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Glenn Beck “Rodeo Clown” Holds Rally To Reclaim Civil Rights Movement

By Bill Van Auken

The Washington rally organized by right-wing Fox News TV personality Glenn Beck on Saturday offered a twisted mix of religion, potted history and the glorification of the military under the banner of “restoring honor” to the USA.

Crowd estimates for the rally varied wildly. Beck and his supporters claimed over half a million. Most media outlets put the figure at “tens of thousands” or approximately 100,000. CBS News provided a more precise figure, relying on a company that performed analysis of aerial photographs to produce a figure of 87,000.

Whatever the real number, this amorphous event received immense promotion and coverage, not only by Beck’s own employer, Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News, but by every section of the media. This treatment stood in stark contrast to the media’s virtual blackout of far larger demonstrations held in recent years against the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Beck, who has described himself as a “rodeo clown” and entertainer, while using his television and radio programs to promote right-wing conspiracy theories, reinvented himself for Saturday’s appearance at the Lincoln Memorial. He came before the crowd as the nation’s preacher-in-chief, promoting a gospel of Mammon, Americanism and militarism that reflects the very direct interests of the powerful financial figures who have turned the former drug addict into a multi-millionaire.

The word “Obama” did not cross Beck’s lips. Instead, he advanced the themes of “Faith, Hope and Charity.”

Perhaps the most outrageous pretense of the event was that it somehow had “reclaimed the civil rights movement,” by presenting the idiotic and reactionary rant of Beck on the same site and 47 years to the day that Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his “I have a dream” speech.

Beck and his fellow right-winger, former Alaska governor and Republican candidate for vice president in 2008, Sarah Palin, repeatedly invoked King’s legacy, while giant jumbotrons carried King’s image and snippets of the words he spoke in August 1963.

In the months leading up the event, Beck used his radio and television broadcasts to suggest that the American right was somehow the legitimate heir of the civil rights movement of the 1960s, insinuating that it had arisen to counter similar adversities and oppression. One might suspect from such cynical rhetoric that supporters of the “Tea Party” and Beck’s viewers were being lynched, beaten, jailed and assassinated in various parts of the country.

The association of King with a rally glorifying militarism was perhaps the greatest obscenity. “What is it that America still believes in?” Beck asked in his opening remarks. “Our military.”

A year before his assassination, King denounced the Vietnam war, accusing Washington, in terms that are fully applicable to the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, of fighting “on the side of the wealthy and the secure while we create hell for the poor.”

While Beck hailed King and the civil rights movement Saturday as “people of faith” who merely believed that “everybody deserves a shot,” earlier this year he used one of his broadcasts to denounce King as a “radical socialist” and question why a national holiday had been proclaimed in his honor.

The day after the rally, Beck dismissed the demands raised at the 1963 march on Washington for jobs and decent housing as “racial politics” and said that the civil rights movement’s economic agenda was “a part of it that I don't agree with.”

In crafting his speech, Beck and his handlers appeared to be guided by the famous axiom of P.T. Barnum that “nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American people.” It was a rambling invocation of God and country that included a full-length recitation of the Gettysburg Address, selective quotations from the Declaration of Independence, the invocation of every hackneyed cliché of Americana and liberal doses of both the New and Old Testaments.

Palin had even less to say, presenting herself as the mother of a “combat vet” and leading the crowd in the chant of “USA, USA, USA.”

While right-wing populist movements in America have a long history of wrapping themselves in the flag and the bible, they have also tended to advance definite economic and social policies that at least invoked the interests of the common man. Those influenced by the Christian revivalism of the 1870s and 1880s railed against monopolies and Mammon. Father Charles Coughlin in the 1930s denounced capitalism and mixed a poisonous brew of anti-Semitism with calls for inflationary monetary policies, a guaranteed annual wage and limited nationalizations.

The fascist huckster Gerald L. K. Smith would have no doubt appreciated Beck’s performance. “Religion and patriotism, keep going on that,” he confided in the 1930s. “It’s the only way you can get them really ‘het up.’” But he put forward demands that included limits on the income of the rich and universal old-age pensions.

In his speech Saturday, Beck offered precisely nothing in terms of proposals. His most concrete advice was to tell people they should pray on their knees and leave their doors open so that their children can see them doing so.

When he first announced his planned Washington rally, Beck had promised he would use it to present “The Plan,” which he promised would provide “specific policies, principles and, most importantly, action steps” to found “a new national movement to restore our great country.”

During his speech Saturday, he attributed his decision to do no such thing to what he described as a conversation he had had with God. One could be forgiven for believing that rather than the divine word of God, Beck was responding to instructions from his more temporal lords: Murdoch, the right-wing Scaife family foundation and the other billionaires and corporate entities that bankroll FreedomWorks and the so-called Tea Party movement that played the principal role in organizing the rally.

