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Adviser to Detained Americans in Haiti Linked to Child Trafficking

Marc Lacey, Ian Urbina | New York Times | February 11, 2010

The police in El Salvador have begun an investigation into whether a man suspected of leading a trafficking ring involving Central American and Caribbean women and girls is also a legal adviser to the Americans charged with trying to take 33 children out of Haiti without permission.

When the judge presiding over the Haitian case learned on Thursday of the investigation in El Salvador, he said he would begin his own inquiry of the adviser, a Dominican man who was in the judge’s chambers days before.

The inquiries are the latest twist in a politically charged case that is unfolding in the middle of an earthquake disaster zone. A lawyer for the group has already been dismissed after being accused of trying to offer bribes to get the 10 Americans out of jail.

Jorge Puello, who has been providing legal advice to a group of Americans jailed in Haiti.
© Lynsey Addario for The New York Times

The adviser, Jorge Puello, said in a telephone interview on Thursday that he had not engaged in any illegal activity in El Salvador and that he had never been in the country. He called it a case of mistaken identity. “I don’t have anything to do with El Salvador,” he said, suggesting that his name was as common in Latin America as John Smith is in the United States.

“There’s a Colombian drug dealer who was arrested with 25 IDs, and one of them had my name,” he said, not elaborating.

“Bring the proof,” he said when pressed about the child-trafficking accusations in the brief interview, which ended when he said he was entering an elevator. Reached later, he became angry and said he had broken no laws.

The 10 Americans have been imprisoned since Jan. 29 in the back of the same police station used by President René Préval as the seat of Haiti’s government since the earthquake. They had been told by their lawyers that at least some of them would be on their way home on Thursday. But the judge overseeing their case, Bernard Saint-Vil, recommended to the prosecutor that they be tentatively released from custody and permitted to leave the country as long as a representative stayed behind until the case was completed.

Mr. Puello has been acting as a spokesman and legal adviser for the detainees in the Dominican Republic.

The head of the Salvadoran border police, Commissioner Jorge Callejas, said in a telephone interview that he was investigating accusations that a man with a Dominican passport that identified him as Jorge Anibal Torres Puello led a human trafficking ring that recruited Dominican women and under-age Nicaraguan girls by offering them jobs and then putting them to work as prostitutes in El Salvador.

Mr. Puello said he did not even have a passport. When Mr. Callejas was shown a photograph taken in Haiti of Mr. Puello, Mr. Callejas said he thought it showed the man he was seeking. He said he would try to arrest Mr. Puello on suspicion of luring women into prostitution and taking explicit photographs of them that were then posted on Internet sites. “It’s him, the same beard and face,” Mr. Callejas said in an interview on Thursday. “It has to be him.”

Judge Saint-Vil also said he thought that the photo of the trafficking suspect in a Salvadoran police file appeared to be the same man he had met in court. He said he intended to begin his own investigation into whether a trafficking suspect had been working with the Americans detained in Haiti.

“I was skeptical of him because he arrived with four bodyguards, and I have never seen that from a lawyer,” the judge said in an interview. “I plan to get to the bottom of this right away.”

The judge said he would request assistance from the Department of Homeland Security to look into Mr. Puello’s background. A spokesman for the department said American officials were playing a supporting role in the investigation surrounding the Americans, providing “investigative support as requested.”

An Interpol arrest warrant has been issued for someone named Jorge Anibal Torres Puello, according to the police and public documents.

There were questions about whether Mr. Puello, the adviser, who said the Central Valley Baptist Church in Idaho had hired him to represent the Americans, was licensed to practice law. Records at the College of Lawyers in the Dominican Republic listed no one with his name.

Mr. Puello said he had a law license and was part of a 45-member law firm. But his office in Santo Domingo turned out to be a humble place, which could not possibly fit 45 lawyers. Mr. Puello’s brother Alejandro said that the firm had another office in the central business district, but he declined to provide an address.

Mr. Puello said in the interview that he had been representing the Americans free of charge because he was a religious man who commiserated with their situation. “I’m president of the Sephardic Jewish community in the Dominican Republic,” he said. “I help people in this kind of situation. We’re not going to charge these people a dime.”

But other lawyers for the detainees said that the families had wired Mr. Puello $12,000 to pay for the Americans’ transportation out of Haiti if they were released, and that they had been told by Mr. Puello in a conference call late Tuesday that he needed an additional $36,000. Mr. Puello said that he had not participated in a conference call.

