zaterdag 13 februari 2016

Financial Oligarchy

Financial Oligarchy vs. Feudal Aristocracy

Under the feudal mode of production, peasants were often allowed to cultivate plots of land for themselves on a rental basis. However, those tenant farmers rarely succeeded in becoming landowners in their own rights because a major share of what they harvested was taken away by landlords as rent, often leaving them with a bare subsistence amount of what they produced. When the harvest was poor, they incurred debt. If peasants were unable to pay off their debts, they could find themselves reduced to the condition of serfs or slaves.
Today, under conditions of market dominance by parasitic finance capital, a similar relationship can be detected between the powerful financial oligarchs (as feudal lords of our time), on the one hand, and the public at large (as peasant population of today), on the other. In the same manner as the landed aristocracy of times past extracted rent by virtue of monopolistic ownership of land, so today the financial oligarchy extracts interest and other financial charges by virtue of having concentrated the major bulk of national resources in their hands in the form of finance capital.
The Marxist term wage-slaves refers to those who, lacking capital or means of production, have only their labor power to sell to make a living. This describes the vast majority of people in today’s capitalist societies whose sole means of subsistence is the sale of their capacity to work. “Just as the feudal-era serf had no choice but to enslave himself and his family to the manor-house lord, the modern-day serf must indenture himself to banks to own a car or home or buy a college education” [1].
In the latest edition of her book, Occupy Money, Professor Margrit Kennedy shows that today between 35 percent and 40 percent of all consumer spending is appropriated by the financial sector: bankers, insurance companies, non-bank lenders/financiers, bondholders, and the like [2]. Obviously, this means that, as Ellen Brown points out: “By taking banking back . . . governments could regain control of that very large slice (up to 40 per cent) of every public budget that currently goes to interest charged to finance investment programs through the private sector” [3].
Distribution Effects: Escalation of Poverty and Inequality 
Like the feudal rent, the hidden tribute to the financial sector, the nearly 40 percent of consumer spending that is appropriated by the financial sector, helps explain how wealth is systematically transferred from Main Street to Wall Street. The rich get increasingly richer at the expense of the poor—not just because of greed or the blind forces of the market mechanism but, more importantly, because of deliberate monetary/economic policies, which have steadily come under effective control of the financial oligarchy. Indeed, the very mechanism of money creation and/or monetary policy itself exacerbates inequality.
Although obfuscated and/or mystified, the planned or premeditated mechanism by which redistribution of economic resources from the bottom to the top takes place is fairly straightforward. The insidious mechanism of redistribution in favor of the financial oligarchy is expertly sanitized and ismaelhzbenignly called monetary policy. Private central banks (such as the Federal Reserve Bank in the U.S.) are usually the main institutional vehicles that carry out the monetary policy of redistribution. Central banks’ polices of cheap or easy money benefits, first and foremost, the big banks and other major financial players that can outbid small borrowers who must borrow at much higher rates than the near-zero rates guaranteed to the big borrowers.
By thus gaining privileged access to nearly interest-free money, the financial elites can enrich themselves in a number of ways. For one thing, they can snap-up income-producing assets at the expense of small borrowers who lack access to cheap money. For another, they can boost the value of their wealth by creating an artificial demand (such as stock buybacks) for those ill-begotten assets with the cheaply borrowed money. In addition, they can skim vast wealth by loaning out the cheap they obtain from central banks to everyone below the top of the wealth/income pyramid—at near four percent (mortgages), at seven or eight percent (auto, student and other loans), and above 15 percent (credit cards). Obviously, this would funnel much of the national income stream to those who can borrow cheap and lend at much higher rate [4].
Instead of regulating or containing the disruptive speculative activities of the financial sector, economic policy makers, spearheaded by central banks, have in recent years been actively promoting asset-price bubbles—in effect, further exacerbating inequality.
Proxies of the financial oligarchy at the helm of monetary/economic policy making apparatus seem to believe that they have discovered an insurance policy for bubbles that burst by blowing new ones:
“Both the Washington regulators and Wall Street evidently believed that together they could manage bursts. This meant that there was no need to prevent such bubbles from occurring: on the contrary, it is patently obvious that both regulators and operators actively generated them, no doubt believing that one of the ways of managing bursts was to blow another dynamic bubble in another sector: after dot-com, the housing bubble; after that, an energy-price or emerging market bubble, and so on” [5].
It is obvious that this policy of effectively insuring financial bubbles would make financial speculation a win-win proposition, a proposition that is aptly called “moral hazard,” as it encourages risk-taking at the expense of others—in this case of the 99%, since the costs of bailing out the “too-big-to-fail” gamblers are paid through austerity cuts. Knowing that the central bank/monetary policy would bail them out after any bust, they go from one excess to another.
This shows how the proxies of the financial oligarchy, ensconced at the helm of central banks and their shareholders (commercial banks), serve as agents of subtlely funneling economic resources from the public to the financial oligarchy—just as did the rent/tax collectors and bailiffs of feudal lords collected and transferred economic surplus from the peasants/serfs to the landed aristocracy.
Contractionary or Anti-developmental Nature of Parasitic Finance Capital 
As mentioned earlier, today between 35 percent and 40 percent of all consumer spending is appropriated by the financial sector. Not only does this redistribute resources in favor of the financial oligarchy, it also drains the real sector of the economy of the necessary resources for productive investment and economic development.
