4/20/11

Financial Elite Demand Savage Cuts to Welfare Spending

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In lowering its outlook from "stable" to "negative" on the top AAA rating for US Treasury bonds, Standard & Poor's spoke Monday for the entire financial mafia that is headquartered on Wall Street.

The ratings firm declared in a press release that failure to reach an agreement in the coming months to reduce the federal deficit by at least $4 trillion over the next decade "could lead us to lower the rating."

This amounts to a threat to crash the US and global economy and undermine the status of the dollar as the world reserve currency. The move is part of an internationally orchestrated drive by the major banks and speculators to push through devastating attacks on the living standards of the American working class.

They are applying to the United States the extortionate methods used previously to stoke up speculative attacks on the sovereign debt of a number of European countries, including Greece, Ireland, Portugal and Spain.

S&P and its major ratings rivals Moody's and Fitch have issued strategically timed credit warnings and downgrades to create a crisis atmosphere, which governments have then utilized to override popular opposition and impose mass layoffs and wage cuts and shred social programs.

John Chambers, chairman of the sovereign ratings committee at S&P, virtually admitted as much, according to a report in Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal. The Journal wrote: “If the US reaches a British-style resolution, S&P will restore the US outlook to stable, Mr. Chambers said.”

In May of 2009, S&P lowered Britain’s credit outlook. It reversed the action 17 months later after the newly elected Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government announced a program of draconian cuts that will shatter the country’s social safety net.

What is S&P’s standing to be issuing such ultimatums? The Senate report on the Wall Street crash describes the corrupt process by which S&P routinely slapped AAA ratings on worthless securities marketed by the banks as follows:

“Credit rating agencies were paid by Wall Street firms that sought their ratings and profited from the financial products being rated… The ratings agencies weakened their standards as each competed to provide the most favorable rating to win business and greater market share. The result was a race to the bottom.”

Senator Carl Levin, the chairman of the subcommittee, described what the investigation uncovered as “a financial snake pit rife with greed, conflicts of interest and wrongdoing.”

By rights, the top S&P executives who presided over this fraud and pocketed multi-million-dollar salaries in the process should be sitting in prison.

Instead, still at their posts and having suffered no consequences, they are using the disaster of their own making to gut bedrock social programs such as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security upon which tens of millions of people depend.

Libya: UK & France Escalate War

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Great Britain and France, the two European powers spearheading the war against Libya, are taking new steps to escalate the military intervention.

British Foreign Minister William Hague announced Tuesday that as many as 20 British military officers were going to Benghazi to direct the forces fighting Libyan ruler Muammar Gaddafi. France has deployed additional air capability, including the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle.

The British decision is the most fateful, since it is a clear signal that the NATO powers, including the United States, will be ultimately driven to send ground troops if the campaign of air strikes and poorly organized rebel attacks fails to oust Gaddafi.

There were conflicting reports on the advisers, with the British newspaper Guardian describing it as “a joint British-French military team”, while other news services said it was British only.

The Guardian added, “The UK-French team will advise the rebels on intelligence-gathering, logistics, and communications. In an indication of the serious nature of the move, the team will be run by a joint force headquarters.”

In other words, the NATO officers, not the rump group of ex-CIA, ex-Gaddafi and ex-Al Qaeda operatives, will exercise real command and control over the operations of the so-called “rebels.”

Foreign Minister Hague was at pains to deny the obvious—that the dispatch of NATO officers is a major step down the road that leads logically and inexorably to the invasion of Libya by the imperialist powers.

Referring to the new British mission, he said, “They will advise the National Transitional Council on how to improve their military organizational structures, communications and logistics, including how best to distribute humanitarian aid and deliver medical assistance.”

Despite the references to non-combat functions, the arrival of British officers signifies the official conversion of the “rebel” force into an imperialist-led military operation, and the dropping of any pretense that the Benghazi-based council represents an indigenous resistance to the Gaddafi regime.

The “rebels” are no more independent of the imperialist powers than the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan, which was utilized by the Bush administration in 2001 to oust the Taliban and establish the puppet regime still headed by the US nominee, President Hamid Karzai.

Hague did not explain how intelligence-gathering responsibilities—necessarily connected with the direction of ground operations and targeting for NATO air strikes—could be squared with his presentation of the mission as purely humanitarian.

Capitalism Condemns Us to 'Hard Labor'

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On the surface, millions of people “consent” to going to work. Usually, no-one has to physically force them to do so.

Of course many people want to work for obvious reasons. They want to do jobs that help other people, they want to be socially-useful, they want to earn a decent wage, and so on.

But the system also puts pressure on people to work. If people refuse to work, what happens? Unless they have some rich relatives or win the lottery they will live in poverty. The state will hound them, trying to snatch away their measly benefits and force them into work.

In short, the system will do everything it can to make life miserable. No wonder most people go to work.

Many people aren’t happy with capitalism, but don’t think radical change is possible. This is partly because they accept the idea that capitalism is natural, but also because they don’t see how it could be changed.

The biggest section of society is the working class and the smallest is the ruling class—the rich people who own and control things.

The working class creates all the wealth in society so it is potentially the most powerful class. But workers don’t feel they have much power in their day-to-day experience.

The Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci said that the rich use different ways to get everyone else to go along with their system.

He said capitalists rule by consent and force. So for most of the time, the bosses use their influence over things like the education system and the media to keep power.

But despite the fact that the bosses’ ideas dominate, that doesn’t mean that the mass of people are happy, nor that they never have ideas that challenge the dominant ones.

Gramsci described how ordinary people end up with contradictory ideas. He said that workers’ experience under capitalism, which is often negative, pushes them to challenge dominant ideas.

Bosses exploit workers. They make their profits by not paying workers the full value of their labour. Because bosses are competing with each other, they try and exploit workers more all the time—paying them less or forcing them to work faster.

But capitalism isn’t simply exploitative, it is also unstable and prone to crisis. The current round of cuts is an attempt to make ordinary people pay for such a crisis.

This pushes workers to fight back—which can transform their ideas. If a racist worker strikes alongside black and migrant workers, it undermines his bigotry.

In struggle workers can see most clearly that they have a common interest against the bosses. They can also see how powerful they are.

Capitalism isn’t as stable as it can sometimes seem. Protests, uprisings, strikes and revolution mark the world. Ordinary people have toppled governments—most recently in Argentina and Kyrgyzstan.

Millions more don’t want to live in a world wracked by poverty, oppression, war and environmental devastation. As the economic crisis has deepened, class confrontations have intensified across the world.

When clashes seriously threaten the ruling class it will deploy the full force of the state—the police and the army—to try and hold onto power.

But workers can beat back even this. And in a huge crisis, soldiers can switch sides and back the workers—and they have. The police can then melt away.

We have the power to take back our world and run it to meet the needs of the majority. But we must be aware that the rich won’t hesitate to use violence to stop us if “consent” fails—and we have to be prepared to take them on.

Obama "For Sale" Sign

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In the first two days of his supposedly “humanitarian” intervention in Libya, Obama launched more than 200 cruise missiles, each costing more than one million dollars.

This is a Glaring example of What Martin Luther King called America’s “perverted priorities.”

Obama Starts another war at a time when 25 million Americans are unemployed and 50 million U.S. households suffer from food insecurity.

Were he alive today, King would condemn the obscene war profits that flow to military “defense” (empire) contractors like Raytheon, Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Rockwell Collins as billions suffer the elite-imposed crime of poverty at home and abroad.

He would be appalled by the right wing assault on public sector workers in Wisconsin and other states across the Midwest and the country – the biggest attack on organized labor in recent American history.

He would have noted how this attack is part of the broader top-down class war of the wealthy and narcissistic Few against the last outposts of the greatest anti-poverty program in American history – the American labor movement.

He would have noted how the attack is based on a number of lies including the false claim that public sector workers are over-paid relative to private sector workers and the false claim that public sector wages and benefits and collective bargaining rights are the cause of state deficits.

He would note the primary role of tax breaks, exemptions, and loopholes for the rich and corporate Few and the obscenity of military empire in creating the deficits that policymakers use as the pretext to slash benefits and opportunities for everyday working people and the poor.

He would have approved the remarkable Winter Solider testimony of the young American Iraq War and occupation veteran Mike Prysnor, who said the following in December of 2009, 11 months into the “hope and change” presidency of the Empire’s New Clothes Barack Obama:
I threw families on to the street in Iraq only to come home and see families thrown on to the street in this county in this tragic, tragic and unnecessary foreclosure crisis.

I mean to wake up and realize that our real enemies are not in some distant land. They’re not people whose names we don’t know and whose culture we don’t understand. The enemy is people we know very well and people we can identify.

The enemy is a system that wages war when it’s profitable. The enemy is the CEOs who lay us off from our jobs when it’s profitable. It’s the insurance companies who deny us health care when it’s profitable.

It’s the banks who take away our homes when it’s profitable. Our enemy is not 5000 miles away. They are right here at home. If we organize with our sisters and brothers we can stop this war. We can stop this government. And we can create a better world.

A Few Americans Accumulate Vast Wealth

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America is on a collision course with itself. This month's deal between Obama and the Republicans in Congress to extend the tax cuts initiated a decade ago by Bush is being hailed as the start of a new bipartisan consensus. But it's a false truce in what will become a pitched battle for the soul of American politics.

As in many countries, conflicts over public morality and national strategy come down to questions of money. In the United States, this is truer than ever.