One lawyer for the families said that Mr. Puello had told him that he was licensed to practice law in Florida, but the lawyer said he had checked and found no such record. Mr. Puello said in the interview that he had never said he was licensed in Florida.

Mr. Puello said that he had been born in Yonkers, N.Y., and that his mother was Dominican. He said that his full name was Jorge Puello and that he had no other names. But then in a subsequent interview he said his name was Jorge Aaron Bentath Puello. He said he was born in October 1976, and not in October 1977, which the police report indicates is the birth date of the suspect in the Salvadoran case.

The report said the police had found documents connected to the Sephardic Jewish community in a house in San Salvador where the traffickers had held women.

Blake Schmidt contributed reporting from San José, Costa Rica, and Jean-Michel Caroit from Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Kitty Bennett contributed research

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February 12, 2010 Posted by | Corruption | 2 Comments

Behind the Drive to War

By Ismael Hossein-zadeh

A most widely-cited factor behind the Bush administration’s drive to war is said to be oil. “No Blood for Oil” has been a rallying cry for most of the opponents of the war. Yet, such claims cannot be supported by facts. Major oil companies have come (in recent years and decades) to prefer peace, stability, and predictability in global markets to war and instability. It is true that big oil, like the arms industry, has handsomely benefited form the heightened tempo of war and militarism. There is no hard evidence, however, that major oil interests encouraged or embraced the Bush administrations drive to war and militarism. On the contrary, evidence shows that for the last quarter century or so oil interests have not favored war and turbulence in the Middle East, including the current invasion of Iraq. Major oil companies, along with many other non-military transnational corporations, have lobbied both the Clinton and Bush administrations in support of changing the aggressive, militaristic U.S. policy toward countries like Iran, Iraq and Libya in favor of establishing normal, non-confrontational business and diplomatic relations.

The claim that attributes the Bush administration’s drive to war to the influence of major oil companies tends to rest more on precedent and perception than reality. Part of the perception is due to the exaggerated notion that both President Bush and Vice President Cheney were “oil men” before coming to the White House. But the fact is that George W.Bush was never more than an unsuccessful petty oil prospector and Dick Cheney headed a company, the notorious Halliburton, that sold (and still sells) services to oil companies and the Pentagon. The larger part of the perception, however, stems from the fact that oil companies do benefit from oil price hikes that result from war and political turbulence in the Middle East. Such benefits are, however, largely incidental. Surely, American oil companies would welcome the spoils of the war (in the form of oil price hikes) in Iraq or anywhere else in the world. From the largely incidental oil price hikes that follow war and political convulsion, some observers automatically conclude that, therefore, big oil must have been behind the war. But there is no evidence that, at least in the case of the current invasion of Iraq, oil companies pushed for or supported the war.

On the contrary, there is strong evidence that, in fact, oil companies did not welcome the war because they prefer stability and predictability to periodic oil spikes that follow war and political convulsion: “Looking back over the last 20 years, there is plenty of evidence showing the industry’s push for stability and cooperation with Middle Eastern countries and leaders, and the U.S. government’s drive for hegemony works against the oil industry.”  As Thierry Desmarest, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of France’s giant oil company, TotalFinaElf, put it, “A few months of cash generation is not a big deal. Stable, not volatile, prices and a $25 price (per barrel) would be convenient for everyone.”

It is true that for a long time, from the beginning of Middle Eastern oil exploration and discovery in the early twentieth century until the mid-1970s, colonial and/or imperial powers controlled oil either directly or through control of oil producing countries—at times, even by military force. But that pattern of imperialist exploitation of global markets and resources has changed now. Most of the current theories of imperialism and hegemony that continue invoking that old pattern of big oil behavior tend to suffer from an ahistorical perspective. Today, even physically occupying and controlling another country’s oil fields will not necessarily be beneficial to oil interests. Not only will military adventures place the operations of current energy projects at jeopardy, but they will also make the future plans precarious and unpredictable. Big oil interests, of course, know this; and that’s why they did not countenance the war on Iraq: “The big oil companies were not enthusiastic about the Iraqi war,” says Fareed Mohamedi of PFC Energy, an energy consultancy firm based in Washington D.C. that advises petroleum firms. “Corporations like Exxon-Mobil and Chevron-Texaco want stability, and this is not what Bush is providing in Iraq and the Gulf region,” adds Mohamedi.