Instead of policies, principles and action steps, Beck offered reactionary bromides, telling the crowd, “The poorest among us are still some of the richest in the world… and yet we don’t recognize it.”

“We all must realize how nice we have it here, in spite of our problems,” added Beck, who resides in a $4.5 million dollar mansion in New Canaan, Connecticut. He counseled the crowd that “charity begins at home first.”

With 26 million American workers on the unemployment lines or unable to find a full-time job, millions more having lost their homes, and working people faced with relentless wage-cutting while Wall Street reels in record profits, such complacent clap trap will find no support from the vast majority of the population. If Beck were to advance an explicit political program based on the interests and aims of the financial aristocracy for whom he speaks, the hostility and opposition would be overwhelming.

Behind Beck’s fuzzy rhetoric about individualism and patriotism there does lie a program which these wealthy, right-wing layers support. It includes the systematic dismantling of all forms of social spending that constitute a drain on profit, including Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. It envisions the reduction of wages in the US to a level that would be competitive with those in China. And it seeks the even greater strengthening of the police-military powers of the government to suppress all opposition from the working class at home and to escalate militarist interventions abroad.

Beck and his backers wisely chose to keep this “plan” under wraps. They recognize that the self-described clown is hardly the man, and the amorphous and politically confused layers attracted to the Tea Party are not the movement to implement such a fascistic program.

They lack a mass base for such politics in the US today. The real danger arises from the political subordination of the working class to the Democratic Party and the ruling elite that it serves. Those so-called liberals and “lefts” who promote illusions in Obama bear responsibility for this subordination, which impedes the emergence of a genuine alternative to the policies pursued by both big business parties and allows demagogues on the right to exploit the crisis for their own purposes.


War on Terrorism Expanding Faster Than the Universe

Voice of America

Although it is not publicly documented, it appears the United States is increasingly relying on covert actions against the enemy in the War on Terrorism.

One of the first hints of the possible use of covert operations came last May, when John Brennan, Assistant to President Obama for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism spoke to a gathering at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. His topic…the President's National Security Strategy, which was scheduled to be released the next day.

Brennan said the United States would take the fight to Al Qaida and its extremist affiliates wherever they plot and train: in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and beyond. He added, "In all our efforts, we will exercise force prudently, recognizing that we often need to use a scalpel and not a hammer."

VOA sought to get an official government reaction to the reports of expended covert operations. We were told by a US official that "it's hardly a secret that we're engaged in a serious fight against a brutal, determined and adaptive enemy or that we may need to taylor our strategies to keep ahead of them. The threat we face is global, so the response can't be narrow, and we have to rely on all of the tools at our disposal to confront terrorists who are plotting against us and our allies."

Perhaps the most well publicized covert battle is the use of drone aircraft targeting terrorists in Pakistan. But there are also reports of operations is Yemen, in parts of Africa, and in Afghanistan.

Daniel Markey, a Senior Fellow for India, Pakistan and South Asia at the Council for Foreign Relations told VOA that it was his sense that U.S. special forces operations have expanded radically in Afghanistan, although he said it was less clear to him precisely what that has meant for operations in Pakistan.

As to just who is participating in these operations, Markey said it was his sense that there are a range of different American actors involved. Some are contractors, he said, some are definitely special forces, and some fall more in the category of agency, CIA and so on. Insofar as the number of people are involved in the operations, the Council for Foreign Relations scholar said he had no sense for what the absolute numbers are, but from what he had seen and heard, it is a significant upsurge over the past year in Afghanistan.

There are some arguments being made against such covert operations. Some say it fuels anti American rage among local populations, others say it could blur the lines between soldiers and spies, muddying the protections provided by the Geneva Conventions. But there also seems to be growing support for the covert war. One US politician, Congressman Adam Smith, is quoted by the New York Times as saying "for the first time in our history, an entity has declared a covert war against us … and we are using similar elements of American power to respond to that covert war.”

True to his Promise, Obama Expands "War on Terror"

By Peter Symonds

A lengthy article in the New York Times, A Secret Assault on Terrorism Widens on Two Continents has provided a glimpse into the extent of the Obama administration’s covert wars.
Obama has not only continued but has expanded the murderous operations that were waged under the banner of the “war on terror” by the CIA and Pentagon during the Bush administration.

As the authors explain: “In roughly a dozen countries—from the deserts of North Africa, to the mountains of Pakistan, to former Soviet republics [in Central Asia] crippled by ethnic and religious strife, the United States has significantly increased military and intelligence operations, pursuing the enemy using robotic drones and commando teams, paying contractors to spy and training local operatives to chase terrorists.”

Obama has dramatically intensified the CIA’s drone missile attacks against alleged insurgents inside areas of Pakistan bordering Afghanistan.

The White House has “approved raids inside Somalia,” it has “carried out clandestine operations from Kenya,” and it has collaborated with European allies in covert operations in North Africa, including a recent French strike in Algeria.

