This video is part of an extended interview with writer Yossi Gurvitz [ http://ygurvitz.net ] – transcribed & translated from Hebrew to English by Dena Shunra
June 16, 2013 Posted by aletho | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Full Spectrum Dominance, Supremacism, Social Darwinism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | Human rights, Israel, Judaism, Zionism | Leave a Comment
The Lab is a new groundbreaking Israeli documentary film that redefines our entire understanding of the Jewish State, its aims, its identity and its global destructive role. I honestly believe that this film is the deepest and most important commentary on Israel.
In The Lab, Director Yotam Feldman exposes the Israeli military industry and its operation, he interviews some major protagonists within Israel’s ‘security’ trade. He elaborates on the role of the industry within the Israeli society and economy; in the last few years Israeli security exports reached an unprecedented level of $7 billion a year. A full 20% of Israeli exports are military or military related. Approximately 150,000 families in Israel are dependent on that industry. Israel is now the fourth biggest military exporter.
In the last decade, every Israeli military operation led to an immediate sharp increase in sales of Israeli military export around the world: weaponry, systems, intelligence, strategies, doctrines, knowledge, and experience.
Feldman provides us with a glimpse into a very organized universe. We visit Israeli weapon fairs around the world but we also see arenas filled to capacity with foreign generals, public officials and diplomats. They are all shopping for Israeli military products. The message is clear, the 7 billion dollars is just part of the story. Israeli military elite is now deeply interwoven with the political and military elite of every country around the globe. This emerging Israeli business buys the Jewish state influence and support.
The Lab makes it evidently clear that the Palestinian civilian population in the West Bank and Gaza have become test subjects for Israeli tactics, weaponry and fighting philosophy (‘Fighting Torah’, Torat Lechima — as the Israelis call it). The destruction of the Palestinians has now been transformed into a very profitable industry. We are dealing here with nothing short of highly calculated murder.
Through a set of fascinating interviews, Feldman conveys a very genuine picture of the Israeli death merchants. Feldman lets them talk, he hardly interferes. They are sharp, they are genuine, they are even funny at times, occasionally witty, and a few of them, might even be charming if you did not know who they are. But make no mistake, they are sinister, some of them are clearly psychotic, they are mass murderers and they are free. They sell destruction and havoc and do it very successfully.
Being myself an Israeli-born and raised successful musician and writer, I think I can recognize Israeli dedication, perseverance and creativity when I see it, no matter into what service it is pressed. (Perhaps I was lucky to be rescued by bebop.) Those Israeli death angels’ talent is driven into the amplification of human misery. The consequences are tragic.
It is far from being a secret that a century of Palestinian struggle led to practically nothing. The state of the Palestinian solidarity movement is even more embarrassing. The Lab is a game changer, for it can explain decades of impotence.
We are immersed in flawed terminology — ‘colonialism’, ‘apartheid’, ‘conflict’, ‘solution’, ‘Zionism’ are just few examples. Gaza is now a vast Laboratory — the Israelis are the ‘scientists’ and the ‘technicians’, the Palestinians are the ‘guinea pigs’. Watching The Lab must lead all of us to fundamentally question our notions. We are dealing with a premeditated war crime. The notion of resolution (as in ‘two-state solution’), for instance, is not applicable. It is clear beyond doubt that in the real world the ‘scientist’ does not negotiate with the ‘guinea pig’. The ‘scientist’ also doesn’t consider sharing reality with his ‘guinea pig’ in a ‘one democratic state.’ “The Lab” is a glimpse into the Israeli mind: you clearly do not find much compassion there.
For decades we were foolish to examine the success and failure of Israeli military operations in reference to Israeli military and political ‘objectives,’ as we surmised them. We were clearly wrong.
As we learn from Feldman’s film, the real objective of Israeli operations may as well be examining new doctrines and operational systems in order to distribute them around the world soon after. Ehud Barak, for instance, wasn’t exactly the most sophisticated Israeli minister of defense, he clearly failed to defend his people or even make them feel secure. However, he was very successful in selling Israeli weapons and doctrines.
Tel Aviv being subject to a barrage of Qassam rockets may be seen by Israelis as devastating news, but from a military industrial point of view, it was a golden opportunity to examine and promote the Israeli anti-missile system Iron Dome. If I am correct here, it becomes clear that like the Palestinians, more and more Israelis are also becoming ‘guinea pigs’ in this ever growing military laboratory.
One may wonder how and when “the Zionist dream” transformed itself into a military business. Only a few of us, writers and scholars, have attempted to answer this question. The transformation of the Jewish State into an oppression factory is apparently a direct outcome of Israel’s supremacist ideology. If we want to understand what is happening in the Jewish State, we must first grasp the notions of choseness, Jewishness and Jewish identity politics.
I guess that enough Palestinians in Gaza do realise by now that they have been part of an Israeli experiment. Every too often we learn from Palestinian doctors that while treating casualties of Israeli aggression they encounter new types of wounds. The Lab explains it but it isn’t Palestine alone. We also witness a growing similarity between the operational mode of police forces around the world and the IDF treatment of the Palestinians.
Watching Yotam Feldman’s The Lab explains it all. We are all Palestinians. We are either occupied by Israel or by its proxy forces around the world — those who are trained in Israel and implement Israeli weaponry and tactics.
- Watch Foreign Generals shopping around.
- Watch IDF Yoav Galant, the planner and executioner of Operation Cast Lead, discussing ‘proportions.’
June 15, 2013 Posted by aletho | Civil Liberties, Economics, Militarism, Subjugation - Torture, Supremacism, Social Darwinism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | Human rights, Israel, Jewish State, Palestine | Leave a Comment
African agriculture is in need of support and investment. Many initiatives are flowing from the North, including the G8′s “New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition in Africa” and the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA). These initiatives are framed in terms of the African Union’s Comprehensive African Agricultural Development Programme (CAADP). This gives them a cover of legitimacy.
But what is driving these investments, and who is set to benefit from them?
The current wave of investment emerges on the back of the gathering global crisis with financial, economic, food, energy and ecological dimensions. Africa is seen as underperforming and in control of valuable resources that capital seeks for profitable purposes. The World Bank and others tell us Africa has an abundance of available fertile land, and that Africa’s production structure is inefficient, based as it is on many small farms producing mainly for themselves and their neighbourhoods (i).
Africa is seen as a possible new frontier to make profits, with an eye on land, food and biofuels in particular. The recent investment wave must be understood in the context of consolidation of a global food regime (ii) dominated by large corporations in input supply (seed and agrochemicals) especially, but also increasingly in processing, storage, trading and distribution.
G8 and AGRA: a new wave of colonialism
Opening markets and creating space for multinationals to secure profits lie at the heart of the G8 and AGRA interventions. Both initiatives are built on the basis of public-private partnerships (PPPs) with the large multinational seed, fertiliser and agrochemical companies setting the agenda, and states and institutions (like the G8, World Bank and others) and philanthropic institutions (like AGRA and others) establishing the institutional and infrastructural mechanisms to realise this agenda.
Multinational corporations like Yara, Monsanto, Syngenta, Cargill and many others want secure markets for their products in Africa. In the first place, security means protection of their private ownership of knowledge in the form of intellectual property (IP) protection. Across Africa, so-called ‘harmonisation’ of laws and policies are underway to align African laws and systems with the interests of these multinationals.
