2/28/11

The Death-Knell of Colonialism in Arab Countries

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The common thread within the whole north African and Middle Eastern region is massive unemployment, despotic governments and routine abuse of any opponents.

And this is linked with the adoption of free-market economics and a ready flow from the West of highly sophisticated weaponry and public control equipment.

In the 19th century it was proximity to trade routes and the importance of the Suez canal that obsessed the European imperialists with occupation and political control.

As the world entered the age of oil, the political interference continued, albeit for different reasons - oil is the lifeblood of European, north American and far-eastern economies.

The "great and the good" of Western society fawned at the feet of unsavoury rulers, undermining all norms of human rights and justice for millions of ordinary people.

But now they have been caught on the back foot. Western think tanks and governments were surprised at the size of the north African protests, and then their success.

Since then they have been running very hard to keep up with the events - and failing badly.

Mubarak was content for Egypt to be a stopping off point on the torture flights from Afghanistan to Guantanamo Bay.

Obama supported the Egyptian dictator for a long time and Blair claimed he "was a force for good" only days before he was finally forced to resign.

Western leaders, having cut huge deals with Muammar Gaddafi for arms and oil, control of migration and building contracts without any human rights conditions, now find themselves forced to condemn the appalling violence of the dying Libyan regime as hundreds die in the streets protesting against an iron-fisted government.

In Bahrain, the home of the US Fifth Fleet, the contradictions play out more obviously as a king with near absolute power, excepting a thin parliamentary veneer, tries to cling on.

The Western media, particularly the BBC and CNN, report these momentous events through the prism of Western self-interest and the problems of tourists or ex-patriot workers.

They completely miss the point - the verve, excitement and determination to achieve political liberation.

It was not Western forces that brought about the changes in Tunisia and Egypt or are struggling to overturn injustice in Libya, Yemen or Bahrain.

The former colonial masters are masters no more.

Blame Capitalism for the Budget Crisis

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Almost every state in the US is either in debt or will be soon. State Governors and legislatures are presenting the situation as an "open and shut" case. They say that the only choice is between layoffs and job cuts or massive concessions.

But the leaders of public sector unions would not be good "lawyers" if they simply accepted the other side’s argument (even if they do call for demonstrations and even strikes)! The union leaders have to answer all the lies of Big Business.

The budget crisis is the result of the weakened economy, massive military spending, and the huge tax breaks and giveaways to big corporations and the wealthy, not the salaries and benefits of public workers.

For the past 30 years there has been a colossal transfer of the division of national income in the United States, from the working class to the capitalist class. In 2010, a Duke University study found that the top 20% of earners controlled more than 84% of the nation’s wealth. From 1979 to 2005, the after-taxes earnings of the top 1% of earners increased by 175%.

Between 1998 and 2009, 57% of all US corporations did not pay any Federal taxes for at least one year. At the same time, state and city governments have for years been sucked into a downward spiral of tax incentives and breaks to get these same large corporations to move businesses to their areas.

They then proceeed to lay off workers and shutter operations once the tax and other incentives run out. At the same time, average inflation-adjusted wage levels for workers have not risen since 1975!

Despite growing profits and massive cash reserves of the largest corporations during the recent "recovery," these same capitalists are not investing and creating jobs, but are instead squeezing more productivity from fewer workers.

These corporations have more than $2 trillion in funds and assets, but they still refuse to invest. Librarians, teachers, and firefighters did not cause the economic crisis -- the slump is a result of the inherent problems of the capitalist system.

If the union leaders are to address the root causes of the public sector struggle, they cannot ignore this fact.

The resources exist to maintain public sector workers' jobs, pay and benefits, and to continue to provide much-needed public services. The resources are also there to provide quality union wages and conditions for workers in the private sector.

There is also more than enough to go around to provide jobs for the millions of unemployed, and to provide free, quality education for students, who will be tomorrow's workers.

The problem is that both major political parties are firmly wedded to the big banks and corporations and they refuse to make real inroads against the wealth and privileges of the tiny handful of capitalists, the top 1%, who really "call the shots" in US society.

The Labor movement will always be fighting with one hand tied behind its back as long as the leaders of the unions continue to support the Democratic Party, which is just as tied to the big banks and corporations as the Republicans.

Let's be clear: the capitalists, not the workers are to blame for the crisis. Instead of supporting the Democrats and hoping for better times, the unions should break with the Democrats and form a Labor party.

Instead of parceling out the scraps left over from the table of the 1%, a Labor party should demand that the rich pay for the crisis.

A Labor party would be able to fight in Congress and in the state legislatures alongside the unions in the streets and in the workplace for a massive program of public works.

We should build schools, universities, and repair the country’s aging infrastructure, all of which could provide millions of jobs. Last but not least, these jobs should be 100% unionized and pay a living wage.

The cost of such a program should not come in the form of higher taxes or reduced public services for working people but should come from the top 1%, the big banks and the Fortune 500 companies

Not just in the form of higher taxes but also by instituting an “open book” policy to make the banks’ and corporations’ finances public knowledge.

Then much of the colossal wealth that has been siphoned off by this tiny minority at the expense of the overwhelming majority could be put in public hands, to be democratically administered in the interests of all.

This is a critical fight for labor movement, both in the public and private sector. The victory of the public sector workers will strengthen the unions in the private sector, while the defeat of the public sector workers will weaken the position of these unions.

Arab Uprisings: Is the West Bank Next?

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If Binyamin Netanyahu's government, and its lobby in Washington, were rational they would be rushing to plan Israel's evacuation from the occupied territories, and encouraging the establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem.

That is because they would understand that the Arab revolution will not stop at the gates of the West Bank, especially when it is the occupation that unites virtually all Arabs and Muslims in common fury.

As for the Palestinians themselves, they are watching the revolutions with a combination of joy and humiliation. Other Arabs are freeing themselves from local tyrants while they remain under a foreign occupation that grows more onerous every day -particularly in East Jerusalem. While other Arabs revel in what they have accomplished, the Palestinians remain, and are regarded as, victims.

It is not going to last. The Palestinians will revolt, just as the other Arabs have, and the occupation will end.

But it is up to the Israelis to help decide how it will end (just as it was up to the Mubarak government and Egyptian army to decide whether the regime would go down in blood and flames or accept the inevitable).

For Israel, that means accepting the terms of the Arab League Initiative (incorporating United Nations Resolutions 242 and 338) and trade the occupied lands for full peace and normalisation of relations with the entire Arab world. Or it can hang on to an unsustainable status quo.

They can wait for the eruption, thinking they can contain it and ignoring the fact that the weaponry they can use against any foreign invaders cannot be used against an occupied civilian population.

Right-wing Israelis and their lobby in Washington invariably respond to this argument by saying that it is impossible to leave the West Bank, pointing to the experience in Gaza.

They withdrew only to have their own land beyond the border shelled by militants who seized control as Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) troops left for home.

That is true and it might indeed happen again if the Israeli occupation is ended as a result of a popular uprising.

America's Imperial Fascism

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Fascism is a difficult word, because it comes with an iconography that touches the Nazi nerve and is abused as propaganda against America’s official enemies and to promote the West’s foreign adventures with a moral vocabulary written in the struggle against Hitler.

And yet fascism and imperialism are twins. In the aftermath of world war two, those in the imperial states who had made respectable the racial and cultural superiority of “western civilisation”, found that Hitler and fascism had claimed the same, employing strikingly similar methods.

Thereafter, the very notion of American imperialism was swept from the textbooks and popular culture of an imperial nation forged on the genocidal conquest of its native people. And a war on social justice and democracy became “US foreign policy”.

Since 1945, the US has destroyed or subverted more than 50 governments, many of them democracies, and used mass murderers like Suharto, Mobutu and Pinochet to dominate by proxy. In the Middle East, every dictatorship and pseudo-monarchy has been sustained by America.

In “Operation Cyclone”, the CIA and MI6 secretly fostered and bank-rolled Islamic extremism. The object was to smash or deter nationalism and democracy. The victims of this western state terrorism have been mostly Muslims.

The courageous people gunned down last week in Bahrain and Libya, the latter a “priority UK market”, according to Britain’s official arms “procurers”, join those children blown to bits in Gaza by the latest American F-16 aircraft.

The revolt in the Arab world is not merely against a resident dictator but a worldwide economic tyranny designed by the US Treasury and imposed by the US Agency for International Development, the IMF and World Bank.

These entities have ensured that rich countries like Egypt are reduced to vast sweatshops, with half the population earning less than $2 a day. The people’s triumph in Cairo was the first blow against what Benito Mussolini called corporatism, a word that appears in his definition of fascism.

How did such extremism take hold in the liberal West? “It is necessary to destroy hope, idealism, solidarity, and concern for the poor and oppressed,” observed Noam Chomsky a generation ago.

Propaganda is used to replace these dangerous feelings with self-centred egoism, a pervasive cynicism that claims inequities and oppression are the best that can be achieved.

In fact, a great international propaganda campaign is under way to convince people – particularly young people – that this not only is what they should feel but that it’s what they do feel.

Heading for a General Strike in America

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After more than a week, demonstrations by public sector workers defending their pay, benefits and their right to union representation continue to grow.

