zaterdag 4 september 2010

The Empire

George Carlin and Bill Hicks tell it like it is

The Empire 650

Middle East loses trillions as US strikes record arms deals

By Rick Rozoff

4 September 2010

Rick Rozoff views the United States’ growing arms exports to Middle East countries, which will spend an estimated 100 billion dollars on arms from the US by 2014, and the lost opportunities for development in a region that “has known the least peace in the past 60 years and that is in most need of it”.

The internet has provided the world with, if nothing else, instantaneous access to news and in-depth information previously available only to governments and think tanks. It has also allowed for the exchange of data and analyses between groups and individuals around the globe, in part by making one tongue, English, the language of the World Wide Web. It remains to be seen whether the keystroke is mightier than the sword.

An illustrative case in point is a report dated 29 August from China's Xinhua News Agency on a news article by Egypt's Middle East News Agency regarding a study conducted by the Strategic Foresight Group in India. The study, published in a book entitled The Cost of Conflict in the Middle East, calculates that conflict in the area over the last 20 years has cost the nations and people of the region 12 trillion US dollars.

Lost opportunities

The Indian report adds that the Middle East has had "a high record of military expenses in the past 20 years and is considered the most armed region in the world".

The study was originally released in January 2009 and was recently translated into Arabic by the Institute for Peace Studies of Egypt. It estimates that in a peaceful environment the nations of the Middle East could have achieved an average annual growth in gross domestic product of 8 per cent.

Sundeep Waslekar, President of the Strategic Foresight Group and one of the report's authors, was quoted in January 2009 saying of the region's nations: "The choice they have to make is the choice between the danger of devastation and the promise of peace." (Reuters news agency, 23 January 2009)

An account of the presentation of the report last year added that the cost of conflict in the region is estimated at 2 per cent of growth in gross domestic product.

In regards to specific cases, it stated:
One conclusion is that individuals in most countries are half as rich as they would have been if peace had taken off in 1991.

Incomes per head in Israel next year would be 44,241 dollars with peace against a likely 23,304 dollars. In the West Bank and Gaza Strip they would be 2,427 dollars instead of 1,220 dollars.

For Iraq, income per head next year is projected at 2,375 dollars, one quarter of the 9,681 dollars that would have been possible without the conflicts of the past two decades. (Reuters, 23 January 2009)
Other sources estimate the overall rate of unemployment in the Middle East at 20-25 per cent, with joblessness in nations like Lebanon and Yemen at 30 per cent or more. This despite the fact that the region has achieved one of the world’s more impressive successes in improving educational opportunities, measured by the number of years students spend in school.
“The Middle East requires comprehensive regional development, but instead is receiving billions of dollars worth of arms.”
The Middle East requires comprehensive regional development, but instead is receiving billions of dollars worth of arms. The area's nations could be spending that sum on rural and urban infrastructure, dams and reservoirs, desalination and irrigation, forestation and fisheries, industry and agriculture, medicine and public health, housing and information technology, equitable integration of cities and villages, and repairing the ravages of past wars rather than on US warplanes, attack helicopters and interceptor missiles.

A 100-billion-dollar bonanza

In 2009, an American news report revealed that, according to a US-based consultancy firm, several Middle Eastern nations were set to spend over 100 billion dollars on weapons in the upcoming five years. Most of those arms purchases -- "unprecedented packages" – would be undertaken by Iraq, Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and the "core of this arms-buying spree will undoubtedly be the 20-billion-dollar US package of weapons systems over 10 years for the six states of the Gulf Cooperation Council -- Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and Bahrain". The expansion of American arms sales and military presence in the Persian Gulf targets Iran in the first place.

The same feature documented plans for the US to supply Egypt with a 13-billion-dollar arms package and Israel with 30 billion dollars in weaponry over 10 years, the latter "a 25-per-cent increase over previous levels". (United Press International, 25 August 2009)


A year later it was disclosed that Washington will sell 13-billion-dollars worth of arms and military equipment to Iraq, "a huge order of tanks, ships and hardware that US officials say shows Iraqi-US military ties will be tight for years to come". A 3-billion-dollar deal for 18 F-16 Fighting Falcon multirole jet fighters is also in the works. Iraq will become one of the largest purchasers of US weapons in the world.

According to the US army's Lieutenant-General Michael Barbero, senior American officer in charge of training and advising Iraqi troops, such military agreements help "build their capabilities, first and foremost; and second, it builds our strategic relationship for the future". (USA Today, 31 August 2010)

With 4.7 million Iraqis displaced since 2003, 2.2 million as refugees in Jordan, Syria and other nations, and a near collapse of the nation's civilian infrastructure since the US invasion, surely there are better ways of spending 16 billion dollars than on American arms.

The Gulf

To Iraq's south, last month the US announced one of the largest weapons sales in its history: a 60-billion-dollar arms deal with Saudi Arabia. The Pentagon notified Congress of the colossal transaction which the US legislative body will approve later this month.

Over the next decade Washington will supply Saudi Arabia with F-15SA Strike Eagle jet fighters (SA is for Saudi Advanced), 72 UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters, 60 AH-64D Apache Longbow attack helicopters, helicopter-carrying offshore patrol vessels and upgrades for the 96 Patriot Advanced Capability-2 interceptor missiles already stationed in the kingdom.

Last month Kuwait announced that it planned to purchase more than 200 US Patriot anti-ballistic missiles in a 900 million dollar deal. The US Defence Department also advised Congress of that transaction, stating "Kuwait needs these missiles to meet current and future threats of enemy air-to-ground weapons".

The news agency which reported the above, Agence France-Presse, also provided the following information: “The US has several military bases in Kuwait, including Camp Arifjan, one of the biggest US military facilities in the region. There are between 15,000 and 20,000 US troops stationed in Kuwait." (Agence France-Press, 1 September 2010) The American Fifth Fleet is headquartered in neighbouring Bahrain.

The US is also providing Bahrain, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates with Patriot Advanced Capability-3 missile interception batteries.

Last year Washington approved the transfer of a Terminal High Altitude Air Defence (THAAD) missile shield system to the United Arab Emirates. The deal, estimated to cost 7 billion dollars, is the first transfer of the advanced interceptor missiles outside the US.

Israel and Egypt

In May the Barack Obama administration requested 205 million dollars from Congress for the Israeli Iron Dome layered interceptor missile shield, in the words of a Pentagon spokesman "the first direct US investment in the Iron Dome system". (Reuters, 13 May 2010)

In the autumn of 2008 the US opened an interceptor missile radar base in Israel's Negev Desert centred on a Forward-Based X-Band Radar with a range of 2,900 miles.