Harmonisation of trade laws means opening borders across the continent to free trade. But this is a skewed free trade, one that favours the ‘formal sector’ of goods and services that have gone through approval and registration processes. Farmers and other producers of goods and services who cannot afford to enter the official approval system are marginalised and trading of their products is rendered illegal.
Private ownership of knowledge and material resources (for example, seed and genetic materials) means the flow of royalties out of Africa into the hands of multinational corporations. In some countries where laws protecting the interests of corporations are well established – for example in South Africa – multinationals have entirely occupied domestic seed and agrochemical sectors with profits flowing out of the country. The same is happening for agricultural services, trade, manufacturing and even selling of food.
The private companies are not acting on their own. They are using investment-friendly government policies and plans to advance their agenda.
CAADP and regional investment policies: facilitating ‘orderly’ processes of colonialism
There are many well-meaning organisations and individuals who view CAADP as an African-based investment plan. But Africa is not isolated from the world. CAADP emerged at the height of neo-liberalism globally in the early 2000s. African governments were mired in the consequences of decades of structural adjustment that saw the net outflow of financial and other resources from Africa to the rest of the world. The New Economic Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) was an initiative by selected African governments to integrate Africa into global flows of capital. The expectation was that profit-generating investment, and creating the conditions for protection of this investment, were Africa’s chance to catch up with the rest.
African governments, desperate for some financial relief, are willing to make whatever changes are necessary to bring capital into their countries. The multinationals are setting the terms: harmonisation, free trade and protection of private IP or no investment. It is therefore of little use calling for CAADP to be placed at the centre of investment plans. CAADP itself is a compromised instrument, calling for the very policies and programmes favoured by the multinationals.
Food security and corporate-driven investment in Africa
Harmonisation, free trade and the creation of institutions and infrastructure to facilitate multinational penetration into Africa are presented as the answer to food insecurity on the continent. Multinational corporations, African states, states outside Africa, philanthropic institutions, multilateral institutions such as the World Bank and even some non-government organisations are all part of this agenda. Surely so many organisations and people cannot be wrong?
The logic is that of the Green Revolution: introduce yield- and sales-enhancing technologies and systems, provide credit for producers to access these technologies, and anticipate increasing returns from sales to cover the increasing cost of inputs. Expand access to markets globally and regionally to absorb increased production.
This model can benefit some, as Green Revolutions in Asia and to a lesser extent in Latin America have shown. However, it also has negative social and ecological side effects. Green Revolution technologies benefit relatively few farmers, often at the expense of the majority. These technologies produce concentration of land ownership, increasing economies of scale (production has to be at a large scale to get into and stay in markets), and a declining number of food producing households in a context of limited other livelihood options.
Ecological concerns about Green Revolution technologies are rising to the top of the global agenda, especially loss of biodiversity when commercial hybrids and GM seed dominate (especially maize as a staple crop in Africa, and the introduction of soya as the basis of biofuels and commercial intercropping approaches), soil degradation and water pollution caused by excessive use of manufactured chemicals in synthetic fertilisers, and water shortages caused by wasteful water use in irrigation.
The Green Revolution produces uneven benefits, favouring farmers with financial resources of their own, with access to more land, and with some formal education. The majority of resource poor farmers are excluded from public support for agriculture, with infrastructure and institutional frameworks designed for the minority to benefit.
Currently African food security rests fundamentally on small-scale and localised production. The majority of the African population continue to rely on agriculture as an important, if not the main, source of income and livelihoods. In most sub-Saharan African countries, agriculture is the primary economic activity for between 50% and 90% of the population (iii). Even though there is growing urbanisation, the majority will continue to rely on agriculture for their livelihoods for decades to come. The rural population continues to grow in absolute terms even while the urban population grows as a proportion of the total population.
We know that all of these people will not benefit from these new investments. Seen as more inefficient than those producers who are in a position to adopt the new technologies, many will be forced out of agriculture to become passive consumers. Instead of building the broad base of producers, G8 and AGRA investments, supported by African government policies and resources, will narrow the base of producers.
The practical results of the recent surge in investment in African agriculture expose the empty rhetoric of African food security. Blatant land grabs are well known across the continent. Mega projects such as the ProSavanna project in northern Mozambique are displacing farmers from their lands and imposing large-scale production structures for export. Favourable investment terms (for example tax free zones and laws on repatriation of profits) undermine even the questionable benefits increased foreign exchange brings. Meanwhile actual farmers are separated from the land and the only realistic option for a livelihood. African governments and their investment ‘partners’ enable and implement these projects.
First and foremost, differentiated strategies are required, so that local and informal markets, proven low-input and ecologically sustainable agricultural techniques including intercropping, on-farm compost production, mixed farming systems (livestock, crops and trees), on-farm biofuel production and use, and intermediate processing and storage technologies are recognised and vigorously supported. The emphasis here is on individual and household food security first, with trade arising from surpluses beyond this. The International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) provides detailed and scientifically sound proposals in this regard.
Open access technologies are an essential principle, especially seed, where all recent technological advances are based on 10,000 years of collective experimentation and sharing. No-one and no corporations should be allowed to privatise the results of ongoing research. Companies can sell their new varieties, but once sold, they re-enter the common pool that anyone should be able to use and improve on at will.
Green Revolution technological development leads to an ever-increasing gap between conception and execution, that is between the knowledge that goes into producing a new seed variety and those who use the seed. An alternative, based on open source technologies, is a far closer working relationship between decentralised technicians and producers to define the research and development agenda (what traits are farmers looking for in specific locations, what crops are priorities for further development etc). Plant breeders are still able to make profits by selling new varieties to those who want to buy fresh seed, especially commercial farmers. But if farmers choose to reuse and adapt seed once they have bought it, that must be their right.
i World Bank 2009 “Awakening Africa’s sleeping giant: Prospects for commercial agriculture in Africa’s Guinea Savannah zone and beyond”, World Bank Agriculture and Rural Development Unit, Africa Regional Office
ii McMichael, P. 2009 “A food regime genealogy”, Journal of Peasant Studies, 36: 1, pp.139-169
iii World Bank, “World Databank”, http://databank.worldbank.org/data/home.aspx
June 5, 2013 Posted by aletho | Economics, Environmentalism, Malthusian Ideology, Phony Scarcity, Supremacism, Social Darwinism, Timeless or most popular | Africa, Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, Green Revolution, Monsanto, Sub-Saharan Africa, World Bank | 1 Comment
During the world’s most secretive gathering the Bilderberg Group is set to discuss topics including cyber warfare, US foreign policy, “developments in the Middle East” and “Africa’s challenges” despite the glaring absence of regional representatives.
The Bilderberg Group, long criticized for a lack of transparency, has revealed details of its upcoming meeting. This year 138 politicians, bank bosses, billionaires, chief executives and European royalty have confirmed their attendance to the invitation-only event, set to take place in Watford, England. The list notably includes only 14 women.
The group is comprised largely of individuals from financial and business backgrounds – there will be nearly three dozen CEOs and more than two dozen Chairmen of banks and petroleum giants. Twenty-three financial institutions will be represented at the five-star Grove Hotel near Watford, Hertfordshire, including Goldman Sachs.
As the list was released, critics could not help but point fingers at problems some of the attendees are currently facing in their respective fields.
Special attention has been placed on Amazon’s founder and CEO Jeff Bezos and Google’s Eric Schmidt, as the two are currently facing unprecedented political pressure over their tax avoidance strategies. Google, for its part, has faced scrutiny amid reports that it paid just £10 million in corporation tax in Britain between 2006 and 2011, despite revenues of £11.9 billion.