The most detailed information concerns the Obama administration’s expanding covert war inside Yemen, where the US military has carried out four air strikes since last December.

The war has killed dozens of civilians, including the deputy governor of Marib Province, Jabir al Shabwani, in May. The article incidentally confirms what has not previously been acknowledged: that all of the air strikes were carried out by the United States.

These attacks are just one aspect of American operations inside Yemen. “The Pentagon and the CIA have quietly bulked up the number of their operatives at the embassy in Sanaa, the Yemeni capital, over the past year,” the Times explains.

The US is also training elite Yemeni units, providing equipment and sharing intelligence to support Yemeni operations against Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

While the Times article acknowledges some political risks are involved, it is uncritical, even laudatory in tone. Under the banner of the “war on terror,” the US is aggressively prosecuting its ambitions for strategic and economic dominance throughout the energy-rich regions of the Middle East and Central Asia.

The neo-colonial occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan have been extended into a series of covert wars aimed at consolidating the American presence and expanding Washington’s political influence.

In Yemen, the Obama administration is helping to prop up the dictatorial regime of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who is notorious for his suppression of political opposition. He came to power in what was North Yemen in 1978 and now runs a unified Yemen as a family fiefdom.

The Yemeni military and security apparatus, which Washington is training and equipping, is firmly under the control of Saleh’s family members, who will undoubtedly use its improved capacities against political opponents and critics.

Obama’s secret wars are proceeding with little or no congressional oversight and scant regard for international or American law. As the Times pointed out, the White House is benefitting from “a unique political landscape,” with support from Republicans and Democrats alike.

Earlier this year, the Pakistani newspaper, the Dawn, reported that at least 700 Pakistani civilians were killed in the CIA’s drone missile attacks during 2009.

According to Amnesty International, the first US strike on Yemen last December was a cruise missile loaded with cluster bombs that killed more than 40 civilians over several days. None of these crimes has raised a murmur of opposition in the US political or media establishment.

Speaking to the Times, former top CIA officer Jack Devine raised concerns that the limited congressional oversight put in place after the notorious Iran-Contra affair in the 1980s.

That involved the illegal funneling of money from secret arms sales to Iran to right-wing Contra rebels in Nicaragua—had been weakened. For the current covert operations, he said, “there are not clear rules.”

Under the Obama administration, the Times explained, the Pentagon has expanded its covert missions, which “typically operate with even less transparency and congressional oversight than traditional covert operations by the CIA.”

The article reported: “Across the Middle East and elsewhere, Special Operations troops under secret ‘Execute Orders’ have conducted spying missions that were once the preserve of civilian intelligence agencies.”

Not surprisingly, the CIA and military operatives involved in US imperialism’s past crimes are directing or intimately involved in the present operations.

Former CIA agent Duane Clarridge, who was indicted in 1991 in connection with the Iran-Contra affair, reemerged in Pakistan, helping to run one of several Pentagon-funded contractors providing intelligence to the US military.

Assistant Secretary of Defense Michael Vickers, who oversees the Pentagon’s expanding Special Operation Command, was a senior CIA agent who helped direct its huge covert war to oust the Soviet-backed regime in Afghanistan in the 1980s.

The CIA helped arm and train not only the Afghan mujahedin, but also assisted the thousands of Islamist militants from the Middle East, North Africa and Asia who passed through Al Qaeda (the Base) to fight in Afghanistan.

Vickers, along with Defense Secretary (and former CIA head) Robert Gates, was one of several top officials appointed by Bush and kept in place by Obama.

In a sign of things to come, Obama last month appointed John Bennett to head the CIA’s National Clandestine Service, formerly known as the Directorate of Operations.

Among his previous assignments, Bennett headed the CIA’s Special Activities Division, which handles highly sensitive spying and paramilitary missions. According to Newsweek, his last posting was as CIA station chief in Islamabad, where he was intimately involved in supervising drone missile strikes inside Pakistan.

Obama’s expansion of covert operations into some of the world’s most unstable countries and regions is reckless and inflammatory.

His extension of the Afghan war into neighboring Pakistan, for instance, has not only undermined the government in Islamabad and triggered a dangerous civil war, but is destabilising relations with India and throughout the Indian subcontinent.

As the US aggressively pursues its interests through military means—overt and covert—its actions cut directly across the strategic interests of other major powers such as China, and threaten to provoke broader conflicts.


The History of the Pirate Bay as Explained by Peter Sunde (co-founder)

Torrentfreak points us to a fascinating presentation that Peter Sunde gave at the Campus Party 2010 event in Mexico City. It's worth watching just for an explanation of the history of The Pirate Bay from one of the guys who was there:


Making Money off Your Back - prt 2

  By David S. Pena

Capitalists want to maximize profits, and they do this by exploiting the working class. The basic method of capitalist exploitation is to pay workers the lowest wage they can get away with (as close to mere survival as possible) while forcing their employees to do the maximum amount of work.

