought as well as in future efforts necessary to preserve the life of our species.

The environmental group Wild World Fund has warned that if emissions are not drastically reduced climate change will go unchecked in the next 5 to 10 years.

But there is no need to prove the substance of what is said here that Obama did.

The US President stated on Wednesday, December 23, that people are justified in being disappointed about the outcome of the Summit on Climate Change. In an interview with the CBS television network, the President said that “instead of a total collapse if nothing had been done, which would have been a huge step backward; at least we could remain more or less where we were…”

According to the press dispatch, Obama is the target of most criticism from the countries that nearly unanimously feel that the result of the Summit was disastrous.

Now, the UN is in a quandary since many countries would find it humiliating to ask others to adhere to the arrogant and antidemocratic accord.

To carry on with the battle and to claim in every meeting, particularly in those of Bonn and Mexico, humanity’s right to life, with the morale and the strength that truth provides, is in my opinion the only way to proceed.

Fidel Castro Ruz
December 26, 2009
8:15 p.m.


Is the Detroit Nigerian “Terrorist” A Patsy?

December 31, 2009

By BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon

What does the hapless Nigerian mope yanked off a plane in Detroit Christmas Day for setting his lap on fire have in common with color-coded terror alerts [2], with the shoeless, homeless Miami Haitians [3] convicted of trying to bring down the Sears Tower, or with the 2004 pre-election videos [4] allegedly dropped by Osama Bin Laden? Easy. All have been useful in whipping up public fear of Muslim-inspired “terrorism” and each and every one plugs neatly and sweetly into the meta-narratives that justify increasing the power of US police and intelligence establishments and the further militarization of foreign policy.

The guy is said to be an engineering student from Nigeria who received terrorist training in Yemen. Engineers are the practical souls whose profession is making things that actually work. Fortunately for the people on the plane, he seems to have been a very bad student who would have made a wretched engineer. He didn’t know the difference between an explosive device, which might have done great harm to the plane and its passengers, and a small incendiary one which could do no more than set his own lap on fire, and maybe singe the hair of the passenger immediately next to him.

His Nigerian nationality is extremely useful, as it lets “terror experts” and talking heads on TV and radio to draw simplistic and misleading pictures for American audiences of Nigeria as a place besieged by Muslim fundamentalists linked with Al Qaeda and in need of more US military assistance. In the real world Nigeria is a major US oil supplier, and West Africa furnishes about a fifth of US oil imports, a portion expected to grow over the next decade. Nigeria has pumped trillions of dollars worth of oil for the West over the last fifty years without managing to give people in the oil-rich areas schools or electricity or hospitals. It has allowed foreign oil companies to make the region one of the most polluted in the world, where the rain eats metal roofs, health problems are endemic, and fishing and farming are nearly impossible.

After decades of violent suppression by successive military and civilian governments, Nigerians in the oil-rich regions have organized resistance movements which have sometimes posed direct threats to the operations of Western oil companies. For US military planners, inserting themselves into Nigeria to bolster the regime is a major priority [5]. That’s what AFRICOM is for.

The Nigerian reportedly received his “terror training” in Yemen. Yemen is located at the southern end of the Arabian Penninsula directly opposite AFRICOM’s Djibouti base and close to Somalia, where the US has waged a 14 year series of interventions and proxy wars [6] to secure Somalia’s oil and gas resources for the West, an project that has killed a million Somalis, and currently has made another million homeless.

Yemen, as veteran journalist Patrick Cockburn assures us in an indispensable December 29 Counterpunch [7] article, is next in the US crosshairs.

“It is the poorest Arab country, its government is weak, its people are armed, it already faces a serious rebellion, it is strongly tribal and its mountain ranges are a natural refuge for groups like al-Qa’ida…

“Yemen has been becoming increasingly unstable over the past two decades, ever since Saudi Arabia expelled a million Yemeni workers because Yemen refused to support the US-led war to expel Saddam Hussein’s army from Kuwait in 1990.”

There is, Cockburn explains in the article which is well worth reading in its entirety, a civil war going on in Yemen, and the US needs excuses to beef up its intervention. Conveniently then, most terror suspects apprehended in the US will be found to have ties to the Yemeni insurgents.

