Monday, May 31, 2010

German president quits over Afghan remarks

Political parties really should install mute buttons on some of their politicians. Some politicians just have to speak out no matter how stupid and unfortunate for the party what they say. This is from the BBC. The Afghan mission is very unpopular in Germany and the government is already down in the polls.

German President Koehler quits amid row over military

German President Horst Koehler says he is resigning immediately, following criticism of remarks he made about German military deployments abroad.

Mr Koehler, whose job is largely ceremonial, had linked missions such as the Afghanistan deployment with the defence of economic interests.

His remarks drew criticism from a number of German politicians.

Mr Koehler, 67, was re-elected last year to serve a second five-year term as president.

He made the controversial remarks in a radio interview after a brief visit to Afghanistan earlier this month.

He said that for an export-orientated country like Germany, it was sometimes necessary to deploy troops "to protect our interests... for example free trade routes".

Announcing his resignation on Monday, he said "it was an honour for me to serve Germany as president".

Unpopular deployment
With his wife standing next to him, he said he regretted that his comments could lead to a misunderstanding about a difficult question for the nation.

Jens Boehrnsen, speaker of the parliament's upper house (Bundesrat), will be interim president. He is in the opposition Social Democratic Party (SPD).

The BBC's Oana Lungescu in Berlin says Mr Koehler's remarks about military missions led to accusations of gunboat diplomacy and embarrassment for Chancellor Angela Merkel's government. It has come under strong popular pressure to withdraw troops from Afghanistan.

Mr Koehler's shock decision could hardly have come at a worst time, our correspondent says. Polls show that the government's approval rating has plummeted to a four-year low, mainly due to its management of the eurozone crisis.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Brig. Gen. Daniel Menard top commander in Afghanistan ousted.

Canadian military brass are not exactly getting much good press these days. Colonel Russell Williams a former base commander is charged with murdering two women, sexual assaulting two others, and many break ins. Now our commander in Afghanistan is relieved of his duties and sent home.

The commander Gen. Daniel Menard certainly did nothing on the scale of Colonel Williams but he has done enough to lose his position. Menardh first got in hot water for accidentally firing his rifle. He was at the time with the head honcho of Canadian forces Walter Natynczyk. as they were boarding a helicopter. Fortunately no one was injured.

Menard faced a court martial and fined $3,500 dollars. Menard's new problems come from fraternizing with a female soldier said to be a member of his staff. This is strictly forbidden but no doubt often happens. When it is not hidden brass are often punished more harshly to set an example to the lower ranks. Perhaps Menard will set an example as a way for others who want out of Afghanistan to get sent home.

War on Terror is Assault on Civil Rights

This article shows the manifold ways in which civil rights are being sacrificed to the War on Terror. Of course Obama wants to use different and perhaps less threatening language. All the better to fool people no doubt. Obama is catching up with and surpassing Bush in use of drones and no doubt the research described in this article is ongoing under Obama. Perhaps it is funded as part of a great Stimulus Package!

America's "War On Terror" Morphs into a Diabolical Assault on Civil Rights
DARPA's "Deep Learning"

by Tom Burghardt

Global Research, May 28, 2010
Antifascist Calling... - 2010-05-23

As America's War On Terror morphs into an endless assault on civil and human rights, the technophilic fantasies of our masters, and the corporations whom they lovingly serve, even amidst the doom and gloom of capitalism's global economic collapse, have taken extraordinary steps to ensure that the "state of exception" spawned by the 9/11 provocation remains a permanent feature of daily life here in the heimat.

And with moves by Barack Obama's "change" regime to strip Americans of their Miranda rights, "delay" their appearance before a lawful court should they be accused of a national security crime, or even assassinate them if an arm of the secret state fingers them as terrorists (evidence optional), it's a sure bet that as "ideas about security infect virtually all aspects of public policy," as Stephen Graham avers in Cities Under Siege, new silver bullets will be needed to "keep us safe."

Deep Learning: A Nerdy Way to Kill People

Long-time readers of Antifascist Calling are well-aware of the host of bizarre projects hatched in darkness by the Pentagon's geek squad, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

Working on things like Biologically Inspired Platforms and Systems that investigate the natural world, the better to create "significant new defense capabilities," the Defense Sciences Office (DSO) is focused "on understanding, and then emulating, the unique locomotion and chemical, visual, and aural sensing capabilities of animals," in order to hand warfighters neat, new tools to kill people.

Think robo-insects that crawl up walls and fire a bullet into the head of an unsuspecting "terrorist"--or more likely these days, some dissident, journalist or whistleblower--peacefully tucked in for the night.

But biologists and neuroscientists aren't the only ones in on the fun: computer specialists and systems' designers, you too can fight the War On Terror!

One new project, Deep Learning, on tap from the Information Processing Techniques Office (IPTO), proposes to "build a universal machine learning engine that uses a single set of methods in multiple layers (at least three internally) to generate progressively more sophisticated representations of patterns, invariants, and correlations from data inputs."

DARPA avers that "a rapidly increasing volume of intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) information is available to the Department of Defense (DOD) as a result of the increasing numbers, sophistication, and resolution of ISR resources and capabilities. The amount of video data produced annually by Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) alone is in the petabyte range, and growing rapidly."

Therefore, "The goal of the envisioned Deep Learning program is to discover and instantiate in a learning machine (Deep Learning System) a single set of methods that, when applied repeatedly across multiple layers of the machine, yield more useful representations of audio/visual, sensor, and language information, using less labeled data more efficiently than any existing technologies."

Though top-heavy with nerd factor, Katie Drummond at Wiredreports that IPTO is hungering after a system that "can spot activities, like running, jumping or getting out of a car." Ultimately, the "final version will operate unsupervised, by being programmed to hold itself accountable for errors--and then auto-correct them at each algorithmic layer."

DARPA's solicitation envisages Deep Learning as an exemplary means for America's robo-warfighters to autonomously sort out those petabytes of data and then provide CIA and Pentagon drone "pilots" or JSOC kill squads, a more efficient way to snuff out shadowy practitioners of "asymmetric warfare," women, children, the elderly, journalists, etc., you know, the usual suspects.

I can't help but wonder whether its "auto-correcting" algorithms and capacity for holding itself "accountable for errors" means it will deliver itself--or its human masters--to The Hague for the commission of war crimes. A syrupy sweet synth-voice purring "sorry" to splattered human remains of a Hellfire missile strike gone awry just won't cut it in the liability department.

SMITEing America's Enemies

But before one can "kill 'em all, and let God sort them out," bulletproof target sets require corroboration. What better way to name that enemy then by ginning-up yet another sophisticated computer algorithm to delivers the goods!

The indefatigable Lewis Page of Britain's gadfly tech-zine, The Register, reported May 19 that "Pentagon boffins want nothing less than some kind of automated witch-finder technology able to finger 'increasingly sophisticated malicious insider behavior' in the USA."

And why not? After all, the U.S. National Counterintelligence Strategy (NCIS) has proclaimed that "Trusted insiders ... are targeting the U.S. information infrastructure for exploitation, disruption, and potential destruction." Or leaking documents that might prove embarrassing to the secret state such as theCollateral Murder video posted in April by Wikileaks.

Accordingly, DARPA is hatching a project, the sinisterly titled Suspected Malicious Insider Threat Elimination, or SMITE, to detect those who might not want us kept safe. DARPAcrats "define [an] insider threat as malevolent (or possibly inadvertent) actions by an already trusted person with access to sensitive information and information systems and sources."

The RFI posted online declares that "Information systems security personnel are drowning in ever expanding oceans of observational data from heterogeneous sources and sensors from which they must extract indicators of increasingly sophisticated malicious insider behavior."

Heavens! With a new panic on the horizon, call it a much-dreaded ISR and "malicious insider behavior analysis gap," the IPTO gang must surely be working overtime!

Since the "fundamental challenge" (aside from discovering new ways to line the pockets of America's security grifters) "is one of finding a poorly understood, subtle, or hidden signal (indicators of malicious behavior) buried in enormous amounts of noise (observational data of no immediate relevance) under the constraint that the measures of significance are themselves moving targets (based on dynamic context) that must be continually monitored and updated."

Doubtless, there's always a danger some pissed-off contractor at any of the 16 alphabet soup agencies that comprise the U.S. "Intelligence Community," forced to cancel a night on the town with that hot babe over in data mining, just might "go rogue" and become a "malign insider." Fear not, if DARPA has its way (and enough cash can be discretely passed in plain brown envelopes to trusted insiders!) "the challenge" of "detecting deceptive behavior" can be mastered.

Since "deceptive behavior is characteristic of malicious intent which leads to the problem of assigning intent to observed behaviors," better observe and analyze everything!

What better means then, to separate the "insider threat" wheat from the chaff then to "(a) derive information about the relationship between deductions, the likely intent of inferred actions, and suggestions about what evidence might mean and (b) dynamically forecast context-dependent behaviors--both malicious and non-malicious."

Or, as Donald Rumsfeld blithely put it on that halcyon day when the Twin Towers fell: "Need to move swiftly - Near term target needs - go massive - sweep it all up. Things related and not."

And who would blame DARPA for lusting after "on-line and off-line algorithms for feature extraction and detection in enormous graphs (as in billions of nodes) as well as hybrid engines where deduction and feature detection mutually inform one another"?

After all, what with "missed signals" and various failures to "connect the dots" before 9/11 or intelligence "gaps" that drove the Bush administration kicking and screaming into an invasion and occupation of Iraq it didn't want, "security is often difficult because the defenses must be perfect, while the attacker needs to find only one flaw."