Experience shows that, contrary to the extractive or parasitic private banking, public banking has proven quite beneficial to the developmental objectives of their communities and/or nations. Nineteenth century neighborhood savings banks, Credit Unions, and Savings and Loan associations in the United States, Jusen companies in Japan, Trustee Savings banks in the UK, and the Commonwealth Bank of Australia all served the housing and other credit needs of their communities well.
Perhaps a most interesting and instructive example is the case of the Bank of North Dakota, which continues to be owned by the state for nearly a century, and which is widely credited for the state’s relatively healthy budget and its robust economy in the midst of budgetary problems and economic stagnation in many other states. The bank was established by the state legislature in 1919, specifically to free farmers and small business owners from the clutches of out-of-state bankers and railroad barons. The bank’s mission continues to be to deliver sensible financial services that promote agriculture, commerce and industry in North Dakota [6].
Explaining how the Bank of North Dakota utilizes people’s savings for productive credit and/or investment, Eric Hardmeyer, president of the bank, points out, “Really what separates us [from private banks] is that we plow those deposits back into the state of North Dakota in the form of loans. We invest back into the state in economic development type activities.” The bank president further indicates that in the course of the last dozen years or so “we’ve turned back a third of a billion dollars just to the general fund to offset taxes or to aid in funding public sector types of needs” [7].
Contrary to the case of North Dakota, most other states, burned by interest payments and other financial obligations to private banks, are forced to cut investment on public capital formation, to slash jobs and liquidate state-owned properties or state-sponsored services—often at fire-sale pricesConsider California, for example. At the end of 2010, it owed private banks and other bondholders $70 billion in interest only—44% of its total financial obligations of $158 billion. “If the state had incurred that debt to its own bank,” writes Ellen Brown, “California could be $70 billion richer today. Instead of slashing services, selling off public assets, and laying off employees, it could be adding services and repairing its decaying infrastructure” [8].
At the national level, the U.S. federal government paid in 2011 a sum of $454 billion in interest on its debt—the third highest budget item after the military and Social Security outlays. This figure amounted to nearly one-third of the total personal income taxes ($1, 100 billion) collected that year. This means that if the Federal Reserve Bank was publicly owned, and the government borrowed directly from it interest-free, personal income taxes could have been cut by a third [9]. Alternatively, the savings could be invested in social infrastructure, both human and physical, thereby drastically augmenting the productive capacity of the nation and elevating the standard of living for all.
It can reasonably be argued that the ravages wrought on today’s economies/societies by parasitic finance capital’s extraction of economic resources are even more destructive than was the extraction of feudal rent to the social fabric under feudalism. There are at least two major reasons for this judgment.
For one thing, the landed aristocracies’ appropriation of the major bulk of economic surplus, or rent, required production and, therefore, employment of the farming labor force. This meant that although the farming workforce was, of course, exploited, it nonetheless benefitted from production—albeit at poverty or subsistence levels of remuneration. In the age of finance capital, however, profit making or surplus extraction by the parasitic financial oligarchy is largely divorced from real production and employment, as it comes largely through parasitic appropriation from the rest of the economy. As such, it employs no or a very small percentage of labor force, which means that, today, the financial sector generates income/profits without sharing it with the overwhelming majority of the public.
For another, whereas periodic cancellation of unsustainable peasants’ debts by landed aristocracies were considered as restorative measures for maintaining the feudal mode of production and social structure, under today’s rule of finance capital such healing measures are ruled out as omens of economic catastrophe. Historical records show that debt cancellation in the Bronze Age Mesopotamia took place on a fairly regular basis from 2400 to 1400 BC. Ancient documents decoded from cuneiform inscriptions have led many historians to believe that the Bronze Age tradition of debt cancellation in the Near/Middle East may have served as the setting or model for the Biblical pronouncements of debt relief.
Careful studies of those records indicate that, contrary to today’s perceptions (shaped largely by the influential financial interests) that debt cancellation may lead to economic disorder, as epitomized by the too-big-to-fail refrain, those earlier practices of debt relief were carried out precisely for the opposite reasons: to restore economic revival and social harmony by undoing the ravages of debt wrought on the economy and the overwhelming majority of the population. Freedom in those days meant real, economic freedom—freedom from debt bondage—not the abstract or hollow concept of freedom promoted today.
“The type of economic freedom being referred to was the royal act of cancelling back taxes and other personal debts, restoring traditional family landholding rights and freeing citizens who had been enslaved for debt. These royal interventions ensured rather than encroached on general economic freedom” [10].
What is to be Done
Many critics of parasitic finance capital have called for a robust regime of regulation of the financial sector. Experience shows, however, that as long as the dynamics and structures of the accumulation of capital are left intact, regulation cannot provide an effective long-term solution to the recurring crises of financial bubble and bursts.
For one thing, due to the political influence of powerful financial interests, financial regulations would not be implemented in a meaningful way, as evinced, for example, by policy responses to the 2008 financial implosion and the ensuing Great Recession.
