Monthly Archives: February 2013
Patriarchy, literally the rule by the fathers, is a social system in which the male is the primary authority figure. Daddy calls the shots in political leadership, moral authority, the control of property, and over women and children. Sound familiar?
If you haven’t noticed, patriarchy is not what it once was. In the Irish context the experience of patriarchy has played out for centuries in the empires that ruled us, the church that molded us and in the state that (most often) sent us to war or sent us packing.
Good little patriots that we were, we did what we were told too, didn’t we? We were well trained.
In life, apparently, you get one of two choices — to live in a historical age that is restrictive and repressive, or one collapsing under the weight of its own hubris. There’s no doubt about which we’re living in now, is there?
The only question is when will the principle players, the ones who had it so good for so long, quit the stage to make way for the sweeping change that is increasingly inevitable? I think it’s become clear that it’s going to take more than a little cast change to fix what’s ailing in patriarchy now.
We are in a new and uncharted situation, after all. Daddy’s not looking like the imposing authority figure he once was.
Thanks to two decades of unprecedented crisis where the deep rot in the Irish system is now in daily public view, ordinary Irish people suddenly possess something novel — a voice in their own affairs.
So what are those voices saying? In regard to the church those ordinary Irish people are saying we were abused or brutalized by religious orders who depended upon our silence. They’re saying a compliant state choose to look the other way.
They’re saying for decades Ireland had a golden circle that simply froze out the rabble to protect their own good fortune.
They’re saying what happened to me and to thousands like me was wrong.
They’re saying they want an apology, but more than that they’re saying they don’t want thus to happen to anyone else any more.
They’re not being listened to, of course. In life, where you stand determines so much of what you’re willing to see. Nothing puts the blinders on like an inchoate threat to your purse strings.
That’s why we need artists. Artists live beyond the margin of things, they stand outside the daily struggles, that can tell us what they see from their unique perspective. So far the news isn’t good.
For decades Ireland’s most distinguishing characteristic was repression. That was the signature element of our powerlessness. Daddy (the state, the church) called the shots.
But remarkably, in a moment that underlines just how far we have moved away from the repressive
certainties of even a decade ago, it was the Irish Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Enda Kenny who admitted as much last week.
“We lived with the damaging idea that what was desirable and acceptable in the eyes of the church and the state was the same and interchangeable,” Kenny told the nation last week.
“This moral subservience gave us… the compliant, obedient and lucky ‘us’ and banished the more problematic, spirited or unlucky ‘them.’”
Shocking things could happen to you in Ireland if you were one of “them.” I know this with certainty, because I was one. Figuratively and literally.
That’s what some people used to call me when I lived in Ireland. It was a badge of shame. It was the equivalent of a passport too.
Once you were called it your fate was already being parceled out. You were being stamped for rejection or export or worse.
The jig’s well and truly up now though, isn’t it? Oh, the organizers of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade on Fifth Avenue and the elder statesmen of the Republican Party and the cardinals on their way to the concave can still pretend they haven’t received the memo, but we’re in a new moment.
They know it. The whole world knows it.
The lesson of the last decade, where patriarchal hubris led us to war on false pretenses, where it sought to divide natural allies to protect itself, where it tried to cover up its own sins whilst loudly condemning others, has not been lost on us. Daddy can take a number now like the rest of us had to.
PARIS – Stephane Hessel, the French best-selling author, Resistance figure and diplomat died last night at age 95.
He is mostly known however, for his rights activism – his tireless combat for the disenfranchised and illegal immigrants, writes France 24 and is considered the father of the Occupy movement.
His 32-page essay, Indignez-Vous! (Time for Outrage!), published in 2010, sold over 2.1 million copies in France and more than a 3.5 million copies worldwide, according to Le Monde. It was translated in 34 languages and has been lauded for inspiring the global Indignados and Occupy anti-austerity movements.
In an interview with the AFP in March 2012, Hessel said: “The amazing success is still a surprise for me, but it is explained by an historical moment. Societies are lost, asking themselves how to make it through and searching a meaning to the human adventure.”
Time for Outrage! urges youths to emulate the wartime spirit of resistance to the Nazis by rejecting the “insolent, selfish” power of money and markets and by defending the social “values of modern democracy.”
“The reasons for outrage today maybe less clear than during Nazi times,” he wrote, “But look around and you will find them.”
Hessel was born to a Jewish family in Berlin in 1917, and moved to France when he was seven. His parents were Franz and Helen Hessel, who along with writer Henri-Pierre Roché inspired François Truffaut’s film, “Jules and Jim.”
He was naturalized French in 1939, as WWII was starting, and in 1941, he joined the Resistance movement spearheaded by Charles De Gaulle in London. In 1944 he captured by the Gestapo and deported to the Buchenwald concentration camp, where he was tortured but escaped death by exchanging his identity with a prisoner who had died of typhus.
After the war ended, he participated in editing the Universal Declaration of Human Rights with Eleanor Roosevelt and went on to hold various posts at the UN.
Goldman Sachs and the ‘Suspicious’ Heinz Trades
Goldman Sachs may be co-operating with the SEC over suspicious GS trades that netted someone in Goldman $1.8 million in call options but co-operation should also include transparency in Goldman’s subsidiaries so that people who do such trades can be identified.
Goldman thrives on secrecy and opaqueness.
US judge freezes Goldman Sachs account over ‘suspicious’ Heinz trading
A US judge froze a Goldman Sachs account that regulators say was used to make suspicious trades in H J Heinz, after unknown traders failed to appear in court to defend their claims to the assets.
When the unidentified traders didn’t show up at a hearing on Friday in Manhattan, a US district judge, Jed Rakoff, said he would grant the US Securities and Exchange Commission‘s (SEC) request to freeze the Goldman Sachs account in Zurich until the case was resolved.
“They can hide, but their assets can’t run,” Mr Rakoff announced, saying he had granted the SEC’s request and signed the freeze order.
The agency said in its complaint that the trades came a day before Warren Buffett‘s Berkshire Hathaway and 3G Capital announced the US$23 billion (Dh84.4bn) takeover of Pittsburgh-based Heinz. The suspicious trading involved call-option contracts, the SEC said.
Goldman Sachs told the regulator it doesn’t have “direct access” to information about the beneficial owner behind transactions in the account. The New York-based bank told the agency the account holder is a Zurich private-wealth client, the SEC said. Goldman has said it is co-operating with authorities.
The SEC on February 15 sued “unknown” traders who used an “omnibus account” and invested almost $90,000 in Heinz option positions the day before the deal was announced. As a result, their position increased to more than $1.8 million, a rise of almost 2,000 per cent in one day.
The SEC, which obtained a preliminary freeze on the funds from Mr Rakoff on February 15, said that the traders had material nonpublic information about the impending deal when they bought 2,533 call options, which had a strike price of $65 on February 13. Shares closed that day at $60.48.
Heinz shares jumped 20 per cent to $72.50 on February 14, following the announcement that Berkshire Hathaway and Jorge Paulo Lemann‘s 3G Capital had agreed to buy Heinz. As a result of the takeover announcement, the price of the June call options jumped to a close of $7.33 on February 14 from 40 cents the day before, an increase of more than 1,700 per cent.
Mr Rakoff, who on February 15 put a temporary freeze on the assets in the Goldman Sachs account, directed anyone connected to the trades to appear before him at 2pm local time on Friday to explain why the assets should not be permanently restrained.
The FBI said last week that it was also investigating the matter and was working with the SEC.
The SEC wants the assets frozen until the case is resolved because there is a “serious risk that the substantial proceeds from the defendants’ trading will leave the jurisdiction of the US courts in the next few days and may never be recovered,” according to a court filing.
* Bloomberg News
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“Our vision of the Communitarian Socialism of Living Well is based on rights and not on the market. It is based on the full realization of human happiness of peoples and populations, through the full complementarity of the rights of peoples, persons, states and Mother Earth”
On December 21, at a solstice celebration in Lake Titicaca, high in the Andes, Bolivian president Evo Morales introduced the “Manifesto of Isla del Sol.” His talk, translated below, includes the full text of the manifesto.
“Vivir Bien” has long been a key element in Morales’ political philosophy. The phrase literally means “living well,” but its meaning in Bolivia is closer to “living in the right way” or “living appropriately, so that others may also live.”