Chancellor George Osborne and his Labour shadow Ed Balls, who have been making headlines with their spending and tax offers for the UK, will also rub shoulders with other participants of the Bilderberg Conference.
One of the guests is group chairman of HSBC Holdings plc, which faced a stringent investigation in 2012 for allegedly assisting in the laundering of money from Mexico, Iran and Syria for terrorist networks and drugs cartels.
Among guests there are also the 75th and 70th US Treasury Secretaries, Tim Geithner and Robert Rubin, respectively.
There will be other leading figures such as Christine Lagarde, head of the IMF, former US secretary of state and Nobel Peace Prize winner, Henry Kissinger, and David Petraeus, the former director of the CIA.
The list of prestigious names also includes the former Prime Ministers of France and Italy, François Fillon and Mario Monti.
There will also be scholars from some of the world’s most prestigious universities – one from Harvard University, two from Stanford, and one from both Oxford and Princeton.
Starting June 6 for three days, the delegates will be discussing of the record a list of topics of universal importance, determining how the world should proceed.
“The conference has always been a forum for informal, off-the-record discussions about megatrends and the major issues facing the world,” a Bilderberg spokesman said in a press release.
Originally founded in 1954 to foster dialogue between Europe and North America, this year’s topics include an expansive range of issues.
With Europe still trying to find solutions for financial problems and growing unemployment, the elite guests are set to discuss “jobs, entitlement and debt”, “politics of the European Union” and the broadly defined “current affairs”.
Among the 12 “key topics” for this year’s conference are “developments in the Middle East” and “Africa’s challenges.” The inclusion of “Africa’s challenges” is an interesting choice, as the guest list is notably absent of any major (or minor) political or academic figures from that vast continent.
Despite Bilderberg’s traditional exclusion of other areas of the world, six Turkish attendees are slated to be the only Middle Eastern voices at the conference. The inclusion of a large contingent from that country comes at an auspicious time, as political demonstrations continue throughout Turkey in opposition to the ruling AKP party.
The overlapping agendas of political and private sector leaders, as well as current and former political leaders is enough to make even the most conservative of observers start to wonder what may bear fruit as a result of the top-level, off-the-record conference.
As with gatherings of the G-8 and other international organizations such as the World Trade Organization, which tend to draw large, disruptive groups of demonstrators, Bilderberg has prepared a robust security apparatus to keep things running smoothly.
According to various reports by British media, UK taxpayers will have to bear the brunt of the ‘exceptional costs’ to police the meeting, which takes place in that country for the first time since 1998.
Max Boot, one of the nation’s leading chickenhawks, and someone who wrote in 2011, rather straightforwardly, that the United States should maintain its presence in Iraq because “it would allow us to project power and influence in the region,” has written an op-ed for The Los Angeles Times, unapologetically titled “Choosing Sides in Afghanistan.” Boot, who currently holds the gruesome title of “Jeane J. Kirkpatrick Senior Fellow in National Security Studies” at the Council of Foreign Relations, is a throwback to a simpler time, when Western intellectuals felt comfortable speaking in explicitly imperialistic terms. His honesty is almost refreshing.
Anyway, the point of his new column is to bemoan the United States’s ostensible “neutrality” in the April 2014 presidential election in Afghanistan. Boot writes, naturally, as an honest friend and ally of the Afghan people. He even includes the boast, typical of many chickenhawks, that he “visited” the country recently. He’s so brave.
He starts out by saying that the United States should threaten to withhold aid if President Karzai cancels the election and just assumes dictatorial power (there is apparently “widespread suspicion” in Afghanistan that this will happen). This seems sensible enough; we shouldn’t be providing aid to any corrupt dictators.
Then, though, Boot informs us that, while striking a position of “neutrality” in a “foreign election” might be a “nice ideal,” it is simply “impossible” in this case. Boot’s prescription, shockingly enough, is for the United States to “embrace a more politically activist role” in the presidential election of a sovereign nation. Indeed, the Unites States should “pick a favorite” among the candidates, and then “use its influence, including those notorious CIA bags of cash” to “do what it can to secure the election” of its preferred choice. Boot recognizes the “obvious objections” to such a strategy, including our disastrous record of meddling in Afghan politics, but he warns that these past “mistakes” should not “paralyze” us now. This is just an astonishing paragraph right here:
That’s all true, but we need not be paralyzed by past mistakes. In 2001, U.S. officials knew little of the Afghan political landscape. We have had a dozen years since then to learn the lay of the land, which, one hopes, would allow us to make a better choice this time around.
Think about that last sentence. Boot asserts, flat-out, that the United States must “make a better choice” in the presidential election of another sovereign nation. I wonder if the people of Afghanistan are aware that the “choice” in next year’s election is, in fact, one that ought to be made by the United States.
Imagine if a foreign writer, highly respected in domestic establishment circles, demanded that his government “embrace” a “politically activist role” in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, picking a “favorite” candidate and then “use its influence” to “secure the election” of said candidate. This is virtually unthinkable. I’m not even sure if Boot is consciously aware of how hypocritical and contemptuous all of this is. I doubt he even thinks there is anything unusual about the very notion of proposing direct interference in a foreign election. This is how deep the imperial mindset runs in people like Boot and other establishment intellectuals.
May 31, 2013 Posted by aletho | Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Supremacism, Social Darwinism, Timeless or most popular | Afghanistan, Central Intelligence Agency, Council of Foreign Relations, Los Angeles Times, Max Boot, Politics of Afghanistan, United States | Leave a Comment
A total of 3,099 families have been removed from their homes in Rio de Janeiro and another 7,843 have been threatened with removal as part of Brazil’s preparations for hosting the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games, according to a study released on May 15 by the Popular Committee of the World Cup and the Olympics. The group estimates that 30,000 people have been affected, based on the average number of people in the households. The study, “Mega-Events and Human Rights Violations in Rio de Janeiro,” was produced with the collaboration of the impacted communities, the Institute for Urban and Regional Research and Planning (Ippur) and other groups, including the nongovernmental organization (NGO) Global Justice.
The city government initially offered 18,000 reais (about US$8,872) for each home. Residents said this wasn’t enough even to buy the land for a new house. The city finally agreed to pay 40,000 reais (US$19,735), which residents said would pay for a two-bedroom house in the hills. “What we’re seeing is an urban restructuring project without any participation of society,” said Orlando Alves dos Santos Junior, an urban planning professor and one of the coordinators of the May 15 study. “In fact, what’s going on under this pretext [of preparation for the sports events] is a serious urban intervention, on the basis of the real estate industry. The presence of inhabitants from the poorest classes has become an obstacle to be removed from the path.” (Adital (Brazil) 5/17/13 from Canal Ibase (Brazilian Institute of Social and Economic Analyses))
May 21, 2013 Posted by aletho | Corruption, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Supremacism, Social Darwinism | 2014 FIFA World Cup, 2016 Summer Olympics, Brazil, Human rights, Olympic Games, Rio de Janeiro, Urban planning | Leave a Comment
Every so often we come across a secular Jewish ‘anti’ Zionist’ who argues that Zionism is not Judaism and vice versa. Interestingly enough, I have just come across an invaluable text that illuminates this question from a rabbinical perspective. Apparently back in 1942, 757 American Rabbis added their names to a public pronouncement titled ‘Zionism an Affirmation of Judaism’. This Rabbinical rally for Zionism was declared at the time “the largest public pronouncement in all Jewish history.”