For another, even if regulations are somehow implemented, they would provide only a temporary relief. For, as long as there is no community or real democratic control, regulations would be undermined by the influential financial interests that elect and control policy-makers. The dramatic reversal of the extensive regulations of the 1930s and 1940s that were put in place in response to the Great Depression and World War II to today’s equally dramatic deregulations serves as a robust validation of this judgment. This means that the need to end the recurring crises of the capitalist system requires more than financial regulation; it calls for changing the system itself.
Other critics of parasitic finance capital have called for public banking. The idea of bringing the banking industry, national savings and credit allocation under public control or supervision is neither complicated nor necessarily socialistic or ideological. In the same manner that many infrastructural facilities such as public roads, school systems and health facilities are provided and operated as essential public services, so can the supply of credit and financial services be provided on a basic public utility model for both day-to-day business transactions and long-term industrial projects.
As pointed out earlier, provision of financial services and/or credit facilities after the model of public utilities would lower financial costs to both consumers and producers by about 35 to 40 percent. By thus freeing consumers and producers from what can properly be called the financial overhead, or rent, similar to land rent under feudalism, the public option credit and/or banking system can revive many stagnant economies that are depressed under the crushing burden of never-ending debt-servicing obligations.
Even in the core capitalist countries public banking has occasionally been used to save capitalism from its own systemic crises. For example, in the face of the Great Depression of the 1930s, and following the Hoover administration’s unsuccessful policy of trying to bailout the insolvent banks, the F.D.R. administration was compelled to declare a “bank holiday” in 1933, pull the plug on the terminally-ill banks and take control of the entire financial system. The Emergency Banking Act of 1933, introduced by President Roosevelt (four days after he declared a nationwide bank holiday on March 5, 1933) and passed by Congress on March 9th, guaranteed full payment of depositors’ money, thereby effectively created 100 percent deposit insurance. Not surprisingly, when the banks reopened for business on March 13, 1933, “depositors stood in line to return their stashed cash to neighborhood banks” [11].
Similarly, in the face of the collapse of its banking system in the early 1992, the Swedish state assumed ownership and control of all the insolvent banks in an effort to revive its financial system and prevent it from bringing down its entire economy. While this wiped out the existing shareholders, it turned out to be a good deal for taxpayers: not only did it avoid costly redistributive bailouts in favor of the insolvent banks, it also brought taxpayers some benefits once banks returned to profitability.
Both in Sweden and the United States once profitability was returned to insolvent banks their ownership was returned to private hands! It is perhaps this kind of capitalist governments’ commitment to powerful financial–corporate interests that has prompted a number of critics to argue that one definition of capitalism is that it is a system of socializing losses and privatizing profits.
In the absence of incestuous business–political relationship between Wall Street and the government apparatus, nationalization of banks and other financial intermediaries is not as complicated or difficult as it may sound; since banking laws already empower regulators to impose extraordinary controls and close supervision over these institutions. It is certainly easier than public ownership and management of manufacturing enterprises that require much more than record keeping and following regulatory or legal guidelines.
Indeed, in the immediate aftermath of the 2008 financial implosion, the U.S. and British governments became de facto owners of the failed financial giants such as Citibank, A.I.G, the Royal Bank of Scotland, and Anglo-Irish Bank. Through the provision of enormous amounts of public funds, these governments effectively became the main investors in the collapsed institutions. Were it not because of political and/or ideological reasons, they could have easily made their de factoownership legal ownership [12].
The fraudulent compensation of Wall Street’s gambling losses at the expense of everyone else is testament, once again, to the demagogical pretentions of the champions of austerity and neoliberalism that the government should stay out of the market’s affairs.
While public banking could certainly mitigate or do away with market turbulences that are due to financial bubbles and bursts, it will not preclude other systemic crises of capitalism. These include profitability crises that could result from very high levels of capitalization, from insufficient demand or under-consumption, from overcapacity or overproduction, or from disproportionality between various sectors of a market economy. To do away with the systemic crises of capitalism, therefore, requires more than nationalization of banks; it requires changing the capitalist system itself.
[2]. Margrit Kennedy, Occupy Money: Creating an Economy Where Everybody Wins, Gabriola Island, BC (Canada): New Society Publishers 2012.
[4] For a concise and clear exposition of this insidious redistribution from the bottom up see, for example, Charles Hugh Smith, If We Don’t Change the Way Money Is Created and Distributed, We Change Nothing .
[5] Peter Gowan, “The Crisis in the Heartland,” in M. Konings (ed.) The Great Credit Crash, London and New York, Verso 2010: 52.
[6] For more on the unique experience of the Bank of North Dakota see, for example, Ellen Brown, Cutting Wall Street Out.
[7] Interview, as quoted by Public Banking Institute,
[9]. Ibid.
[11] William L. Silber, Why did FDR’s Bank Holiday Succeed?
[12] For a relatively thorough discussion of this issue see, for example, Michael Hudson, Scenarios for Recovery: How to Write Down the Debts and Restructure the Financial System.
  Ismael Hossein-zadeh is Professor Emeritus of Economics (Drake University). He is the author of Beyond Mainstream Explanations of the Financial Crisis (Routledge 2014), The Political Economy of U.S. Militarism (Palgrave–Macmillan 2007), and the Soviet Non-capitalist Development: The Case of Nasser’s Egypt (Praeger Publishers 1989). Anthony A. Gabb is Associate Professor of Economics at St. John’s University in New York City.


