The Jaded Prole

A Progressive Worker's Perspective on the political and cultural events of our time.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

A New Start or a Final Push

Everyone get on board. Connect this to every progressive movement and Party. We have nothing left to lose and a world to reclaim

Two and a half years ago, we took to the streets in hundreds of cities to protest the financial elite and their cronies in government. We created protest communities in public spaces, abolished debt, wrote the Volcker Rule for financial reform, and helped hurricane survivors rebuild. Now, we’re challenging our corrupt government directly by building political power, starting at the local level.

The After Party isn’t a traditional political party in any sense. We organize by identifying and meeting a community’s needs from beyond the political system, and getting rid of corrupt politicians by getting our own community leaders into local office. We will feed the hungry, educate those who wish to learn, care for the sick, and house those whose homes have been taken. We will break the stranglehold of the broken two-party system by innovating and changing the rules of the game.

Read The After Party Manifesto and pass this around.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

The Corporate State Exposed

Capitalism, by its very nature and internal laws, leads to the corrupt rule of money. Ultimately it leads to what Mussolini called "Corporatism" or Fascism or what Georgi Dimitrov called "the brutal dictatorship of the most reactionary elements of financial capitalism." Moyers interviews ex insider Mike Lofgren on the reality of American fascism, how it works and for whom. Lofgren refuses to see a nameable ideology but the pure corruption and power behind the elected government is inevitable under capitalism and is clearly a variety of fascism, devoid of the nationalism of the past because it is the global dictatorship of the 1% of the 1%.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Beyond Obama's Hyperbole, Who We Have Become

A dose of reality I was thrilled to hear on my local NPR station the other day. If you haven't read Dirty Wars by Jeremy Scahill or seen the move, take the time to listen to this. Unlike the sickening lies and hollow feel-good rhetoric spilling from President Obama, you will learn something form this.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Pete Seeger Presente

A sad day and a loss for us all but Pete Seeger will be with us always. His influence and the indelible imprint of his great soul remains.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Remembering the Real Martin Luther King Jr.

Not the cleaned up version limited to racial harmony but the committed revolutionary who spoke about the very evils that
continue to destroy lives for the benefit of a few. We have a long way to go on that Jericho Road so get your boots on.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Edward Snowden and the “Fourth Branch” of Government

The new year is always a good moment to look back and the most significant events of the previous twelve months. In my opinion, what stands out were the revelations made by Edward Snowden at great personal cost. Aside from the fact that every phone call you personally made over the last 20 years is recorded for posterity along with every internet purchase and interaction, it has been revealed that our government has tapped the phone of nearly every leader around the world including our closest allies. It is useful to see how we got here in order to find a way out and to prevent further abuse. Given the space limitations, this is but a cursory review of the evolution of our National Security State.

Anyone who went to school when they were still teaching civics knows that the Constitution defines three branches of our government: the Executive, the Legislative (Congress), and the Judiciary. This changed inadvertently under President Truman who separated the section of the army responsible for collecting information on our foreign enemies and created the NSA. The CIA had already been converted from the OSS. In 1948, The National Security Council Directive on Office of Special Projects gave the CIA the authority to carry out covert operations "against hostile foreign states or groups or in support of friendly foreign states, or groups but, which are so planned and conducted that any U.S. government responsibility for them is not evident to unauthorized persons and that if uncovered the US Government can plausibly disclaim any responsibility for them."

By the early 1950's the CIA was orchestrating coups and involving itself in the internal affairs of other governments, supporting repression and worse in Italy, Iran, Guatemala, and Vietnam. The cold war had been declared. Progressives, leftists, and labor unions in our own country became targets of monitoring and intimidation. Though the agency had no official domestic law enforcement mission, the Central Intelligence Agency Act of 1949 exempted it from having to disclose its "organization, functions, officials, titles, salaries, or numbers of personnel employed." To truly understand the problem at the root of the CIA, one would have to go back to Allen Dulles who brought members of the brutal Nazi Wansee SS over to work for the OSS as anti-communists before the end of WWII, and his brother John Foster Dulles who amped up the “Red Scare” repressions and cold war interventions of the 1950s.

Unlike the CIA, the NSA's original mission grew out of the code cracking of WWII and was limited to wiretapping and cryptology directed at foreign governments that were seen as hostile and a threat to our security. This agency was kept secret for years. Though the NSA had no authority to spy on US citizens, it regularly did so, as did the FBI and CIA, spying on labor leaders, anti-war activists, and prominent civil rights activists like Dr. Martin Luther King. Given the overlap of these secretive agencies and the difficulty of separating them, I will refer to them all as the National Security State. They are, after all, different arms of the same beast serving the same corporate oligarchy.