More specifically, capitalists try to maximize the value they get out of you, in the form of the product or service that you produce, by increasing the period of time that you have to work beyond the time it takes you to produce enough to cover your wage or salary.

For example, take an auto parts worker who's paid $50 per 8-hour day. He's able to produce $50 worth of product in approximately 3 minutes.

It took him an insignificant amount of time to produce enough value to cover the day’s wage. If you consider only those 3 minutes, it looks like an even exchange between the worker and the capitalist. The worker produced $50 worth of product and will be paid $50 in return.

But don’t forget, our factory worker has to stay on the production line for a much longer time—another 7 hours and 57 minutes, just to get the $50.

If this had been an even exchange, in which the wage equals exactly what the worker produces, the workday would have ended after those 3 minutes.

But if that happened the capitalist wouldn’t make any profit, and maximizing profit is the whole point of capitalist production.

Nearly $10,000 worth of surplus value was produced during the additional 7-plus hours that the worker was forced to remain at work.

The capitalist steals this value from the worker; the worker is never paid for producing it. This theft of surplus value is what is meant by the term “capitalist exploitation.”

In Marxist theory, the amount of time you must work to cover your wage or salary is called necessary labor time.

The time beyond that, during which you are forced to continue working in order to receive your wage, is called surplus labor time, and the value produced during that time is called surplus value.

During surplus labor time you are working for free because the capitalist steals the time and the resulting product from you without paying for it.

In order to maximize profit, capitalists try to minimize the amount of necessary labor time and maximize the amount of surplus labor time, so they can profit from the surplus value that results.

That is why capitalists are always trying to keep wages as low as possible, extend the length of the workday, and increase through speedup the amount of work that you have to do in any given period of time.

This intensification of work is what capitalists really mean when they speak so benignly about “improving productivity.”

...workers are exploited and are literally victims of theft on the job... Read the rest of this article.


Hey all you readers out there

Hey, sorry about the lack of updates. I've been rather busy. Also, school is coming up very soon. I'll try and give you guys some news every Weekend or so.


Once Down, Stay Down, Capitalism Rules

By Micheal Lind

One of the fallacies exposed by the Great Recession was the idea of the mass upper middle class. During the bubble economy, both progressives and conservatives praised the graduation of most people from the working class to a new elite that included the majority of us.

The center-left and center-right defined this alleged new class somewhat differently.

America’s progressive elite, based it on the educational profession, civil service and nonprofit sector. America’s conservative elite based it in business and banking.

Elite progressives and elite conservatives share the assumption that the ideal society is one in which most Americans would be more like them, in owning educational credentials (progressives) or capital (conservatives).

The elderly in America can remember a long-distant era when progressive thinkers included leaders of organized labor and small-town populist politicians. But nowadays progressive politicians and strategists tend to be affluent meritocrats who got where they are by making good grades at highly selective schools.

Their narrow personal experience leads many elite progressives to equate social mobility and increases in income with obtaining academic credentials like their own.

While New Deal labor liberals and populists wanted to promote unions and a living wage, many members of the new breed of Ivy League-educated liberal technocrats prefer an alternate plan: send everybody to college.

Progressives love to claim that education is the key to upward mobility. But this is based on an obvious fallacy.

The "college premium" that results in higher incomes for college graduates is the result of the relative scarcity of college degrees.

If everyone had a B.A., then the value of a B.A. in generating high wages would drop. We know this to be the case, because access to college has expanded more rapidly in Europe, where the gap in wages between the college-educated and the rest as a result is smaller than in the U.S.

Nor is there any basis to the claim, repeated by politicians and pundits of both parties, that most of the jobs of the future require a college education.

Some have claimed that the millennium of the credentialed class has already arrived.

In a 2008 paper titled "The Decline of the White Working Class and the Rise of a Mass Upper Middle Class," the leading political analyst Ruy Teixeira and the scholar Alan Abramowitz argue that the key factor in contemporary American politics is the expansion of the highly educated, white-collar professional sector.

But they reach this conclusion only by truly heroic feats of definition. They are able to claim that 54 percent of the American people are college-educated only by combining the 29 percent who had B.A.’s in 2007 with the 25 percent who had "some college."

Taking a different approach and combining the "some college" crowd with high school graduates produces a more recognizable picture of an America with a majority of workers who have less than a four-year college degree.

The definition of "white-collar jobs" used by Teixeira and Abramowitz is even more generous, including "clerical" and "sales" along with professional. Do receptionists and shoe-store sales clerks in the mall really think of themselves as being in the same social class as doctors, lawyers and corporate executives?