This August 15 Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak announced his country is to receive -- one can't say buy - 20 US F-35 Joint Strike Fighters worth 96 million dollars apiece along with spare parts, maintenance and simulators. "The 2.7-billion-dollar-deal will be paid for using US military assistance." (Russian Information Agency Novosti, 15 August 2010) The fifth generation stealth warplanes are the world's most advanced. According to Israeli government sources, in reference to the prospect of eventual deployment of Russian air defences to Iran and Syria, "the purchase of F-35 fighters would effectively eliminate the threat from Russian-made S-300 air defence systems because a series of computer simulations had clearly demonstrated that new US stealth fighters outperform the Russian missiles".

This year the US State Department confirmed that 2.55 billion dollars in US military assistance was given to Israel in 2009 and that the figure will "increase to 3 billion dollars in 2012, and will total 3.15 billion dollars a year from 2013 to 2018". (Reuters, 13 May 2010) That is, it will grow by almost 25 per cent.

Since the administration of Jimmy Carter and his National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski bought off Anwar Sadat and through him Egypt in 1978 at the expense of Palestine, Lebanon, Syria and other Arab states, Washington has provided Cairo with 1.3 billion dollars a year in military aid, adding up to 50 billion dollars by 2008.


In January of this year, General David Petraeus, then head of US Central Command and now in charge of 150,000 American and NATO troops in Afghanistan, visited Yemen and called for more than doubling military aid to the strife-torn nation from 70 to 150 million dollars annually. He was later forced to retract his comments, but the Wall Street Journal reported on 2 September that "The US military's Central Command has proposed pumping as much as 1.2 billion dollars over five years into building up Yemen's security forces." The United Nations Statistics Division estimated Yemeni gross national income per capita for 2008 at 1,260 dollars.

The US has launched several missile strikes inside Yemen over the past nine months and "US Special Operations teams … play an expansive role in the country". (Wall Street Journal, 2 September 2010) Funding for what the Pentagon describes as a counterterrorism programme in the country has grown from 5 million dollars a year in fiscal year 2006 to over 155 million dollars four years later.

Washington is planning to add unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) equipped with lethal missiles operated by the Central Intelligence Agency to its operations in Yemen, replicating the same arrangement in Pakistan.


“The (by Lebanese standards) unprecedented donations of arms and military equipment by the Pentagon were explicitly for internal use -- against Hezbollah -- and for deployment at the Syrian border. Not for defending the nation against the country that had invaded it in 1978, 1983 and 2006 - Israel.”
After the so-called Cedar Revolution in Lebanon in 2005 -- modeled after comparable "colour revolutions" in the former Soviet states of Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan in 2003, 2004 and 2005 respectively -- led to the withdrawal of Syrian troops from the country and the installation of pro-Western Fouad Siniora as prime minister, the US re-established military contacts with Lebanon, which had been broken off after 1983. A dozen US military officials travelled to Beirut at the end of the year, inspecting bases as part of a "comprehensive assessment of the condition of US-made equipment in the Lebanon armed forces". (Chicago Tribune, 2 March 2006)

After the Israeli invasion of the country the following summer, Washington started military aid to the nation of four million people which two years later had exceeded 410 million dollars. According to an Associated Press account in 2008, "The [George W. Bush] administration has spent about 1.3 billion dollars in the past two years trying to prop up Siniora's Western-allied government, including about 400 million dollarsin military aid". (Associated Press, 14 May 2008)

On 6 October 2008, the US established a joint military commission with Lebanon "to bolster military cooperation".

The (by Lebanese standards) unprecedented donations of arms and military equipment by the Pentagon were explicitly for internal use -- against Hezbollah -- and for deployment at the Syrian border. Not for defending the nation against the country that had invaded it in 1978, 1983 and 2006 -- Israel.

On 2 August this year, a day before two Lebanese soldiers were killed in a firefight with Israeli troops on Lebanese territory, Congressman Howard Berman, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, blocked a 100-million-dollars security assistance package to the Lebanese military. There should be no misunderstanding: the Pentagon has not built up the armed forces of post-"Cedar" Lebanon to defend the nation, its people or even the army itself.

The sum blocked by Berman, added to that already provided by the Pentagon, well exceeds half a billion dollars. That amount of money would go a long way in alleviating the suffering of 900,000 Lebanese displaced and in rebuilding some of the 30,000 housing units destroyed by the Israeli military in 2006.

Weapons are the most expensive of manufactured goods and the least productive, generating no value and designed only to destroy and kill. They are not produced solely or primarily to be displayed in parades or at air shows.

The Middle East is that part of the world that has known the least peace in the past 60 years and that is in most need of it. Regional disputes -- over land and borders, over water and other resources -- need to be resolved in a non-antagonistic manner.

The foreign and national security policies of the region's states need to be demilitarized. Disarmament of both conventional and nuclear forces is imperative.

Washington pouring over 100 billion dollars in news arms into the Middle East will not contribute to the safety and security of its inhabitants. It will not benefit the nations of the region. In truth, not a single one of them.

Rick Rozoff runs the blog ‘Stop NATO: Opposition to Global Militarism’.

A version of this article was originally published at the ‘Stop NATO’ blog.

vrijdag 3 september 2010

Alex Burghoorn van de Volkskrant 16

Sonja heeft een nieuwe reactie op uw bericht "The Jewish Lobby 8" achtergelaten:

Alex Burghoorn is weer terug in Nederland. Hij woonde 5 jaar in Jeruzalem met vrouw en kinderen. Zijn vrouw werkte voor een microkredietbank voor Palestijnse boeren in Ramalla. Op de radio wist hij te melden dat Israëli's zo paranoia zijn dat er amper mee te praten valt, en zeker ook racistisch. Natuurlijk in bedekte termen.
Dat hebben we in de krant niet gelezen. 

Sonja, dat is het parasitaire element in de Nederlandse cultuur, de middenklasse eet van twee walletjes. Het is een kruideniersmentaliteit, waarbij het eigenbelang nooit uit het oog wordt verloren. Mijn klasse handelt alsof er geen consequenties aan verbonden zijn. En inderdaad, voor henzelf heeft het geen consequenties, wel voor hun slachtoffers. Ik zie dit nu weer op grote schaal in de VS.