Former President Truman came to regret the creation of these secret agencies, particularly the CIA. In a December 1963 Washington Post op-ed piece following the Kennedy assassination Truman wrote, “I think it has become necessary to take another look at the purpose and operations of our Central Intelligence Agency. I would like to submit here the original reason why I thought it necessary to organize this Agency during my Administration, what I expected it to do and how it was to operate as an arm of the President. I wanted and needed the information in its 'natural raw' state and in as comprehensive a volume as it was practical for me to make full use of it. But the most important thing about this move was to guard against the chance of intelligence being used to influence or to lead the President into unwise decisions—and I thought it was necessary that the President do his own thinking and evaluating. Since the responsibility for decision making was his—then he had to be sure that no information is kept from him for whatever reason at the discretion of any one department or agency, or that unpleasant facts be kept from him. For some time I have been disturbed by the way CIA has been diverted from its original assignment. It has become an operational and at times a policy-making arm of the Government. This has led to trouble and may have compounded our difficulties in several explosive areas. I never had any thought that when I set up the CIA that it would be injected into peacetime cloak and dagger operations.”

In the 1970's post Watergate period there were attempts by Congress to reel in the abuses of an out of control National Security State. The Church Committee headed by Senator Frank Church examined the role of the CIA in the orchestration of the coup in Chile that overthrew the elected government of Salvador Allende, installing the brutal military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet. They also examined its involvement in other coups and assassination attempts as well as its domestic spying and strike breaking. In August of 1975, Senator Church stated publicly on “Meet the Press” that “In the need to develop a capacity to know what potential enemies are doing, the United States government has perfected a technological capability that enables us to monitor the messages that go through the air. Now, that is necessary and important to the United States as we look abroad at enemies or potential enemies. We must know, at the same time, that capability at any time could be turned around on the American people, and no American would have any privacy left such is the capability to monitor everything—telephone conversations, telegrams, it doesn’t matter. There would be no place to hide. If this government ever became a tyrant, if a dictator ever took charge in this country, the technological capacity that the intelligence community has given the government could enable it to impose total tyranny, and there would be no way to fight back because the most careful effort to combine together in resistance to the government, no matter how privately it was done, is within the reach of the government to know. Such is the capability of this technology. I know the capacity that is there to make tyranny total in America, and we must see to it that this agency and all agencies that possess this technology operate within the law and under proper supervision so that we never cross over that abyss. That is the abyss from which there is no return.” Remember, this was in 1975!

Though the CIA seemed temporarily more limited, its secretive nature made this impossible to know. The Nixon administration led it to greater abuses with programs like the FBI's domestic counterintelligence Program, COINTELPRO, a program run by the FBI to monitor and “neutralize” citizen activism, particularly the anti-war and civil rights movements. Eric Snowden is not the first to expose government intrusion. In 1971 COINTELPRO was exposed by the Citizens Committee to Investigate the FBI, which removed secret files from an FBI office in Media, PA and released them to the press. These Activists have recently decided to reveal themselves and speak out. That same year, publication of the Pentagon Papers, the Pentagon's top-secret history of the Vietnam War, exposed years of systematic official lies about the war.

Abuses continued under the Reagan administration with ex-CIA head George H.W. Bush as Vice President. The terror unleashed in Central America by Reagan and the CIA led to waves of refugees which our government refused asylum, instead flying them back to certain death at the hands of the dictators we were supporting. This gave birth to the Sanctuary Movement as American churches protected these refugees and worked with other citizen groups against our involvement and support of brutal death squads in El Salvador, Nicaragua and Guatemala. In response, the Reagan Administration unleashed the national security state with spies infiltrating citizen activist and church organizations. What was revealed under Reagan, culminating in the Iran Contra Hearings, was the inseparability of the CIA from international terrorist groups and from organized crime. Leslie Cockburn, in her book “Out of Control,” documents CIA gun and drug running via front businesses run by CIA associated Cubans in Miami tied to Colombian cartels. She names retired American John Hull and others with ranches in Honduras where Colombian cocaine was loaded onto US Army planes and flown into the US through military bases. It connects them to the White House via Oliver North and others. This was also documented by journalist Gary Web in his famous San Jose Mercury News article entitled “Dark Alliance” for which he was hounded out of journalism and later died under mysterious circumstances.