During the past few decades, major oil companies have consistently opposed U.S. policies and military threats against countries like Iran, Iraq, and Libya. They have, indeed, time and again, lobbied U.S. foreign policy makers for the establishment of peaceful relations and diplomatic rapprochement with those countries. The Iran-Libya Sanction Act of 1996 (ILSA) is a strong testament to the fact that oil companies nowadays view wars, economic sanctions, and international political tensions as harmful to their long-term business interests and, accordingly, strive for peace, not war, in international relations.

In May of 1997, for example, major U.S. oil companies such as Conoco, Exxon, Atlantic Richfield, and Occidental Petroleum joined other non-military U.S. transnational corporations to create an anti-sanction coalition. Earlier that same year Conoco’s Chief Executive Archie Dunham publicly took a stance against unilateral U.S. sanctions by stating that “U.S. companies, not rogue regimes, are the ones that suffer when the United States imposes economic sanctions.” Texaco officials have also argued that the U.S. can be more effective in bringing about change in other countries by allowing U.S. companies to do business with those countries instead of imposing economic sanctions that tend to be counterproductive.

The Military-Industrial-Zionist-Alliance

A widely-shared view attributes the Bush administration’s militaristic foreign policy to the influence of neoconservative forces and the power of their ideology: the small but influential cabal of starry-eyed ideologues, bent on spreading the U.S. economic and political system, along with American power and influence, managed to single-handedly drive the country to war through lies and false pretexts. Some of these critics compare the “ideologically-driven” neoconservative militarists to the idealistic Jacobinic forces ofmore than two centuries ago in Europe, the eighteenth century French revolutionaries whose intention to remake Europe in revolutionary France’s image launched the Napoleonic Wars. Proponents of this thesis further argue that the neoconservatives’ domination of the Bush administration’s foreign policy amounted to a political coup d’etat.

While this argument may not be altogether false, it is woefully deficient. By placing an inordinately high emphasis on pure or abstract ideology, and on political personas or the role of individuals, the argument tends to lose sight of the bigger, but largely submerged, picture: the powerful military-industrial-Likud interests—the real architects of war and militarism—that lie behind the façade of neoconservative figures in and around the Bush administration. There is clear evidence that the leading neoconservative figures have been long-time political activists who have worked through think tanks set up to serve either as the armaments lobby or the Likud (militant Zionist partisans) lobby or both—going back to the 1990s, 1980s and, in some cases, 1970s. These corporate-backed militaristic think tanks include the American Enterprise Institute, Project for the New American Century, Center for Security Policy, Middle East Media Research Institute, Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Middle East Forum, National Institute for Public Policy, and Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs. There is also evidence that the major components of the Bush administration’s foreign policy, including the war on Iraq, were designed long before George W. Bush arrived in the While House—largely at the drawing boards of these think thanks, often in collaboration, directly or indirectly, with the Pentagon and the arms lobby.

Take the Center for Security Policy (CSP), for example. It “boasts that no fewer than 22 former advisory board members are close associates in the Bush administration. . . . A sixth of the Center’s revenue comes directly from defense corporations.” The Center’s alumni in key posts in the Bush administration include its former chair of the board, Douglas Feith, who served as Undersecretary of Defense for policy, Pentagon Comptroller Dov Zakheim, former Defense Policy Board chair Richard Perle, and longtime friend and financial supporter Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. In its 1998 annual report, the center “listed virtually every weapons-maker that had supported it fromits founding, from Lockheed, Martin Marietta, Northrop, Grumman, and Boeing, to the later ‘merged’ incarnations of same—Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and so forth.”

Likewise, the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), an influential Washington think tank and a major lobbying force for the military-industrial-Zionist alliance, can boast of being the metaphorical alma mater of a number of powerful members of the Bush administration. For example, Vice President Dick Cheney and his wife Lynne Cheney, State Department arms control official John Bolton (now U.S. ambassador to the UN), and former chair of the Defense Policy Board Richard Perle all have had long-standing ties with the Institute. The Institute played a key role in promoting Ahmed Chalabi’s group of Iraqi exiles, the Iraqi National Congress (INC), as a major Iraqi opposition force “that would be welcomed by the Iraqi people as an alternative to the regime of Saddam Hussein” once the Untied States overthrew that regime. “From 1998 on, when there was U.S. government money openly available to support the Iraqi opposition to Saddam Hussein due to the AEI-backed Iraqi Liberation Act, Chalabi’s INC grabbed the bulk of the funding.” In return, the INC, working closely with the AEI, played an important role in the justification of the invasion of Iraq. It served, for example, as a major source of (largely fabricated) intelligence for the civilian militarists of the Pentagon whenever they found the intelligence gathered by the CIA and the State Department at odds with their plans of invading Iraq.