Conservatives of the bubble economy era had their own mass upper-middle-class fantasy. In their version, membership in the mass upper middle class depended not upon educational credentials but upon ownership of capital invested in the stock market.

By the beginning of the 21st century, according to some calculations, a majority of Americans had private retirement accounts or employer pensions that were invested in stocks and bonds.

In the pages of the Wall Street Journal and elsewhere, conservative intellectuals declared that this made the United States a "nation of capitalists," an "investor society" based on "universal capitalism."

Defining janitors with 401K’s as "capitalists" is a kind of social promotion comparable to the elevation by progressives like Teixeira and Abramowitz of shoe-store clerks who dropped out of college into the "mass upper middle class."

Genuine capitalists derive most of their income from the return on their investments or savings, not from labor. By this definition, there are hardly any capitalists in the U.S.

Most of the rich are the "working rich," who derive most of their income from wages or professional fees, not from investments. We are a nation of wage earners, some paid well and others poorly.

A majority of Americans may have some money invested in the stock market, usually through employer pension plans or 401Ks, but it is very little indeed. Forty-three percent of Americans have less than $10,000 in retirement savings and 36 percent contribute nothing to retirement savings at all.

Thanks to two stock market collapses in less than a decade, most Americans will be more dependent on Social Security in retirement than ever. So much for the "nation of capitalists" and "the investor society."

At least the credentials touted by the center-left and the stocks and bonds touted by the center-right could be described with some plausibility as income-generating assets. During the bubble years, houses also began to be seen as income-producing assets, as well as symbols of membership in the suburban upper middle class.

For a generation, most Americans have been told by left, right and center that they would be failures if they ended their educations with high school, worked hard, saved cash for emergencies and bought modest homes they could afford.

They have been told that to succeed in life they need to ape the lifestyles of the upper middle class that provides most of America’s politicians, pundits and scholars.

The result has been an experiment in social engineering that has gone horribly wrong: the creation of a faux mass upper middle class.

Millions of Americans who by objective standards belong to the working class or lower middle class have persuaded themselves that they are part of the professional-investor elite, because they have worthless degrees from diploma mills, negligible amounts invested in stocks, and suburban trophy houses they cannot afford.

For the college graduates at Starbucks working to pay off student loans for degrees that they will never use, as for the millions of Americans who are now "underwater," owing more on their mortgages than their houses are worth, the American dream has turned into a nightmare.

But many have profited from the peddling of the dream of the mass upper middle class.

The claim that everyone should go to college served the interests of the educational-industrial complex, from K-12 to the universities.

That now serves as an important constituency of the Democratic Party. (Along with Wall Street investment banks, universities provided Barack Obama with his largest campaign donations.)

And the claim that everyone needs to pour money into the stock market, to be managed by banks and brokers who fleece their clients, served the interests of the financial-industrial complex that has replaced real-economy businesses as the dominant force in the Republican Party.

Both the educators and the brokers have successfully lobbied Congress to subsidize their bloated industries, swelling them even further, by means of tax breaks for student loans and personal retirement savings.

The big losers have been the millions of working Americans whom many Democrats and Republicans alike have persuaded, against their interests, to indulge champagne tastes on beer budgets.

The alternative to the mass upper-middle-class fantasy peddled by Republicans and New Democrats is a return to the older New Deal liberal approach, based on high wages and adequate social insurance.

Working Americans should not need to go into debt to obtain college diplomas, in order to share more of the gains of national economic growth in the form of higher wages.

And there would be less pressure on working Americans to gamble with their money in the stock market, if Social Security, like public pensions in the rest of the world, replaced a higher percentage of pre-retirement income than the 30-40 percent it replaces today.

An America with a college-educated professional class majority was always a fantasy. So was an America with a majority of affluent day traders.

The America we need is one in which all Americans are paid a living wage and guaranteed a comfortable retirement -- even if they didn’t go to a university and don’t own stocks and bonds.

Obama to American Corps, "Exploit Low Labor Costs"