Aside from support for terrorists like Jonas Savimbi, the Contras, and brutal repressions in East Timor, and Guatemala, the CIA's involvement in the training, organization, and arming of radicalized fighters in Afghanistan to overthrow the government of Mohammed Najibullah paved the way for Reagan and the CIA's greatest legacy: the attacks of September 11th.

The bombing of the Word Trade Center in September of 2001 did more to escalate the power of the National Security State than anything else could have. Though conspiracy theories around this event have flourished, what is known is that the perpetrators of this horrific event had been carefully followed prior to the attack. Author James Bamford, in his book, “The Shadow Factory” published in 2008, found that the NSA had been closely monitoring these hijackers as they moved freely around the U.S. communicating with Osama bin Laden's operations center in Yemen. The NSA had even tapped bin Laden's satellite phone, starting in 1996. "The NSA never alerted any other agency that the terrorists were in the United States and moving across the country towards Washington." Bamford stated in a PBS interview. There had been warnings which are well documented of this attack but apparently the National Security State, which has included the Presidency since Reagan and was then headed by Bush had more to gain by letting it proceed.

Edward Snowden is far from the first to see the overreach of the National Security State and make it public, though hopefully he is the most effective. Thanks to Mr. Snowden, we have become increasingly aware that the National Security State has become, in effect, a fourth branch of government with more power than the rest combined. It runs our drone wars and “black ops,” dictates our foreign policy, and exerts a heavy influence on our embedded press. Its legacy includes the needless death of millions around the world, the plague of crack cocaine, the filling of our prisons and now the loss of our personal privacy.

It is true that we have enemies, largely of our own creation, but a few rag-tag third world radicals with bronze age ideas are not an adequate justification for the most intrusive police state imaginable. The confluence of secretive power, paranoia and the rapid advances in technology have created a situation akin to the Sorcerer's Apprentice. Power feeds on itself and naturally grows if unchecked and the technology is hard to stay ahead of taking on a life of it's own. It is time to reconsider Truman's misgivings and Kennedy's thoughts on breaking up the CIA. We know from the past that one cannot control this secretive, above the law wing of government by simply writing new laws. President Obama's meager efforts via a panel of insiders is a cynical photo-op solution. He has continued to deny and defend the worst abuses of the NSA and just recently signed into law the newest National Defense Authorization Act which authorizes the military to be able to arrest you without charges and hold you indefinitely. The court has also found massive indiscriminate domestic surveillance to be legally acceptable. Given the National Security connections to the White House, one cannot expect more without massive public outrage. It is time for us to abolish the CIA and NSA and hand the authority to monitor known enemies back to the Army with heavy independent oversight. It is time to reassert our 4th Amendment rights to privacy. Edward Snowden did his job as a citizen, the rest is up to us.

By Al Markowitz

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Listening to Real Wisdom

I was glad to have caught this interview of Vandana Shiva and Jane Goodall by Amy Goodman. Vandana Shiva is an example of what I call World Consciousness, that is, an incorporation of different ways of understanding, combining the knowledge and perspective of older, non-western cultures closer to the land with linear, scientific western thought.

She is on target condemning capitalist corporate patriarchy as what is destroying the life of Earth but what is also vital is her awareness and value of other, older ways of understanding that we ARE the earth and that it, and everything on it is entirely interconnected and interdependent. The culture of commodification, material acquisition, and power is a cancer that must be excised.

A friend of mine, Dr. Thomas Ellis, in response to questions I posed for an article I wrote was also poignant on this matter in relation to community and sustainability on his blog. Well worth reading. Wisdom such as that espoused by Vandana Shiva gives me hope -- not a false hope that others will take care of us but a real hope, fleeting as it is, that enough of us will stand up (or sit down) and stop the madness that is destroying our world for the temporary enrichment of a few.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Beyond the Banal Paradigm of Economic Growth

This video in not about an abstract theoretical future

The oceans, as reported in the State of the Ocean report are warming as well as losing oxygen and acidifying with grave implications for all life on earth.

I am not pointing this out to say that we all need to recycle or ride our bicycles more. Though those are good ideas, they are irrelevant in the context of shale oil, methane mining, or coal burning. We are in fact at the biggest "tipping point" in the history of our species and only one thing stands in the way of our future existence. We have the knowledge and the technology to save our world. The only obstacle to life is capitalism, that outdated system of mindless greed.

In the US, the climate denial machine, funded by fossil fuel industry fronts like the Heartland Institute, Donors Trust, and the Koch brothers goes all out to spread misinformation and threaten opportunistic corporate politicians. You can bet, President Obama will OK the XL pipeline in his "negotiations" with the extreme right for some paltry meaningless political point.