Another example of the interlocking network of neoconservative forces in the Bush administration and the militaristic think tanks that are dedicated to the advancement ofthe military-industrial-Zionist agenda is reflected in the affiliation of a number of influential members of the administration with the Jewish Institute for the National Security Affairs (JINSA). JINSA “is on record in its support of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and against the Oslo Accord. . . . In its fervent support for the hard-line, pro-settlement, anti-Palestinian Likud-style policies in Israel, JINSA has essentially recommended that ‘regime change’ in Iraq should be just the beginning of a cascade of toppling dominoes in the Middle East.”

JINSA has influential friends either as liaisons with or members of the Bush administration. For example, Douglas Feith, assistant secretary of defense during the first term of the Bush administration, is a former JINSA advisor. General Jay Garner, the initial head of the U.S. occupation authority in Iraq, is also a former JINSA advisory board member. JINSA advisor Michael Ladeen, who also unofficially advises the Bush administration on Middle Eastern issues, has occasionally talked about the coming era of “total war,” indicating that the Bush administration should expand its policy of “regime change” in Iraq to other countries in the region such as Iran, Syria, and Saudi Arabia. “In keeping with its role as a cheerleader for U.S. intervention in the Middle East, JINSA chose to honor Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz . . . to receive the 2002 edition of its Henry M. ‘Scoop’ Jackson public service award. The corporate sponsor of the affair was Northrop Grumman, a company that Wolfowitz worked for as a paid consultant prior to joining Rumsfeld’s Pentagon.”

The fact that neoconservative militarists of the Bush administration are organically rooted in the military-industrial complex and/or the militant Zionist supporters of “greater Israel” is even more clearly reflected in their incestuous relationship with the jingoistic lobbying think tank Project for the New American Century (PNAC). Like most of its counterpart institutes within the extensive network of neoconservative think tanks, PNAC was founded by a circle of powerful political figures a number of whom later ascended to key positions in the Bush administration. As William Hartung describes, “In many ways, the founding of PNAC in 1997 marked the opening salvo in the formation of the Bush policy of aggressive unilateralism. The signatories of PNAC’s founding statement of principles are a rogue’s gallery of intransigent hardliners, ranging from Iran-Contra re-treat Eliot Cohen, to ex-Pentagon hawks I. Lewis Libby, Paul Wolfowitz, and Donald Rumsfeld, to neo-con standbys Frank Gaffney, former Reagan drug czar WilliamBennett, and Norman Podhoretz, to the President’s brother and partner in electoral crime, Jeb Bush.” Add the signature of Vice President Dick Cheney to the list of PNAC founders, “and you have the bulwarks of the neo-con network that is currently in the driver’s seat of the Bush administration’s war without end policies all represented in PNAC’s founding document.”

A closer look at the professional records of the neoconservative players in the Bush administration indicates that “32 major administration appointees . . . are former executives with, consultants for, or significant shareholders of top defense contractors.” For example, James Roche, former air force secretary who took over the army, is a former president of Northrop Grumman; his assistant secretary Nelson Gibbs is another Northrop alumni. An under secretary at the air force, Peter Teets, was chief operating officer at Lockheed while Michael Wynne, a Defence Department under secretary, was a former senior vice-president at General Dynamics. Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld himself is an ex-director of a General Dynamics subsidiary, and his deputy during the first term of the Bush administration, Paul Wolfowitz (now the head of the World Bank), acted as a paid consultant to Northrop Grumman. Today, point out Hartung and Ciarrocca, the armaments lobby “is exerting more influence over policy making than at any time since President Dwight D. Eisenhower first warned of the dangers of the military-industrial complex over 40 years ago.”