Today, we tend to believe that world Jewry’s transition towards support for Israel followed the 1967 war though some might argue that already in 1948, American Jews manifested a growing support for Zionism. However, this rabbinical pronouncement proves that as early as 1942, the American Jewish religious establishment was already deeply Zionist. And if this is not enough, the rabbis also regarded Zionism as the ‘implementation’ of Judaism. Seemingly, already then, the peak of World War two, the overwhelming majority of American Rabbis regarded Zionism, not only as fully consistent with Judaism, but as a “logical expression and implementation of it.”
In spite of the fact that early Zionist leaders were largely secular and the East European Jewish settler waves were driven by Jewish socialist ideology, the rabbis contend that “Zionism is not a secularist movement. It has its origins and roots in the authoritative religious texts of Judaism.
Those rabbis were not a bunch of ignoramuses. They were patriotic and nationalistic and they grasped that “universalism is not a contradiction of nationalism.” The rabbis tried to differentiate between contemporaneous German Nationalism and other national movements and they definitely wanted to believe that Zionism was categorically different to Nazism. “Nationalism as such, whether it be English, French, American or Jewish, is not in itself evil. It is only militaristic and chauvinistic nationalism, that nationalism which shamelessly flouts all mandates of international morality, which is evil.” But as we know, just three years after the liberation of Auschwitz the new Jewish State launched a devastating racially driven ethnic-cleansing campaign. Zionism has proven to be militaristic and chauvinistic.
Shockingly enough, back in 1942 as many as 757 American rabbis were able to predict the outcome of the war and they realised that the suffering of European Jewry would be translated into a Jewish State . “We are not so bold as to predict the nature of the international order which will emerge from the present war. It is altogether likely, and indeed it may be desirable, that all sovereign states shall under the coming peace surrender some of their sovereignty to achieve a just and peaceful world society [a Jewish State].”
Some American patriots today are concerned with Israeli-American dual nationality and the dual aspirations of American Jews. Apparently our rabbis addressed this topic too. According to them, there is no such conflict whatsoever. All American Jews are American patriots and all American decision makers are Zionists. “Every fair-minded American knows that American Jews have only one political allegiance–and that is to America. There is nothing in Zionism to impair this loyalty. Zionism has been endorsed in our generation by every President from Woodrow Wilson to Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and has been approved by the Congress of the United States. The noblest spirits in American life, statesmen, scholars, writers, ministers and leaders of labor and industry, have lent their sympathy and encouragement to the movement.”
Back in 1942 our American rabbis were bold enough to state that defeating Hitler was far from sufficient. For them, a full solution of the Jewish question could only take place in Palestine. “Jews, and all non-Jews who are sympathetically interested in the plight of Jewry, should bear in mind that the defeat of Hitler will not of itself normalize Jewish life in Europe.”
But there was one thing the American rabbis failed to mention – the Palestinian people. For some reason, those rabbis who knew much about ‘universalism’ and in particular Jewish ‘universalism’ showed very little concern for the people of the land. I guess that after all, chosenness is a form of blindness and rabbis probably know more about this than anyone else.
ZIONISM AN AFFIRMATION OF JUDAISM
A Reply by 757 Orthodox, Conservative and Reform Rabbis of America to a Statement Issued by Ninety Members of the Reform Rabbinate Charging That Zionism Is Incompatible with the Teachings of Judaism
THE SUBJOINED REPLY was prepared at the initiative of the following Rabbis who submitted it to their colleagues throughout the country for signature: Philip S. Bernstein, Barnett R. Brickner, Israel Goldstein, James G. Heller, Mordecai M. Kaplan, B. L. Levinthal, Israel H. Levinthal, Louis M. Levitsky, Joshua Loth Liebman, Joseph H. Lookstein, Jacob R. Marcus, Abraham A. Neuman, Louis I. Newman, David de Sola Pool, Abba Hillel Silver, Milton Steinberg, and Stephen S. Wise.
WE, THE UNDERSIGNED RABBIS of all elements in American Jewish religious life, have noted with concern a statement by ninety of our colleagues in which they repudiate Zionism on the ground that it is inconsistent with Jewish religious and moral doctrine. This statement misrepresents Zionism and misinterprets historic Jewish religious teaching, and we should be derelict in our duty if we did not correct the misapprehensions which it is likely to foster.
We call attention in the first place to the fact that the signatories to this statement, for whom as fellow-Rabbis we have a high regard, represent no more than a very small fraction of the American rabbinate. They constitute a minority even of the rabbinate of Reform Judaism with which they are associated. The overwhelming majority of American Rabbis regard Zionism not only as fully consistent with Judaism but as a logical expression and implementation of it.
Our colleagues concede the need for Jewish immigration into Palestine as contributing towards a solution of the vast tragedy of Jewish homelessness. They profess themselves ready to encourage such settlement. They are aware of the important achievements, social and spiritual, of the Palestinian Jewish community and they pledge to it their unstinted support. And yet, subscribing to every practical accomplishment of Zionism, they have embarked upon a public criticism of it. In explanation of their opposition they advance the consideration that Zionism is nationalistic and secularistic. On both scores they maintain it is incompatible with the Jewish religion and its universalistic outlook. They protest against the political emphasis which, they say, is now paramount in the Zionist program and which, according to them, tends to confuse both Jews and Christians as to the place and function of the Jewish group in American society. They appeal to the prophets of ancient Israel for substantiation of their views.
TREASURING the doctrines and moral principles of our faith no less than they, devoted equally to America and its democratic processes and spirit, we nonetheless find every one of their contentions totally without foundation.
Zionism is not a secularist movement. It has its origins and roots in the authoritative religious texts of Judaism. Scripture and rabbinical literature alike are replete with the promise of the restoration of Israel to its ancestral home. Anti-Zionism, not Zionism, is a departure from the Jewish religion. Nothing in the entire pronouncement of our colleagues is more painful than their appeal to the prophets of Israel—to those very prophets whose inspired and recorded words of national rebirth and restoration nurtured and sustained the hope of Israel throughout the ages.
Nor is Zionism a denial of the universalistic teachings of Judaism. Universalism is not a contradiction of nationalism. Nationalism as such, whether it be English, French, American or Jewish, is not in itself evil. It is only militaristic and chauvinistic nationalism, that nationalism which shamelessly flouts all mandates of international morality, which is evil. The prophets of Israel looked forward to the time not when all national entities would be obliterated, but when all nations would walk in the light of the Lord, live by His law and learn war no more.
Our colleagues find themselves unable to subscribe to the political emphasis “now paramount in the Zionist program.” We fail to perceive what it is to which they object. Is it to the fact that there are a regularly constituted Zionist organization and a Jewish Agency which deal with the mandatory government, the Colonial office, the League of Nations and other recognized political bodies? But obviously, even immigration and colonization are practical matters which require political action. The settlement of a half million Jews in Palestine since the last war was made possible by political action which culminated in the Balfour Declaration and the Palestine Mandate. There can be little hope of opening the doors of Palestine for mass Jewish immigration after the war without effective political action. Or is it that they object to the ultimate achievement by the Jewish community of Palestine of some form of Jewish statehood? We are not so bold as to predict the nature of the international order which will emerge from the present war. It is altogether likely, and indeed it may be desirable, that all sovereign states shall under the coming peace surrender some of their sovereignty to achieve a just and peaceful world society.
