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Against Homicide

By Metropolitan George Khodr of Mount Lebanon
Metropolitan George is highly regarded throughout Lebanon for his untiring efforts to encourage dialogue and mutual respect as well as to make known basic Christian truths and principles. It is notable that during the Lebanese civil war, the only religious community which refused to form its own army was the Orthodox Church.

The life in us is a gift from God. Only God gives life and only God takes it back. Thus we are not to commit suicide or to harm ourselves, and certainly no one has the right to take another person’s life. Each person receives both his life and his neighbor from God. The other may live as he wishes. It is our duty to counsel him, to keep him company, to serve him and help him improve his situation to attain a better life. In doing this, our own spirit becomes better. But you have no right to kill another person, even if this person asks you to, because he has no right to put an end to his life which was entrusted by God to him. Accordingly, abortion cannot be permissible because the mother doesn’t own her fetus. Similarly a doctor has no right to kill his patient, no matter how bad his condition. He does not own his patient’s body. He cannot make the decision to kill a patient even when in a long-lasting coma. Your body is not an object for you to do with it whatever you like. Your body is a part of you as a person; it is not for the governor to flog nor for the judge to execute.

In the situation of human dialogue, the body is the place of conversation, but if a human connection cannot be established between you and the other, the destruction of the other’s body is an act of contempt for his human nature and with it the permanent loss of the possibility of dialogue.

You and the other, your body and his, are intended to mature together in a heavenward movement. God attracts you with your bodies to Himself where He becomes your meeting place. Your journey is always upward, and the other can only accompany you in his yearning for the higher. If you are not both attracted together to God, the relationship between you is severed; it becomes either abuse or slavery. Slave and master both become objects. A relationship between two beings is impossible apart from God. In the depths of its truth, a “being” cannot exist without openness towards its Creator and towards other creatures. There is no “I” unless it affirms “we.” The “I” can only be fulfilled in the communion of “we.” The same for the body. After its deliverance from itself and from its slavery, it becomes stretched towards embracing and accepting the other. The moment this “threesome” of “I,” “you” and the Divine is achieved, then God embraces the whole man and all humanity. Killing ruptures this threesome.

By annihilating the other you annihilate yourself and renounce the dominion of God over both of you. Every sin is alienation, a denial of one of God’s qualities: a denial of God’s patience, mercy and love. Killing is an absolute denial of God because it is a denial of Him as Lord and Giver of Life.

A man annihilates his opponent because he decides that the other is obstructing his plan, his business, passions or freedom. He thinks that only in this way can he be safe and have the guarantee of dominion. Killing is both isolation – the killer is alone in his imagination – and the deification of self. In his mind and deepest thoughts, the killer replaces God. Every time you sin, you substitute yourself for God to some degree. By killing, you replace Him completely.

In a recent movie about Joan of Arc, I appreciated an episode where she was deeply grieved by all the bloodshed suffered by her English enemies after the victory in the battle of Orleans. Despite the belief that she was delegated from heaven to fight this war, she couldn’t bear the waste of blood. The commander explained to her that no war is possible without bloodshed. She had a different logic. I will not analyze here the conversation between a virgin saint and an army commander, but the horror of war comes to my mind as I recite Psalm 50: “Deliver me, O God, from blood guiltiness.” No one of us, no matter what his capacity, is far from the temptation of blood guiltiness.

Because of the importance of blood, canons that come down to us from early Church require the dismissal from the priesthood of any priest who even accidentally causes the death of another human.

Relationship between humans is made possible by language, a word connected with logos . We know the from the Evangelist St. John that Christ is the Logos: the Word of God. “Word” is the relationship between you and the other. Otherwise you annihilate both him and yourself.

This brings us to the dilemma of genocide. When a group of people, in the grip of fear, proceeds to exterminate another group, it means the murderers think they can reestablish themselves only by existing alone, without the context of coexistence, solely because their victims are “different.” Cain killed his brother Abel, a herdsman (thus the words Habeel and Kabeel in Arabic), because he had a “different” occupation. The “other” is sentenced to death for his differences – he is not of your country, race, religion or party – and because he cannot be put to death legally, he is slain without a trial. After all, a trial is a form of dialogue.

Every massacre is an attack against the name of God. Every massacre is “religious,” in the sense that ethnicity or political ideology can become a pseudo-religion. “The time is coming when whoever kills you will think he is doing service to God.” (John 16:2) We can speak of a “liturgy” of extermination. They regard mass murder as a divinely appointed task.

The logic of genocide is that the world should be of one color, one kind.

In its ideal form, a national army does not desire killing but wishes, within existing possibilities, to maintain order and justice and defend the country without killing. We can say that the army has no enemy, it only has temporary opponents. The army is not supposed to occupy other lands, because occupation causes humiliation. This is why the greatest leaders, because they detested bloodshed, always sought paths of peace. The philosophy of the military is that it defends the entire nation. It is not, in its essence, hostile to any other nation. This was the ideal of the Byzantine Empire. Offensive wars were excluded. The army was to be used only as a shield for peace and a defense force.

In contrast there are militia groups, the “military” of certain groups. A militia does not support the general cause – it is set against other militias. It is an instrument of extermination of the other. This is why civil war is always the hardest to resolve. In the case of the Lebanese civil war, every group which participated in massacres must come to repentance in order for us all to repent to our motherland. God cannot be the victor unless every group comes forward and confesses his sins to the other group in the presence of the entire nation.

In the context of this logic, there is no worse proverb than the popular saying: “God forgives the past!” No, God does not forgive us. It is not in His nature to forgive unless every one of us has acknowledged and repented from his own sin of murder against the other. He who dipped his hands in blood, or wished the death or the displacement of the other, is an accomplice in the sin of extermination. Every murdered person, no matter what religion he belongs to, is innocent because he is part of God, and God does not need anyone to fight in His name. God knows how to put to death whoever He wants to. No one is the representative of God in the domain of death.

World is Our Garbage Can

Edward S. Herman & Noam Chomsky,
Manufacturing Consent

Socialist Worker UK
TV and newspaper reporting reflect the existing power set-up in society. The mass media reproduces the ruling class’s view of what matters in the world. And quite often it deliberately sets out to paint a picture favorable to government and big business.

Almost every demonstrator has found that the press is against them, but what lies behind this in-built bias?

The media spreads the same old lies every time workers go on strike.

During strikes, like the recent ones at BA, the media constantly tell us that workers are powerless—yet at the same time that they are holding the country to ransom.

They act like unions are undemocratic, even though workers have voted to act collectively. The causes of a dispute are rarely explained.

Yet when bosses say we need cuts, they are rarely questioned. And when the police attack demonstrations, the media always reports their version of events.

This is because TV and newspaper reporting reflect the existing power set-up in society.

The mass media reproduces the ruling class’s view of what matters in the world. And quite often it deliberately sets out to paint a picture favorable to government and big business.

The revolutionaries Karl Marx and Frederick Engels wrote in the 19th century that “the ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas”.

Under capitalism a handful of rich and powerful people own the mass media. They form part of a ruling class—the tiny number of people at the top of society who own the factories, offices and other workplaces (see page 10).

Rupert Murdoch, for instance, owns over 175 print publications across the world, including the Sun, the Times and the News of the World in Britain. It is therefore not surprising they constantly reinforce the interests of the bosses.

The vast majority of the media is run for profit, so it’s not surprising it backs up a system based on profit.

They reflect the bias of normal capitalist life. So, they report it as “good news” if profits are up.

And, the media focus on what seems to matter in “official” politics in parliament, on the actions of celebrities, on crime and scandal.

Economics is reported separately from politics. Everything is put in different compartments. A picture of society as something that can be understood—and changed—as a whole is never presented.

Ordinary people’s lives—except as victims of crime or as things to be ridiculed—rarely appear. During a war much of the media often becomes a simple extension of the government propaganda machine.

According to Philip Knightley, the author of a book on war and the media, The First Casualty, “Every government wants to control the media in wartime to ensure public support for its war aims.