The point that needs to be made here is that beyond the economic disparity, extreme poverty and misery caused by capitalism; beyond the class struggle, this system is a direct threat to our survival and a garantuer of our imminent demise. We must end it or it will end us. That is our common ground and certainly worth uniting over beyond any other differences.

Workers of the World Unite! We have nothing but a World to Lose and a Future to Secure!

Saturday, September 07, 2013

We Have Met the Enemy and it is the CIA

The latest war threats aimed at Syria are part of a long standing plan. This is another CIA operation continuing the neocon
project for a "new American century." Wesley Clark exposed the necon CIA coup a few years ago:

Obama continues as the latest CIA president. The corporate/CIA dictatorship of the US, orchestrated over decades and beginning with the Kennedy assassination is the greatest threat to world safety. From it's inception and marriage to fascism under John Foster Dulles, the CIA has continued the nightmare of brutality fascism, the extreme and inevitable version of capitalism, engenders. Since the election of Reagan, (really a front man for George H.W.Bush) the CIA has occupied the White House and overseen the growth of the largest and most intrusive national security state in history.

At a moment when the future of civilization much less most life on earth hangs in the balance the madness of endless war and the global domination of the 1% must end. Only the mass of humanity can stop it.

We must demand a military stand down and withdrawal of forces from the middle east. We must demane that the CIA be Abolished, and the NSA dismantled. We must demand an independent council to root out participants in the supra-govenmental CIA cabal. We must bring Obama to trial for his overreach of power including his use of the Joint Forces Security Command as his personal global hit squad and for his policy of drone terrorism.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Anniversary March -- A Dream Deferred

Much of the focus of the anniversary Civil Rights March is Nostalgic in nature and focused on Dr. Martin Luther King. Though his "I Have A Dream" speech is what had the most impact that day, he was one of many speakers, just as he was one of many who struggled and sacrificed himself for basic human rights. We must not allow this struggle or the memory of the breadth of it and of what Dr. King stood for to be reduced to one speech or to limit nostalgia for hand-holding amidst the monstrosity this nation has become. We must instead remember and heed his echoing words saying that “We as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values…when machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism and militarism are incapable of being conquered.” We are still the number one purveyor of violence in the world, we have an even greater divide between rich and poor as well as the largest prison population in the country resulting from uneven justice that targets brown and black people. Today as the civil rights of all are threatened we must not let the political establishment white wash the struggle while suppressing dissent even at this march we will be left with the hollow Wall Street version of King, the wrong king:

The wrong King
That familiar face adorning January
eyes set wide
on the promised land of justice
seems an impostor
a pretender to the dream,
a one dimensional doppleganger.

Despite the preacher's and politician's
shallow acknowledgments and
the recognizable visage
this is not the King that called his country
"the number one purveyor of violence in the world"
or that called for a guaranteed annual income.
Not the King that talked of the "triple evils
of racism, economic exploitation, and war"
so popular but unmentionable in these times.
No, the face looks right but
the message is all wrong.
They're confusing Martin with Rodney
"Can't we all get along?"

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Statement by Bradley Manning After Being Sentenced for Exposing US Crimes

Upon being sentenced to 35 years in prison for exposing war crimes and crimes against humanity that will not be prosecuted much less investigated by the CIA run US, Bradly Manning wrote these words.

"The decisions that I made in 2010 were made out of a concern for my country and the world that we live in. Since the tragic events of 9/11, our country has been at war. We've been at war with an enemy that chooses not to meet us on traditional battlefield, and due to this fact we've had to alter our methods of combating the risks posed to us and our way of life.

I initially agreed with these methods and chose to volunteer to help defend my country. It was not until I was in Iraq and reading secret military reports on a daily basis that I started to question the morality of what we were doing. It was at this time I realized in our efforts to meet this risk posed to us by the enemy, we have forgotten our humanity. We consciously elected to devalue human life both in Iraq and Afghanistan. When we engaged those that we perceived were the enemy, we sometimes killed innocent civilians. Whenever we killed innocent civilians, instead of accepting responsibility for our conduct, we elected to hide behind the veil of national security and classified information in order to avoid any public accountability.

In our zeal to kill the enemy, we internally debated the definition of torture. We held individuals at Guantanamo for years without due process. We inexplicably turned a blind eye to torture and executions by the Iraqi government. And we stomached countless other acts in the name of our war on terror.

Patriotism is often the cry extolled when morally questionable acts are advocated by those in power. When these cries of patriotism drown our any logically based intentions [unclear], it is usually an American soldier that is ordered to carry out some ill-conceived mission.