Thanks to Richard Fidler for the translation, which was first published, along with his introduction and commentary, on Life on the Left.
TEN COMMANDMENTS FOR CONFRONTING CAPITALISM
A CULTURE OF LIFE
Sisters and brothers, I want to express my surprise at the size of this huge gathering that today brings together, on this Isla del Sol, sisters and brothers from Abya Yala, America, Europe, Africa and Asia.
Greetings to our Vice-President of Bolivia, Álvaro García Linera; to the Vice-President of Nicaragua, Moisés Omar Halleslevens Acevedo; to the Minister of Communications and Information of Venezuela, Ernesto Villegas, and to the deputy ministers of Venezuela for Latin America and the Caribbean, Verónica Guerrero, and for North America, Claudia Salerno; to the Minister of Culture of Cuba, Rafael Bernal Alemany; to the ministers and ambassadors of Bolivia, of all of America, of Asia and of Europe.
Greetings, as well, to our leaders, men and women who are leading the social movements and organizations of the various sectors that were debating around this 21st of December and expressing some profound thoughts on political, economic, social issues and on the environment and Mother Earth. They are engaged in an ongoing debate about equality and social justice.
Today we are all reunited here, in the time of Pachakuti, in the time of change.
The Isla del Sol, the birth of a new time
From the Isla del Sol, from the Sacred Lake Titikaka that we share between Peru and Bolivia, we want to tell you that we are reunited today, the 21st of December 2012, not in the expectation that the world is to end, as some were saying. The world will never come to an end. We are here to provide hope in this new dawn for the peoples of the world.
In this Isla del Sol, where a thousand years ago the time of the sun began, Manco Kapac and Mama Ocllo, who were to found Tahuantinsuyo, were born. That is why this island is the founding island of the time and the history of the children of the sun. But later, darkness arrived with the foreign invaders. Emboldened by greed, they came to our continent, Abya Yala, to subject the indigenous nations. It was the time of darkness, of pain and sadness, a time that for the children of the Willka was a time of no time.
Today, from this same island that gave birth to Tahuantinsuyo, we are closing the epoch of darkness and of no time, and we are opening a new time of light: the Pachakuti.
Again, the peoples of the world, the social movements, the marginalized people, discriminated, humiliated, are organizing, mobilizing, gaining consciousness and arising again as in those times of the Pacha, the times of Pachakuti.
That is why, sisters and brothers, this great unprecedented historical event is a great surprise, as it is, too, for our brothers in Guatemala, Mexico, Ecuador and in other countries of the world that today are mobilizing to receive the Pacha.
This morning, with the brother Vice-President Álvaro García and with the brother Minister of Foreign Affairs, David Choquehuanca, we were informed that the peoples of North America, both in Canada and in the United States, are mobilizing to express their hope in this summer solstice.
Sisters, brothers: The world is being hit by a world-wide multiple crisis that is manifested in a climate, financial, food, institutional, cultural, ethical and spiritual crisis. This crisis indicates to us that we are living in the final days of capitalism and unbridled consumerism; that is, of a model of society in which human beings claim to be superior to Mother Earth, converting nature into an object of their merciless predatory domination.
The ideologues of capitalism argue that the following are the solutions to the crisis of the capitalist system:
On the one hand, more capitalism, more privatization, more commoditization, more consumerism, more irrational and predatory exploitation of natural resources and more protection for companies and private profit.
On the other hand, fewer social rights, less public health, less public and free education, and less protection for human rights.
Today the societies and peoples of the developed countries are tragically experiencing the capitalist crisis created by its own market. Capitalist governments think that it is more important to save the banks than to save human beings, and it is more important to save the companies than to save people. In the capitalist system the banks have priority economic rights and enjoy first-class citizenship, which is why we can say that the banks are worth more than life. In this unfettered capitalism, individuals and peoples are not brothers and sisters, they are not citizens, they are not human beings; individuals and peoples are debt defaulters, borrowers, tenants and clients; in short, if people do not have money, they are nothing.
We are living in the kingdom of the colour green. Green like dollars are the monetary policies, green like dollars are the development policies, green like dollars are the housing policies, green like dollars are the human development policies and environmental policies. That is why, faced with the new wave of crisis of the capitalist system, its ideologues have come out in favour of privatizing nature through the so-called green economy or green capitalism.
However, the recipes of the market, of liberalism, of privatization simply generate poverty and exclusion, hunger and marginalization.
The images that unfettered capitalism leaves to the world are sinister:
More than 850 million hungry people in the world, almost 200 million more than those who existed 30 years ago;
Life expectancy of the poorest in the world continues to be the same as it was in 1977, that is 44 years of age;
Approximately 1.3 billion people live in conditions of poverty;
There are close to 230 million unemployed in the world, 40 million more than there were 30 years ago;
Finally, the developed countries annually waste 700 million tons of food, that is, three times more than what Sub-Saharan Africa produces in a year.
Among the structural causes of the global crisis of capitalism are the following:
The accumulation and concentration of wealth in a few countries and in small privileged social groups,
The concentration of capital in production and marketing of resources and goods that produce the quickest and greatest profit,
Promotion of massive and excessive social consumption of products in the belief that to have more is to live better,
Massive production of disposable products to enrich capital and increase the ecological footprint,
Excessive and unsustainable extractivist productivist use of renewable and non-renewable natural resources at high environmental costs,
Concentration of capital in processes of financial speculation for the purpose of generating quick and generous profits,
Concentration of knowledge and technology in the rich countries and in the richest and most powerful social groups,
Promotion of financial practices and extractive and commercial productive schemes that undermine the economy and sovereignty of states, particularly in the developing countries, monopolizing the control of natural resources and their earnings,
Reduction of the role of states to that of weak regulators, converting large investors into managers of the property of others, and states and peoples into weak servants or partners with the myth that foreign investment can solve everything.
Sisters and brothers of the world: Capitalism has created a civilization that is wasteful, consumerist, exclusive, clientelist, a generator of opulence and misery. That is the pattern of life, production and consumption that we urgently need to transform.
The planet and humanity are in serious danger of extinction. The forests are in danger, biodiversity is in danger, the rivers and oceans are in danger and the earth is in danger. This beautiful human community that inhabits our Mother Earth is in danger owing to the climate crisis.
The causes of this climate crisis are directly related to the accumulation and concentration of wealth in a few countries and in small social groups; to massive, excessive and expensive consumption resulting from the belief that to have more is to live better; to pollutant production of disposable goods to enrich capital, increasing the ecological footprint; as well as the excessive and unsustainable extractive use for production of renewable and non-renewable natural resources at high environmental costs.
Sisters and brothers: The Plurinational State of Bolivia, echoing the voice of the world’s peoples, accepts an ethical obligation to the planet and advocates the need for human beings to recover a sense of unity and relevancy with Mother Earth.
We are in a crucial moment for the definition of the future of our planet. In our hands and in our consciousness lies the responsibility to agree on the road we are going to follow to guarantee the eradication of poverty, the distribution and redistribution of wealth, and the creation and strengthening of our social, material and spiritual conditions in order to live in harmony and equilibrium with nature.
The rich and industrialized countries must contribute to promoting the socialization of wealth and welfare in harmony with nature while the poor and developing countries must distribute the little wealth that they have. There is no future for humanity if egoism and greed prevail, with the accumulation and ostentation that are part of a system in which he who has more rules over those without. We must share and complement each other in knowledge, wealth, humanity and respect for nature.
This 21st of December is the day of the initiation of the Pachakuti, which translates into the awakening of the world to the culture of life. It is the beginning of the end of unfettered capitalism as well as the transition from the time of violence between human beings and violence to nature to a new time in which human beings will constitute a unity with Mother Earth and all will live in harmony and equilibrium with the cosmos as a whole.
This day is for the age-old societies the moment when major telluric-cosmic changes will occur in the planet and it is the omen that the culture of death, hunger and injustice will have reached its end. It means the end of a state of things and the beginning of profound changes in the world.
Likewise, this new time must be the beginning of the end of the monarchies, the hierarchies, the oligarchies and the anarchies of the market and of capital.