Therefore, IPTO's enterprising specialists will place a premium on "forensics" that "could reverse the burden by requiring the attacker and his tools to be perfect, while the defender needs only a few clues to recognize an intrusion is underway."

With such tools in hand perhaps the secret state, laboring like proverbial bees in the geopolitical gardens of the Middle East to efface the looming Iran "threat," will have the means to sequester some potential whistleblower before they'd eventhink about leaking compromising documents that might throw a spanner in the works.

"It will no doubt be a comfort for anyone in a position of trust within the U.S. information infrastructure," Page points out, "to know that mighty military algorithms and hybrid engines will soon sniff your every move so as to forecast any context-dependent malice on your part--and then in some unspecified way (remember what the E in SMITE stands for) eliminate you as a threat."

And should DARPA's info-warriors fail, there's always a black hood, a silent room and a waterboard to do the trick!

Tom Burghardt is a frequent contributor to Global Research. Global Research Articles by Tom Burghardt

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

In Canada once more U.S. troops fleeing war.

Since there is no draft in the U.S. there is probably less support for American troops seeking refuge in Canada. The soldiers sign up voluntarily rather than being forced to serve. However, many believe that the Iraq war is unjustified and though willing to serve are not willing to serve there and so flee when they are ordered to go there. Former Vietnam refugees help some of them out.
The Harper government is both conservative and a supporter of U.S. foreign policy on the whole. The Harper government has been completely unsympathetic to any claims of U.S. soldiers to refugee status. This is from USA Today.

In Canada once more, U.S. troops fleeing a war

By Judy Keen, USA TODAY
TORONTO — Patrick Hart came here in 2005, when he couldn't face a second deployment to Iraq. A U.S. Army sergeant with almost 10 years of active duty, he would rather stay in Canada forever than return to a war he thinks is wrong.
Hart, 36, knows that some people think he is a traitor, but he has no regrets. "I've bled for my country, I've sweated for my country, I've cried myself to sleep for my country — which is a lot more than some people who are passing judgment on me have done," he says. "I would rather go sit in prison than go to Iraq."

Deportation, court martial and prison are imminent threats to Hart and about 200 other U.S. troops seeking sanctuary in Canada. Despite being members of an all-voluntary military, some oppose the war in Iraq so strongly they are willing to leave their country behind — much like Americans of an earlier generation who crossed the border in the 1960s and '70s to avoid serving in Vietnam and built new lives here.

"They understand," Hart says.

In Canada today, the political climate and immigration policies are less hospitable for the new deserters than during the Vietnam era. The conservative government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper refuses to give asylum or refugee status to those U.S. troops seeking sanctuary here, although Parliament on Tuesday will debate a bill that would let them stay.

Charlie Diamond was 23 when he fled to Canada from Connecticut in 1968 to avoid going to Vietnam. By then, the war was unpopular in both countries. Americans were marching in the streets in protest and young men were burning their draft cards.

Now 64 and a Canadian, he is reciprocating for the welcome he found here.

"I want my country once again to be a refuge from militarism," says Diamond, who has joined others who refused to fight in Vietnam — they prefer the term "resisters" — in the War Resisters Support Campaign.

Canada did not support the American invasion of Iraq, and polls show that most Americans also believe the war was a mistake. Today's deserters enlisted "in good conscience," Diamond says, "thinking they were defending America when in fact the whole thing was a lie."

Young men who left the USA to avoid serving in Vietnam were widely accepted by Canadians and a network of fellow war opponents who helped them find shelter and jobs. Under Harper, Canada's government has tightened immigration policies, and every Iraq deserter who has applied for refugee status has been turned down. Immigration Minister Jason Kenney says that "being a deserter from voluntary military service in a democracy does not, in any way, meet the … definition of a refugee."

In March, Kenney proposed more limits: Immigration appeals for people from countries with good human rights records would be heard only by the Federal Court, ending deserters' chances of winning in lower courts, and failed claimants would be deported in a year instead of the current four years.

Most of the Iraq war deserters in Canada are in hiding, says Michelle Robidoux, spokeswoman for the War Resisters Support Campaign. The group is in touch with more than 40 of them. Two others were deported, tried and sentenced to prison in the USA. Some returned home voluntarily.

More than 50,000 Americans old enough for military service came to Canada to avoid the draft and the Vietnam War, says John Hagan, a Northwestern University sociology and law professor who was among them and wrote a 2001 book, Northern Passages, about the exodus. About half remain in Canada today, he says, despite President Carter's 1977 amnesty offer, which applied to draft dodgers but not deserters.

'Self-centered acts'

U.S. military officials have little sympathy for those who abandon their posts.

"Desertion places an undue burden on the unit, it sets a poor example for others, but worst of all it cuts to the very root of military virtue — mutual support and confidence," says Air Force Col. Kenneth Theurer, chief of the military justice division.

Few soldiers desert or go AWOL, says Army spokesman Wayne Hall, but those who do take part in "self-centered acts that not only affect the soldier but also in a time of war may put other soldiers' lives at risk. Soldiers serve in an all-volunteer Army because they chose to."

Since the Iraq war began in 2003, the Army has convicted 693 soldiers of desertion and 2,657 of being absent without leave. From fiscal 2003 through 2008, the Marine Corps had 6,448 deserters. From fiscal 2003 through March 29 the Air Force had 260 deserters. From 2003 through the end of March, 9,869 people deserted from the Navy.

The War Resisters Support Campaign — formed when Jeremy Hinzman, an Army paratrooper, deserted in 2004 and went to Canada — raises money for deserters' legal bills, holds rallies and collects signatures of support across the country.

It's a deeply personal cause for many of those who refused to go to Vietnam. Working with Iraq deserters "breaks your heart," says Bill King, 63, a musician and producer who came to Canada in 1968 to avoid being sent to Vietnam. "You flash back to when you were that age."

'Human nature question'

Jeffry House, a lawyer who represented Iraq deserters before Canada's highest court, came here in 1970 after he was drafted for service in Vietnam. He believes the arguments he made in court are valid: "A soldier ought not to have to participate in an illegal war, even a soldier who has joined up voluntarily."

At their first meeting, House says, Hinzman said he joined the military because he wanted to defend his country, but called the Iraq War bogus. "That's a word we would have used," House says. "I started to think, you know what? This guy is right."

Gerard Kennedy, a Member of Parliament, is the sponsor of the bill that would make U.S. troops who had a "crisis of conscience" in Iraq eligible for Canadian citizenship. "There's a basic moral, human nature question here," he says. "Do we always, under all circumstances, want our military personnel to follow orders or do they have some rights?"

Kennedy believes most Canadians agree with him. Non-binding resolutions urging that U.S. military deserters be allowed to stay in Canada were approved by Parliament in 2008 and 2009. A 2008 poll found that 64% of Canadians favored giving deserters a chance to become permanent residents of Canada.

Toronto lawyer Alyssa Manning, who represents about 20 U.S. troops, says judges often are receptive to evidence that those who come to Canada face tougher punishment by the U.S. military when they return to the USA. But Harper's government, she says, is "adamantly and actively opposed to the war resisters being able to stay in Canada."

That's ominous news for Phil McDowell. He joined the Army in 2001, after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, and served in Iraq for a year. A few weeks after he was discharged in 2006, he was notified that he would be sent back to Iraq under the Army's "stop-loss" policy — an involuntary extension of his active-duty service. He rejoined his unit, but he couldn't go back to Iraq. He came to Canada instead.

It was a wrenching decision, one McDowell, 29, at first considered "an outrageous thing to do." But he had soured on the Iraq war: There were no weapons of mass destruction there, as the Bush administration had claimed, and McDowell hated the way average Iraqis were treated by coalition forces, as well as the reports of abuse of Iraqi inmates at Abu Ghraib prison by U.S. troops.

"No matter what, I was not going back to Iraq," he says.

McDowell found the War Resisters Support Campaign online and sought its help when he arrived. He regrets missing family weddings and funerals, but he has a job installing solar panels and says he could make his life here, even if it means never going home to Rhode Island.

He's also "absolutely" prepared for deportation and prison, he says. To McDowell, those who came to Canada instead of going to Vietnam are a source of reassurance that "something's going to work out. … Life goes on, and they're a good example of that."

Kimberly Rivera feels the same way. She went to Iraq with her Army unit in 2006. Three months later when she was home on leave, she decided she couldn't return. In 2007, she came to Canada. Rivera, 27, who is from Mesquite, Texas, lives here with her husband, Mario, and their three children. She has received two deportation notices; those are being challenged in court.

Rivera says it's hard to live with the knowledge that some people think she's a coward. Coming to Canada "was very, very hard. Not only am I giving up everything that I know and love — everything — but there's a possibility I would never be able to go back."

If she's forced to return, she says, "I've prepared myself mentally to take whatever punishment they have in store for me."

Different eras, same choices

Dennis James never went back. He was drafted in 1969 and moved to Canada when his medic training shifted to rifle drills to prepare him for deployment to Vietnam. If he were to return, even now, he would have to report to military officials and face desertion charges, he says.

Like many Americans who stayed in Canada after Vietnam, James, 64, says its "atmosphere of welcoming and respect for people" made him feel at home.

James is deputy clinical director of the addictions program at Toronto's Centre for Addiction and Mental Health and is not active in politics. Even so, when he's asked whether he feels a kinship with the former U.S. troops who have come here to avoid Iraq, he replies, "I do."

Others from the Vietnam era are helping Iraq deserters. Tom Riley, 63, is from Baltimore but was living here when he received his induction notice in 1970. He refused to report for duty.