Our nation has had similar dark moments for the virtues of democracy—the Trail of Tears, the Dred Scott decision, McCarthyism, the Japanese-American internment camps—to name a few. I am confident that many of our actions since 9/11 will one day be viewed in a similar light.

As the late Howard Zinn once said, "There is not a flag large enough to cover the shame of killing innocent people."

I understand that my actions violated the law, and I regret if my actions hurt anyone or harmed the United States. It was never my intention to hurt anyone. I only wanted to help people. When I chose to disclose classified information, I did so out of a love for my country and a sense of duty to others.

If you deny my request for a pardon, I will serve my time knowing that sometimes you have to pay a heavy price to live in a free society. I will gladly pay that price if it means we could have country that is truly conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all women and men are created equal".

Bradley Manning is a political prisoner who we must strive to have released but his conscience is free. He, unlike the President, the last President, the generals, and many soldiers has chosen to maintain his humanity and not be a part of the greatest death machine in history.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Growing Movement Against Corporate Dictatorship

David Cobb getting to the nitty-gritty

He is with the Move to Amend movement which seeks to over rule the Supreme Court "Citizens United Ruling" empowering corporations.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

The Last of the Human Freedoms

“Everything can be taken from us but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way.” – Viktor Frankl

I tend to comment a lot on, Pilotonline, that is, the online version of our local paper, the Virginian Pilot. For me, it is my morning mental and writing calisthenics but also, it serves a vital function: a public forum where ideas and opinions on the topics of our time can be openly discussed. It is free but because most of us work for others, many people are afraid to post, or post under assumed names for fear of repercussions. I can certainly understand this, having lost jobs for speaking out on issues in ways unrelated to employers, including my last job in 2008, ostensibly for “speaking out against the war” online.

This brings to mind the recent firing of Norfolk's 911 dispatcher Jessica Camarillo for posting a particularly ugly comment on Facebook regarding the unfortunate killing of a young man by Norfolk Police while he was attempting to cash a stolen check. Her comment, suggesting the family be charged for the bullets, was certainly in poor taste but should she have been fired? How does the fear of workplace repression with widely published examples like this affect your freedom to express opinions publicly? As the dictatorial setting of the workplace reaches beyond the workplace itself, this also opens up a root question; can you really be free if you live in fear of exercising that freedom?

More and more we are living in a society where our associations and opinions are monitored. Employers search Facebook. They Google potential and present employees. And the government, as we are learning thanks to Edward Snowdon, is increasingly monitoring our every conversation, location, purchase and association.

My summer reading has further caused me to consider the implications of this on the state of our liberty and the health of our society. I have been reading Hannah Arendt, the mid-century philosopher and holocaust survivor most famous for her coverage of the Eichmann trial and her coining of the term, ,the banality of evil. In reporting on that trial from Jerusalem, what struck her was that Eichmann was not the monster she had expected. He was a bureaucrat who had abandoned any thought or opinion of his own and strove to do his job the best that he could. He had taken an oath of loyalty to his government and that was that. He was a career minded military man who was otherwise normal. She wrote, “The trouble with Eichmann was precisely that so many were like him, and that the many were neither perverted nor sadistic, that they were, and still are, terribly and terrifyingly normal. From the viewpoint of our legal institutions and of our moral standards of judgment, this normality was much more terrifying than all the atrocities put together.” She added that he had given up the option of even considering moral principles or of taking responsibility for his own decisions and actions, the very thing which makes us human, and instead had become an accomplice, even a leader, in the greatest crime in history. I personally have chosen throughout my life to only take jobs that did no harm and, at best, helped others. My refusal to relinquish my humanity has not served me well in the workplace but I can look at myself in the mirror knowing I haven't been a good German.

How is the unquestioning loyalty and job focus of Eichmann really different from the fellow operating the drone, working in a munitions plant, mining fossil fuels, participating in missile launches from a ship, the JSOC commando carrying out assassinations, or the many bureaucrats and support workers that keep an ever-growing national security state functioning? This seems especially relevant in our military dependent area. Aren't we responsible as individuals for everything we participate in? That seems to be the judgment of the Nuremberg tribunals as well as the Eichmann trial.