The US is running an annual budget deficit of around $1tn, which may widen further as a result of the new tax agreement. This level of annual borrowing is far too high for comfort. It must be cut, but how?

The problem is America's corrupted politics and loss of civic morality. One political party, the Republicans, stands for little except tax cuts, which they place above any other goal.

The Democrats have a bit wider set of interests, including support for healthcare, education, training, and infrastructure. But, like the Republicans, the Democrats, too, are keen to shower tax cuts on their major campaign contributors, predominantly rich Americans.

The result is a dangerous paradox. The US budget deficit is enormous and unsustainable. The poor are squeezed by cuts in social programmes and a weak job market. One in eight Americans depends on food stamps to eat.

Yet, despite these circumstances, one political party wants to gut tax revenues altogether, and the other is easily dragged along, against its better instincts, out of concern for keeping its rich contributors happy.

This tax-cutting frenzy comes, incredibly, after three decades of elite fiscal rule in the US that has favoured the rich and powerful. Since Ronald Reagan became president in 1981, America's budget system has been geared to supporting the accumulation of vast wealth at the top of the income distribution.

Amazingly, the richest 1% of American households now has a higher net worth than the bottom 90%. The annual income of the richest 12,000 households is greater than that of the poorest 24m households.

The Republican party's real game is to try to lock that income and wealth advantage into place. They fear, rightly, that, sooner or later, everyone else will begin demanding that the budget deficit be closed in part by raising taxes on the rich.

After all, the rich are living better than ever, while the rest of American society is suffering. It makes sense to tax them more. The Republicans are out to prevent that by any means.

4/19/11

Republican Farce: "Will Donald Trump Mitt?"

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So Donald Trump wants to get into a mud fight with Mitt Romney over which one of the two fat-cat Republicans has the most money?

Can we just stipulate that both the Donald and Mitt were born on third base — and both of them desperately cling to the belief that they hit a triple.

I’ll take Trump at his word — he likely does have a lot more money than Mitt. And Trump, I think, also has a bit more of the common touch than Mitt, although neither of them is exactly Mike Huckabee in the folksiness department, not that that’s a bad thing.

Over the weekend, Trump spoke to a Tea Party group in Boca Raton, Fla., and he went on and on about how we’d squandered all this blood and treasure in Iraq, and that as soon as we leave, Iran would move into the vacuum. All of our soldiers’ lives would have been in vain ... so why didn’t we at least grab the oil?

Our soldiers’ lives wasted? After the speech, one of Trump’s friends asked him, how do you suppose that sounded to anybody who had a child killed in Iraq?

Mitt, of course, is just as tone deaf — in 2008, he explained that while none of his five sons had served in the military, they were all involved in public service — trying to get him elected president.

But let’s consider the plutocrats’ tale of the tape:

• Relationship with Ted Kennedy. Mitt ran against him in 1994. Trump gave him $7,000 in contributions.

• Worst business investment. For Trump, the Atlantic City casino that nearly went belly-up, total losses unknown. For Mitt, the presidential campaign of 2008, total losses $45 million.

• Favorite Palm Beach billionaire. Mitt, David Koch, at whose mansion he had a fund-raiser in 2008. (This year, Muffy Healey will also be holding one for him in Palm Beach, in her new $17 million cottage on North Lake Way.) Donald Trump’s favorite? Himself.

• Hair. Mitt doesn’t even know the meaning of the word “comb-over.”

• Alcohol. Neither one drinks.

• Sexual prowess. Headline in the New York Post from Marla Maples re: Trump: “Best Sex I Ever Had.” Ann Romney could not be reached for comment.

• American roots: Mitt’s dad was born in Mexico, Trump’s grandfather in Germany.

• Favorite cartoon character: Trump, Scrooge McDuck, Romney, Dudley Do-Right.

• Business catchphrase: Trump, “You’re fired.” Romney (through a lackey): “Mr. Romney wanted you workers to know that like Ayn Rand, he believes in the ‘creative destruction of capitalism.’

"Like closing down this worthless factory after Bain Capital sucked all the money out of it. You’re ALL fired!”

Terminal Cancer Capitalism

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Doomsday Capitalism? Capitalism is killing America? Yes, that’s the message in my umpteenth book. “Doomsday Capitalism, 10 Self-Destructive Trends.” But you’ll never see it in print. No one, even book publishers want to read this truth: Capitalism is destroying America.

Why? Super-Rich Capitalists get rich off these macro trends. They want happy talk. Back in 2007 Vanguard founder Jack Bogle called my warnings “prescient.”

But that didn’t stop the meltdown. Next time financial historians warn of a bigger meltdown; a total collapse has been the destiny of every nation for eight centuries. This time, capitalism is the saboteur.

What S&P U.S. credit warning means

In the wake of Standard & Poor's warning that the U.S. AAA credit rating is at risk, former Congressional Budget Office Director Douglas Holtz-Eakin explains to David Wessel why politicians are watching and what it might mean for a deal on the the deficit.

Yale scholar Immanuel Wallerstein warns that capitalism’s at the end of a 500-year cycle: The “political struggle is over what kind of system will replace capitalism, not whether it should survive.” We cannot stop this cycle.

Yes, Super-Rich Capitalists will fight to the death. But destiny is trapped in our DNA, historians warn, and will not change. America is run by these short-term thinkers.

They never learn the lessons of history. They do not want you to know that their capitalism is self-destructive, that capitalism’s cycle is in a suicidal end game, that their “mutant capitalism,” as Bogle calls it, is destroying the very soul of America’s democracy.

Instead, leaders inside this conspiracy want Americans to follow their rigid doctrine: In Milton Friedman’s 1962 “Capitalism and Freedom,” the bible of Reaganomics.

Also, in Ayn Rand’s manifestos that guided Alan Greenspan and now Paul Ryan; and in Steve Forbes post-meltdown apologia, “How Capitalism Will Save Us: Why Free People and Free Markets Are the Best Answer in Today’s Economy.”

Capitalism has become a religion for the Super Rich, with many such “saviors.” Heresies must be denied, such as this one: Doomsday Capitalism is destroying America from within.

Libya: How Long Before NATO's Invasion?

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By jointly announcing the bombs will fall until Muammar Gaddafi is gone for good, Washington, London and Paris have torn up the original UN mandate on Libya.

There will be Western boots on the ground - sooner rather than later - and what comes next will be even messier.

NATO will become the weaponized arm of the UN, roaming Africa for conquest and plunder.


How to turn a 'kinetic military action' - which is not a war - into some sort of endgame, by bending a UN resolution that was allegedly passed to minimize a humanitarian threat? You write a lame op-ed. Just ask The Three Amigos - Obama, Cameron and Sarkozy.

In a joint article published last Friday, The Three Amigos insisted they don't want to remove Libya's Muammar Gaddafi by force. But they also insist bringing democracy by bombing will continue (allegedly to protect democracy-seeking civilians). And continue they will because Gaddafi must "go and go for good".

So much for the original UN mandate. So much for a real ceasefire. The "enlightened" West and its coalition of the semi-willing don't do ceasefires.

So now it's official. The bombing goes until Gaddafi is removed. Welcome to Mission Regime Change.

It's no surprise UN resolution 1973 reveals itself to be a farce - as much as the manufactured Libyan "revolution", which has essentially orchestrated by French intelligence, British MI6 and the US Central Intelligence Agency since Gaddafi's former chief of protocol, Nuri Mesmari, defected to Paris in October 2010.

Dodgy exiles abound - from the British-supported network of Prince Mohammed el-Senoussi, currently exiled in London, to Khalifa Hilter, a CIA asset until recently exiled near Langley, Virginia and self-appointed 'military commander' of the 'rebels'.

The 'rebels' now expect that the no-fly zone ramblingly implemented by NATO will translate - farcically - into a weapons supply channel.

A 21st-century rerun of the arming of the mujahideen in Afghanistan during the 1980s, with Britain, France and Qatar playing the former starring roles of Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and the US.

And there will be (Western) boots on the ground - sooner rather than later, as the narrative is already being spun across Atlanticist corporate media.

Next glorious chapter: a column of glorious M1 Abrams tanks taking Tripoli in chivalric mood, with the rag-tag 'revolutionaries' showered with flowers ("If you're going / to Tripolitania / be sure to wear / some flowers in your hair").

It didn't work in Baghdad in 2003 under neo-conservative patronage. It might as well work in Tripoli under humanitarian imperialism.

The Decline & Fall of the US Dollar

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At long last, the inevitable has come to pass. Standard & Poor's, the rating agency, on Monday affirmed the credit ratings of the US but revised downward the country's outlook from stable to negative.

Essentially, the move makes it likely if not altogether probable that the US will lose its prized credit rating of triple-A over the next two to three years.

In the statement released alongside the announcement, S&P commented:
More than two years after the beginning of the recent crisis, US policymakers have still not agreed on how to reverse recent fiscal deterioration or address longer-term fiscal pressures.

The outlook reflects our view of the increased risk that the political negotiations over when and how to address both the medium- and long-term fiscal challenges will persist until at least after national elections in 2012.
For many people, the move by S&P lacked any surprise value as it has only been the truly dense who really believed that the US government deserved its triple-A credit rating since the onset of Keynesian policies in 2008.

To be fair also, the intensely dumb tax cuts promulgated by the George W Bush administration before the crisis fatally weakened the US fiscal position in the last five years of the country's bubble era.