By David Sirota

Following their training, the tech workers will be placed with outsourcing vendors in the region that provide offshore IT and business services to American companies looking to take advantage of [exploit] the Asian subcontinent's low labor costs.
In recent months, Obama reversed his campaign promises on trade issues - first by dropping his pledge to renegotiate NAFTA and then by pushing to pass NAFTA-style trade agreements with South Korea, Panama and Colombia.
Now, with the unemployment crisis persisting, the key jobs question is once again front a center in American politics. Specifically: How do we create jobs here at home and build our most valuable 21st century industries?
The first and foremost answer is that our government should stop doing stuff like the program described in this stunning new report from Information Week:
U.S. To Train 3,000 Offshore IT Workers Despite Obama's pledge to retain more hi-tech jobs in the U.S., a federal agency run by a hand-picked Obama appointee has launched a $22 million program to train workers, including 3,000 specialists in IT and related functions, in South Asia.
Following their training, the tech workers from South Asia will be placed with outsourcing vendors in the region that provide offshore IT and business services to American companies looking to take advantage of [meaning exploit] the Asian subcontinent's low labor costs.
The outsourcing program is sure to draw the most fire from critics. While Obama acknowledged that occupations such as garment making don't add much value to the U.S. economy, he argued relentlessly during his presidential run that lawmakers needed to do more to keep hi-tech jobs in IT, biological sciences, and green energy in the country.
I'm all for a robust foreign aid budget - we don't do nearly enough to help the developing world. However, using foreign aid money to specifically help private corporations "take advantage of low labor costs" in the developing world - that's not "aid," that's rank taxpayer subsidization of for-profit exploitation.Right now, Even if we do not reform our atrocious trade policies that incentivize the ongoing wage-cutting race to the bottom, the least we should be doing is investing every single available dollar we have in job training and job creation here at home.
Doing the opposite - actually using public dollars to intensify that wage-cutting race to the bottom - is grotesque.
George W. Bush's administration was rightly criticized by progressives for publicly endorsing job outsourcing, and Obama's administration should be similarly taken to task for now putting taxpayer funds behind the previous administration's endorsement.

We Eat They Starve

By Sharon Astyk and Aaron Newton, from the book A Nation of Farmers
It's hard to grasp the degree to which the Western lifestyle is implicated. We don’t realize that when we buy imported shrimp or coffee we are often literally taking food from poor people. We don’t realize that our economic system is doing such harm.

What is the most common cause of hunger in the world? Is it drought? Flood? Locusts? Crop diseases? Nope. Most hunger in the world has absolutely nothing to do with food shortages.

Most people who go to bed hungry, both in rich and in poor countries, do so in places where markets are filled with food that they cannot have.

Despite this fact, much of the discourse about reforming our food system has focused on the necessity of raising yields.

Though it is true that we might need more food in coming years, it is also true that the world produces more food calories than are needed to sustain its entire population.

The problem is unequal access to food, land, and wealth, and any discussion must begin not from fantasies of massive yield increases, but from the truth that the hunger of the poor is in part a choice of the rich.

Inequity and politics, not food shortages, were at the root of almost all famines in the 20th century. Brazil, for example, exported $20 billion worth of food in 2002, while millions of its people went hungry.

During Ethiopian famines in the 1980s, the country also exported food. Many of even the poorest nations can feed themselves—or could in a society with fairer allocation of resources.

It can be hard to grasp the degree to which the Western lifestyle is implicated. We don’t realize that when we buy imported shrimp or coffee we are often literally taking food from poor people.

We don’t realize that our economic system is doing such harm. In fact, the system conspires to make it nearly impossible to figure out whether what we’re doing is destructive or regenerative.

We have been assured that “a rising tide lifts all boats,” that it is necessary for us to make rich people richer, because that will, in turn, enrich the poor.

The consequences have been disastrous—for the planet and for the people whose food systems have been disrupted, who never had a chance to be lifted by any tide.

Journalist Jeremy Seabrook, in his book The No-Nonsense Guide to World Poverty, describes First World efforts to eliminate poverty and hunger this way:
It is now taken for granted that relief of poverty is the chief objective of all politicians, international institutions, donors and charities. This dedication is revealed most clearly in a determination to preserve the poor.

Like all great historical monuments, there should be a Society for the Preservation of the Poor.

Only, since it is written into the very structures of the global economy, no special arrangements are required. There is not the remotest chance that poverty will be abolished, but every chance that the poor themselves might perish.It is hard for many of us to recognize that the society we live in helps create poverty and insecurity, but it is true. Our economy is based on endless growth.

We’re told that if the rich get richer, it makes other people less poor. Think about it for a moment—about how crazy that is. Wouldn’t it make much more sense to enrich the poor directly, to help them get land and access to resources?

Historically, rural people have been quite poor, but often, despite their poverty, could grow enough food to feed themselves.

Over recent decades, however, industrial agriculture and widespread industrialization have moved large chunks of the human population into cities, promising more wealth.

But rising food and energy prices (rising because of this move and this urban population’s new demands for energy and meat) have left people unable to feed their families.

Multinational food companies have also worked their way into the food budgets of the poor. Faith D’Aluisio and Peter Menzel are the authors of Hungry Planet.

“Few of the families we met [in the developing world] could afford a week’s worth of a processed food item at one time,” they report in the Washington Post, “so the global food companies make their wares more affordable by offering them in single-serving packets.”

Around the world, industrial agriculture has consolidated land ownership into the hands of smaller and smaller populations.

Rich nations dumped cheap subsidized grain on poor nations. Local self-sufficiency was destroyed. Now, as the price of food has risen dramatically, those created dependencies on cheap grain, which doesn’t exist anymore, mean that millions are in danger of starvation.

