American officials have always been quick to deny that victims of US raids are civilians.
What do you do when the president of another country says US forces killed civilians there? You get US and other allied officials to anonymously deny it.
At least, that’s what you’d do if you were the New York Times. Under the headline “Karzai Insists US Forces Killed Civilians in a Raid,” reporter Rod Norland (11/24/13) described a house raid in Afghanistan where, according to Afghan officials, US forces killed civilians. He writes:
American officials reacted with anger and exasperation on Saturday after Mr. Karzai publicly accused American Special Forces troops of killing civilians in a raid on an Afghan home; American officials said it was an Afghan-led raid that killed only insurgents.
But it was apparently the kind of anger that had to be expressed anonymously:
“‘There is no doubt that these are spurious civilian casualty allegations,’ said a senior Western official here. ‘People are fairly mad at Karzai now; there�™s a lot of anger and a lot of disdain.’”
“‘Unfortunately, some people are using allegations of civilian casualties for political purposes,’ an International Security Assistance Force official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity as a matter of official policy.”
“A United States official here, also speaking on the condition of anonymity as a matter of policy, said: ‘Misleading statements like this do not help to finalize the bilateral security agreement as soon as possible this year, which is essential to the future of Afghanistan and the confidence of the Afghan people.’”
Of course, there’s a chance these sources are telling the truth, and that it’s Afghan President Hamid Karzai who’s making false claims. But the reliance on so many officials who have very specific criticisms of the Afghan story, but who can’t stand behind them with their own names, is curious.
Rodland reports that Karzai’s spokesperson Aimal Faizi noted that “American officials had always been quick to deny that victims of such raids were civilians.” Which is all the more reason to be skeptical of their account of what happened. That record should obligate reporters to get these sources on the record.
Source: Press TV
When it comes to reckless money creation, it turns out that China is the king. Over the past five years, Chinese bank assets have grown from about 9 trillion dollars to more than 24 trillion dollars. This has been fueled by the greatest private debt binge that the world has ever seen. According to a recent World Bank report, the level of private domestic debt in China has grown from about 9 trillion dollars in 2008 to more than 23 trillion dollars today. In other words, in just five years the amount of money that has been loaned out by banks in China is roughly equivalent to the amount of debt that the U.S. government has accumulated since the end of the Reagan administration. And Chinese bank assets now absolutely dwarf the assets of the U.S. Federal Reserve, the European Central Bank, the Bank of Japan and the Bank of England combined. You can see an amazing chart which shows this right here. A lot of this “hot money” has been flowing out of China and into U.S. companies, U.S. stocks and U.S. real estate. Unfortunately for China (and for the rest of us), there are lots of signs that the gigantic debt bubble in China is about to burst, and when that does happen the entire world is going to feel the pain.
It was Zero Hedge that initially broke this story. Over the past several years, most of the focus has been on the reckless money printing that the Federal Reserve has been doing, but the truth is that China has been far more reckless…
You read that right: in the past five years the total assets on US bank books have risen by a paltry $2.1 trillion while over the same period, Chinese bank assets have exploded by an unprecedented $15.4 trillion hitting a gargantuan CNY147 trillion or an epic $24 trillion – some two and a half times the GDP of China!
Putting the rate of change in perspective, while the Fed was actively pumping $85 billion per month into US banks for a total of $1 trillion each year, in just the trailing 12 months ended September 30, Chinese bank assets grew by a mind-blowing $3.6 trillion!
I was curious to see what all of this debt creation was doing to the money supply in China. So I looked it up, and I discovered that M2 in China has grown by about 1000% since 1999…
So what has China been doing with all of that money?
China’s aggressive quest for foreign oil has reached a new milestone, according to records reviewed by Reuters: near monopoly control of crude exports from an OPEC nation, Ecuador.
Last November, Marco Calvopiña, the general manager of Ecuador’s state oil company PetroEcuador, was dispatched to China to help secure $2 billion in financing for his government. Negotiations, which included committing to sell millions of barrels of Ecuador’s oil to Chinese state-run firms through 2020, dragged on for days.
And the Chinese have been doing lots of shopping in the United States as well. The following is an excerpt from a recent CNBC article entitled “Chinese buying up California housing“…
At a brand new housing development in Irvine, Calif., some of America‘s largest home builders are back at work after a crippling housing crash. Lennar, Pulte, K Hovnanian, Ryland to name a few. It’s a rebirth for U.S. construction, but the customers are largely Chinese.
“They see the market here still has room for appreciation,” said Irvine-area real estate agent Kinney Yong, of RE/MAX Premier Realty. “What’s driving them over here is that they have this cash, and they want to park it somewhere or invest somewhere.”
Apparently a lot of these buyers have so much cash that they are willing to outbid anyone if they like the house…
The homes range from the mid-$700,000s to well over $1 million. Cash is king, and there is a seemingly limitless amount.
“The price doesn’t matter, 800,000, 1 million, 1.5. If they like it they will purchase it,” said Helen Zhang of Tarbell Realtors.
So when you hear that housing prices are “going up”, you might want to double check the numbers. Much of this is being caused by foreign buyers that are gobbling up properties in certain “hot” markets.
We see this happening on the east coast as well. In fact, a Chinese firm recently purchased one of the most important landmarks in New York City…
Chinese conglomerate Fosun International Ltd. (0656.HK) will buy office building One Chase Manhattan Plaza for $725 million, adding to a growing list of property purchases by Chinese buyers in New York city.
The Hong Kong-listed firm said it will buy the property from JP Morgan Chase Bank, according to a release on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange website.
Chinese firms, in particular local developers, have looked overseas to diversify their property holdings as the economy at home slows. Chinese individuals also have been investing in property abroad amid tight policy measures in the mainland residential market.
Earlier this month, Chinese state-owned developer Greenland Holdings Group agreed to buy a 70% stake in an apartment project next to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., in what is the largest commercial-real-estate development in the U.S. to get direct backing from a Chinese firm.
And in a previous article, I discussed how the Chinese have just bought up the largest pork producer in the entire country…
Just think about what the Smithfield Foods acquisition alone will mean. Smithfield Foods is the largest pork producer and processor in the world. It has facilities in 26 U.S. states and it employs tens of thousands of Americans. It directly owns 460 farms and has contracts with approximately 2,100 others. But now a Chinese company has bought it for $4.7 billion, and that means that the Chinese will now be the most important employer in dozens of rural communities all over America.
For many more examples of how the Chinese are gobbling up companies, real estate and natural resources all over the United States, please see my previous article entitled “Meet Your New Boss: Buying Large Employers Will Enable China To Dominate 1000s Of U.S. Communities“.
But more than anything else, the Chinese seem particularly interested in acquiring real money.
And by that, I mean gold and silver.
In recent years, the Chinese have been buying up thousands of tons of gold at very depressed prices. Meanwhile, the western world has been unloading gold at a staggering pace. By the time this is all over, the western world is going to end up bitterly regretting this massive transfer of real wealth.
Unfortunately for the Chinese, it appears that the unsustainable credit bubble that they have created is starting to burst. According to Bloomberg, the amount of bad loans that the five largest banks in China wrote off during the first half of this year was three times larger than last year…
China’s biggest banks are already affected, tripling the amount of bad loans they wrote off in the first half of this year and cleaning up their books ahead of what may be a fresh wave of defaults. Industrial & Commercial Bank of China Ltd. and its four largest competitors expunged 22.1 billion yuan of debt that couldn’t be collected through June, up from 7.65 billion yuan a year earlier, regulatory filings show.
And Goldman Sachs is projecting that China may be facing 3 trillion dollars in credit losses as this bubble implodes…
Interest owed by borrowers rose to an estimated 12.5 percent of China’s economy from 7 percent in 2008, Fitch Ratings estimated in September. By the end of 2017, it may climb to as much as 22 percent and “ultimately overwhelm borrowers.”
Meanwhile, China’s total credit will be pushed to almost 250 percent of gross domestic product by then, almost double the 130 percent of 2008, according to Fitch.
The nation might face credit losses of as much as $3 trillion as defaults ensue from the expansion of the past four years, particularly by non-bank lenders such as trusts, exceeding that seen prior to other credit crises, Goldman Sachs Group Inc. estimated in August.
The Chinese are trying to get this debt spiral under control by tightening the money supply. That may sound wise, but the truth is that it is going to create a substantial credit crunch and the entire globe will end up sharing in the pain…
Yields on Chinese government debt have soared to their highest levels in nearly nine years amid Beijing’s relentless drive to tighten the monetary spigots in the world’s second-largest economy.
The higher yields on government debt have pushed up borrowing costs broadly, creating obstacles for companies and government agencies looking to tap bond markets. Several Chinese development banks, which have mandates to encourage growth through targeted investments, have had to either scale back borrowing plans or postpone bond sales.
This could ultimately be a much bigger story than whether or not the Fed decides to “taper” or not.