Certainly our colleagues will allow to the Jews of Palestine the same rights that are allowed to all other peoples resident on their own land. If Jews should ultimately come to constitute a majority of the population of Palestine, would our colleagues suggest that all other peoples in the post-war world shall be entitled to political self-determination, whatever form that may take, but the Jewish people in Palestine shall not have such a right? Or do they mean to suggest that the Jews in Palestine shall forever remain a minority in order not to achieve such political self-determination?
PROTESTING their sympathy both for the homeless Jews of the world and for their brethren in Palestine, our colleagues have by their pronouncement done all these a grave disservice. It may well be that to the degree to which their efforts arc at all effective, Jews who might otherwise have found a haven in Palestine will be denied one. The enemies of the Jewish homeland will be strengthened in their propaganda as a result of the aid which these Rabbis have given them. To the Jews of Palestine, facing the gravest danger in their history and fighting hard to maintain morale and hope in the teeth of the totalitarian menace, this pronouncement comes as a cruel blow.
We do not mean to imply that our colleagues intended it as such. We have no doubt that they are earnest about their fine spun theoretical objections to Zionism. We hold, however, that these objections have no merit, and further that voicing them at this time has been unwise and unkind.
We have not the least fear that our fellow Americans will be led to misconstrue the attitudes of American Jews to America because of their interest in Zionism. Every fair-minded American knows that American Jews have only one political allegiance–and that is to America. There is nothing in Zionism to impair this loyalty. Zionism has been endorsed in our generation by every President from Woodrow Wilson to Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and has been approved by the Congress of the United States. The noblest spirits in American life, statesmen, scholars, writers, ministers and leaders of labor and industry, have lent their sympathy and encouragement to the movement.
Jews, and all non-Jews who are sympathetically interested in the plight of Jewry, should bear in mind that the defeat of Hitler will not of itself normalize Jewish life in Europe.
An Allied peace which will not frankly face the problem of the national homelessness of the Jewish people will leave the age-old tragic status of European Jewry unchanged. The Jewish people is in danger of emerging from this war not only more torn and broken than any other people, but also without any prospects of a better and more secure future and without the hope that such tragedies will not recur again, and again. Following an Allied victory, the Jews of Europe, we are confident, will be restored to their political rights and to equality of citizenship. But they possessed these rights after the last war and yet the past twenty-five years have witnessed a rapid and appalling deterioration in their position. In any case, even after peace is restored Europe will be so ravaged and war-torn that large masses of Jews will elect migration to Palestine as a solution of their personal problems.
Indeed, for most of these there may be no other substantial hope of economic, social and spiritual rehabilitation.
THE freedom which, we have faith, will come to all men and nations after this war, must come not only to Jews as individuals wherever they live, permitting them to share freedom on a plane of equality with all other men, but also to the Jewish people, as such, restored in its homeland, where at long last it will be a free people within a world federation of free peoples.
Of the 757 Rabbis listed below, 214 are members of the Central Conference of American Rabbis (Reform); 247 are members of the Rabbinical Assembly of America (Conservative); and the rest are affiliated with the Rabbinical Council of America (Orthodox) or the Union of Orthodox Rabbis. The total represents the largest number of rabbis whose signatures are attached to a public pronouncement in all Jewish history.
To see the scanned image in PDF format with the list of signers, click here
Note: A version of the above statement was released to the press on November 20, 1942. By that time 818 rabbis had signed on. It appears in Samuel Halperin’s The Political World of American Zionism. (Detroit: Wayne State UP, 1961) 333.
May 16, 2013 Posted by aletho | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Supremacism, Social Darwinism, Timeless or most popular | American Jews, Gilad Atzmon, Israel, Judaism, Palestine, Zionism | Leave a Comment
Under current U.S. law, all our publicly traded corporations must annually disclose exactly what they pay their top executives. So why do all those CEO pay scorecards we see every spring show such different results?
USA Today found an 8 percent hike in 2012 CEO pay while The New York Times detected an 18.7 percent increase. Towers Watson, a corporate consulting firm, announced that CEO pay growth “slowed considerably,” rising at just a 1.2 percent rate last year.
What explains all these wildly divergent results? Let’s start with how corporations pay their top execs. This can get tricky.
Most executive pay today comes as stock-related compensation. Stock “options” give executives the right, down the road, to buy shares of their company stock at today’s share price. If that share price jumps, the execs can buy low and sell high. Instant windfall.
“Restricted” stock awards, on the other hand, give executives actual shares of stock, not just an option to buy them. Execs do have to wait a few years before they can actually claim these shares. No big deal. The shares will still have value in future years even if a company’s stock takes a hit.
But how should we value all this share-related compensation right now? Should CEO pay scorekeepers estimate how much stock awards granted this year will be worth in years to come? Or should scorekeepers only tally stock-related awards when execs actually profit personally from them?
Different executive pay scorekeepers give different answers. Scorekeepers also keep score on different sets of corporations. USA Today‘s new scorecard for 2012 tallies pay at 170 firms, the New York Times at just 100.
Given all this, do we have any single stat that tells us what we need to know? We do. That stat: the divide between worker and top executive pay.
America’s big-time CEOs, labor researchers at the AFL-CIO report, are now making 354 times the pay of average U.S. workers, the “largest pay gap in the world.”
Three decades ago, in 1982, American CEOs averaged just 42 times more than average U.S. workers. Two decades ago, in 1992, the gap stood at 201 times. A decade ago: 281 times.
The overall trend line, in other words, couldn’t be clearer. How can we reverse it? Identifying the specific pay gap between individual CEOs and their own workers would be a good first step.
Corporations have had to publish, for decades now, how much they pay their top execs. They haven’t had to reveal publicly how much — or how little — they pay their workers. The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act enacted in 2010 changes this dynamic, at least on paper.
Dodd-Frank requires corporations to annually disclose the gap between what they pay their CEOs and their most typical workers. But a corporate lobbying blitz has kept the Securities and Exchange Commission from writing the regulations needed to enforce this disclosure mandate.
Why do our biggest corporations so fervently oppose disclosing their CEO-worker pay ratios? Disclosure by itself, after all, won’t shove down CEO pay levels. But disclosure could open the door to other steps that could curb CEO pay excess.
Lawmakers could, for instance, choose to deny government contracts or tax breaks to corporations that pay their top executives over 25 or even 50 times what their own workers are making.
Far-fetched? Current law already denies government contracts to companies that discriminate by race or gender in their employment practices. As a society, we’ve concluded that our tax dollars must not go to corporations that widen racial or gender inequality.
So why should we let our tax dollars enrich corporations that widen our economic divide?
Sam Pizzigati is the author of The Rich Don’t Always Win, Seven Stories Press, New York.
- Why it’s time to rein in CEO pay (globalpublicsquare.blogs.cnn.com)
- Once Upon a Time, Corporations Paid Taxes (truth-out.org)
Major European retailers C&A, KiK and El Corte Inglés will contribute to a compensation plan for the victims of the Tazreen Fashions fire in Bangladesh.
The brands made the commitment at a meeting held on 15 April in Geneva to discuss a 5.7 million USD compensation plan for the victims of the Tazreen Fashions fire in Bangladesh, which killed 112 workers and injured about 120 in November 2012.