"If necessary it will lie in order to achieve this control. The media will usually go along with these lies because it considers it is in its best commercial interests in wartime to support the government of the day.”

This is at its most extreme during wars, but the coincidence of interests applies during peace time too.

People are rightly angry when a big demonstration gets little or no news coverage. But more than that, the recent anti-fascist demonstration in Bolton was repeatedly reported throughout the media as violent anti-fascist protesters attacking the police.

This was the exact opposite of what happened. The truth was readily available in video, photographs and accounts of police violence.

Does it matter? TV and newspapers are among the most important sources people have for gaining information about what’s going on in the world.

The media shapes our views of the world. But it does not control them.

As we are surrounded by messages that favour the bosses, we are still making judgments. For two decades the Sun newspaper told its readers to vote Tory.

Most carried on voting Labour. It now tells people to vote Tory again—but it won’t be the Sun that wins it. And the media is not a monolith.

The ruling class is not a homogeneous group. There are divisions within it—and the media reflects these. This is partly because of their competing commercial interests. In order to sell advertising they need viewers and readers.

That forces the media to at least be relevant to what people think. That can produce critical coverage which goes against the establishment.

For example, the Mirror opposed the Iraq war in the run up to it.

It reflected the fact that the ruling class was divided—but it also knew that there was an audience for an anti-war newspaper. The majority of people that the mass media is sold and marketed to are working class.

There is a huge gulf between the reality of their lives and the dominant ideology of capitalism. That gap can open up a space for that ideology to be questioned or even rejected.

If left wing ideas become stronger, then the media will have to respond to them. After all, if the number of people backing a transport strike with solidarity is large enough then there is no point interviewing the grumbling business class passenger.

Unequal Distribution of Wealth

By David Barber

David Barber is an assistant professor of American history at the University of Tennessee at Martin. He is the author of A Hard Rain Fell: SDS and Why it Failed (University Press of Mississippi, 2008).
American society’s fantastically skewed distribution of wealth stands as one of the main structural fault lines underpinning the Crash of 2008.
America’s richest one percent of the population own over forty percent of America’s wealth – exclusive of home ownership – in this, the most opulent society history has ever known. On the other hand, the bottom sixty percent of Americans own approximately one percent of all of America’s wealth.

If we picture an auditorium with one hundred people and one hundred seats, the single richest person would be able to spread out smartly over nearly forty-three seats. The poorest sixty people in the auditorium would have to make due squeezing into a single seat.

This mal-distribution of wealth does not bode well for a society based on the buying and selling of goods. Our super-rich plutocrats, after all, do not need more than five or ten automobiles or five or ten homes each.

This top one percent – 3 million people – certainly cannot purchase all the goods that the poorest 180 million Americans would be capable of purchasing had our society a more equal distribution of wealth.

And so debt has had to sustain our market economy: the more skewed the distribution of wealth has grown over time, the more frantically has the economy been forced to create a growing array of consumer debt mechanisms – subprime mortgages, payday loans, more and more intricately structured credit card debt – in order simply to maintain its functioning.

When a critical mass of poor and working-class Americans could no longer pay their fabulously expensive subprime mortgages and usurious credit card bills, this house of cards collapsed.

A number of the financial institutions built on this consumer debt foundered and the remainder required unprecedented injections of federal funds to remain afloat.

The housing market and new residential construction, the market for consumer goods – automobiles, appliances, electronics – all crumbled, taking down with them the jobs and retirement savings of millions of Americans.

The Crash, in short, was not an episode of mass hysteria or panic; it represented a structural crisis in part rooted in the grossly unequal distribution of wealth in this society. When millions of Americans could no longer buy goods, industry had to stomp on the brakes.

And what is true in the United States of the unequal distribution of wealth, and of the consequences of that unequal distribution, is true again on a world scale. Nearly half the world’s population lives on $2 per day or less.

This super-poor mass of humanity, from whose soil is ripped vast amounts of mineral and agricultural wealth, and out of whose labor the world’s manufactured goods increasingly come, are almost wholly excluded from participating in the world’s market economy.

These people, too, must depend upon debt, public debt in this case. More importantly, the survival of our world’s economic system, as it is currently configured, depends upon these people being both poor and indebted. But it is both the poverty and the debt which lead inexorably to the Crash.

Making Money Off Your Back

Picture by Michael Dashow

 By David S. Pena

Capitalism exploits workers. Since the vast majority of people in our capitalist society have to work for a living, it’s no exaggeration to say the majority of people in the US and around the world, are exploited. It ensures profits for capitalists.

What does it mean to say that workers are exploited? In Marxist theory, exploitation means that workers are literally robbed by capitalists. Of course the capitalists never admit this.

They claim that they pay their workers a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work, that you’re paid for what you produce, no less and no more. But Marxists say that’s not what really happens.

The capitalists have set up a system in which they (the minority) own the machinery, factories, farms and other means of production needed to produce the necessities of life such as food, clothing, and shelter.

The workers (the majority) usually have no other way to make a living than to sell but their ability to work. They have to sell this ability (their labor power) to the capitalists in order to earn wages.

In other words, they have to get jobs. Wages are then used by workers to buy the products necessary to sustain their lives.

What is the value of your ability to labor? According to Marx, your labor power is worth whatever amount of money (or commodities) is necessary to keep you alive and working.

That doesn’t sound like much of a life, but let’s go with that assumption and see what happens.

Imagine that you need to make $50 per day in order to feed, house, and clothe yourself. You find a job at an auto parts factory owned by a capitalist who agrees to pay you $50 per 8-hour day, or $6.25 an hour.

Your day is spent making parts that the capitalist sells to one of the big automakers for $100 a piece, and you manage to produce 100 parts per day.

Think about it—you are producing $1,250 worth of product per hour, $10,000 worth per day and $50,000 worth in a 40-hour week! Amazing isn’t it?

You, the worker, have the ability to create a tremendous amount of value where there was none before. And it’s in the capitalist’s interest to get you to produce as much as humanly possible either by forcing you to work more hours in a day or making you work faster—preferably, for the capitalist, both.

But we need to get clear about something you might not have noticed. Remember that you are producing $1,250 worth of value every hour, which boils down to about $20.83 cents per minute. Is it really important to know that? Absolutely.

Here’s why it’s important. At $20.83 per minute, it takes about 2 minutes and 40 seconds for you to produce $50 worth of value. In other words, you have to work less than 3 minutes to produce the $50 that covers your salary.

At this point, everything seems fair and square. You do $50 worth of work, and that’s exactly what you’re going to be paid. But don’t forget that you have to work 8 hours to get the $50 that it takes you less than 3 minutes to produce.

That’s the catch, and that’s how you get robbed. In order for the privilege of working in that capitalist’s factory to get a measly $50, you have to agree to stay 8 hours and produce $10,000 worth of value, value that is stolen from you by the capitalist—literally stolen because the capitalist takes it without paying for it.

Capitalists constantly tell you that you’re getting paid for what you produce, that you’re compensated fairly for the time you put in.

In reality the capitalist can pay you for less than 3 minutes of work and force you to work over 7 hours of unpaid labor just to get that tiny paycheck.

In our example, if you had been paid for what you produced, you would have made $10,000 that day. Think about your own situation at work and how it fits this example.

That 7-plus hours of unpaid labor time is called surplus labor, and it produced $10,000 in surplus value—surplus for the capitalist, not the worker!

It’s as if you are paying the capitalist more than the capitalist is paying you. You are giving him unpaid labor time.

The entire capitalist society is set up to make this look normal and fair, and the police, courts, and army are set up to enforce capitalists’ ability to exploit labor.

Surplus labor, and the surplus value that it produces, is the source of capitalist profit. Thus the wealth of capitalist societies is based on the robbery of workers through forced, surplus labor.

Here’s a brief look at how exploitation was explained in some of the Marxist classics, which are still the best sources to read for a deeper understanding of this issue and other aspects of the conflict between capitalism and socialism.