So what is the big deal with the possible downgrade of the US government for the investment community?

There is a very long thesis in here somewhere about the role of a benchmark and what it does for the world of asset pricing, but quite simply all arguments about the US government bond goes to the little equation that lies at the heart of the Capital Asset Pricing Model (CAPM).

In simple terms, the notion is that if investors can earn some return for effectively "doing nothing", the return they would demand for "doing something" would have to be proportionately higher to compensate for the extra risk involved.

For much of the past 50 years, the idea of "some return for doing nothing" was defined to be the yield of the US government bond.

There was however an implicit assumption - that the US government would always be able to issue any amount of new debt to pay for its maturing debt, or else have other assets that it could sell in order to pay for the same.

This is what a "triple-A" rating means - there is NO risk of losing one's capital. The S&P move, though, casts doubt on exactly this article of faith commonly held around the world.

A downgrade from triple-A doesn't mean that the US government would default on its debt imminently (or indeed, at all) but it does mean that a prudent long-term investor can no longer make the assumption that this is the case.

The continued failure to come up with a credible medium-term fiscal reform program would increase borrowing costs for all segments of US society, thereby undermining investment, employment and growth.

It would also curtail foreigners' appetite to add to their already substantial holdings of US assets. And it would weaken the dollar.

The US also risks eroding its standing at the core of the global monetary system.

The world looks to America for a range of "global public goods" - including the reserve currency, the deepest and most liquid government debt markets, and the "risk free" standard.

With no other country able and willing to step into this role, the result would be global efficiency losses and a higher risk of economic and financial fragmentation.

Anti-Capitalism: US Uncut [Clip]



Our government claims we are broke and is slashing public programs,

but corporations like Bank of America pay zero in taxes

4/18/11

Serial Sex Murders, Christianity & Capitalism

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The bodies of murdered prostitutes are, once again, capturing media headlines. On eastern Long Island, NY, along Ocean Parkway, the bodies of ten young women, dumped in burlap sacks, have been discovered.

In Memphis, TN, near Mount Carmel Cemetery, the bodies of four women were found dead; another woman was shot several times and left for dead. These women have been identified as prostitutes. Sadly, more bodies will likely be found.

Serial murder is a distinguishing, if disturbing, feature of civilization dating from time immemorial.

However, with the rise of modern urban, industrial capitalism, such murder took on a far more gruesome and sexualized form. This is especially the case suffered by women, particularly sex workers, at the hands of male serial killers.

Serial Sex Killings or 'Lust Murders' is one of the most acute expressions of the crisis of patriarchy. It can express what some analysts call "sexual sadism" culminating in both erotic fulfillment for the predator and death to the female victim, often a prostitute.

But the murder need not be sexual, an expression of sadism. Rather, it could be the infliction of power, a de-eroticized exercise of tyranny imposed by a male who feels inadequate to the inter-personal and social challenges confronting him.

Many of the female victims of these horrendous murder sprees have been prostitutes. They tend to be young women in their 20s, lost to their birth families and community, and often on drugs.

They seem like lost souls who have nothing left but their bodies to sell. They are throwaway living commodities of capitalism.

Their collective deaths can be attributed to the dominant Christian morality that legitimizes capitalism.

If, as Marx showed, workers only have their labor power to sell for a wage in order to live, why then cannot women (or men) sell their sexual labor, their bodies?

As American history has shown over the last four centuries, prostitution cannot be suppressed. Why, with all the deaths, beatings and suffering that prostitutes endure under "free market" conditions, is it not a regulated enterprise?

With the exception of a few rural locals in Nevada, prostitution is illegal throughout America; nevertheless, it is everywhere practiced with a wink-and-a-nod acceptance.

In an era when nearly everything that is sold is promoted through a sexualized message, why then prohibit commercial sex among consenting adults?

This prohibition, like the Christian right's opposition to abortion, condom use and other "positive" sexual practices, is a mythic line-in-the-sand.

It's a means by which the true barbary of social relations is blunted, denied. Christian moralists, like everyone else, knows that sex work is the point where the most brutal truths of capitalism's (im)morality, where the buyer and seller most intimately connect, is acutely revealed.

The current laws against commercial sex, especially targeting the sex worker and not the john, are a punitive injunction against those who challenge the rule of heterosexual monogamy.

These laws, along with the unstated morality they represent, fail to address the real problem that drives both (female) prostitution and (male) lust murder –- economic inequality and men's sexual problems.

Libya: Is Global Banking Backing the Rebels?

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It looks as though eastern Libya will slide into the Mediterranean under the sheer weight of western journalists assembled in Benghazi and Misrata.

A tsunami of breathless reports suggests that Misrata is enduring travails not far short of the siege of Leningrad in World War 2.

The reports have been seized on by Obama, Cameron and Sarkozy to raise the ante on Mission Odyssey Dawn.

In their joint newspaper column published both sides of the Atlantic they now say that to leave Gaddafi in power would be an "unconscionable betrayal" and speak of Misrata as enduring “a medieval siege.”

Not yet, surely. A medieval siege was something that usually lasted at least a year, in which the city’s inhabitants were reduced to eating rats, then each other, and the besiegers all succumbed to plague.

Maybe it will turn out that way, with reporters eying each other from a gastronomic perspective and wiring Ferran Adria, seeking recipes for preparing Haunch of Hack sous vide.

"So long as Gaddafi is in power, Nato and its coalition partners must maintain their operations so that civilians remain protected and the pressure on the regime builds," write the three leaders. This is not Mission Creep but, once again, Mission Leap, way beyond the UN mandate.

On closer inspection, the reports suggest something less than a medieval siege or Leningrad. Reuter’s man in Misrata could only come up with this:

“A local doctor told Al Jazeera at least eight people died and seven others were wounded in the second day of intense bombardment of Misrata, a lone rebel bastion in western Libya.”

The UK Independent’s Kim Sengupta did better: “The attacks started early in the morning as the residents of this besieged and battered city were starting their hours of queuing for bread.

"Even by the grim standards of Misrata, the most violent battleground of this savage civil war, what happened yesterday was a cause of deep shock.

"At least 16 people died, and 29 were injured, almost all of them civilians – including a mother and her two young daughters.”

It’s always a cause for dismay that any civilians die in such conflicts but again, 16 fatalities fall well short of medieval catastrophe.

Sengupta noted that NATO is simultaneously bombing Tripoli, though no journalists seemed to be available to report what sort of damage or casualties had been inflicted.

Meanwhile the hated leader appeared to have no qualms in touring the city in an open jeep.

It seems that the rebels might actually be under the overall supervision of the international banking industry, rather than the oil majors.

On March 19 they announced the “[d]esignation of the Central Bank of Benghazi as a monetary authority competent in monetary policies in Libya and appointment of a Governor to the Central Bank of Libya, with a temporary headquarters in Benghazi.’”

CNBC senior editor John Carneyasked, “Is this the first time a revolutionary group has created a central bank while it is still in the midst of fighting the entrenched political power?

"It certainly seems to indicate how extraordinarily powerful central bankers have become in our era.”

Feminism Legitimizes Neoliberal Capitalism

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Feminism Seduced: How Global Elites Use Women’s Labor and Ideas to Exploit the World, by Hester Eisenstein weaves a compelling account of how the central ideas of “hegemonic feminism” have legitimized the corporate capitalist assault on the working class in the United States and on small farmers and workers, both urban and rural, in the global South.

In this way, she argues, mainstream feminism has served as unwitting handmaiden to the capitalist class. Situating her analysis of mainstream feminism in a broader context of the economics of capitalist globalization, Eisenstein connects changes in the gender order to the rise of neoliberalism.

By hegemonic feminism, she means that certain liberal feminist ideas have become part of the “commonsense” of U.S. culture. In particular, she argues, the notion that paid work, in itself, represents liberation for women is widely accepted.

Second-wave feminism included a strong tradition of socialist/anarchist feminism, third-world and women of color feminism, as well as radical feminism.

But the dominant ideas of the movement emphasized individual achievement and the possibilities for self-actualization inherent in the competitive, free-for-all marketplace and political system.

Liberal feminism addressed many different issues, but focused overwhelmingly on women’s right to compete with men on equal terms in the labor market.

While purporting to represent all women, mainstream feminism has primarily advanced the interests of women with higher education, so that after forty years of feminist activism, there is now an enormous class divide among women workers.

To understand how and why this has happened, Eisenstein traces the history of feminist ideas and politics in the context of the fundamental restructuring of the global economy and the rise of the neoliberal political order.

Taking globalization as the framework for describing this “sea change” in the world capitalist political economy, Eisenstein identifies deindustrialization, the rise of export processing zones in the global South.

Also, the growth of the service sector, the explosion of the financial sector, and the employers’ offensive against unions as key to the transformation of women’s relation to waged labor.

In the North, globalization entailed a precipitous decline in men’s wages, marking the end of the “family wage” for men who had often provided sole financial support in traditional male breadwinner marriages. At the same time, the rise of the service economy opened up a huge demand for low-wage, female labor.

In the South, the “new enclosure” movement threw women into an expanding labor market. Insofar as mainstream feminism had lauded paid employment for women as a route to escape the oppression of patriarchal marriage, feminism in the United States helped to create a new pool of labor that capitalist employers could use to cut costs.

Women’s willingness to enter the workforce in massive numbers allowed corporations to resist the pressure for wage increases.