The meeting was hosted by IndustriALL Global Union and attended by major European retailers, a leading Bangladesh trade unionist, the Clean Clothes Campaign and the Worker Rights Consortium.
In an outrageous display of indifference to the suffering of Bangladeshi families, major US corporations Walmart, Sears/Kmart and Disney refused to pay any compensation to the victims and failed to attend the meeting. Walmart was apparently the largest buyer from the Tazreen factory. The companies, which failed to enforce their own worker safety standards, have claimed to be deeply saddened by the deaths.
Major European retailers C&A (Netherlands), KiK (Germany) and El Corte Inglés (Spain) attended the meeting and agreed to make substantial contributions to the compensation plan for the families of the dead and for the injured. The Italian clothing brand Piazza Italia did not attend but has agreed to participate in the package.
“We have agreed on confirming the concrete amounts that each of these brands will contribute by the end of this month,” says IndustriALL General Secretary Jyrki Raina. “The families and the injured have already waited far too long.”
Other companies that were sourcing from Tazreen and failed to attend include Hong Kong based trader Li & Fung, Teddy Smith (France), Edinborough Woolen Mills (UK), Dickies (US) and Karl Rieker (Germany). Li & Fung has however agreed to paying compensation.
The compensation plan, developed by IndustriALL and its affiliates in Bangladesh and supported by international labour rights groups, is based on the compensation formula used in other recent fires. These include the December 2010 fire at That’s It Sportswear, a factory producing for Gap and other US brands, and the fire this January at Smart Export Garments, which was producing clothes for Inditex and others. The details of the plan will be worked out in a subsequent meeting to be held in Dhaka, Bangladesh.
Says Ineke Zeldenrust from the Clean Clothes Campaign, “We once again call upon Walmart and the other major companies sourcing from Tazreen to aid the families of the dead and the injured workers. Their refusal to do so indicates a shocking lack of concern for the rights and well-being of the workers who make their clothes and who, in this case, were injured or killed in the process.”
April 27, 2013 Posted by aletho | Supremacism, Social Darwinism | Bangladesh, Clean Clothes Campaign, Disney, IndustriALL Global Union, Kmart, Sears, United States, Walmart, Worker Rights Consortium | Leave a Comment
The worst ever industrial accident in Bangladesh has killed more than 200 garment workers with fears of a final death toll reaching 1,000 as hundreds remain injured and trapped in the debris.
“Cut off my hand, save my life!” screams a woman trapped under the collapsed eight-story Rana Plaza building in Savar, 30 kilometres outside Dhaka. The same request is shouted by trapped Aftab, while other screams in the rubble demand oxygen. 200,000 local people have assembled in Savar offering to donate blood to the rescue effort, as hospitals are gravely under supplied.
The mass industrial manslaughter occurred at 9am, 24 April. The collapsed building, illegally constructed, contained five garment factories with 2,500 workers. Those five factories are Ether Tex, New Wave Bottoms, New Wave Style, Phantom Apparels and Phantom-TAC. These factories are believed to have produced for several well-known western brands including Mango, Primark, C&A, KIK, Wal-Mart, Children’s Place, Cato Fashions, Benetton, Matalan and Bon Marché.
On 23 April, the day before the collapse, large structural cracks appeared in the supporting pillars of Rana Plaza, but local authorities were ignored by the building owner Sohel Rana and the garment factory owners when they gave the order to evacuate, while the three shops and bank on the building’s ground floor heeded the warning and evacuated. A Rana Plaza garment worker had to work three days unpaid for every one work day missed, so workers were reluctant to stay safe at home on 24 April.
Now over 2,000 workers are injured in hospital, many critically, 254 are dead and many more continue screaming from under the rubble. The IndustriALL Global Union affiliated textile and garment trade unions in Bangladesh are present and supporting the rescue efforts. Affiliates work jointly through the IndustriALL Bangladesh Council (IBC) which yesterday used a joint press conference to put forward joint demands and a programme of action, calling for justice and action from authorities and brands. The IBC will mobilize all affiliates in a mass demonstration on 26 April in front of the Dhaka Press Club.
20,000 furious garment workers from neighbouring factories this morning brought five major highways to a halt, and several local skirmishes saw angry protestors target garment factories that were not respecting the national day of mourning, forcing them to close and show respect to the dead. Protestors also targetted the building of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers & Exporters Association (BGMEA).
The systemic problems must be tackled immediately in Bangladesh’s garment industry and much responsibility must fall on the western clothing brands making enormous profits from items made in deadly conditions on poverty wages. While brands continue refusing to pay a sufficient price for safe production of their clothes, their calls for improved safety are not sincere.
Much needed improvements to the national labour law have been debated through Bangladesh’s legislative process, with the government cabinet approving revisions on 22 April. However this process has been lobbied by the global garment industry buyers who have demanded a scaling back of workers’ rights initially proposed in the reform.
IndustriALL Global Union believes that Bangladeshi garment workers deserve the right to work in safety, with full access to organize and bargain collectively in trade unions, and a substantial rise of the current US$38 monthly minimum wage.
IndustriALL Global Union General Secretary Jyrki Raina said:
This terrible tragedy highlights the urgency of putting a stop to the race to the bottom in supplying cheap means of production to international brands, a race in which hundreds of workers have lost their lives. Global clothing brands and retailers have a responsibility for their full production chains. Now it is time for them, suppliers and the Bangladeshi government to sit down with IndustriALL and its affiliates to agree on a safety program that will ensure this will never happen again.
In an article published in The Hill, Mike Coogan reports that some of the key legislation that emerged from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s (AIPAC) 2013 annual policy conference is running into significant difficulties in Congress. The bills, which Lara Friedman only half-jokingly called the “Israel Best Ally With Benefits” bills, have not gained close to the overwhelming support that AIPAC has come to expect from Congress.
Indeed, more than five weeks after the United States-Israel Strategic Partnership Act of 2013 was introduced in the Senate, it has gathered only 18 co-sponsors. That’s a shockingly low total for a focal point of AIPAC lobbying. It has done better in the House of Representatives, with 171 co-sponsors, but given the more hawkish nature of the House, even that’s not a success by AIPAC’s standards.
While one shouldn’t make too much of this, it certainly seems like AIPAC reached a little too far with this bill. The main issue is a portion of the bill which, in the Senate version, would grant a US visa exemption for Israeli citizens without requiring a reciprocal arrangement from Israel. The US has visa exemption arrangements with 37 other countries, but all of them reciprocate.
Ron Kampeas quotes a staffer from a leading pro-Israel lawmaker in the US House of Representatives as saying that “It’s stunning that you would give a green light to another country to violate the civil liberties of Americans traveling abroad.”
The US concern is particularly profound after a Palestinian-American, who taught English at the Friends’ School in Ramallah, was barred by Israel in January from returning to her West Bank job after a trip to Jordan, despite having a visa that allowed her to leave and re-enter Israeli-controlled territory. Israel, undoubtedly, is concerned that a reciprocal agreement would compromise its ability to bar not only Palestinian-Americans, but also pro-Palestinian activists, from entering the country.
The House version of the bill does not exempt Israel from reciprocity, but merely calls on the Secretary of State to report to Congress on the extent of Israel’s compliance with the reciprocity requirement and “…what additional steps, if any, are required in order for Israel to qualify for inclusion in such program.” That may be one reason the House bill has done better.