In Chapter II of Socialism: Utopian and Scientific, Frederick Engels wrote:
the appropriation of unpaid labor is the basis of the capitalist mode of production and of the exploitation of the worker that occurs under it; that even if the capitalist buys the labour power of his labourer at its full value as a commodity on the market, he yet extracts more value from it than he paid for; and that in the ultimate analysis this surplus value forms those sums of value from which are heaped up the constantly increasing masses of capital in the hands of the possessing classes. Karl Marx’s Capital is the best source for an in-depth, technical explanation of labor exploitation under capitalism.

In Capital, v. 1, chapter 9, Marx used the term “necessary labour-time” to designate the part of day during which workers labor to cover their own wages. He called the rest of the day, “the second period of the labour process,” in which the worker produces:
Surplus-value which, for the capitalist, has all the charms of something created out of nothing. This part of the working day I call surplus labour-time, and to the labour expended during that time I give the name of surplus labour. . . . What distinguishes the various economic formations of society—the distinction between for example a society based on slave-labour and a society based on wage-labour—is the form in which this surplus labour is in each case extorted from the immediate producer, the worker. Outraged by this extortion and want to put an end to it? Sounds like you’re a Marxist.

Western Media Maxim: "Ignorance Is Strength"

By Paul Craig Roberts 

Big Brother Obama, following in the tradition of Big Brothers Bush and Cheney, declared that America and the “entire world” are “appalled and outraged” by Iran’s violent efforts to crush protests organized by US interference in Iran’s election.

The American media’s one-sided and propagandistic coverage of the Iranian election has made an American hero out of the defeated candidate, Mousavi.

This leaves one wondering if anyone anywhere in the US media or US government knows that Mir-Hossein Mousavi, who served as prime minister of the Islamic Republic of Iran from 1981 to 1989, the decade following the overthrow of the American puppet government by Khomeini, has been fingered as the Butcher of Beirut.

He was responsible for the bloody attacks on the US embassy and Marine Corps barracks in Beirut during the Reagan administration that blew to pieces 241 US Marines, sailors, and Army troops.

According to Jeff Stein writing in the June 22, 2009, CQ Politics, Mousavi “personally selected his point man for the Beirut terror campaign, Ali Akbar Mohtashemi-pur,” who presided over the terror cell responsible for the attacks.

The National Security Agency had a tap on the Iranian ambassador to Lebanon, according to Admiral James Lyons who was deputy chief of Naval Operations at the time.

Admiral Lyons told Jeff Stein that “the Iranian ambassador received instructions from the foreign minister to have various groups target US personnel in Lebanon, but in particular to carry out a ‘spectacular action’ against the Marines.”

Stein reports that Lyons “also fingered Mousavi for the 1988 truck bombing of the US Navy’s Fleet Center in Naples, Italy.”

Bob Baer, a CIA Middle East field officer at the time, says that Mousavi “dealt directly with Imad Mughniyah,” the person responsible for both attacks.

All of these facts have gone into the Memory Hole. The US media and government have turned Musavi, the bloody butcher of US servicemen, into the would-be liberator of Iran from theocracy.

Only in America and in George Orwell’s fictional population in his predictive book, 1984, can we find such citizen ignorance.

Every day in America, a.k.a. Oceania, we see the growing power of Big Brother’s three slogans: WAR IS PEACE, FREEDOM IS SLAVERY, IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH.

From ignorance comes the strength to create a hero out of America’s terrorist enemy, Mousavi.

From freedom comes the protection provided by being constantly spied upon, no longer endangered by privacy which might keep Big Brother from discovering a terrorist plot.

This freedom from terrorists morphs into the slavery of being held in indefinite detention without evidence or charges. Habeas corpus has become the opposite of freedom as it prevents our protection from terrorists.

On June 23, Big Brother Obama, following in the tradition of Big Brothers Bush and Cheney, declared that Oceania and the “entire world” are “appalled and outraged” by Iran’s violent efforts to crush protests organized by Oceania’s interference in Iran’s election.

Meanwhile, Oceania continued its wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, crushing people right and left while gearing up to bring peace to Iran. No one is outraged at the violence. War is Peace.

Those who don’t fight wars can’t bring peace. Peace results when Big Brother’s hegemony extends over those regions that do not understand that War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, and Ignorance is Strength.

The face of Big Brother seemed to persist for several seconds on the screen, as though the impact that it had made on everyone’s eyeballs were too vivid to wear off immediately. The little sandy-haired woman had flung herself forward over the back of the chair in front of her. With a tremulous murmur that sounded like ‘My Savior!’ she extended her arms toward the screen.

At this moment the entire group of people broke into a deep, slow, rhythmical chant of ‘Big Brother, Big Brother, Big Brother!’ over and over again, very slowly, with a long pause between the first ‘B’ and the second.

A heavy, murmurous sound, somehow curiously savage, in the background of which one seemed to hear the stamp of naked feet and the throbbing of tom-toms. For perhaps as much as thirty seconds they kept it up.

It was a refrain that was often heard in moments of overwhelming emotion. Partly it was a sort of hymn to the wisdom and Majesty of Big Brother, but still more it was an act of self-hypnosis, a deliberate drowning of consciousness by means of rhythmic noise. [1984]

The drowning of consciousness by means of rhythmic noise sums up well enough the performance of Oceania’s Ministry of Truth.How long do Americans have before doubting Big Brother and the Ministry of Truth is a Thoughtcrime?

“Whether he wrote ‘Down With Big Brother,’ or whether he refrained from writing it, made no difference. The Thought Police would get him just the same. He had committed the essential crime that contained all others in itself. Thoughtcrime, they called it.”

The neoconservatives have set up in America Thoughtcrime watch committees over professors. Academics who depart from or challenge the neocon line are reported and are subjected to vilification campaigns.

Sami Al-Arian, a computer science professor at a Florida University, was destroyed by the US Department of Justice [sic] because he gave the Palestinian side of the story.

The neocon academic spy operation has been given a boost by Dennis C. Blair, director of National Intelligence. Writing in CounterPunch (June 23), David Price reports that Blair has announced plans for a program to train intelligence officers, whose identities and activities would not be known to professors or administrators, to conduct covert missions in university classrooms.

This is as Orwellian is it comes. Thinking independently is rapidly becoming a serious Thoughtcrime. Winston Smith was the only one among Big Brother’s subjects capable of independent thought. His ability to think independently was discovered and terminated.

Already we see that the US media is incapable of independent thought. Independent thought in the universities, where careers are dependent on government grants, is already half dead. Independent thought does not exist in think tanks, which serve the interests of donors. In America independent thought is rapidly becoming an anti-American act, which is itself morphing into a terrorist act.

Newspeak handles effortlessly the morphing and transforming of meaning. New generations born into the new system know no difference and, thus, do not need to be silenced. Once the older generations are brought to heel, truth is whatever Big Brother says.


War on Drugs, or African Americans?

The very white Paris Hilton gets away with it

By Michelle Alexander

Blacks are rounded up en masse for minor, non-violent drug offenses. Four out of five drug arrests are for possession, only one out of five for sales. Most people in state prisons have no history of violence or even of significant selling activity.

Ever since Barack Obama lifted his right hand and took his oath of office, pledging to serve the United States as its 44th president, ordinary people and their leaders around the globe have been celebrating our nation's "triumph over race."

Obama's election has been touted as the final nail in the coffin of Jim Crow, the bookend placed on the history of racial caste in America.

Obama's mere presence in the Oval Office is offered as proof that "the land of the free" has finally made good on its promise of equality.

There's an implicit yet undeniable message embedded in his appearance on the world stage: this is what freedom looks like; this is what democracy can do for you.

If you are poor, marginalized, or relegated to an inferior caste, there is hope for you. Trust us. Trust our rules, laws, customs, and wars. You, too, can get to the promised land.

Perhaps greater lies have been told in the past century, but they can be counted on one hand. Racial caste is alive and well in America.