Today, the longtime social worker feels an obligation to help troops who don't want to fight in Iraq, and they're eager to hear his story. "It's quite interesting for them to know that there was a former generation that made the same choices," Riley says.

Carolyn Egan, 60, president of the Toronto Steelworkers Area Council, came here in 1970 with a partner who was ducking the draft. She believes men and women who refuse to fight in Iraq "had the courage to say no" to an unjustified war, she says.

Diamond, a Quaker who works with Toronto's homeless, hopes his adopted country "will have the courage to do what we've historically done. … I see what war and violence does. It's made the United States a very ugly country. I don't want Canada to go that route."

If Canada accepts this generation of deserters, it will be because of the efforts of Diamond and others who refused to go to Vietnam, says Jesse McLaren, 31, a doctor who belongs to the War Resisters Support Campaign.

The older activists, he says, "add historical and moral force to the campaign."

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Robert Naiman: Obama Originally Supported Iran fuel swap brokeder by Turkey and Brazil.

This is an interesting article. I had thought that Brazil and Turkey were working on the deal just to show that the medium powers could do what the big powers could not do, broker a deal with Iran. However, this article shows that originally the deal was supported by the U.S. but later probably due to domestic political considerations the U.S. changed course completely. The U.S. media has been complicit in covering up this drastic change. This is from huffington post.

Robert NaimanPolicy Director of Just Foreign Policy

U.S. Media Censors U.S. Support of Iran Fuel Swap
Sao Paulo - If you get your information from major U.S. media, and you follow U.S. foreign policy, then you know that last week Iran, Brazil, and Turkey signed an agreement for Iran to ship about half of its stockpile of low-enriched uranium to Turkey, in exchange for subsequent Western supply of higher-enriched uranium to fuel Iran's medical research reactor - fuel Iran needs in order to treat Iranian medical patients, fuel to which Iran is entitled as a signatory of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.

If you were paying close attention, you might know that the deal is quite similar to one proposed a few months ago by the United States. An initial AP story on the Washington Post's website last Monday - which I cited at the time - said the agreement was "nearly identical" to the deal the U.S. was pressing for, although by the end of the day the AP article on the Post's website had been revised to downgrade this comparison to "mirrors." [The original AP story is still visible here.] U.S. officials have dismissed the deal brokered by Brazil and Turkey, even though the deal is "nearly identical" to the one proposed by the U.S. Indeed, according to the Washington Post, U.S. officials are "thoroughly irritated" with Turkey for its role in mediating the agreement.

But if you get your information from major U.S. media, here's something that you almost certainly don't know: Brazil and Turkey say that before they reached the deal, they understood that they had the backing of the Obama Administration for their efforts. The available evidence suggests that Brazil and Turkey had good reason to believe that they had U.S. support, and that the Obama Administration has taken a 180 degree turn in its position in the last few weeks, and is now trying to cover its tracks, with the active collaboration of major U.S. media.

Reuters reports from Brasilia - in an article you won't find on the web sites of the New York Times or the Washington Post:

Brazil argues Washington and other Western powers had prodded Brazil to try to revive the U.N. fuel swap deal proposed last October.
"We were encouraged directly or indirectly ... to implement the October proposal without any leeway and that's what we did," said Amorim.

In a letter to Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva two weeks ago, U.S. president Barack Obama said an Iranian uranium shipment abroad would generate confidence.

"From our point of view, a decision by Iran to send 1,200 kilograms of low-enriched uranium abroad, would generate confidence and reduce regional tensions by cutting Iran's stockpile," Obama said, according to excerpts from the letter translated into Portuguese and seen by Reuters.

I haven't seen any reference to this letter from President Obama to President Lula in the U.S. press - have you? But in Brazil, this letter from Obama to Lula was front-page news on Saturday morning - I saw it on the front-page of O Estado de S. Paulo, above the fold.

Note that the Reuters story, dated May 22, says Obama sent this letter two weeks ago. The deal was announced Monday, May 17. So, about a week before the deal was announced, Obama told Lula that from the U.S. point of view a decision by Iran to send 1,200 kilograms of low-enriched uranium abroad would generate confidence and reduce regional tensions. Note furthermore that Obama's words - according to Reuters, this is a direct quote from Obama's letter - actually specify an exact amount of transfer that would "generate confidence": 1,200 kilograms, exactly what was agreed a week later. So the U.S. officials and media stenographers (like Glenn Kessler in the Washington Post - "Iran creates illusion of progress in nuclear negotiations") saying a 1,200 kilogram transfer would have been great in October but would be worthless now are directly contradicting what President Obama himself wrote to President Lula one week before the deal was announced. But if course you wouldn't know about that direct contradiction from the U.S. media, because in the U.S. media, the letter from Obama to Lula apparently doesn't exist.

Morever, Brazil says that before the deal, no-one raised the issue of Iran's 20% enrichment as an obstacle:

"It wasn't on the agenda. Nobody told us, 'Hey if you don't stop 20 percent enrichment, forget the deal'," said [Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso] Amorim.
So, if Brazil is telling the truth - and there is no evidence that they are not - then this means that President Obama's letter to Lula did not raise the 20% objection, and the excerpt provided by Reuters suggests that it didn't.

So far, I've seen one clear reference in U.S. media to claims by Brazil and Turkey that they had the Obama Administration's backing in pursuing negotiations: not in a news article, but in an International Herald Tribune column by Roger Cohen reprinted by the New York Times, "America Moves the Goalposts."

Cohen wrote:

No wonder Ahmet Davutoglu, the Turkish foreign minister, is angry. I believe him when he says Obama and U.S. officials encouraged Turkey earlier this year to revive the deal: "What they wanted us to do was give the confidence to Iran to do the swap. We have done our duty."
Cohen's explanation for the Obama Administration's stunning flip-flop? Domestic politics:

I believed Obama was ready to think anew on Iran. It seems not. Presidents must lead on major foreign policy initiatives, not be bullied by domestic political considerations, in this case incandescent Iran ire on the Hill in an election year.
Last year, the Administration concluded that Iran wasn't ready to negotiate with the U.S. because of Iranian domestic politics. Now, it seems, the United States isn't ready to deal because the Obama Administration is afraid of Congress.

It's a shame we don't have a leader in the White House right now who is ready to lead on this issue. If only we had elected this guy:

Friday, May 21, 2010

IMF and the Global Economic Outlook.

This is an article on the IMF and the global economic outlook by JulioHuato from his blog. He argues that wealth distribution may actually help the economic recovery. However the opposite seems to be happening. The IMF recipe is to promote austerity to save creditor banks. The onus will be mostly on the creditors. There is certainly no sign of the idea suggested here of repudiation of debt and spending that is in the interest of creditors. The Greek bailout is premised on cutting pensions, wages etc. It is all on the backs of the working class. For the workers to win the class struggle they would need to work towards appropriating the means of production distribution and exchange. As long as the means of production is owned by private capital and economic growth based upon profit and attempt to redistribute in favor of the working class will face barriers that are part of the capitalist system. For a time the developed countries were able to buy off their working people with a welfare state and much higher wages but with the globalization of capital this is becoming increasing impossible and the standard of living of many developed capitalist countries is probably unsustainable under the existing system. Entitlements are being cut back and even more cutbacks are coming to try and manage ballooning debt. In countries such as the U.S. labor seems to be weak and even the few powerful unions that exist are under attack and some union leaders such as Stern---now departed-- see selling out as the way to growth.
However, there does seem to be a contradiction between austerity measures and entitlement cutbacks and economic growth. Growth that is necessary to increase revenues and thus ability to pay debts. The IMF measures may often cause GDP to decrease and make the situation worse rather than better.

IMF Outlook and Public Debt
In Uncategorized on May 19, 2010 at 12:15 pm

In its latest World Economic Outlook, the IMF reports that the global economy is bouncing back. The poorer economies are leading the recovery. Conditions in the rich economies are much iffier, slowed down as they are by “lastingly damaged” financial sectors and household balance sheets; meaning that the banks are still financially weak and households — especially the households of working people — have a lot of debt (mortgage, car, consumer, student, etc.) compared to their perceived ability to repay it.
In the longer term, the rich countries need to reform their financial sectors (and the finances of working people need to improve significantly). In the short term, their recovery hinges on their maintaining easy money and aggressive public spending. Yet a recovery of this kind is “subject to downside risks as fiscal fragilities have come to the fore.” Rich countries — the IMF suggests — are between the rock of holding easy money and aggressive public spending and the hard place of showing creditors public debt is under control and, hence, repayable.

Or are they?

Paul Krugman has noted that part of the problem lies in the chicken-and-egg nature of public solvency. The public debt of rich countries looks scarier to the financial markets, because the recession threatens to permanently reduce the long-term potential of the economy (and, consequently, the public finances). Now, to avoid this permanent damage, aggressive fiscal policy is called for.

Historically, to a varying extent in different contexts, serious bouts of indebtedness (public or private) have been resolved by further economic growth, which has usually required substantial public spending. This is, for example, again to some extent, the experience of the U.S. in the postwar period.

Another illustrative case I’m most familiar with is Mexico, after six or seven years of depression as a result of the 1980s debt crisis. In spite of the enormous sacrifices imposed on Mexican working people to service the debt (made onerous by Paul Volcker’s monetary brutality after taking over the Fed in 1979), public debt in the late 1980s remained above 50% of GDP (which, at the time, was very scary). It wasn’t until serious public and private spending boosted by the prospects of the North American Free Trade Agreement in the early 1990s that the debt shrunk to 25% of GDP (later on, the Tequila Crisis of 1994-1995 reversed this trend temporarily).