It has been the Chinese that have been the greatest source of fresh liquidity since the last financial crisis, and now it appears that source of liquidity is tightening up.
So as the flow of “hot money” out of China starts to slow down, what is that going to mean for the rest of the planet?
And when you consider this in conjunction with the fact that China has just announced that it is going to stop stockpiling U.S. dollars, it becomes clear that we have reached a major turning point in the financial world.
2014 is shaping up to be a very interesting year, and nobody is quite sure what is going to happen next.
Following five straight weeks of improvement, Americans�™ confidence in the economy stalled last week, according to the Gallup�™s Economic Confidence Index.
Although the poll slipped two points to -26, it remains more positive than the -39 found during the federal government shutdown, according to Gallup.
But the weekly confidence index is below the -15 mark that was reported in weeks leading up to the shutdown, as well as the nearly six-year high of -3 found in early June.
Gallup�™s Economic Confidence Index is based on Americans�™ assessments of current economic conditions in the US and their perceptions of whether the economy is getting better or worse.
Americans�™ net economic outlook score was -28 last week, down from -26 the prior week. The current score represents 34 percent who said the economy is getting better and 62 percent who said it is getting worse. bizjournals.com
Source: Press TV
An unknown organisation has crafted a seemingly unbreakable code. Dropping clues in different locations in cyberspace and meat space. A knowledge of the esoteric, math, cryptography, and who knows what else has been used to delve deeper into who knows where.
via The Telegraph
One evening in January last year, Joel Eriksson, a 34-year-old computer analyst from Uppsala in Sweden, was trawling the web, looking for distraction, when he came across a message on an internet forum. The message was in stark white type, against a black background.
“Hello,” it said. “We are looking for highly intelligent individuals. To find them, we have devised a test. There is a message hidden in this image. Find it, and it will lead you on the road to finding us. We look forward to meeting the few that will make it all the way through. Good luck.”
The message was signed: “3301”.
A self-confessed IT security “freak” and a skilled cryptographer, Eriksson’s interest was immediately piqued. This was – he knew – an example of digital steganography: the concealment of secret information within a digital file. Most often seen in conjunction with image files, a recipient who can work out the code – for example, to alter the colour of every 100th pixel – can retrieve an entirely different image from the randomised background “noise”.
It’s a technique more commonly associated with nefarious ends, such as concealing child pornography. In 2002 it was suggested that al-Qaeda operatives had planned the September 11 attacks via the auction site eBay, by encrypting messages inside digital photographs.
Sleepily – it was late, and he had work in the morning – Eriksson thought he’d try his luck decoding the message from “3301”. After only a few minutes work he’d got somewhere: a reference to “Tiberius Claudius Caesar” and a line of meaningless letters. Joel deduced it might be an embedded “Caesar cipher” – an encryption technique named after Julius Caesar, who used it in private correspondence. It replaces characters by a letter a certain number of positions down the alphabet. As Claudius was the fourth emperor, it suggested “four” might be important – and lo, within minutes, Eriksson found another web address buried in the image’s code.
Feeling satisfied, he clicked the link.
It was a picture of a duck with the message: “Woops! Just decoys this way. Looks like you can’t guess how to get the message out.”
“If something is too easy or too routine, I quickly lose interest,” says Eriksson. “But it seemed like the challenge was a bit harder than a Caesar cipher after all. I was hooked.”
Step one for everyone trying to make the world a better place should be listening to those they wish to help.
This is certainly true in the case of Haiti, a long-time target of Canadian ‘aid’. But, while Haitians continue to criticize Ottawa’s role in their country, few Canadians bother to pay attention.
After Uruguay announced it was withdrawing its 950 troops from the United Nations Mission to Stabilize Haiti last month, Moise Jean-Charles, took aim at the countries he considers most responsible for undermining Haitian sovereignty. The popular senator from Haiti’s north recently told Haiti Liberté:
“Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay are not the real occupiers of Haiti. The real forces behind Haiti’s [UN administered] military occupation — the powers which are putting everybody else up to it — are the U.S., France, and Canada, which colluded in the Feb. 29, 2004 coup d’etat against President [Jean-Bertrand] Aristide. It was then they began trampling Haitian sovereignty.”
For the vast majority of Canadians, Jean-Charles’ comment probably sounds like the ramblings of a crazy person. When the media in this country focuses on Haiti, it is typically to highlight Canadian aid projects. Yet, here is one of Haiti’s most popular politicians telling the press (and audiences throughout South America) that Canada helped overthrow its elected government and continues to undermine its sovereignty.
Jean-Charles’ opinion is not uncommon in Haiti. Since Aristide’s government was overthrown in February 2004, Haiti Progrès and Haiti Liberté newspapers have described Canada as an “occupying force,” “coup supporter” or “imperialist” at least a hundred times. Haiti’s left-wing weeklies have detailed Ottawa’s role in planning the coup; destabilizing the elected government; building a repressive Haitian police force; justifying politically motivated arrests and killings; militarizing post-earthquake disaster relief; pushing the exclusion of Haiti’s most popular party, Fanmi Lavalas, from participating in elections.
While the above-mentioned information has been copiously detailed in Haitian newspapers, as well as English-language books, reports and left-media, Canada’s dominant media rarely critically discusses this country’s role in Haiti. During Montréal’s recent municipal election, for instance, the media largely ignored the eventual winner’s role in undermining Haitian democracy and justifying repression. Aside from a piece in the Montréal Media Co-op by Dru Oja Jay, no media seems to have discussed Denis Coderre’s previous position as Prime Minister Paul Martin’s point person on Haiti.
Will the dominant media also ignore the 10-year anniversary of the coup? Without pressure it is likely, even though the date remains a potent political symbol.
Haiti continues to be occupied by the UN force brought by the U.S./France/Canada military invasion to overthrow Aristide. And that UN force’s neglect for Haitian life has led to an ongoing cholera outbreak that has left 8,500 dead and nearly 700,000 ill.
At the electoral level, the party Ottawa helped overthrow, Fanmi Lavalas, continues to be excluded from participating in elections. This has been to the benefit of Haiti’s notoriously corrupt political class, including current president Michel Martelly, who is unlikely to have won a fair election (and is facing growing protests calling on him to resign).
“It is clear that Martelly does not have the legitimacy or the credibility to lead the country,” Senator Jean-Charles told this week’s Haiti Liberté after 10,000- 50,000 took to the streets of Port-au-Price. “We are asking the Americans, French, and Canadians to come and collect their errand boy because he cannot lead the country any more.”
On February 28, 2014 tens of thousands are likely to hit the streets across Haiti to once again express their rejection of the U.S./France/Canada coup. Is any major news agency in this country prepared to mark the occasion by telling Canadians what their government has done over the past decade to undermine Haitian sovereignty and democracy?
The frustration and anger in America are growing.
So much so that one militia leader has publicly called for the assassination of the President of the United States.
We now have authority to shoot Obama, i.e., to kill him.
His willful violations and alienation of our Constitution, constant disregard for our peaceful protests and corruption of all the three branches of government, (i.e., rogue and illegitimate government), reveal the dictator that he is. Obama and his co-conspirators disrespect our Constitution (constitutional rule of law) and abuse the American people.
The authority to kill Obama comes from the 2nd Amendment of our Constitution: He is levying war on the United States and aiding and comforting our foreign enemies – the 2nd Amendment gives us the right and duty (authority) to engage an enemy of the United States that does so with the design to reduce us under absolute Despotism. I would be very surprised, if Obama does not leave Washington DC today (Nov. 19th) … never to return, if he is not dead within the month.
The good news is that all those shares you see there are either journalists or concerned citizens reporting Wilhelmsen’s threat to the FBI. And yes, as we’ve seen time and time again, it’s very likely that a sensory deprivation tank figures into his immediate future for talking like this on Facebook. It’s not about freedom of speech, remember. Threats against the lives of others, especially public figures like the president, are taken very seriously and do not constitute protected speech.
The Secret Service, of course, was none too pleased about a direct threat to the President and the Facebook post has since been removed.
Under Federal law Wilhelmsen can be prosecuted for such threats against political leaders and may face up to ten years in prison.
Threatening the President of the United States is a class D felony under United States Code Title 18, Section 871.
The offense is punishable by five to ten years in prison, a $250,000 maximum fine, a $100 special assessment, and 3 years of supervised release.
Internet restrictions such as a prohibition on access to email have been imposed on offenders who made their threats by computer.
Obama told donor Katzenberg to “think long and hard” about profitable gun violence movies
November 16, 2013
Violent films dominate Hollywood’s cinematic offerings.
Obama visited Hollywood on Tuesday during a fundraising swing and urged executives and employees to “think long and hard” about gun violence messages in movies. “We gotta make sure that we’re not glorifying it,” he told an audience at DreamWorks.