The Pachakuti has arrived, and you who now join with us in the sacred Isla del Sol, in Lake Titikaka, we are the Rainbow Warriors, we are the warriors of Vivir Bien [Living Well], we are the insurgents of the world.
In this context, let us suggest ten commandments to confront capitalism and construct the culture of life:
1. IN POLITICS:
Refound democracy and politics, empowering the poor and serving the peoples
The world is experiencing a crisis of political systems because they no longer represent the peoples, they are elitist, exclusive, governed by oligarchical leaderships with the vision of filling the pockets of a few and not serving the people. The so-called democracies are the pretext for handing over the natural resources to transnational capital. In those false democracies, politics has been converted into an instrument for profit and not a vocation of service. Anachronistic forms of governments still survive that no longer respond to the demands of the world’s peoples. We must refound democracy. We do not want a colonial democracy in which the politicians are an aristocratic class and not militants in the cause of the poor and of service to the poor.
Democracy is not viable if it does not empower the poor, the marginalized, and does not respond first and foremost to the urgent needs of the neediest. A democracy in which a few become rich and the majority become poor is not a democracy.
Refounding democracy, refounding states, refounding republics and refounding politics requires the following actions, among others:
Refound the political systems, burying all forms of hierarchy, monarchy, oligarchy and the anarchy of the market and of capital. Democracy is the government of the peoples and not of the market.
Go beyond representative democracy, in which power is at the service of the interests of the elites and minorities, to communal democracy in which there are neither majorities nor minorities, but instead decisions are taken by consensus, and it is reason that prevails, not votes.
Promote the idea that political action means full and ongoing service to life, that is, in turn, an ethical, human and moral commitment to our peoples, recovering the codes of our ancestors: do not steal, do not lie, do not be lazy and do not be obsequious.
Service to the fatherland cannot be understood as using the fatherland as if it were a business; politicians cannot employ the administrative, legal and economic instruments of the state for their private and personal interests.
The people, through their social and community organizations, must take political power, building new forms of plurinational states, so that we shall govern ourselves within the framework of mandar obedeciendo (leading by obeying).
2. IN SOCIAL LIFE:
Greater social and human rights, vs. the commoditization of human needs
An insulting and outrageous reality that persists in today’s world is the gap between rich and poor, the result of unequal distribution of income and unequal and discriminatory access to basic services. Capital and the market are no solution to inequality and poverty; they only privatize services and profit from needs. We have had a tragic experience with the privatization of basic services, especially water.
To overcome the serious social inequalities, it is necessary to undertake the following actions, among others:
It is imperative that we recognize, in international legislation and in national standards in all countries, that basic services such as water, electricity, communications and basic sanitation are a fundamental human right of the people in all corners of the planet.
In particular, water must be an essential human right because it bears directly on the development of life of all beings on the planet and is a fundamental component in the mobilization of all productive processes.
In addition to the recognition of basic services as a human right, we must proceed with the nationalization of those services, since private owners exclude the majority of the population from access to services that are fundamental to life, giving them an economic value that is unattainable for many.
There is a need to concentrate more economic resources in the hands of the state and to create mechanisms for distribution of this wealth between the regions and among the people who are the neediest and most vulnerable, in order to eliminate in the next few years all forms of social, material and spiritual poverty in the world through the democratization of economic wealth.
It is necessary to develop the formation of a new, full human being who is neither materialist nor a consumer, but focused consistently on the search for Living Well, with a profound revolutionary ethics based on harmony and solidarity, recognizing that all the peoples of the world make up a great family.\
We must end the transnational monopoly of the pharmaceutical industry and recover and strengthen our ancestral and natural medicinal knowledges and practices.
3. IN CULTURAL AND SPIRITUAL LIFE:
Decolonize our peoples and our cultures, to build a communitarian socialism of living well
Sisters and brothers: We are living in a society in which everything is globalized and homogenized, in which cultural identities seem to smack of the past that everyone wants to ignore. The ancient and ancestral cultures are marginalized in economic and political processes and their cultural and spiritual force and energy are discounted. This has led to a profound dehumanization in the world and discrimination in the spiritual and cultural resources that can give us the necessary strengths to stop the brutality of capitalism. We must:
Decolonize ourselves of racism, fascism and all types of discrimination.
Decolonize ourselves of commoditization and consumerism, luxury, egoism and greed, and promote Living Well.
Recover the knowledges and codes of the ancient cultures of the world, to strengthen the awareness of individuals and societies of Mother Earth, understanding what it means to be a living and sacred being, that we are her daughters and sons and we are nourished by her, respecting the cycles of nature and understanding that all existing things are part of the balance and harmony of life. We are born from the womb of Mother Earth and we shall return to her womb.
Where there are multiple cultures in countries it is imperative to promote the construction of plurinational states that respect social, economic, legal and cultural pluralism.
4. IN RESPECT TO THE ENVIRONMENT:
For the rights of Mother Earth, to live well and in opposition to the environmental colonialism of the green economy
In recent years the ideologists of the capitalist system have promoted the “green economy” as the salvation of this model of society. This simply means the commoditization of nature in the context of a green capitalism. The green economy is the economy of death, because in the context of protectionism of nature it is a death sentence for the world’s peoples. That is why we condemn the green economy as the new environmental colonialism and green capitalism. Similarly, the climate crisis of the planet is a matter of concern to us because the human community that inhabits our Mother Earth is in imminent danger owing to the catastrophic consequences of natural disasters.
To transform this situation the peoples of the world must promote the following actions:
Demand that the countries that have caused the climate crisis fulfil their historic responsibility to pay the climate debt to the peoples of the South, and drastically reduce their greenhouse gas emissions within the framework of binding international agreements.
We must implement the policies and actions that are needed to prevent and avoid the exhaustion of natural resources, accepting that life depends on sustaining the capacity for regeneration of the life systems of Mother Earth and the full and sustainable management of their components. We must always bear in mind that the planet can live better without human beings but human beings cannot live without the planet.
This is the century of the battle for universal recognition of the rights of Mother Earth in all legislation, treaties and national and international agreements, so that we human beings begin to live in harmony and equilibrium with the cosmos.
The countries of the world must promote decisively and aggressively the non-commercialization of the environmental functions and natural processes of Mother Earth, as well as the integral and sustainable management of her components. We cannot sell our sacred Mother Earth solely on the basis of false illusions that markets will promote some financing for our peoples. Our peoples and Mother Earth cannot now or ever be for sale.
5. IN RESPECT TO NATURAL RESOURCES:
Sovereignty over natural resources is a requisite for liberation from colonial and neoliberal domination and for the full development of peoples
In many countries the principal source of economic wealth is based on the use of natural resources. However, in most countries this wealth has been looted and appropriated in private hands and by transnational powers that enrich themselves at the expense of the peoples. We call on countries to develop the following actions in relation to natural resources:
Put ownership of natural resources in the state, to benefit the peoples so they are oriented toward the enjoyment and benefit of all.
In all countries that have strategic natural resources, promote the implementation of processes of nationalization, since it is only through such nationalization that we can stop the processes of economic colonialism and ensure the reinforcement of the state with economic resources that in turn promote better basic services for their peoples.
Develop processes of industrialization of those natural resources, always bearing in mind the need for protection and respect for the rights of Mother Earth.
6. IN RELATION TO FOOD SOVEREIGNTY:
Know how to feed ourselves in order to live well, promoting the attainment of food sovereignty and the human right to food
The discussion of food security has been carried on world-wide from differing perspectives and approaches, such as food security, food sovereignty and the human right to food. Food is central to the life of individuals and the attainment of Living Well, and that is why states and peoples must promote a set of actions:
To progress in the construction of “Knowing How to Feed Oneself in order to Live Well,” recovering the food knowledges and productive technologies of community nutrition, in which foods are medicine and part of our cultural identity.
To try to guarantee in each country the basic foods consumed by its population through strengthening the economic, productive, social, cultural, political and ecological systems of rural producers, with an emphasis on community family agriculture.
To protect the population from the effects of malnutrition, with an emphasis on controlling the marketing of foods that are harmful to human health.
To punish financial speculation based on the production and marketing of food.