John Pilger 38

Flying the Flag; Faking the News

by: John Pilger, t r u t h o u t | Op-Ed

Edward Bernays, the American nephew of Sigmund Freud, is said to have invented modern propaganda. During the First World War, he was one of a group of influential liberals who mounted a secret government campaign to persuade reluctant Americans to send an army to the bloodbath in Europe. In his book, "Propaganda," published in 1928, Bernays wrote that the "intelligent manipulation of the organised habits and opinions of the masses was an important element in democratic society" and that the manipulators "constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power in our country." Instead of propaganda, he coined the euphemism "public relations."
The American tobacco industry hired Bernays to convince women they should smoke in public. By associating smoking with women's liberation, he made cigarettes "torches of freedom." In 1954, he conjured a communist menace in Guatemala as an excuse for overthrowing the democratically-elected government, whose social reforms were threatening the United Fruit company's monopoly of the banana trade. He called it a "liberation."
Bernays was no rabid right winger. He was an elitist liberal who believed that "engineering public consent" was for the greater good. This was achieved by the creation of "false realities," which then became "news events." Here are examples of how it is done these days:
False Reality: The last US combat troops have left Iraq "as promised, on schedule," according to President Barack Obama. TV screens have filled with cinematic images of the "last US soldiers" silhouetted against the dawn light, crossing the border into Kuwait.
Fact: They are still there. At least 50,000 troops will continue to operate from 94 bases. American air assaults are unchanged, as are special forces' assassinations. The number of "military contractors" is currently 100,000 and rising. Most Iraqi oil is now under direct foreign control.
False Reality: BBC presenters and reporters have described the departing US troops as a "sort of victorious army" that has achieved "a remarkable change in [Iraq's] fortunes." Their commander, Gen. David Petraeus, is a "celebrity," "charming," "savvy" and "remarkable."
Fact: There is no victory of any sort. There is a catastrophic disaster; and attempts to present it as otherwise are a model of Bernays' campaign to "rebrand" the slaughter of the first world war as "necessary" and "noble." In 1980, Ronald Reagan, running for president, rebranded the invasion of Vietnam, in which up to three million people died, as a "noble cause," a theme taken up enthusiastically by Hollywood. Today's Iraq war movies have a similar purging theme: the invader as both idealist and victim.
False Reality: It is not known how many Iraqis have died. They are "countless" or maybe "in the tens of thousands."
Fact: As a direct consequence of the Anglo-American-led invasion, a million Iraqis have died. This figure from Opinion Research Business is based on peer-reviewed research led by Johns Hopkins University in Washington, DC, whose methods were secretly affirmed as "best practice" and "robust" by the Blair government's chief scientific adviser, as revealed in a Freedom of Information search. This figure is rarely reported or presented to "charming" and "savvy" American generals. Neither is the dispossession of four million Iraqis, the malnourishment of most Iraqi children, the epidemic of mental illness and the poisoning of the environment.
False Reality: The British economy has a deficit of billions, which must be reduced with cuts in public services and regressive taxation, in a spirit of "we're all in this together."
Fact: We are not in this together. What is remarkable about this public relations triumph is that, only 18 months ago, the diametric opposite filled TV screens and front pages. Then, in a state of shock, truth was unavoidable, if briefly. The Wall Street and city of London financiers' trough was on full view for the first time, along with the venality of once celebrated snouts. Billions in public money went to inept and crooked organizations known as banks, which were spared debt liability by their Labour government sponsors.
Within a year, record profits and personal bonuses were posted, and state and media propaganda had recovered its equilibrium. Suddenly, the "black hole" was no longer the responsibility of the banks, whose debt is to be paid by those not in any way responsible: the public. The received media wisdom of this "necessity" is now a chorus, from the BBC to the Sun. A masterstroke, Bernays would surely say.
False Reality: The former government minister Ed Miliband offers a "genuine alternative" as leader of the British Labour Party.
Fact: Miliband, like his brother David, the former foreign secretary, and almost all those standing for the Labour leadership, is immersed in the effluent of New Labour. As a New Labour member of Parliament and minister, he did not refuse to serve under Blair or speak out against Labour's persistent warmongering. He now calls the invasion of Iraq a "profound mistake." Calling it a mistake insults the memory and the dead. It was a crime, of which the evidence is voluminous. He has nothing new to say about the other colonial wars, none of them mistakes. Neither has he demanded basic social justice: that those who caused the recession clear up the mess and that Britain's fabulously rich corporate minority be seriously taxed, starting with Rupert Murdoch.
Of course, the good news is that false realities often fail when the public trusts its own critical intelligence, not the media. Two classified documents recently released by WikiLeaks express the CIA's concern that the populations of European countries, which oppose their governments' war policies, are not succumbing to the usual propaganda spun through the media. For the rulers of the world, this is a conundrum, because their unaccountable power rests on the false reality that no popular resistance works. And it does.