Most people don't like it when I say this. It makes them angry. In the "era of colorblindness" there's a nearly fanatical desire to cling to the myth that we as a nation have "moved beyond" race. Here are a few facts that run counter to that triumphant racial narrative:

* There are more African Americans under correctional control today -- in prison or jail, on probation or parole -- than were enslaved in 1850, a decade before the Civil War began.

* As of 2004, more African American men were disenfranchised (due to felon disenfranchisement laws) than in 1870, the year the Fifteenth Amendment was ratified, prohibiting laws that explicitly deny the right to vote on the basis of race.

* A black child born today is less likely to be raised by both parents than a black child born during slavery. The recent disintegration of the African American family is due in large part to the mass imprisonment of black fathers.

* If you take into account prisoners, a large majority of African American men in some urban areas have been labeled felons for life. (In the Chicago area, the figure is nearly 80%.)

These men are part of a growing undercaste -- not class, caste -- permanently relegated, by law, to a second-class status.

They can be denied the right to vote, automatically excluded from juries, and legally discriminated against in employment, housing, access to education, and public benefits, much as their grandparents and great-grandparents were during the Jim Crow era.

Excuses for the Lockdown

There is, of course, a colorblind explanation for all this: crime rates. Our prison population has exploded from about 300,000 to more than 2 million in a few short decades, it is said, because of rampant crime.

We're told that the reason so many black and brown men find themselves behind bars and ushered into a permanent, second-class status is because they happen to be the bad guys.

The uncomfortable truth, however, is that crime rates do not explain the sudden and dramatic mass incarceration of African Americans during the past 30 years.

Crime rates have fluctuated over the last few decades -- they are currently at historical lows -- but imprisonment rates have consistently soared. Quintupled, in fact.

And the vast majority of that increase is due to the War on Drugs. Drug offenses alone account for about two-thirds of the increase in the federal inmate population, and more than half of the increase in the state prison population.

The drug war has been brutal -- complete with SWAT teams, tanks, bazookas, grenade launchers, and sweeps of entire neighborhoods -- but those who live in white communities have little clue to the devastation wrought.

This war has been waged almost exclusively in poor communities of color, even though studies consistently show that people of all colors use and sell illegal drugs at remarkably similar rates.

In fact, some studies indicate that white youth are significantly more likely to engage in illegal drug dealing than black youth.

Any notion that drug use among African Americans is more severe or dangerous is belied by the data. White youth, for example, have about three times the number of drug-related visits to the emergency room as their African American counterparts.

That is not what you would guess, though, when entering our nation's prisons and jails, overflowing as they are with black and brown drug offenders. In some states, African Americans comprise 80%-90% of all drug offenders sent to prison.

This is the point at which I am typically interrupted and reminded that black men have higher rates of violent crime.

That's why the drug war is waged in poor communities of color and not middle-class suburbs. Drug warriors are trying to get rid of those drug kingpins and violent offenders who make ghetto communities a living hell. It has nothing to do with race; it's all about violent crime.

Again, not so. President Ronald Reagan officially declared the current drug war in 1982, when drug crime was declining, not rising.

From the outset, the war had little to do with drug crime and nearly everything to do with racial politics.

The drug war was part of a grand and highly successful Republican Party strategy of using racially coded political appeals on issues of crime and welfare to attract poor and working class white voters who were resentful of, and threatened by, desegregation, busing, and affirmative action.

In the words of H.R. Haldeman, President Richard Nixon's White House Chief of Staff: "[T]he whole problem is really the blacks. The key is to devise a system that recognizes this while not appearing to."

A few years after the drug war was announced, crack cocaine hit the streets of inner-city communities. The Reagan administration seized on this development with glee, hiring staff who were to be responsible for publicizing inner-city crack babies, crack mothers, crack whores, and drug-related violence.

The goal was to make inner-city crack abuse and violence a media sensation, bolstering public support for the drug war which, it was hoped, would lead Congress to devote millions of dollars in additional funding to it.

The plan worked like a charm. For more than a decade, black drug dealers and users would be regulars in newspaper stories and would saturate the evening TV news.

Congress and state legislatures nationwide would devote billions of dollars to the drug war and pass harsh mandatory minimum sentences for drug crimes -- sentences longer than murderers receive in many countries.

Democrats began competing with Republicans to prove that they could be even tougher on the dark-skinned pariahs. In President Bill Clinton's boastful words, "I can be nicked a lot, but no one can say I'm soft on crime."

The facts bear him out. Clinton's "tough on crime" policies resulted in the largest increase in federal and state prison inmates of any president in American history. But Clinton was not satisfied with exploding prison populations.

He and the "New Democrats" championed legislation banning drug felons from public housing (no matter how minor the offense) and denying them basic public benefits, including food stamps, for life.

Discrimination in virtually every aspect of political, economic, and social life is now perfectly legal, if you've been labeled a felon.

Facing Facts

But what about all those violent criminals and drug kingpins? Isn't the drug war waged in ghetto communities because that's where the violent offenders can be found? The answer is yes... in made-for-TV movies. In real life, the answer is no.

The drug war has never been focused on rooting out drug kingpins or violent offenders. Federal funding flows to those agencies that increase dramatically the volume of drug arrests, not the agencies most successful in bringing down the bosses.

What gets rewarded in this war is sheer numbers of drug arrests. To make matters worse, federal drug forfeiture laws allow state and local law enforcement agencies to keep for their own use 80% of the cash, cars, and homes seized from drug suspects, thus granting law enforcement a direct monetary interest in the profitability of the drug market.

The results have been predictable: people of color rounded up en masse for relatively minor, non-violent drug offenses.

In 2005, four out of five drug arrests were for possession, only one out of five for sales. Most people in state prison have no history of violence or even of significant selling activity.

In fact, during the 1990s -- the period of the most dramatic expansion of the drug war -- nearly 80% of the increase in drug arrests was for marijuana possession, a drug generally considered less harmful than alcohol or tobacco and at least as prevalent in middle-class white communities as in the inner city.

In this way, a new racial undercaste has been created in an astonishingly short period of time -- a new Jim Crow system.

Millions of people of color are now saddled with criminal records and legally denied the very rights that their parents and grandparents fought for and, in some cases, died for.

Affirmative action, though, has put a happy face on this racial reality. Seeing black people graduate from Harvard and Yale and become CEOs or corporate lawyers -- not to mention president of the United States -- causes us all to marvel at what a long way we've come.

Recent data shows, though, that much of black progress is a myth. In many respects, African Americans are doing no better than they were when Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated and uprisings swept inner cities across America.

Nearly a quarter of African Americans live below the poverty line today, approximately the same percentage as in 1968.

The black child poverty rate is actually higher now than it was then. Unemployment rates in black communities rival those in Third World countries. And that's with affirmative action!

When we pull back the curtain and take a look at what our "colorblind" society creates without affirmative action, we see a familiar social, political, and economic structure -- the structure of racial caste. The entrance into this new caste system can be found at the prison gate.

This is not Martin Luther King, Jr.'s dream. This is not the promised land. The cyclical rebirth of caste in America is a recurring racial nightmare.

Conservative Guys Place Rediculous Standards on Women's Bodies

 Hey guys, if you're straight, women are going to turn you on...get over it.