And, by identifying freedom with paid work, mainstream feminism offered the perfect cover to multinational corporations exploiting women’s labor in free trade zones.

In short, feminism became the language of capitalist modernization.

Libya: NATO Steps Up Its Slaughter

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The joint statement issued Thursday by Obama, Sarkozy and Cameron on Libya not only escalates the war. It also intensifies the political divisions within Europe that are in the background of the neo-colonial operation in North Africa.

While the war is marketed as a “humanitarian” enterprise, little if any attention is being paid—at least in public—to the increasingly bitter dispute between France, Britain and the United States on one side and Germany on the other.

NATO warplanes have continued pounding Tripoli, launching missiles in the vicinity of the central university in Tripoli. Up to 10 people were reported injured in the attack.

NATO officials at the conference in Berlin declared that the attacks on Thursday had been carried out against military targets 40 miles south of Tripoli, but a BBC journalist on the spot in Tripoli confirmed that the bombing attack had been carried out close to the city center and had led to civilian casualties.

On Friday Libyan state television reported that further NATO bombing raids had been carried out against the city of Sirte―the birthplace of Gaddafi―and again at targets south of Tripoli.

Parallel to the daily air assaults, right-wing Arab bourgeois regimes have stepped up the arming of the reactionary, pro-imperialist opposition movement in the east of the country, acting as the agents of the main NATO powers.

According to press reports, boats laden with weapons and fighters were making regular trips to Misrata harbor to supply the rebel forces.

Crates labeled “aid supplies” actually contained Grad rockets, machine guns, ammunition, SAM-7 anti-aircraft missiles, rocket-propelled grenades and other weaponry. Cardboard boxes containing flak jackets and helmets had labels identifying their source as the Ministry of Defense in Qatar.

On the same day as Obama’s open letter confirmed that the aim of the NATO operation against Libya was regime change, his policy was given a ringing endorsement by the New York Times.

An editorial headlined “Stop the Blame Game” enthusiastically endorsed the stance of the White House, declaring:

“With the United States bogged down in two other wars, President Obama was right to step back quickly and let the Europeans take the lead.

"Other countries—including Italy, Spain, Germany and the Netherlands—should do more to help. So far only six of the alliance’s 28 members are striking targets.”

The editorial then cynically declares that Britain and France could use the issue of Arab migrants fleeing the fighting to Europe as a lever to force Italy and other European countries to take part in the NATO aggression.

The editorial also repeats, however, its call for the White House to step up the slaughter and adopt the demand of Republican Senator John McCain for increased use of US firepower, in particular the use of American A-10 antitank aircraft and AC-130 ground attack gunships.

The combination of intensified war rhetoric and bullying from Washington, plus the administration’s insistence that European countries step up their involvement in the Libyan offensive has hugely intensified the tensions and conflicts already raging among NATO members.

America's State Media

Source

The US media are the propaganda branch of the government. Any member who departs from his duty to lie and spin the news is expelled from the fraternity.

The media have segued into being part of the state apparatus, which regards insistence on civil liberties and references to the Constitution as signs of extremism, especially when the Constitution is invoked in defense of dissent or privacy or placarded on a bumper sticker.

A public increasingly unemployed, broke and homeless is told that they have vast enemies plotting to destroy them in the absence of annual trillion dollar expenditures for the military/security complex.

There are wars lasting decades, no-fly lists, unlimited spying and collecting of dossiers on citizens supplemented by neighbors reporting on neighbors, full body scanners at airports, shopping centers, metro and train stations, traffic checks, and the equivalence of treason with the uttering of a truth.

Two years ago when he came into office Obama admitted that no one knew what the military mission was in Afghanistan, including the president himself, but that he would find a mission and define it.

On his recent trip to Afghanistan, Obama came up with the mission: to make the families of the troops safe in America, his version of Bush’s “we have to kill them over there before they kill us over here.”

No one snorted with derision or even mildly giggled. No media outlet dared to wonder if perhaps, maybe, murdering and displacing large numbers of Muslims in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Yemen might be creating a hostile environment that could breed anti-American movements.

And US support for Israel’s similar treatment of Lebanese and Palestinians might be spreading hatred of US foreign policy among Muslims. If there still is such a thing as the Newspaper Publishers Association, its members are incapable of such an unpatriotic thought.

Today no one believes that our country’s success depends on an informed public and a free press. America’s success depends on its financial and military hegemony over the world.

Any information inconsistent with the indispensable people’s god-given right to dominate the world must be suppressed and the messenger discredited and destroyed.

4/15/11

Being by Yourself: Forty-One

Take the Pith

Who'll take on the burden of doubt? I can't carry it myself.

You're probably thinking right now. I should hope so.

Flash the applause sign, please. I want my followers to feel.

If we take the pith. How can I claim to lead if I call into doubt?

To perform as potential prophet requires confidence tricks of conceit.

Where's the uncertainty in that?

There's Nothing Original

Before an academic does her paper round she reads as many sources.

There's nothing original. I'm collecting the ideas of others.

We're passing trains of thought.

As a fellow-obsessive at this conference. Undoubtedly, I've spotted more than you.

Dream & Die

Is there a reason why I'm enveloping your mind? Mine's to dream and die.

Call the next witness to prove what I say.

There's no one great to support me. I'm not of sound mind, nor character.

I can't possible follow in the footsteps of.

You've Got to Admire the Idiot

He quotes from imagination, expecting us to be seduced by the charm.

It's the way I tell them.

Who cares if the idea's unresearched? So long as it comes in a metaphor.

The philosopher uses his intellect to explore possibilities.

I'm on this trip as an imaginary prophet.

I Don't Believe Myself

Unavoidably, I don't believe myself.

It's in the I of the beholder. One watches over me. I'm his projection.

Who do you talk to when you're alone? In god's name? He carries the doubt.

Unable to be present in person. He's had to call the meeting off.

Lacking the confidence to. Instead, he's made me up.

I'm his representation. He bears the responsibility for.

I've Got a Good Mind to Work in the Field of

This makes my sermons worthwhile. I bring you the word of one.

You needn't take my mine for it's no worse than claiming god's dead because nietzsche said so.

One weaves the cloth with many threads. That doesn't sound like me.

I don't hear voices. I listen to them.

I've got a good mind to work in the field of.

Where do you think I get my experience?

The Text Starts Here

'Democracy' - The Smiley Face of Capitalism

Source

In the U.S. today, politics often seems to be little more than how it was described by the Progressive Age American philosopher John Dewey:

“The shadow cast on society by business.” Actual public policy moves in very different, often enough diametrically opposed directions from mere public opinion in “the world’s greatest democracy.”

Contrary to democratic theory’s identification of government with the people (the popular majority), none of the opinions expressed by that majority seem to matter all that much when it comes to policy.

As the former Times columnist Bob Herbert recently and quietly noted in his very last column for the nation’s “newspaper of record,” the nation’s “levers of real power have been all but completely commandeered by the financial and corporate elite.

"It doesn’t really matter what ordinary people want” in the U.S., Herbert candidly acknowledged – a remarkable statement. “The wealthy call the tune, and the politicians dance

"Ordinary Americans have no real access to the corridors of power, but you can bet your last Lotto ticket that your elected officials are listening when the corporate money speaks.”

That is a remarkable statement nearly two-and-a-half years after a presidential election that Herbert and many other establishment liberals hailed as a victory for progressive transformation.

The American people in 2008, like the Egyptian people today, wanted “change, real change” – something that Obama’s advisors anticipated well in advance as a problem requiring the proper elitist “expectation management” and “expectation calibration.” –

Tasks that Obama’s advisor Samantha Powers called “essential at home and internationally” in February of 2008.

The Obama administration quickly and boldly became a great monument to the old French saying plus ca change plus c’est la meme chose (the more things change the more they stay the same).

With its monumental bailout of hyper-opulent financial overlords, its refusal to nationalize and cut down the parasitic too-big (too powerful)-to-fail financial institutions that have paralyzed the economy.

Its passage of a health reform bill that only the big insurance and drug companies could love (consistent with Rahm Emmanuel’s advice to the president: “ignore the progressives”)

Its cutting of an auto bailout deal that rewarded capital flight, its epic undermining of serious global carbon emission reduction efforts at Copenhagen, its refusal to advance serious public works programs (green or otherwise).

Its disregarding of promises to labor and other popular constituencies, and other betrayals of its “progressive base” (the other side of the coin of promises kept to its corporate sponsors).

The “change” and “hope” (corporatist Bill Clinton’s campaign keywords in 1992) presidency of Barack Obama has brilliantly demonstrated the stealth power of what Edward S. Herman and David Peterson call “the unelected dictatorship of money.”

As Bill Greider noted in The Washington Post early in the Obama presidency, “People everywhere [have] learned a blunt lesson about power, who has it and who doesn’t.

"They [have] watched Washington run to rescue the very financial interests that caused the catastrophe. They [have] learned that government has plenty of money to spend when the right people want it.”

The “right people” are found among an elite segment within the top 1 percent that owns roughly 40 percent of America’s wealth and a probably larger share of its “democratically elected officials.”

This makes the U.S. by far and away the industrialized/post-industrialized world’s most unequal, wealth-top-heavy, and (even before the Supreme Court’s much progressive-bemoaned Citizen United decision) openly plutocratic society.