The bill includes other troublesome aspects. Friedman points out that the Senate bill includes shockingly weak language in support of a two-state solution: “…language that disconnects the issue from U.S. national security interests and in doing so creates a formulation that inconsistent with the actual foreign policy of the Obama Administration or ANY previous administration.”
Even so, it remains surprising that a bill that emerged as a focal point from an AIPAC policy conference would have this much trouble. Coogan thinks this is a sign that AIPAC’s grip on Congress might be weakening.
It certainly adds to a sense that AIPAC might have reached a tipping point. Equally telling is what Coogan says about how AIPAC brought this bill to the Hill: “Numerous public reports and off-the-record accounts from legislators and staff signaled that the brazenness and late release of the Israel lobby’s legislative demands blindsided both individual members and various committees. Provisions appeared tone deaf and legally problematic, even among Israel’s strongest supporters.”
I haven’t been able to locate those “numerous public reports,” but my own sense from talking to people on Capitol Hill and other informed colleagues is that there is indeed some tension there. That’s on top of congressional bristling at AIPAC’s efforts to exempt aid to Israel from the sequestration cuts. Dylan Williams of J Street told The Forward that the possibility that AIPAC might try to lobby for exempting aid to Israel from the sequester “…seems a little tone deaf,” and that some Hill staffers were “surprised that some groups — that people from AIPAC — were asking for this.”
Does all this mean AIPAC is losing its grip? Probably not, but as members of Congress grow less enthusiastic about complying with AIPAC’s demands, the possibility that more politicians will test the widely-held but unproven maxim that opposing AIPAC is electoral suicide arises. That could make things very interesting.
April 14, 2013 Posted by aletho | Civil Liberties, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Supremacism, Social Darwinism | AIPAC, American Israel Public Affairs Committee, Congress, Israel, United States | Leave a Comment
Obama Does Social Security and Medicare
With Barack Obama putting his plan to cut Social Security and Medicare expenditures into writing in his Federal budget proposal the ability of those who voted for him to credibly deny his years of publicly stating he would do so disappeared. The pathetic pleas from liberals and progressives who only a few short months ago were assuring the unwashed masses Mr. Obama was on the cusp of a ‘liberal’ renaissance if only doubters would join them in granting him another term are today as empty as their assurances were then. And Mr. Obama’s self ‘sacrifice’ of voluntarily giving up 5% of his own $400,000 per year salary in solidarity with seniors present and future who will see their Social Security payments reduced calls into question his intelligence if sincere—the difference between the rich (Mr. Obama) voluntarily giving up a fraction of their yacht allowance versus millions of seniors choosing between eating and living indoors is fundamental.
Those whose politics begin and end with rolling off the couch every few years to vote could in theory be forgiven for perceiving a yawning chasm between the Republican and Democrat candidates. Marketing firms were paid a lot of money to create that illusion. And Mr. Obama almost certainly has the political calculus correct that the bourgeois commentariat, a/k/a/ ‘the left,’ will whimper in protest for a few days, weeks at most, before falling in line for Hillary or whatever militaristic, corporatist abomination the Democrats put forward in the next Presidential election. Early reports even have liberal pundits sticking with the line Mr. Obama is only posturing with the proposals, despite his near decade prior explaining why he believes Social Security and Medicare must be cut to be ‘saved.’ However, this is truly a ‘let them eat cake’ moment. Mr. Obama’s policies will needlessly, and in economic terms gratuitously, hurt a lot of people—overwhelmingly those who self-identify as the Democrats’ political ‘base.’ And lest there be confusion over the matter, in his first term Mr. Obama fully restored the fortunes of America’s ruling class at several trillion dollars of public expense before proposing these cuts.
The faux official hand wringing over Social Security is a result of the bi-partisan (‘Washington’) consensus that produced the trajectory of catastrophic public policy over the last forty years. Radically skewed income distribution, the result of public policy, has seen lower and middle-income wages stagnate with all economic gains delivered up to a tiny plutocracy. This has lowered the proportion of total income paid into Social Security because above the current $113,700 cap income is excluded from contribution to the program. Raising the cap would have some effect in reducing expected future shortfalls but would reframe the social insurance nature of the program because payments are also capped. The real solution—where the real money is, lies in shifting economic gains back toward lower and middle class wages. Doing this would raise the proportion of income paid into Social Security. And this leaves aside the fact the Federal Reserve created several trillion dollars ‘out of thin air’ to restore the fortunes of a dysfunctional financial system and its beneficiaries in the plutocracy and could more productively do so to fund the nation’s social insurance programs. In short, the ‘crisis’ facing Social Security and Medicare is one of skewed income distribution resulting from bad public policy and is readily solvable without cutting benefits.
To the argument proposed tax increases on the rich balance ‘sacrifice’ across economic classes, what makes Mr. Obama’s self-imposed wage cut so ludicrous is how radically it understates the degree to which a large and growing proportion of the population has been economically marginalized. It also frames income distribution as an outcome of ‘natural’ processes from which returning some proportion for the benefit of the common weal through taxes is ‘sacrifice.’ (The rich benefit from public expenditure in far greater proportion than the rest of us). About one-third of retirees exist entirely on Social Security payments that are already at bare subsistence levels. These payments constitute the bulk of monthly income for two out of three retirees. Cutting benefits for people who lack other options for obtaining income isn’t ‘sacrifice,’ shared or otherwise—it is immiseration. And Social Security belongs to those who paid into the program throughout their working lives—it is only through radically anti-democratic governance Mr. Obama and Congressional Republicans have say in the matter.
Income distribution data shows top incomes coming from two related sources—finance and finance related and corporate executive compensation. Wall Street—the F.I.R.E. sector (Finance, Insurance and Real Estate), benefited from Wall Street’s resurrection at public expense. Government ‘bailout’ policies were framed as ‘liquidity’ provision when in fact the programs went on far longer and at greater public expense than this explanation supports. In fact, Wall Street was (is) insolvent due to poor and / or fraudulent business practices meaning bankers killed ‘their’ banks, not nature. The resurrection of Wall Street, including paychecks and bonuses, took place entirely on the public dime. And a significant proportion of the rise in corporate earnings used to justify grotesquely disproportionate executive compensation came from cutting wages to labor. The ability of executives to cut wages derives from government policies specifically designed to reduce the power of labor unions and from tax breaks and incentives to shift production to low wage countries. These are no more ‘market’ forces than the bank bailouts were.
The challenge for the bourgeois commentariat is it largely accepts the political economy that produced current circumstance but objects to the outcomes. Explicit austerity economics, of which Mr. Obama’s proposals to cut social insurance programs are a component, receive their provenance from the ‘structural adjustment’ programs the IMF (International Monetary Fund) for decades inflicted on the citizens of other nations for the benefit of Western banks. The neo-liberal premises behind structural adjustment are still taught in university economics departments by ‘liberal’ economists who are leading members of the bourgeois commenting class now critical of austerity. With the aforementioned government policies to concentrate wealth within a tiny plutocracy whilst throwing labor to the wolves in mind, liberal economists defer to ‘market’ forces to explain the income and wealth skews behind the ‘natural’ austerity faced by the bulk of the working populace and then argue explicit austerity policies are ‘unfair’ and / or economically destructive. But why argue over effects when the causes can be addressed?