7. IN RESPECT TO INTEGRATION AND INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS:
The alliance of the peoples of the South against interventionism, neoliberalism and colonialism
Our ancestral peoples always lived integrated in cultures, integrated in trade, integrated in solidarity and in networks of collaboration. Today we must construct and strengthen our agreements of integration between peoples and communities, between states and governments, in a framework of support, collaboration and solidarity in order to strengthen life and humanity.
Faced with the diplomacy of death and war, commoditization, privatization, the plunder of natural resources, we must ourselves build the diplomacy of the peoples of the South in order to strengthen ourselves from the South.
The South is not and cannot be an obedient and servile pawn of the powers of the North. We are not the dump for the industrial and nuclear waste of the powers of the North, nor are we their inexhaustible source of raw materials. The South is emerging with the power of the peoples and the patriotic and sovereign governments, and is constructing projects of commercial, productive, cultural, technological, economic, financial and social integration. This is a time in which the peoples of the South, and together with the peoples of the North, must share, support ourselves and strengthen ourselves socially, economically and culturally.
Integration is conditional upon reliance on strong states and peoples, nationalist, patriotic, socialist governments with political will and national control, with projects and strategies for regional alliances to form a South that is building projects for regional power and integration.
The power of the South is its sovereignty, the right to development, the support and solidarity of peoples and states. The South is becoming stronger, becoming harmonized. There can be no strong South without sovereignty, patriotism, nationalism, a desire of peoples and states to break the chains of colonial and neoliberal servitude.
To achieve South-South integration, we must promote the following actions:
Form powerful coalitions and alliances to underwrite Agreements of Life and to share knowledges, technology and provision of financial resources, and not Free Trade Agreements, which are treaties of death for the peoples of the South as well as for the peoples of the North.
Construct a mechanism for integral development and integration between the states and peoples of the South that includes, among other things, areas of knowledge, technology, energy, food production, financing, health and education.
Move ahead in the twinning of the peoples of the South with those of the North, to destroy imperialism and build the civilizing horizon of Living Well in harmony and equilibrium with Mother Earth.
8. IN RESPECT TO KNOWLEDGE AND TECHNOLOGY:
Knowledge and Technology are fundamental tools to achieve integral development and the eradication of poverty and hunger
Knowledge and technology are fundamental to the provision of means of communication, education, basic services and industrial and energy projects, the transformation of raw materials and the production of food; in short, to drive our economies. Today the developed countries blindly protect their technologies through patents and licences and prevent us from accessing them. If we want technology we have to enter their technology markets. There is no solidarity, no technological complementarity possible with the developed countries. The monopoly of technology is an instrument of power to control the developing countries. The transnational powers of the rich developed countries and imperialism do not share technology because they only want to sell it in order to dominate us and create dependency.
That is why, now more than ever, it is fundamental to promote the following actions:
Build convergence between the ancestral and community knowledges, wisdom, techniques and technologies and the practices and technologies of modern science in order to help create conditions for Living Well and protection of Mother Earth.
Develop our own knowledge and technologies that break the technological dependency on the transnational powers of the North.
In opposition to the commoditized egoism of the transnational powers of the North let us build collaboration, solidarity and complementarity of the peoples and countries of the South together with the peoples of the North.
9. IN RESPECT TO INTERNATIONAL INSTITUTIONALITY:
We must construct a world institutionality of the peoples, of the poor, of Mother Earth. We do not accept or permit interventionism or neoliberalism by the United Nations or the institutionality of the empire of capital
The colonial global institutionality is designed to subject and deceive the peoples. In the name of freedom and democracy organizations like NATO, including the UN through the renowned Security Council, invade countries, destroy peoples, legalize and assist in massacres. We cannot allow or admit the construction of military bases and war industries to dominate the peoples on the pretext of national security. The main thing is the security of the peoples, life and Mother Earth. The arms build-up is the business of death that enriches capitalism and destroys the planet.
The global institutional machinery of the so-called United Nations is designed to destroy the sovereign will of the peoples. That is where a bureaucracy works in the service of capital and imperialism. We, the peoples of the world, do not accept that international organizations should appropriate to themselves the right of invasion and intervention. The UN has no morality to impose. We, the peoples of the world, do not accept this elitist institutionality of the bureaucrats of the empire.
It was in the bowels of the UN that the privatizing green economy originated, which we understand as the black economy of death; from those entrails originate the recipes for privatization and interventionism. The UN seems to be the Organization for the Rich and Powerful Countries; perhaps it should be named the INO, Imperialist Nations Organization. That UN we do not want, we disown it.
That neoliberal bureaucracy, the bureaucracy of the green economy and privatization, the bureaucracy that promotes structural adjustments, those functionaries of capital and ideologists of domination and poverty, act with the patriarchal and colonial conviction that the peoples and developing countries are incapable and stupid and that to emerge from poverty we must faithfully follow their development recipes.
To construct a new institutionality of the peoples of the world, aimed at Living Well, we must develop the following actions:
Build the institutional and legal conditions for our peoples and countries to live in dignity and sovereignty without interventionism and without foreign military bases.
Free ourselves from the ideological and political bonds of the global financial agencies like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, and their satellites and intellectuals of neoliberal domination, and build our own institutions to design and advise on policies aimed at Living Well.
Build a World Organization of the Poor, a World Organization of Justice, a World Organization of Sovereignty of the Peoples, a World Organization of Mother Earth, an Organization of the Assembly of the Peoples of the World.
10. IN THE ECONOMICS OF FINANCE:
Economic development must not be oriented to the market, to capital and to profit; development must be comprehensive and be oriented to human happiness, harmony and equilibrium with Mother Earth
Capitalism only globalizes poverty, hunger, and social injustice, destroys human rights and social, economic and cultural rights, and destroys the environment. Unfettered capitalism creates poverty and hunger. The global capitalist financial system is colonialist and imperialist, it is a weapon of the powerful countries for subjection of the developing countries and peoples, for privatization and commoditization, for subjecting us to the control of the oligarchies and the commoditizing anarchy of capital.
That is why we must disown and dismantle the international financial system and its satellites, the IMF and World Bank.
We call on the peoples and governments of the world to break the chains of this slavery by financial colonialism, because only financial and economic sovereignty can allow us to decide our future in a sovereign way.
To achieve sovereignty in economy and finance, we are challenged to take the following actions:
We must configure a new international economic and financial order based on the principles of equity, national sovereignty, common interests, harmony with nature, cooperation and solidarity between states and peoples. This new order must be oriented to changing unsustainable patterns of production and consumption, substantially reducing the gap between rich and poor and between the developed and developing countries.
We must build a new global, regional and national architecture and financial system that is free of the bonds and tentacles of power of the World Bank and IMF. A new architecture and a new financial order of the peoples and for the peoples.
It is essential to build new legal and institutional frameworks at the national and international level and to develop a system of regulation and supervision of the financial sector. States and peoples have to control private finance and not be subject to the colonial servility of financial governance by private interests.
We must free ourselves from that colonial bond called the External Debt, which serves only to blackmail us, to oblige us to hand over our assets and privatize our natural resources, and to destroy the sovereignty of peoples and states. The colonial External Debt is the mechanism of exaction and impoverishment that afflicts the developing countries and limits their access to development. We call for cancelling this unjust External Debt. No more inequality. No more poverty. It is time to distribute the wealth.
As developing countries, we must create our own financial instruments. We must create the World Bank of the Poor and of the Sovereign Peoples of the World. We cannot depend on the donations and conditional loans of the capitalist colonial financial system. We must unite and integrate, and that means building our own financial, popular, community, state and sovereign financial systems.
Build and strengthen regional markets based on solidarity and complementarity, substituting policies of complementarity arising out of the civilizing horizon of Living Well in place of the policies of competitiveness promoted by capitalism.
Our vision of the Communitarian Socialism of Living Well is based on rights and not on the market, it is based on the full realization of human happiness of peoples and populations, through the full complementarity of the rights of peoples, persons, states and Mother Earth in a complementary, inclusive and interdependent way.
The new epoch is that of the power of labour, the power of the communities, the power of solidarity of the peoples and the communion of all living beings so that together we constitute Mother Earth and the Communitarian Socialism of Living Well.