But we should not stop here. A key issue for working people trying to understand the scope of possibilities for political action is being glossed over (or not fully spelled out) both by the IMF and Krugman. And that is the fact that, historically, there has been another decisive mechanism slashing the debt to “manageable” size — namely the redistribution of public (and private) debt holdings from creditors to debtors!

Again, historically, this redistribution has been carried out via outright expropriation, debt repudiation, ”renegotiation,” taxation, inflation, etc. In other words, it’s resulted from (1) direct deals between debtors and creditors benefiting the former at the expense of the latter, (2) taxing the debt holders and spending in ways that benefit the debtors (e.g. public investment, job creation, unemployment insurance, etc.), (3) pumping money into the economy, or some combination thereof.

In the case of Mexico’s 1980s debt crisis, gangster president Carlos Salinas managed to get the debt reduced by 20% after threatening the banks with default. In the case of postwar U.S., my impression is that inflation accomplished this to some extent. Again, Krugman has often alluded to this process on his blog, although without exploring its implications.

Furthermore, it has been amply demostrated by empirical study after empirical study that inequality, both international and domestic, is a persistent source of economic instability. Clearly, the still ongoing global financial and economic crisis owes much to the tremendous increase in domestic inequality (in the U.S., Europe, China, etc.) that preceded it. Hence, wealth redistribution accomplishes two positive goals: (1) it resolves the debt issue in the short run and (2) it creates conditions that stabilize the economy in the long run.

Some qualifications are required. The rich and the debt holders are not necessarily one and the same class of people. There are large institutional investors, with seizable debt portfolios, that manage the pooled pensions and retirement funds of working people. There are also highly exposed sovereign wealth funds that manage the public foreign-exchange reserves of entire nations such as China. Leaving aside the extent to which these funds are managed for the benefit of working people, a redistribution of debt securities would have to take these issues into consideration. We don’t want the remedy to backfire on working people, in the U.S. or abroad.

Is there a downside to wealth redistribution? Potentially, yes. Rich people will freak out. They always do when their supposedly sacred ownership rights are violated — although, as I’ve noted before, the existence of ownership rights is inevitably self contradictory, because ownership rights are unthinkable without governments to enforce them, and the existence of governments necessarily implies the allocation of resources outside of markets (taxation and public spending). The question, then, is not whether but to what degree.

So, the “markets” (or rather, the big players in the markets) are likely to threaten governments with a higher cost of public borrowing. But with enough popular support, governments can call the bluff and credibly threaten an escalation. It is, after all, a conflict between an overwhelming majority of people (like 99.5%) and a tiny percentage of the population (the extremely rich, i.e. like 0.5% of people): “You hike the yields (which is to say, you depreciate public-debt securities) and we will have no choice but to ratchet up your taxes or expropriate the hell out of you.”

Is this a likely course of action? I do not know. The answer — I guess — is, “It depends.” How likely is in each particular context for a government to take action under sufficiently strong popular pressure? But my point here is not to forecast the course of political events, but to show working people interested in educating themselves on these matters that the public debt issue is not a natural phenomenon, but an entirely social construct that working people acting in concert can alter or even dismantle.

To repeat myself: It is a class struggle and, for a change, working people can win it this time around!

[Note: With time, I'll try and update this post with relevant links backing up some of my factual assertions (e.g. regarding the effects of inequality on economic performance), which I believe are rather uncontroversial. Although I'm afraid that the main obstacles to grasping my argument are not facts or logic, but ideology -- including the tendency of people to unduly restrict the range of what they view as politically feasible. In times of economic and political turbulence, real possibilities expand.]

Thursday, May 20, 2010

SEIU leader Stern: Legacy not all bad!

This is a contrast to many of the accounts of Stern's Legacy. Many consider him a sellout and at the same time a leader who was autocratic and spent union money stifling dissent as much as organizing. This author thinks the health care bill was a great victory. Again many on the left consider it a big sellout and the right may very well be correct that it will be a big expense and involve cutting back of Medicare entitlements eventually. This is from newsweek.

Andy Stern's Legacy: Not All Bad
Jonathan Alter
Friday's Washington Post story about Andy Stern leaving the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) with debts offers a revealing look at the internecine strife that has long plagued the labor movement. And give the Post credit for covering a labor story, which most of the rest of the press simply ignores. But on the occasion of Stern stepping down after 13 years as head of the second largest (after the Teamsters) and fastest growing union in the country, the assessment of his legacy deserves a bit more perspective.

Stern, as the Post story says, is the most consequential labor leader of our era. I'm tempted to say that's like being the most consequential typewriter manufacturer of our era, but that sells Stern short. He had his shortcomings—the decision to break away from the AFL-CIO was a failure and, on a lesser note, a $1 million documentary that the union paid for (and in which I'm interviewed) was, as Stern admits, a waste of money.

Even so, Stern's leadership was virtually the only bright spot for labor in recent decades. He tried to drag the movement into the 21st century. The SEIU dissidents in California who Stern spent big money to defeat wanted return to the 19th century—to a lost world of hot rhetoric and effective strikes. Stern used both on occasion but he understands that militancy is impotency nowadays and the only way to advance is smart compromise.

As I explain in my new book on Barack Obama, without Andy Stern there would be no health-care reform. Starting in 2006 he arranged to break bread with the insurance industry and long-time enemies like Wal-Mart (see below) to move the bill forward. At the end of the process in March of this year, SEIU pressure on wavering House Democrats was critical to President Obama's victory. Stern spent little time with Obama personally in all those trips to the White House; mostly he was war-gaming health-care strategy.

Labor leaders who complained he wasn't paying enough attention to the Employee Free Choice Act ("card check" to critics) weren't being practical. There was no way Obama was going to tackle that first. As it turned out, health-care reform was a huge victory for millions of SEIU members and other lower-middle class Americans who will be added to Medicaid and will no longer have to worry that they're one illness or layoff away from bankruptcy.
Stern, a hard-headed former social-services worker and intellectual, was spectacularly successful in building SEIU into a powerhouse. The key was big deals with big employers and a refusal to be bound by the often mindless traditions of the movement. The fact that his hand-picked successor, Anna Burger, lost in the election to succeed him testifies to the fraying of Stern's bonds with restive locals as he concentrated on historic change. I hope he succeeds with more history-making as a member of the president's Budget Commission. If the teachers' unions are smart, they'll listen to Stern on how to make sensible concessions (on iron-clad seniority rules, for instance, that currently mean laying off even teachers-of-the-year if they're young). And Rich Trumka, new head of the AFL-CIO, should let bygones be bygones and seek Stern's counsel in the interests of the movement.

The philosophical breakthrough Stern made was understanding that even union-busting companies he spent his career fighting can have redeeming qualities. Take Wal-Mart again, which last week announced a $2 billion plan to ease—even end—hunger in the United States in the next five years. Developed with the help of a large collection of progressive groups, the program is a welcome sign of working across political lines. Naturally, the announcement got limited publicity, but that's a serious amount of money (mostly in-kind donations of food from Wal-Mart groceries) that will significantly dent the hunger problem. The Wal-Mart Foundation will also pay to deliver the food (including fresh meat, dairy, fruit, and vegetables) to local food pantries before their expiration dates, with the help of the latest irradiation technology. (By the way, for those of you about to go New Age/conspiracy theory on me, Stewart Brand of Whole Earth Catalog fame endorsed irradiated food and genetic engineering on the Colbert Report recently.)

I mention the Wal-Mart hunger initiative both because it's significant on its own terms and as a message to budding progressives. SEIU should still try to organize Wal-Mart but demonizing the company and refusing to work with it is a recipe for continuing failure. Labor should stay tough and principled but, as Andy Stern likes to say, "change to win."

TAG(S): Jonathan Alter, Barack Obama, Healthcare

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Fisk: Silenced for speaking the truth about Guantanamo

There was a brief flurry of articles about the Canadian reporters being kicked out of Guantanamo. Fisk reports that some newspapers were excluded from covering the trials but I thought it was just the reporters, or at least that is what other reports claimed.
The trials are a farce from the beginning. Obama has gone along with the "reformed" trials it would seem after closing them down temporarily. The whole idea of his being tried when at the time of the incident he was fifteen is criticized by many. He should have been considered a child soldier according to some and sent home for rehabilitation. What has always bothered me is the catch 22 legal nonsense involved in the trial. As an enemy combatant Khadr could be held indefinitely without charge but as an unlawful or unprivileged combatant he can be charged for lobbing the grenade even though a regular soldier could not. To try to kill a combatant on the other side in a battle situation would never result in a charge in ordinary warfare but terrorists don't wear uniforms! This is from the Independent UK.

Robert Fisk: Silenced for speaking the truth about Guantanamo

I began my column last week with the words "We know all about Guantanamo". I was wrong. Courtesy of the Toronto press – until a few days ago, when half of them were censored out of the drumhead courts martial that pass for "justice" in this execrable place – I have been learning a lot more.

Because the case involves a Canadian citizen – and because the Canadian government is doing sod-all for its passport-carrying prisoner – it hasn't been getting a lot of publicity on this side of the Atlantic. It should.

Omar Khadr was 15 when he allegedly – the word "'allegedly" is going to have to be used for ever, since this is not a fair trial – shot and killed a US Special Forces soldier in eastern Afghanistan in July 2002. Last week, a former US serviceman called Damien Corsetti, nicknamed "The Monster" at the Bagram jailhouse where torture and murder were widespread, agreed via a video link to the Guantanamo "court" that Khadr was trussed up in a cage "in one of the worst places on earth". "We could do basically anything to scare the prisoners," Corsetti announced.