Media Liberals Applaud Obama's Austerity Program

Source

An array of media liberals are hailing Obama's deficit-reduction speech given on Wednesday, in which he called for trillions of dollars of cuts in domestic spending.

Praise came from columnists like Paul Krugman of the New York Times and E. J. Dionne of the Washington Post; one particularly delusional pundit compared Obama’s words to those of liberal icon Eleanor Roosevelt.

The most significant voice of American liberalism, the editorial page of the New York Times, headlined its editorial on the speech, “President Obama, Reinvigorated.” Its first sentence gushed: “The man America elected president has re-emerged.”

The editorial piles on the flattery of Obama, with unwarranted praise of the supposedly huge political distance between his policies and “Republican plans to heap tax benefits on the rich while casting adrift the nation’s poor, elderly and unemployed.”

If one pursues this simile, the actual difference is that Republicans are openly hostile to the victims of American capitalism, while Obama pretends sympathy, offering those who are drowning a rope that is far too short. The end result is the same.

The editorial makes much of Obama’s call to raise taxes on the wealthy, while saying nothing about the president’s past performance.

Obama caved in last December to the Republican demand to extend the Bush tax cuts for the rich, even when the lame duck Congress was still controlled by the Democratic Party.

Now that the Republicans control the House of Representatives, there is no prospect of increased taxes on the millionaires, and Obama’s pledge is both empty and cynical.

The Times declares that Obama’s budget proposal “should have been less fixated on spending cuts at the expense of tax increases,” and notes that his proposed cap on healthcare cost increases “was surprisingly low … and it is not clear that that goal can be met without harming providers or beneficiaries.”

Since the Times has been an extremely vocal advocate of healthcare cost cutting, particularly targeting supposedly excessive use of medical services by the elderly and the seriously ill, such assertions are mere window-dressing.

The editors seek to disguise the fundamentally reactionary character of both the Obama healthcare plan, passed last year, and the new measures proposed by the administration to cut $1.5 trillion in healthcare costs over the next 20 years.

The editorial goes on to criticize Obama from the right. It expresses regret that he did demand more sacrifices from working people by “reminding those in the middle class that their incomes taxes remain low and will need to go up” and by proposing additional consumption taxes “like energy taxes or a value-added tax.”

Gadget Madness

Source

A consumer-driven society, relying on purchases of useless gadgets by whining, demanding kids dependent on cash from their long-suffering parents, is all very well if pay continues to go up and up. But pay is not going up, so the inevitable outcome is bankruptcy.

Breakfast was a real drag, as the kids were whining more loudly than usual about money, and how they needed some money, and how they didn't have any money.

How they were the only people they knew that were not dripping with cell phones and iPods and reader tablets and all that stuff, like this was supposed to make me rush out and buy them these things so that I don't damage their fragile self-esteem and ability to make friends

So that they can call and text each other all day and night about how much they hate me, and hatch their little plans to put poison in my food or something; you never know with kids, you know what I mean?

Anyway, I said, my mouth full of fabulous fried eggs and crispy bacon (instead of the usual fruit and whole-grain cereals with no-fat milk crap I usually have to eat, because my wife was out of town):

"You brats can have the biggest, baddest electronic gizmos made. You can have so many of the freaking things, in fact, that you will need a cart to carry them all around. Just get jobs and then use the money to buy them, like everybody else, ya little blood-sucking parasites!"

This is where my wife would usually intervene, chastising me for yelling at them and telling me to be quiet and consoling the kids. But (and this is the important point) she ain't here now.

So, finally, I had the chance to, uninterruptedly, explain to what appear to be congenital idiots, for the thousandth time, how the horrible Federal Reserve creates excess money, see, which increases the money supply, which increases prices.

"This," I explained, "is just the 'prices side' of the problem. Now let's look at the 'income side' of the ledger. I don't make any more money than I made three years ago. Something has got to give, and in this case, it is you. Simple as that!"

Libya: Farcical Imperialism

Source

You won't settle for some Eurovision chick when you actually paid to watch The Rolling Stones. That's what the "international community" - as in the Anglo-French Arab liberator couple plus the Libyan "rebels" - is demanding.

Either the Pentagon bombs the hell out of Muammar Gaddafi's forces, or we want our money back (as in eastern Libyan oil marketed by Qatar).

As expected, the meeting of the innocuously named but totally gung-ho "Libya contact group" in Doha was short on content and very long on farce.

The top of the pops was the offer of a sequel to the International Monetary Fund (IMF); an International Rebel Fund (IRF).

This is designed to help the motley crew of Gaddafi defectors, dodgy exiles, al-Qaeda linked Islamists and Central Intelligence Agency-trained armed demonstrators actually fight as a cohesive unit.

The problem is how to shower the "rebels" with these IRF funds in a manner that is consistent with United Nations resolution 1973. Arguably London, Paris and Doha will say this is part of the "all necessary measures" text in the resolution, and hope to get away with it.

Is this a shoddy revival of the UN oil-for-food program that was a counterbalance to the UN sanctions against the regime of Saddam Hussein in Iraq? It is - especially because Anglo-French diplomats en masse are saying it isn't.

The Doha meeting was chaired by Qatar Prime Minister Hamed bin Jassem and Britain's Foreign Secretary William Hague. The most important character in the meeting was a no-show; former Libyan foreign minister turned high-profile defector Mousa Koussa. The Qataris welcomed him, but the "rebels" vetoed him.

As for the pitiful Hague, he said, once again, "The vast majority of the world agrees that Gaddafi must go."

This "vast majority" is exactly comprised of the governments of Britain and France, plus other four North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) members bombing Libya, plus Qatar and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). That's it.

Both the governments of British Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Nicolas Sarkozy are lost in space because nobody wants their war.

Italian Prime Minister Silvio "Bunga Bunga" Berlusconi's government refuses to bomb Gaddafi's forces. Same with Belgium. Germany will only contribute on the humanitarian front.

NATO is embroiled in a monster catfight - even with secretary general Anders Fogh Rasmussen shrieking about their fabulous record of over 2,000 sorties. Cameron and the neo-Napoleonic Sarko are begging for NATO to "increase the momentum".

As for the "rebels", the Pentagon crush couldn't be more self-evident. According to spokesman Mahmud Shamman, "When the Americans were involved the mission was very active and it was more leaning toward protecting civilians." Nothing is sexier than a Tomahawk in action.

The "rebels" are going to Washington to lobby the Barack Obama administration. Shades of Afghan mujahideen visiting Ronald "freedom fighter" Reagan in the mid-1980s, anyone?

Capitalist Rule: The Rich Avoid Taxes

Source

Why do you think the Republicans want to cut into Medicare and Medicaid?”

To balance the budget?

Not on your life. It's because the rich don’t need those programs. That’s also why they want to cut funding for public education. The rich can afford private schools. The poor can’t.

Besides, you can’t have an educated population of middle-class citizens. They might do something un-American, like actually learn something about the issues.

The issue, said Marshbaum, slinging clay and getting high on pot fumes, is that Congress allows the rich to realize their dreams--greed is not only good, it’s encouraged.

A Government Accountability Office analysis showed that almost three-fifths of all American-based corporations pay no federal taxes. The GAO study didn’t identify individual companies. With the help of the Securities and Exchange Commission and Sen. Bernie Sanders, did.

Pretending that the international crisis-of-the-week has led to the highest gas prices in years, the oil companies—smirks of greed tucked neatly into their wallets—made record profits, paid no taxes, and even received rebates and refunds from the IRS.

Exxon Mobil made $19 billion in profits in 2009, paid no taxes, but received a $156 million rebate. Chevron made $10 billion, paid no taxes, and received a $19 million refund.

ConocoPhillips during a three-year period, had a $16 billion profit, paid no taxes, and received a $451 million tax break. Valero Energy had $68 billion in sales, and a $157 million tax refund.

General Electric had a $26 billion profit in five years, and a $4.1 billion refund. Boeing, tucked into bed with a $30 billion Defense Department contract, got a $124 million refund to sleep better.

Even those that received taxpayer-supported bailouts, after being a major cause of the sub-prime housing debacle, made profits, paid seven-figure executive bonuses, and received refunds.

Bank of America scammed the people for a $1 trillion bailout, made a $4.4 billion profit, and received a $1.9 billion tax refund.

CitiGroup, with a $2.5 trillion bailout, paid no taxes on a $4 billion profit. Goldman Sachs and Carnival Cruises were model corporate citizens by paying all of 1.1 percent taxes.

Goldman Sachs had a $2.3 billion profit on an $800 billion bailout; Carnival, which took passengers and the taxpayers on a cruise, made $11 billion in profit over five years.

4/14/11

I've Got a Good Mind to Work in the Field Of

This makes my sermons worthwhile. I bring you the word of one.

You needn't take my mine for it's no worse than claiming god's dead because nietzsche said so.

One weaves the cloth with many threads. That doesn't sound like me.

I don't hear voices. I listen to them.

I've got a good mind to work in the field of.

Where do you think I get my experience?

The Text Starts Here

Neoliberalism & Class War

Source

A little over an hour after Obama’s address yesterday, three top House Republicans did their part in the play-acting, going before press microphones and practically snarling their hostility to the president’s whipping up of “class war.”

That is particularly ironic. Republicans have doubled down on their reverse Robin Hood agenda. The plan put forth by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan calls for the wealthy to launch another offensive in the class war they’ve been winning.