Sisters and brothers: I thank you for your patience in listening to this Manifesto of the Isla del Sol, which expresses ten commandments for Life and for Humanity. It is a Manifesto based on the experience of the Bolivian people, which can support the liberation of all the peoples of the world.
Sisters and brothers, leaders of Abya Yala, of America and the world, as a people and as social forces we have a huge responsibility: to save the planet, to save life and humanity. So we thank you for your presence on this historic day of the Summer Solstice, the beginning of the time of the Pachakuti.
Finally, I want to thank the original indigenous communities of the Isla del Sol for having allowed us to share our experiences. I thank the social organizations, the Armed Forces, the ministries, our departmental and national leaders for organizing an excellent festival of hope for the peoples of the world.
Join with me in saying:
Jallalla, peoples of the world!
Kausachun, peoples of the world!
President Barack Obama says the United States could launch an attack on Iran as early as this June, Israeli media reports.
According to a report on Israel’s Channel 10 News that has since been picked up by the Times of Israel, Pres. Obama will use an upcoming meeting overseas to discuss a military strike on Iran. Pres. Obama is scheduled to visit Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu next month, and during the get-together the two leaders will reportedly work out the details for a possible assault.
Pres. Obama will tell Netanyahu that a “window of opportunity” for a military strike on Iran will open in June, Channel 10 claims.
Israel has long-urged the White House to use its military prowess to intervene in Iran’s rumored nuclear weapon procurement plan, demands which have by-and-large been rejected by the Obama administration. According to the latest reports, though, the United States might finally be willing to use its might to make a stand against Iran’s race for a nuke.
“I have conversations with Prime Minister Netanyahu all the time. And I understand and share Prime Minister Netanyahu’s insistence that Iran should not obtain a nuclear weapon, because it would threaten us, it would threaten Israel, and it would threaten the world and kick off a nuclear arms race,” Pres. Obama said during an interview on the television program 60 Minutes last year, but not before adding that he’ll continue to block “noise” from Netanyahu’s camp. “Now I feel an obligation, not pressure but obligation, to make sure that we’re in close consultation with the Israelis — on these issues. Because it affects them deeply. They’re one of our closest allies in the region. And we’ve got an Iranian regime that has said horrible things that directly threaten Israel’s existence,” he said.
But five months after those remarks, Iran is still inclined to become a nuclear power. Only days earlier, The Jerusalem Post reported that Netanyahu said the details of a confidential report by the International Atomic Energy Agency suggested that that Iran had begun installing advanced centrifuges at its main uranium enrichment facility, sparking “very grave” concerns that Israel could be hit with a nuke.
Right now, five members of the United Nations Security Council and Germany are holding talks with Iranian officials in Kazakhstan, with the goal of reaching a diplomatic answer to the nuclear crisis. However, domestic tensions within Iranian political elite do not make the prospect of a solution any more viable for now. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s second and final term in office is set to wrap up this June, and political fights within the country’s top contenders for the position has prompted possible presidents to take harsh stance on the issue and resist outside pressure.
“President Ahmadinejad’s second term in office expires in half a year. The law prohibits him from running for the third term. What is happening could be an intensifying power struggle,” Andrei Baklitsky of the Russian Center for Policy Studies tells the Moscow Times of the latest “5+1 talks” in Kazakhstan. “At first [Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar] Salehi signals the possibility of direct talks with the United States and then the supreme leader rejects it. But as Salehi is Ahmadinejad’s man, the controversy should be viewed through the prism of an internal political standoff rather than as Tehran’s official policy.”
John Kerry, the US secretary of state, told reporters in Berlin, “My hope is Iran will make its choice to move down the path to a diplomatic solution.”
When Netanyahu critiqued the United States’ reluctance to act first last year, a meeting between the prime minister and Pres. Obama was subsequently cancelled by the White House. Just next month, though, the commander-in-chief will travel to the West Bank and Jordan for the first time during his second term in office. National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor has said of the trip that it will mark an “opportunity to reaffirm the deep and enduring bonds between the United States and Israel
What a laugh this report is given that the Minister would not even be capable of organizing a visit to a hospital
MINISTER FOR HEALTH James Reilly has given a personal pledge to “tackle the smoking problem” and called for combined measures to regulate tobacco products.
Speaking in Brussels in a meeting of the EU Environment, Public Health and Food Safety Committee, Reilly also called for comprehensive assistance to smokers who want to quit and media information campaigns.
The committee was discussing the proposal to revise the 2001 Tobacco Products Directive which focuses on smokeless tobacco products, packaging and labelling, ingredients or additives, cross-border distance sales and traceability and security issues. It also aims to harmonise the implementation of international obligations under the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC).
Speaking about the proposal before the committee Commissioner Tonio Borg said tobacco “should look like tobacco and taste like tobacco as well, not like vanilla or other sweets”.
“These products are produced in this way to be attractive to the young. Let’s not forget that most people start smoking below the age of 25 and the majority when they are still minors,” he said. Several other MEPs echoed his call for flavoured tobacco products to be abolished.
However Danish MEP, Anna Rosbach, said that the committee should not forget that governments need the revenues generated by tobacco. “The fiscal impact is something we have to bear in mind”, she said. “Any smoker who stops is a good investment.”
Minister Reilly said that economically, it is a “no brainer”, because of the heavy costs that smoking imposes on health systems and on the economy, through absenteeism from work.
Italian MEP Oreste Rossi said he was worried that too many limits place upon people would result in an increase in the trade of illegal cigarettes. However Borg reassured the committee that security and tracking provisions were also proposed in the directive.
The emails also leave the reader in no doubt about whom these people are helping the Venezuelan right-wing opposition: “to answer your question, the US networks are definitely involved. I cannot confirm for you if that specific gentleman is involved, but the usual establishments are”.
Edited from a piece by Paul Dobson, writing in a personal capacity, Venezuela, Feb 2013
This week Wikileaks published over 40,000 secret documents regarding Venezuela, which show the clear hand of the US in efforts to topple the progressive government of the popular and democratically elected leader Hugo Chavez.
The documents, which date from July 2004 to December 2011 and which were published through Wikileaks twitter account @wikileaks and are now available on Wikileaks Global Intelligence Files online, are based on emails taken from the private US-based intelligence company, Stratfor.
This company claims to provide analysis for multinational corporations looking to invest in Venezuela, and uses a number of local sources to develop their reports. However, their emails prove that their motives and objectives are far from independent, and they are working as an intelligence and strategy agency for those looking to develop suitable political conditions for both economic exploitation and intervention in the country.
Wikileaks describes Stratfor as “a company that fronts as an intelligence publisher, but provides confidential intelligence services to large corporations, such as Bhopal’s Dow Chemical Co., Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon and government agencies, including the US Department of Homeland Security, the US Marines and the US Defense Intelligence Agency”.
“The emails”, Wikileaks goes on to explain, “show Stratfor’s web of informers, pay-off structure, payment laundering techniques and psychological methods”.
The leaked emails cover a range of issues, but concentrate on the energy sector, especially petrochemicals and oil; political change and the state of the right-wing forces within Venezuela; and the state of the military and armed forces. They also touch on Venezuela’s relations with Cuba, China, Russia, and Iran, as well as providing bleak projections of the economy and future of the financial sector.
The firm’s emails are listed with the addresses of the sender and receiver, as well as mentioning, amongst other things, the reliability of the source from which they take the information. One email, which exposes the political requisites for reliability, according to Stratfor, uses a source described as a “Venezuelan economist in Caracas” who is described as having “source reliability: B (solidly anti-Chavez)”.
The emails mention meetings with, and biographies of, various prominent Venezuelan right-wing opposition leaders, such as Antonio Ledezma (Mayor of Caracas), Henrique Capriles (the Presidential candidate defeated by Hugo Chavez last year) and Leopoldo Lopez, as well as right wing media tycoon Rafael Poleo: “I spoke to Rafael Poleo [a very prominent Venezuelan
political analyst] a couple of days ago” reports one source. Such naming’s complete the link between right-wing anti-Chavez activities in Venezuela and US/external ambitions in the country.
The emails to and from the Stratfor staff mention various political events during the period, but focus on the student protests of 2009-2010 when right-wing student based opposition sectors manipulated for political ends the power cuts bought about by the worst drought in 100 years which left the hydro-based energy system completely dried up. They also address the
RCTV protests following the rejection of the application to renew the license of the right wing TV channel after they backed the 2002 coup d’état and publically called for the assignation of elected President Chavez.