Beating was forbidden, "The Monster" acknowledged, but prisoners could be threatened with "nightmarish scenarios" like rendition to Egypt or Israel where, according to Canada's Globe and Mail, "they would disappear". Which tells you a lot about Israel. Or what the Americans think of Israel. Quite a lot about Egypt, too, come to think of it.

I should add that Mr Khadr, who is now 23, was gravely wounded when he was brought to Bagram. As Mr Corsetti said, "He was a 15-year old kid with three holes in his body, a bunch of shrapnel in his face." The lads at Bagram – the guards and interrogators, that is – dubbed him "Buckshot Bob". Clever, huh?

Mr Corsetti, I should also add, was kind to Mr Khadr. He was earlier acquitted of charges of detainee abuse – not involving Khadr – and now says he is a disabled veteran being treated for "post-traumatic stress disorder". In other words, quite a find for Khadr's defence lawyers. Not for the Canadian government, however, which asked the Obama administration to suppress the fact that in 2003 and 2004, Khadr had given information to officials of the Ottawa department of foreign affairs and to agents of the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service (CSIS, for those who care).

The Canadian Supreme Court (for which I care a lot, because it appears to be fair) has already ruled that the conditions of Khadr's imprisonment at Guantanamo when interrogated by CSIS "constituted a clear violation of Canada's international human rights obligations".

Another American interrogator at Bagram, a sergeant, it turned out at the Guantanamo hearings, had questioned Khadr about his role in the Taliban. This interrogator, named Joshua Claus, was later convicted of detainee abuse – though not against Khadr. Claus also pleaded guilty to assaulting an innocent Afghan taxi driver named Dilawar who died in custody at Bagram.

We know Claus's identity because he gave press interviews to, among others, The Toronto Star, in 2008, when he claimed that his former employers were "trying to imply I'm beating or torturing everybody I ever talked to". Claus said, "Omar was pretty much my first big case. With Omar, I spent a lot of time trying to understand who he was and what I could say to him or do for him, whether it be to bring him extra food or get a letter out to his family." There was a lot more stuff at these hearings, admission of a "fear up" and "fear down" technique, for example – "fear up" apparently involved the threat of rape "by four big black guys".

In other words, another horrible, obscene story from Guantanamo. But wait. We can't have this kind of publicity show in the Canadian press, can we? Not least when Khadr's own government will do nothing for him. So get this. The Pentagon has announced that more than half of the Canadian press – including The Globe and Mail and the Star – will no longer be able to report the Guantanamo "proceedings" because they named Mr Claus as one of the interrogators – even though Mr Claus had himself given interviews to the press two years ago. But he wasn't named at Guantanamo. Get it?

Information already in the public domain is no longer in the public domain when it isn't mentioned at a drumhead trial in Cuba. (Yes, let's just remember that Guantanamo is actually in bloody Cuba!) The Pentagon didn't even call the reporters concerned – they used email, of course, because there might have been an argument, mightn't there?

Fairness in court? Not that we are going to find out. Khadr's father was an al-Qa'ida official. His life was almost certainly saved by US medics – there are some good guys in these wars – but he was most definitely tortured; and Canada (here I quote the Globe and Mail's excellent editorial) "in a sneaky and illegal fashion, participated in the abuse. It turned the fruits of its own interrogations of Mr Khadr to the prosecution, at a time when the military commissions had no explicit bar against evidence obtained coercively".

Too bad we won't have to hear much more about this trial, not in Canada, at least. The Star and The Globe and Mail have since made no reference to Claus's identity. Not surprising, I suppose. But remember, you read it here.

More from Robert Fisk

Monday, May 17, 2010

Russia to slash external debt plans.

Russia has already placed a 5.5 billion Euro bond issue. All the rest of Russian borrowing will be in the domestic market even though originally it had intended to raise 17.8 billion abroad. Investors are obviously rather risk averse and so the costs of raising money abroad might be quite high. This is from the Moscow Times.

Finance Ministry's Pankin Says Russia Will Curtail Foreign Debt Sales

The government will slash external debt plans and may not tap the market at all in 2011-12 after pushing through its first eurobond in a decade before Greek woes spiked risk aversion, Deputy Finance Minister Dmitry Pankin said.

Russia raised $5.5 billion in its first eurobond in over a decade last month, with the oversubscribed issue showing how far it has come since the 1998 domestic debt default.

As well as plugging a post-recession budget deficit, the placement was intended to improve borrowing conditions for Russian corporates.

But investor risk appetite took a serious knock from the Greek debt crisis, and yields across the board — including for new issues — surged.

"We just caught the last wagon of the train because one week after our bond issuance it could be much more difficult to get such results and as we see spreads are rising," Pankin said in an interview.

"We pushed the benchmark 20-30 basis points down. Maybe our expectation was that we could have better results, but the market was not as beautiful as it was at least one week before."

Russia had originally planned to borrow up to $17.8 billion abroad this year, and similar amounts in coming years. But officials have since said all further borrowing this year will be done on the domestic market.

"I think our main strategy is to borrow in the internal market, mainly using ruble instruments," Pankin said, adding that this strategy would also apply in years ahead.

"Our plan is that we diminish our external borrowing from up to $20 [billion] to up to $7.5 billion … for 2011 and 2012. But it's only an indication that we can borrow. Now it's difficult to say exactly whether we will borrow or not."

Total borrowing needs for this year though are unlikely to be less than the expected 1.5 trillion rubles ($50 billion) despite higher oil prices.

"We are preparing a revised version of the budget projections, but I think it would be rather difficult for this year to get a budget deficit substantially less than 6.8 percent," Pankin said, citing ruble appreciation and "much bigger demand from other ministries for additional spending."

Yields on the five-year Eurobond, sold with a coupon of 3.625 percent, have risen above 4 percent. The 10-year with a 5 percent coupon now yields 5.3 percent.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Pakistani Investigators can't link Shahzad to the Taliban

The Obama administration is finding plenty of links and also others linked to Shahzad in the U.S. It seems that the U.S. wants to find links while Pakistan does not. Probably the truth is somewhere in between in that Shahzad may have some links to extremists in Pakistan but not all the connections he himself claims. These claims seem now to be accepted by the Obama administration while at first he was portrayed as a lone wolf. Everyone seems to be putting their own spin on these connections for their own political purposes making it more and more difficult to find out the truth. This is from rawstory.

Pakistan can't link N.Y. bombing suspect to extremist groups

Saeed Shah | McClatchy Newspapers

KARACHI, Pakistan — Pakistani investigators have been unable to find evidence linking Faisal Shahzad, the Times Square bombing suspect, with the Pakistani Taliban or other extremist groups, Pakistani security officials said Tuesday. Investigators also have been unable to substantiate Shahzad's reported confession that he received bomb-making training in the country's wild Waziristan region, officials said.

The lack of evidence found by investigators stands in contrast to forceful statements by top Obama administration officials linking Shahzad to extremist Pakistani groups.

The prime Pakistani suspect, Muhammad Rehan, was detained early last week outside a radical mosque in Karachi after Shahzad was arrested in New York. A member of the banned extremist group Jaish-e-Mohammad, Rehan was the only concrete link found so far between the 30-year-old Shahzad and the militant underworld in Pakistan.

However, the interrogation of Rehan didn't provide any link to the Pakistani Taliban or another militant group, officials said.

"We have not found any involvement of Rehan (in the New York attempted bombing). He didn't introduce Faisal Shahzad to the Pakistani Taliban," said a security official with knowledge of the investigation, who spoke only on the condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to discuss the issue with journalists. "No Taliban link has come to the fore."

An FBI team that flew into Pakistan after Shahzad was arrested also was allowed to question Rehan on Sunday. More than a dozen other suspects taken into custody in Karachi have been released. The Pakistani investigation continues, and new leads yet could emerge.

In Washington, a U.S. official told McClatchy there is "information that links Shahzad to the TTP, and not all of it is coming from him." The official, who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the subject, cautioned that it still wasn't clear how close a relationship Shahzad had to the Pakistani Taliban, who go by the name Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan.

The government in Islamabad is perplexed and angry at Washington's statements and threats about Shahzad links with the Pakistani Taliban, officials said. Officials said they suspected that the Obama administration was exploiting the issue to apply pressure for a new military offensive in Pakistan's tribal border area with Afghanistan, in the North Waziristan region, where Pakistani and Afghan Taliban, as well as al Qaida, are holed up.

"There are no roots to the case, so how can we trace something back?" the security official asked.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said over the weekend that the Pakistani Taliban were "intimately involved" in the attempted blast. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned Pakistan of "dire consequences" if a plot that originated in Pakistan succeeded in the U.S.

Holder stuck to his words Tuesday. “We stand by the statement of the attorney general and John Brennan,” the White House counter-terrorism adviser, spokesman Dean Boyd said.

Some days earlier, Gen. David Petraeus, who oversees U.S. military operations in the Middle East and Central Asia, said Shahzad was a "lone wolf" who was "inspired by militants in Pakistan but didn't have direct contact with them."

McClatchy reported last week that six U.S. officials had said there was no credible evidence that Shahzad received serious terrorist training from the Pakistani Taliban or another radical Islamic group.

"There is a disconnect between the Pentagon and the (Obama) administration," said a senior Pakistani government official, who also asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the issue. "The Pentagon gets it that more open pressure on Pakistan is not helpful."

The case of the botched May 1 Times Square attack again put the spotlight on Pakistan as a magnet for jihadists from all over the world, and the allegations about the Pakistani Taliban have called attention to the Taliban's close relationship with al Qaida.