Although the bumbling Nigerian had a multiple-entry US visa, he reportedly managed to board the Detroit-bound plane without showing it or his passport. Someone better dressed and better spoken [8] intervened and got him on, according to published reports. Who? How? Why? He paid for his one-way ticket in Ghana in cash, and packed no more than a knapsack. People are profiled and searched for doing this all the time, all over the world, but he was not. And of course there’s the matter of the incendiary device itself, which should have been easily detectable. It’s not like they don’t screen passengers at European airports boarding international flights. Why was he exempt from the normal search that passengers undergo, and if he was searched why did the normal procedures fail?

One possible answer to all these questions is that the guy is a patsy, a fool manipulated by people smarter and more resourceful than him for the purpose of creating the useful “terrorist” incident. That’s what happened to the Haitians in Miami. They were disaffected and homeless, living in a Liberty City warehouse. They were contacted by a federal agent who said he could get weapons and explosives, shoes for the shoeless, rental cars (none of them had a bank account, let alone a credit card) and put them in touch with Al Qaeda. The federal agent helped them send fan mail to Osama Bin Laden and led them in taking a made-up jihadi oath, and delivered them fake weapons so they could be arrested. Journalist Webster Tarpley, in an early December Guns and Butter Radio interview (audio below – click the flash player or go to [9] )

with Bonnie Faulkner lays out a series of similar incidents in which apparent patsies have been used to create incidents like this. Although the interview was three weeks before the Christmas day incident, the similarities between the Liberty City case, the so-called Fort Dix 6, and other cases are numerous and startling.

Journalist I.F. Stone told us half a century ago that “Governments lie. All governments lie.” It would not be the first time our government lied to get us into or to keep us involved in an unjust war, or to create an atmosphere of crisis to support some otherwise unsupportable policy. It wouldn’t even be the fifty-first time. If Stone were alive today he’d assure us that the Obama government will readily lie to us too, in the service of its policy objectives, and probably in better English than Bush ever could. Is the incompetent Nigerian “terrorist” a patsy, intended to generate hysterical headlines and reinforce the administration’s policies at home and abroad? Time will tell. Maybe.

Bruce Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report, based in Atlanta. He can be reached at bruce.dixon(at)


December 30, 2009

by R J Shulman
WASHINGTON – (PTSD News) – The explosive device that was sewed into the underwear of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab seems to have changed America forever. The bomb, which was designed to blow a hole in a flight from Amsterdam to Detroit on 12-25 failed to fully detonate and simply caught Abdulmutallab’s seat on fire.

President Barack Obama immediately condemned the attack and called for stricter security measures at airports. However, this did not stop Republicans from blaming the president for the attack.

“Obama can’t keep us safe, like Bush did,” said former Vice President [sic] Dick Cheney. “And how dare the president be vacationing out of the country in Hawaii? You’d never catch George W. Bush on vacation, while we were being attacked.”

Michele Bachmann (R-MN) said, “This Umar guy is just the first of Obama’s Black Muslim Hitler youth that this foreign born president is sending here to take over the US.”

Republicans are demanding a 12-25 Commission to impeach President Obama for “allowing this unprecedented attack to happen on American soil,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Congress is also slated to pass USA Patriot Act III, a measure that will allow government officials to inspect the underwear of suspected enemy combatants at airports. “I volunteer to make these inspections,” said former Idaho Senator Larry Craig (R). “I will do anything to protect America, plus I won’t have to tap or take a wide stance in airport stalls as I’ll now be able to show my flaming patriotism out in the open.”

Republicans said they’d support the legislation when Democrats agreed to add an amendment that allows authorities to question women in secret as enemy combatants if they suspect the woman may be contemplating an abortion.

Others blame security at the Amsterdam airport who allowed the device on the plane to Detroit. “If those security workers weren’t some overpaid incompetent union workers, this never would have happened,” said Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC), “which is proof that all unions should be outlawed.”

“The fault lies with the Dutch security workers because they have socialized medicine,” said Senator Joe Lieberman (I-CT). “American security personnel said they never would have let this happen.”

“After all, we prevented Cat Stevens from flying into the US,” said Waldon Smithfield, of Homeland Security, “and we wouldn’t want him here subverting our resolve on the war on terror by singing Peace Train.”

In has now been revealed that a similar explosive incident happened on Air Force One when President [sic] George W. Bush’s pants caught on fire over New Orleans. The NTSB experts determined the fire was not due to an explosive device in the former president’s underwear, but due to the lies he told to lure the US into the war in Iraq.