Hollywood leans heavily on violence in movies to entertain audiences. Earlier this month, it was reported that a study to be published in the December issue of Pediatrics found that PG-13 movies are now more violent than R-rated movies. “Violent encounters with guns occur, on average, more than twice an hour in the best sellers in both ratings categories, according to researchers, who worked with support from the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation,” the New York Times reported on November 11.
In response to complaints about violence, Senator Joe Lieberman, the Connecticut Independent, has proposed a bill that would allow the government to fine companies that advertise violent movies to children. The ACLU said the legislation is reminiscent of the Ministry of Truth in George Orwell’s novel, Nineteen Eighty Four.
Obama owes a big favor to DreamWorks CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg. The film industry mogul has donated extensively to Obama and Democrat super-PACs. Katzenberg is one of Obama‘s most generous donors. So important is Katzenberg to Team Obama, in August the president held a nonscheduled private dinner with the former chairman of the Walt Disney Studios at a Los Angeles hotel.
Faced with criticism that Obama is playing favorites with big league donors, Josh Earnest, the White House principal deputy press secretary rolled out a response. “DreamWorks obviously is a thriving business and is creating lots of jobs in Southern California,” he said. “And the fact of the matter is Mr. Katzenberg’s support for the president’s policies has no bearing on our decision to visit here, rather it’s an opportunity.”
In January, members of Congress accused Obama of hypocrisy on the issue of gun violence in movies after he signed a number of executive actions the administration claimed would reduce gun violence.
“He gave his coziest Hollywood contributors a free pass,” Rep. Kevin Brady, a Texas Republican, told a Houston radio station. “And if there’s one industry I think that makes the most money off of glorifying violence, it’s that industry.”
Obama told the crowd at DreamWorks the film industry is an asset for a depressed economy. “Entertainment is one of the bright spots of the economy,” he said.
This article was posted: Tuesday, November 26, 2013 at 4:55 pm
Drafted by the Brazil and Germany, the provision is a non-binding, symbolic affirmation of privacy rights following high-profile scandals that have rippled through the international community, including U.S. spying on Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the Associated Press explains.
The Guardian reports:
The main sticking point was over language stating that foreign nationals should have the same rights to privacy as the citizens of countries carrying out mass surveillance. US law currently gives citizens far greater protection than foreigners from NSA operations.
The Five-Eyes members argued that the legal right to privacy was an internal matter for states alone.
At the same time, countries including Cuba and Venezuela had pushed for more explicit language on alleged extraterritorial human rights violations during the negotiations.
After its successful bid to weaken the resolution, the United States consented to its passage through the human rights committee.
It is next headed to the 193-member General Assembly, which will put it to a vote next month.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.
Source: Common Dreams
Stories about Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan’s alleged double life have been circulating for years.
Now, the Israeli businessman behind hits like “Pretty Woman,” “Fight Club” and “L.A. Confidential” has finally come forth with a stunning admission – for years he served as an Israeli spy, buying arms on its behalf and boosting its alleged nuclear program.
In a far-reaching interview aired on Monday with Israel‘s Channel 2 TV’s flagship investigative program “Uvda,” Mr Milchan detailed a series of clandestine affairs in which he was involved and particularly how he helped purchase technologies Israel allegedly needed to operate nuclear bombs.
November 26, 2013
Alpaca in Peru, via Wikimedia Commons
Milk from a variety of animals including camels, llamas and moose should be more widely used to counteract high cow milk prices due to growing demand for dairy in the developing world, the UN food agency says.
‘There is huge scope for developing other dairy species,’ Anthony Bennett, livestock industry officer at the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) in Rome, was quoted as saying in a statement on Tuesday.
In a report co-authored by Bennett released Tuesday, the FAO said that alpaca, donkeys, moose, reindeer and yak could also be milked, alongside other species that are already used for milk like buffalo, goat and sheep.
This article was posted: Tuesday, November 26, 2013 at 4:12 pm
More American citizens than ever are asking the National Security Agency if it is spying on their personal lives.
“This was the largest spike we’ve ever had,” said Pamela Phillips, the chief of the NSA Freedom of Information Act and Privacy Act Office, which handles all records requests to the agency.
“We’ve had requests from individuals who want any records we have on their phone calls, their phone numbers, their e-mail addresses, their IP addresses, anything like that,” Phillips noted.
From October to December, the first quarter of the NSA fiscal year, the spying agency received 257 open-records requests and during the next quarter it received 241 requests.
On June 6, which was the end of the NSA�™s third fiscal year and when its confidential documents were disclosed, it received 1,302 requests.
In following three months, about 2,538 people sent their requests to the NSA and this continued into the recent months.
However, the inquirers are receiving a standard pre-written letter saying that the agency can neither confirm nor deny that any information has been collected.
The USA Today cited Joel Watts, a health and safety administrator who sent an open-records request in June but three weeks later he received a letter saying that the NSA would not tell him if it had collected any information on him.
“It’s a sign of disrespect to American citizens and the democratic process,” he said. “I should have the right to know if I’m being surveyed if there’s no criminal procedures in process.”
Anne Weismann, chief counsel at Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a watchdog group, says, “People are legitimately troubled by the idea that the government is monitoring and collecting information about their e-mail traffic, phone calls and who knows what else.”
Weismann added that, “there is a growing sense of horror every time there is a new report about the data.”
Source: Press TV
�œI don�™t think Obama is going to cave this time to the Zionist lobby,” Henderson told Press TV on Sunday when asked about efforts being made by Israeli officials to disrupt the upcoming nuclear negotiations.
He added that the rift between the United States and Israel, which is under the control of the global �œbanking cartel”, were widening.
�œBut the right-wing element in the United States is mad about it because they get a lot of money from AIPAC (The American Israel Public Affairs Committee), and they get a lot of money from these guys, so they�™ll raise a fuss that we are not hawkish enough on Iran,” he noted.
Last week, Israeli Economy Minister Naftali Bennett pressed US lawmakers to pass tough new sanctions on Iran.
The White House, however, is resisting the increasing pressure from Congress over Iran sanctions. White House press secretary Jay Carney warned that imposing tougher sanctions against Tehran could lead to war.
Henderson said he believes Secretary of the State John Kerry is �œnegotiating with faith” over Iran�™s nuclear program.
He said Kerry has ignored Britain and France which are trying to derail the nuclear talks. �œKerry just kind of rode over that and we�™re still negotiating and it�™s going to get done.”
On November 9, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said �œIsrael�™s concerns” must be taken into consideration in the course of the negotiations.
Source: Press TV
By Peter Symonds
18 November 2013
Former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd announced last Wednesday evening, on the first full parliamentary sitting day of the new Abbott government, that he was quitting parliament. In a move that was sudden, but not entirely unexpected, his departure produced an outpouring of nauseating accolades from his own Labor Party, the Greens and the ruling Liberal National Coalition. Numerous media commentaries dissected his career, but left the most obvious question unanswered: why was Rudd retiring from the parliamentary stage?
Relegated to the backbench after losing the September 2013 federal election, Rudd’s own explanation was that there was no point “being here for the sake of being here.” That only begs another question: why had Rudd become so marginalised just six years after winning a clear victory over the Coalition government of John Howard in 2007? According to conventional political wisdom, such a win should have assured Rudd at least two terms in office. Yet, in an unprecedented inner party coup, Rudd was ousted in June 2010 and replaced by his deputy Julia Gillard before even serving out his first term, setting the stage for three years of leadership infighting.
The media explanations for this turmoil focus entirely on Rudd’s “egocentric” personality, his “flawed” leadership style and political “bastardry,” as well as Gillard’s overweening ambition. These traits, however, are hardly out of the ordinary for bourgeois politicians and, in normal times, would have largely remained in the background, at least in Rudd’s first term. But the past six years have been far from normal. The upheavals in the Labor leadership have been the manner in which the deepening global crisis of capitalism, sharpening geo-political rivalries—especially between the US and China—and developing working class opposition to the agenda of austerity have been refracted in Australia.
Rudd has not been sidelined because he failed to carry out the economic dictates of the corporate elite. During the 2007 election campaign, he positioned himself as a “fiscal conservative,” echoing the criticisms of the corporate media that Howard had failed to press ahead with pro-market restructuring and had squandered the opportunities provided by booming mineral exports to China. Moreover, Rudd was the first Labor leader to openly embrace the legacy of the 1983-1996 Hawke-Keating Labor governments that ruthlessly deregulated the economy and presided over a massive shift of wealth up the income scale.
Labor, Coalition and Greens parliamentarians hailed what Treasurer Joe Hockey described, during Wednesday night’s parliamentary session, as Rudd’s “magnificent” apology to the Aboriginal people in February 2008. In fact, the “apology” was a cynical ploy designed to cover up the Labor government’s continuation of Howard’s military-police “intervention” into Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory, aimed at enforcing punitive measures such as welfare quarantining. The “apology” epitomised the Labor government’s modus operandi—“progressive” window-dressing to implement the regressive policies of the corporate establishment.