The international news media seized on the dramatic arrest of Rehan as he emerged from praying in the Batkha mosque in north Karachi as evidence of Shahzad's involvement with Pakistani militant groups. Investigators learned that Rehan and Shahzad had taken a 1,000-mile road trip together last year from Karachi to Peshawar, on the edge of Pakistan's extremist-plagued tribal area, raising further suspicions.

Pakistani investigators now think that the trip to Peshawar, during Shahzad's visit to Pakistan last year, wasn't suspicious.

The Pakistani probe found that Rehan wasn't a very active member of Jaish-e-Mohammad, a violent group that's organized attacks on India and has no history of global activities. Rehan knew Shahzad because he's related to Shahzad's wife.

Shahzad, a naturalized American citizen of Pakistani origin, reportedly has told U.S. interrogators that he trained in Waziristan, according to U.S. charges against him.

The Pakistani Taliban also released a video in which Qari Hussain seemed to claim responsibility for the U.S. bombing attempt.

The video said nothing specifically about New York, Shahzad or a car bomb, however. The Pakistani Taliban's official spokesman, Azam Tariq, has denied that his group was involved with Shahzad.

The inept construction of the failed bomb also raised doubts over whether the Pakistani Taliban could have trained Shahzad. They have expertise in explosives and were connected to the devastating strike on a CIA base in Afghanistan at the end of last year.

The Pakistani Taliban also favor suicide attacks. Without a track record as a militant, Shahzad would be viewed as a likely spy by the Pakistani Taliban, which are under attack by U.S. and Pakistani forces. Shahzad had left Pakistan when he was 19.

"The lack of tradecraft in Shahzad's device is compelling evidence that whatever 'contacts' or 'training' he might have received in northern Pakistan was largely confined to physical training and weapons handling, not the far more sophisticated skill set of fashioning improvised explosive devices," said a report Tuesday from Stratfor, a private U.S. intelligence firm.

The U.S. focus on Pakistan's tribal area continued Tuesday with another missile strike from an American drone aircraft, the third such attack since the failed Times Square bombing.

The strike, in North Waziristan, reportedly killed at least 14 suspected militants. The Obama administration has unleashed an intensive campaign of drone attacks in Pakistan, targeting extremist hideouts in the tribal area.

(Shah is a McClatchy special correspondent. Jonathan S. Landay and John Walcott contributed to this article from Washington

Saturday, May 15, 2010

A left critique of Kagan

In spite of all the criticism on the left of Bush's extension of executive privilege Obama seems to be heading in exactly the same direction to amplify his own administration's power. Kagan would seem to go along the same direction. As this article points out there are other aspects of her legal viewpoints that show she is not likely to push for the sort of liberal affirmative rights that many leftist Obama legal supporters would like. While the right may have some bones to pick with Kagan on some issues, overall she may gain support from those on the moderate right. While Dean of Harvard Law school she actually supported hiring of some conservative leaning faculty members.
Kagan's Troubling Record
by Marjorie Cohn
After President Obama nominated Elena Kagan for the Supreme Court, he made a statement that implied she would follow in the footsteps of Justice Thurgood Marshall, the civil rights giant and first black Supreme Court justice. Kagan served as a law clerk for Marshall shortly after she graduated from Harvard Law School. Specifically, Obama said that Marshall's “understanding of law, not as an intellectual exercise or words on a page, but as it affects the lives of ordinary people, has animated every step of Elena’s career.” Unfortunately, history does not support Obama's optimism that Kagan is a disciple of Marshall.

Kagan demonstrated while working as his law clerk that she disagreed with Marshall's jurisprudence. In 1988, the Supreme Court decided Kadrmas v. Dickinson Public Schools, a case about whether a school district could make a poor family pay for busing their child to the closest school, which was 16 miles away. The 5-justice majority held that the busing fee did not violate the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause. They rejected the proposition that education is a fundamental right which would subject the statute on which the school district relied to ‘strict scrutiny.’ The Court also declined to review the statute with ‘heightened scrutiny’ even though it had different effects on the wealthy and the poor. Instead, the majority found a ‘rational basis’ for the statute, that is, allocating limited governmental resources.

Marshall asked clerk Kagan to craft the first draft of a strong dissent in that case. But Kagan had a difficult time complying with Marshall’s wishes and he returned several drafts to her for, in Kagan’s words, “failing to express in a properly pungent tone - his understanding of the case.” Ultimately, Marshall’s dissent said, “The intent of our Fourteenth Amendment was to abolish caste legislation.” He relied on Plyler v. Doe, in which the Court had upheld the right of the children of undocumented immigrants to receive free public education in the State of Texas. “As I have stated on prior occasions,” Marshall wrote, “proper analysis of equal protection claims depends less on choosing the formal label under which the claim should be reviewed than upon identifying and carefully analyzing the real interests at stake.” Kagan later complained that Marshall “allowed his personal experiences, and the knowledge of suffering and deprivation gained from those experiences to guide him.”

Kagan evidently rejects these humanistic factors that guided Marshall's decision making and would follow a more traditional approach. This is a matter of concern for progressives, who worry about how the Supreme Court will deal with issues like a woman's right to choose, same sex marriage, "don't ask, don't tell," and the right of corporations to donate money to political campaigns without restraint. While Kagan has remained silent on many controversial issues, she has announced her belief that the Constitution provides no right to same-sex marriage. If the issue of marriage equality comes before the Court, Justice Kagan would almost certainly rule that denying same sex couples the right to marry does not violate equal protection.

There are other indications that should give progressives pause as well. During her solicitor general confirmation hearing, Kagan said, “The Constitution generally imposes limitations on government rather than establishes affirmative rights and thus has what might be thought of as a libertarian slant. I fully accept this traditional understanding…” But the Constitution is full of affirmative rights – the right to a jury trial, the right to counsel, the right to assemble and petition the government, etc. Does Kagan not understand that decisions made by the Supreme Court give life and meaning to these fundamental rights? Is she willing to interpret those provisions in a way that will preserve individual liberties?

While Kagan generally thinks the Constitution serves to limit governmental power, she nevertheless buys into the Republican theory that the Executive Branch should be enhanced. In one of her few law review articles, Kagan advocated expansive executive power consistent with a formulation from the Reagan administration. This is reminiscent of the ‘unitary executive’ theory that George W. Bush used to justify grabbing unbridled executive power in his ‘war on terror.’

As solicitor general, Kagan asserted in a brief that the ‘state secrets privilege’ is grounded in the Constitution. The Obama White House, like the Bush administration, is asserting this privilege to prevent people who the CIA sent to other countries to be tortured and people challenging Bush’s secret spying program from litigating their cases in court.

During her forthcoming confirmation hearing, senators should press Kagan to define her judicial philosophy. Several of the radical right-wingers on the Court define themselves as ‘originalists’, claiming to interpret the Constitution consistent with the intent of the founding fathers.

I would like to hear Kagan say that her judicial philosophy is that human rights are more sacred than property interests. I would hope she would declare that her judicial philosophy favors the right to self-determination – of other countries to control their destinies, of women to control their bodies, and of all people to choose whom they wish to marry.

Kagan is likely to be circumspect about her views. She will frequently decline to answer, protesting that issues may come before the Court. We should be wary about how Justice Kagan will rule when they do.

Marjorie Cohn is a professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law and past President of the National Lawyers Guild. She is the author of Cowboy Republic: Six Ways the Bush Gang Has Defied the Law and co-author of Rules of Disengagement: The Politics and Honor of Military Dissent (with Kathleen Gilberd). Her anthology, The United States and Torture: Interrogation, Incarceration and Abuse, will be published in 2010 by NYU Press. Her articles are archived at

Friday, May 14, 2010

Noam Chomsky: How the Tea Partiers are Getting Screwed by Their Own Ideology

Chomsky seems to spend quite a bit of time on Joe Stack rather than the Tea Party. However there is a family resemblance between his ideas and those of the Tea Party. However many of the Tea Party Protesters benefit from the programs that the big government they are protesting provides. Although they claim to hate big business as well as big government some of their policies would help big business and hurt themselves and in that sense Chomsky is correct that they are being screwed by their own Ideology to a considerable extent. This is from alternet..

Chomsky: How the Tea Partiers Are Getting Screwed by Their Own Ideology
'We should not underestimate the depth of moral indignation that lies behind the furious, often self-destructive bitterness about government and business power."

On Feb. 18, Joe Stack, a 53-year-old computer engineer, crashed his small plane into a building in Austin, Texas, hitting an IRS office, committing suicide, killing one other person and injuring others.

Stack left an anti-government manifesto explaining his actions. The story begins when he was a teenager living on a pittance in Harrisburg, Pa., near the heart of what was once a great industrial center.

His neighbor, in her ’80s and surviving on cat food, was the “widowed wife of a retired steel worker. Her husband had worked all his life in the steel mills of central Pennsylvania with promises from big business and the union that, for his 30 years of service, he would have a pension and medical care to look forward to in his retirement.

“Instead he was one of the thousands who got nothing because the incompetent mill management and corrupt union (not to mention the government) raided their pension funds and stole their retirement. All she had was Social Security to live on.”

He could have added that the super-rich and their political allies continue to try to take away Social Security, too.

Stack decided that he couldn’t trust big business and would strike out on his own, only to discover that he also couldn’t trust a government that cared nothing about people like him but only about the rich and privileged; or a legal system in which “there are two `interpretations’ for every law, one for the very rich, and one for the rest of us.”

The government leaves us with “the joke we call the American medical system, including the drug and insurance companies (that) are murdering tens of thousands of people a year,” with care rationed largely by wealth, not need.