The Empire 649

Billion Dollar Audit Missed by Pentagon Watchdog

Washington - Military auditors failed to complete an audit of the business systems of an Ohio- based company - Mission Essential Personnel - even though it had billed for one billion dollars worth of work largely in Afghanistan over the last four years.
In September 2007 the U.S. Intelligence and Security Command (INSCOM) awarded Mission Essential Personnel (MEP) a five-year-contract worth up to 414 million dollars to provide 1,691 translators in Afghanistan. MEP was a start-up company created by three men, including Chad Monnin, a U.S. Army Special Forces reservist who was injured in a parachute accident. Procurement rules give preference to companies owned by injured veterans, even if they have no prior experience.
When the Obama administration decided to expand the war in Afghanistan last year, MEP quickly hit the ceiling of what it could bill. On May 10, INSCOM gave MEP a 679 million dollar extension without bothering to put it up for competitive bid. MEP will also get a share of the Intelligence Support Services Omnibus III contract, a five-year contract, with a ceiling of 492 million dollars, announced on Aug. 10, 2010.
The only two other contractors that have held multi-billion dollar contracts to supply translators to soldiers and diplomats in the Global War on Terror - L- 3/Titan and Global Linguist Services - have both been investigated for alleged overcharging, suggesting that this type of work falls in the high risk category of government spending.
Yet the Defence Contract Audit Agency (DCAA) failed to conduct a full business systems audit for MEP.
Concerned about DCAA's failure, Christopher Shays, one of the co-chairs of the Commission on Wartime Contracting told MEP CEO Chris Taylor: "You don’t have to compete for it, and you, whatever your costs are, you get something plus, and you haven’t had any audits." Shays assured MEP that he was not suggesting that the company had done anything wrong, re-iterating that the commission considered MEP a "a great American success story."
"We currently have DCAA auditors on our property in Columbus, Ohio, working through any number of audit issues. But we welcome it," Taylor told the commission. "We are current on our 2008 and 2009 incurred-cost submissions," he added, referring to the invoices that the company sends INSCOM for payment.
DCAA Director Patrick Fitzgerald says that the problem was that the contract grew quicker than expected. "Are we behind the curve? Yes. We should have been in there quicker," he told commissioners. "Our experience has shown that when contractors grow that fast, the procedures, processes, and systems have trouble keeping up with that growth."
When asked to respond to the charges levelled at DCAA at the hearing, a Pentagon spokesperson emailed the following statement: "We agreed with the commission that additional resources were required at MEP and have worked to ensure that additional DCAA assets are directed to MEP." The spokesperson estimated that it will complete "much of the critical audit work needed to assess MEP’s business systems within the next six months."
DCAA History
DCAA has oversight over half a trillion dollars of taxpayer money every year. It is supposed to constitute the "first line of defence" against corruption when the Pentagon contracts anything from bunker-buster-bombs from Lockheed Martin, to rockets from Boeing, or when it subcontracts military support operations as it did when it paid Halliburton subsidiary, KBR, to hire Sri Lankans to clean toilets in Iraq.
Founded in 1965 to provide the U.S. Air Force, Army, Navy, and Ordnance Department with uniform oversight of contractors, DCAA was first headquartered in the now closed Alexandria, Virginia Cameron Station, a cold windowless building fitted with rows of steel gray desks.
DCAA expanded quickly. By 1966, it had 3,662 staffers around the country with oversight over 21.5 billion dollars. As the Vietnam War ramped up, the DCAA’s "Flying Squad" would fly Huey helicopters to forward bases in the jungle to check up on work done by contractors.
By the end of the 1980s DCAA had more than 6,000 staff and today, with headquarters in Fort Belvoir, Virginia, it has some 300 offices and sub-offices around the world.
In the last 45 years, DCAA’s oversight of contract dollars has expanded more than four-fold (adjusted for inflation) to 501 billion dollars in proposed or claimed contractor costs that required 30,352 audits in 2008.
Not surprisingly the agency staff has struggled to keep up with demand, and as far back as the 1980s, it had a six to seven year backlog to complete audits. This lag had a major impact on payments to military contractors, which were typically paid just 85 percent of costs on delivery of services, with the remaining 15 percent paid out several years later - only if the auditors were satisfied.
Mad Metrics Meltdown
DCAA found an opportunity to change this record of inefficiency in 1993 when Vice-President Al Gore was appointed to head up a commission to "re- invent government" to "work better, cost less, and get results Americans care about." Under the Gore mandate, DCAA Director Bill Reed, ordered sweeping changes in how the agency conducted audits.
The first step was telling auditors to catch up as soon as possible. A then senior DCAA auditor told IPS how that order was implemented: "We basically closed out outstanding audits of procurement dollars by looking the other way."
Next, Reed instructed his staff to focus on performance "metrics."
"To put it bluntly; cheaper, faster, better," former DCAA director April Stephenson would recall later. Multiple layers of supervision and management were created to ensure that staff completed even the most complex of audits in less than 30 days. But tracking time under the new "Defense Management Information System" often took longer than the actual sped-up audit, defeating the whole purpose of making the system work better.
"Mad Metrics Meltdown!" wrote a former senior auditor at DCAA to the Government Executive magazine website comment section. "The application of engineering and factory floor measurements to professional activity is a lazy, risk-aversive, anti-intellectual crutch of poor management."
Firing the Director
In September 2008, DCAA Director April Stephenson announced what appeared to be radical changes: The agency would scrap 18 of the 19 metrics and shut down Webmetrics, a staff performance management software program.
A new set of 11 new "standards" which included eight measurable "metrics" was announced. Stephenson appointed Karen K. Cash, DCAA’s assistant director for operations, to follow up on staff complaints which had been invited via an anonymous website.
Last November, the Pentagon decided that Stephenson wasn’t the right person to overhaul the agency. She was re-assigned and Patrick Fitzgerald, the former director of the U.S. Army Audit Agency, took over.
DCAA Slows Down
During fiscal 2008, the average time to complete a "contractor pricing review" was 28 days. Today the same job takes 72 days. "Some of our audits take longer because we are doing a more comprehensive job," Fitzgerald told Government Executive magazine in July. "If there are other factors that are causing us to take longer, we need to do a deep dive on those and try to figure out how mitigate or to alleviate them."
As a result DCAA says it will no longer be able to keep up with the 2008 metrics - 30,000 audits covering more than 500 billion dollars in proposed or claimed contractor costs. To catch up on the missed audits, like the one for MEP, Fitzgerald says that DCAA has hired 500 new auditors and will add 1,000 more in the next four years.
"We are also working to prioritize audit workload and make sure that high- risk audits are identified and completed in a timely manner," a Pentagon spokesperson told IPS, noting that the agency was currently working to create a new strategic plan, and will re-assess the new performance measures introduced in 2008.  

The Jewish Lobby 8

Sonja heeft een nieuwe reactie op uw bericht "The Empire 648" achtergelaten:

Videotip: Robert Fisk in 'discussie' met een propagandapipo van het Jewish Congress, die geen antwoord kan verzinnen op de vraag: waarom bouwt Israël nederzettingen op de West Bank?

Fisk meldt hier ook dat de laatste keer dat de VS serieus kritisch op Israël was (en zich in deze iets van de VN aantrok), was in 1956, toen Eisenhower te kennen gaf dat Israël uit Suez moest vertrekken, or else.

Geplaatst door Sonja op stan van houcke op 11:48 AM
YouTube - Video's uit deze e-mail

Sonja heeft een nieuwe reactie op uw bericht "The Empire 648" achtergelaten:
Robert Fisk in vorm in The Independent 17 July 2010:

"Which brings us, of course, to the Grovel of the Week, the unctuous, weak-willed, cringing figure of Barack "Change" Obama as he strode the White House lawn with Netanyahu himself. For here was the champion of the underdog, the "understanding" president who could fix the Middle East – finding it "harder that he thought", according to his spokesman – proving that mid-term elections are more important than all the injustice in the Middle East. It is more than a year now since Netanyahu responded in cabinet to Obama's first criticisms with the remark: "This guy doesn't get it, does he?" (The quote comes from an excellent Israeli source of mine.) Ever since, Netanyahu has been McChrystalling Obama on a near-weekly basis, and Obama has been alternatively hissing and purring, banning Netanyahu from photo calls, but then – as those elections draw nearer – rolling over and talking about how the brave Netanyahu, whose government has just destroyed some more Arab homes in East Jerusalem, is taking "risks for peace"."

The Empire 648

Eisenhower on the Opportunity Cost of Defense Spending

Gen. Eisenhower speaks with soldiers of the 101st Airborne on the eve of D-Day
Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities. It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population. It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals. It is some fifty miles of concrete pavement. We pay for a single fighter plane with a half million bushels of wheat. We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people. This is, I repeat, the best way of life to be found on the road the world has been taking. This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron. […] Is there no other way the world may live?
Dwight David Eisenhower, “The Chance for Peace,” speech given to the American Society of Newspaper Editors, Apr. 16, 1953.

Israel as a Rogue State 94

NOTE: The word “Quds” is Arabic for “the holy place” and is the Arabic name
for Jerusalem.  Al Quds day is an annual event held on the last Friday of
Ramadan when people around the world – Muslim and non-Muslims come together
to demonstrate their support for the oppressed people of the world,
particularly the oppressed people of Palestine.  It is a day that belongs to
everyone who cares for those who suffer under the yoke of oppression.  This
year, al Quds Day falls on Friday 3 September 2010.