When Rudd’s government was rapidly overtaken by the global financial meltdown that erupted in September 2008, he provided an open-ended guarantee to the banks and implemented stimulus measures designed to prevent a slide into recession. Speaking for sections of finance capital, former Treasury secretary Ken Henry last week paid tribute to the Labor prime minister. Rudd “was so far ahead of where the world was, and a long way ahead of where we were in the Treasury,” Henry declared. Moreover, in early 2010, as the demands of global capital shifted from stimulus to austerity, Rudd signalled that his government would rein back the public spending measures that were coming increasingly under fire in the media.
The real reason for Rudd’s decision to quit parliament lies in the growing tensions between the United States and China in the Indo-Pacific region. But the great unmentionable in Australian politics is the war preparations being made by the US, in collaboration with its allies, most particularly Australia, against China. That is why the past week’s commentary has totally ignored Rudd’s foreign policy. As a former career diplomat and fluent Mandarin-speaker, Rudd envisaged himself as a significant player on the international stage. But he took office as the worsening global economic crisis was producing sharp shifts in world politics. Significant sections of the American ruling elite, frustrated that President Bush had bogged the US down in unwinnable wars in Iraq and Afghanistan amid rising Chinese economic and political influence, backed Obama as the means for reasserting US dominance in Asia.
What became known as Obama‘s “pivot to Asia”—a comprehensive diplomatic and military build-up against China—quickly came into conflict with Rudd’s own initiatives. Rudd enunciated a “middle power” role for Australia in mediating rising tensions between the US and China through the establishment of an Asia Pacific Community. The proposal was an attempt to resolve the basic dilemma facing Australian imperialism, increasingly dependent economically on China, but completely reliant on the US military alliance to prosecute its own interests in the Pacific.
Rudd in no way opposed the US alliance, even telling US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that war against China might be necessary if all else failed. The Obama administration, however, was intent on confronting, not appeasing, China, and was not prepared to brook any vacillation from a key American ally. Rudd’s ousting in June 2010 was orchestrated behind the scenes by Labor and union factional bosses, who, as WikiLeaks cables later revealed, were “protected sources” of the US embassy in Canberra. Immediately after her installation, Gillard emphasised her loyalty to Washington, holding a meeting with the American ambassador and a 20-minute phone conversation with Obama. In November 2011, Obama used the Australian parliament to formally announce the “pivot” in the Australian parliament and signed a deal with Gillard, behind the backs of the Labor party, the parliament and the Australian population, to station US Marines in Darwin.
Rudd returned to the cabinet as foreign minister in the unstable Greens-backed minority Labor government that emerged from the August 2010 election. But Gillard set the foreign policy orientation. Rudd patched up relations with the Obama administration, but he never resiled from his concerns that Washington and Beijing were heading toward a conflict that had to be avoided. Rudd continued to mount leadership challenges to Gillard—testimony to the continuing divisions within ruling circles over Australia‘s close integration into the US war preparations against China. Rudd also forged relations with political figures internationally, such as former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger, similarly worried about the lurch toward a catastrophic war.
Rudd stood down as foreign minister in February 2012 in a failed bid to wrest the leadership from Gillard. In March 2013, another abortive leadership attempt collapsed ignominiously. In both cases, the factional heavyweights who installed Gillard stood firm. By June 2013, the Labor Party was facing electoral oblivion. Reviled for her role in Rudd’s anti-democratic ousting and her government’s anti-working class policies, Gillard’s poll ratings plunged to historic lows. With a chorus of voices in the media warning of the collapse of the two-party system, Labor re-installed Rudd, the only political figure with any public standing, largely because of his status as the martyr of the 2010 coup.
The media and political establishment backed Rudd’s reinstallation, but only to retain the Labor Party as a viable opposition. The press, with the Murdoch newspapers in the lead, campaigned to ensure that Rudd had no prospect of winning the September election. Bill Shorten, head of the “praetorian guard” that ousted Rudd in 2010, and a trusted figure in Washington, was installed as Labor leader.
In Shorten and Prime Minister Abbott, the Obama administration has two leaders committed to the “pivot” to Asia. Former Labor ministers supportive of Rudd’s foreign policy have either quit parliament or been relegated to relatively insignificant posts. Ex-foreign minister Bob Carr, who was critical of Obama‘s speech to the Australian parliament, has retired. Former defence minister Joel Fitzgibbon is shadow agriculture spokesman.
Since Rudd was ousted in mid-2010, US-China tensions throughout the Indo-Pacific have sharpened dramatically. Just how central Australia is to US war plans against China was underlined by a recent report by the US-based thinktank, the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA). The report details the basing requirements and military support that Washington requires from Canberra for its naval and air operations in the Indian and Pacific oceans. It comments on the divisions in Australian ruling circles over the US “pivot” and concludes that the debate is all but over, because Gillard “crossed the strategic Rubicon” by agreeing to position US Marines in Darwin.
This conclusion is somewhat premature, not least because the discussion has been made largely behind closed doors. The working class—the overwhelming majority of the population—is yet to speak. Nevertheless, Rudd is quitting parliament precisely because he no longer has any significant open support within the ruling establishment for his foreign policy orientation. While praising Rudd in parliament this week as “an extraordinary person,” Abbott put the nail in his coffin by flatly ruling out appointing him to a diplomatic post, ensuring that Rudd has no official government platform from which to advocate his views.
By Tom Carter
18 November 2013
The US Supreme Court heard oral arguments last Wednesday in the case of Unite Here Local 355 v. Mulhall, which involves the legality of certain terms of so-called “neutrality agreements” betweens unions and management. A neutrality agreement is a contract in which a company agrees to work with union executives to unionize the workforce.
The neutrality agreement in this case, which dates from 2004, involves the Mardi Gras Gaming company, which operates casinos in Florida, and the Unite Here union. A lawsuit was filed on behalf of Martin Mulhall, a Mardi Gras employee, to prevent unionization on the basis of the neutrality agreement.
The terms of the neutrality agreement between Mardi Gras and Unite Here give a sense of the backroom quid-pro-quo arrangements that typify contemporary union-management relations. The Unite Here union agreed to spend $100,000 campaigning for a ballot initiative that would authorize slot machines at Mardi Gras casinos in Florida. (The union campaigned and spent the money, and the ballot initiative passed in 2006.) In return, Mardi Gras agreed to provide the union access to its facilities, turn over lists of employee names and addresses, and remain neutral during the organizing campaign. Unite Here also promised not to “engage in a strike, picketing, or other economic activity” during the period of the agreement.
After the union succeeded in its political initiative to legalize slot machines, Mardi Gras reneged on the agreement, distributing anti-union flyers and withholding the promised lists of employee names. Mardi Gras argued that the agreement was unenforceable under the Taft-Hartley Act.
Section 302 of the Labor Management Relations Act (commonly known as the Taft-Hartley Act of 1947) is designed to prohibit corrupt practices by union bureaucrats. The Act makes it a felony for unions to ask for or accept a “thing of value” from the employer. The issue in the case is whether the agreement between Mardi Gras and Unite Here violates Section 302.
During the oral arguments on November 13, 2013 (transcript available here), Attorney Richard G. McCracken argued for Unite Here, contending that neutrality agreements “avoid the hard feelings that come in many contested organizing campaigns and thereby create a good environment for collective bargaining.” Justice Anthony Kennedy intervened to point out that the union had paid $100,000 to campaign for the slot machine initiative, and that the union must have expected something in return.
McCracken observed that unions “help[ing] the employer in business” is “something that happens a great deal in labor relations,” and that the $100,000 expense should not be considered corrupt.
During oral arguments, the Obama administration’s deputy solicitor general supported Unite Here, arguing that the neutrality agreement did not involve a “thing of value” within the meaning of Section 302. Before oral arguments, the administration had filed a brief downplaying Unite Here’s neutrality agreement, characterizing it as merely setting forth “ground rules for an organizing campaign.”
William L. Messenger, the attorney for Mulhall, argued that the “$100,000 political campaign and agreement not to strike” was clearly a “payment.” Messenger went on to take the position—apparently to the surprise of even the right-wing justices—that all organizing agreements violate the Taft-Hartley act.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg asked, “Then may I ask you, Mr. Messenger, to clarify, because I thought you told me before that some organizing agreements are okay. Are you taking the position that all organizing agreements [are invalid]?” Messenger replied, “Yes,” going on to argue that previous court decisions upholding organizing agreements should be overruled.
The outcome of the case is by no means clear, but it likely depends on Justice Kennedy’s vote. Kennedy, who is a consistent right-winger, nevertheless often occupies the middle ground among the justices.
There are no official statistics on neutrality agreements, but there is every indication that the practice has become more and more widespread in recent decades.
Neutrality agreements commonly provide for “captive audience” meetings, where the unions and management share the platform and work together to pressure workers to join the union, often under slogans of a “partnership.” Neutrality agreements also provide unions with access to workers’ personal information, give union organizers access to company premises and waive procedures such as secret ballots.