Real alleviation of poverty and hunger means reallocating the resources of our world into the hands of people who need them most. This is not only ethically the right thing to do, it is necessary.

There is no hope that newly industrializing nations will help us fight climate change if it means a great inequity between their people and those of the United States.

Russia, India, and China have all said so explicitly. The only alternative to the death of millions in a game of global chicken is for everyone to accept that the world cannot afford rich people—in any nation. 


Iranian President Says Obama Failed to Bring Change

Press TV

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has denounced the US administration for failing to implement the policy of change, saying capitalism in the US is nearing its end.

"US President Barack Obama was brought to power to salvage the capitalist system," Ahmadinejad said in an address to directors and producers of the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) on Tuesday.

The president said although Obama came to power with the emphasis that wrong US policies should be reformed, he has failed to live up to his promise of change.

President Ahmadinejad further pointed out that Obama will not be able to save a dying US economy.

Elsewhere in his remarks, the Iranian president dismissed the US-backed sanctions against Tehran's nuclear program.

"The West has been trying to use sanctions to deal a blow to the Iranian nation, but Iranianians will turn those moves into opportunities." he said.

He underlined the West is trying to force Iran into a retreat through imposing sanctions.


Detroit, City of Poverty

 Patrick Martin
Obama’s four-hour visit to Detroit on Friday brought him to the center of the economic catastrophe created by the profit system.
The “Motor City” was once a byword for decent-paying jobs in the auto industry. But Detroit is now synonymous with poverty, urban decay, mass unemployment and the virtual breakdown of a functioning society.

During his visit, Obama made no comment on the mass suffering stretching for miles in every direction. Instead, he gave a 25-minute stump speech to the 1,100 workers on the day shift at the Chrysler plant, and a briefer address to the work force at the GM plant.

He didn't mention the city’s staggering unemployment rate—estimated at 50 percent or more. Nor did he utter the words “poverty,” “homelessness,” “hunger,” “foreclosure” or “eviction.”

Instead, he took the occasion of his visit to the poorest city in America to boast of the great success of his administration’s economic policies. A more cold-blooded, arrogant provocation against working people can scarcely be imagined.

Obama delivered his two speeches to audiences of auto workers who have borne the brunt of the restructuring of the industry dictated by the White House.

Some 330,000 workers have lost auto-related jobs in the past two years, while tens of thousands of retired workers have lost health benefits and seen their pensions threatened.

Obama’s “car czar” went beyond even what General Motors and Chrysler thought advisable, and demanded a 50 percent across-the-board reduction in the starting wage for newly hired workers.

The result is that side-by-side on the assembly line some workers are making $28 an hour and others $14 an hour for doing the same job. Most workers on the second shift at the Chrysler Jefferson plant make $14 an hour, but Obama’s audience consisted largely of the higher-paid first-shift workers.

Obama could say little of substance to justify the claim that his administration’s policies were producing an economic recovery, except to describe the conditions under which he took office in January 2009, and assert that things had improved since then.

The main point of Obama’s remarks at both plants was that without the intervention of the White House both GM and Chrysler would have been forced into liquidation last year, going out of business entirely instead of the structured government-supervised bankruptcy that was a condition of the auto bailout.

“Independent estimates suggest that more than 1 million jobs could have been lost if Chrysler and GM had liquidated,” he said.

“And in the middle of a deep recession, that would have been a brutal, irreversible shock not just to Detroit, not just to the Midwest, but to our entire economy.”

But the bailout was not offered without conditions, he continued, “What we said was, if you’re willing to take the tough and painful steps necessary to make yourselves more competitive; if you’re willing to pull together workers, management, suppliers, dealers, everybody to remake yourself for changing times, then we’ll stand by you and we’ll invest in your future.”

Obama made no other reference to the draconian cuts imposed on auto workers, including the 50 percent cut in starting pay. As for “pain” for the corporate bosses, GM’s profits have rebounded and GM and Chrysler executives continue to rake in seven-figure salaries.

GM Chairman Edward Whitacre, for instance, makes a $1.1 million salary, earning in one week as much as a $14-an-hour assembly-line worker makes in a year.

And that grossly understates his income, since Whitacre is paid mainly in company stock and stands to reap a fortune from the upcoming initial public offering by GM.

Obama noted that 334,000 auto jobs were eliminated between June 2008 and June 2009, and claimed that 55,000 new auto jobs have been created since then. He did not point out, however, that the bulk of these new jobs pay wages that are barely above the poverty level.

The White House intervention has had the effect of completing the transformation of auto production from a high-wage, high-benefit industry to one of brutal exploitation at sweatshop wages.

For this, Obama has earned the thanks of the auto bosses and their industrial police force—which operates under the signboard of the United Auto Workers—as well as the entire local Democratic Party establishment.