As yet another round of peace talks is underway since the high hopes of Oslo
in 1993 (many forget that peace talks had, in fact, already been going on
since the mid-1970s)  much is being written about their likely success or
failure.  It is very interesting to read the views of a distinguished
American diplomat and defence and intelligence expert, particularly in light
of what he said back in 2005 "As long as the United States continues
unconditionally to provide the subsidies and political protection that make
the Israeli occupation and the high-handed and self-defeating policies it
engenders possible, there is little, if any, reason to hope that anything
resembling the former peace process can be resurrected. Israeli occupation
and settlement of Arab lands is inherently violent."  In the speech below,
Freeman goes on to say that
 “. . .we Americans are long on empathy and
expertise about Israel and very, very short on these for the various Arab
parties.  The essential militarism of US policies in the Middle East adds to
our difficulties.  We have become skilled at killing Arabs.  We have
forgotten how to listen to them or persuade them.”  Definitely worth

America’s faltering search for peace in the Middle East: Opening for others?

by Ambassador Chas W Freeman. Jr (USFS, Ret) 
Just World
Oslo, 1 September 2010

Remarks to staff of the Royal Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and,
separately, to members of the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs

You have asked me to speak to current American policies in the Middle East,
with an emphasis on the prospects for peace in the Holy Land.  You have
further suggested that I touch on the relationship of the Gulf Arabs,
especially Saudi Arabia, to this.  It is both an honor and a challenge to
address this subject in this capital / at this ministry.

The declaration of principles worked out in Oslo seventeen years ago was the
last direct negotiation between Israelis and Palestinian Arabs to reach
consequential, positive results.  The Oslo accords were a real step toward
peace, not another deceptive pseudo-event in an endlessly unproductive,
so-called “peace process.”  And if that one step forward in Oslo in 1993 was
followed by several steps backwards, there is a great deal to be learned
from how and why that happened.

There can be no doubt about the importance of today’s topic.  The ongoing
conflict in the Holy Land increasingly disturbs the world’s conscience as
well as its tranquility.  The Israel-Palestine issue began as a struggle in
the context of European colonialism.  In the post-colonial era, tension
between Israelis and the Palestinians they dispossessed became, by degrees,
the principal source of radicalization and instability in the Arab East and
then the Arab world as a whole.  It stimulated escalating terrorism against
Israelis at home and their allies abroad.  Since the end of the Cold War,
the interaction between Israel and its captive Palestinian population has
emerged as the fountainhead of global strife.  It is increasingly difficult
to distinguish this strife from a war of religions or a conflict of

For better or ill, my own country, the United States has played and
continues to play the key international part in this contest.  American
policies, more than those of any other external actor, have the capacity to
stoke or stifle the hatreds in the Middle East and to spread or reverse
their infection of the wider world.  American policies and actions in the
Middle East thus affect much more than that region.

Yet, as I will argue, the United States has been obsessed with process rather than substance.  It has failed to involve parties who are essential
to peace.  It has acted on Israel’s behalf to preempt rather than enlist
international and regional support for peace.  It has defined the issues in
ways that preclude rather than promote progress.  Its concept of a “peace
process” has therefore become the handmaiden of Israeli expansionism rather
than a driver for peace.  There are alternatives to tomorrow’s diplomatic
peace pageant on the Potomac.  And, as Norway has shown, there is a role for
powers other than America in crafting peace in the Holy Land.

To read the full article, please click on the link to go to our website
Also, don’t forget to visit the home page to see other articles and also the
latest news.  Worth reading is an interview with Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal,
also another excellent piece by Dr Ghada Karmi and an article by our own
public advocate Alex Whisson that appeared in The Australian earlier this
week “Actions speak louder than talks for Israel.

Sonja Karkar
Australians for Palestine

donderdag 2 september 2010

Hawking and God

Shit happens.
Now that message isn't chickenshit.
Thank you Stephen, we will tell him or her.

British Broadcasting CorporationBBCHome


    Stephen Hawking: God did not create Universe

    Stephen Hawking The Universe can create itself from nothing, says Prof Hawking
    There is no place for God in theories on the creation of the Universe, Professor Stephen Hawking has said.
    He had previously argued belief in a creator was not incompatible with science but in a new book, he concludes the Big Bang was an inevitable consequence of the laws of physics.
    The Grand Design, part serialised in the Times, says there is no need to invoke God to set the Universe going.
    "Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something," he concluded.
    'Planetary conditions'
    In his new book, an extract of which appears in the Times, Britain's most famous physicist sets out to contest Sir Isaac Newton's belief that the universe must have been designed by God as it could not have sprung out of chaos.
    Citing the 1992 discovery of a planet orbiting a star other than our Sun, he said: "That makes the coincidences of our planetary conditions - the single Sun, the lucky combination of Earth-Sun distance and solar mass - far less remarkable, and far less compelling as evidence that the Earth was carefully designed just to please us human beings."
    He adds: "Because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing.
    "Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist.
    "It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going."
    The book was co-written by US physicist Leonard Mlodinow and is published on 9 September.
    In his 1988 bestseller, A Brief History of Time, Prof Hawking appeared to accept the role of God in the creation of the Universe.
    "If we discover a complete theory, it would be the ultimate triumph of human reason - for then we should know the mind of God," he said.

    More on This Story

    Related stories

    Related Internet links

    The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites

    The Empire 647

    Take the "For Sale" sign off the Capitol lawn!

    Click here to watch the video

    Dear stan,

    Through the stories of these every day Americans it is clear that we need to take the "For Sale" sign off the Capitol Lawn.

    These interviews with Jim Kalbach, a farmer, Dominica Cibilich, an oyster fisherwoman and Chuck Nelson, a coal miner, show how hard-working people often pay a life-changing price when corporate money buys off politicians.

    As long as politicians are accountable to these corporations and lobbyists who finance their campaigns, they are never going to be accountable to thepeople who elect them.

    The only way to make Congress accountable to working Americans is to have Fair Elections, where a coal miner's voice can be heard as clearly as the owner of that mine.

    It's time to take the "For Sale" sign off the Capitol Lawn. Pass Fair Elections NOW!

    Robert Greenwald and the Brave New Foundation team

    The Empire 646

    comments_image 6 COMMENTS

    Are We a Kleptocracy and What Does That Mean Anyway?