Instead of a secret ballot, neutrality agreements may provide for card check procedures for or against unionization, often with the union “organizers” looking over their shoulders. (This coercive aspect of the “card check” procedure was criticized by some of the Supreme Court’s right-wing justices on Wednesday.)
The phenomenon of neutrality agreements is a concentrated expression of the entire strategy and function of the union bureaucracies. A long time has passed since labor unions actually entered workplaces to organize workers in opposition to management. Now, the first people the union bureaucrats meet with when they arrive are not the workers, but the bosses. In these meetings, the bureaucrats offer their services to management as labor contractors, promising advantages in return for a cut of the workers’ pay. The exact quid-quo-pro is negotiated behind the backs of workers—often, as in this case, accompanied by a healthy dose of backstabbing on both sides.
The interests of workers are not represented by any party in the ongoing Supreme Court litigation over neutrality agreements.
In the final analysis, disagreements in the Supreme Court in the Unite Here Local 355 v Mulhall case represent divisions within the ruling class over the best methods of imposing its will on the working class in the context of the developing economic crisis. Those defending the neutrality agreements consider the unions to be an essential instrument in the political suppression of workers and in the imposition of concessions, wage cuts, and give-backs.
This perspective has been the majority position in the ruling class over the previous several decades, and is associated in general with the Democratic Party. The union bureaucracies contribute huge sums each year to the Democratic Party in return for protection and the maintenance of their privileges. This perspective was reflected, for example, in the Obama administration’s intervention in the 2008 auto bankruptcies, during which it collaborated with the unions to shred workers’ pensions, pay, and benefits.
Those attacking the neutrality agreements in the Supreme Court do so from the right, taking advantage of the corrupt practices of Unite Here to advance the “rights” of employers. This faction, today associated with sections of the Republican Party, favors dispensing with the unions altogether and returning to the “laissez faire” doctrines that predominated in the American legal system a hundred years ago. Under these doctrines, any collective activity of workers whatsoever is considered illegitimate and unfair.
The litigation over neutrality agreements confirms once again that organized workers’ opposition within the US and around the world cannot develop within the corrupt trade unions, which function as management partners in the exploitation and suppression of workers. Opposition must develop outside of the trade unions and against them, and against the entire system of capitalist exploitation in which the unions play an essential role.
By Jean Shaoul
18 November 2013
Libya‘s capital city Tripoli was at a virtual standstill yesterday. Most of Tripoli’s businesses, schools and public sector workers went out on strike, demanding that militias leave the city.
A 48-hour state of emergency was declared Saturday. Tripoli saw some of the bloodiest fighting since the overthrow of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, with at least 45 people killed in demonstrations on Friday and Saturday. Residents set up checkpoints and barricades of metal, wood and tires to protect their neighbourhoods.
There is growing anger towards both the Islamist proxies the United States used topple the Gaddafi regime—which have used extortion, assassination, kidnappings, imprisonment and torture to enrich themselves—and the neo-colonial government of Prime Minister Ali Zeidan.
On Friday, the Misrata militia fired on thousands of demonstrators, including women and children, killing 43 and wounding over 500. The demonstrators were calling for the government to rein in the militias as they marched to the Misrata brigades’ headquarters at Ghargour. The central government’s weak forces only arrived long after the violence erupted.
Witnesses said anti-aircraft weapons were fired at peaceful demonstrators carrying white flags and placards. Sadat al-Badri—the president of Tripoli’s city council, which called the protest—said the demonstrators were unarmed and had been shot at from inside the militia headquarters.
Taher Basha Agha, the Misrata militia’s chief at Ghargour, replied that the protesters were armed and that snipers on rooftops fired first, suggesting action by agent provocateurs. He rejected calls to leave the capital before the General National Council (GNC) had agreed a new constitution and a new state had been established.
At first Zeidan said that armed demonstrators were involved in the clashes and that security forces had not intervened “so as not to complicate the situation,” causing enormous anger. He later retracted this, stating that the protest march was “peaceful.”
Subsequently, armed men, including a militia called the Shield of Libya, arrived, set fire to the Misrata brigade’s headquarters and premises, and evicted them.
On Saturday, clashes broke out between local militias and the Misrata brigades in Tajoura, a Tripoli suburb, when armed reinforcements from Misrata attempted to enter the city from the east. Misrata fighters attacked an army barracks, setting off clashes in which one person was killed and eight wounded.
These events followed armed clashes in Tripoli last week between rival militias that killed three people and wounded 20.
The events highlight the Washington-installed government’s political isolation, its inability to control the hundreds of armed militias, and mounting political and economic problems on all fronts.
The lavish funding of Islamists by Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States, and NATO to overthrow the Gaddafi regime has left Libya awash with weapons and heavily armed militias, turning the country into a base of regional terrorist groups and an exporter of arms and “Jihadists” to Syria.
It has led to constant clashes between rival ethnic and tribal based militias as they fight over land and resources. With some members of the tribes living across the southern border in Niger and Chad, the violence has spread to Libya‘s neighbours.
Lacking a real national army, the government cannot control its borders, which criminal gangs trading narcotics, arms and desperate Africans seeking sanctuary in Europe cross with impunity. Libya‘s vast deserts have become a sanctuary for Al Qaeda-linked outfits fleeing French forces occupying Mali.
Oil production has plummeted from 1.6 million bpd to 150,000 bpd, and exports to just 80,000 bpd. More than $6.43 billion in revenues have been lost due to violence, strikes demanding jobs and higher wages, and the blockading of the oil ports by militias. This threatens Europe‘s oil security, as Libya is Europe‘s largest single oil supplier.
The eastern city of Benghazi, centre of the oil industry, is a no-go area for Americans, British and French following the assassination of US Ambassador Chris Stevens in September 2012. Libya‘s military prosecutor, Colonel Yussef Ali al-Asseifar, was blown up by a car bomb last August. Benghazi has now set up an autonomous regional government and announced the establishment of their own petroleum marketing and sales company, Libya Oil and Gas Corp, bypassing Tripoli.
Protesters shut Libya‘s gas export pipeline for two weeks to Italy, its only customer, in the Mellitah complex 100 kilometres west of Tripoli, blocking oil exports from there as well. They cut gas supplies, hitting the electricity network.
The government is charged with drafting a new constitution before the end of its term on February 7 and faces a hostile General National Council. The Muslim Brotherhood dominated opposition has boycotted the GNC, as have a number of the legislators from the minority tribes such as the Berbers, Toureg and Tubu, over disagreements over the constitution, in order to bring down the government.
This has made it impossible for the government to agree a budget. With a quarter of a million fighters from hundreds of uncontrollable militias on its payroll, the government will run out of money to pay wages and salaries by the end of the year.
The government is unable to provide the most basic services. At least one third of the workforce is unemployed. One million Gaddafi supporters are internally displaced, while hundreds of thousands have sought refuge overseas.
Under the banner of the November 9 movement, hundreds of people protested last week in Tripoli and a number of other cities—demanding that the General National Council’s mandate not be extended beyond February 7, as Zeidan has indicated, and calling for early elections.
This has prompted Zeidan to warn of a possible “intervention of foreign occupation forces” to protect civilians under the UN Charter’s Chapter VII, because “the international community cannot tolerate a state in the middle of the Mediterranean that is a source of violence, terrorism and murder.” This was the same pretext for the NATO intervention that has caused the crisis in the first place.
Zeidan’s warning presages a possible return of NATO forces to Libya. The accelerating collapse of Zeidan’s puppet regime refutes any attempt by the Obama administration to depict the 2011 war for regime change in Libya as progressive. The war was neither a revolution, nor a struggle for democracy, but a bloody imperialist adventure in which the US, Britain, and France allied with right-wing tribal leaders, criminals, and Islamist thugs in order to topple the Gaddafi regime.
While these forces were hailed as “revolutionaries” by fake-left outfits such as the International Socialist Organisation, Britain‘s Socialist Workers Party and France’s New Anti-Capitalist Party, they were running a campaign to loot Libya and divide up its resources with US and European imperialism. A revolution in Libya and the region can develop only from a united struggle of the working class and oppressed masses of North Africa against the imperialist intervention and its pseudo-left defenders.
Germany alone has spent €25 million ($34 million) in Libya since the autumn of 2011. Most of this was devoted to the destruction of weapons and mines, with €3.2 million going to NGOs to “boost democracy and civil society.”
France is most likely to intervene. Last week, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said on the sidelines of a regional border security conference in the Moroccan capital, Rabat, that France was considering giving Libya more aid to fight terrorism, including training more police. France has already agreed to train 1,000 Libyan police in counter-terrorism and plans to train another 1,500.
Fabius said, “Our action in Mali was so spectacular, but we need to continue to be there for the Malians, the Libyans and the whole region.”
By Julie Hyland
18 November 2013
Who would believe that anyone, save a sociopath, would propose that the upcoming 100th anniversary of World War I should be cause for national celebration?