The emails make frequent reference to a Serbia-based right wing policy group called CANVAS (Center for Applied Non Violent Action and Strategies).Here, there are numerous Word documents sent amongst the emails, many of which are classed as “not for publication” and which detail the steps recommended to enact a “revolution” which would see Hugo Chavez thrown out of power.
One is indeed referred to as “a how-to guide for revolution”. They go on to class Venezuelan people as “retarded” and who “talk out of their ass”. The country is, according to CANVAS, “absolutely a joke”.
CANVAS explains clearly their recommended strategy for toppling governments: “when somebody asks us for help, as in Vene case, we usually ask them the question ‘and how would you do it’. That means that the first thing is to create a situational analysis (the word doc I sent you) and after that comes “Mission Statement” (still left to be done) and then “Operational Concept”, which is the plan for campaign” explain CANVAS to Stratfor. “For this case we have three campaigns: unification of opposition, campaign for September elections and parallel with that a “get out and vote” campaign”.
Referring to destabilisation plans, CANVAS go on to state that “we only give them the tools to use”.
Making reference to the opposition alliance of parties, they further state that “in Venezuela’s case, because of the complete disaster that the place is, because of suspicion between opposition groups and disorganization, we have to do the initial analysis. Whether they go on to next steps really depends on them, in other words depends on whether they will become aware that because of a lack of UNITY they can lose the race before it has started”.
“This year we are definitely ramping up activity in Venezuela” they write. Referring to the 2010 Parliamentary elections, the explain that “they have elections in September and we are in close connection with activists from there and people trying to help them (please keep this to yourself for now, no publication). The first phase of our preparation is under way”.
The emails also leave the reader in no doubt about whom these people are helping the Venezuelan right-wing opposition: “to answer your question, the US networks are definitely involved. I cannot confirm for you if that specific gentleman is involved, but the usual establishments are”.
Other emails contains various attached files which provide rundowns of the exact status of the Venezuelan army, air force and navy, including numbers, equipment, and expertise.
“(We) will be sending along more info soon on the whole rundown of how Chavez has revamped the military/security apparatus over the past several years” states the sender. “It’s all scribbled on paper right now from my notes, but gotta say, I’m quite impressed with ‘ol Hugo”.
The fully detailed documents explain that “the army’s reform has stretched beyond the procurement of new assault and sniper rifles and now comprises of a modernized doctrine too. New concepts include asymmetric warfare and reliance on the country’s communication and supply infrastructure as well as popular support to resist a large scale US invasion”.
US government prosecutors spent the first day of a long-delayed trial into the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster arguing that corporate greed was the cause of the explosion that killed 11 people and created America’s worst offshore oil spill.
A tense day in a federal court in New Orleans saw all four companies involved in the disaster accused of systematically disregarding safety as they sought to extract oil from ever greater depths in the Gulf of Mexico. The Macondo well was called “the well from hell” by a worker, the court heard.
The US government is seeking fines of almost $18bn (£11.8bn) from BP. Its lawyers claimed the bulk of the blame for the disaster lay with the UK company. Most legal experts thought BP would settle with the government over the weekend, but the company has vigorously denied it was grossly negligent in the spill.
The first part of the trial will apportion blame for the disaster between BP; Transocean, the owner of the Deepwater Horizon rig; Halliburton, which cemented the well; and Cameron, the manufacturer of a piece of safety equipment designed to prevent a well from blowing up.
District Judge Carl Barbier said he expects the first part of the trial to last three months. Government lawyers insisted before the trial that evidence would prove their accusation that BP was grossly negligent, a finding that would see the oil giant fined the maximum amount under the US Clean Water Act.
In his opening statement, Mr Underhill cited an email sent from John Guide, who was BP’s manager of the Macondo well, to his manager, David Sims, four days before the explosion on April 2010.
In it, Mr Guide says that his team are “flying by the seat of our pants” and that pressure from above is creating “paranoia” as they pushed to complete a well that the US government claims was $50m over budget by the time it exploded.
In an email response read in court, Mr Sims replied that he was off to “dance practice”, where he would be dancing to the Village People.
BP, which is one of the largest deepwater drillers in the Gulf of Mexico, has always denied that it cut corners to speed up the lucrative flow of oil from the region.
However, Jim Roy, a lawyer representing local businesses damaged by the spill, said BP’s senior management had applied heavy pressure in early 2010 on its Gulf of Mexico operations to speed up production, because it needed to find another $7bn to help pay for a dividend to shareholders.
BP shares closed up 1.6pc at 451½p in London on Monday, but investors who wanted the oil giant to settle before the matter reached court may be bracing for a lengthy trial. BP has set aside $42.2bn to cover the cost of the spill. The trial continues.
Goldman Sachs Has Massively Benefitted From Its Fraud
Rob Urie has written an article called Masters of Fraud (The Untouchables) that details how corrupt bankers like Goldman Sachs profited from their fraudulent CDOs while at the same time causing economic calamity for millions of people around the world who lost their jobs, their homes, their pensions and their savings.
The so-called recovery has benefited only the top 1% of income earners who are otherwise known as the ruling plutocracy of which Goldman Sachs is the exemplar.
Masters of Fraud
by ROB URIE
The most telling line from PBS’s Frontline piece ‘The Untouchables,’ on the absence of criminal prosecutions for the large-scale bank lending fraud behind the financial crisis of 2008, came when the head of the Justice Department’s Criminal Enforcement division, Lanny Breuer, voiced his concern that bringing criminal charges might cause thousands of bankers to lose their jobs. This came after voluminous evidence was provided that senior bankers, including former Clinton Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, were culpably aware the mortgage securitization businesses they were running were purchasing, packaging and re-selling trillions of dollars of mortgage loans that were never intended to be paid. It also came after it was known the economic calamity caused by corrupt bankers cost tens of millions of people around the globe their jobs, homes, life savings and all hope for a better future.
As with nearly all reporting on the economic debacle of 2008 – 20??, the story behind the piece was placed in the past tense as regrettable events that should have been attended to but weren’t. But a number of economic reports in recent weeks place the ongoing debacle in the economy squarely in the present. The first was an update on income distribution since the Great Recession began from U.C. Berkeley economist Emmauel Saez illustrating that the benefits of the economic ‘recovery’ have gone exclusively to the reigning plutocracy, the top ‘1%’ of income earners. The second report came from retailer Wal-Mart– the initial iteration of the ‘Grand Bargain’ struck in Washington to raise taxes on the top 0.3% of income earners, that more pointedly ended the payroll tax ‘holiday’ for the working poor, caused Wal-Mart sales to materially stall. The link between the two stories is the Federal government’s role in keeping Wal-Mart’s customers shopping via the payroll tax cut and transfer payments.
Following the airing of ‘The Untouchables’ Mr. Davis tendered his resignation—a coincidence assuredly unrelated to his public explication (and implementation) of the ‘Geithner Doctrine’ of unfettered delivery of public resources to, and immunity from prosecution for crimes committed by, culpable bankers. The ‘Geithner’ in the eponymously named Doctrine refers of course to Timothy Geithner, Mr. Obama’s Treasury Secretary and ‘our man in Washington’ as he is known to Wall Street. It was Mr. Geithner who, after delivering several trillion dollars in bailout money and ongoing guarantees to the Wall Street bankers behind the most gargantuan epic of lending fraud in human history, warned of the ‘moral hazard’ of allowing portions of the mortgages taken out by defrauded borrowers to be written down to current house values lest it set a bad precedent for the newly defrauded borrowers soon to come. (Some proportion of borrowers were undoubtedly complicit in the fraud, but (1) assessing the ability to repay loans is the charge / skill of lenders, not borrowers and (2) the systematic nature of the fraud, with masses of loans preemptively identified by bank credit departments to be fraudulent ‘waived in’ by these same banks to feed their securitization pipelines, is evidence senior bankers were looting ‘their’ banks with their securitization businesses).