This sample evidence indicates that the view that the neoconservative militarists’ tendency to war and aggression is inspired by an ideological passion to spread American ideals of democracy is clearly unwarranted. Their success in orchestrating the unprovoked war against Iraq stemmed largely from the fact they were working essentially on behalf of two immensely powerful special interests, the military-industrial complex and the influential Zionist lobby in the United States. Neoconservative architects of war and militarism derive their political clout and policy effectiveness largely from the political machine and institutional infrastructure of these two powerful interest groups.

~~~

Bibliography:

William D. Hartung, How Much Are You Making on the War, Daddy?

Johnathan Nitzan and Shimshon Bichler. The Global Political Economy of Israel

Cyrus Bina, “The American Tragedy: The Quagmire of War, Rhetoric of Oil, and the Conundrum of Hegemony,” Journal of Iranian Research and Analysis, vol. 20, no. 2
Conundrum of Hegemony,” Journal of Iranian Research and Analysis, vol. 20, no. 2
http://www.lib.drake.edu:8080/dspace/bitstream/2092/373/1/ChapmanUnivPaper.pdf.

Ismael Hossein-zadeh, author of the recently published The Political Economy of U.S. Militarism (Palgrave-Macmillan 2007), teaches economics at Drake University, Des Moines, Iowa.

February 12, 2010 Posted by | Militarism, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | 1 Comment

New Extension Likely for Key Patriot Act Provisions

CQ Politics | February 11, 2010

The Senate may vote on a second temporary extension of several controversial counterterrorism authorities as part of the jobs bill unveiled Thursday.

The draft bill carries language that would extend until Dec. 31 three expiring provisions of the antiterrorism law known as the Patriot Act.

The three provisions were set to expire at the end of 2009. But neither House nor Senate Democratic leaders evinced any appetite for tackling a substantive rewrite of the law last year. In December, Congress cleared a short-term re-authorization until Feb. 28, as part of the fiscal 2010 Defense appropriations bill.

One of the expiring provisions allows the government to seek orders from a special federal court for “any tangible thing” that it says is related to a terrorism investigation. Another allows the government to seek court orders for roving wiretaps on terrorism suspects who shift their modes of communication.

The third provision allows the government to apply to the special court for surveillance orders involving suspected “lone wolf” terrorists who do not necessarily have ties to a larger organization. That authority was first enacted as part of a 2004 intelligence overhaul law. In September, the Justice Department told lawmakers that the provision had never been used.

The administration wants lawmakers to pass a long-term reauthorization of all the expiring provisions, with as few changes as possible. House and Senate Republicans also favor that approach.

What little legislative battling there has been so far has been both a partisan fight and an intramural one among House and Senate Democrats.

The lack of congressional focus on the issue last year frustrated civil libertarians who wanted lawmakers to undertake a broader review of counterterrorism laws enacted during George W. Bush ’s presidency.

If lawmakers reauthorize the expiring provisions until Dec. 31, they would avoid having to address the issue until after the November midterm elections.

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February 12, 2010 Posted by | Civil Liberties | Leave a comment

New Phase, Not Just Another Recession

By Ismael Hossein-zadeh | February 12, 2010

It is becoming increasingly clear that the financial meltdown of 2008 and the subsequent economic contraction that continues to this day represent more than just another recessionary cycle. More importantly, they represent a structural change, a new phase, the phase of the dominance of “finance capital,” as the late Austro-German political economist Rudolf Hilferding put it.

Although the current domination of our economy by finance capital seems new, it is in fact a throwback or “retrogression” (as financial expert Michael Hudson puts it) to the capitalism of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, that is, the capitalism of monopolistic big business and gigantic financial institutions. The rising economic and political influence of powerful financial interests in the early 20th century led a number of political economists (such as John Hobson, Rudolf Hilferding and Vladimir Lenin) to write passionately on the ominous trends of those developments—developments that significantly contributed to the eruption of the two World Wars and precipitated the devastating Great Depression of the 1930s, by creating an unsustainable asset price bubble in the form of overblown stock prices.

The harrowing experience of the Great Depression, followed by the devastating years of World War II, generated momentous social upheavals and extensive working class struggles worldwide. The ensuing “threat of revolution,” as F.D.R. put it, and the “menacing” pressure from below prompted reform from above—hence, the New Deal reforms in the US and socialist/Social-Democratic reforms in Europe. Combined, these historic developments significantly curtailed the size and the influence of big business and powerful financial interests—alas, only for a while.