The Internet and Social Fragmentation

By Fred Reed

February 12, 2016 "Information Clearing House" -The existence of the internet may not be news in most places, nor that it does things astonishing to those alive before the net and boring to those who came after. But I wonder whether the net might have underlying consequences perhaps not well understood.
In particular, I wonder how to measure the influence of the internet in Battambang, Bali, Bukittinggi, or Tierra del Fuego. Or in small towns in Mexico, such as Jocotepec, down the road from me.
Fifty years ago, such places existed in near-perfect isolation from the world at large. Nobody, bright or otherwise, had much chance of learning much of anything. There was AM radio with a limited selection of music and governmentally controlled news. There might be a small library. If you lived near a big city, Guadalajara, in Mexico or Bogota in Colombia, there were good bookstores but books cost money. It was de facto intellectual imprisonment in an empty world.
The, ker-whoom, the internet. A kid in Aranyaprathet, Salta in Argentina near the Bolivian border, or a girl in Joco had virtually the same intellectual and cultural resources as people in Leipzig or Boston. This is nuts.
I am persuaded that it is also impossible, but since the internet is everywhere I may have to modify my views.
My question is: How much and what effect has this had without being quite noticed? Here in Mexico I watched my stepdaughter Natalia growing up from about ten. She was a bright kid. Bright kids litter the earth. Millions of metric tons of them have the internet.
Some things were predictable. Kids like music. Nata began spending long hours conectada, connected—plugged into earphones. So did her friends. Those earphones plugged into the entire earth.
One day she said that she had discovered a wonderful new form of music. What, I asked? “Se llama country.”  Ye gods and little catfish, I thought. Boxcar Willie had come to central Mexico. Soon she knew more about country music than I did, followed by an interest in blues, bluegrass, jazz, –in short pretty much every form of music that existed.
You might ask reasonably, “So what?” To American kids, yes: So what? But to kids in remote towns in the “third world”—whatever that means—it was a huge jump in cultural sophistication. They listened to bands in South Korea, Japan, all over Latin America.
Then of course came Kindle for books, giving Natalia (and the whole earth) the Library of Congress in a two–pound box and, of course, millions of books in lots of languages. Further, the net allowed easy access to news the that governments didn’t want people to have, and the social media allowed people unhappy with things to realize that lots of other people were also unhappy.
Presumably people were doing the same in Vientiane, Taijung, Yellow Knife, and Lost Hope, North Dakota. It was crazy. It still is. We just don’t notice it. What, if any, practical effect does this have?
Granted, some consequences  of the net were not so salubrious. Today there is a karaoke app that lets people on different continents sing together horribly.
Movies became equally available, junk movies ad Fellini and Kubrick and weird cult stuff nobody has ever heard of. Netflix, YouTube, pirated CDs put on-line. Larceny being a major component of adolescence, kids quickly learn to steal software, to use proxy servers (burlando los servidores, spoofing the servers) .Opera? I told Violeta that I’d like to hear the Habanera, whereupon she pulled up five versions that she liked–Callas, Carmen Monarcha and so on and one, so help me by the Muppets. On demand, streaming, good sound, no commercials.
Somewhat parenthetically, the universities in poor countries profit mightily from the net. In nations without much money, America’s ninety-dollar textbooks are out of reach. But when students have iPads, now expected at least hereabouts, a great deal of necessary reading is on-line.
And so I find bright kids, and the young adults they are turning into, far more sophisticated than I was at their age. In remote villages. What consequences does this have?
What about the effects of the net on the US? People in Casper now have access to most of the cultural and intellectual advantages of Manhattan of course, but what are the political effects?
Whether America has ever had freedom of speech or a free press can be debated. Until roughly the Sixties, free expression was limited by a combination of national consensus, governmental censorship, cooperative media, and lack of lateral communication. In the Fifties, television meant ABC, CBS, and NBC which, then as now, were almost federal departments. Communism was the hated enemy and nobody with any circulation questioned this. HUAC, the House Un-American Activities Committee punished dissent. Access to information that the government didn’t like barely existed. Minor socialist papers existed in New York, but people in Farmville,, Virginia had no access to them. Any sort of sexual content was quashed.
Crucially, there was no lateral communication: You could write letters to editors—vertical communication—which would be censored according to the editors’ whims. That was it.
The aggregate effect was a manufactured unanimity, or the appearance of one. In the post-war prosperity, Americans bought washing machines and tract houses and were content. Television was wholesome, sterile, and not very informative. Superman jumped out of window to promote truth, justice, and the American way, then thought to be related.
Came the internet. Fairly suddenly, every point of view became available to everybody: The KKK, the Black Panthers, communists, fascists, feminists, loon left and loon right, the-earth-is-flatters. The social media and comment sections allowed lateral communication with a vengeance.
A consequence was that the major media became known for what they were, propaganda organs of those who ran the country. Stories that the fossil media would have liked to ignore flew instantly to hundreds of thousands of inboxes, appeared on countless blogs and websites—often with cell-cam video.
What effect, if any, has the net had on sexual mores? When children of nine years can watch pore-level porn of any imaginable type, what happens?
A related question is whether any code of sexual morality can be enforced by a society with internet pornography. Almost all civilized societies in almost all times have imposed restrictions of some sort. Often these have been of religious provenance, and religion is fast being squeezed out of Western societies.
Another question is whether the internet causes, or merely reports, the current fragmentation of the public into warring groups. Today the country seethes with hatreds that were unknown in 1955—perhaps existent, but unknown. Without the Salons and Breitbarts, would their respective readerships even know of each other’s existence? Would misandrist feminism have the enormous traction it enjoys if CalBerkeley could not communicate easily with Boston U? Would all the deeply angry people of today have same political clout if the net had not allowed them to learn of each other and coalesce?
In a country with a fairly homogeneous society, the net may be less politically potent. If there is only one race and one religion, you don’t have racial and religious antipathies. But America is heterogeneous. When the internet forces very different regions—Massachusetts, Alabama, and West Virginia—into digital propinquity, does this arouse hostilities? When widely distributed members of fringe groups the governments don’t like can congregate on websites and in the social media, does this encourage fragmentation?
I dunno. You tell me. 