By Lisa

Robin E. sent us to a downright fascinating set of survey results. Administered by a Christian website, the survey questions were submitted by "Christian girls" who wanted to know what "Christian guys" think is modest.
1,600 guys then answered the survey, offering both quantitative and qualitative answers. Why would girls care what guys, as opposed to God, think? Because Christian guys, their future husbands, are judging them on their modesty. Ninety-five percent of them say that modesty is an important quality in their future wife (see the question in the upper left corner):

So, how do these "guys" define immodesty? The most common theme was dressing to draw attention to the body instead of the heart or spirit.
Something that is immodest is something that is designed to arouse lust within me (male, age 24).
Something that is immodest is something that is unnaturally revealing (male, age 20).
Something immodest draws attention to a girl's body (male, age 28).
Many of the guys stressed that they really wanted to interact with girls as people. Borrowing language from feminism, they expressed a desire to think of a girl as a whole person, not just a hot body.
Something attractive draws you toward them. It makes you respect the person. Something immodest is usually unattractive. It makes you think less of that person, thinking of them as an object… (male, age 16).
My responsibility is to not treat women as objects for my satisfaction, even if they dress and act like it. It devalues them, and makes me a user of people… (male, age 26).
In a move that is in contrast to (most) feminist values, however, girls are supposed to help men treat them like people by not dressing like an object. That is, by not dressing immodestly.
So what rules for girls did guys identify?
Well, first, guys largely agreed that revealing clothes were immodest (again, see the question in the upper left corner):

Halter tops and mini skirts, I suppose, are obvious candidates for immodesty. There were lots more subtle rules, too, though with less agreement.
Forty-four percent of guys think that designs on the back pockets of jeans are immodest (19% aren't sure):

A minority, 19 percent, think that shirts with pockets are immodest (25% aren't sure):

Forty-eight percent think that purses should not be worn across the body (19% aren't sure):

Thirty-nine percent oppose tights with designs (25% aren't sure):

Forty-seven think that t-shirts with messages across the front improperly draw attention to breasts:
Christian Guys on Immodesty, Lust, and the Violence of Women’s Bodies
But being modest wasn't simply a matter of clothes. Guys defined immodesty, also, as an "attitude" or a "carelessness." Attaining modesty was also about how you use your body and the way you act, "sexually or otherwise."
An immodest lady is loud, proud, and dresses in a way that communicates such an attitude (male, age 24).
Something becomes immodest when the person wearing it has an attitude of carelessness (male, age 17).
As one guy said:
If you are dressing to get attention from a guy, then anything you wear can be immodest (male, age 13; my emphasis).
Some examples of behavior the guys mostly agreed was immodest:
Christian Guys on Immodesty, Lust, and the Violence of Women’s Bodies
Christian Guys on Immodesty, Lust, and the Violence of Women’s Bodies
Christian Guys on Immodesty, Lust, and the Violence of Women’s Bodies
Christian Guys on Immodesty, Lust, and the Violence of Women’s Bodies
Immodesty, then, is not simply about being vigilant about your clothing (don't wear a purse that falls diagonally across your body, don't show your arms or your thighs), it's a constant vigilance about how you display your body (don't stretch, bend, or bounce). "Clothing plays a part in modesty, but it is only a part," an 18 year old male explains, "Any item of clothing can be immodest" (his emphasis).
In addition, these rules are potentially changing all the time. A "technically modest" outfit, such as a school uniform, can suddenly have immodest connotations (so watch MTV, girls, to stay on top of these shifting meanings):
Christian Guys on Immodesty, Lust, and the Violence of Women’s Bodies
This is a great deal of self-monitoring for girls. Not just when they shop, but when they get dressed, and all day as they move, and with constant re-evaluation of their clothes and how they fit. But, the rationale is, they must be vigilant and obey these rules in order to protect guys from the power of all bodies (both their own sexiness, and men's biological response to it). Guys are burdened with lust, they insist.
A lot of the guys in this survey talked about temptation. In some cases, the men would use very powerful words, such as this guy defining immodest:
Immodest: Screams that her body is different than mine. Attempts to manipulate me. Forcefully offers to trade what I want (in the flesh) for what she wants: attention (male, age 30).
This language - suggesting that women's bodies "scream" at him, attempt to control him, and "forcefully" tempt him - is reminiscent of Tim Beneke's interviews with men about sexual violence in Men on Rape. Michael Kimmel (summarizing Beneke in Guyland) discusses how lots of the terms used to describe a beautiful, sexy woman are metaphors for danger and violence: "ravishing," "stunning," bombshell," "knockout," "dressed to kill," and "femme fatale." "Women's beauty," Kimmel surmises, "is perceived as violence to men" (p. 229).
This is very much like the rationale for the burqa. Women's bodies incite men's sexual desires, sometimes to violence; they must be kept hidden.
These Christian guys, however, did claim responsibility for their own thoughts, feelings, and actions. When asked about their role in avoiding lust, many were adamant that it was their own responsibility. Many felt that innocent, shameless, platonic interaction between men and women was a team effort:
Sisters in Christ, you really have no concept of the struggles that guys face on a daily basis. Please, please, please take a higher standard in the ways you dress. True, we men are responsible for our thoughts and actions before the Lord, but it is such a blessing when we know that we can spend time with our sisters in Christ, enjoying their fellowship without having to constantly be on guard against ungodly thoughts brought about by the inappropriate ways they sometimes dress. In 1 Corinthians 12 the apostle Paul presents believers as the members of one body – we have to work together. Every Christian has a special role to play in the body of Christ. That goal is to bring glory to the Savior through an obedient, unified body of believers – please don't hurt that unity by dressing in ways that may tempt your brothers in Christ to stumble (male, age 24).
The asymmetry of this project, however, is striking. The lust is men's; the bodies are women's. It's an asymmetry built right into the survey design. Modesty is something pertains to only girls and immodesty is something that guys get to define. This may be even more pernicious than women's constant self-monitoring. It erases women's own desires and the sex appeal of men's bodies, leading women to spend all of their time thinking about what men want. By the time they do have sex, and most of them will, they may be so alienated from their own sexual feelings that they won't even be able to recognize them.

Palestinian Refugees Speak

Occupation 101 - Voices of the Silenced Majority (Documentary) (2007)

They Believe in Greed

  By Chris Floyd
This is the system, the creed, the extremist faith that "serious" players in all the "major" power factions on both sides of the Atlantic adhere to.
Their ideology is capitalism. Their god is greed. Both demand human sacrifices. So the poor must go to the wall. And to keep the system going, more and more people must be made poor.
First those in the "outer darkness" of faraway lands, then finally those in the sacred "Homelands" themselves. We have been watching the latter process play out slowly in the past few decades -- but it is accelerating now at dizzying speed.

News from the UK the disparity in death rates between the well-off and the poor in the UK is now greater than at any time since 1921.

The London Review of Books points to a new study by the British Medical Journal that shows that by 2997, "for every 100 people under the age of 65 dying in the best-off areas, 199 were dying in the poorest tenth of areas."

The Journal study said that the data suggest "it was only prolonged and enthusiastic state intervention" that kept the disparity from being greater.

On the other hand, the elite-coddling market jihadism of the Clintonian-Obamaish "New Labour" government helped stretch the yawning gap even further.

The few spare pence that the war criminals of the Labour government threw at the poor kept them from dying quite as fast as they would have done otherwise under the system of voracious corporate rapine that Labour entrenched and expanded after inheriting it from the Thatcherite Tories in 1997.

Now, even those few pence are being stripped away -- gleefully -- by what many say is the most extremist government Britain has ever seen, outstripping even Margaret Thatcher in the scope of its draconian cuts and the fervor of its market fundamentalism.

The savage cutbacks and vast, churning upheavals being pushed through, at breakneck speed, by the new Conservative government (and its truly pathetic coalition "partner," the lapdog Liberal Democrats) will send millions of people tumbling down into a permanent underclass.

Finally, after 60 years of trying, the Lib-Cons will gut the national health service with a stealth "Americanization" that will turn the operation of local doctors' offices over to private firms (many of them from the US) and privatize public hospitals.

They will be allowed them to "fail" if they don't produce enough cash for their elite shareholders.

Meanwhile, the schools are now in the hands of the arch-neocon Michael Gove. He's plotting with revisionist historian Niall Ferguson to impose a pro-Empire, pro-elite "national greatness" ideology on the young.

Gove is also using "emergency" legislative procedures to strip public schools away from the oversight of democratically elected local government and put them into the hands of unaccountable corporations, religious groups and wealthy elites.