Stack traces these ills to a social order in which “a handful of thugs and plunderers can commit unthinkable atrocities—and when it’s time for their gravy train to crash under the weight of their gluttony and overwhelming stupidity, the force of the full federal government has no difficulty coming to their aid within days if not hours.”

Stack’s manifesto ends with two evocative sentences: “The communist creed: from each according to his ability, to each according to his need. The capitalist creed: from each according to his gullibility, to each according to his greed.”

Poignant studies of the U.S. rustbelt reveal comparable outrage among individuals who have been cast aside as state-corporate programs close plants and destroy families and communities.

An acute sense of betrayal comes readily to people who believed they had fulfilled their duty to society in a moral compact with business and government, only to discover they had been only instruments of profit and power.

Striking similarities exist in China, the world’s second largest economy, investigated by UCLA scholar Ching Kwan Lee.

Lee has compared working-class outrage and desperation in the discarded industrial sectors of the U.S. and in what she calls China’s rustbelt—the state socialist industrial center in the Northeast, now abandoned for state capitalist development of the southeast sunbelt.

In both regions Lee found massive labor protests, but different in character. In the rustbelt, workers express the same sense of betrayal as their U.S. counterparts—in their case, the betrayal of the Maoist principles of solidarity and dedication to development of the society that they thought had been a moral compact, only to discover that whatever it was, it is now bitter fraud.

Around the country, scores of millions of workers dropped from work units “are plagued by a profound sense of insecurity,” arousing “rage and desperation,” Lee writes.

Lee’s work and studies of the U.S. rustbelt make clear that we should not underestimate the depth of moral indignation that lies behind the furious, often self-destructive bitterness about government and business power.

In the U.S., the Tea Party movement—and even more so the broader circles it reaches—reflect the spirit of disenchantment. The Tea Party’s anti-tax extremism is not as immediately suicidal as Joe Stack’s protest, but it is suicidal nonetheless.

California today is a dramatic illustration. The world’s greatest public system of higher education is being dismantled.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger says he’ll have to eliminate state health and welfare programs unless the federal government forks over some $7 billion. Other governors are joining in.

Meanwhile a newly powerful states’ rights movement is demanding that the federal government not intrude into our affairs—a nice illustration of what Orwell called “doublethink”: the ability to hold two contradictory ideas in mind while believing both of them, practically a motto for our times.

California’s plight results in large part from anti-tax fanaticism. It’s much the same elsewhere, even in affluent suburbs.

Encouraging anti-tax sentiment has long been a staple of business propaganda. People must be indoctrinated to hate and fear the government, for good reasons: Of the existing power systems, the government is the one that in principle, and sometimes in fact, answers to the public and can constrain the depredations of private power.

However, anti-government propaganda must be nuanced. Business of course favors a powerful state that works for multinationals and financial institutions—and even bails them out when they destroy the economy.

But in a brilliant exercise in doublethink, people are led to hate and fear the deficit. That way, business’s cohorts in Washington may agree to cut benefits and entitlements like Social Security (but not bailouts).

At the same time, people should not oppose what is largely creating the deficit—the growing military budget and the hopelessly inefficient privatized healthcare system.

It is easy to ridicule how Joe Stack and others like him articulate their concerns, but it’s far more appropriate to understand what lies behind their perceptions and actions at a time when people with real grievances are being mobilized in ways that pose no slight danger to themselves and to others.

Noam Chomsky is Institute Professor & Professor of Linguistics (Emeritus) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the author of dozens of books on U.S. foreign policy. He writes a monthly column for The New York Times News Service/Syndicate

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Robert Naiman: On Obama and Peace Talks in Afghanistan

Of course Obama is not really interested in peace talks at the moment and when peace talks to take place the US would like to control events as much as possible. Pakistan is also involved in all this since they have some senior Afghan Taliban leaders under arrest. They too want to have a say in peace talks. The group that Naiman talks about is not the major insurgency group but a group allied with the warlord Hekmatyr. The main Taliban groups will not negotiate a peace without a clear commitment to NATO withdrawal.
For now it seems that US policy is stuck with the McChrystal counter-insurgency plan and offensive in Kandahar that will no doubt produce more deaths and misery for the Afghans as well as NATO. This is from

Obama: Say Yes to Afghan Peace Talks
Posted By Robert Naiman

Afghan President Hamid Karzai is in Washington this week, where he’ll be meeting with President Obama on Wednesday. Afghan government officials have said that a top priority for these talks is to win President Obama’s full support for the Afghan government’s efforts to reconcile with senior leaders of the Afghan Taliban insurgency in order to end the war.

On its merits, saying yes to the Afghan government’s request for U.S. support for peace talks would seem like a no-brainer.

If Hamid Karzai is the legitimate president of Afghanistan, then his government’s policy of national reconciliation ought to take precedence over Pentagon demands for more killing. Of course, if Hamid Karzai is not the legitimate president of Afghanistan, then Western forces must leave the country as soon as is humanly possible, because they have no legitimate basis to remain.

If the opinions of the Afghan public matter to U.S. policy, then the Afghan public’s demand for peace talks ought to take precedence over Pentagon demands for more killing. Of course, if the opinions of the Afghan public don’t matter to U.S. policy, then everyone in Washington pontificating about "democracy" or "governance" or "legitimacy" or "corruption" in Afghanistan ought to shut up immediately.

Consensus for Peace

According to every Western press report from Afghanistan, an overwhelming consensus of public opinion in Afghanistan supports peace talks to end the war. Just last week, Jonathan Steele reported in the Guardian that across Afghanistan, talking to the Taliban is seen as "the only credible way" to end the war, "even among Afghanistan’s small but determined group of woman professionals." Steele interviews a range of Afghan professional women to illustrate his point.

“Everybody has been trying to kill the Taliban but they’re still there, stronger than ever,” Member of Parliament Shukria Barakzai explains why she supports peace talks. “They are part of our population. They have different ideas but as democrats we have to accept that. Every war has to end with talks and negotiations. Afghans need peace like oxygen. People want to keep their villages free of violence and suicide bombers."

If "Afghan women now overwhelmingly want talks with the Taliban," Steele writes, "the same is true of many of the country’s male politicians, particularly the Pashtun." The perception of many Pashtun politicians is that the U.S. invasion put the warlords of the predominantly Tajik Northern Alliance in power, marginalizing the country’s largest ethnic group, the Pashtun. These Pashtun politicians see a national reconciliation process and new political dispensation with the primarily Pashtun Taliban as a way to end this marginalization of the Pashtuns and incorporate them into the government.

U.S. Temporizing

U.S. officials concede that the endgame is a negotiated political solution with the Afghan Taliban. But Washington insists that the "time is not right" because "the Taliban have no reason to negotiate," and that we have to kill more of them to "force the Taliban to the negotiating table." Many pro-war pundits in Washington act as if they believe these assertions. But these assertions are inconsistent with a U.S. policy of pursuing peace and little evidence has been advanced to support them.

Meanwhile, considerable evidence suggests the contrary: that talks between the United States and senior Taliban leaders now could be productive. Note that a significant component of the Afghan insurgency has already put a peace plan on the table, as reported in The New York Times. In March, a delegation from Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s insurgent group Hezb-i-Islami presented a formal 15-point peace plan to the Afghan government. A spokesman for the delegation said the bulk of the Afghan Taliban would be willing to go along with the plan, if a date were set for the withdrawal of foreign forces from the country.

When the U.S. government decides to attack a problem diplomatically, it emphasizes common interests and opportunities for agreement, seeking to expand the political space for diplomacy. This has been equally true under Democratic and Republican administrations, and was true even under the Bush administration. That the U.S. government is downplaying the prospect of peace strongly indicates that it isn’t trying to achieve peace. So when U.S. government officials claim that the Taliban aren’t ready for peace, they are really just restating what we already know: that the U.S. government isn’t ready for peace.

It’s breathtaking that the Washington punditocracy can continue to insist that there is no basis for peace talks and completely ignore credible claims that the bulk of the insurgency is ready to support the peace plan on the table, if foreign forces agree to a timetable for withdrawal. Of course, from the standpoint of hawk pundits, a peace plan that requires a timetable for the withdrawal of foreign forces is a "non-starter."

Support for Timetable Grows

In the United States, however, support for a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. forces is growing, particularly among Democrats. Already, 82 members of Congress have co-sponsored Rep. Jim McGovern’s (D-MA) bill requiring a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. forces, including such liberal heavyweights as Barney Frank and Henry Waxman. Among House Democrats from Obama’s home state of Illinois, it’s now 2-1 in favor of a timetable for withdrawal, with Reps. Costello, Schakowsky, Davis, Gutierrez, Jackson, Quigley, Hare, and Rush cosponsoring McGovern’s bill, leaving only Reps. Bean, Foster, Halvorson, and Lipinski still on the sidelines.

When we compel the U.S. government to accept the policy of a timetable for military withdrawal, we’ll have removed the fundamental U.S. obstacle to peace in Afghanistan.

Until now, only a handful of voices in the U.S. debate have openly called for real U.S. support of Afghan peace talks, such as Ahmed Rashid writing in The Washington Post, Robert Dreyfuss writing in The Nation, Tom Hayden writing in The Los Angeles Times, and Gareth Porter in his reporting for Inter Press Service.

But now that Karzai is meeting with Obama for the purpose of securing a U.S. agreement to back Afghan peace talks, it’s time to make U.S. public support for peace talks more visible. To this end, the Friends Committee on National Legislation, Peace Action, and Just Foreign Policy are placing an ad in the Politico on Wednesday, calling on Obama to say yes when Karzai asks him to support peace talks in Afghanistan.

It’s time for supporters of peace talks to end the war to "come out of the closet." It’s time to publicly state the obvious: only peace talks can end the war, and the sooner such talks start the sooner the war can end.