It would slash another 20 percent from domestic programs, end Medicare as we know it, cut a trillion from Medicaid, repeal protections for consumers and the environment.

It would do this not to reduce the deficit — the Congressional Budget Office estimates that the Ryan plan would increase the deficit over 10 years — but to pay for extending the Bush tax cuts and further lowering tax rates on the rich and corporations.

“Class war” is an accurate term for the program of both the Democrats and Republicans. However vituperative the mutual mudslinging, both parties represent corporate America and do the bidding of the super-rich. The leading personnel of both parties consist of individuals, like Obama, who are themselves multi-millionaires.

The US ruling elite is taking advantage of the fact that the working class is politically disenfranchised and the old union organizations have been transformed into instruments of corporate management for imposing wage and benefit cuts.

It is moving aggressively to return working people to conditions of exploitation unseen in America in nearly a century.

For the past few months, state and local governments, both Republican and Democratic, have taken the leading role in these attacks, sparking the confrontation with public employees in Wisconsin and increasingly bitter conflicts throughout the country.

It was noticeable that in Obama’s lengthy speech there was no reference whatsoever to the financial crisis wracking state and local government and the devastating cuts being imposed on social services, jobs, wages, benefits and pensions.

For two years, the stimulus legislation passed in 2009 provided limited support to state and local government finances. This period has come to an end, and there will be no further federal support.

On the contrary, as the positions of both the congressional Republicans and the Obama White House demonstrate, the federal government is now set to play the leading role in the assault on the social rights of working people.

The working class should reject the entire framework of the official deficit-reduction debate. The Democratic and Republican politicians who claim there is “no money” for necessities like pensions, health care and education represent a corporate elite sitting on countless trillions in wealth.

The working class alternative to capitalist austerity must be the expropriation of this hoarded wealth, accumulated from the labor of workers, and the reorganization of economic life to serve human needs, not corporate profits.

Will Libya Be Western Imperialism's Last Gasp?

Source

Neocolonial aggression in Libya shows a certain exhaustion of the bestial military might of U.S. imperialism.

Apart from the economic catastrophe that has hit them, they are hindered by their failures in Iraq and by the quagmire that has become Afghanistan. That explains why they want the Europeans to lead the assault.

Sarkozy and Cameron, with plummeting popularity ratings at home, are trying to play heroes and villains in Libya. They want to portray themselves as being “on the right side of history” and with the added bonus of getting easy access to the large oil reserves and revenues moving into the London and Paris stock exchanges.

This won’t help them much to water down the rage of the French and British youth and workers who have been inspired and emboldened by the Arab revolution.

This rhetoric of “saving the people of Benghazi” is very devious to say the least. Given that Gaddafi’s ramshackle forces had proved unable to crush the rebels in Misrata and Ajdabiya, an armed and hostile city of more than 700,000 inhabitants was a far cry for Gaddafi’s mercenaries to capture Benghazi.

However, the imperialist aggression will not and cannot proceed as proclaimed. Stratfor, the think-tank of mainly ex-CIA staffers, wrote in its recent analysis: “The test will come if a war designed to stop human suffering begins to inflict human suffering”.

Regime change has already displaced the stated mission. Bombing from the air or the sea cannot achieve any of the desired results. It will have to be “boots on the ground”. Even the Pentagon is terrified of such a prospect. Mission failure is a serious possibility.

As the imperialist stooges fell in Tunisia and Egypt the masters distanced themselves. But now the most formidable despots are trembling in their shoes. And here come the double standards about human rights and the farce of bourgeois democracy.

Why the refusal to impose no-fly zones on Bahrain, Oman and Yemen? U.S. “military advisers” are actively taking part in the repression being carried out by the Yemeni autocrat. But the army is splitting and the Saudis are trying to develop another despot General Mohsen as a replacement.

The core country is Saudi Arabia, the largest producer of oil in the world. This dynastic despotism has been shaken and is making desperate attempts to stave off the revolt that is simmering just beneath the surface.

Here there is an astonishing unanimity between U.S. imperialism and Islamic fundamentalism. The religious right in Pakistan is so elusive about the tyranny and brutality of their sacred Al Saud regime that they consider it a sin to speak against this gang of former desert pirates.

However, the oppressed in Saudi Arabia will more than speak. They have suffered the harrowing repression at the hands of this pious elite. It is now a matter of life and death for these workers faced with drudgery in the scorching heat of the Arabian Desert.

Imperialism, gripped by economic crisis and political decay, is acting like a wounded beast. The intervention in Libya is aimed at cutting across the revolutionary tide of the Arab Revolution. The Arab masses will only win by overthrowing the system against which they rose, i.e. capitalism, and smashing all obstacles.

Obama's Empty Rhetoric

Source

On Wednesday, Obama delivered a series of demagogic assaults on the Republican Party and the deficit reduction plan unveiled last week by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, which the House is expected to approve on Friday.

He explained that the Republican plan “is less about reducing the deficit than it is about changing the basic social compact in America.”

He said that it “ends Medicare as we know it,” and would lead to the loss of health insurance for up to 50 million Americans now covered by Medicaid or scheduled to be enrolled in private insurance plans under Obama’s Affordable Care Act of 2010.

For Medicare recipients, he said, the Republican plan means “instead of guaranteed health care, you will get a voucher.” He continued: And if that voucher isn’t worth enough to buy insurance, tough luck—you’re on your own.”

Grandparents who cannot afford nursing home care, poor children, and children disabled by autism or Down’s syndrome would be told “to fend for themselves.

Given the emphasis on health care cost controls both in last year’s “reform” legislation and in his speech Wednesday, Obama’s supposed outrage over Republican heartlessness is cynical and insincere.

The two big business parties, the Democrats as much as the Republicans, seek to cut the cost of health care for American corporations and the government by placing more and more of the burden on working people, including the sick, the disabled and the destitute.

Even more deceptive was Obama’s explanation of the source of the fiscal crisis. He contrasted the 1990s—when “our leaders came together three times… to reduce our nation’s deficit” in bipartisan agreements under the first President Bush and the Clinton administration—to the decade after 2000, when “we lost our way.”

In this potted history, “America’s finances were in great shape by the year 2000. We went from deficit to surplus.” Then the administration of George W. Bush waged two wars, established a Medicare prescription drug benefit, and cut taxes for the wealthy, wrecking the “fiscal discipline” of the previous decade.

One small thing is left out of this account: the long-term crisis of American capitalism, culminating in the Wall Street crash of 2008 and the trillions expended by the Treasury and the Federal Reserve to bail out the banks.

The financial catastrophe precipitated the worst economic slump since the Great Depression—which continues to this day, although Obama barely mentioned it in his 43-minute speech.

The conditions that produced the 2008 crash go back at least three decades, and include the increasing subordination of production to financial manipulation, the deregulation of financial markets, and colossal growth of economic inequality.

Obama made only one fleeting reference to this most important aspect of the economic crisis. He condemned the Ryan plan for proposing another $1 trillion in tax breaks for the wealthy, then added:

“In the last decade, the average income of the bottom 90 percent of all working Americans actually declined. The top 1 percent saw their income rise by an average of more than a quarter of a million dollars each.”

He then asked rhetorically, “And that’s who needs to pay less taxes? They want to give people like me a $200,000 tax cut that’s paid for by asking 33 seniors to each pay $6,000 more in health costs. That’s not right, and it’s not going to happen as long as I’m president.”

This was the high point of Obama’s populist demagogy, a typical dog-and-pony show in which the Democrats pretend to be the tribunes of the common man and the Republicans are assigned the role of Wall Street stooges.

Imperial Vultures in the Skies over Libya

Source

The role of imperialism being portrayed by the media is not only false but is a blatant deception to confuse the masses.

There is nothing new about the imperialist aggression in Libya. Its is the same old propaganda blitz of a villainous autocratic ruler, who is rather erratic and hinges on insanity, brutally trying to drench an uprising in blood and rules over some of the largest sulfur free oil reservoirs in the world.

The bourgeois media is baying for the blood of this callous dictator who just months ago was delivering pious sermons to the leaders of the G8 countries who listened diligently.

If we look into the not too distant past, the same narrative was being expressed about Noriega in Panama, Saddam Hussein in Iraq and several other military and civilian stooges of imperialism across the neo-colonial world who got on the “wrong side of history”.

However, the main subterfuge behind imperialist “intervention” is their rather “deep concern” for democracy, freedom and human rights. This motive has been the main ploy in the wars and invasions killing millions in the last century by imperialist aggression.

On August 6, 1945 President Harry Truman ordered the U.S. Air force to drop an atom bomb on Hiroshima. Three days later they dropped a second bomb on Nagasaki. They did this despite the fact that these were cities full of civilian and that were of no military value and the Japanese were already defeated and suing for peace.

The arrogance of American power was put into words by the managing director of the New York Times, Neil McNeil, who wrote that both the United States and the world needed peace based on American principles – a Pax Americana.

The earlier version of this was the Monroe doctrine of 1823 which was devised to subjugate the whole of the Latin American continent.

In the 1960s high explosives, napalm and cluster bombs rained down on Vietnam. The U.S. air force dropped toxic chemicals, including the notorious Agent Orange on forests, allegedly to kill the vegetation and deny shelter to the guerrillas.

A total of 18 million tons of herbicide were dropped. In all, the U.S. dropped more tons of explosives on Vietnam than were dropped by all sides in the Second World War.