This Revolution of the Rich is being justified by a carefully crafted, constantly stoked panic about budget deficits, pointing to the example of the perpetually weak government and economy of Greece as a horror story to be avoided at all costs.

Yet even if the Greek situation was as dire as the fear-mongers make out, the fact remains that the cuts which the Tory-LapDog coalition is making in the much stronger, much more stable UK are actually far in excess than those being imposed upon Greece.

As with the fear-mongering about "Iraqi WMDs," the "dangers of the deficit" are being exaggerated -- and manufactured -- in order to put into place a pre-existing (and transatlantic) ideological agenda: a neo-feudal oligarchy.

But in almost all of these measures, the Tory-LapDog government is only entrenching and expanding the "market-led reforms" imposed by New Labour. And "New Labour" was of course a close copy of the "New Democrats" of Bill Clinton and his clique of "triangulating" bagmen for Big Money.

Clinton, in turn, wasscarcely distinguishable from the Reagan-Bush faction that preceded them, and then succeeded them in the Bush dynasty's second turn in the White House.

And we all know that "continuity" is the byword of the Obama administration, which is chock-a-block with holdovers not only from strangulating triangulators of the Clinton era but also the imperial militarists from the two Bush reigns.

Thus for more than 30 years, the world-dominating Anglo-American alliance has been under the sway of factions which, for all their internal squabbling and hair-splitting, are strongly united in their steadfast, unshakable adherence to the perpetuation -- and expansion -- of elite power and privilege.

They have shown themselves willing and eager to degrade their own societies (and destroy many others) in the service of this brutal, barbaric, inhuman faith.

The poor have no place in this system, which is a retrograde, hi-tech, rhetorically sugarcoated revival of the laissez-faire fantasies of the past, as Jeremy Seabrook notes:
'Pauperism' long ago took on the colour of culpability. The distinction between the idle and improvident poor and the "deserving" goes back at least to the Elizabethan poor law. It took on a new force in the early industrial era, which saw an unprecedented growth in pauperism. The enthusiasts of laissez-faire capitalism concluded that the evil was compounded by efforts to relieve it, and helping the poor only increased their number.
Everything indicated that 'natural' processes should be allowed to take their course. In this version of the world, the market mechanism is as flawless a creation as the earth. It should remain untouched by the hand of meddlers, whose only effect is to upset its power to enrich us all.
It is remarkable that the establishment of laissez-faire itself in the early 19th century required an enormous amount of government intervention and regulation."
And so it is today. The "regulation" of the health care industry introduced by the Obama Administration is actually a gargantuan transfer of wealth, by force, from working people and the poor to a few huge corporations.

The financial "regulation" signed into law is yet another sham that will leave the rapacious fools and fraudsters who brought down the global economy -- and triggered the convenient "deficit crisis" by demanding massive bailouts of public money for their private businesses -- at large and in charge of the world's finances.

Meanwhile, more and more government regulations restrict the right of ordinary citizens to challenge the rich and powerful in court, or to register a public protest (herding them instead into the truly hideous "free speech zones").

Meanwhile, the state grants corporations extraordinary privileges to interfere with the political process with their vast resources and protects their leaders from personal accountability for the ravages they commit.

The government "intervention and regulation" on behalf of the industries and elites who service the endlessly expanding symbiosis of corporate, military and 'security' power -- stretching even to the countenancing and cover-up of torture and murder -- is one of the defining elements of our age.

As Glenn Ford writes,Obama is preparing to "regulate" the last tattered fragments of the social welfare system -- already decimated by the progressive's favorite good old boy, Bill Clinton -- right out of existence:
In April of this year, Obama once again reminded everyone that everything is and has always been 'on the table', as far as he's concerned, including Social Security. His so-called 'deficit commission' is stacked with rich sociopaths sharpening their knives to carve up, sell off or otherwise doom Social Security. It is a battle that safety net defenders thought they had won against George Bush.
Obama has picked up Bush's marbles and put them back into play. He is the right wing's most potent weapon, the one before which liberal Democrats throw up their hands in surrender without the dignity of a fight.
Obama, working in plain sight over the past 18 months, has constructed and rigged a deficit commission to render a kind of death sentence to the foundational program of Roosevelt's New Deal.
This is the system -- the creed, the extremist faith -- that all "serious" players in all the "major" power factions on both sides of the Atlantic adhere to.

Their god of greed demands human sacrifices: and so the poor must die. And to keep the system going, more and more people must be made poor.

First those in the "outer darkness" of faraway lands, then finally those in the sacred "Homelands" themselves. We have been watching the latter process play out slowly in the past few decades -- but it is accelerating now at dizzying speed.


American Oligarchy

By Bernie Sanders
Not everybody is hurting. While the working class suffer, the wealthiest people are not only doing extremely well, they are using their wealth and political power to protect and expand their very privileged status at the expense of everyone else.

The American people are hurting. As a result of the greed, recklessness and illegal behavior on Wall Street, millions of Americans have lost their jobs, homes, life savings and their ability to get a higher education. Today, some 22 percent of our children live in poverty, and millions more have become dependent on food stamps for their food.

While the Great Wall Street Recession has devastated the working class, the truth is that they have been experiencing a decline for decades. During the Bush years alone, from 2000-2008, median family income dropped by nearly $2,200 and millions lost their health insurance.

Today, because of stagnating wages and higher costs for basic necessities, the average two-wage-earner family has less disposable income than a one-wage-earner family did a generation ago.

The average American today is underpaid, overworked and stressed out as to what the future will bring for his or her children. For many, the American dream has become a nightmare.

Not everybody is hurting. While the working class suffer, the wealthiest people are not only doing extremely well, they are using their wealth and political power to protect and expand their very privileged status at the expense of everyone else.

America has become an oligarchy in which a handful of wealthy and powerful families rule its institutions.

This upper-crust of extremely wealthy families are hell-bent on destroying the democratic vision of a strong working class.

In its place they are determined to create an oligarchy in which a small number of families control the economic and political life of our country.

The 400 richest families in America, who saw their wealth increase by some $400 billion during the Bush years, have now accumulated $1.27 trillion in wealth. Four hundred families!

During the last 15 years, while these enormously rich people became much richer their effective tax rates were slashed almost in half.

While the highest paid 400 Americans had an average income of $345 million in 2007, as a result of Bush tax policy they now pay an effective tax rate of 16.6 percent, the lowest on record.

Last year, the top 25 hedge fund managers made a combined $25 billion but because of tax policy their lobbyists helped write, they pay a lower effective tax rate than many teachers, nurses, and police officers.

As a result of tax havens in the Cayman Islands, Bermuda and elsewhere, the wealthy and large corporations are evading some $100 billion a year in U.S. taxes. Warren Buffett, one of the richest people on earth, has often commented that he pays a lower effective tax rate than his secretary.

But it's not just wealthy individuals who grotesquely manipulate the system for their benefit. It's the multi-national corporations they own and control.

In 2009, Exxon Mobil, the most profitable corporation in history made $19 billion in profits and not only paid no federal income tax -- they actually received a $156 million refund from the government.

In 2005, one out of every four large corporations in the United States paid no federal income taxes while earning $1.1 trillion in revenue.

But, perhaps the most outrageous tax break given to multi-millionaires and billionaires happened this January when the estate tax, established in 1916, was repealed for one year as a result of President Bush's 2001 tax legislation. This tax applies only to the wealthiest three-tenths of 1 percent of our population.

The wealthy are are happy with huge tax breaks on their income and massive corporate tax loopholes.

They like trade laws enabling them to outsource the jobs of millions of American workers to low-wage countries and not content with tax havens around the world.

Now the final straw. The ruling elite and their lobbyists are working feverishly to either eliminate the estate tax or substantially lower it.

If they are successful at wiping out the estate tax, as they came close to doing in 2006 with every Republican but two voting to do, it would increase the national debt by over $1 trillion during a 10-year period.

At a time when we already have a $13 trillion debt, enormous unmet needs and the highest level of wealth inequality in the industrialized world, it is simply obscene to provide more tax breaks to multi-millionaires and billionaires.