In her book, “Between Past and Future,” Arendt writes about the vital importance of Truth and of truth tellers. In examining what we mean by Truth, she distinguishes “rational truth” from “factual truth. The former being that which is undeniable like geometry, and the latter being historical facts and scientific findings. She focuses on the factual truth which is often contentious due to its implications and challenges to power and wealth. She writes, “The chances of factual truth surviving the onslaught of power are very slim indeed . . . factual truth, if it happens to oppose a given group's profit or pleasure, is greeted today with more hostility than ever.” Interestingly, this was penned in the 1950's. She also states that the opposite of factual truth is of course, a lie. She writes, “ . . . a liar, lacking the power to make his falsehood stick, does not insist on the gospel truth of his statement but pretends that this is his opinion.” Thus, those whose interests are threatened by factual truth, often present that truth as merely an opinion. Think of examples like the dangers of Tobacco, or Global Warming, or Evolution. We even do this with the ultimate but threatening truth of death, creating hoped for afterlife alternatives that give us comfort by rendering our certain end an opinion.

More important is the necessity of public communication in the search for Truth. Emmanuel Kant addressed this, stating that, “The external power that deprives man of his freedom to communicate his thoughts publicly, deprives him at the same time of his freedom to think.” We think in community. We need to check the thoughts in our head with that of others to make them valid. This sharing of information is especially vital in a representative republic where opinions become votes. An uninformed and cowed citizenry is an easily manipulable mass, barely meeting the definition of “citizen.”

This brings me back to the Pilotonline forum and the voiced intent of the paper to further limit posting privileges by eliminating the protection of anonymity which allows working people to participate in the public conversation without fear. I expressed my objection of this to Editorial Page Editor Donald Luzzato, pointing out that the only people brave enough to post opinions under their real name were business owners, retirees and those with nothing left to lose. He disagreed but no doubt, knows the limits of what he himself can say in order to maintain his position.

In the larger world, we are seeing record levels of citizen surveillance, attacks on truth tellers, and on the Press in order to suppress factual truths our government finds threatening. In a recent ruling from the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, the Obama administration won a stunning blow against Press freedom. As reported in The Guardian, “the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled on the case of New York Times reporter James Risen, delivered a blow to investigative journalism in America by ruling that reporters have no First Amendment protection that would safeguard the confidentiality of their sources in the event of a criminal trial.” The ongoing trial of Bradley Manning the charge of “aiding the enemy” had repercussions for those exposing information that might be vital for citizens to be aware of. The Pentagon Papers would be a good example as would exposure of lies to justify war. Fortunately Manning was found innocent of that charge. If the Press fears reporting anything not approved, is it still a “free press?”

Arendt points out, we may not even want to consider if life would be worth living in a world devoid of justice or freedom and that, “these are not possible with the seemingly less political idea of Truth. What is at stake is survival and no human world will ever be able to survive without people willing to say what is.” Throughout history, truth seekers and truth tellers have been ridiculed, tortured and killed and our own time is no exception. Bradley Manning and Eric Snowden are prime examples of this and they are not alone. Abdulrahman Haider Shiah, a Yemeni journalist who reported on the U.S missile attack that killed 40 Bedouin women and children in Al Majala, Yemen, was held in prison on a direct order from President Obama. He was freed last week but his life is still in danger. Truth telling journalists like Jeremy Scahill, Glenn Greenwald and Chris Hedges are sidelined slandered or threatened for their efforts in exposing truths most Americans never about.

Activists beyond the world of journalism also take risks, refusing to be like Eichmann, an unthinking cog abetting a larger crime. Brandon Toy, an Iraq veteran and defense contractor working for General Dynamics as an Engineering Project Manager building Stryker armored fighting vehicles recently wrote a formal letter of resignation. He wrote; “I hereby resign in protest effective immediately.
I have served the post-911 Military Industrial complex for 10 years, first as a soldier in Baghdad, and now as a defense contractor.

At the time of my enlistment, I believed in the cause. I was ignorant, naïve, and misled. The narrative, professed by the state, and echoed by the mainstream press, has proven false and criminal. We have become what I thought we were fighting against.

Recent revelations by fearless journalists of war crimes including counterinsurgency “dirty” wars, drone terrorism, the suspension of due process, torture, mass surveillance, and widespread regulatory capture have shed light on the true nature of the current US Government. I encourage you to read more about these topics.

Some will say that I am being irresponsible, impractical, and irrational. Others will insist that I am crazy. I have come to believe that the true insanity is doing nothing. As long as we sit in comfort, turning a blind eye to the injustices of the world, nothing will change. It is even worse to play an active part, protesting all along that I am not the true criminal.
I was only a foot soldier, and am now a low level clerk. However, I have always believed that if every foot soldier threw down his rifle war would end. I hereby throw mine down.”