The struggle in Wisconsin is rapidly becoming a nation-wide struggle, a kind of American "Tahrir Square," a point of reference for workers under attack around the country.

Demonstrations against similar cuts have spread to Ohio and Indiana, both states where unions have traditionally been very strong. Dozens, if not hundreds, of solidarity actions have taken place around the country.

In a development that would have seemed unthinkable just 2 weeks ago, Wisconsin unions are now preparing for a state-wide general strike if Governor Walker’s bill is passed by the state legislature.

While this struggle has only just begun and is far from finished, it marks an important turning point in the U.S. -- the class struggle is back!

Wisconsin workers have also received solidarity from a place where the workers' mass struggle recently led to the overthrow of an unpopular leader: Egypt.

On Monday, Kamal Abbas of Egypt's Center for Trade Unions and Workers Services, a participant in the 1989 strike at the Helwan Steel works, which was brutally repressed by the now-defunct Hosni Mubarak regime, wrote:

"We want you to know that we stand on your side. Stand firm and don't waiver. Don't give up on your rights. Victory always belongs to the people who stand firm and demand their just rights...

"Today is the day of the American workers. We salute you American workers! You will be victorious. Victory belongs to all the people of the world, who are fighting against exploitation, and for their just Rights.”

The revolutionary events in the Middle East have clearly had a big impact on the consciousness of workers and youth everywhere. The capitalist system connects every country into the world market, but it also creates a world working class that shares the same interests.

The victories of workers in one country are an inspiration to workers everywhere! The main lesson to be drawn from the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions is that mass action, with the working class at the head of the movement is the way forward. This is the way forward here too!

2/25/11

Being by Yourself: Thirty-Eight

Alert!

We're sentenced for life. With a preposition ending in.

If I don't do my push-ups I become depressed. By working out my mental state I stay fit. I'm alert to the dangers around me.

The scales tip and fall from. One leads to anxiety. The other's euphoric.

Too Much Euphoria

I'm after the ability to endure well. Like thought running fast. It becomes impossible to lie low for a while. Strung out on speed. Extremely slow and boring.

What's it going to be?

I saw the backward psychiatrist recently. I explained my predicament and asked for medication. You're the first I've had to ease the euphoria.

Panic Attacks Me

But that's the very problem. I'm standing to attention all the time. I need to fall out.

I want to be calmed, not broken. I toy with the joy of losing control. Until I do, that is.

There's ecstasy in chaos. No doubt. But once you've realised the loss of self, panic attacks.

Time in Torpor

Can't you see I'm agitated. I need some time in torpor. This wildness goes to my head.It's all very well for you down special brew in public spaces.

Have I got a licence to take narcotics? As it is, mine's a caffeine and codeine lifestyle. I can't tolerate the side-effects of alcohol.

I don't mind constipation after a lot of distress. Call the contractor. I want to change from wired-up to disconnected.

Not Enough Lubricant

Anyway, what are these dangers I'm alert to? I'm hardly being preyed on. I've no fear of falling from grace.

Yet this dreadful felling. What's the cause?

Nothing in particular. I'm living too long to think about it. The coping mechanism seizes up. Too much analysis. Not enough lubricant.

Being by Yourself: Thirty-Nine

The Text Starts Here

Class War Intensifies in the US

Source

The ongoing mass protests in Wisconsin underscore the utter ruthlessness of the ruling class in its determination to drive down the living conditions of workers, not only in that state but throughout the United States.

The political reality that is ncovered up by the American media is the brazen and brutal use of power by an entire social class.

The privileged financial elite in the Us is prepared to use violence to achieve its ends. This kind of language is similar to what would have been used by Mubarak in Egypt or Gaddafi in Libya as they prepared a brutal crackdown.

The attacks on state workers aren't just a series of disconnected episodes, but as part of a broader struggle to crush the working class and turn back the clock by decades, in terms of their social rights.

This attack is being waged in states throughout the country, as well as by the federal government, under both Democratic and Republican Party leadership.

Workers must understand of the nature of the conflict they find themselves in. They face a ruling elite that has declared war.

While the ruling class is politically mobilized, with two parties working consciously to achieve its ends, workers have yet to build mass organizations capable of countering this attack and advancing the interests of the vast majority of the population.

American trade unions are incapable of defending themselves, let alone the working class. In Wisconsin, officials of the state employee and teachers’ unions openly embrace all the cuts demanded by Walker in the income, benefits and workplace rights of the workers.

They are balking only at those demands—ending the dues check-off and automatic union recognition—that threaten their own incomes.

Decades of labor-management collaboration, anti-Communism, and denial of the class struggle—in which the very term “working class” was banned and replaced by “middle class”—have separated the interests of the trade unions from those of the working class.

As the ruling elite is waging a ruthless struggle to defend its ill-gotten wealth, the unions are irreconcilably hostile to a socialist struggle based on the expropriation of the financial aristocracy and the coming to power of the working class.

Instead, they tie the working class politically to the Democratic Party, a big business party whose representatives, no less than the Republicans, defend the profits of the giant corporations and the wealth of the ultra-rich.

In state after state, Democratic governors are making the same demands on public employees as Walker in Wisconsin, only preferring to use the unions to help extract concessions from the workers.

Indeed, the Obama administration is one of the main agents of the financial aristocracy’s war on the workers. As his administration pours trillions into bank bailouts and bonuses for Wall Street executives, he adamantly refuses to help bankrupt state and local governments.

He is also imposing wage freezes on federal workers, while preparing a budget with hundreds of billions of dollars in cuts aimed overwhelmingly at working people.

Three years into the biggest crisis of the capitalist system since the Great Depression, the American political system has revealed its class character in the most brazen possible fashion.

The Democrats and Republicans rescue billionaires and corporations, while demonizing schoolteachers and street sweepers as “overpaid” and “privileged.”

For millions of working people, the events in Wisconsin are a wake-up call. The working class must recognize—as its enemies surely do—that it faces a serious and protracted struggle.

The conflicts in Wisconsin, and in other states and cities throughout the country, are not separate and isolated events, but part of an ongoing class war.

Egypt's "Revolutionaries" Must Overthrow Neoliberalism

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To describe blatant exploitation of the political system for personal gain as corruption misses the forest for the trees. Such exploitation is surely an outrage against Egyptian citizens, but calling it corruption suggests that the problem is aberrations from a system that would otherwise function smoothly.

If this were the case then the crimes of the Mubarak regime could be attributed simply to bad character: change the people and the problems go away. But the real problem with the regime was not necessarily that high-ranking members of the government were thieves in an ordinary sense.

They did not necessarily steal directly from the treasury. Rather they were enriched through a conflation of politics and business under the guise of privatization. This was less a violation of the system than business as usual. Mubarak’s Egypt, in a nutshell, was a quintessential neoliberal state.

What is neoliberalism? The eminent social geographer David Harvey describes it as "a theory of political economic practices that proposes that human well-being can best be advanced by liberating individual entrepreneurial freedoms and skills within an institutional framework.

This is characterised by strong private property rights, free markets, and free trade." Neoliberal states guarantee, by force if necessary, the "proper functioning" of markets.

Where markets do not exist (for example, in the use of land, water, education, health care, social security, or environmental pollution), then the state should create them.

Guaranteeing the sanctity of markets is supposed to be the limit of legitimate state functions, and state interventions should always be subordinate to markets. All human behavior, and not just the production of goods and services, can be reduced to market transactions.

Mubarak’s Egypt was considered to be at the forefront of instituting neoliberal policies in the Middle East (not un-coincidentally, so was Ben Ali’s Tunisia).

Secondly, the reality of Egypt’s political economy during the Mubarak era was very different than the rhetoric, as was the case in every other neoliberal state from Chile to Indonesia.

While Egypt was lauded by institutions such as the International Monetary Fund as a beacon of free-market success, the standard tools for measuring economies gave a grossly inadequate picture of the Egyptian economy. In reality the unfettering of markets and agenda of privatization were applied unevenly at best.

The only people for whom Egyptian neoliberalism worked "by the book" were the most vulnerable members of society, and their experience with neoliberalism was not a pretty picture.

Organised labor was fiercely suppressed. The public education and the health care systems were gutted by a combination of neglect and privatization. Much of the population suffered stagnant or falling wages relative to inflation.

Official unemployment was estimated at approximately 9.4% last year (and much higher for the youth who spearheaded the January 25th Revolution), and about 20% of the population is said to live below a poverty line defined as $2 per day per person.

For the wealthy, the rules were very different. Egypt did not so much shrink its public sector, as neoliberal doctrine would have it, as it reallocated public resources for the benefit of a small and already affluent elite.

Privatization provided windfalls for politically well-connected individuals who could purchase state-owned assets for much less than their market value, or monopolise rents from such diverse sources as tourism and foreign aid.

Ultimately the intense speculation about how much money the Mubarak regime stole, and how much the people can expect to pump back into the nation, is a red herring.

If the figure turns out to be $50 billion or $500 billion, it will not matter, if Egypt remains a neoliberal state dedicated (nominally) to free-market fundamentalism for the poor, while creating new privatised assets that can be recycled to political insiders for the rich.

The World Is Changing; The US Isn't

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You'd expect that a ruling elite, observing such earth-shaking developments in North Africa and the Middle East would rethink its situation? After all, if humanity can suddenly rouse itself this way in the face of the armed power of state after state, then what's really possible on this planet of ours?