The ACLU is very concerned about more damage being done to the protections afforded by the Bill of Rights. “This is a dark day in America,” said Ryman Brillstein of the ACLU, “if this new legislation passes, we will lose one of our most precious rights, keeping it a secret whether we wear boxers or briefs.”

Senator John McCain disagreed, supporting Patriot Act III. “Like Americans needed to fear communists under the bed in the fifties, and terrorists’ drones attacking them after 9-11,” McCain said, “we must now be very afraid of exploding Muslim underwear.”

President Obama is meeting with his advisers as to whether to attack and invade Yemen, the supposed al Qaeda training ground for Abdulmutallab. “We are checking to see if there is enough oil in Yemen to risk putting our military forces in harms way,” the President said.

31 Dec 2009

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Instant Karma: New US War Target Gets Its Own Terror Icon

December 28, 2009

by Chris Floyd

Wow, that didn’t take long at all. Scant days after the American war machine took the cloaking device off its direct military involvement in Yemen, we have an alleged attempted terrorist attack by an alleged attempted terrorist who, just scant hours after his capture, has allegedly confessed to getting his alleged attempted terrorist material from … wait for it … Yemen!

Yemen-trained terrorists on the loose in American airplanes! At Christmas! Great googily moogily! It’s a good thing our boys are on the case over there right now, pounding the holy hell outta some of them Al Qaeder ragheads! And to think, a few pipsqueaky fifth columnists had been starting to wonder why we were killing dozens of innocent civilians on behalf of an authoritarian regime embroiled in a three-way civil war on the other side of the world.

Well, now they have their answer, by God! Alleged attempted terrorists allegedly trained in Yemen! What else do you need — a freaking warrant or something? We would obviously be justified in nuking that desert hell-hole and everybody in it! Just think of it — some guy with some kind of something on an airplane, right there in the Heartland! You gonna stand for that? Exterminate the brutes!

And yet, because we are good, because we are godly, because our heart is always in the right place, even when — as President Obama himself admitted in his noble Nobel Speech — we sometimes make mistakes, we have not brought down the full force of the iron rod that God himself has placed into our hands for the chastisement and right order of the world. No, there will be no nukes falling on the children of Yemen tonight. But boy howdy, they’d better get ready for some sure-enough heavy ordnance — fired from distant ships, from far-flung bases and from computer consoles in leafy Stateside suburbs, where you can bravely kill some alleged attempted somebody-or-other (and everyone in their immediate vicinity), and still make it home in time to to eat supper with the kids.

So here we are. Just one day after the alleged attempted terrorist incident in Detroit, we already have headlines blaring in the New York Times, the “paper of record,” tying the alleged attempt to Yemen. How quick and convenient is that? Already the echo chamber is roaring with the all-justifying cacophony: “Terror, Yemen, al Qaeda, Homeland, Bomb, Terror, Yemen, Yemen, al Qaeda.”

And it must be true, right? I mean, just look at how well-sourced the NYT story is. “A law enforcement official” — Police captain? State trooper? G-Man? Traffic cop? — said that the alleged attempted terrorist said he’d got his “explosive chemicals” from Yemen. (Elsewhere in the paper, other unnamed officials told NYT reporters that the alleged material strapped to the alleged attempted terrorist was “incendiary,” not explosive. But who cares? “Bomb, Terror, Yemen!”)

Of course, the NYT noted that “authorities have not independently corroborated the Yemen connection claimed by the suspect” (nor, they could have added, have they independently corroborated that the claim was actually made), but still, the completely anonymous “law enforcement official” said that the suspect’s claim “was plausible,” and even added: “I see no reason to discount it.”

Well, it doesn’t get more solid than that, does it? They nailed that story down so tight you couldn’t pry it open with God’s own crowbar. An anonymous source confirmed the plausibility of his own claim. Man, that’s ironclad. It’s certainly good enough to light up the media firmament with headlines linking “terror in the Heartland” with the empire’s newest killing field in a volatile foreign land.

And it turns out that the suspected attempted terrorist, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, was already on the radar of our all-encompassing security services — just like the last Muslim terrorist in the heartland, Major Nidal Hasan. (And, for that matter, just like many of those accused of carrying out the 9/11 attack.) As in almost all of these cases, the question arises: Who is running whom? (For more, see “Darkness Renewed: Terror as a Tool of Empire.”)