Fred, a keyboard mercenary with a disorganized past, has worked on staff for Army Times, The Washingtonian, Soldier of Fortune, Federal Computer Week, and The Washington Times.

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U.S. Wants War

How Republics Perish

By Patrick J. Buchanan

February 12, 2016 "Information Clearing House" -   If you believed America’s longest war, in Afghanistan, was coming to an end, be advised: It is not.
Departing U.S. commander Gen. John Campbell says there will need to be U.S. boots on the ground “for years to come.” Making good on President Obama’s commitment to remove all U.S. forces by next January, said Campbell, “would put the whole mission at risk.”
“Afghanistan has not achieved an enduring level of security and stability that justifies a reduction of our support. … 2016 could be no better and possibly worse than 2015.”
Translation: A U.S. withdrawal would risk a Taliban takeover with Kabul becoming the new Saigon and our Afghan friends massacred.
Fifteen years in, and we are stuck.
Nor is America about to end the next longest war in its history: Iraq. Defense Secretary Ash Carter plans to send units of the 101st Airborne back to Iraq to join the 4,000 Americans now fighting there,
“ISIS is cancer,” says Carter. After we cut out the “parent tumor” in Mosul and Raqqa, we will go after the smaller tumors across the Islamic world.
When can Mosul be retaken? “Certainly not this year,” says the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, Lt. Gen. Vincent Stewart.
Vladimir Putin’s plunge into the Syrian civil war with air power appears to have turned the tide in favor of Bashar Assad.
The “moderate” rebels are being driven out of Aleppo and tens of thousands of refugees are streaming toward the Turkish border.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is said to be enraged with the U.S. for collaborating with Syrian Kurds against ISIS and with Obama’s failure to follow through on his dictate — “Assad must go!”
There is thus no end in sight to the U.S. wars in Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq, nor to the U.S.-backed Saudi war in Yemen, where ISIS and al-Qaida have re-arisen in the chaos.
Indeed, the West is mulling over military intervention in Libya to crush ISIS there and halt the refugee flood into Europe.
Yet, despite America’s being tied down in wars from the Maghreb to Afghanistan, not one of these wars were among the three greatest threats identified last summer by Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, the new chairman of the Joint Chiefs.
“Russia presents the greatest threat to our national security,” said Dunford, “If you want to talk about a nation that could pose an existential threat to the United States, I would have to point to Russia, if you look at their behavior, it’s nothing short of alarming.”
Dunford agreed with John McCain that we ought to provide anti-tank weapons and artillery to Ukraine, for, without it, “they’re not going to be able to protect themselves against Russian aggression.”
But what would we do if Putin responded by sending Russian troops to occupy Mariupol and build a land bridge to Crimea? Send U.S. troops to retake Mariupol? Are we really ready to fight Russia?
The new forces NATO is moving into the Baltic suggests we are.
Undeniably, disputes have arisen between Russia, and Ukraine and Georgia which seceded in 1991, over territory. But, also undeniably, many Russians in the 14 nations that seceded, including the Baltic states, never wanted to leave and wish to rejoin Mother Russia.
How do these tribal and territorial conflicts in the far east of Europe so threaten us that U.S. generals are declaring that “Russia presents the greatest threat to our national security”?
Asked to name other threats to the United States, Gen. Dunford listed them in this order: China, North Korea, ISIS.
But while Beijing is involved in disputes with Hanoi over the Paracels, with the Philippines over the Spratlys, with Japan over the Senkakus — almost all of these being uninhabited rocks and reefs — how does China threaten the United States?
America is creeping ever closer to war with the other two great nuclear powers because we have made their quarrels our quarrels, though at issue are tracts and bits of land of no vital interest to us.
North Korea, which just tested another atomic device and long-range missile, is indeed a threat to us.
But why are U.S. forces still up the DMZ, 62 years after the Korean War? Is South Korea, with an economy 40 times that of the North and twice the population, incapable of defending itself?
Apparently slipping in the rankings as a threat to the United States is that runaway favorite of recent years, Iran.
Last fall, though, Sen. Ted Cruz reassured us that “the single biggest national security threat facing America right now is the threat of a nuclear Iran.”
“Of all the enemies to public liberty war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded,” wrote James Madison, “No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.”
Perhaps Madison was wrong.
Otherwise, with no end to war on America’s horizon, the prospect of this free republic enduring is, well, doubtful.