As those reforms saved Western capitalism from more radical social changes, they also provided grounds for its regeneration and expansion. By the 1970s, finance capital, headed by major US banks, had risen, once again, to its pre-Depression levels of concentration, of controlling the major bulk of national resources, and of shaping economic policy. Since then, big banks have created a number of financial instabilities and economic crises—usually through predatory, sub-prime loan pushing or unsustainable debt bubbles. These include the “Third World debt crisis” of the 1980s  and 1990s, the 1997-98 financial crises in Southeast Asia and Russia, the tech or dot.com bubble of the 1990s in the U.S. and other major market economies, and the latest, housing/real estate bubble that burst in 2008

A number of characteristics distinguish the stage of the dominance of finance capital from lower phases of capitalist development. Under liberal capitalism of the competitive industrial era, a long cycle of economic contraction would usually wipe out not only jobs and production, but also the debt burdens that were accumulated during the long cycle of expansion that preceded the cycle of contraction. In the stage of finance capital, however, debt overhead is propped up through its monetization, or socialization, even during a most severe financial meltdown such as that which occurred in 2008. Indeed, due to the influence of the powerful financial interests, national or taxpayers’ debt burden is further exacerbated by the government’s generous bailout plans of the bankrupt financial giants, that is, by simply transferring or converting private to public debt.

In The Class Struggle in France, Karl Marx wrote, “Public credit rests on confidence that the state will allow itself to be exploited by the wolves of finance.” Today we see more clearly how the “wolves of finance” are hollowing out national treasuries and subjecting governments to unsustainable debt burdens. This explains the near bankruptcy not only of the US Government but also of many of the European states, especially those of Greece, Ireland, Spain, Portugal and a number of East European countries. Proposed government “solution” in all these cases is to have the general public pay for the gambler’s debt—in the form of extensive cuts in essential social programs and drastic reductions in living standards.

A major hallmark of the age of finance capital is domination of the State and/or political process by the financial oligarchy. Bank- or finance-friendly policies of the government have been facilitated largely through generous pouring of money into the election of “favorite” policy makers. Extensive deregulation that led to the 2008 financial crisis, the scandalous bank bailout in response to the crisis, and the failure to impose effective restraints on Wall Street after the crisis can all be traced to Wall Street’s political power. Wall Street spent more than $5 billion on federal campaign contributions and lobbying from 1998 to 2008, and its fervent spending on the purchase of politicians continues unabated.

Michael Hudson, Distinguished Research Professor at University of Missouri (Kansas City), aptly calls this ominous process of the buying out of policy-makers by major contributors to their election “privatization of the political process.” Paul Craig Roberts, Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration, likewise argues that the political system “is monopolized by a few powerful interest groups that…have exercised their power to monopolize the economy for the benefit of themselves.”

Such sentiments regarding the class nature of the State are corroborations of Vladimir Lenin’s characterization of the capitalist state as “the executive committee of the ruling class.” Lenin was often scoffed at by the capitalist ruling elites when he made this statement over ninety years ago; they deviously dismissed him as having overstated his case. Perhaps it is time to dust off and read old copies of Lenin’s The State and Revolution, if only to better understand the incestuous politico-business relationship between the State and the financial oligarchy of our time.

Another hallmark of the stage of finance capital is that, under the influence of the powerful financial interests, government intervention in national economic affairs has come to essentially mean implementation of neoliberal or supply-side restructuring policies. Government and business leaders have for the last several decades used severe recessionary cycles as opportunities to escalate application of neoliberal economic measures in order to reverse or undermine the New Deal reforms. Naomi Klien has called this strategy of using periods of economic crisis to reverse the gains of the New Deal and other reform programs “the shock doctrine”—a strategy that takes advantage of the overwhelming crisis times to apply supply-side austerity programs and redistribute national resources from the bottom up. This explains how under the Bush-Obama administrations the financial oligarchy has been able to use the failure of the Lehman Brothers and the specter of “apocalyptic” failure of other financial giants to extract their gambling losses from the public purse.

It is generally believed that neoliberal supply-side economic policies began with the election of Ronald Reagan as the president. Evidence shows, however, that efforts at undermining the New Deal economics in favor of returning to the old-time religion of market fundamentalism began long before Reagan arrived in the White House. As Alan Nasser, emeritus professor at the Evergreen State College in Olympia (Washington), points out, “The foundations of neoliberalism were established in economic theory by liberal Democrats at the Brookings Institution, and in political practice by the Carter administration.”