But this query is precisely the kind of pantywaist handwringing that rightly goes down in the flood of the he-man Homeland Security strutting that always follows these incidents. As we noted here the other day, there’s no time for depth, context, history — or even facts — when the “frame” is screaming “Terror!”

In any case, whatever facts about the case — or rather, shards and splinters of filtered information — that are allowed to emerge from the depths of the security apparat, you can be absolutely sure that, as always, the “facts will be fixed around the policy.”

And what is that policy? Why, endless war, of course! The American war machine (which now dominates most of “civilian” society as well) is like a shark: it must keep moving, and feeding, or die. “Terror, Bomb, Yemen!”

What Really Happened in Copenhagen?

December 24, 2009

By Brian Tokar

. . . A few years ago, climate experts shocked the world by saying we had less than ten years to reverse course and do something to prevent irreversible tipping points in the global climate system. The disastrous outcome of the Copenhagen conference makes it harder than ever to feel confident that it isn’t too late.

A Longer, Deeper Recession Looms

December 22, 2009

By Dave Lindorff

If you google “recession easing,” you will find articles all the way back to April quoting Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke as saying that the recession is easing, and that the economy is “improving modestly.” Newspapers too, on their own, have written rosy-tinged stories about how things are bad but getting better.

Spins get put on every hint of good news, as when last month “only” 11,000 jobs were lost (a story that was quickly followed by an “unexpected” jump in new unemployment claims by 474,000 in early December.)

What didn’t get widely reported was a report by the Association of Financial Professionals, a trade association that includes CFOs, treasurers, comptrollers, and risk managers of mid-sized and large corporations, which asked over 1000 of these executives the question: “When do you expect your company to begin hiring again?”

The answer tells you all you need to know about the depth of the current economic crisis, and blows all the media and government happy talk out of the water.

This Outlook Survey by the APF, which was funded by Wells Fargo Bank, shows that 26 percent of executives expect to see their company payrolls continue to shrink in 2010, while 46% more expect employoment to stay at current low levels. Put another way,only 25% of companies surveyed expect to return to pre-recession hiring levels in 2011, while 32% don’t expect a hiring rebound until 2012. And fully 30% “do not expect their organizations ever to return their payrolls to pre-recessionary levels.”

And here’s another troubling bit of news. The same survey respondents say that their companies’ access to credit–the willingness of banks to lend–has barely budged. In fact only one in six reported that the had found credit a little easier to obtain in the last six months, while one in five actually reported that it had become harder to obtain credit. So much for the Obama administration’s and the Federal Reserve’s vaunted efforts to throw so much money–literally trillions of dollars–at the banks that they would start lending.

More than half of the executives responding to the survey said that if credit doesn’t become more accessible by mid-2010, their firms will have to take steps to conserve cash–steps which could include cutting capital spending (68%), freezing or cutting hiring (62%), cutting inventory (25%), delaying payments to suppliers (23%), tightening credit offered to customers (23%) and drawing down existing credit lines (22%). Note that all of these steps are things that would put a further drag on the economy and could push it into a second downward spiral.

Remember this survey the next time you read that President Obama or Fed Chief Bernanke or Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner says the economy is coming back, or that the unemployment situation, while bad, is about to start turning around.

The executives who are making business plans for their companies, and who are looking at the cash flowing out and the empty order books, aren’t so sanguine about the future. And if those hiring plans are correct, this is a recession from which the economy simply is not going to recover, at least for many working people whose jobs are never coming back.

The bad news from finance executives lends added weight to a warning by Nobel economist Joseph Stiglitz who says there is a “significant chance” that the US economy will slip back into a decline in the coming year, going from a U-shaped recession to a “W-shaped” one–a dreaded double-dip recession, with slumping economic activity leading to worsening layoffs, more bankruptcies, and more pressure on the government to finally take dramatic action on jobs.

Currently a professor at Columbia University, Stiglitz, a former chief economist at the World Bank, says the government should act now to help state and local governments, which are running out of money, and to create new jobs. He warned the Obama administration, “If you don’t prepare now, and the economy turns out to be as weak as I think it’s likely to be, then you’ll be in a very difficult position.”