It would seem like a good moment for Washington -- which, since September 12, 2001, has been remarkably clueless about real developments on this planet and repeatedly miscalculated the nature of global power -- to step back and recalibrate.

As it happens, there's no evidence it's doing so. In fact, that may be beyond Washington’s present capabilities, no matter how many billions of dollars it pours into “intelligence.”

And by “Washington,” I mean not just the Obama administration, or the Pentagon, or our military commanders, or the vast intelligence bureaucracy, but all those pundits and think-tankers who swarm the capital, and the media that reports on them all.

It’s as if the cast of characters that makes up “Washington” now lives in some kind of echo chamber in which it can only hear itself talking.

As a result, Washington still seems remarkably determined to play out the string on an era that is all too swiftly passing into the history books.

While many have noticed the Obama administration's hapless struggle to catch up to events in the Middle East, even as it clings to a familiar coterie of grim autocrats and oil sheiks

Imagine this: for the first time in history, a movement of Arabs is inspiring Americans in Wisconsin and possibly elsewhere. Right now, in other words, there is something new under the sun and we didn’t invent it. It’s not ours.

We’re not -- catch your breath here -- even the good guys. They were the ones calling for freedom and democracy in the streets of Middle Eastern cities, while the U.S. performed another of those indelicate imbalances in favor of the thugs we’ve long supported in the Middle East.

History is now being reshaped in such a way that the previously major events of the latter years of the foreshortened American century -- the Vietnam War, the end of the Cold War, even 9/11 -- may all be dwarfed by this new moment.

And yet, inside the Washington echo chamber, new thoughts about such developments dawn slowly. Meanwhile, our beleaguered, confused, disturbed country, with its aging, disintegrating infrastructure, is ever less the model for anyone anywhere (though again you wouldn’t know that here).

Oblivious to events, Washington clearly intends to fight its perpetual wars and garrison its perpetual bases, creating yet more blowback and destabilizing yet more places, until it eats itself alive.

This is the definition of all-American decline in an unexpectedly new world. Yes, teeth may be in jugulars, but whose teeth in whose jugulars remains open to speculation, whatever General Petraeus thinks.

As the sun peeks over the horizon of the Arab world, dusk is descending on America. In the penumbra, Washington plays out the cards it once dealt itself, some from the bottom of the deck, even as other players are leaving the table.

Meanwhile, somewhere out there in the land, you can just hear the faint howls. It’s feeding time and the scent of blood is in the air. Beware!

Naive Americans Believe Racism Is Over

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Contrary to the tendency of standard televised Black History presentations and contemporary conventional white wisdom to treat racial disadvantage and racism as a yesterday phenomenon, the unpleasantness of Black History and American History’s intersection is not over.

A rich body of scholarly and journalistic evidence and readily observable black experience demonstrates the persistence of deep structural and institutional racist barriers to black advancement and racial equality.

Rcism is still endemic, despite the real but limited victories of the civil rights movement and the election of a black president. Those barriers include the following:

* Endemic racial bias in real estate and home lending that reflects and empowers the reluctance of whites to live next door to blacks. Racial discrimination in lending is systematic and occurs regularly.

* Unequal incomes between black and white families, with black workers earning sixty cents for every dollar made by whites.13 Past research demonstrates that this inequality has nothing to do with black “laziness.”

* Systemic racial residential and school segregation.

* A critical shortage of affordable housing in predominantly white opportunity-rich communities and the systematic, historic efforts on the part of lenders, white communities, and the government throughout the post–World War II period to deny black families access to affluent, nonsegregated suburban living.

* The disproportionate flight of capital and jobs from predominantly black communities, which has eroded former industrial urban cores and caused the rise of the “jobless” black inner-city neighborhood.

* Historic and widespread public and private underinvestment in black communities.

*Historic and persistent endemic racial discrimination in hiring and job training.

* The radical growth of mass incarceration and the criminalization of adult black males, one in three of whom are marked for life by the crippling stigma of a felony record, a reflection of profound anti-black bias in the waging of the “war on drugs” inside the United States.

* The refusal of many employers to hire people with felony records and the widespread employer assumption that black job applicants are felons, which together amount to an employment death sentence for millions of black Americans.

* The wide and overlapping number of barriers to advancement that are set up by felony records and prison histories – barriers so high and difficult to overcome that the Ohio State law professor Michelle Alexander has recently referred to felony marking as “The New Jim Crow.”

* The aggressive pursuit of prison construction by many rural white communities and legislators in the promotion of a form of “economic development” that depends on black criminalization.

* The funding of schools largely on the basis of local property wealth, which perpetuates existing race-based inequalities in the realm of school and teacher quality.

* The hyper-concentration of black children in troubled, high-poverty, and under-performing schools.

* The extensive reliance on high-stakes standardized tests and related zero-tolerance, quasi-militarized disciplinary procedures in predominantly black schools.

* Endemic metropolitan sprawl, funded by massive state and national government subsidies that help create harshly race- and class-segregated patterns of development pitting affluent white suburbs against poorer and blacker inner cities and “inner-ring” suburbs.

Is the US Preparing for Military Intervention in Libya?

Source

Libya is not like Egypt. Moammar al-Gadhafi, has not been an imperialist puppet like Hosni Mubarak. For many years, Gadhafi was allied to countries and movements fighting imperialism.

On taking power in 1969 through a military coup, he nationalized Libya’s oil and used much of that money to develop the Libyan economy. Conditions of life improved dramatically for the people.

For that, the imperialists were determined to grind Libya down. The U.S. actually launched air strikes on Tripoli and Benghazi in 1986 that killed 60 people, including Gadhafi’s infant daughter – which is rarely mentioned by the corporate media. Devastating sanctions were imposed by both the U.S. and the U.N. to wreck the Libyan economy.

After the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003 and leveled much of Baghdad with a bombing campaign that the Pentagon exultantly called “shock and awe,” Gadhafi tried to ward off further threatened aggression on Libya by making big political and economic concessions to the imperialists.

He opened the economy to foreign banks and corporations; he agreed to IMF demands for “structural adjustment,” privatizing many state-owned enterprises and cutting state subsidies on necessities like food and fuel.

The Libyan people are suffering from the same high prices and unemployment that underlie the rebellions elsewhere and that flow from the worldwide capitalist economic crisis.

There can be no doubt that the struggle sweeping the Arab world for political freedom and economic justice has also struck a chord in Libya. There can be no doubt that discontent with the Gadhafi regime is motivating a significant section of the population.

However, it is important for radicals to know that many of the people being promoted in the West as leaders of the opposition are long-time agents of imperialism.

The BBC on Feb. 22 showed footage of crowds in Benghazi pulling down the green flag of the republic and replacing it with the flag of the overthrown monarch King Idris – who had been a puppet of U.S. and British imperialism.

The Western media are basing a great deal of their reporting on supposed facts provided by the exile group National Front for the Salvation of Libya, which was trained and financed by the U.S. CIA. Google the front’s name plus CIA and you will find hundreds of references.

The Wall Street Journal in a Feb. 23 editorial wrote that “The U.S. and Europe should help Libyans overthrow the Gadhafi regime.”

There is no talk in the board rooms or the corridors of Washington about intervening to help the people of Kuwait or Saudi Arabia or Bahrain overthrow their dictatorial rulers.

Even with all the lip service being paid to the mass struggles rocking the region right now, that would be unthinkable. As for Egypt and Tunisia, the imperialists are pulling every string they can to get the masses off the streets.

There was no talk of U.S. intervention to help the Palestinian people of Gaza when thousands died from being blockaded, bombed and invaded by Israel. Just the opposite. The U.S. intervened to prevent condemnation of the Zionist settler state.

Imperialism’s interest in Libya is not hard to find. While Libya is Africa’s third-largest producer of oil, it has the continent’s largest proven reserves – 44.3 billion barrels.

It is a country with a relatively small population but the potential to produce huge profits for the giant oil companies. That’s how the super-rich look at it, and that’s what underlies their professed concern for the people’s democratic rights in Libya.

Getting concessions out of Gadhafi is not enough for the imperialist oil barons. They want a government that they can own outright, lock, stock and barrel.

They have never forgiven Gadhafi for overthrowing the monarchy and nationalizing the oil. Fidel Castro of Cuba in his column “Reflections” takes note of imperialism’s hunger for oil and warns that the U.S. is laying the basis for military intervention in Libya.

2/24/11

Not Enough Lubricant

Anyway, what are these dangers I'm alert to? I'm hardly being preyed on. I've no fear of falling from grace.

Yet this dreadful felling. What's the cause?

Nothing in particular. I'm living too long to think about it. The coping mechanism seizes up. Too much analysis. Not enough lubricant.

The Text Starts Here

America's Far-Right Paranoia

Source

We seem to be returning to the right-wing “paranoid style” in American politics. The generation and dissemination of these ideas and style is proceeding at a record pace thanks in great measure to the spectacular expansion of right-wing media.

Numerous deeply ignorant, conspiratorial, and paranoid ideas have buzzed around the margins of the American right for decades, of course, before and since the McCarthy era.

Such ideas have now have resurfaced and gained legitimacy in the dominant political culture like no time since the 1950s. There are at least four basic reasons for this.