That is exactly what Prime Minister David Cameron has suggested, calling for next year’s anniversary to be turned into a “commemoration like the Diamond Jubilee”.
July 28, 1914 saw the start of a war that was to involve 70 million military personnel worldwide, and was to claim the lives of 16 million people by the time it ended on November 11, 1918.
Yet Cameron proposes it is fitting to mark its outbreak with a commemoration that captures “our national spirit”, that “says something about who we are as a people”. To this end, some £50 million has been allocated for “national commemorative events”, along the lines of this year’s Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, which was accompanied by bunting, Union flag waving and street parties.
His proposal is extraordinary even by the jingoist standards of Britain‘s ruling elite. While World War II has long been a patriotic staple in Britain, 1914-1918 has occupied a different position. Unable to cite any democratic or moral imperative in its justification, it is synonymous with the horrors and senselessness of war—made even more poignant by the fact that the “war to end all wars” did nothing of the sort.
This sentiment was encapsulated by the Great War poets, such as Wilfred Owen whose famous verse described as “the old lie” the Latin exhortation Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori (How sweet and right it is to die for one’s country).
Owen’s poem dealt with a chemical gas attack on British soldiers, such as occurred during the Battle of the Somme between July-November 1917. In those few months, over a million troops from all sides were killed or wounded, with more than 50,000 British casualties on a single day, July 1.
His disavowal of patriotism, however, spoke to the experience of every nationality in that war, as underscored by some of the most well-known of the military campaigns.
July 1, 1917 is on record as the bloodiest day in the history of the British army, and the total number of British or Commonwealth killed at the Somme stands at 419,654. The total dead or wounded German soldiers from the Somme as a whole is estimated as similar, if not greater. The number of French casualties are recorded as 204,253.
The first Battle of Ypres between October and November 1914 claimed an estimated total of 300,000 killed or wounded. It would be followed by a further four battles for control of the same strategic Belgium town by the war’s end, with more than a million casualties.
In the Battle of Gallipoli, April 1915-January 1916, the estimated dead or injured stands at 500,000, and in the Battle of Verdun, February-December 1916, the estimated dead or injured was 900,000.
The demand of the Russian masses for an end to the slaughter and for peace, and the inability of the bourgeoisie to provide it, played a central role in the Bolshevik revolution of October 1917.
It is with justification that BBC presenter Jeremy Paxman said he was “troubled” to hear Cameron comparing the anniversary to celebrations for the Diamond Jubilee. Only “a complete idiot would celebrate such a calamity”, he said, explaining, “Three quarters of a million men never came back to this country. Millions of men served. Millions of men were wounded mentally and physically. No one would celebrate that. It was just Cameron‘s clumsy use of language”.
This was underscored by a comment in the TES (Times Educational Supplement) by John Blake, a history teacher in a London school. Timed to coincide with Armistice Day, Blake’s article appeared under the disingenuous heading, “The first casualty: truth”. Disingenuous because it claims that previous presentations of World War I are false, and includes as one of the new “truths” now being invented that “many young men serving on the Western Front were happy with their lot”.
Blake describes as “profoundly dangerous” the attitude—held by 84 percent of those surveyed in one poll—that the purpose of “remembering the First World War is to learn about the horrors of war”.
He singles out three “myths” that must now be challenged. “[F]irst, that it was, without question, an unjust and imperialist war; second, that war poets such as Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen provide a representative response of soldiers to the conflict; and third, that the generals of the First World War were ignorant and callous butchers who had no regard for their men”.
Blake cites how recent historians have “re-evaluate[d] the traditional villains of the piece”—Austria-Hungary and imperial Germany. Far from them acting menacingly against a “tiny, helpless Serbia”, it was they who faced an “aggressive, posturing, expansionist Serbia”.
Blake concedes that such presentations may not be “entirely correct”, but he introduces them in order to argue that the “causes of the war were much more complicated than a narrative of imperialist states seeking expansion suggests”.
He continues by suggesting that the war should be evaluated by the fact that it enabled British imperialism to perfect its techniques. British generals were “instinctively cautious with their men’s lives”, he writes. The waves of soldiers sent over the top together, was so as to “ensure that they arrived at the German lines together and thus were not slaughtered one by one…” (sic)
The Somme is “not the defining example of British tactics and strategy”, he asserts. Rather, by the war’s end, “the British Army was one of most sophisticated war machines ever developed, deploying tanks, aircraft and extraordinarily accurate artillery fire in support of precise infantry advances that smashed German lines. Even on the Somme, more German soldiers were killed or wounded than British ones”.
His comments make clear that the First World War is now up for “reinterpretation” precisely because it was an imperialist conflict—one in which, as Lenin explained, the major capitalist powers sought to redivide the globe among them.
By trying to extract the First World War from the blood and filth in which it is covered, the aim is to justify the contemporary reality of new imperialist wars of expansion.
The fact that Blake is the Chairman of Labour Teachers make clear that this is an undertaking agreed on by the British bourgeoisie as a whole.
This is underscored by the planned festivities for next year’s Armed Forces day. A manufactured celebration of Britain‘s military, first initiated in 2006 under the Blair Labour government, it will take place on June 28 in Stirling, Scotland.
That is the same day and place that supporters of Scottish independence in the referendum later that year will celebrate the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn and the victory of Scotland’s King Robert Bruce over King Edward II of England.
Amid the intended competing celebrations of British and Scottish nationalism, entirely ignored, is the fact that June 28 is also the 100th anniversary of the 1914 assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria in Sarajevo by student Gavriol Princip, which provided the pretext for the outbreak of hostilities.
The recklessness with which the ruling elite and its political representatives now rush to rehabilitate imperialist militarism is in no small part dictated by popular opposition to war.
A November 2012 study by a Ministry of Defence (MoD) think tank, the Development, Concepts and Doctrine Centre (DCDC), is entitled Risk: The Implications of Current Attitudes to Risk for the Joint Operational Concept. In it, the DCDC bewails the lack of public support for military interventions, especially following Afghanistan and Iraq, which has meant that “the need to run military risks has become more difficult”. In response, it proposes greater efforts to mould public opinion to accept further and bloodier military conflicts, combining the already servile efforts of the media to this end with a state war propaganda agency.
Blake’s article in the TES is in line with this imperative. Accompanied by a section “Sign up and join the war effort”, it is aimed at influencing how the First World War should be taught in schools in the approach to its 100th anniversary.
By Kate Randall
18 November 2013
As the disastrous rollout of the Affordable Health Care (ACA) online exchanges drags into its eighth week, Americans are facing another rude shock about the health care overhaul known as Obamacare. The cheapest coverage sold on the online marketplaces comes with out-of-pocket costs in many cases totaling $6,350 a year for an individual. Included in these costs are deductibles in some states topping $5,000 for an individual and $10,000 for a family, which must be paid in full before insurance coverage even kicks in.
The Obama administration is still dealing with the fallout over the cancellation of insurance policies for some four million Americans in the individual insurance market, putting the lie to the president’s oft-repeated promise that “if you like your health care plan, you can keep your health care plan.”
Last Thursday, President Obama announced an executive “fix” in an effort to address this problem, allowing insurers to continue coverage for a year for current policyholders whose insurance coverage would otherwise be canceled because it does not meet ACA standards. It is still unclear in many states whether insurers will reinstate the policies, and what they will charge for premiums if they do.
The staggering deductibles for the lowest-priced Obamacare insurance coverage, the so-called bronze plans, are shocking consumers shopping for coverage at the federal HealthCare.gov site and the sites set up by 14 states and the District of Columbia. A survey of seven states by HealthPocket found that the average medical deductible was $4,509 for an individual, 26 percent higher than in the current individual market.
In California, the standard bronze plan offered on the state-run exchange site carries a $5,000 deductible per person, a $60 co-pay to see a doctor and a 30 percent coinsurance fee on hospital care. Blue Cross Blue Shield’s bronze plan in Rhode Island has a $5,800 deductible, while in Missouri HealthCare.gov offers a bronze plan by Anthem Blue Cross with the maximum-allowable out-of-pocket costs: $6,350.
The Detroit Free Press reports that in Southeast Michigan, deductibles in most of the 14 bronze plans listed at HealthCare.gov come with deductibles topping $5,000 for an individual and $10,000 to $12,000 for a family. The Free Press quotes former police officer Alfred Goode, who his losing his retiree insurance in the Detroit bankruptcy and is being forced onto Obamacare. “I’m not a poor man, but I can’t afford this,” he said. “That’s like another house note and a car note.”
In the inferior bronze plans, private insurers are only required to cover 60 percent of medical costs, and to limit out-of-pocket costs to $6,350 for an individual and $12,700 for families. The policies must carry 10 “essential services,” including preventive care and prescription drug coverage. It is clear that the insurance companies intend to pass on the costs of these required medical services to the consumer, pushing out-of-pocket costs to the limit of the law in order to maximize their profits. They will undoubtedly raise premiums if their profit goals are not achieved.