Dave Lindorff is a Philadelphia-based journalist and columnist. His latest book is “The Case for Impeachment” (St. Martin’s Press, 2006 and now available in paperback). He can be reached at

They’re All Against Jobs

December 22, 2009

by Fritz Hollings

December 21 2009 “Huffington Post” — Who is against jobs in the United States? The big banks, Wall Street, the Council on Foreign Relations, the Business Roundtable, the United States Chamber of Commerce, the National Retail Federation, Corporate America, the President of the United States, Congress of the United States. Everyone is crying for jobs, but no one seems to understand why there aren’t any. And the reason for those opposing jobs is money.

Beginning in 1973, big banks made most of their profit outside of the United States. Industries off-shoring, investing, banks financing the investments, transfer fees, fees and interest on the loans made for bigger profits. Long since, the big banks under the leadership of David Rockefeller have led the way to off-shore and make a bigger profit. Goldman Sachs, AIG, Citicorp and Wall Street, conspiring for a bailout and now using it for bonuses, make more money from the off-shored operations.

The Council on Foreign Relations ought to be renamed the Council on Making Money. A recent PEW poll reported fully 85% of Americans said that protecting United States jobs should be a top foreign policy priority. But only 21% of the Council on Foreign Relations agrees. Financial interests organized the Business Roundtable to continue off-shore investment and profit. The local Chamber is for Main Street America, but Tom Donahue and the United States Chamber have sold out to the financial interests and oppose jobs and producing in the United States. Thirty years ago, hundreds of thousands of Arrow shirts produced in China were a best seller in the United States. But at Christmastime, the Chinese supply ran short and the retail stores had to order the same shirt from New Jersey. They made 20% less profit on the New Jersey shirt. Retailers are all for profit from imports and against domestic production and jobs in America.

Corporate America would fight any initiative by the President, the Congress, or the government to create jobs in the United States. That is, production that faces competition offshore. In globalization, U. S. production can’t make a profit, can’t survive. Its competition will off-shore the same article for a lesser price, putting you out of business. Moreover, Corporate America doesn’t have to bother with labor in China. The China government controls labor and you don’t have to worry about a work stoppage or minimum wage. All they have is a maximum wage.

And Corporate America doesn’t have to worry with clean air and clean water or the environment in China. Nor does it have to worry with OSHA and all of its safety rules. Many times the factory building is furnished and you don’t have to worry with capital costs. If you make a profit, you can just reinvest it in an additional operation and not have to pay any U. S. income tax. If the operation fails, walk away with no legacy costs. Corporate America bitterly opposes its government protecting and strengthening the U. S. economy because producing again in America will put the executives back to work. They can send a Jaycee to China to watch the quality control daily and sit on the 32nd floor on Sixth Avenue with the internet, keeping check, and, leaving early for a massage and drinks. With production in China they don’t have to work.

As Commander-in-Chief, the President dithered for months over the number of troops. But he can’t equip the troops except for the favor of a foreign country. The War Production Act of 1950 requires the President to make sure that we can produce in- country those articles necessary for our national defense. Enforcing this law would limit the campaign contributions. Under Section 201 of the trade laws, the President is supposed to take action, like impose tariffs or quotas, when a certain production is endangered. Not only endangered, our automobile production has been bankrupted. But all the President does is give Detroit bailout welfare. The President doesn’t want to limit the campaign contributions.

The same with Congress. Senator Byron Dorgan of North Dakota long ago tried to allocate the tax incentive for foreign jobs and production to domestic jobs and production. The Business Roundtable and the U. S. Chamber fought it like a tiger and killed it.

As the President said in his West Point talk, there is fierce competition in international trade and globalization. All countries move to protect and build their economies while the United States goes out of business. The one advantage that the U.S. has is its richest market in the world. It is fast becoming the poorest market and the U.S. is losing any clout to maintain a strong economy.

The economy is in the hands of Summers, Bernanke and Geithner. Campaign contributions are in the hands of David Axelrod and Rahm Emanuel. The poor President is smart, diligent and working his head off campaigning. But he is inexperienced and not governing, and the Congress is in a Mexican standoff over an archaic filibuster rule that reveres democracy by the minority.

Of course, the media, which knows this and keeps it top secret, is owned by big business.

If I don’t meet you in the breadline, my children will.

Merry Christmas!

Fritz Hollings is a former South Carolina Senator.

Copyright © 2009, Inc.

Let Them Eat Cake: The Anomaly of Compulsory Private Health Insurance

December 22, 2009

by Ellen Brown

“Let them eat cake,” the notoriously callous words ascribed to Marie Antoinette, were probably said a century earlier by Marie-Therese, the wife of Louis XIV. But whoever said them, the mindset the statement conveys of an aristocracy oblivious to the realities confronting the poor is still with us today.