In a move that drives establishment ‘economists’ right up the wall, actual economist Saez provides his income distribution data sans ‘transfer’ payments like unemployment and disability benefits from the government. What his data does represent is the distribution of income from the ‘private’ economy such as wages and the monetized gains on the stocks and bonds owned mostly by the rich. As establishment economists (and Wal-Mart executives) would have it, the actual plight of the rapidly increasing numbers of poor and near poor has been (marginally) improved by transfer payments and the payroll tax cut. And since Wal-Mart volunteered for the task, it seems that Wal-Mart also benefited from the transfer payments and payroll tax cut—witness the drop in sales coincident with the end of the payroll tax cut. In fact, in a broad sense that is how transfer payments were intended to work. However, the (Keynesian) economics only work if Wal-Mart pays their workers (and suppliers) commensurate with their economic contribution. But not doing so is the entirety of Wal-Mart’s business model. And a (partial) difference between the proportionate wage and what Wal-Mart workers actually earn is a ‘gift’ from we, the people. Another way to put this is the owners of Wal-Mart are the very same reigning plutocrats benefiting from the ‘recovery’ in the ‘private’ economy that, with income distribution data at hand, wouldn’t be without the helping hand of government.
With the remainder of Mr. Obama’s Grand Bargain on (temporary) hiatus, the question for the moment is: five years into a purported economic recovery, why would re-instating the payroll tax to its prior level cause undo hardship among America’s working poor? Mr. Saez provides the answer—in 2007 the incomes of rich and poor alike fell off the proverbial cliff. The incomes of the rich have largely recovered thanks to bank bailouts, stealth transfers, ‘Quantitative Easing’ that lifts financial asset prices and ongoing government guarantees of the financial system, while the incomes of the lower 99% have continued to decline. The only source bridging this shortfall for all but the very rich has been the Federal government. Re-instating the full (regressive) payroll tax appears to be causing a near instantaneous reaction from the American ‘consumers’ who, because of its regressive nature, would be expected to be most affected by the change. Until there is a recovery in the ‘private’ economy that boosts incomes and employment, any reduction in government payments will quickly become evident in the economies of the growing numbers of poor and near poor. And any suggestion from the wealthy that they, the wealthy, are not the ‘dependent’ class is an ignorant lie. Remove government support for the financial economy and stealth wage subsidies for the rich and this would be evident within minutes.
What then is the relation between the bank lending fraud behind the housing bubble, the continuing decline in the economic fortunes of the great majority of the population and government ‘efforts’ to restore a functioning economy? Bank lending fraud produced three main outcomes—(1) wildly inflated house prices, (2) the placement of a significant proportion of the population into permanent debt servitude against houses now worth far less than the money owed against them and (3) crashing the global financial system, and with it the global economy. In the aggregate, those with mortgages now earn less than they did when they took out the mortgages and the houses they bought / re-financed in the housing bubble are worth less than the mortgage amounts owed against them. In this context, government efforts to restore the Wall Street banks behind this fiasco while doing little / nothing to extinguish the ill-gotten debts leaves most Americans (and peripheral Europeans) in a debt-deflationary spiral. Put another way, companies won’t hire despite alleged government efforts to ‘fix’ the economy because as they see it, the economy has still not been fixed. Those that are hiring are systematically underpaying labor because of weak labor market conditions. And banks (thankfully) won’t lend because they’ve turned their prospective retail customers into debt slaves unqualified for additional credit because of the economic circumstances they (the banks) created.
Between 1950 and the mid-1970s government transfer payments, including unemployment benefits, bridged lost ‘consumption’ in the temporary recessions engineered by the Federal Reserve to keep labor ‘pliable.’ The Federal Reserve would raise interest rates to dampen ‘inflation,’ a/k/a increasing wage demands, unemployment would rise, the Fed would then lower interest rates and unemployment would fall. Unemployment benefits (transfer payments) were designed to last the approximate length of these engineered recessions. They provided incomes lower than wages but high enough to keep the masses from starvation until the jobs returned. Beginning around 1990 bouts of unemployment began to outlast unemployment benefits. (Source data: St. Louis Fed; 12 month rolling difference Fed Funds versus 24 month forward 12 month rolling difference Civilian Unemployment Rate, 1954 – present). Additionally, proportionally fewer unemployed have been eligible for unemployment benefits in recent decades. Despite extending eligibility for Federal unemployment benefits for up to two years in the Great Recession, millions of unemployed have run out of benefits without finding new employment. And reversing the payroll tax cut is in no way ‘symmetrical’ with raising marginal tax rates by 2% on top earners (the Obama ‘compromise’). As Wal-Mart sales are demonstrating, the economic fragility of the poor and near poor shows up instantly in their inability to buy basic necessities whereas the tax increases on the top 0.3% are not material to levels of consumption given very high levels of income.
Mainstream economists consider all of this—the impoverishment and debt servitude of the masses and the continuing decline in our economic fortunes, to be unfortunate accidents. Liberal economists add that Keynesian policies to support ‘the economy’ could lessen the economic impact of the Great Recession and with it the attendant human misery. Left unsaid is that the bankers who created this circumstance are in every way benefiting from it. Through Bush and Obama administration actions banks received ‘no-strings’ bailouts to recover their ‘businesses’ while those who owe the banks have lost their houses and / or are permanent debt slaves to them as their incomes decline. Bank debts are repaid in the quantity the money was borrowed in whereas declining asset values allow the banks to use that money to buy assets for less money. Weak labor markets allow businesses to systematically underpay labor leaving more revenues with which to repay business loans. And banks have been granted the franchise to create money through the existing debt based money system meaning they control its creation, and through it, the political system and ‘the economy.’ But more than just bankers have seen their incomes recovered—the reigning plutocracy including industrialists, bankers and inherited wealth, a veritable ‘ruling class,’ have seen no effort spared by the Federal government and the Federal Reserve to restore their lot to its former level. Explanations of accidents—both of nature or economic policy, fill the mainstream whereas true accidents wouldn’t so unwaveringly fill the pockets of the rich and connected.
Of current interest is that there is no self-generating economic recovery for all but the very richest, at least none to be found in the income distribution data. Given the only time in prior U.S. history most citizens lost as much income as in recent history was in economic depressions, the 99% entered an economic depression in 2008 that has, outside of help from the Federal government, only gotten worse since then. This help from the Federal government is ending, beginning with restoration of the full payroll tax. The fools, crooks and sociopaths running the banks were left in place and the ‘liquidity’ provided by the Federal Reserve is fueling new and ‘exciting’ speculative bubbles. The banks retain social control through debt servitude and political and economic control through their franchise to create and control debt-based money. The mainstream press reports ‘the world’ is back to business as usual and except for the economic lot of the overwhelming majority of citizens of the West, they are correct.
Current focus by the ‘liberal’ Obama administration on raising the minimum wage is better than a kick in the teeth, but all the solutions being proposed to recover a functioning economy assume ‘the economy’ was functioning before the onset of the Great Recession in 2007. In fact, while it was unknown in 2005 that the banks would need (and receive) trillions of dollars in emergency welfare assistance, history revealed that such was the case. It is this system of massive corporate welfare grants under duress used to restore the fortunes of the already rich that is the only aspect of ‘the economy’ that has been recovered. Additionally, the current system of debt-based finance guarantees environmental rape and pillage to sustain the cash flows required for debt service. At this point in history the world can ill afford more environmental destruction because of global warming. A government jobs program designed to build out an environmentally sustainable economy is likely the only solution to the end-time scenarios currently being orchestrated in the capitols of the West. Such a program could provide guaranteed employment to all comers at the minimum wage adjusted for both inflation and productivity gains (about $16.50 per hour) plus health care through Medicare. Through subsidies and state-granted monopoly power private employers are already receiving the difference between these wages and what they are actually paying ‘their’ workers. As there isn’t a snowball’s chance in hell this program will be implemented short of a credible threat of revolution, please enjoy whatever they’re showing on television these days.
Rob Urie is an artist and political economist in New York
The global pharmaceutical industry has racked up fines of more than $11bn in the past three years for criminal wrongdoing, including withholding safety data and promoting drugs for use beyond their licensed conditions.
In all, 26 companies, including eight of the 10 top players in the global industry, have been found to be acting dishonestly. The scale of the wrongdoing, revealed for the first time, has undermined public and professional trust in the industry and is holding back clinical progress, according to two papers published in today’s New England Journal of Medicine. Leading lawyers have warned that the multibillion-dollar fines are not enough to change the industry’s behaviour.