Mr. Toy, unlike Eichmann, reserved his right to choose, to make moral decisions, in short, to maintain his integrity and his humanity. Others, like the Catholic Plowshares activists practice non-violent civil disobedience to bring attention to crimes perpetrated in our names. Greg Bortje-Obed, Sister Megan Rice and Michael Walli are facing 35 years in prison for the Transform Now Plowshares action. This symbolic disarmament took place at the Oak Ridge Y-12 plant, where they managed, unimpeded, to get to the building where all of our nation’s highly enriched weapons grade uranium for nuclear warheads are stored. They hammered on the building’s cornerstone – nuclear weapons are the cornerstone of the US empire – and splashed their blood on it, graphically depicting the end result of the production and use of such weapons. They did this to demonstrate the immorality and danger of nuclear weapons and to voice opposition. They are charged with “sabotage” for their actions. Our local Norfolk Catholic Worker activist, Steve Baggarly, has participated in similar actions and has spent years in prison, voluntarily sacrificing himself to express his objection to militarism, war and empire and to bring attention to it.

He and many others regularly protest at the School of the Americas in Ft. Benning Georgia where Latin American soldiers are taught brutal practices of repression and torture. Father Roy Bourgois has been leading this effort for years.

All of us make choices and have to balance our personal values with our need to make a living. In this effort we are subject to many pressures. Our ability to make those decisions is dependent on what we know and on how that shapes our beliefs. This requires access to Truth, for as Voltaire famously said, “Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.” History is replete with examples, as is the present. If we are to reclaim an open society and truly defend our freedom we must insist on the freedom to think, the freedom to speak, the freedom to know, and the freedom to choose.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Corporate Money and The National Security State

Fred Lapides writes

Today’s congressional hearing was a joke. The reason: Firms like Booz Allen bankroll and own Congress. Here’s how: Have you noticed anything missing in the political discourse about the National Security Administration’s unprecedented mass surveillance? There’s certainly been a robust – and welcome – discussion about the balance between security and liberty, and there’s at least been some conversation about the intelligence community’s potential criminality and constitutional violations.

Thanks to what I’ve previously called the No Money Rule, however, there has only been indirect references to how cash undoubtedly tilts the debate against those who challenge the national security state.

Those indirect references have come in the form of stories about the business model of Booz Allen Hamilton, the security contractor which employed Edward Snowden.

CNN/Money notes that 99 percent of the firm’s multi-billion-dollar annual revenues now come from the federal government. Those revenues are part of a larger and growing economic sector within the Military-Industrial Complex – a sector that, according to author Tim Shorrock, is “a $56 billion-a-year industry.”

For the most part, this is where the political discourse about money stops. We are told that there are high-minded debates about security and liberty, with politicians of differing parties contributing to those debates from positions of principle and ideology. We are also told in passing that there’s this massively profitable private industry that makes billions a year from the policy decisions that ultimately emerge from such a debate.

Thanks to the No Money Rule among the Washington press corps, though, there is mostly silence about the connection between the private industry and the public policy. Indeed, few in D.C. are willing to say that the policy debate may be, in part, driven by the private industry and almost nobody dares mention that politicians’ attacks on surveillance critics may actually have nothing to do with principle, and everything to do with going to bat for their campaign donors.

For a taste of what that kind of institutionalized corruption looks like, take a look at the amount of money Booz Allen Hamilton and its parent company The Carlyle Group,

This is just an example from two companies among scores, but it exemplifies a larger dynamic. Simply put, there are huge corporate forces with a vested financial interest in making sure the debate over security is tilted toward the surveillance state and against critics of that surveillance state. In practice, that means when those corporations spend big money on campaign contributions, they aren’t just buying votes for specific private contracts. They are also implicitly pressuring politicians’ to rhetorically push the discourse in a pro-surveillance, anti-civil liberties direction – that is, in a direction that preserves the larger political assumptions on which the profits of the entire surveillance-industrial complex are based.

The success of that pressure is exemplified by the title of today’s congressional hearing with the head of the NSA, Gen. Keith Alexander. The hearing doesn’t ask why Alexander lied to Congress or whether the NSA has engaged in illegal acts. No, a Congress bankrolled by firms like Booz Allen predictably calls the hearing “How Disclosed NSA Programs Protect Americans & Why Disclosure Aids Our Adversaries” – the two preconceived assumption being that 1) the NSA’s surveillance programs, which generate huge profits for companies like Booz, are beneficial to Americans’ security and 2) critics of those programs hurt the country.

None of this, by the way, is exclusive to debates over domestic national security policy. As Booz Allen’s business model suggests, there are also foreign policy implications to the pay-to-play culture.