First, the Republican Party continues to move rightward and no longer seems willing or able to reign in its more extreme elements.

In the early 1960s, Princeton historian Sean Willentz notes, “the [John] Birch [Society] …provoked deep anxiety among conservatives, who feared being perceived as paranoids and conspiracy-mongers.”

That fear has disappeared on the part of much of the current Republican elite, which rushes in many cases to align itself with “the Tea Party,” which, according to one poll in the fall of 2010, garnered support from more than 70 percent of Republicans.

Second, top Democrats seem unwilling or unable to denounce the authoritarian threat on the right. In a 1961 speech in Los Angeles, Democratic president John F. Kennedy clearly denounced those “discordant voices of extremism” that “equate[d] the Democratic Party with the welfare state, the welfare state with socialism, and socialism with Communism.

There has been no such clear and explicit denunciation of the new right paranoia from Obama or other top Democrats on the whole.

Obama’s White House [in October 2010] is still struggling to make sense of its enemies. In the absence of forthright leadership, on both the right and the left, the job of standing up to extremists appears to have been left to the electorate.

Third, a powerful right-wing communications empire arose in the late 1980s and now holds major propaganda strongholds operating from within the very heart of mainstream media.

Fox News and the vast talk radio network broadcast the delusions of hard-right propagandists and their false– and rancid-populist paranoia and rage.

With all due respect to the frothing reactionism of Father Coughlin in the 1930s, Joe McCarthy’ short-lived televised bully pulpit in the 1950s, and Mort Downey in the 1980s, there’s just never been anything like the current “right wing noise machine” in American media and politics culture.

Finally, late 20th and early 21st century America is dangerously bereft of a really existing relevant Left capable of countering right-wing stereotypes.

One that can push the Democrats to enact effective and progressive programs that might keep right-wing critiques at bay, and capturing legitimate popular anger that is dangerously captured and misdirected by right-wing activists and personalities.

Libya, Oil & American Aggression

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There are growing fears in Washington that Gaddafi will not succeed in putting down the uprising. At the same time, US officials are concerned that there is no vetted opposition to take his place and quell the struggle of the masses.

They are not sure who will end up in power and in control of the country’s oil wealth. Unlike in Egypt, Washington cannot pull strings in a US-armed and trained military to attempt the reconstitution of a regime capable of defending US imperialist interests.

There was an element in Obama’s remarks of treading water, playing for time as events continue to unfold. Noticeably, the US president’s remarks included no call for Gaddafi’s ouster.

Hillary Clinton said on Tuesday that “everything will be on the table” in terms of the US response to the events in Libya. It's phrase that echoed the rhetoric of the Bush administration in its frequent threats of military action against Iran.

The American administration is being pushed towards some kind of action by critical economic imperatives.

Libya has grabbed the attention of Wall Street far more directly than the previous uprisings. The stock market has seen a near-300 point fall over the past two days, and oil prices have risen to over $100 a barrel.

These concerns found expression Wednesday on the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal, accusing the Obama administration of “dithering."

The paper declared that the US was presented with a unique “opportunity,” which included “stopping a bloodbath, preventing a refugee crisis, improving energy security and putting an end to a long-time threat to international law and order.”

In short, the Wall Street Journal proposes regime change. The newspaper suggested that an intervention could begin under a humanitarian pretext, bringing in “medical supplies only the West can provide” and threatening to “destroy the Libyan air force.”

Any US military intervention in Libya would not be directed at promoting democracy, defending human rights or liberating the Libyan people.

Whatever attempt is made to cloak American action in humanitarian garb, the purpose of the US armed forces is to defend the strategic interests of US imperialism and protect the profits and property of the American ruling elite.

Like the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, any incursion into Libya would represent a reassertion of neocolonial domination over an oppressed country.

Whether such an intervention is imminent is impossible to say. What is clear, however, is that Washington is growing increasingly desperate over the unraveling of its position in the Middle East, and particularly the threat of a disruption of oil supplies. Desperate rulers are prone to desperate measures.

Obama's Weak Response to Middle-East Uprisings

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The Obama administration’s handling of the changing realities in the Arab world will not win prizes, even if its reluctance to abandon Mubarak, the regional linchpin of its Middle East policies, is rational.

It will have to act fast if it is to restore some of its lost credibility in the newly emerging Middle East, particularly given its ineptness in dealing with Netanyahu’s xenophobic government.

The administration’s best chance of restoring some of its lost credibility may lie here: in the attempt to rescue a functioning and sovereign state from an unyielding Israeli occupation now on the verge of swallowing Palestine whole.

If the US were to succeed and a viable Palestinian state emerge, not only would America’s influence in the region grow and Iran’s be weakened, but the major cause of Arab and wider international hostility to Israel – and of popular Arab support for Iran – would be greatly diminished.

Given the record of failed US peace initiatives, is such a rescue operation even conceivable?

Can an American president finally abandon the peace process for the fraud it has been, present the parties with a detailed framework for a permanent status solution and obtain Israeli and Palestinian acceptance? The answer is yes, for two important reasons.

First, the recent upheavals have dramatically increased the cost to American interests of the country’s current policies in the Middle East.

Not only does it exceed by far the cost to any administration of admitting the truth about Israel’s culpability for the deadlocked peace talks: it’s a cost to America’s interests that even congressmen in thrall to the Israel lobby may now find excessive.

No one has suggested the US punish Israel in order to get its way. It need only cease to reward it – with unprecedented military, diplomatic and economic gifts – for its indifference to the damage its sabotaging of a two-state solution has done not just to the Palestinians but to America’s national interests and its own.

Second, Israel’s own cost-benefit calculations have changed. Now that it is on the verge of reverting to an earlier isolation – its peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan are at risk, international assaults on its legitimacy are newly underway – a government that rejects the urgent demands of its only remaining friend will not survive for long.

At this historic turning point, a president who honestly and fully informs the American people of the likely consequences of US leadership being abandoned in a part of the world so critical to America’s national security will have their support – even if he goes so far as to put forward a framework for a two-state accord that ends the conflict between Israel and Palestine.

Libya & Western Colonialism

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For the last four decades, Gaddafi has based the stability of his rule on a careful balancing act among more than 100 tribes and clans, especially the 30 influential among them, that pride themselves on playing an important role in freeing Libya from colonialism.

Libya has a long and tragic history with colonialism. Italy seized control in 1911, carrying out 30 years of war against a rebellious people.

This culminated in the fascist regime of Benito Mussolini employing aerial bombardments, gas, concentration camps and deliberate starvation to wipe out nearly half of the population.

In the aftermath of World War II, Washington attempted to turn the country into its own platform for asserting control over the territories previously dominated by the European colonial powers.

It established Wheelus Air Force Base in Libya as one of its key strategic overseas facilities and secured lucrative deals for Standard Oil and other US oil companies to loot the country’s natural resources.

The coming to power of Gaddafi and his Free Officers movement in 1969 overturned this relationship for a period. But, like the bourgeois nationalist movements throughout the Middle East, the Libyan colonel’s “Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya” proved incapable of resolving any of the historic tasks required to overcome the legacy of colonialism and imperialist oppression.

After 40 years in power, the US oil companies are back, the Libyan security forces collaborate with the CIA and the “revolutionary” regime has degenerated into a nepotistic kleptocracy that is murdering its own people.

Workers in the United States and Europe must not allow themselves to be drawn in by the attempts of their own ruling elites to exploit outrage over the atrocities carried out by a regime in its death throes to justify military intervention.

The watchword must be: the greatest enemies of the people of Libya and the Middle East are the US and European imperialists.

Overthrowing the dictatorship is the task not of imperialism, which is prepared to pursue its domination of Libya with or without Gaddafi, but of the Libyan masses.

Jobless Recovery & Marx’s Law of Capitalist Accumulation

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The downside of advancing technologies and globalization have been the primary forces depressing wages and diminishing opportunities.

Especially for those jobs that are fundamentally routine and repetitive in nature.

The risk that semi-intelligent machines may destroy so many jobs that this trend could literally destabilize the whole society.

This analysis confirms Karl Marx’s analysis of capitalism. He showed that as capital grows larger and larger, it becomes more and more productive and has relatively less need for labor.

This law described by Marx is now manifesting itself in America with a vengeance.

The data theoretically and practically important to the working class is the fact that the capitalist recovery — that is, the recovery of business and profits for the capitalists — has reached the stage of economic expansion.

In the fourth quarter of 2010, the capitalist economy grew at a rate of 3.2 percent. This is an improvement over the previous quarter.

But most importantly, the gross domestic product, or the sum of all goods and services produced, reached $13.38 trillion, a new record and higher than the peak in the last upturn. But jobs have not — repeat, not — come back.

Rather, the capitalist economy is growing and jobs are disappearing; unemployed workers are disappearing from the statistics; mass suffering is growing beneath the surface.

The true situation goes unreported. Capitalism has reached a point at which the job market is shrinking as capital grows. This creates a permanent and severe crisis for the masses and for the system itself.

The only way out of this crisis is for the working class and the oppressed in the U.S. to follow in the footsteps of the Egyptian masses who overthrew their dictator, Hosni Mubarak. A very common slogan during that rebellion was “Enough!”