The more recent rewards of democracy and human rights were reaped by the people of Iraq who had to sacrifice at the alter of the imperialist ‘Kali’ more than a million children to attain these gems doled out by the bosses of the planet.

The genocide in Afghanistan and Pakistan with daisy cutters, cluster bombs and drone attacks are the price of achieving “democracy” of the rich for the rich by the rich.

Obama's Austerity Program: Cut Social Spending

Source

Obama outlined plans 0n Wednesday for slashing $4 trillion from the federal budget deficit over the next 12 years, the bulk of it by cutting domestic social spending, particularly in the area of health care.

His speech at George Washington University in the US capital demonstrates the consensus in the American ruling elite for a frontal assault on social programs upon which tens of millions of working people, children and retirees depend.

Obama largely accepted the deficit reduction framework set by the Republican right. But he proposed a different mix of spending cuts, as well as calling for tax increases on the wealthy, something that the leaders of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives have ruled out in advance.

The proposed tax hikes are extremely modest, merely allowing the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy to expire at the end of 2012 and restoring the tax rates that prevailed under the Clinton administration.

The promise, moreover, is an empty one. Obama caved in to Republican opposition to raising taxes on the rich last year, when the Democrats still controlled both houses of Congress. Why should anyone believe he will act differently now?

Throughout the speech, Obama sought to appeal to two diametrically opposed audiences.

He sought to reassure global financial markets and the US ruling elite of his commitment to reaching bipartisan agreement on drastic and immediate spending cuts.

And he sought to delude working people about both the causes of the fiscal crisis and the devastating consequences of the measures now being prepared in Washington.

4/13/11

I Don't Believe Myself

Unavoidably, I don't believe myself.

It's in the I of the beholder. One watches over me. I'm his projection.

Who do you talk to when you're alone? In god's name? He carries the doubt.

Unable to be present in person. He's had to call the meeting off.

Lacking the confidence to. Instead, he's made me up.

I'm his representation. He bears the responsibility for.

The Text Starts Here

Western War Propaganda

Source

The Western media’s coverage of the 'intervention' in Libya reinforces the inevitable rules of war propaganda.

That is, demonize the enemy, leave out the geographical and historical context, hide the real interest, and avoid recalling past media manipulation. The case of Libya is an obvious example.

Why does the media commit itself to the rebellion in Libya? Is it deliberate or not? The most disturbing aspect of this favouritism is that they keep telling us about the rebels, but never who those Libyan rebels are!

Who arms them? Who finances them? What interests do they have? Do they have ties to foreign countries?

In short, no one seems to have the slightest idea of the nature of this armed rebellion, and yet, the Western press endorses it unreservedly in the way as it supported the popular uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt.


Since the truth struggles to make its way into the self-righteous minds of the Western press, the U.S.-NATO intervention in Yugoslavia is a model of “humanitarian war” which should be followed to avoid “massacres”.

And yet, whoever has a basic knowledge of the break-up of Yugoslavia knows the ultimate goal of this U.S.-NATO intervention.

It was to divide and conquer, eliminate a functional socialist economy which is now split into small entities crippled with debts, to the great delight of the major financial institutions of this world.

The Serbs were accused of committing atrocities while the violence they were subjected to was and remains largely ignored.

There was the “butcher of Bagdad”, the “butcher of Belgrade” and now it’s the “butcher of Tripoli”. Always the same tactic. Always the same saviours. And people always fall for it.

The official narrative of this kind of intervention has inherited the name of “humanitarian war” or “humanitarian intervention”, which some describe quite rightly as “humanitarian imperialism”. Don’t forget: states have no friends, only interests.

Those who intervene abroad don’t do it to save people, but their economic interests, and the media is wary of explaining the power struggle between Western states in Gaddafi’s land, which holds the greatest African oil wealth.

Of course, Muammar Gaddafi is not an angel. But was George W. Bush better? Which of the two has more blood on his hands? Under George W. Bush, no one proposed to invade the U.S. to keep them from going to slaughter Iraqis or Afghans.

And if an armed rebellion took place in a Western country, what would the leaders do? If policing is excessive during peaceful demonstrations, we can easily imagine the reaction to an armed rebellion.

Besides, it is worth noting that Westerners attempted more than once to murder Colonel Gaddafi. One of these attempts has incidentally killed one of his daughters. What would happen if the daughter of a Western head of state was killed by Arab forces?

This demonization of Gaddafi is a psychological war tactic which has been used more than once to mobilize the public opinion in favour of armed interventions.

In addition, the media is extremely quiet when it comes to facts about Libya: its Human Development Index and GDP higher than all African states, the quality of its social programmes, etc.

When one looks at the big picture and historical context of humanitarian interventions, it is obvious that this NATO assault against Libya has nothing to do with the protection of civilians.

The U.S. Secretary of Defence, Robert Gates, admitted it himself in an interview on Meet the Press: “No, Libya is not of vital interest for the United States, but we clearly have interests there and it’s a part of the region which is of vital interest for the United States.”

This avowal cannot be clearer: we have interests in the Middle East. that's why we intervene in Libya, to protect our interests in the Middle East.

Yet the media are only too willing to go along with the lie of 'humanitarian intervention' and saving civilians from being massacred by Mad-Man Ghaddafi.

Justin Bieber: Pop Idol for Backward America

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What does Justin Bieber have to tell us about the abortion debate? Not much, you'd think. But in its March issue, Rolling Stone magazine asked the teenage pop star what he thought about abortion.

His insensitive response and the lack of criticism he got for it exemplifies both how much ground the pro-choice movement has lost and the need to rebuild an unapologetic abortion rights movement.

According to Bieber, abortion is killing a baby, and rape "happens for a reason." Sound familiar? That's because these are right-wing assaults on women's rights.

Anti-choice groups were quick to congratulate Bieber. Lila Rose of Live Action, the group behind the recent smear campaign against Planned Parenthood, said that she hopes Bieber's young female fan base will provide a target audience for anti-choice messaging.

"We encourage all of his fans to spread the pro-life Bieber Fever," Rose said. "[T]eenage girls make up nearly a third of Live Action's 50,000 Facebook fans."

Mike Huckabee called Bieber's comments "refreshing...For the first time since 1973, more people now identify as pro-life than not. And the reason those numbers have changed is because of younger people."

Of course, we should be outraged any time a public figure--especially one as famous and popular among Tween girls as Justin Bieber--speaks so ignorantly about a woman's right to choose.

But Bieber's clear lack of familiarity with any pro-choice arguments speaks to problems that are more important and far-reaching than what he said.

Unfortunately, Huckabee's assertion that more young people identify as "pro-life" than ever before is correct.

The most recent Gallup Poll shows that 47 percent of Americans support a "pro-life" view, while 45 percent consider themselves pro-choice. The sharpest decrease in pro-choice sentiment is among young people aged 18 to 29.

This is in keeping with a trend over the last 10 years, where pro-choice sentiment has declined nationally.

Justin Bieber, as powerful as his publicity team would like to think he is, was not the cause of this shift in public opinion, nor is his commentary on abortion and rape the driving force shaping anti-choice rhetoric today.

Rather, Bieber's offhanded comments speak volumes about the way the right wing has been able to dominate and shape the discourse around abortion.

In turn, they have influenced a generation of young people who are growing up as the right to choose is being ideologically and legislatively rolled back.

The Internet Paradox

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Capitalism creates a world in which private riches grow at the expense of public wealth. It should not surprise us that what seemed at first as the enormous potential of the Internet has vaporized in a couple of decades.

Many of us hoped that it represented a whole new realm of public wealth, analogous to the discovery of a whole new continent, and pointed to the possibility of a vast new democratic sphere of unrestricted communication-

Competitive strategy in this sphere revolves around the concept of the lock-in of customers and the leveraging of demand-side economies of scale, which allow for the creation of massive concentrations of capital in individual firms.

Like the elimination of free land in the United States, the Internet is being transformed into a few dominant spaces that are thereby able to exploit their scarcity value.

The effective "closure" (or displacement) of much of the free public space on the Internet, which now seems to be occurring, means that what was once clearly a form of public wealth in new communicative possibilities, as measured by use values.

That is, in the new, universal human capacities it seemed to promise-is giving way to a very different type of system.

Here exchange value dominates, and the disappearance of those use values associated with relatively free communication comes to be registered as a gain in wealth, since it produces massive private riches overnight.

From a capitalist standpoint, it is the very abundance represented by the Internet that has thwarted profit-making. There's no commodity that wouldn't lose the attribute of value if it existed as great abundantly as air or water.

Abundance therefore will not only necessarily degrade the value of any commodity, but a sufficient abundance will inevitably destroy it.

Since scarcity in the case of the Internet has to be created, and hence is artificial. Indeed artificial scarcity is the natural goal of the profit-seeking.

It requires the full panoply of what Joseph Schumpeter called "monopolistic practices" (or "the editing of competition") to bring it about.

The result is the domination of the firms that are at best "co-respecters" (as opposed to full competitors), with considerable monopoly/oligopoly power, thus able to obtain surplus profits or monopolistic rents.

An innovation is commercially developed, and a market created, only by finding a way to "wall" off a sector of public wealth and effectively privatize and monopolize it, leading to huge returns.

Information, which is a public good-by nature available to all and, if consumed by one person, still available to others-is, in this way, turned into a scarce private commodity through the exercise of sheer market power.

All of this is possible, however, only with the cooperation of the public sector.