Neither President Clinton changed the course of neoliberal corporate welfare policies, nor is President Obama hesitating to carry out those policies. His administration has made available more than $12 trillion in cash infusions, loans and guarantees to the financial industry, but for state governments that are facing massive budget deficits, it has thus far provided only one quarter of 1 percent of that amount in federal stimulus funds—about $30 billion. The White House is sitting by while states across the country lay off workers and slash spending on education, health care and other essential social programs.

The left/liberal supporters of President Obama who bemoan his “predicament in the face of brutal Republican challenges” should look past the president’s liberal/populist posturing. Evidence shows that, contrary to Barack Obama’s claims, his presidential campaign was heavily financed by the Wall Street financial titans and their influential lobbyists. Large Wall Street contributions began pouring into his campaign only after he was thoroughly vetted by the powerful Wall Street interests and was deemed a viable (indeed, ideal) candidate for presidency.

On ideological or philosophical grounds too President Obama is closer to the neoliberal, supply-side tradition than the New Deal tradition. This is clearly revealed, for example, in his The Audacity of Hope, where he shows his disdain for “…those who still champion the old time religion, defending every New Deal and Great Society program from Republican encroachment, achieving ratings of 100% from the liberal interest groups. But these efforts seem exhausted…bereft of energy and new ideas needed to address the changing circumstances of globalization. . . .” It is no accident that Mr. Obama has surrounded himself by neoliberal economic experts and financial advisors such as Larry Summers, Timothy Geithner, and Ben Bernanke.

Not only has the major bulk of the Obama administration’s anti-recession assistance been devoted to the rescue of the Wall Street financial magnates, but also the relatively small stimulus spending is funneled largely through the Wall Street (mainly through generous government loans and tax incentives) in the hope that this would create jobs. This stands in sharp contrast to what F.D.R. did in the earlier years of the Great Depression: creating jobs directly and immediately by the government itself.

The main purpose of the administration’s (or, shall we say, of the ruling kleptocracy, both Democratic and Republican) strategy of delaying direct job creation is to stall, and fraudulently keep the hopes of the unemployed alive, until the massive supply-side corporate welfare giveaways would eventually begin to gradually trickle down and slowly create jobs. In the absence of compelling pressure from below, this neoliberal scheme of further weakening the working class may eventually succeed. But even if successful, the jobs thus created would be supply-side jobs, subsistence or below-subsistence jobs, which would be grabbed by desperate workers at any price/wage, not union jobs that would pay decent wages and benefits.

Political theatrics within the ruling circles over “how to create jobs” should not mask the fact that delays in job creation are deliberate: they are designed to further subdue American workers and bring down their wages and benefits in line with those of workers in countries that compete with the U.S. in global markets. It is part of the insidious neoliberal race to the bottom, to the lowest common denominator in terms of international labor costs. It is, indeed, an application of the IMF’s notorious Structural Adjustment Program of austerity measures that have been vigorously pursued in many less-developed countries for decades—with disastrous results.

It is no accident that President Obama frequently pleads with the unemployed Americans to “be patient,” and “keep hope alive.” What he really means to say is: “look, we have invested trillions of dollars through bailout schemes and other supply-side recovery measures. So, please be patient and wait until they come to fruition and benefit you through trickle down effects.” At least, Ronald Reagan had the honesty and integrity to explicitly defend or promote his supply-side philosophy. Perhaps that is why Barack Obama can be called Ronald Reagan in disguise.

In the wake of the 2008 financial meltdown, many left/liberal economists envisioned an opportunity: a reversion back to the Keynesian-type economic policies. One year later, it is increasingly becoming clear that such expectations amounted to no more than wishful thinking—a dawning recognition that, regardless of the resident of the White House, economic policies are nowadays heavily influenced by the powerful financial interests.

The view that economic policy would be switched back to the Keynesian or New Deal paradigm by default stems from the rather naïve supposition that policy making is a simple matter of technical expertise or economic know-how, that is, a matter of choice—between good or “regulated capitalism” and bad or “neoliberal capitalism.” A major reason for such hopes or illusions is a perception of the State that its power is above economic or class interests; a perception that fails to see the fact that national policy-making apparatus is largely dominated by a kleptocratic elite that is guided by the imperatives of big capital, especially finance capital.