    Two articles consider what the real economic patterns we face are, and whether the big process we're undergoing is basically just a massive transfer of wealth.
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    Editor’s note: In some ways, the economic landscape we face  defies conventional explanation. It’s true that consumers aren’t spending a lot -- measures of consumer confidence are approaching their all-time low -- and businesses don’t have much taste for expansion. The foreclosure crisis -- all but forgotten in elite circles -- rages on unabated. But as Washington Post business reporter Steve Pearlstein noted recently, while “the jobs haven't returned, corporate profits surely have and, at $1.2 trillion annually, are now higher than they were at the height of the bubble. It turns out that companies have found ways to produce as much as they ever did, but with fewer workers.”
    In an ordinary business cycle, once profits return, firms start investing in research and development and looking for new market opportunities. But as Steve Pearlstein reported, “after falling sharply for two years, such spending has only just begun to rebound, and much of it has focused on faster-growing markets outside the United States. Some of the cash has been used to pay down debt or buy back stock. But so far the one thing businesses haven't done is hire back full-time employees, preferring instead to contract for temporary workers or increase the hours of the workers they already have.”
    Economist David Altig with the Federal reserve Bank of Atlanta noted that over the past few months, “the unemployment rate has far exceeded the level that would be predicted by the average correlation between unemployment and job vacancies over the past decade.” Altig looked at the number of job openings in April and May and concluded, “the unemployed would be expected to number about 10.4 million—not the nearly 15 million we actually saw.”
    The backdrop against which the crisis is playing out is a long decline in the economic security of all but a rarified elite. In 2006, the New York Times reported, “wages and salaries now make up the lowest share of the nation’s gross domestic product since the government began recording the data in 1947, while corporate profits have climbed to their highest share since the 1960s.”
    Between 1973 and 2006, the U.S. economy tripled in size. In 1973, the incomes of the bottom 90 percent averaged $32,135 dollars per year (adjusted to 2007 dollars). But despite that trebling of the economy, by 2006 the bottom 90 percent had taken a cut, pulling down an average income of $31,528. Despite thirty-three years of healthy growth in the economy, the vast majority of Americans earned a bit less than they had in 1973. This was an era in which we saw also saw a steep rise in the number of Americans who lack health-care, and the virtual end of fixed-benefit pensions
    An increasingly polarized public is deeply divided over how we got here and where we should go from here. But most -- from the irate Tea-Partier to the disenchanted Obama fan -- agrees that it is some toxic combination of incompetence, corruption and misguided adherence to ideology on the part of our ruling class that is ultimately to blame. But two critical analyses, below, consider these dynamics from different angles. What if hollowing out the standards of citizens in the developed world is, if not part of a plan, at least a trend that benefits that ruling class?
    Two articles published below consider this question in depth: What if we are seeing, in the words of Drake University Scholar Ismael Hossein-Zadeh in the first article, a “race to the bottom,” in which “the kleptocratic rulers in the US, EU, and other debt-burdened countries know exactly what they are doing” ? In the second piece, William Astore, a retired Air Force Colonel, gives a solid definition of what a kleptocracy is, and also surveys the same ravaged landscape. He wonders whether both the right and the left are distracted by images of creeping socialism and fascism, respectively, when the real ideological danger facing us today is the drift from nominal liberal democracy to the sort of kleptocracy that most identify with banana republics in the developing world.
    Race to the Bottom
    By Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
    While the harrowing economic hardship that started in late 2007 and early 2008 rages on, and countless people in the United States, Europe and other parts of the world are losing their jobs, their homes and their sources of livelihood, policy-makers in the advanced capitalist countries of the West are standing idly by without lifting a finger to alleviate the onerous burden of the crushing recession. On the contrary, they have embarked on an orchestrated series of cruel belt-tightening austerity policies that have, indeed, contributed to the worsening of the recession.
    The question is why? How can the policy makers’ callous indifference to the plight of the people, or their pathetic inability to carry out effective policies of economic recovery, be explained?
    The official explanation for not investing in the revival of the economy is that, due to the already huge debt and deficit, additional public spending would be “fiscal irresponsibility.” In light of the fact that governments in the US, EU and other debt-ridden countries have showered the powerful international banksters and other financial moguls with trillions of dollars, this explanation falls miserably short of credibility; indeed, it can more appropriately be called an excuse than an explanation.
    Explanations offered by most of the left, liberal, or Keynesian critics of the Neoliberal austerity policies are not satisfactory either. As I have argued in an earlier essay, these critics tend to characterize such policies simply as “shortsighted,” “reckless,” “misguided,” “unwise,” and the like—as if the governments that make such policies do not know what they are doing; or as if policy making is a simple matter of technical expertise or personal proclivities of policy makers, that is, a matter of choice. In other words, liberal/Keynesian critics tend to explain the class-biased austerity policies of the vicious global Neoliberalism in (the benign) terms of policy makers’ “inability to distinguish ‘good’ from ‘bad’ policies: inability to realize that we can grow our way out of this crisis through deficit spending, just as we did in response to the Great Depression of the 1930s.” (See, for example, any of the Nobel laureate Paul Krugman’s economic columns in the New York Times.)
    An Alternative Explanation: The Race to the Bottom
    The fact remains, however, that the kleptocratic rulers in the US, EU, and other debt-burdened countries know exactly what they are doing: to let the recession drag on, to take advantage of the crushing recession in order to extract “enough” concessions from the working people until welfare states are dismantled and labor costs in the more developed capitalist countries are made competitive with those of the less-developed countries. This explains why despite new signs of further global economic contraction, the reigning governments in these countries (whether they are nominally headed by Socialist, Social-Democratic, Labor, Democratic, Conservative or other parties) are maintaining their coordinated abstention from expansive or stimulating fiscal policies while continuing their brutal spending cuts on health, education, wages, pensions, and the like.
    This is not to say that these governments do not want to have economic growth or job-creation—they do—but that they want them on their own (Neoliberal) terms, that is, through Neoliberal policies that would create jobs that would pay wages on a par with those of workers in less-developed countries. In other words, they prefer the kind of lopsided economic growth whose fruits would be reaped mostly by the wealthy—the so-called trickle-down or supply-side economic growth. As writer/reporter Patrick O’Connor points out, “In the US, Europe and other advanced capitalist economies, the aim is permanently reducing the living standards of working people.
    It is not surprising then that, instead of calling for bold expansionary policies of growth promotion and job creation, US and European government heads, their economic policy makers and the collusive corporate media are frequently calling for “tolerance” and “endurance” in the face of economic hardship, exhorting the unemployed and economically distressed that they “need to be patient” because, as President Obama has occasionally put it, “the road to economic recovery does not follow a straight line,” and that “it's going to take some time to fix it." (The President made this statement on ABC News' "This Week with George Stephanopoulos." Mr. Stephanopoulos obligingly spared the President the obvious question: “why is it, Mr. President, that fixing the enormously expensive problem of Wall Street gamblers did not take much time, but reviving the economy and creating jobs, which would take only a fraction of the cost of the Wall Street bailout, would take a long time?”)