“Congressmen, what shall we do about the 30 million Americans lacking health insurance?”

“Why, that is simple. Force them to buy it. Fine them heavily if they don’t!”

“What if they don’t have the money?”

“Then take it from those who do!”

The health reform bills now coming through Congress are not focused on how to make health care cheaper or more effective, how to eliminate waste and fraud, or how to cut out expensive middlemen. As originally envisioned, the public option would have pursued those goals. But the public option has been dropped from the Senate bill and radically watered down in the House bill.

Rather than focusing on making health care affordable, the bills focus on how to force people either to buy health insurance if they don’t have it, or to pay more for it if they do. If you don’t have insurance and don’t purchase it, you will be subject to a hefty fine. And if you do purchase it, premiums, co-pays, co-insurance payments and deductibles are liable to keep health care cripplingly expensive. Most of the people who don’t have health care can’t afford to pay the deductibles, so they will never use the plans they are forced to buy or be fined.

To subsidize those who can’t pay, the Senate bill would make families earning two to four times the poverty level who don’t have employer-sponsored insurance surrender 8% to 12% of their income to insurance payments, or pay a fine. In another effort to make the insurance payments “affordable,” the Senate bill calls for the lowest cost plan to cover only sixty percent of health care costs.

“In other words,” writes Dr. Andrew Coates, “a guarantee of insurance industry dominance and the continued privatization of health care in every arena.”

Medical Tyranny by the FIRE Sector

Dr. Benjamin Rush, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, is quoted as warning two centuries ago:

Unless we put medical freedom into the Constitution, the time will come when medicine will organize into an underground dictatorship. . . . The Constitution of this republic should make special privilege for medical freedom as well as religious freedom.

That time seems to have come, but the dictatorship we are facing is not the sort Dr. Rush was apparently envisioning. It is not a dictatorship by medical doctors, who are as distressed by the proposed legislation as the squeezed middle class is. (For a withering analysis by an outraged M.D. of the nearly 2000 – page House bill, see here.) The new dictatorship is not by doctors but by Wall Street — the FIRE (finance, insurance, and real estate) sector that now claims 40% of corporate profits.

Economist L. Randall Wray writes that ever since Congress threw out the Glass-Steagall Act separating commercial banking from investment banking, insurance and Wall Street finance have been “two peas in a pod.” He maintains:

Here’s the opportunity, Wall Street’s newest and bestest gamble: there is a huge untapped market of some 50 million people who are not paying insurance premiums–and the number grows every year because employers drop coverage and people can’t afford premiums. Solution? Health insurance ‘reform’ that requires everyone to turn over their pay to Wall Street. . . . This is just another bailout of the financial system, because the tens of trillions of dollars already committed are not nearly enough.

Compulsory health insurance is like compulsory selective military service (the draft), except that all of our numbers have come up. The argument has been made that auto insurance is compulsory, so why not health insurance? But the obvious response is that you can choose to drive a car. The only way to escape the vehicle we call a body is to give up the ghost.

The Right to Sovereignty Over Our Own Bodies

And that brings up another issue alluded to by Dr. Rush: the matter of freedom of choice in health care. Some people would equate it with freedom of religion. Not everyone believes in Modern Medicine. If we the people have a right to choose what we believe about life after death, we should have the right to choose what we believe about life before death, by choosing how to maintain our own bodies.

The conventional treatment promoted by the medical/pharmaceutical complex is an aggressive approach that can wind up killing the patient as collateral damage in its war on the disease. Among other researchers questioning the wisdom of this approach is Gary Null, who reported the results of an exhaustive independent review by the Nutrition Institute of America in 2004. Conventional medicine was found to be responsible for an estimated 783,936 deaths annually, including 106,000 deaths from adverse drug reactions, 98,000 from medical errors, and 88,000 from infection. And those figures were conservative, since no more than 20 percent of iatrogenic (doctor- or drug-caused) mishaps are ever reported. The review concluded that the number one killer is not heart disease or cancer but is conventional medicine itself.

There are more natural, less invasive alternatives, but most are not covered by insurance; and even such simple remedies as healthy organic food may be too expensive for people forced to use a major portion of their incomes for medical insurance. A true public option of the Medicare-for-all variety could have solved the problem by keeping health care affordable. If most other industrialized countries have managed to fund a national health service, we could too. For a model, we could follow the lead of Canada, which originally obtained the money for its national health service from its own publicly-owned central bank. But that will be the subject of another article. Stay tuned.