Historical evidence shows, however, that more than anything else the Keynesian or New Deal reforms were a product of pressure from the people. Economic policy-making is not independent of politics and/or policy-makers who are, in turn, not independent of the financial interests they are supposed to discipline or regulate. Stabilization, restructuring or regulatory policies are often subtle products of the balance of social forces, or outcome of class struggle. Policies of economic restructuring in response to major crises can benefit the masses only if there is compelling pressure from the grassroots. In the absence of an overwhelming pressure from below (similar to that of the 1930s), Keynesian or New Deal economic reforms could remain a (fondly-remembered) one-time experience in the history of economic reforms.

Ismael Hossein-Zadeh, author of the recently published The Political Economy of U.S. Militarism (Palgrave-Macmillan 2007), teaches economics at Drake University, Des Moines, Iowa.

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February 12, 2010 Posted by | "Hope and Change", Corruption, Economics | 3 Comments

Israeli occupation troops kidnap 150 Palestinians in two days

PIC | 12-02-2010

GAZA – The PA ministry of prisoners and ex-prisoners affairs in Gaza said on Thursday that the Israeli occupation authorities kidnapped 150 Palestinian citizens over the past two days, most of them from Jerusalem city.

According to Reyadh Al-Ashkar, the information officer in the ministry, the IOA rounded up nearly 100 Palestinian youths in the refugee camp of Shafat, north of the occupied city of Jerusalem during a military incursion described as the most violent in recent years.

Another 15 Palestinian civilians of one family, including children, were also kidnapped by the IOF troops after they swept into the northern borders of the Gaza Strip near the town of Beit Lahia. The whereabouts of the kidnapped Gazans is still unknown.

In the West Bank, the IOF troops kidnapped 38 Palestinian citizens, including at least 15 minors, over the past couple of days.

Meanwhile, the Israeli Salem military court extended the administrative detention of Palestinian female captive Sanabil Nabegh Brek, 19, for the 40th time successively. The Palestinian lady was kidnapped since September, 2008.

The court also extended the detention of Muntaha Al-Taweel, 45, wife of Al-Beireh mayor Jamal Al-Taweel, who was kidnapped from her house three days ago. Al-Taweel is a mother of five children, at least two of them need special care.

In this regard, the ministry appealed to international human rights and legal institutions to immediately intervene to protect the unarmed Palestinian civilians, and to pressure the IOA to halt the heinous practices against them.

The IOA is holding nearly 12,000 Palestinian citizens captives in its jails, many of them spent more than 20 years in jail so far. The issue of prisoners is considered one of the most crucial issues for the Palestinian people.



February 12, 2010 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Subjugation - Torture | 5 Comments

US: Costco stores discontinue Ahava dead sea products after boycott call

By Saed Bannoura – IMEMC News – February 12, 2010

The ‘Stolen Beauty’ campaign has declared a small victory, after Costco stores agreed to stop carrying Dead Sea Salt from the Ahava corporation.

AHAVA Dead Sea Laboratories is an Israeli cosmetics company whose manufacturing plant is in an illegal settlement on Palestinian land.
The settlement, Mitzpe Shalem, was built near the shores of the Dead Sea in 1970.

Activists with the Stolen Beauty campaign argue that Ahava’s use of Palestinian natural resources from the Dead Sea is patently illegal under the Fourth Geneva Convention. They have called for a boycott of Ahava Dead Sea products.

After a letter-writing campaign beginning in December led by Costco members, the store now says that it no longer carries Ahave products. The management of Costco did not comment on whether the decision to stop carrying Ahava products was due to the boycott campaign.

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February 12, 2010 Posted by | Solidarity and Activism | 48 Comments

Israeli forces demolish wells, sheds near Hebron

Ma’an | 11-02-2010

Hebron – Israeli bulldozers demolished five water wells and three small storerooms, confiscated electric generators and water pumps in Idhna, a town west of Hebron.

Abdullah Al-Asoud, whose irrigation systems were destroyed in the demolition raid, said the area affected was in agricultural lands near the separation wall.

The farmer noted that the other residents whose wells were affected, had filed petitions with the Israeli court challenging the demolition notices. Since the suits were in progress, Al-Asoud said, farmers were surprised to see demolition crews Thursday morning.

Al-Asoud noted that while the wells and irrigation systems were ripped up, fields planted with crops were destroyed.

The mayor of Idhna, Jamal At-Tamzi, said that the municipality will work in cooperation with the Palestinian Authority to reconstruct the agricultural projects and the wells in the area. He called the demolitions part of a continued attempt to displace farmers and discourage them from working and producing on Palestinian lands.

The affected farmers. At-Tamzi said, relied on the produce from the lands for their livelihoods and now have nothing with which to support their wives and children.

Source

February 12, 2010 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation | 2 Comments

   

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