    Through its editorials and columnists such as Thomas Friedman, The New York Times has been playing a leading role in preparing the American public to accept the new, protracted phase of economic challenges, and to reconcile with lower standards of living. Here is an example of how Friedman explains the need for belt-tightening:
    Welcome to the lean years. Yes, sir, we’ve just had our 70 fat years in America, thanks to the Greatest Generation and the bounty of freedom and prosperity they built for us. And in these past 70 years, leadership — whether of the country, a university, a company, a state, a charity, or a township — has largely been about giving things away, building things from scratch, lowering taxes or making grants. . . . Indeed, to lead now is to trim, to fire or to downsize services, programs or personnel. We’ve gone from the age of government handouts to the age of citizen givebacks.
    In a similar vein, The Times further opined:
    American workers are overpaid, relative to equally productive employees elsewhere doing the same work. If the global economy is to get into balance, that gap must close. . . . The global wage gap has been narrowing, but recent labor market statistics in the United States suggest the adjustment has not gone far enough.
    Without using blunt words such as “the need to cut wages,” President Obama also frequently preaches to the American people to be prepared for the looming lean years: “We must lay a new foundation for growth and prosperity – a foundation that will move us from an era of borrow and spend to one where we save and invest; where we consume less at home and send more exports abroad.” Obviously, by “we” Mr. Obama means the working class and the general public, not the ruling Kleptocracy; and by “consume less” he means earn less, get used to a lower standard of living—because wages, benefits, pensions and all kinds of social safety net programs are going to be cut or eliminated.
    In their efforts to push wages in the more developed countries down toward slave wages, the powerful financial interests (and the ruling kleptocracy in general) are pursuing multiple objectives. An obvious objective is, of course, to pay for the gambling losses of the Wall Street swindlers. Another objective is to make US producers more competitive in global markets, a strategy of export promotion at the expense of the working class that President Obama calls National Export Initiative: “Boosting America’s exports strengthens our economic growth and supports millions of good, high-paying American jobs. That’s why I set a goal during my State of the Union address to double our exports over the next five years.” Stripped from its Orwellian veneer, the President’s “national export initiative” simply means bringing US wages and benefits down on a par with those of China, Vietnam, India, and other less-developed countries so that American manufacturers can compete more effectively in international markets.
    These are ghastly Neoliberal policies of super exploitation that are sometimes called “the race to the bottom,” or competing backward to the Dickensian days of working class misery. Naomi Klein has aptly called this sinister strategy “the shock doctrine,” a strategy that takes advantage of the overwhelming crisis times to implement Neoliberal austerity programs and redistribute national resources from the bottom up.
    Of course, the Neoliberal strategy of dismantling the welfare state and driving the labor pay down to slave wages is not limited to the United States. Downward competition is pursued in other advanced capitalist countries as well. Indeed, the competitive capitalist pressure of profitability and survival has driven almost all countries of the world to participate in this retrogressive (but capitalistically rational!) race to the bottom.
    Checking the Logic of Downward Competition: International Trade Unionis
    Regrettably, most trade union leaders in the US and Europe are actively collaborating with the Neoliberal austerity policies of their capitalist rulers against their own class interests. This disgraceful policy of labor bureaucracy follows from a self-defeating philosophy that is called “business unionism,” or more accurately, “national business unionism.” National business unionism accepts capital’s needs for profitability as a precondition for labor’s need for survival and, therefore, advocates collaboration with the capitalist class on a national basis and shoulders the burden of onerous economic sacrifices to maintain corporate profitability.
    Growth and/or circulation of nationalist sentiments in the labor ranks (and the resulting international labor rivalry) is of, course, a boon for the ruling kleptocracy that loves to pit workers against their class brothers and sisters internationally. It is not surprising that as the grueling economic conditions continue unabated and the high rates of unemployment remain unrelenting, many politicians and policy makers are increasingly trying to whip up xenophobia and nationalist sentiments among workers. This includes not only the unabashedly right-wing or conservative politicians, but also the purportedly liberal Democratic President of the United State, Barack Obama, who has recently been promoting his new, nationalist approach—“made in America”—to comforting the jobless Americans. “So the message I want to deliver to our competitors . . . is that we are going to rebuild this economy stronger than before. And at the heart of it are going to be three powerful words: Made in America. (Applause.) Made in America," stated the President in a recent address to the AFL-CIO Executive Council.
    Note that, once again, Mr. Obama is careful not to use the bluntly nationalist/protectionist “buy American” slogan. Instead, he uses a more subtle, Orwellian version of it: “made in America.” While prima facie reasonable, and may be pleasing to populist sentiments, the “buy American” or “made in America” policy suffers from a number of weaknesses. While the policy may save some jobs in import-competing industries, it would hurt employment in export industries, as it is bound to create protectionist retaliation among international trading partners. Furthermore, since the policy accepts the primacy of the needs of (national) capital, it heightens international labor rivalry, thereby making labor hostage to the profitability imperatives of national capital.
    Of course, destructive effects of international capital’s blackmailing policy (of plant relocation or capital flight) reach beyond the curtailment or elimination of jobs and wages—vital as these are to the working class. This pernicious policy has become a weapon in the hands of the footloose and fancy-free multinational capital when it opposes any humane social program, or essential social needs: science, technology, education, health care, use of natural and/or environmental resources, and so on. Attempts to place environmental standards on firms are met with the threat of moving production elsewhere. Higher taxes to improve the schools? Again, the same threat. Better health and safety standards? The same response, or blackmailing strategy.
    What can the working people and other grassroots do to protect their jobs, their sources of livelihood, their communities and their environment? Is there a defense against these threats? Are there alternatives to the global corporate agenda? What can communities do to undermine the strategies of multinational corporations that block progressive social and economic reforms?
    A logical, first step deterrent to multinational corporations' blackmailing strategies, and their actual export of jobs, would be to remove the lures that induce plant relocation, or capital/manufacturing flight. Making labor costs of production comparable on an international level would be crucial for this purpose. This would entail taking the necessary steps toward the establishment of wage parity within the same company and the same trade, subject to (a) the cost of living, and (b) productivity in each country. It would also entail abandoning the current business unionist policies of the labor bureaucracy in major industrialized countries and, instead, organizing international trade unions.
    A strategy of this sort would replace the current downward competition between workers in various countries with coordinated bargaining and joint policies for mutual interests and problem-solving—just as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, World Trade Organization and other capitalist international organizations are constantly seeking solutions for the problems facing international capital.
    Some may view this suggestion as unrealistic. But the rapid internationalization of production, technology, and information is increasingly creating favorable conditions for such an alternative. The evolving internationalization of capital and integration of world markets is pulling the workers of the world together to an unprecedented extent. "More and more workers around the globe not only work for the same 1,000 or so dominant multinational corporations (MNCs) or their contractors," as Kim Moody points out, "but are linked in common production or service delivery system."
    We're Living in a Kleptocracy: Fears of Socialism and Fascism Are a Distraction from the Naked Theft of Trillions
    By William Astore