The 26 firms are under “corporate integrity agreements”, which are imposed in the US when healthcare wrongdoing is detected, and place the companies on notice for good behaviour for up to five years.
The largest fine of $3bn, imposed on the UK-based company GlaxoSmith-Kline in July after it admitted three counts of criminal behaviour in the US courts, was the largest ever. But GSK is not alone – nine other companies have had fines imposed, ranging from $420m on Novartis to $2.3bn on Pfizer since 2009, totalling over $11bn.
Kevin Outterson, a lawyer at Boston University, says that despite the eye watering size of the fines they amount to a small proportion of the companies’ total revenues and may be regarded as a “cost of doing business”. The $3bn fine on GSK represents 10.8 per cent of its revenue while the $1.5bn fine imposed on Abbott Laboratories, for promoting a drug (Depakote) with inadequate evidence of its effectiveness, amounted to 12 per cent.
Mr Outterson said: “Companies might well view such fines as a quite small percentage of their global revenue. If so, little has been done to change the system. The government merely recoups a portion of the financial fruit of firms’ past misdeeds.”
He argues that penalties should be imposed on executives rather than the company as whole. He cites a Boston whistleblower attorney, Robert Thomas who observed that GSK had committed a $1bn crime and “no individual has been held responsible”.
Following GSK’s admission that it had withheld safety data about its best-selling diabetes drug Avandia, the company pledged to make more clinical trial information available. But the pledge has “disturbing exceptions”, according to Mr Outterson, and in any case is made under the corporate integrity agreement, which expires in five years.
Trust in the industry among doctors has fallen so low that they dismiss clinical trials funded by it, even when the trials have been conducted with scientific rigour, according to a second paper in the journal by researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston. This could have serious implications because most medical research is funded by the drug industry and “if physicians are reluctant to trust all such research, it could hinder the translation of … research into practice,” said Aaron Kesselheim, who led the study.
Andrew Witty, the chief executive of GSK, said at the time of the $3bn settlement last July that it had resolved “difficult, long-standing matters” for the company and that there had since been a “fundamental change in procedures” including the removal of staff engaged in misconduct and changes to incentive payments.
The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry said practices in the industry had improved and more changes to “build greater levels of trust” would be made. The UK Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency said it monitored the conduct of companies and took “appropriate action” when it uncovered malpractice.
Alzheimer’s funding ‘must continue’
Governments, universities and charities should step in to ensure funding is maintained for research into Alzheimer’s disease, following a series of failed drug trials, experts said yesterday.
They were responding to a report in The Independent that the world’s leading drug companies are giving up on the search for a cure, scaling back their neuroscience departments and focusing on symptomatic, rather than disease-modifying, treatments.
A spokesman for the Alzheimer’s Society said: “This is not the time to back away from dementia research. Despite costing the economy more than cancer and heart disease, funding for research into dementia is only a fraction of these conditions. More funding is urgently needed if we are to defeat it.”
For nearly two decades the transnational corporation that manufactures the pesticides used across the planet has been trying to take over the global seed market with genetically modified (GM) seed. If successful, most of the food we grow and eat would have to be purchased annually as seed from Monsanto. The mutant plants would grow up addicted to Monsanto herbicides. Local varieties would disappear, and in their place standardized, genetically modified food–doused with chemicals–would fill supermarket shelves and corner stores.
More than 60,000 farmers and supporters from workers’ and environmental organizations marched through Mexico City on Jan. 31 to avoid this fate. It was one of the largest mobilizations to date to reject the Monsanto game plan, and it’s no coincidence that it took place in the heart of the Aztec Empire.
Olegario Carrillo, president of Mexican small farm organization UNORCA, addressed the crowd in the central plaza, “During the last 30 years, successive governments have tried to wipe us out. They’ve promoted measures to take away our lands, our water, our seeds, plant and animal varieties, traditional knowledge, markets. But we refuse to disappear.”
“For peasant farmers, GMOs represent looting and control,” he stated.
With tens of thousands of people shouting “No genetically modified corn in Mexico!” and “Monsanto get out!”, the march showed the muscle of an unusual grassroots movement to protect small farmers and consumers. It also revealed the remarkable success of decades of public education and organizing on an issue that Monsanto and other major biotech firms hoped would slide under the radar of the people most affected by it.
Monsanto–along with Pioneer, Dow and other chemical/biotech firms–have been pushing hard to take over production of the world’s third major staple crop: corn. Small farmers in the U.S. have long experienced the pressure exerted to move them out of the way. Monsanto predicts that its corn seed will be planted on 96 million acres in the United States this year. But the key to its plans to conquer the market lies south of the border.
The powerful corporation, the largest seed seller in the world, desperately wants permission for unrestricted planting of its GM corn in Mexico. If GM corn is planted in Mexico, it will accelerate the transfer of acreage and water rights from small farmers to corporate GM corn cultivation, thus transferring control of the national food supply as well. Widespread open planting of GM corn will lead to contamination of native varieties. This is a scientific fact.
Mexico has already detected many native cornfields contaminated by GM corn during the period when open planting was prohibited—a strong indication of the impossibility of controlling open pollination between native and GM varieties.
This has huge implications.
Mexico is the center of origin of corn, and the home of hundreds of varieties developed by indigenous communities over centuries. To lose in situ preservation of these varieties is to lose a wealth of agro-diversity that has major importance for sustainable food production, and to eventually become dependent on Monsanto and other large corporations to feed ourselves.
Gene-splicing and the laboratory land grab
For years, Monsanto, Pioneer-Dupont and Dow and other companies in the biotech business have insisted that genetic modification is just like nature, only better. Their claim is that genetic mutations happen in natural settings so making them happen in a lab setting is just giving nature a nudge in the right direction.
They try not to mention that genetic modification of plants uses genes from animal and other foreign species that would never end up in the plant (or our food) on their own. They also do everything possible to bury studies on the negative health impacts of GM foods, including cancer.
And what they really hoped would never come up, is the plan to conquer the world–or at least its food systems–conveyed in a tiny Trojan seed.
If GM corn were planted in Mexico and widely promoted, access to native seed would dwindle, as fewer farmers planted or saved it. Legal offensives based on hyper patent laws contained in free trade agreements are even trying to make seed-saving illegal. Although some countries ban cultivation of certain types of GM crops, these crops already cover nearly 10 percent of the arable surface of the world.
For the communities that refuse to give up using native seed, the final assault is genetic contamination. GM corn contaminates nearby fields. The irony of this invasion is that once native corn is shown to have been contaminated (and thus ruined) by GM corn, Monsanto can come in with lawsuits claiming that its product is being used without required usage fees.
Mexico’s new government led by President Enrique Pena Nieto now finds itself wedged between the biotech offensive to release commercial planting permits and the thousands of small farmers and their allies fighting to defend the food supply. So far, it is reluctant to risk citizens’ ire by granting Monsanto use of Mexican soil for its GM corn expansion.
The campaign has gone international as food rights groups from around the world supported Mexico’s farm leaders in the week-long fast that preceded the march.
More than corn is at stake here—it’s a question of recognition and respect. A “Maize Manifesto” released by the farmers’ organizations states,
“We reject that the government sacrifices consumers and small farmers to support transnational corporations that produce GM seed and agro-toxins. We the farmers, not the transnationals, are the ones who feed the population.”
The Mexican government first legalized GM plantings through what has come to be known as the 2005 “Monsanto Law”, which the farmers are demanding be revoked. It then began issuing permits, first for experimental plantings. Having passed that phase, Monsanto has now requested permits to begin all-out commercial production. It has filed to sow some 700,000 hectares of genetically modified corn in the state of Sinaloa alone.
But Mexico could be Monsanto’s Waterloo. Thousands of small farmers, many in indigenous communities—Nahuatl, Maya and Mixteco–are fighting back. Stubborn in the face of a government clearly allied with the transnationals and corporations determined to wear down their resistance, the farmers are defending their right to use the traditional maize seed that their ancestors developed over millennia. They are also defending their way of life and, ultimately, global access to safe and affordable food.