Patrick J. Buchanan is the author of the new book "The Greatest Comeback: How Richard Nixon Rose From Defeat to Create the New Majority." To find out more about Patrick Buchanan and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Web page at

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Foto EPA

redactie • 12 feb 2016



Het politieonderzoek naar de massa-aanranding in Keulen is dik een maand onderweg en de Nederlandse voorpagina's en nieuwsbulletins zwijgen terwijl de feiten boekdelen spreken. Vluchtelingen waren er amper of niet bij betrokken. Het is eerherstel voor iedereen die weigerde mee te huilen met de wolven in het bos. Voor de feministische activisten in Spijkenisse die gearresteerd werden wegens hun verzet tegen 'verzetsspray'. Voor de nuancezoekers die van 'wegkijken' en bagatellisering van vrouwelijk leed werden beschuldigd. En in zekere zin is het ook eerherstel voor de slachtoffers, die nu tenminste niet meer twéé keer misbruikt kunnen worden.
Voor wie de feiten in de ogen durft te zien:  de daders zijn leden van bekende criminele bendes. De aanrandingen waren het middel en beroving het doel. Natuurlijk maakt dit het voor de slachtoffers niet minder erg, maar het is essentieel voor de duiding. Nog meer feiten. Van de 58 verdachten zijn er slechts drie afkomstig uit een oorlogsgebied, zo zegt hoofdofficier van justitie Ulrich Bremer tegen de Duitse krant Die Welt. Onder de verdachten zijn er 25 Algerijnen, 21 Marokkanen en drie Tunesiërs. Daarnaast nog drie Duitsers en twee Syriërs. De overige verdachten zijn afkomstig uit Irak, Libië, Iran en Montenegro. Een aantal van de verdachten is minderjarig.
Sinds Die Welt deze bevindingen wereldkundig maakte, is de Nederlandse pers opvallend stil gebleven. De Belgische krant De Morgen durfde de hand wél in eigen boezem te steken. Gisteren publiceerden ze al een overzicht van de feiten en vandaag ging commentator Bart Eeckhart diep door het stof voor de bijdrage van De Morgen aan de anti-vluchtelingenhetze, in zijn bewonderenswaardige analyse Het massageweld van Keulen is de brandstichting in de Reichstag van onze tijd. We wachten nog op een Nederlandse commentator van een grote krant die dezelfde zelfkritiek tentoon durft te spreiden.
‘Ik neem mezelf dat kwalijk, dat mag u gerust weten’, zegt Eeckhart. ‘Al wie 'de' media nu verwijten dat ze alweer te snel geoordeeld hebben: doe gerust, ik vertel u hoe het gegaan is. Denk erover wat u wil, maar met commerciële druk had het allemaal niet veel te maken. Wel met de intimiderende druk van een rumoerige minderheid om een bepaalde 'waarheid' door te drukken: wie de asielcrisis niet als de oorzaak van Keulen durfde benoemen, stemde stilzwijgend in met de gewelddaden. Je zou dat een nieuwe vorm van politieke correctheid kunnen noemen.’ Niet zonder enige trots kunnen we bij LOVER stellen dat we niet gebogen hebben voor de druk van de boze onderbuik. We werden erom verketterd. Verraders van onze zusters werden we genoemd. Vieze mokkels van het #zeghet-feminisme, toen we de hypocrisie aansneden van een anti-seksismestrijd die enkel door racistische drijfveren wordt gevoed.  In dat licht denken we dat we ons dit korte moment van trots wel even mogen permitteren, ook al maakt het dat wat er gebeurd is natuurlijk verder geen grein minder erg… 
Want er zijn nog meer feiten, in de periferie van de feiten uit het politieonderzoek. Beulah Maud Devany van Open.Democracy interviewde diverse campagnevoerders tegen seksuele intimidatie op straat uit heel Noord-Europa, die allemaal hetzelfde constateerden: sinds de gebeurtenissen is er een significante toename van mannen die zich bij hun beweging willen aansluiten, maar allemaal zetten ze grote vraagtekens bij de motieven van deze kandidaten. ‘Sommige van deze mannen ken ik al jaren en ze hebben zich nooit ene fuck drukgemaakt over seksuele intimidatie op straat,’ zegt de Berlijnse Marie. ‘Ze willen alleen maar over Keulen praten zodra ze binnenkomen. Het interesseert ze geen moer dat we een agenda of actie moeten plannen, ze willen alleen over Keulen praten.’ Ook de Londense activist Andrew geeft toe dat hij een paar griezelige aanmeldingen had. ‘Mannen die zeiden dat ze witte vrouwen willen beschermen.’
In haar gesprekken met actievoerders uit Barcelona, Paris, Edinburgh, Kopenhagen en Amsterdam kwamen drie aspecten steeds weer terug, stelt Devany in haar reportage Men campaigning against violence against women: on whose terms? 1. De steun is tijdelijk. 2. De mannen die zich bij de beweging aansluiten hebben veel moeite om zich naar vrouwen te voegen. 3.  Ze dringen erg aan op snelle en gemakkelijke oplossingen voor een complex langetermijnprobleem. ‘Maar’, zo zegt Lily, activiste uit Barcelona, ‘we hebben mannen nodig die zich niet een paar maanden voor de zaak willen inzetten, maar jaren. Ze zullen zich moeten toewijden, moeten luisteren, en zich er bewust van worden dat er geen snelle gemakkelijke oplossingen zijn waar het seksuele straatintimidatie betreft. Er bestaat geen snelle weg naar heldendom in deze kwestie.’ En daar sluiten wij van LOVER ons volmondig bij aan.
N.B. Dit stuk is inmiddels veel gedeeld, en naar aanleiding van sommige commentaren erop willen wij hier graag aan toevoegen dat Noord-Afrikaan niet gelijk staat aan moslim en moslim niet gelijk staat aan salafist. Van iemand van Nederlandse afkomst nemen we toch ook niet automatisch aan dat hij christen is? Laat staan een christenfundamentalist. Ook is een verdachte niet per se hetzelfde als een dader. Deze bij de politie bekende bendes bestaan uit illegalen - zij hebben dus géén verblijfsvergunning gekregen - die al ettelijke jaren in Europa aan de rafelrand van de maatschappij leven. Het op één grote hoop gooien van hele bevolkingsgroepen is precies wat er ook in de jaren 30 gebeurde, daarom is Eeckharts vergelijking met de Rijksdagbrand zo goed.
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Anger. Rage.