Workers here have had enough unemployment, enough foreclosures and evictions, enough speed-up, loss of wages and benefits, layoffs, hunger and poverty. We have had enough immigrant bashing, police brutality, imprisonment, war, occupation and intervention.

Workers are sick and tired of seeing the bankers take in hundreds of billions of dollars while we just try to survive. Fighting back against capitalism is the only thing left to do.

2/23/11

Libya: Will The West Invade on "Humanitarian Grounds?"

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Latin America's leftist leaders have found common cause with Gadhafi over his opposition to U.S. foreign policy and sympathized with his revolutionary rhetoric.

Gadhafi has responded over the years by awarding the Moammar Gadhafi International Human Rights Prize to Castro, Ortega, Chavez and Evo Morales of Bolivia.

While the United States, Europe and the U.N. Security Council have forcefully denounced the crackdown, Ortega has been Gadhafi's staunchest ally.

He said in remarks excerpted by state radio Tuesday that he had kept in communication with the Libyan leader, expressing his solidarity over the "moments of tension."

"There is looting of businesses now, there is destruction. That is terrible," Ortega said. He added that he told Gadhafi "difficult moments put loyalty to the test."

Castro, meanwhile, said in a column published Tuesday by Cuban state media that it is too early to criticize Gadhafi.

"You can agree or not with Gadhafi," Castro said. "The world has been invaded by all sorts of news ... We have to wait the necessary time to know with rigor how much is fact or lie."

But he did urge protests of something that he says is planned: A U.S.-led invasion of the North African nation aimed at controlling its oil.

"The government of the United States is not concerned at all about peace in Libya and it will not hesitate to give NATO the order to invade that rich country, perhaps in a question of hours or very short days," Castro wrote.

"An honest person will always be against any injustice committed against any people in the world," Castro said. "And the worst of those at this instant would be to keep silent before the crime that NATO is preparing to commit against the Libyan people."

While Chavez has not commented publicly on the unrest in Libya, Venezuela's foreign minister issued a statement Monday saying he had phoned his Libyan counterpart to express hopes that Libya can find "a peaceful solution to its difficulties without the intervention of imperialism, whose interests in the region have been affected in recent times."

The American Dream Becomes a Nightmare

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Buried deep beneath the stories about executive bonuses, the stock market surge and the economy’s agonizingly slow road to recovery is the all-but-silent suffering of the many millions of Americans who, economically, are going down for the count.

A 46-year-old teacher in Charlotte, Vt., who has been unable to find a full-time job and is weighed down with debt, wrote to his U.S. senator, Bernie Sanders:

“I am financially ruined. I find myself depressed and demoralized and my confidence is shattered. Worst of all, as I hear more and more talk about deficit reduction and further layoffs, I have the agonizing feeling that the worst may not be behind us.”

Similar stories of hardship and desolation can be found throughout Vermont and the rest of the nation. The true extent of the economic devastation, and the enormous size of that portion of the population that is being left behind, has not yet been properly acknowledged.

What is being allowed to happen to those being pushed out or left out of the American mainstream is the most important and potentially most dangerous issue facing the country.

How bad have things become? According to the National Employment Law Project, a trend is growing among employers to not even consider the applications of the unemployed for jobs that become available.

Among examples offered by the project were a phone manufacturer that posted a job announcement with the message: “No Unemployed Candidate Will Be Considered At All,” and a Texas electronics company that announced online that it would “not consider/review anyone NOT currently employed regardless of the reason.”

This is the environment that is giving rise to the worker protests in Wisconsin, Ohio and elsewhere.

The ferment is not just about public employees and their unions. Researchers at Rutgers University found last year that more than 70 percent of respondents to a national survey had either lost a job, or had a relative or close friend who had lost a job.

That is beyond ominous. The great promise of the United States, its primary offering to its citizens and the world, is at grave risk.

Israel: Middle-East Pariah

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The challenge to Israel of the revolutionary changes now underway may well be existential, depending on how it responds to these events. With Mubarak gone, Israel may once again be a pariah nation in the region.

Netanyahu’s government has already proved that even if Zionism is not racism, Zionists can be racists.

By denying Palestinians a state of their own and bringing about an apartheid state, it may yet succeed in persuading the world that Zionism as practised by Israel is indeed no different from the settler colonialism that existed in South Africa.

Israel’s peace treaty with Egypt is what ruled out a successful military challenge by the other countries in the region. Egypt has by far the most effective military force in the Arab Middle East, and no Arab military challenge to Israel would have been dared without Egypt’s participation.

A change of government in Egypt that brings to an end Mubarak’s policy of supporting America’s coddling of Israel will seriously undermine Israel’s strategic situation.

Moreover, Jordan’s peace treaty with Israel is unlikely to survive if Egypt’s treaty is abrogated – Jordan wouldn’t want to risk being the only Arab country to maintain normal relations with Israel.

No matter what further changes there may be in the region, developments in Tunisia and Egypt have already drastically curtailed the ability of surviving Arab regimes to move towards a rapprochement with Israel.

It is unlikely that the Arab Peace Initiative, disdained by Israel for nearly a decade, will remain on the table. No surviving Arab regime will dare challenge the popular rage against Israel for the humiliations it inflicts on the Palestinians.

While the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not the prime cause of the current upheavals, the failure of Arab regimes to halt Palestinian dispossession is not far from the top of the list of popular grievances.

Egypt: US Sponsored Coup d'Etat?

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In Egypt, following Mubarak's demise, the military machine prevails. Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, Egypt’s defense minister, commander in chief of the Armed Forces and since February 11, 2011 head of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, is the de facto Head of State, the Vice presidency is held by Omar Suleiman. Both men are US appointees.

Tantawi has developed a longstanding relationship to the US military, at the highest levels, from the time when he was in command of allied forces during the Gulf war in 1991. Ahmed Shafik, a former commander in Chief of the Air Force occupies the position of Prime Minister.

The military not only has the mandate to implement democracy, several opposition leaders including Mohammed Al Baradei have called upon the Egyptian population to support the military.

The US supported civil society opposition (which includes Kefaya, the April 6 Movement) is in liaison with both the military and the US embassy. They are reported to have "met with senior members of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces."

The protesters said the generals voiced their "sincere intention to preserve the gains of the revolution."

Sincere intention? Both Suleiman and Tantawi, now in charge of "the transition to democracy" on behalf of the protest movement, are Washington's new military henchmen.

So much for democracy. Both men are responsible for carrying out torture on behalf of the CIA under the agency's "extraordinary rendition" program.

While one set of opposition figures battled itself, a group of seven young, middle-class democracy activists said that they had met with senior members of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces.

The protesters said the generals voiced their "sincere intention to preserve the gains of the revolution."

Sincere intention? Both Suleiman and Tantawi, now in charge of "the transition to democracy" on behalf of the protest movement, are Washington's new military henchmen.

So much for democracy. Both men are responsible for carrying out torture on behalf of the CIA under the agency's "extraordinary rendition" program.

Egypt was the most common destination for suspects that are sent by the U.S. for interrogation and ultimately torture. Extraordinary rendition is torture by proxy, sometimes, or outsourcing torture.

Sometimes CIA agents actually came with them, and they're in the interrogation room. Most of the time, they're outside the interrogation room so that after the detainee is tortured, the CIA can come in and ask them questions.

The United States sends Egypt $1.5 billion per year, most of which goes to the military. And yet all along the United States has known about these egregious human rights violations by the Egyptian government.

We funded the whole government and the police who were committing the acts. Omar Suleiman, the vice president, was the linchpin for Egyptian torture when the CIA sent prisoners to Egypt in its extraordinary rendition program.

And he actually committed some of the worst torture himself. He oversaw the torture by the secret police, and yet he's a very close friend of the U.S. government, including the Obama administration.

Washington is the puppetmaster, which controls both the military machine as well as Egypt's civil society opposition. The terms of "negotiation" between the representatives of the protest movement and the military have already been determined in Washington DC.

America Is out of Work

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There is no life in our jobs market. The recession officially ended in June 2009, but the Great Jobs Recession continues apace. Not since the government began to measure the business cycle has a deep recession been marked by such high levels of unemployment and underemployment, and followed by such anemic job growth.

More jobs were lost in the recession of 2007-09 than in the previous four recessions combined — and this time it is an agonizingly slow business to replace them.”

While the headline unemployment figure is down, the number of ‘marginally attached’ increased by 300,000, and the decline in the rate from 9.4 to 9 percent is primarily because these workers have just dropped out of the market. But they haven’t dropped out of life.

Of the 900,000 to 1 million jobs claimed to have been created in 2010, several hundred thousand were temporary government jobs, like those collecting data for the U.S. Census.

There are a number of issues that he considers crucial. Among them:

* The number of full-time jobs is down by roughly 10 million (his number).

* The number of long-term unemployed, over 27 weeks, is the highest since records have been kept.

* One-third of new jobs in the last year have been from temporary help services which “reflect businesses trying to cut the benefit costs of full-time employment and using just-in-time hiring and part-time hiring to improve the bottom line.

* Real hourly pay dropped in the first four quarters since the recession officially ended, instead of the typical 2.5 percent rise during the first four quarters after the last 10 recessions.

* State and local governments, which account for 15 percent of all jobs, are in “downsizing mode.”