The privatization and monopolization of the Internet requires a state, which, in partnership with capital, neither provides the population with the alternatives necessary to develop access to this public domain, nor protects it against Internet robber barons.

The state, in effect, looks the other way when it sees new realms of economic wealth being made out of "nothing" (the value attributed to, say, the electromagnetic spectrum outside market exchange) and fails to move against rapid concentration of capital, even facilitating the latter.

Public wealth, free access, net neutrality, and a democratic communicative sphere are all losers. In this way, the real wealth of the Internet, like a newly discovered land that has not yet been explored, is given away to private interests.

This has happened before the population has been able to realize or even to imagine the full material use value of such a realm, if managed in the public interest.

Communication is more than an ordinary market. Indeed, it is properly not a market at all. It is more like air or water-a form of public wealth, a commons.

When Aristotle said that human beings were "social animals," he might just as well have said that we are communicative animals.

We know that the human brain co-evolved with language (a social characteristic). The development of social relations and democratic forms, as well as science, culture, etc., are all communicative.

The rise of the Internet as a form of free communication, seemingly without limits, thus raises the prospect of vast new realms of human sociability and enhanced democratic possibilities.

Yet, rather than a means of expanding human sociability, the Internet is being turned into the opposite: a new means of alienation.

The Super-Rich & Ecological Disaster

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Isn't ecological disaster a threat to the health and survival of corporate plutocrats just as it is to us ordinary citizens?

We can understand why the corporate rich might want to destroy public housing, public education, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

Such cutbacks would bring us closer to a free market society devoid of the publicly funded "socialist" human services that the ideological reactionaries detest.

Such cuts would not deprive the super-rich and their families of anything. The super-rich have more than sufficient private wealth to procure whatever services and protections they need for themselves.

But the environment is a different story, is it not? Don't wealthy reactionaries and their corporate lobbyists inhabit the same polluted planet as everyone else, eat the same chemicalized food and breathe the same toxic air?

In fact, they do not live exactly as everyone else. They experience a different class reality, often residing in places where the air is markedly better than in low- and middle-income areas. They have access to food that is organically raised and specially transported and prepared.

The nation's toxic dumps and freeways usually are not situated in or near their swanky neighborhoods. In fact, the superrich do not live in neighborhoods as such.

They usually reside on landed estates with plenty of wooded areas, streams, meadows and only a few well-monitored access roads. Pesticide sprays are not poured over their trees and gardens. Clear-cutting does not desolate their ranches, estates, family forests, lakes and prime vacation spots.

Still, should they not fear the threat of an ecological apocalypse brought on by global warming? Do they want to see life on Earth, including their own lives, destroyed?

In the long run, they indeed will be sealing their own doom along with everyone else's. However, like us all, they live not in the long run, but in the here and now.

What is now at stake for them is something more proximate and more urgent than global ecology; it is global profits. The fate of the biosphere seems like a remote abstraction compared to the fate of one's immediate - and enormous - investments.

With their eye on the bottom line, big-business leaders know that every dollar a company spends on oddball things like environmental protection is one less dollar in earnings.

Moving away from fossil fuels and toward solar, wind and tidal energy could help avert ecological disaster, but six of the world's ten top industrial corporations are involved primarily in the production of oil, gasoline and motor vehicles.

Fossil fuel pollution brings billions of dollars in returns. Ecologically sustainable forms of production threaten to compromise such profits, the big producers are convinced.

The environment can't defend itself. It is up to us to protect it - or what's left of it. But all the super-rich want is to keep transforming living nature into commodities and commodities into dead capital.

Impending ecological disasters are of no great moment to the corporate plunderers. Of living nature, they have no measure.

Wealth becomes addictive. Fortune whets the appetite for still more fortune. There is no end to the amount of money one might wish to accumulate, driven onward by the auri sacra fames, the cursed hunger for gold.

So, the money addicts grab more and more for themselves, more than can be spent in a thousand lifetimes of limitless indulgence, driven by what begins to resemble an obsessional pathology, a monomania that blots out every other human consideration.

They are more wedded to their wealth than to the earth upon which they live, more concerned about the fate of their fortunes than the fate of humanity, so possessed by their pursuit of profit as to not see the disaster looming ahead.

Ivory Coast: Ouattara Is France's Puppet

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France has subdued an insubordinate colony in the Ivory Coast, sanctioned by that palladium of global morality, the United Nations.

The scenario, as presented by the BBC, was that supporters of "democracy" were fighting to install "internationally recognised" president Alassane Ouattara and depose dictator Laurent Gbagbo.

The media caricature was of a latter-day Idi Amin overthrown by his long-suffering subjects. The reality is more complex.

Gbagbo is no saint: like any African strongman he knows where the bodies are buried; his marital record can only be called unorthodox.

He was a trade union militant and his political outlook smacks of unreconstructed socialism; his relations with the Russian LUKoil corporation are closer than is respectable.

On the other hand, he was the only individual with the courage to stand up to Ivory Coast's formidable dictator Félix Houphouët-Boigny and he has consistently shown a determination to disengage the country from its continuing colonial exploitation by France - the root cause of his predicament.

Gbagbo is also a native of the country, unlike the "internationally recognised" Ouattara who is of Burkina Faso nationality and unqualified to stand in a presidential election in Ivory Coast.

Ouattara made his career in the IMF and has always been a collaborator with international finance and French-led offshore corporate interests.

In 2002, both France and Ouattara were suspected of complicity in an attempted coup against Gbagbo which provoked civil war. Today Ouattara is blatantly France's client.

Ouattara is a Muslim whose agenda is to shift economic and political power to the Islamic north, away from the developed Christian and animist South.

He has invaded the capital Abidjan with the help of three Muslim militias whose members have brutally murdered hundreds of Christians on their march south.

Ouattara "won" the recent election with the illegal votes of large numbers of immigrants from Burkina Faso and Mali.

His victory was illegally certified by the Electoral Commission (controlled by his supporters) in defiance of the relevant body, the Constitutional Council, which ruled against him.

The real issue is not the sweetheart deals on cocoa, oil and diamonds that Ouattara will dole out to foreign interests: it is the iniquitous CFA franc, the synthetic currency that perpetuates France's control over 12 of its former African colonies.

The Communauté Financière de l'Afrique (CFA) requires member states to deposit a total of 85 per cent of their foreign currency reserves in the French treasury, which prints the CFA franc notes.

Ttwo French-controlled banks administer the currency, which remains pegged to the troubled euro; no African state knows what sum in foreign reserves it now owns.

French treasury officials refuse to divulge that information. The speaker of the Ivorian National Assembly has likened the CFA to the Warsaw Pact.

France's protegé Ouattara can be relied on to maintain it. As a former governor of BCEAO, one of the banks administering the CFA franc, and deputy managing director of the IMF he is well connected.

While prime minister under the ailing Houphouët-Boigny he took a hands-on approach, ordering all public receipts to be deposited in his office rather than the treasury; critics claim he is now one of the richest men in the world.

Clearly, this is a man with whom the Quai d'Orsay can do business. Meantime, French intervention is sanctioned by the aspiring world government at the United Nations. Colonialism is so yesterday - welcome to globalisation.

4/12/11

You've Got to Admire the Idiot

He quotes from imagination, expecting us to be seduced by the charm.

It's the way I tell them.

Who cares if the idea's unresearched? So long as it comes in a metaphor.

The philosopher uses his intellect to explore possibilities.

I'm on this trip as an imaginary prophet.

The Text Starts Here

Impoverishing the Working Class

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With mass unemployment a permanent feature of economic life, workers’ wages are declining.

According to the Labor Department’s employment report released Friday, average hourly wages for private-sector workers, including salaried employees, were only 1.7 percent higher last month than in March of 2010.

But with the official inflation rate above 2 percent—and the prices of basic necessities such as fuel and food rising much faster—the real wages of American workers are falling.

That this trend is bound up with the policies of the Obama administration is indicated by the following anomaly: average hourly earnings rose over 3 percent annually during most of the 18-month official recession from December 2007 to June 2009. Then wage growth slowed sharply.

This shift corresponds to the bankruptcy and restructuring of General Motors and Chrysler carried out under the auspices of Obama’s Auto Task Force and with the full support of the UAW.

The Obama administration insisted as a condition for loans to the auto companies the imposition of drastic cuts in auto workers’ benefits and a 50 percent wage cut—to $14 an hour—for new-hires.

This was a signal for the corporate elite to launch a wage-cutting drive in every sector of the economy—a process that has now been expanded to encompass the public sector as well.

The working class is being impoverished in order to further enrich the financial aristocracy.

A study released Friday by the nonprofit group Wider Opportunities for Women concluded that less than 13 percent of the jobs expected to be created by 2018 will provide economic security to a single parent raising two or more children.

Only 43 percent of these jobs, according to the study, will pay wages sufficient to provide economic security for two workers raising two children.

The resources exist in abundance to provide a secure, good-paying job to all who want to work as well as quality education, housing, health care and a comfortable retirement.

But under the capitalist system they are monopolized by a parasitic ruling elite that owns the means of production and controls both political parties and all of the levers of state power.

The month-long struggle in Wisconsin signaled the reemergence of the working class into mass struggle in America, after decades during which it was suppressed by the official trade unions.

But the betrayal of that struggle by the unions, working in league with the Democratic Party, underscores the critical need for the development of a new, revolutionary leadership in the working class.