Obama was welcomed to the city with a friendly editorial in the right-wing Detroit News. Lined up behind him on the podium were the state’s two Democratic senators, the local Democratic congresswoman, Mayor Bing, also a Democrat, and Chrysler, GM and UAW officials. There was not a hint of oppositional sentiment permitted.

The address to the auto workers was imbued with economic nationalism, which Obama used to flatter both his audience and himself. He referred to his opponents in the Republican Party, who deemed the bailout terms insufficiently harsh on the auto workers and wanted even deeper cuts or outright liquidation of the company.

“You are proving the naysayers wrong,” he said. “I wish they were standing here today. I wish they could see what I’m seeing in this plant and talk to the workers who are here taking pride in building a world-class vehicle. I want all of you to know, I will bet on the American worker any day of the week!”

Obama continued, harking back to World War II: “It was workers just like you, right here in Detroit, who built an arsenal of democracy that propelled America to victory.

"It was workers like you that built this country into the greatest economic power the world has ever known; it was workers like you that manufactured a miracle that was uniquely American.”

The constant references to American greatness were somewhat strained, given that circumstances now prevailing in Detroit, and the US generally, hardly resemble a “miracle.”

The nationalist phrases were not only reactionary, but preposterous. The auto industry is entirely globalized, and giant corporations conduct their operations on a world scale, pitting workers in country after country against each other.

Obama spoke at one factory run by Chrysler—now owned by Fiat, with the Italian CEO at his side—and at another operated by GM, which has sold more cars this year in China than in the United States. GM has 32,000 workers in China, while its US hourly employment has fallen from 468,000 in 1979 to only 52,000 today.

These figures suggest the reality facing auto workers and the working class as a whole: the only way forward in the struggle against corporate downsizing, wage-cutting and the destruction of all rights on the shop floor is to unite the working class.

This is a political fight against the Obama Regime, the Democratic Party, the two-party system and the capitalist ruling class whose interests they serve.


Endgame in Afghanistan [Significant Video]


By Sean Smith, Michael Tait, Guy Grandjean and Alex Rees
As the war in Afghanistan enters its final chapter, Sean Smith's brutal, uncompromising film from the Helmand front line shows the horrific chaos of a stalemate that is taking its toll in blood. Warning: the clip contains distressing scenes and strong language.
Guardian film-maker and photographer Sean Smith has just spent five weeks in Afghanistan, first with a US helicopter ambulance crew, and then with the US marines. This is his astonishing diary of his time with special forces.


At 8.30am I leave Kandahar US airbase on a flight with the Guardian Angels; these are specially trained US air force helicopter pilots who fly into combat areas to pick up the injured. Accompanying them are the "jumpers", the armed paramedics who will jump out and get the wounded – or the bodies. There's also a gunner who mans the machine guns as the helicopter lands.

They are working 12-hour shifts. Mostly they are watching movies, doing emails. Today there was a class on how to treat burns.


In the morning we pick up a US soldier who has been shot in the face and chest on patrol. We're hit by two rounds of gunfire shot through the underneath of the helicopter. To take out the helicopter when it comes in to pick up the wounded soldier – that's the real prize.

The injured guy was on the verge of passing out and couldn't move his face or say anything because his cheek had been shot away, and his airways were blocked. He survived. Later on, we pick up another soldier who had lost two legs and an arm. He made it too.


Pick up an Afghan lorry driver caught by an IED (improvised explosive device).


Pick up an Afghan soldier who has shot himself in the foot.


We are called out to a soldier who has stepped on a mine. We land, as there is no one shooting at us. He has lost an arm and a leg but still has a pulse. The medics are doing emergency resuscitation. We are only in the air five minutes and they are pumping and pumping and still going at him on the stretcher as he is taken off the copter. He doesn't make it.


I am at Camp Bastion with the British and am trying to fly to Nadi Ali. But the first flight is full. They get me on a Lynx helicopter later for Bastion, with the letters and parcels for the troops.


I'm in Dand district, near Kandahar city. I'm with the US army and we're supposed to go out at 8am to talk to locals, to do the hearts-and-minds stuff. The problem is that the Afghan national army who are with us don't speak Pashtun; they only speak Dari. So the Americans end up doing all the talking through a translator – which is missing the point of what we are supposed to be doing. The American medic passes out in the heat and is sick twice. It's over 50C.


Road-opening ceremony. It was in one of the little villages where they are paying Afghans to build roads. We drive off the tarmac in case of IEDs. When we get there, there are lots of young men standing around with brand-new blades and picks, paid for by the Americans. They have clearly never been used. There's no new road.

The governor has even come down from Kabul to make a speech. We only stay 15 minutes because the whole thing is rubbish. The lieutenant colonel is very angry.


Three soldiers are brought in today injured at a nearby deserted school by an IED. Even in this "stable" area all the schools are deserted. None of the kids is going to school. I leave for Kandahar base. Continued...