Longer-term trends have accelerated in ways depressing for the American worker. There is more outsourcing abroad, more automating, more conversion of full-time jobs to temps and contracts, and a stagnant median wage.

Information technologies are advancing dramatically, doubling every couple of years, and increasingly are being employed to eliminate jobs of all types.

This underscores the downside of advancing technologies, which together with globalization have been the primary forces depressing wages and diminishing opportunities, especially for those jobs that are fundamentally routine and repetitive in nature.

The risk that semi-intelligent machines may destroy so many jobs that this trend could literally destabilize the whole society is one of the greatest challenges facing governments in all countries as they seek to find work for the millions of graduates coming into a labor market that has nothing for them.

Let’s repeat that again: “could literally destabilize the whole society.” This sounds very much like the beginnings an Egypt-style uprising if capitalism continues along its present course.

2/22/11

Bahrain & the Proxy War Between Iran & Saudi Arabia

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Bahrain is the privileged scenario of a proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia. Shi'ite Iran is right across the Gulf.

Saudi Arabia is on the other side of the causeway, boasting a Shi'ite majority population in its eastern provinces - where the oil is. No wonder Saudi Arabia props up the al-Khalifa with tons of cash and security.

For decades, even before the Islamic Revolution, Iran has insisted that the Shi'ites in Bahrain are Iranians because the Safavid dynasty used to occupy both margins of the Persian Gulf. Tehran basically still considers Bahrain as an Iranian province.

Women in Bahrain are closer to women in Tehran than to Saudi. They wear traditional clothes and in many cases not a full black chador; they drive their own sports utility vehicles; nobody stops them or questions them; they meet boys and men in restaurants, shops and cinemas.

There are plenty of schools and a good national university - although most women prefer to study in the US or in Lebanon. At the same time, both Iraq's Grand Ayatollah Sistani and Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei are very popular in Bahrain.

So we have a tiny Gulf kingdom where the majority, 65% Shi'ites, do not even enjoy minority rights, with a king who can veto what he wants and cancel parliament at whim, living off a small oil industry, a booming finance sector controlled by Sunnis and foreigners, and strategic rent so Washington can harbor its expensive Gulf-patrolling naval toys.

No wonder this was bound to explode - and it will.

The medieval House of Saud simply cannot contemplate a more democratic, Shi'ite-represented Bahrain - even though it would never become a slave of Tehran. Arab Shi'ites are very independent, they consider themselves Arabs first, and Shi'ites second. Most don't follow ayatollahs.

The key problem is that Shi'ites defying the powers that be in Bahrain would seduce all other minority Gulf Arab Shi'ites, from Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates to Saudi Arabia itself. And one thing is certain; a really representative Shi'ite-dominated government would mean goodbye to the US 5th Fleet.

This could get really messy - and it certainly will. If protests do reach an Egyptian fever level - crackdown or not - Saudi Arabia will enter the fray to keep the al-Khalifa in power. Rumors swirl that Saudi police has already crossed the causeway to combat protests.

The Saudis, like obedient vassals, after all are fighting for the interests of the US naval base. And the circus must go on - there's a Formula 1 race coming. One thing is certain; Shi'ites will put up one hell of a fight.

America's Right-Wing & Media Manipulation

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A big part of the right-wing frenzy in the US is a result of media manipulation. Modern democratic theory points out the standard dichotomy between an ignorant citizenry (bad for democracy) and an informed one (good for democracy).

But many citizens and voters fall into neither category. They are neither well-informed nor merely uninformed. They are something worse than ignorant – they are misinformed.

They believe objectively false things that have been planted in their heads and senses of self esteem by extremely powerful communications and propaganda institutions like Time Warner, Comcast, and the News Corporation.

The most relevant media source for right wingers is of course Fox News, which the preponderant majority of self-identified Tea Party supporters cite as by far and away their main source of political information.

Along with right-wing talk radio (I still remember Sean Hannity screaming on Election Day in November 2008 that voters had “three hours left to stop the socialist takeover of this great country by voting for John McCain”), far right newspapers like Murdoch’s New York Post and right wing politicos themselves systematically foment the monumentally false ideas listed at the beginning of this article.

They drive and reflect the ominous return of the right-wing “paranoid style” in American politics. The generation and dissemination of these ideas and style is proceeding at a record pace thanks in great measure to the spectacular expansion of right wing media.

Class War in Wisconsin

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Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and the Republican-controlled state legislature are moving to slash wages, gut health benefits and undermine pensions.

Walker will impose a legal straitjacket on public employees, stripping them of collective bargaining rights over anything but wages, and requiring any wage rise above the rate of inflation to be approved by a statewide referendum vote.

No such controls are proposed, of course, for the gargantuan salaries of corporate CEOs or the windfall profits of the banks and big business.

Nor will there be any limits imposed on the financial institutions that handle the issuing of state bonds—headed by Citigroup, the lead underwriter.

The “sacrifices” decreed by the governor apply only to working people: Walker has actually increased the state deficit to provide tax cuts for Wisconsin-based corporations.

The events in Wisconsin are a clear indication that the US is entering a new period of social upheaval.

The working class is driven into struggle by the objective crisis of capitalism and by the determination of the ruling class to defend its wealth through a ruthless attack on all the rights of working people—the right to a job, to a living wage, to education, health care and a secure retirement.

The budget deficit in Wisconsin is a tiny fraction of the wealth of the country’s billionaires. Indeed, the total budget deficit of all 50 states is about one-tenth of the net wealth of only the 400 richest Americans.

This wealth, and the trillions expended to bail out the banks, must be reclaimed to meet the basic social needs of vast majority of the population.

What is required is a political struggle, which begins from the understanding that nothing can be defended so long as the working class is subordinated to the Democratic Party and the capitalist two-party system.

The representatives of the capitalist class, in proclaiming that the preservation of capitalism requires the destruction of the jobs and living conditions of the vast majority of the population, are in fact acknowledging the historical bankruptcy of the system they defend.

The reemergence of the class struggle will bring with it a revival of the fight for socialism. As the American working class enters a new era of social upheaval, the critical task now is the building of a revolutionary party to lead these struggles.

Isolated Israel

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Virtually overnight, the Arab Middle East has been irrevocably transformed. The implications for America’s vital interests in the region and for Israel-Palestine peacemaking will be far-reaching.

Most observers seem to agree that Israeli fears of the growing political influence of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and of a resurgence of Hamas in the West Bank end what little prospect for an Israeli-Palestinian accord might have survived the latest deadlock in the US-brokered peace talks.

But in reality there was never the slightest possibility of the parties reaching agreement. Binyamin Netanyahu and his government were convinced they had bested Obama in their confrontation over continued settlement construction.

They could now continue gobbling up the West Bank with impunity, disregarding not only American interests but international law and all previous agreements committing Israel to halting the construction of settlements and dismantling all its illegal outposts.

Despite repeated promises, not only were the illegal outposts not removed, many were converted into full-blown settlements. The long-planned goal of Israel’s colonial enterprise – establishing irreversible control over Palestine through its settlements – was clearly in sight, if not already an accomplished fact.

Israel’s indifference to popular outrage throughout the region over its 44-year occupation was sustained by its belief that authoritarian Arab regimes, whose survival depended to a considerable extent on the US security umbrella, would keep their subjects’ rage in check.

The regimes’ deference to the US was responsible for the stability of Egypt’s and Jordan’s peace accords with Israel and for the historic Arab Peace Initiative, agreed in 2002, which committed all Arab countries to full normalisation of relations with Israel, provided a peace accord with the Palestinians was reached.

But America’s credibility and influence had begun to be eroded even before the popular eruptions in the region, in part because of Obama’s capitulation to Netanyahu.

Whatever willingness there may have been among Arab regimes to join Israel and the US in an anti-Iran coalition, it will be weakened by the fall of Mubarak.

Iran’s influence in the region will be strengthened. The enmity of most Arab regimes towards Iran is not shared by their citizens, primarily because they saw Iran as having assumed leadership in the struggle against Israel’s occupation of Palestine that their own leaders abandoned.

Libya: The Son Also Rises

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As the situation in Libya develops, there are rumors of the Libyan leader having fled the country to go to Venezuela circulating over the Internet.

While these are only rumors, they force us to try to see what’s next, and needless to say, Libya is in a pretty bad shape.

The only viable immediate solution is a family coup, a takeover (nice expression for coup d’état) of power, or the leadership (since there is no real position to take over) at the hand of Qadhafi’s son Saif-ul-Islam.

He may needome guidance or assistance from the current head of the National Oil Company (NOC) and former prime minister Shokry Ghanem – whose influence had waned considerably in the past three years.

Discussions have already taken place between him and Western officials, including a call with British Foreign Secretary William Hague, who urged Libya to begin dialogue with anti-government protesters and implement reforms.

Saif-ul-Islam Qadhafi, who played such an important role in Libya’s rehabilitation with the West, has been the more logical voice of the regime.

He has addressed Libyan issues in a language that western countries understand; he has even criticized aspects of Libyan politics, going as far as suggesting that the nurses held in a Libyan jail until just over three years ago were innocent and that Libyan health care quality was to blame for the infection of 400 children with AIDS.

In his PhD dissertation, “The Role of Civil Society in the Democratization of Global Governance Institutions: From Soft Power to Collective Decision Making?"