Watch Corporate America Turn A Room Full Of Workers Into Bernie Sanders And Donald Trump Supporters

Establishment politicians still don't understand.

02/12/2016 04:15 pm ET | Updated 7 hours ago

Zach Carter Senior Political Economy Reporter, The Huffington Post
  • Ryan Grim Washington Bureau Chief, The Huffington Post
Getty Images

There's a reason workers like Sanders and Trump.
The past few years have been very good for United Technologies. The contractor does billions of dollars a year in business with the federal government. CEO Gregory Hayes pulled down nearly $10 million in 2014, and over $20 million the year before. On Thursday, the company reported $7.6 billion in profits, up from $6.2 billion the year before, and $5.7 billion the year before that. In October, United Technologies even expanded its stock buyback program to $12 billion. Spending the company's money to purchase its own stock elevates the value of its share prices. United Technologies was so flush with cash that it could burn money to boost returns for its investors.
Surely this largesse would trickle down to its rank-and-file employees, right?
Not exactly.
On Wednesday, Carrier, the air conditioner manufacturing wing of United Technologies, told workers at its Indianapolis plant that it would be outsourcing their jobs to Monterrey, Mexico.
"Throughout the transition, we must remain committed to manufacturing the same high-quality products," an executive can be heard insisting in a video of the announcement.
"Yeah, fuck you!" a member of the crowd responds.
"Please quiet down," the official says. "This was an extremely difficult decision."
"Was it?!"

Watch the reaction in the video below.

The United Technologies official delivering the bad news explicitly tells workers that they are not being laid off due to any failure on the job or lack of productivity. It's just business.
American politics has been just business since the late 1970s. In that time, middle class wages have declined and the wealth of the top 1 percent has exploded. There are plenty of Americans -- Republican and Democrat alike -- who are angry about that. It isn't a white working-class problem. It's a working-class problem. The video shows men and women, black and white, receiving the bad news. It was first posted to Facebook by Carrier worker LaKeisha Austin, who is originally from Flint, Michigan. The man on stage delivering the news is white.

The World According to NRC


Wat is er mis met Europa, en wat doen 

we eraan?

Caroline de Gruyter heeft een 

oplossing voor 

de problemen in Europa.

Vraag: Wie is de 'We' van mevrouw De 


Hillary Clinton and the Zionist Lobby


The Clintons Earned Over $3.5 Million in Paid Addresses to Pro-Israel Organizations