    Kleptocracy -- now, there’s a word I was taught to associate with corrupt and exploitative governments that steal ruthlessly and relentlessly from the people.  It’s a word, in fact, that’s usually applied to flawed or failed governments in Africa, Latin America, or the nether regions of Asia.  Such governments are typically led by autocratic strong men who shower themselves and their cronies with all the fruits of extracted wealth, whether stolen from the people or squeezed from their country’s natural resources.  It’s not a word you’re likely to see associated with a mature republic like the United States led by disinterested public servants and regulated by more-or-less transparent principles and processes.
    In fact, when Americans today wish to critique or condemn their government, the typical epithets used are “socialism” or “fascism.”  When my conservative friends are upset, they send me emails with links to material about “ObamaCare” and the like.  These generally warn of a future socialist takeover of the private realm by an intrusive, power-hungry government.  When my progressive friends are upset, they send me emails with links pointing to an incipient fascist takeover of our public and private realms, led by that same intrusive, power-hungry government (and, I admit it, I’m hardly innocent when it comes to such “what if” scenarios).
    What if, however, instead of looking at where our government might be headed, we took a closer look at where we are -- at the power-brokers who run or influence our government, at those who are profiting and prospering from it?  These are, after all, the “winners” in our American world in terms of the power they wield and the wealth they acquire.  And shouldn’t we be looking as well at those Americans who are losing -- their jobs, their money, their homes, their healthcare, their access to a better way of life -- and asking why?
    If we were to take an honest look at America’s blasted landscape of “losers” and the far shinier, spiffier world of “winners,” we’d have to admit that it wasn’t signs of onrushing socialism or fascism that stood out, but of staggeringly self-aggrandizing greed and theft right in the here and now.  We’d notice our public coffers being emptied to benefit major corporations and financial institutions working in close alliance with, and passing on remarkable sums of money to, the representatives of “the people.”  We’d see, in a word, kleptocracy on a scale to dazzle.  We would suddenly see an almost magical disappearing act being performed, largely without comment, right before our eyes.
    Of Red Herrings and Missing Pallets of Money
    Think of socialism and fascism as the red herrings of this moment or, if you’re an old time movie fan, as Hitchcockian MacGuffins  -- in other words, riveting distractions.  Conservatives and tea partiers fear invasive government regulation and excessive taxation, while railing against government takeovers -- even ascorporate lobbyists write our public healthcare bills to favor private interests.  Similarly, progressives rail against an emergent proto-fascist corps of private guns-for-hire, warrantless wiretapping, and the potential government-approvedassassination of U.S. citizens, all sanctioned by a perpetual, and apparentlyopen-ended, state of war.
    Yet, if this is socialism, why are private health insurers the government’s go-to guys for healthcare coverage?  If this is fascism, why haven’t the secret police rounded up tea partiers and progressive critics as well and sent them to the lageror the gulag?
    Consider this: America is not now, nor has it often been, a hotbed of political radicalism.  We have no substantial socialist or workers’ party.  (Unless you’re deluded, please don’t count the corporate-friendly “Democrat” party here.)  We have no substantial fascist party.  (Unless you’re deluded, please don’t count the cartoonish “tea partiers” here; these predominantly white, graying, and fairly affluent Americans seem most worried that the jackbooted thugs will be coming for them.)
    What drives America today is, in fact, business -- just as was true in the days of Calvin Coolidge.  But it’s not the fair-minded “free enterprise” system touted in those freshly revised Texas guidelines for American history textbooks; rather, it’s a rigged system of crony capitalism that increasingly ends in what, if we were looking at some other country, we would recognize as an unabashed kleptocracy.
    Recall, if you care to, those pallets stacked with hundreds of millions of dollars that the Bush administration sent to Iraq and which, Houdini-like, simply disappeared.  Think of the ever-rising cost of our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, now in excess of a trillion dollars, and just whose pockets are full, thanks to them.
    If you want to know the true state of our government and where it’s heading, follow the money (if you can) and remain vigilant: our kleptocratic Houdinis are hard at work, seeking to make yet more money vanish from your pockets -- and reappear in theirs.
    From Each According to His Gullibility -- To Each According to His Greed
    Never has the old adage my father used to repeat to me -- “the rich get richer and the poor poorer” -- seemed fresher or truer.  If you want confirmation of just where we are today, for instance, consider this passage from a recent piece by Tony Judt:
    In 2005, 21.2 percent of U.S. national income accrued to just 1 percent of earners.  Contrast 1968, when the CEO of General Motors took home, in pay and benefits, about sixty-six times the amount paid to a typical GM worker.  Today the CEO of Wal-Mart earns nine hundred times the wages of his average employee.  Indeed, the wealth of the Wal-Mart founder’s family in 2005 was estimated at about the same ($90 billion) as that of the bottom 40 percent of the U.S. population: 120 million people.
    Wealth concentration is only one aspect of our increasingly kleptocratic system. War profiteering by corporations (however well disguised as heartfelt support for our heroic warfighters) is another.  Meanwhile, retired senior military officers typically line up to cash in on the kleptocratic equivalent of welfare, peddling their “expertise” in return for impressive corporate and Pentagon payouts that supplement their six-figure pensions.  Even that putative champion of the Carhartt-wearing common folk, Sarah Palin, pocketed a cool $12 million last year without putting the slightest dent in her populist bona fides.
    Based on such stories, now legion, perhaps we should rewrite George Orwell’s famous tagline from Animal Farm as: All animals are equal, but a few are so much more equal than others.
    And who are those “more equal” citizens?  Certainly, major corporations, which now enjoy a kind of political citizenship and the largesse of a federal government eager to rescue them from their financial mistakes, especially when they’rejudged “too big to fail.”  In raiding the U.S. Treasury, big banks and investment firms, shamelessly ready to jack up executive pay and bonuses even after accepting billions in taxpayer-funded bailouts, arguably outgun militarized multinationals in the conquest of the public realm and the extraction of our wealth for their benefit.
    Such kleptocratic outfits are, of course, abetted by thousands of lobbyists and by politicians who thrive off corporate campaign contributions.  Indeed, many of our more prominent public servants have proved expert at spinning through therevolving door into the private sector.  Even ex-politicians who prefer to be seen as sympathetic to the little guy like former House Majority Leader Dick Gephardteagerly cash in.
    I’m Shocked, Shocked, to Find Profiteering Going on Here
    An old Roman maxim enjoins us to “let justice be done, though the heavens fall.”  Within our kleptocracy, the prevailing attitude is an insouciant “We’ll get ours, though the heavens fall.”  This mindset marks the decline of our polity.  A spirit of shared sacrifice, dismissed as hopelessly naïve, has been replaced by a form of tribalized privatization in which insiders find ways to profit no matter what.
    Is it any surprise then that, in seeking to export our form of government to Iraq and Afghanistan, we’ve produced not two model democracies, but two emerging kleptocracies, fueled respectively by oil and opium?
    When we confront corruption in Iraq or Afghanistan, are we not like the police chief in the classic movie Casablanca who is shocked, shocked to find gambling going on at Rick’s Café, even as he accepts his winnings?
    Why then do we bother to feign shock when Iraqi and Afghan elites, a tiny minority, seek to enrich themselves at the expense of the majority?
    Shouldn’t we be flattered?  Imitation, after all, is the sincerest form of flattery.  Isn’t it?
    Ismael Hossein-zadeh, author of the recently published The Political Economy of US Militarism (Palgrave-Macmillan 2007), teaches economics at Drake University, Des Moines, Iowa.
    William J. Astore, a retired lieutenant colonel (USAF), now teaches at the Pennsylvania College of Technology. His books and articles focus primarily on military history and include Hindenburg: Icon of German Militarism (Potomac Press, 2005). He may be reached at

    Voetbal Commentator stan van houcke heeft dit als repost geplaatst Marcel Van Silfh...