Bernie the Quitter Fools Us Again

December 19, 2009

. . . “The upcoming vote on my single-payer health care bill will be an historic moment in the halls of Congress,” Bernie declared recently on a national radio talk show. “While I know it will fail, it is essential to bring it forward, have the debate, and record the vote so that we can continue to build the movement and move toward single-payer as our ultimate goal.”

Well, Bernie had his moment earlier this week. And, as we all know now, he quit on us. . . .

The Obama Effect: The Demise of the Democratic Party and a Gift to the Country

December 18, 2009

The decision to escalate Afghanistan War should put the final nail in the coffin of “change” and “hope” that Democrats and others crawled into when they supported Obama. The evidence that Obama is every bit the representative of the corporate oligarchy and no less a corporate shill than the rest has been mounting for nearly a year-or well before the election for the cognoscenti. Only fanatics could have heard Obama’s speech on Afghanistan and failed to hear the resonances of Bush. But the writing was on the wall over a year ago when Obama supported the bailouts of the banks and brokerage firms that leveraged their destruction of the economy on the foreclosures of homes. Few could miss the fact that the health care reform bill, should it ever pass, will be another unwarranted and gratuitous bailout-this one of the insurance and pharmaceutical companies.

Obama diverted the legitimate anger and energy for real change and scuttled it under the fraudulent tent of the Democratic Party. He led millions to the cliff; they are now falling off in droves. Those who’ve not quite gotten to the edge screech and yell: “Wait! Give him time!” Those who gave warning from the outset are not busy casting nets. We welcome the demise of the Democratic Party.

And that is exactly the Obama Effect. Every last tissue of belief in the Democrats should by now be shred and cast aside. The Democrats are no less the corporate bailers and militarists than the Republicans. They hand trillions to the banks and brokerage firms; they dissolve union contracts and send the workers to the dogs; their unmanned drones bomb Pakistan, killing and maiming innocents and displacing tens of thousands; they sell the same lies about the wars-that they have to do with terrorism or democracy rather than oil and other resources-as their predecessors; they fund the very enemy that they claim to fight; they keep up the same contracts with Blackwater and its successors; they vote for the same war funding; they carry out the same secret renditions; they sanction and continue the same spying on US citizens; they exonerate torturers and war criminals from the previous administration; they are war criminals in complicity with other war criminals.

For those who hadn’t quite gotten the point before, thanks to Obama’s euphuistic and high-flown rhetorical excesses, no one can now believe that another Democrat, even an apparently more “left” one, will ever deliver a thing that he or she promises. Obama has filled the Democratic hot air balloon to the limit and it has burst. It falls like a failing parachute along with those who trusted it.

Despite all of this, or rather because of it, Obama has given, albeit unwittingly, a great gift to the majority. He has shown those who still have brainwaves that nevermore should anyone other than a corporate shill believe in a Democrat for any positive change in terms of the vast majority. The one thing that Obama has changed: the credulity accorded Democratic demagoguery.

Am I merely opening the door for the Republicans to fill the vast void of credibility left by the Democrats, you ask? To answer requires some clarification. The Democrats are one of two levers by which the ruling oligarchy controls the political process to their nearly exclusive advantage. This isn’t a new development-it has merely become too obvious to ignore. The Democrats have left this void. It is not my doing. I recommend that it be filled by a working-class party movement-not a green party, not a libertarian party, not an “independent” party, but a party that is aligned with the vast majority-a party of the workers- workers of farms, of factories, of schools, of construction sites, of the auto industry, of the retail industry, of the research firms, of the institutions of higher education, of banks, of city and other governmental offices-of those who make their livings not from profit but from wages. Every other party in every other country has ended up being just another lever of the ruling oligarchy.

Only a working-class majority can overcome the power elite and end the wars. Only a working-class party can change the socio-political and economic conditions. Only a majority party can deliver to itself health care coverage. Only a majority party can save the environment. Only a majority party and order can put production on a rational basis for their own benefit and not the benefit of a tiny minority.

We owe a great debt of gratitude to Obama. He has finally dashed and destroyed the false hopes in the Democratic Party and the political system as it stands. Obama was the false prophet of change. Now let the real change begin.