Under Obamacare, people without insurance coverage through their employer or a government program such as Medicare or Medicaid must obtain insurance or pay a penalty. Individuals and families that can only afford the “affordable” bronze plans will be saddled with huge out-of-pocket expenses if they face any significant health care event.
Many people with the inferior coverage will have no choice but to forgo needed medical care because they cannot afford to pay the deductible. A June 2013 HealthPocket survey asked the question: “Would a $50 copayment affect how often you visit a doctor?” Forty-one percent of respondents said that they would see the doctor less frequently, with rates highest for lower-income people.
In a visit last week to a Detroit community health center, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius admitted that the cheapest plans through Obamacare offer only an empty shell of coverage masquerading as health insurance. “For most people,” she said, “even if you don’t have all of your day-to-day medical bills paid for, you have the protection that you won’t go bankrupt if you get sick.” Such cynical comments are cold comfort for millions now discovering they will have to either shell out thousands of dollars for a hospital stay, or to visit the doctor, or go without medical care altogether.
In addition to deductibles, private insurers are jacking up other out-of-pocket costs under Obamacare. In the HealthPocket study, copayments for doctor visits averaged $41 for bronze plans, compared to $28 in the current individual market. Coinsurance fees for doctor visits, where a percentage of costs is borne by the patient instead of a flat fee, average 13 percent higher in the bronze plans compared to the current market. Some plans carry coinsurance rates for doctor visits as high as 50 percent.
In the face of these exposures of staggeringly high out-of-pocket costs on Obamacare’s cheapest plans, the Obama administration and its Democratic Party promoters continue to promote the ACA as a genuine social reform.
In an appearance Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press” aimed at damage control over Obama‘s “if you like your plan, you can keep your plan” fiasco, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi piled one lie upon another. “We have to completely step back and see the bigger picture,” she stated, adding, “The Affordable Care Act is right up there with Social Security, Medicare; affordable care for all Americans as a right, not a privilege.”
Pelosi’s lies aside, the Obama administration’s health care overhaul has been designed to strip tens of millions of Americans of decent health care and to ration it along class lines. The Obamacare legislation has been largely authored by the insurance and health care industry to boost their profits by depriving people of doctor visits, medical tests and procedures.
The high out-of-pocket costs for bronze plans on the exchanges are one way this scheme will work in action to deprive millions of people of vitally needed medical care, resulting in needless hardship, suffering and deaths.
By Khama Sikham
18 November 2013
Up to 185,000 families will lose housing assistance by December 2014 as a result of the “Sequester budget cuts,” which slashed the subsidies by $1.7 billion, according to a report issued earlier this month by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
More than 2.1 million low-income households use the Housing Choice Voucher Program (HCVP) to offset the cost of paying for private housing. The program pays a section of rent directly to landlords, and the renters pay the difference. Only one in four households eligible for assistance received vouchers, and wait times for assistance can be months or even years.
As a result of the sequester cuts, between 40,000 to 65,000 fewer people will be using housing vouchers by the end of this year compared to December 2012, the CBPP reported. The report observed that “many of the 2,300 state and local housing agencies that administer housing vouchers are reducing the number of families that receive assistance, by no longer reissuing vouchers when current families leave the program.”
In order to be eligible for the program, a household must have an income below the poverty line and have housing costs amounting to over half its income. The average family receiving vouchers through the Housing Choice Voucher Program makes $12,500 per year.
Low-income families are often forced to choose between paying for essentials such as food and electricity, and are at high risk of finding themselves unable to pay rent, resulting in eviction and possible homelessness.
As a result of the budget cuts, agencies have been forced to either lower assistance payments or attempt to negotiate with landlords to lower rent. While the housing agencies have some leeway to negotiate rents with landlords, “if housing agencies pursue such reductions too aggressively, owners may refuse to rent units to tenants using vouchers,” the report noted.
“Either scenario could bring additional hardship to these families, who by definition are our communities’ lowest income families, either because of increased rent burden or by their landlords choosing not to participate in the voucher program in the future”, said Linda Couch, Vice President for Policy and Research for the National Low Income Housing Coalition, speaking to the WSWS on Thursday.
“Families struggling to pay rent will continue to shoulder what should be unimaginable proportions of their extremely low incomes for shelter as any prospect of receiving housing assistance is now more unlikely than ever,” she added.
Housing choice vouchers have faced a shortfall of around one percent per year since 2009, but housing agencies are slated to “receive 6 percent less funding than they need to continue to assist the same number of families in 2013 as in 2012,” according to an earlier report by the CBPP.
More than one million school children in the US are homeless or highly mobile each year, a 32 percent increase since 2007, according to the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth.
Almost 16 million children in the US, or 22 percent, live with families whose income is below the federal poverty line, according to the National Center for Children in Poverty. Earlier this year, the United Nation’s Children’s Fund released a report showing that, among developed countries, the United States ranks 26 out of 29, behind Greece and just above Lithuania, Latvia and Romania, in terms of the percentage of children living in poverty.
In July, the Associated Press reported that four in five Americans were “economically insecure,” having struggled with near-poverty or unemployment, or relying on government programs for at least a year of their lives. The report added that, based on the current growth rate of poverty, 85 percent of all working-age adults will experience economic insecurity at some point in their lives by 2030.
The cuts to housing assistance are part of the overall assault on social programs that benefit working people and the poor. This month, benefit payments for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) program were slashed by $5 billion for more than 45 million recipients. The federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation program, which provides extended unemployment benefits beyond the 26-week cutoff for most state unemployment assistance programs, is scheduled to expire in December.
The sequester budget cuts, which totaled $85 billion in 2013 alone, represent a savage attack on the social conditions of the working class, including $9.9 billion in cuts to Medicare, $840 million in cuts to special education programs, and $400 million in cuts to Head Start, in addition to the nearly $2 billion slashed from housing aid.
Far from seeking to end these cuts, both the Democrats and Republicans are using them as the baseline for even further attacks on social programs, including drastic cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security.
18 November 2013
This Week in History provides brief synopses of important historical events whose anniversaries fall this week.
25 years ago: Soviet court rehabilitates Trotsky’s son Sergei Sedov
The Soviet state newspaper Izvestia announced on November 21, 1988, the judicial rehabilitation of the youngest son of Leon Trotsky, Sergei Sedov. The Soviet Supreme Court action was an admission that Sedov’s execution during Stalin’s purges of 1937-1938 was an act of state murder.
A talented engineer who published works on thermodynamics and diesel engines, Sergei Sedov became a professor at the Moscow Institute of Technology while in his twenties. He was not active in politics.
Though his only “crime” was that he was the son of Trotsky, the main defendant in the Moscow Trials, Sedov was arrested, first in early 1935 with the first purges, and was sentenced to five years of administrative exile in Siberia. He was subsequently re-arrested in 1936 and sent to a labor camp in Vorkuta.
As Stalin’s second round of purges began in 1937, the NKVD, the Soviet secret police, charged Sedov with trying to poison factory workers. His death sentence is believed to have been carried out on October 29, 1937. He was just 29 years old.
The rehabilitation was in response to the written appeal of Sedov’s daughter, Yulia Akselrod, to President Mikhail Gorbachev. Akselrod, who had immigrated to the US in 1979, asked questions about the circumstances of her father’s death and sought to clear his name.
The Izvestia announcement of Sedov’s rehabilitation was just two sentences, giving few details.
Trotsky was assassinated in 1940, and his older son, Leon Sedov, in 1938. They both conducted a relentless political struggle against the counterrevolutionary betrayals of Stalin. Neither was ever rehabilitated by Stalin’s political successors.
50 years ago: US President Kennedy assassinated
On November 22, 1963, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, the 35th president of the United States, was shot dead in Dallas, Texas, at 12:30 p.m., as his presidential motorcade made its way around Dealey Plaza. Kennedy suffered wounds to the upper back and the throat, and a fatal shot to the head. Texas governor John Connally, who was travelling with Kennedy in the top-down convertible, was also wounded.
Lee Harvey Oswald, who was initially arrested for the killing of police officer J.D. Tippit, was arraigned on the night of November 22 on the charge of killing Kennedy. Earlier, as he was walked by police past media, Oswald was asked about the assassination. He responded, “I’m just a patsy.” Oswald was never able to testify, because two days later, amidst a heavy police escort, in the basement of the Dallas Police Headquarters, he was gunned down by Dallas nightclub owner Jack Ruby as millions watched live on television.
Oswald had been a US Marine in 1959 when he defected to the Soviet Union. He requested and received his US passport, along with a loan from the State Department, enabling him to return to the US in 1962. He settled in Dallas where he cultivated relations with right-wing Russian émigrés, and in 1963 he moved to New Orleans where he became the sole member there of the Fair Play for Cuba Committee, an allegedly pro-Castro organization heavily infiltrated by the FBI.