(Foreign Policy In Focus)

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Raimondo: Has Shahzad started a war.

Raimondo considers Shahzad a partly deranged individual who can't make a bomb properly and who probably makes up a lot of the stories he is telling to interrogators. The Obama administration is using them for their own ends to try to pressure Pakistan for even more actions against Islamic militants. Many in Pakistan also have doubts about the U.S. administration spin on the situation and even believe that the whole affair was stage managed by the USA. Shireen Mazari has an article in the Nation(Pakistan) to this effect. This is from While I doubt that Shahzad has started a war he has started even more reckless drone attacks in North Waziristan. Eventually the reaction in Pakistan may cause the already weak Zardari government to fall. If the U.S. decides to engage in limited incursions into North Waziristan this will be even more certainly cause political chaos in Pakistan.

Has Faisal Shahzad Started a War?
Remember the Maine?

by Justin Raimondo,
The Obama administration is determined to link the Times Square Fizzler, Faisal Shahzad, to the Pakistani Taliban, and isn’t about to let logic, reality, or anything remotely related to the facts get in its way. With the complicity of the Obama-stricken media, they just might get away with it, opening the way for expanded military operations in Pakistan, in “retaliation” for an attack that never even happened.

Attorney General Holder did the talking heads circuit this Sunday, no doubt for the explicit purpose of launching this trial balloon, and he had plenty of help from – for example – Jake Tapper, formerly of Salon, the pro-Obama liberal news site, and currently George Stephanopoulos’ replacement on “This Week.” Asked by Tapper what’s new with the Shahzad investigation, Holder replied:

“Well, we’ve now developed evidence that shows that the Pakistani Taliban was behind the attack. We know that they helped facilitate it. We know that they probably helped finance it and that he was working at their direction.”

Pretty incendiary stuff, if true: but where’s the proof? What’s the evidence? One would think the normally inquisitive Tapper would at least make a perfunctory effort to get the facts, but no, he just goes with the flow:

“Is there any evidence that there’s a cell that Shahzad was working with in the United States? Or was it just him operating from directions from Pakistan?”

Holder’s assumption — that it was all a plot hatched in Pakistan – is accepted at face value, without question, and it’s on to the implications.

This is what “liberals” like Tapper and the Salon crowd have learned, after eight years of the Bush administration’s lies, and the entire Iraq fiasco – nothing. They think because their guys are in power that it’s okay, that we can give them a blank check and they won’t walk away with the family jewels. This isn’t mere naivete. It’s collaboration.

Tapper might have asked about the statement of Gen. David Petraeus – who surely has some good connections to US intelligence – to the effect that Shahzad acted as a “lone wolf.” He might have asked about the possibility that the Fizzler acted out of anger at his apparently desperate financial situation, or some problem in his personal life – but no. Instead, Tapper cut to video of Hillary Clinton threatening Pakistan:

“We want more. We expect more. We’ve made it very clear that if, heaven forbid, an attack like this that we can trace back to Pakistan were to have been successful, there would be very severe consequences.”

Remember how Bush administration officials used to go on the talk shows and rant about Saddam’s “weapons of mass destruction” – effectively using the “mainstream” media as a sounding board for their lies masquerading as “intelligence”? Well, as Yogi Berra would say, “It’s déjà vu all over again!”

I’m saying it’s a lie because Holder offered no actual evidence, and because everything we now know points away from the administration’s conspiracy theory, namely:

The ineptness of the “bomb,” which was just a collection of propane tanks, the wrong kind of fertilizer, cheap alarm clocks, and firecrackers. The Pakistani Taliban sure knows how to make a bomb: if they “trained” and “directed” Shahzad, one would think he might have made a better job of it.
The failure of the Taliban to take “credit” for the attack. One could argue they were so embarrassed by the Fizzler’s ineptitude that they didn’t want to be associated with it, or him. However, one has to assume our declared enemies – if they managed to get as close to us as Times Square – would be boasting about it, rather than saying, as the Pakistani Taliban did, that while they admired what Shahzad did, or tried to do, they had no hand in training or directing him.
Signs that Shahzad experienced severe financial and personal problems in the period leading up the Times Square incident. His house had been foreclosed, his bank was suing him, and he was reportedly having problems with his wife – who went abroad before the incident, taking their two children with her. All of this underscores the high probability that he simply went ballistic, as I argued here.
Shahzad insists he acted alone. If he is, in fact, a dedicated Taliban operative, acting at the behest and under the control of the leadership, then surely he wouldn’t hesitate to say so. He’s a fanatical anti-American terrorist, right – so why wouldn’t he use his new-found notoriety to broadcast the Taliban’s message and advertise its reach?
The alleged Taliban connection just doesn’t comport with the known facts. Via “leaks” coming out of the administration, we hear Shahzad claims to have met top Taliban leaders, but as Robin Wright, of the US Institute of Peace (a government agency) said on Tapper’s show: “Well, apparently, he’s singing like a bird, I was told last night. But there are also a lot of tall tales that he’s telling, and they have to keep going back to him over and over and over because a lot of it’s not making sense.”

Of course it’s not making sense: crazy people are funny like that.

Here’s what I think: a deranged individual, who couldn’t put together a car-bomb if his life depended on it, sought to make his increasingly meaningless and unpleasant existence count for something – and he wound up being the equivalent of the Maine. Remember the Maine? It was a US ship parked in Havana harbor that suddenly blew up – and the incident was blown up into a convenient casus belli by a US government (and media establishment) eager for war with Spain.

Years from now, if we go into Pakistan with “boots on the ground,” as some are suggesting, in “retaliation” for this “attack” by the Taliban, Shahzad will go down in history as the nutjob who started a major war. How fitting for a nation that has itself gone crazy – a nation whose elites are now considering abolishing the last of our civil liberties on account of this failed act of mental aberration and alienation. Imagine if Richard Nixon or anyone in his administration had suggested abolishing or even “modifying” Miranda rights when that Weatherman bomb-making factory exploded by accident all those years ago in Manhattan. The ensuing uproar would have deafened the gods on Olympus. Yet Holder suggested the administration is taking this very course – and nary a peep of protest, or even surprise, out of Jake “the Stenographer” Tapper.

Go back to Salon, you hack!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

An anarchist take of the Greek protests.

This piece neglects to mention the facts that France and Germany are also urging Greece to buy expensive armaments from them and even are suggesting that this would help get Greece a bailout. Even without the foreign bank loans Greece does not collect enough tax to finance its social programs but as the article points out this is in large part a function of corruption and weak tax collection from Greek capital. The type of protests happening in Greece are likely to repeated in other places. Romania is already experiencing similar protests.
This is from anarkismo.


The Greek working class is angry, and with good reason, with the attempt to load responsibility for the bankruptcy of the Greek State onto their shoulders. We maintain instead that it is the international financial institutions and the European Union who are responsible. The financial institutions have plunged the world, and Greece in particular, into an economic and social crisis of historical proportions, forcing countries into debt, and now these same institutions are complaining that certain States risk not being able to repay their debts. We denounce this hypocrisy and say that even if Greece - and all the other countries - can repay the debt, they should not do so: it is up to those responsible for the crisis - the financial institutions, not the workers - to pay for the damage caused by this crisis. The Greek workers are right to refuse to pay back their country's debt. We refuse to pay for their crisis!

Instead, let us shift the capitalists into the firing line: Greek capital generates some of the biggest profit margins in Europe due to its investments in the poorer Balkan countries, the absence of social protections, collective guarantees and a minimum wage for Greek workers, not to mention the country's gigantic black economy in labour and an even greater exploitation of immigrant work. Greek capital is also very lightly taxed, due to the weakness of the State (with regard to the rich) and major corruption which permits fraud and tax evasion on a massive scale. So it is equally up to Greek capitalists to pay for this crisis.

We also denounce the attitude of the European Union. The EU was presented to us as a supposed guarantee of peace and solidarity between the peoples, but now it is showing its true face - that of acting as an unconditional prop for neoliberalism, in a complete denial of the notion of democracy. As soon as an economy becomes mired in difficulties, all pretence of solidarity evaporates. So we see Greece being scolded and accused of laxity, with insulting language bordering on racism. The "Europe which protects us" that liberals and social-democrats extolled at the time of the scandalous forced adoption of the Lisbon Treaty (particularly in France and Ireland) now seems a long way away.

As far as actual protection goes, the EU and the financial institutions have combined their efforts to frog-march Greece towards the forced dismantling of public services, through austerity plans that recall the "Stuctural Adjustment Plans" of the IMF: the non-replacement of staff, wage freezes, privatisations and VAT increases. Today the EU is demanding that the retirement age be moved back to 67, not only in Greece but also in other countries, and is also threatening to dismantle the social welfare system. In this way they are opening new markets for investors, while guaranteeing the assets of rich investors, to the detriment of the basic interests of the working class. It is a Europe of the ruling class, and one which we must all work together to oppose.

This is why we call for participation throughout Europe in solidarity initiatives with the Greek working class and with future victims of the onslaught of the banks.

Against the values of greed and rapacity that the European Union is based on, let us respond with class solidarity! Greece is a test case for the social dismantling that awaits us all. This policy is being enacted by all the institutional parties, from out-and-out bourgeois to liberals and social democrats, by every government and by all of globalised capitalism's institutions. There is only one way to hold back this policy of barbaric capitalism: popular direct action, to widen the strike movement and increase the number of demonstrations all across Europe.
Solidarity with the Greek workers' struggle!

Ireland's Data Protection Commissioner investigating Twitter over data privacy concern.

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