Saif-ul-Islam expressed concern on the lack of democracy in international governance. The Times of London quoted excerpts of the thesis that Dr. Qadhafi presented at the London School of Economics. It seems that Qadhafi Jr., may now get his chance to put his dissertation in practice.

Saif-ul-Islam appeares to represent the aspirations of Libyans who long for the ‘Tunisian effect. Saif has used his media company, al-Ghad, to publish articles attacking senior military officers about corruption, urging the defense ministry to be handed over to civilian control.

Saif also accused the army of being too large for Libya’s actual needs, questioning the quality of its training. In December, the al-Ghad group was forced to move out of Libya after a crackdown by security forces in the wake of the accusations against the armed forces.

Over the course of 2010, Saif-ul-Islam frequently clashed with the old guard, including his brothers, surrounding his father. Saif’s political position, which not so long ago appeared bright as the likeliest successor to his father, has become far less certain in the past year.

The Tunisian revolution has boosted his political value. For many Libyans and outsiders, Saif has earned the reputation of being a champion of human rights and political reform. The Qadhafi family feud is on.

2/21/11

Time in Torpor

Can't you see I'm agitated. I need some time in torpor. This wildness goes to my head.It's all very well for you down special brew in public spaces.

Have I got a licence to take narcotics? As it is, mine's a caffeine and codeine lifestyle. I can't tolerate the side-effects of alcohol.

I don't mind constipation after a lot of distress. Call the contractor. I want to change from wired-up to disconnected.

The Text Starts Here

Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain...Saudi Arabia?

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Obama has yet to issue the blunt public criticism of Bahrain's rulers that he eventually leveled against President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt - or that he has repeatedly aimed at the mullahs in Iran.

But he can't; after all, Bahrain's I-shot-my-people king is another usual suspect, a "pillar of the American security architecture in the Middle East", and "a staunch ally of Washington in its showdown with Iran's Shi'ite theocracy".

The US had to plot the repression of Bahrain to appease Saudi Arabia and other Arab tyrants who were mad at Obama for not defending Mubarak to the every end.

What Bahrain's Shi'ites can certainly accomplish is to inspire Shi'ites in Saudi Arabia in terms of a long fight for greater social, economic and religious equality.

It's wishful thinking to bet on the House of Saud reforming itself - not while enjoying extraordinary oil wealth and maintaining a vast repression apparatus, more than enough to buy or intimidate any form of dissent.

Yet there may be reasons to dream of Saudi Arabia following the winds of new Egypt. The average age of the House of Saud trio of ruling princes is 83.

Of the country's indigenous population of 18.5 million, 47% is under 18. A medieval conception of Islam, as well as overwhelming corruption, is under increasing vigilance on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter.

The middle class is shrinking. 40% of the population actually lives under the seal of poverty, has access to virtually no education, and is in fact unemployable (90% of all employees are "imported" Sunnis). Even crossing the causeway to Manama is enough to give people ideas.

Once again, talk about an extraordinary uphill struggle - in a country with no political parties - or labor unions, or student organizations; with any sort of protests and strikes outlawed; and with members of the shura council appointed by the king.

Arab News has already warned that those winds of freedom from northern Africa may hit Saudi Arabia. And it may all revolve around youth unemployment, at an unsustainable 40%.

There's no question; the great 2011 Arab revolt will only fulfill its historic mission when it shakes the foundations of the House of Saud. Young Saudi Sunnis and Shi'ites, you have nothing to lose but your fear.

Working-Class Protests in the US

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Growing mass protests in Wisconsin involving tens of thousands of state workers, teachers, students and their supporters against sweeping attacks on working conditions and democratic rights mark a turning point in the political life of the United States and of the world.

The recent toppling of the presidents of Tunisia and Egypt by mass protests signified the re-emergence of revolutionary struggle by the working class.

The conditions that created these struggles, however, are universal—mass unemployment, staggering levels of social inequality, and a political system that is completely impervious to the demands and interests of the vast majority of the population.

The eruption of mass protests in Wisconsin is an initial expression of a new era of open class struggle in the country that has long functioned as the center of the world capitalist system, the United States.

After the 1980s—which saw the smashing of the PATCO air traffic controllers strike and the defeat of militant strikes of Hormel, Greyhound, and Phelps Dodge workers—the class struggle in the United States was artificially suppressed.

This was made possible due to the thoroughly reactionary role of the AFL-CIO trade union, which has systematically worked to isolate and defeat every struggle of the working class, while integrating itself ever more closely into the corporate and political establishment.

Two and a half years into the global economic crisis that began with the financial meltdown on Wall Street in the fall of 2008, the working class in the United States is mounting its first major counterattack against the policies of the financial aristocracy.

There is a growing realization that the political and economic system has failed. A new social order must emerge.

In Wisconsin, demonstrators have invoked the mass uprising by workers in the Arab world, comparing Madison to Cairo and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker to Hosni Mubarak.

In New York City, students protesting against school closures have chanted, “New York is Egypt.” This is entirely appropriate, and is an expression of a growing sense among workers in every country that they face a common struggle and a common enemy.

The financial aristocracy that rules America is every bit as removed from and hostile to masses of working people as the dictatorial regime that was headed by President Hosni Mubarak in Egypt.

In the face of the worst economic crisis in generations—as millions lost their jobs, homes, and incomes—no measures were taken to help working people.

Instead, trillions of dollars in public funds were handed over, no questions asked, to Wall Street and a financial elite whose reckless speculation had triggered the crisis in the first place.

The West Will Try to Steal Egypt's Revolution

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How ironic! A regime that has been sustained since 1979 by US funds to the tune of $2billion annually - and functioned in the interest of Western governments - falls, and we see a sudden deluge of statements welcoming the long overdue change in the country, applauding the bravery of the Egyptian people and even demonising Hosni Mubarak.

One could be fooled into believing the transformation currently taking place in Egypt is one that has been fought for by Western governments for years already - a long-sought change finally materialising.

Who would say that successive US, British and European governments have long argued that Egyptians, indeed all Arabs, are not ready for democracy - that "special circumstances" demand the denial of democracy, and that the brutality visited on them for thirty years was better than the risk of a free vote?

Until just two weeks ago, the newfound friends of the Egyptian revolution claimed - through the person of Hillary Clinton, no less - that Mubarak was the right man to lead a transformation of Egypt's politics, being the "reliable and stable" figure he has been for the past thirty years.

At the same time Tony Blair, Middle East envoy of these same Euro-Atlantic powers called Mubarak "immensely courageous and a force for good".

Pontius Pilate has surely washed his hands of the ancien regime, and has now thrown his arms wide open to the Egyptian people.

The expropriation of the Egyptian revolution by the Euro-Atlantic axis has begun, and the Egyptian people should be alert to the dangers of this underhand attempt to steal their revolution and blunt its transformative potential.

After Mubarak's forced departure - it was no resignation, the people kicked him out - one of the first speeches beamed to the protestors in Tahrir Square was a live feed of Obama's response to Mubarak's expulsion.

Eloquent as ever, Obama - in one move - distanced the US from its faithful servant, and embraced the Egyptian revolution.

His offer of assistance to promote democracy in Egypt is telling. Soon we will witness the influx of Euro-Atlantic advisors, NGOs and all types of specialists telling Egyptians what "democracy" is, and how to practice it.

The Egyptian people sacrificed themselves and their kin and refused to be cowed into submission by the violence visited upon them by the "stable and reliable" Mubarak regime.

They ultimately succeeded in expelling this servant of Washington - know perfectly well what democracy is, and how to practice it.

They have just held the first real Egyptian people's plebiscite in more than thirty years, voting Mubarak out of office with their feet and voices.

Right-Wing Beliefs & Cognitive Dissonance

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What’s behind the growing authoritarian right-wing backfire phenomenon that's so ubiquitous in U.S. political culture? Part of the explanation lies in the venerable psychological theory of cognitive dissonance, which holds that humans are often rationalizing instead of rational beings.

Particularly, when people are heavily invested in a belief, evidence that undermines that belief is a blow to their ego. Counter-evidence assaults their concept of themselves as smart, rational, and together as functional and adult.

The painful dissonance that results – the conflict between (a) their sense of their own competence and (b) evidence suggesting that that sense is significantly excessive – calls for resolution.

If the conflict is not reduced by changing one's belief to match the facts – a humbling experience for many, requiring a reasonable capacity for shame – it can easily the belief-holder to try to “restore consonance” by deepening their faith in the false idea, seeking support from others who hold it, and attempting to persuade others of the belief.

Cognitive dissonance theory first emerged in the social psychologist Leon Festinger's chilling McCarthy-era book, When Prophecy Fails (1956).

Festinger and some fellow researchers infiltrated a cult group that stridently and confidently predicted the end of the Earth at the hands of aliens on a fixed and imminent date.

Many members dedicated their worldly possessions to the group to support its mission of proselytizing doom. The day of projected doom came and the birds still tweeted and the earth still stood.

A big wake-up call for the group’s members, right? Wrong. When its prediction failed, the cult did not revise its beliefs and collapse but rather deepened its faith in an imminent world collapse and expanded its membership.

Group members argued that the aliens had given the world a second chance for survival, picked another future date to warn about, and widened their circle of recruitment.