That is why I have introduced the Responsible Estate Tax Act. This legislation would raise $318 billion over the next decade by establishing a graduated inheritance tax on estates over $3.5 million retroactive to this year.

This bill ensures that the wealthiest 0.3 percent of Americans pays their fair share of estate taxes, while making sure that 99.7 percent of Americans never have to pay a dime when they lose a loved one.

It also makes certain that the overwhelming majority of family farmers and small businesses never have to pay an estate tax.

This legislation must be passed because, with a $13 trillion national debt and huge unmet needs, we cannot afford more tax breaks for millionaire and billionaire families.

Soft Left Sides With Wallstreet Rich

By blackandred

Liberals support fiscal austerity during the recession because they no longer care about economic performance, much less the interests of workers and the poor, but instead identify their interests with those of Wall Street and the upper middle class.

At the recently concluded G-20 meetings in Toronto, Canada the leaders of the major economies issued a communiqué pledging to cut their budget deficits in half over the next three years.

Instead of draconian fiscal austerity, what is needed is a massive, globally coordinated, fiscal stimulus to pull the economy out of the worst global recession in over eighty years.

In Greece, when PASOK was in opposition it called for pro-growth policies favoring middle income sectors. Now, as Prime Minister, Papandreou is presiding over policies even more draconian than those of the previous right wing government he and PASOK criticized. How does one explain this madness?

One possibility is that many in the economics profession have contracted amnesia and forgotten the most important economics lesson learned during the twentieth century.

Governments must spend more when the economy is depressed and save only after the economy has recovered -- and that center left, along with right wing politicians, have now made the mistake of embracing the advice from misguided establishment economists to do just the opposite.

Two Nobel Prize winning economists, Joseph Stiglitz and Paul Krugman, who have not forgotten Keynes’ lesson believe this is exactly what has happened, and there is evidence to support their hypothesis.

Keynes was only able to successfully challenge the wisdom of traditional, balanced budget orthodoxy which requires governments to cut spending when recessions reduce their tax revenues with a powerful assist from practical experience during the Great Depression.

Even when conservative economists like Milton Friedman and right wing politicians like Richard Nixon were quoted saying “We are all Keynesians now” during the late 1960s and early 1970s, many economists and politicians remained uncomfortable with Keynesianism and were already hard at work organizing an economics counter revolution.

Over the ensuing decades establishment economists labored mightily to write Keynes out of their macroeconomic theories, models, and text books, and conservative politicians happily reverted to their pre-Keynesian, balanced budget orthodoxy.

These conservative politicians and their advisers focused on balanced-budgets and zero inflation in order to accomplish their real agenda -- decreasing the bargaining power of working people.

There was never any great mystery about why right wing political parties pushed an agenda designed to increase unemployment rates, weaken unions, and raise the cost to workers of being unemployed by cutting the social wage.

But now center left political parties are embracing the same economic policies and consorting with anti-Keynesian macro-economists, leaving the likes of Krugman and Stiglitz to wring their hands on the sidelines.

Is this simply an intellectual mistake on their part? What if we drop the assumption that the purpose of today’s economic policies is to rescue us from the Great Recession

We should put in its place the hypothesis that center left political parties are now aimed at benefiting higher income groups rather than promoting the interests of their former political constituencies.

After all, for decades prior to the financial crisis of 2008 and the onset of the Great Recession neo-liberal economic policies were championed by center left as well as right wing governments.

Not only Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, but Tony Blair and Bill Clinton also claimed that neo-liberal policies would improve economic performance by removing unnecessary and counterproductive shackles on corporate creativity.

Privatization, deregulation, tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy, capital liberalization, and trade liberalization did not increase global growth rates or reduce poverty as advertised.

But these policies did greatly enhance corporate power, disempower workers, consumers, and citizens, and produce the greatest redistribution of income and wealth from poor to rich the world has ever seen.

It is now apparent that these neo-liberal policies which laid the groundwork for the present crisis were never about improving economic performance, but merely about redistributing power, income, and wealth.

So why should we now believe that the same center left political parties, following the advice of the same economic advisors, actually believe, or care if lavishing generous bailouts on banks without conditions while imposing fiscal austerity on workers and ordinary citizens will pull the global economy out of recession?

There is a more simple explanation for the behavior of today’s center left politicians, which is becoming more credible by the day.

Fiscal austerity and stalling financial reform in response to the worst financial crisis and deepest recession in eighty years is not about improving economic performance as its proponents claim.

These policies are simply about continuing to shift income and wealth from the poor to the rich, and from the manufacturing sector to finance, insurance, and real estate (known as FIRE) which have become increasingly ascendant in the US and Europe -- despite the fact that these policies will worsen the economic slump and make another financial crisis likely.

The claim that fiscal austerity during recession is “good economics” when it is actually “bad economics” is merely a “cover story” for public consumption.

As for why center left political parties and politicians now support this disastrous policy, the simple answer is these parties no longer care about economic performance.

They care much less about the interests of workers and the poor, but instead identify their interests with those of Wall Street and the upper middle class who appear to be the focus group for the Obama Administration and Nancy Pelosi.

Democratic Party politicians used to promise to press for policies to help workers, minorities, and the poor. They usually failed to do so, but that was their campaign rhetoric nonetheless.

But for many election cycles in the United States Democratic Party candidates have been promising instead to champion the interests of what they call middle-class Americans.

If center left politicians no longer make a secret of pretending they are concerned about unemployed workers and the poor, why should we be surprised when they adopt policies detrimental to their interests?

Voters in the UK already sent Gordon Brown and the Labor Party packing. Will other center left politicians and their parties -- Zapatero and the Socialist Party in Spain, Papandreou and PASOK in Greece, and Obama and the Democrats in the US -- who agree to impose fiscal austerity also be punished at the polls by voters who know we did not create the crisis and are furious at governments who subject us to counterproductive austerity?

When center left politicians echo false hopes that the economy is recovering promoted by right wing think tanks and the corporate owned media who shout “green shoots” whenever the prices of bank stocks or an index of consumer confidence stabilize momentarily.

They do this while unemployment and home foreclosure rates hold steady or worsen. One can only hope they badly miscalculate their own political self-interest.

But it is apparent that more and more center left politicians are quite willing to gamble that they can bamboozle a guileless public into thinking that fiscal austerity is necessary and wise and avoid voters’ wrath.

It is also increasingly apparent that center left political parties are more afraid of angering Wall Street and upper middle class funders by opposing policies that continue to redistribute income and wealth their way than they are of angering ordinary people who have traditionally voted center left because the right wing alternative is even worse.

However, people know when either they or some relative or friend has lost their job or home. And they will eventually turn on those who persist in telling them that the economy is recovering when they know it is not.

The question is where voters will turn when they abandon traditional center left parties who have abandoned them.

What is needed are social movements and new political parties who answer to and are led by those whose interests are being trampled on, who fight for policies which actually do generate high employment and greater economic equality, and who say no to counterproductive fiscal austerity, trickle down economic nonsense, and corporate sponsored globalization.

We need to build movements and parties which will take power back from multinational corporations and Wall Street, and launch the kind of Green New Deal needed to address the economic and ecological crises which otherwise will continue to worsen by the day.

Wiki Leaks is Old News

By Chris Floyd
These leaked "bombshells" will simply bounce off the hardened shell of American exceptionalism, which easily ustifies the slaughter of civilians, "targeted killings", "indefinite detention" and any number of other atrocities.

The much ballyhooed dump of intelligence and diplomatic files concerning the Afghan War has been trumpeted as some kind of shocking expose, "painting a different picture" than the official version of events -- revelations that are sure to rock the Anglo-American political establishments to their foundations.

The New York Times, The Guardian and Der Spiegel were given 92,000 reports by Wikileaks, including thousands of pages of raw "human intelligence."

That is, uncorroborated claims and gossip from interested parties and anonymous sources pushing a multitude of agendas.