In the macroeconomic context in which austerity economics is argued the mainstream debate is between Keynesian economists, ‘New’ and old and Austrians. Keynesians argue in circumstances where private demand for goods and services is ‘inadequate’ government spending produces multiples of the money spent in increased economic output. Austrians argue government spending is always and everywhere less productive than private spending and taxes levied to fund government spending take away from private spending. Eighty or so years of evidence strongly favor the Keynesian understanding of how modern economies ‘work,’ but with a caveat. Austrians tend to understand the roles of money and banking in the economy whereas ‘New’ Keynesians remain willfully clueless. This difference plays out in a few ways—private credit expansion has an economic effect similar to public expenditure but it is neither in the public interest nor is it socially neutral in its political-economic effects. And public investment funded with public debt has the power of the printing press behind its repayment whereas private credit doesn’t.
Mr. Obama’s delivery of several trillion dollars of public wealth to the banks in ongoing bailouts was sold as a way to ‘get banks lending again,’ ‘private’ Keynesianism, to raise the quantity of private debt issued to bolster consumption. But wholly reviving insolvent banks has no legitimacy in any economic theory. This is why the bailouts were, and still are, framed as liquidity provision when they are in fact solvency provision. And again, private debt has the political-economic consequence of concentrating wealth and political power in the hands of lenders (Wall Street). Intellectually honest Austrian economists would have let Wall Street die at its own hands in 2008 in favor of a functioning private credit system. ‘New’ Keynesians support public spending to bolster demand when necessary under the (correct) premise the power of the printing press is a tool to serve the public interest. But their ignorance of money and banking leaves them supporting the monetary policies of solvency provision for dysfunctional banks and at utter losses as to why fiscal policies funded by this same printing press are nowhere to be found. To coin a Clintonism, it’s the class warfare stupid!
The difference between the Federal government providing ‘liquidity’ to markets and restoring solvency to insolvent banks is more than a technicality. In the case of liquidity provision the government temporarily floods markets with money to facilitate transactions during bank panics– it is the ability to transact that is restored. In the case of restoring solvency the Federal government both buys bad assets from the banks that through fraud and / or incompetence rendered themselves insolvent and it provides subsidies from which banks can ‘rebuild’ their balance sheets. Both are transfers of public resources to private interests demonstrated by history to be economically destructive.
Without apparent irony, the structural adjustment programs fiscal conservatives look to for intellectual sustenance absolutely reject using public funds to restore dysfunctional banks because dysfunctional banks inevitably bleed the economies that remain dry. Austerity economics, the bases for IMF and World Bank policies, are banker economics designed to assure bank debts are repaid regardless of the economic devastation doing so may cause. For theoretical coherence austerity requires that core banks (Wall Street), the banks for which loans be forcibly repaid by the periphery, be functional and healthy. Having now saved a parasitic and dysfunctional Wall Street at public expense, fiscal conservatives in the U.S., led by Barack Obama, seek to cut public expenditures to pay for the privilege.
If cutting the inflation assumption for Social Security would ‘save’ the program, the purported rationale for doing so, then reversing policies designed to concentrate income and wealth would do far more. But cutting the inflation assumption isn’t intended to ‘save’ the program; it is intended to cut Federal spending in which Social Security plays only an indirect role (why else include it in budget ‘negotiations’?) because it is funded through a dedicated tax, not through Federal spending. This doesn’t mean Mr. Obama isn’t locally sincere (if wrong) in promoting the Hamilton Project (Robert Rubin) line that ‘tweaking’ social insurance programs will ‘save’ them. But here context is important. And the context is public expenditures are being cut to pay for the Wall Street bailout and the economic calamity Wall Street caused. Put another way, if there is no public debt ‘crisis’ (there isn’t) and the temporary increase in public debt was to save Wall Street and undo the damage it did to the economy, why not get the money from Wall Street?
But in fact the money is still going in the other direction. And across Europe the story is remarkably similar—through assuming bank liabilities directly (Ireland), shifting public resources to the banks to ‘save’ them and public expenditure on economic stabilizers and unemployment benefits, formerly fiscally ‘disciplined’ nations are now regularly characterized by the European Central Bank and German Chancellor Angela Merkel as nations of ‘takers’ whose morally bankrupt citizenries ruined their countries with fat public welfare programs that must be cut to restore economic health. To be clear, fiscal issues the European periphery faces came from delivering public resources to Wall Street alone. (Wall Street now includes large European banks).
For the uninitiated, the endgame appears nigh. The seizure of bank deposits in Cyprus to pay for bank losses simply removed the ‘middle men,’ the European Central Bank and the political powers that be in Europe, from transferring wealth from the citizens of Cyprus to Cypriot bankers (and to European banks and U.S. hedge funds). The capitalist media storyline promoted by gullible liberals that ‘Russian mafia’ money was seized is nonsense. By reports European banks and rich Russians had little trouble getting their money out of Cyprus. The deposits being seized are in precise inverse relation to the political-economic power the depositors wield. And across the West policies of economic austerity are being imposed in similar fashion.
Mr. Obama is who he is. But those who voted for him have some explaining to do. I oppose Mr. Obama’s policies and would have likewise vocally, and otherwise, opposed those of Mitt Romney had he ‘won.’ Were this simply a matter of resentment the situation would take care of itself—you are the schmucks who cut your own Social Security and Medicare programs. But if you think this is it, that the worst is over, I humbly suggest that was your view when Mr. Obama won his second term. To those paying attention, the Dodd-Frank legislation being sold as a way to ‘reign-in’ bailed out banks contains ‘Cyprus’ clauses that leave banks (or their creditors, beginning with derivatives counter-parties) no alternative than to seize insured deposits when they need their next inevitable bailout. On the plus side, this will eliminate the time-consuming theater of austerity ‘debates.’ On the minus side, Mr. Obama is exponentially increasing the misery of society’s most vulnerable. But I’m confident he appreciates your support for his policies.
Rob Urie is an artist and political economist in New York.
- Who Will Save Social Security and Medicare? (alethonews.wordpress.com)
April 13, 2013 Posted by aletho | "Hope and Change", Deception, Economics, Supremacism, Social Darwinism, Timeless or most popular | Democratic Party, Democrats, International Monetary Fund, Medicare, Obama, Social Security, Wall Street | Leave a Comment
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From the Archives
America’s Moral Crisis
By DAVID ROSEN | January 28, 2011
The Great Recession of 2007-2009 was more than a financial and political crisis. At root, it was a moral crisis.
Bernie Madoff and a handful of other racketeers were prosecuted, but all those actively or passively involved in the financial scam were not exposed, let alone legally dealt with.
The harm inflicted on the American people by the venal practices of those who orchestrated, implemented and/or facilitated the Great Recession is incalculable. Millions of peoples’ lives were turned upside-down, if not destroyed; America’s long-term future put in doubt. … continue
Aletho News Exclusive Content
This article will examine some of the connections between the US and UK National Security apparatus and the appearance of the anthropogenic global warming (AGW) theory beginning after the accident at Three Mile Island. … continue
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- Palestinian farmer injured by Israeli army fire June 17, 2013
- Israeli man assaults 2 Palestinian women in Jerusalem June 17, 2013
- Brazilian police clash with Confederations Cup protesters June 17, 2013
- Turkish Unions Protest Erdogan Crackdown, Announce Strike June 17, 2013
- AMAZEBALLS: Rachel Maddow’s Ignorance on Iran June 17, 2013
- Netanyahu urges continued boycott of Iran June 16, 2013
- Apartheid State or Criminal Project? BDS or Resistance? June 16, 2013
- When Israel Is Mighty June 17, 2013
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