Bill Clinton said he “would grab a rifle” and fight for Israel during paid speech.
Bill and Hillary Clinton are under increasing scrutiny from the mainstream press over paid speeches they have given to big banks in exchange for millions of dollars. According to CNN, the couple has earned a total of $153 million in lecture fees from companies and organizations affiliated with the financial industry.
But the media has been conspicuously silent about the large sums the Clintons have raked in from paid addresses to pro-Israel organizations, including the Jewish National Fund (JNF), which directly participates in the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians and Bedouin citizens of Israel. An evaluation of Hillary Clinton’s public disclosures from 2001 to 2015 shows that she and Bill, and their daughter, Chelsea, have earned roughly $4 million in speaking fees from pro-Israel organizations, including JNF and organizations allied with the right-wing government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The vast majority of these documented payments—$3,599,999—have gone toward the Clintons’ personal income, and up to $450,000 has been funneled into the Clinton Foundation.
Ramah Kudaimi, membership outreach coordinator for the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, told AlterNet, "It is the right of voters to know what every single candidate earns in speaking fees, whether from banks or pro-Israel groups that engage in oppressive policies against Palestinians. It is the voters’ right to know if we have candidates running to be president who plan to continue horrific U.S. policies that make us all complicit in Israel’s denial of Palestinian rights.”
The Wages of Blaming Palestinians
Bill Clinton’s presidency ended with the collapse of the U.S.-led peace process at Camp David in 2000. After leaving office, Clinton publicly blamed Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat for the failure of negotiations, explicitly violating a promise he made to Arafat at the start of the Camp David process. The former president thus reinforced then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak’s infamous talking point that there was “no Palestinian partner” for peace.
Bill Clinton declared in the summer of 2002, at the Toronto chapter of the pro-Israel group Hadassah-WIZO, “If Iraq came across the Jordan River, I would grab a rifle and get in the trench and fight and die,” reportedly earning wild applause from attendees of the $1000-a-plate dinner. According to a New York Post reporter in attendance, Clinton again blamed Palestinians for his failure at Camp David, “accusing Arafat of making a ‘disastrous mistake’ by turning down past peace proposals that would have given the Palestinian leader control of 97 percent of the West Bank.” Clinton earned $125,000 for the speech.
Payments From Obama’s Opponents
Bill Clinton received $425,000 for two speeches to Friends of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a right-wing group that generally supports the Likud-run government of Benjamin Netanyahu and is hostile to Democrats. Simon Wiesenthal Center president Marvin Hier, who addressed the 2000 Republican National Convention, has compared President Barack Obama to Neville Chamberlain and described the Iran nuclear deal as “another Munich.” In 2011, three years before Bill Clinton’s second paid speech before the organization, Hier accused then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton of “a sell out” to anti-Semitism for opening diplomatic discussions with Egypt’s democratically elected Muslim Brotherhood.
While unmentioned in public disclosures, the Clinton Foundation website notesthat the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the main arm of America’s pro-Israel lobby, contributed between $10,001 and $25,000 to the organization for at least one speech delivered by Bill Clinton, with the exact date or amount paid unspecified. S. Daniel Abraham, the Slim Fast diet mogul who serves on the board of AIPAC, has given as much as $5 million to the Clinton Foundation. Through a series of front groups, ad campaigns and Israel propaganda tours for freshman members of Congress, AIPAC spent upward of $40 million last year in a failed attempt to derail the Obama administration’s Iran nuclear deal.
Among the Clintons’ pro-Israel speaking fees, only one was received from an organization that could be classified as part of Israel’s peace camp. The Abraham Fund, which says its aim is to “promote coexistence and equality among Israel’s Jewish and Arab-Palestinian citizens,” paid Bill Clinton $125,000 for a single speech in 2002.
Chelsea Clinton raked in as much as $325,000 in speaking fees from the United Jewish Appeal and its affiliate, the Jewish Federations, a pro-Israel umbrella group of Jewish American establishment organizations that actively combats the Palestinian-led BDS (boycott, bivestment and sanctions) movement. She remits 100 percent of her speaking fees to the Clinton Foundation, where she is a board member and helps decide how the foundation spends its $180 million annual budget.
Bill Clinton took in six-figure lecture fees from pro-Israel synagogues around the country. Our calculations include only Jewish instutions whose pro-Israel programming could be identified; we excluded hundreds of thousands of dollars in speaking fees paid to the Clintons by Jewish instutions whose online materials do not explicitly promote Israel.
In addition, Bill Clinton received $250,000 for a speech to Univision Management Company, the media corporation co-owned by pro-Israel billionaire Haim Saban. As AlterNet’s Grayzone Project recently reported, Saban and his wife Cheryl contributed $5 million to the pro-Hillary Clinton super PAC, Priorities USA Action, this February. Saban has also contributedbetween $5 and $10 million to the Clinton Foundation. “I’m a one-issue guy, and my issue is Israel,” Saban said in 2004.
Whopping Fees From Ethnic Cleansers
Public records show that Bill Clinton earned a total of $549,999 in four speeches to the JNF. The disclosures do not mention the JNF’s most generous fee. JNF provoked an outcry within pro-Israel circles when it transferred half a million dollars to the Clinton Foundation through the Peres Academic Center to pay for a single speech by Bill Clinton. Bill Clinton later said he donated his large fee back to the Peres Academic Center, but there are lingering questions about where all the money went, including funds from the JNF.
Formed in 1901, JNF has spent over a century driving Palestinians off their land, including through the creation of the paramilitary force euphemistically named the Green Patrol. Former JNF director Yosef Weitz outlined detailed plans for the mass ethnic cleansing of Palestinians in 1948, demanding that their villages be destroyed and they “be harassed continually” to prevent them from returning.
In recent years, JNF has teamed up with the Israeli military, police and Christian Zionist donors to violently expel the residents of unrecognized Bedouin villages in Israel’s Negev Desert. Among them is Al Arakib, which as of October 2015, has been razed to the ground a staggering 90 times.
Video below by Max Blumenthal, a co-author of this article, shows the destruction of Al Arakib by Israeli bulldozers in 2010 — the third time it was demolished — in order to make way for a JNF-funded “forest” and Jews-only town. The JNF is widely opposed in Palestinian civil society and controversial even within Israel, where it owns roughly 13 percent of state land and vows to lease it to exclusively Jewish tenants.
Will Hillary Honor Her Commitments?
Hillary Clinton has made her unflinching support for Israel a centerpiece of her foreign policy agenda. In November 2015, she promised to “reaffirm” the “unbreakable bond with Israel, and Benjamin Netanyahu,” suggesting she would adopt a friendlier posture to Israel’s right-wing leader than Obama had.
In a July 2015 letter to mega-donor Haim Saban, which her campaign distributed to the press, Clinton declared “we need to make countering BDS a priority.” It was the first time in American history that a presidential candidate mentioned by name the grassroots movement to boycott Israel.
As the challenge to her primary candidacy from Senator Bernie Sanders grows, Hillary Clinton is tacking left. During her concession speech in New Hampshire, Clinton insisted to local supporters, “I believe so strongly that we have to keep up with every fiber of our being the argument for, the campaign for human rights.”
Whether a Clinton presidency would alter the U.S.-Israeli special relationship remains to be seen. But as long as she honors the wishes of her family’s top contributors, as she has pledged to do, her argument for human rights must exclude Palestinians.
The following list shows Bill and Hillary Clinton's personal income from speaking fees to pro-Israel groups between 2001 and 2015, based on public disclosures.
The following list shows the Clintons' speaking events to pro-Israel groups, which were compensated by payments to the Clinton Foundation. The Foundation's website does not provide information about the exact date of the engagements or the amount given.
Sarah Lazare is a staff writer for AlterNet. A former staff writer for Common Dreams, Sarah co-edited the book About Face: Military Resisters Turn Against War. Follow her on Twitter at @sarahlazare.
Max Blumenthal is a senior editor of the Grayzone Project at AlterNet, and the award-winning author of Goliath and Republican Gomorrah. His most recent book is The 51 Day War: Ruin and Resistance in Gaza. Follow him on Twitter at @MaxBlumenthal.