They diplomatic notes passed between the promulgators of the occupation in Washington and their factotums "in country" -- reports which you might imagine also purvey a multitude of agendas ... not least the supreme agenda of all officials involved in a dubious enterprise: ass-covering.

Yet these reports are being treated as if they are the "grim truth" behind the shining picture of official propaganda. But what do these stories in the NYT and Guardian actually "reveal"? Let's see:

* That the occupation forces kill lots of civilians at checkpoints and botched raids, then lie about it afterward.

* That these killings make Afghans angry and fuel the insurgency.

* That elements of Pakistani intelligence are involved with some elements of the many resistance groups known collectively (and incorrectly) in the West as the Taliban.

* That the Americans are using more and more robot drones to kill people.

* That the Americans are running death squads in Afghanistan aimed at Taliban leaders.

* That Afghan officials are corrupt, and that Afghan police and military forces are woefully inadequate.

Is there anything in these breathless new recitations that we did not already know? How does this alter the prevailing conventional wisdom about the war?

It doesn't, of course. These leaked "bombshells" will simply bounce off the hardened shell of American exceptionalism, which easily justifies the slaughter of civilians, "targeted killings", "indefinite detention" and any number of other atrocities. In fact, I predict the chief "takeaway" from the story will be this:

American forces are doing their best to help the poor Afghans, but the ungrateful natives are too weak and corrupt to be trusted, while America's good intentions are also being thwarted by evil outsiders.

Getting this message out via "critical" stories in "liberal" publications is much more effective than dishing up another serving of patriotic hokum on Fox News or at a presidential press conference.

In fact, it is so much more effective that one almost begins to wonder about the ultimate provenance of the leaks. Did some deep-delving gamester allow these files to get out? Most likely not; but their ultimate effect does provoke the age-old question, cui bono?

The assumption is that these 92,000 files about the Afghan war were obtained by an American private serving in Iraq, the unfortunate Bradley Manning, who is now under arrest for the "crime" of leaking something far more disturbing than any written document. That was a video showing the slaughter of Iraqi civilians by American Apache helicopters in 2007 [see above].

Washington knows that a couple of moving pictures on the tee-vee have a far greater potential to disturb the moral sleep of the American people than tens of thousands of newspaper reports -- or leaked documents -- detailing similar killings.

That said, in the end the Apache video has had zero effect on public perceptions of the Iraq War, which most people believe is "over," or on public support for the murderous machinations of the Terror War in general, which most people believe needs to continue in one form or another, to "keep us safe."

The only kind of grim truth attended to by anyone in America these days is that which can be shown in moving pictures. (Although the number of people who are upset even by that seems to be rapidly diminishing. That's why Manning had to be put away.

I don't question the bravery or sincerity of Manning or of Julian Assanage in bringing the latest material to light. And I suppose on balance it is better to have it than not to have it.

But I still question the usefulness of rolling out mountains of raw "human intelligence".

It's precisely the same kind of unfiltered junk that was "stovepiped" to build the false case for the mass-murdering invasion of Iraq -- about Iran, al Qaeda, Pakistan; even North Korea gets into the mix.

None of this can be checked -- but all of it will be extremely useful to those who want to build cases for more and more military action, death squads and covert actions around the world.

And it seems very odd that intelligence reports and bureaucratic memos by forces carrying out a prolonged, brutal military occupation of another country are now being treated by "liberal" media outlets as holy writ.

It claims to paint a "true" picture of the war -- a picture that omits any reference to American war-related corruption, for instance, not only in Afghanistan but more especially in Washington, or to America's wider "Great Game" machinations in Central Asia, involving pipelines, strategic bases and "containing China," etc.

Nothing will come of this document dump. It won't lead to the prosecution of even one single person for a war-related crime, or to a genuine debate over the morality of the war in the political and media establishments. There won't be a rise in public opposition to the Terror War project.

If any of that happened I would rejoice, and embrace the flashy packages of the NYT, Guardian and Der Spiegel at their own self-inflated valuation.

I believe the net effect will be simply to entrench the conventional wisdom about the war in the halls of power and in the echo chambers of opinion on both sides of the Atlantic.

We have already seen far too many atrocities, brutalities and acts of criminal folly countenanced, when they are not actually praised, far too many times -- over and over and over again -- in the course of the last decade to believe that these disgorgings of junk intelligence and apparatchik memos will make any difference.

Any difference for the better, that is. For I believe they will supply plenty of ammunition to those bent on further murder and plunder.

Pro-life Socialim

By Jessica R. Dreistadt

The Socialist Party, like many left-wing political parties in the United States, supports a woman’s choice to have an abortion. The party’s analysis of this issue is grounded in solid Marxist theory and represents the consensus of party members.

However, some Socialists and other progressives disagree with this predominant position; we also base our beliefs on leftist ideology and a desire to promote and create a socialist society.

Unfortunately, the perspective of pro- life Socialists is sometimes met with ridicule and contempt. The purpose of this essay is to dismantle the dominance and dogma of some pro-choice Socialists and to encourage discussion and diversity within our movement.

This essay represents only the opinion of its author and is not meant to characterize the beliefs of all pro-life Socialists. The information presented here is offered in the spirit of a friendly reminder to all comrades that we should accept and love one another despite our differences of opinion.

A radical view and call to action

As a Socialist woman, I stand in solidarity with all who are oppressed including people who are poor, people of color, people with disabilities, and the unborn.

Women and children are relegated to an inferior social status throughout the world. Capitalist societies, in particular, determine the worth of women and children based on their contribution or relation to economic production and growth. However, the worth of women and children cannot be measured by any man. Women and children are intrinsically valuable and deserve every opportunity and privilege available to men and women of means.

Abortion reinforces this imposed inequality. Pregnant women who do not have adequate social and economic support become alienated in our capitalist society. As Socialists, we must support all women in need by addressing the root causes of gender and economic inequality.

Women often choose to have abortions because they feel stuck in an undesirable situation. We must work to change the conditions that lead women to have abortions rather than encouraging the women themselves to change and adapt to their situations.

The pro-choice worldview reduces women and children to material objects whose value in the home and society is based, in large part, on male desire and convenience. When a woman chooses to end a life because of lack of male support, she and her child are victim to the patriarchy. Men who support a woman’s right to choose are also taking advantage of their ability to use women’s bodies and abuse their relationships.

A woman who has an abortion materializes and assumes ownership of her child to justify her right to end his or her life. Mainstream feminists, now free from male domination in many ways, put our children in an inferior social position - similar to the one women once held.

When a woman chooses to have an abortion, she is subjugating the needs of her child and society to her own individual desires while supporting the opportunistic, money-driven abortion industry. These are the hallmarks of a capitalist society.

Abortion negates women’s ability to create life, reducing the societal value of our unique physical abilities because they are considered ‘inferior’ to the physical capabilities of men. Manipulating nature and its resources is detrimental to environmental harmony and disrespectful to the essence of womanhood. Abortion disrupts the natural flow and process of life and rejuvenation.

Many Socialists are pacifists and as such we condemn unnecessary violence. The taking of a life or the possibility of human life, especially when it involves pain, dismembering, and mutilation of a baby and emotional turmoil of a mother, cannot be reconciled with a belief in nonviolence. Being pro-choice and pacifist are incompatible positions.

Abortion is sometimes defended because the fetus is of a different age, appearance, and physical capacity than a ‘normal’ human being outside the womb. When the value of human life, and its right to continue living, is based on these subjective qualities, the floodgates to discrimination and domination are opened.

Abortion is always a compromise. Women and children deserve, and must demand, real choices that unconditionally meet our needs.


The abortion controversy will only be resolved through the elimination of all forms of violence, sexism, discrimination, income inequality, abstinence-only programs, and corporate controlled healthcare (and everything else) along with support for safe homes and communities, equitable resource distribution,
respect and opportunities for all, adequate childcare, comprehensive sex education programs, and easy access to birth control. A socialist society is the only solution.