Admitting that they’d fallen prey to a vicious hoax and/or delusional idea would have been acknowledging an episode of extreme gullibility and/or stupidity, something that was too painful for them to do: better to tweak their mad theory and grow the circle of converts!

But surely, one might argue, the fact that these beliefs don’t work, rationally and materially speaking, for the interests of the holders undermines their hold on the minds of the believers, right? Not necessarily.

Festinger and his researchers found that people tend to more deeply and doggedly internalize false beliefs precisely when the rewards they get for holding those beliefs are slight. This finding seems counter-intuitive but ego-defense provides a plausible explanation.

When you get a significant external reward for advancing a false idea – the notion that the conservative neoliberal capitalist Obama is a big government socialist, for example – you don’t have actually believe hat idea to rationalize ego your willingness to do that.

It does not require you to actually internalize the incorrect belief. You do it because it pays. Thing are very different when there is no external reward. Then the only way to make sense of believing something false and harmful is to decide that you believe it because it’s true.

Do Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, their employer Rupert Murdoch, the billionaire arch-polluters Koch brothers (leading financial backers of “the Tea Party”), and Sarah Palin really believe that America is being bankrupted by public family cash assistance and federal worker salaries?

That global warming is a radical conspiracy? And that Obama is a left peacenik who has ushered in crippling bureaucratic socialism?

They may or may not but they don’t have to in order to internally justify their dissemination of such preposterous notions because those ideas are making them filthy rich.

The construction worker who helped undermine his own material well-being by trumpeting the anti-union rhetoric of Rush Limbaugh garners no such ego-inflating external reward and thus feels more pressure to actually adopt the ridiculous ideas Beck and his manipulative ilk believe or pretend to believe.

Are the Arab Uprisings Anti-Capitalist?

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The mass uprisings and removal of Ben Ali and Mubarak in Tunisia and Egypt mark a very radical ideological break from the past.

The era of George W Bush claimed that democracy has to be brought from outside by ‘benevolent' imperialist forces to the rest of the world.

The paradigm in crisis is that inaugurated by the invasion and breaking up of the former Yugoslavia, the invasion of Somalia and the illegal invasion and occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq.

The current global capitalist crisis is not only a financial one. It's a multiplicity of capitalist crises, mutually reinforcing each other.

The primary cause is the unsustainability of a system that is based on the exploitation of the global impoverished majority to sustain the greedy interests of a small globalised capitalist class.

The world today is facing a multiplicity of capitalist crises: the crisis of the global financial sector, an energy crisis, an oil crisis, a food crisis, and the crisis of climate change and global warming.

While it would be foolhardy to predict an imminent demise of the global capitalist system, nevertheless there are important qualitative shifts that are taking place marking the possible beginnings of a new global era.

It is a global era that may for a while be characterized by uncertainties and instabilities in many parts of the world, not least economic instability in pockets of the advanced capitalist countries.

This is likely to be accompanied by a wave of successive crises whose outcome will in the end be determined by the organizational capacity of the workers and poor of the world to seize the political initiative.

One thing is however certain: the current global capitalist crises, coupled with the emergence of alternative economic blocs from the developing world, as well as the energy of the mass of the people in places like Egypt and Tunisia, are all indications of the beginnings of the decline of the US as a global economic power!

The political crisis in Tunisia and Egypt is an outcome of a combination of some of the elements of the current global capitalist crisis.

These have been immediately sparked by the impact of the global financial crisis in the world, coupled with the rising food prices and the cost of other basic necessities for the majority of the people in these countries.

It is a further crisis of the imposition of neo-liberal ideas and programmes, with the collusion of domestic elites, as these countries were simultaneously hailed as examples of the successes of some of the neo-liberal economic policies. In these countries this has been accompanied by their complicity with US imperialism.

The Egyptian revolution in particular has a huge potential to impact positively on the struggle of the Palestinian people against apartheid Israel's tyranny and oppression.

There is a real opportunity for the emergence of a progressive Egyptian state, freed from the yoke of US imperialism. Such a state has the potential to wage a principled struggle and solidarity with the Palestinian people.

In many ways, progressive solidarity with the Egyptian revolution is necessary to deepen the struggle for an independent Palestinian state.

2/18/11

Panic Attacks Me

But that's the very problem. I'm standing to attention all the time. I need to fall out.

I want to be calmed, not broken. I toy with the joy of losing control. Until I do, that is.

There's ecstasy in chaos. No doubt. But once you've realised the loss of self, panic attacks.

The Text Starts Here

Fight Capitalism! Become a Layabout!

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Materialism is unwise. Over-consumption is destructive. And the most recent incarnation of American Capitalism is simply a diagonally slit wrist that we’re watching bleed out.

Deep down, we all know this, but we can’t seem to muster the craw or the courage to drop out, lie about and slack off. It makes me think back to a time and place in my life when some of us tried.

It was Austin, Texas in the early 1990s and I lived on my friend Jerry’s couch in a duplex in Hyde Park for nine months. I kept odd jobs and odder hours, usually scheduled around manic chess marathons and bleary-eyed, late-night philosophical volleys.

The debates always started with a lob, but three hours later we were both trying to maintain serve with obscure, paraphrased excerpts from Nietzche or clever parries from Kierkegaard, Camus, or Sartre.

Jerry had an uncanny knowledge of local happy hours at restaurants that offered free finger foods for the thirsty souls that frequented their establishments to drink alcohol. So we would show up, buy one beer each and then just eat; it was a nice dinner 2-3 days a week.

When the hinges of our toilet seat broke off, we simply hung the lid on the bathroom door. Using our water closet involved placing the lid on the toilet bowl and balancing yourself.

I barely had a pot to piss in, and it was one of the happiest times in my life. I didn’t have a mortgage or car payments or credit cards.

I wasn’t prostituting myself in some pathetic, cubicled slog and I wasn’t a stock-optioned salary-slave with no place to go but up the arse of a corporate colossus slinking after ill-begotten profit margins.

I was free. I could loaf. And I could sit still and think.

Richard Linklater’s Slacker touched on the phenomena, but conveyed the weirder aspects of the process more than the wisdom.

In fact, the movie reinforced the stereotype that a “slacker” was a young adult whose existence was characterized by apathy, lack of ambition and general aimlessness.

The derogatory connotations masked the profounder aspects of what was really happening. We weren’t apathetic or lazy or aimless. We just had serious reservations about the catalogue of ways people demeaned themselves for money.

Effectively, The Egyptian Uprising Was a General Strike

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From the beginning, the Egyptian uprising had the effect of a general strike. Starting on January 25th, the first day of the protest, tourism -- the largest industry in the country, which had just begun its high season -- went into free fall.

After two weeks, the industry had simply “ground to a halt,” leaving a significant portion of the two million workers it supported with reduced wages or none at all, and the few remaining tourists rattling around empty hotels, catching the pyramids, if at all, on television.

Since pyramids and other Egyptian sites attract more than a million visitors a month and account for at least 5% of the Egyptian economy, tourism alone (given the standard multiplier effect) may account for over 15% of the country’s cash flow.

Not surprisingly, then, news reports soon began mentioning revenue losses of up to$310 million per day. In an economy with an annual gross domestic product (GDP) of well over $200 billion, each day that Mubarak clung to office produced a tangible and growing decline in it.

After two weeks of this ticking time bomb, Crédit Agricole, the largest banking group in France, lowered its growth estimate for the country’s economy by 32%.

The initial devastating losses in the tourist, hotel, and travel sectors of the Egyptian economy hit industries dominated by huge multinational corporations and major Egyptian business groups dependent on a constant flow of revenues.

When cash flow dies, loan payments must still be made, hotels heated, airline schedules kept, and many employees, especially executives, paid.

In such a situation, losses start mounting fast, and even the largest companies can face a crisis quickly. The situation was especially ominous because it was known that skittish travelers would be unlikely to return until they were confident that no further disruptions would occur.

The largest of businesses, local and multinational, are not normally prone to inactivity. They are the ones likely to move most quickly to stem a tide of red ink by agitating the government to suppress such a protest, hopefully yesterday.

But the staggering size of even the early demonstrations, the face of a mobilizing civil society visibly shedding 30 years of passivity, proved stunning.

The fiercely brave response to police attacks, in which repression was met by masses of new demonstrators pouring into the streets, made it clear that brutal suppression would not quickly silence these protests. Such acts were more likely to prolong the disruptions and possibly amplify the uprising.

Even if Washington was slow on the uptake, it didn’t take long for the relentlessly repressive Egyptian ruling clique to grasp the fact that large-scale, violent suppression was an impossible-to-implement strategy.

Once the demonstrations involved hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of Egyptians, a huge and bloody suppression guaranteed long-term economic paralysis and ensured that the tourist trade wasn’t going to rebound for months or longer.

The paralysis of the tourism industry was, in itself, an economic time bomb that threatened the viability of the core of the Egyptian capitalist class, as long as the demonstrations continued.

Recovery could only begin after a “return to normal life,” a phrase that became synonymous with the end of the protests in the rhetoric of the government, the military, and the mainstream media.

With so many fortunes at stake, the business classes, foreign and domestic, soon enough began entertaining the most obvious and least disruptive solution: Mubarak’s departure.