Ruby died of cancer in 1967 as he awaited a retrial for the killing of Oswald. He had earlier requested of the Warren Commission, the official investigation of the Kennedy assassination, that he be transferred to Washington, D.C., claiming “my life is in danger here” and that “I want to tell the truth, and I can’t tell it here.” The request was denied.
75 years ago: Daladier moves against French workers
On November 22, 1938, France’s Radical Party prime minister, Edouard Daladier, instructed prefects throughout the country to break factory and workplace occupations.
Resistance from the working class emerged because of the plans by Daladier’s Radical Party and Finance Minister Paul Reynaud for economic austerity and deregulation to rescue the falling franc, rein in public debt and increase production in the defense industries.
Working class opposition was strongest among industrial workers in the cities of Lille and Valenciennes, but by November 24, strikes had spread to the Paris region and involved the workers at Renault motor plant and workers at the Caudron and Bloch aircraft factories. Police soon cleared the Bloch premises without major incident, but at the Renault factory, police fired tear gas, injured 10 workers, and arrested 200.
Fortunately for the government, the workers’ opposition was dominated by the thoroughly Stalinist French Communist Party (PCF). Secretary General Maurice Thorez, speaking in Noisy-le-Sec, outlined his party’s wholly opportunist political line: “The workers are ready to work all the time required in order to manufacture the arms necessary to checkmate Hitler, on condition that Daladier goes.” When the PCF eventually called a single-day general strike at the end of the month, Daladier’s administration had its measure and easily faced it down.
The Executive Committee of the Confederation Generale du Travail, the Stalinist-led union body, unanimously decided to recommend all its membership walk out for a limited protest against the Daladier-Reynaud decrees. The terms of a general strike were fixed on November 25. In response, the Daladier government issued a ban on all open-air meetings or demonstrations in the Paris region organized for November 26.
The London Times summed up the thinking of the union leadership, which was focused on suppressing the working class. “Responsible trade union leaders are not unduly anxious to carry opposition to the decrees too far,” it observed, “but at the same time they are naturally apprehensive lest too great a moderation on their part should tempt the rank and file to take matters into their own hands.”
100 years ago: General strike in New Zealand
On November 23, 1913, a strike committee in Auckland voted to call off the general strike that had paralyzed New Zealand’s largest city for two weeks and other towns and cities since the beginning of October. Strike leaders had been arrested for sedition and striking waterside workers replaced by scab labor. In December, the United Federation of Labour (UFL) ordered a general resumption of work.
The “Great Strike” of 1913 was part of an international upsurge of the working class prior to World War I. It began when employers in Huntly and Wellington provocatively sacked miners and shipwrights who were members of the UFL, or the “Red Federation,” which had refused to register under the Reform Party government’s oppressive Arbitration Act.
Wharfies and miners around the country struck in support and were joined by drivers, laborers, seamen and firemen, all of whom raised their own demands. The UFL leadership, which sought to settle the dispute, was unsuccessful in either limiting the strike or bargaining with the employers. One striker later recalled: “The rank and file were the leaders.” Some 16,000 workers, a quarter of the total union membership, took part. Australian waterside workers and seamen boycotted New Zealand ships.
Prime Minister William Massey used the Farmers’ Union to mobilize thousands of special constables, known as “Massey’s Cossacks,” to brutally suppress the strike wave. Pitched battles erupted on the streets of Wellington. Troops with bayonets and machine guns were sent to the waterfront. The Sydney Morning Herald reported a “sort of modified civil war” in New Zealand, while entry of the specials into Auckland provoked the citywide general strike, in which the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) played a prominent role.
Without a perspective to prosecute a political struggle against the government, beset with growing hardships and state repression, the strike was worn down and defeated. Unregistered unions were stripped of immunity from penalties for striking, and a more punitive arbitration regime put in place.
While the working class emerged from the bitter struggle more unified and militant, key UFL leaders—Harry Holland, Peter Fraser and Bob Semple—sought to steer the class hostility to the government into parliamentary channels. In 1916, they were instrumental in founding the NZ Labour Party.
By Ulrich Rippert
18 November 2013
The party congress of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) in Leipzig, which began on Thursday and concluded on Saturday, provided the disgusting spectacle of a right-wing state party preparing massive social attacks and the undermining of democratic rights. The congress’ main tasks were to commit the SPD to a “grand coalition” with the Christian Democratic Union/Christian Social Union (CDU/CSU) and to integrate the Left Party into its plans.
Important issues affecting the lives of millions of workers, pensioners and youth across Europe played no visible part in the debates at the congress. There was no mention of the European-wide recession, the increase in lay-offs and social attacks, the growth of far-right and fascist organisations, or the mass protests in France or Greece.
As the congress began, European Union (EU) statistics agency Eurostat presented shocking figures on the extent of the social crisis in Europe. Economic output is stagnant or declining sharply. In the 28 EU member states, almost 27 million people are without a job. In Italy and Spain, youth unemployment is 40 percent and 60 percent, respectively. Entire regions are sinking into poverty.
This failed to make any impression on the 600 SPD delegates, who almost without exception hold well-paying jobs in government, the state or the trade union apparatus. They debated the necessity of a grand coalition to continue and intensify the policies which have led to social and political catastrophe in Europe.
The SPD’s right-wing, pro-business policies led to its second-worst electoral result in its history in September. In his speech to the congress, SPD leader Sigmar Gabriel stated that the reason for the result was that the party had focused too strongly on the issue of taxes. The electorate had not understood the complexity of this matter, he said.
In its election rhetoric, the SPD had promised more justice in the tax system and higher taxes for the rich. In the coalition talks with the CDU/CSU, this demand now plays no role. Gabriel declared before the congress that the coalition talks would not fail due to any insistence on the part of his party on tax increases.
During the election campaign, SPD leading candidate Peer Steinbrück appeared as a lackey of the wealthy and met with widespread rejection. In a cynical speech at the congress, he warned against a left turn in the party. With the remark that the party had lost the election but not its wits, he concluded his temporary role as Chancellor candidate; he will return to his place in the salons and clubs of the super-rich. The delegates gave him a standing ovation lasting several minutes and a large bunch of red roses.
The SPD made important overtures towards the Left Party at the congress. On the first day, a central motion of the party executive, allowing future coalitions with the Left Party, was passed with only one vote against. Until now, the SPD leadership had categorically excluded governing in a coalition with the Left Party at the federal level. The motion only opposed cooperation with right-wing populists and the far right.
The resolution referred to cooperation with all democratic parties in order to achieve a stable government majority. Above all, this required a binding coalition agreement. In addition, the SPD demanded that “a responsible European and foreign policy must be guaranteed, in the framework of our international obligations.”
This was directed at the Left Party in particular, as the SPD has justified its former opposition to cooperation by pointing to the Left Party’s foreign policy positions. The Left Party was an unreliable partner on the issues of operations by the German army and the funding of bailouts for European states, and this did not represent a responsible foreign policy, the SPD claimed.
Both party General Secretary Andrea Nahles and Gabriel made clear that they expected a clear signal from the Left Party acknowledging the interests of German imperialism. Gabriel told a press conference, “The decision over future collaboration does not reside in the SPD headquarters, but in Karl Liebknecht House”—the headquarters of the Left Party.
Left Party head Gregor Gysi responded immediately. He welcomed the SPD’s decision and valued it as a “step towards political and European normality.” As always with the SPD, the decision had come late, “almost too late,” he added. He called on the SPD to hold detailed talks immediately.
The Left Party has been working for this outcome for some time. In the election campaign, it repeatedly offered its services as a partner to the Greens and SPD to implement their right-wing programme. Now they are going a step further and supporting the SPD as it enters a grand coalition.
It is no accident that the Left Party has redefined its position on war in recent weeks. This summer, Gysi wrote the foreword to a collection of essays titled “Left foreign policy: perspectives for reform,” in which leading Left Party politicians openly argued for German military interventions, the defence of imperialist alliances and agreements, close transatlantic cooperation with the United States, and a greater role for Germany.
The Left Party claims that it is supporting the SPD to include as many social-democratic values in the coalition agreement with the CDU/CSU as possible. In fact this list of social democratic values include vicious attacks on incomes and social rights, such as the Hartz IV anti-welfare laws, the Agenda 2010 program, retirement at 67, bank bailouts, and drastic social attacks across Europe.
The coming together of the Left Party and the SPD amid talks over a grand coalition is aimed less at the preparation of an alternative coalition of the Greens, Left Party and SPD, than at integrating the Left Party into preparations for the grand coalition. The Left Party will be desperately needed to protect and defend the government against the growing opposition of broad layers of the population.
The Left Party is working closely with the trade unions, which are the most important advocates of a grand coalition along with the business associations. The outgoing head of the German Confederation of trade unions (DGB), Michael Sommer, spoke at the congress to urge immediate support for a grand coalition.
In the face of the intensification of the global capitalist crisis and the coming social struggles, the entire political establishment is moving ever closer together and participating in the preparation of a government dedicated to major attacks on the population.