As the New York Times notes, the firm is expanding its profit potential by “marketing” its surveillance and security services to Middle East dictatorships that want to strengthen their grip on power. According to the Washington Business Journal, that includes Kuwait, Qatar, Omar, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and “other countries” working to crush democratic dissent “associated with the Arab Spring.” That means American politicians who are financed by Booz and other firms with a similar multinational business model not only have a vested campaign-contribution interest in shilling for the domestic surveillance state that their donors profit from. They also have a similar interest in denigrating the democratic protest movements that challenge Mideast surveillance states that make those donors big money, too.

Obviously, this kind of moneyed influence should be a critical focus of the political reporting on politicians’ declarations about Snowden, the NSA, foreign policy and surveillance in general. When, for instance, a journalist reports on a politician slamming critics of the surveillance state, the public should be told whether that politician has taken money from firms that make their money off the continued expansion of that surveillance state. But that isn’t happening thanks to the aforementioned No Money Rule in the Washington press – and that rule isn’t just about etiquette. On national security issues, it is often about the elite agenda-setting Washington media outlets which also financially rely on an ever-expanding national security state.

For a microcosmic (but not the only) example of that little-mentioned reliance – and how it may skew the way the elite media frame the national security debate – look at these side-by-side pages from the ultimate agenda-setting D.C. newspaper, Politico:

As you can see, the ad on the left side is for a defense contractor. Like surveillance/security firms, it is part of a larger industry that relies on the ever-expanding national security state for its profits – and that therefore is hostile to national security state critics like Snowden. That industry invests heavily not only in politicians, but in advertising in Washington publications like Politico. Is it any coincidence that (as you can see on the right page) such publications loyally frame the debate over Snowden not as a question that ponders possible positive qualities (heroism, courage, etc.) but as a question exclusively of negatives: specifically, did he commit treason or is he a traitor?

Noting all of this isn’t to allege conspiratorial micromanagement of politicians and media by the military-intelligence community. It isn’t, for instance, to claim that everything that comes out of surveillance defenders’ mouths comes from talking points provided by Booz Allen’s lobbyists, nor is it to claim that Politico writers are directly ordered by their advertisers to depict national security critics on exclusively negative terms. It is actually to suggest something much more pernicious and ubiquitous than that.

As anyone who has worked in Washington politics and media well knows, the Capital is not a place of competing high-minded ideologies — in terms of the mechanics of legislation and policy, it is a place where monied interests duke it, where those with the most money typically win, and where a power-worshiping media is usually biased toward the winners. In the context of money and national security, there is a clear imbalance — there are far fewer moneyed interests whose business is transparency and protecting civil liberties than there are moneyed interests whose business is secrecy and curtailing civil liberties. That imbalance has consequently resulted in a larger environment in Washington that is so dominated by national-security-state money that the capital’s assumptions reflexively, unconsciously and automatically skew toward the national security state without overt corporate orders ever having to be given to politicians or media outlets.

If the simplest most straightforward explanation is often the most accurate, then this skewing is almost certainly part of why the pro-surveillance terms of the political debate in Washington is so at odds with public opinion polling on the matter. Big Money has helped create that disconnect – even though Big Money is somehow written out of the story.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Who is all the Spying Really Protecting?

We are being monitored on the job if we have one and because we are out of work if we don't. We are seen as a danger if we are hungry, short on water, or speak out for those who are. Those that feel we must be monitored and spied on for signs of trouble are serving the very corporate Terrarists that are creating poverty, desperation and shortages by destroying the biosphere for their own short-term gain. As Mr. Snowdon and other operatives know, as soon as you look up from your monitor and ask why, you are the enemy too. The Corporate Oligarchy have governments at their disposal. They are the 1%. They rule the world and are tightening their grip as their own system begins to crumble due to the consequences of its own shortsighted plunder. It is their government, inseparable form the global corporate oligarchy and their security that is defending itself against the rest of us.

Who are the individuals that pull the strings? The folks for whom the National Security State operates?, This article by Andrew Gavin Marshall, from Truth-out begins to expose the people who make up the 1% and, what Citibank calls the "plutonomy."

The Global Power Project, an investigative series produced by, aims to identify and connect the worldwide institutions and individuals who comprise today's global power oligarchy. By studying the relationships and varying levels of leadership that govern our planet's most influential institutions — from banks, corporations and financial institutions to think tanks, foundations and universities — this project seeks to expose the complex, highly integrated network of influence wielded by relatively few individuals on a national and transnational basis. This is not a study of wealth, but a study of power.

Many now know the rhetoric of the 1% very well: the imagery of a small elite owning most of the wealth while the 99% take the table scraps. This rhetoric and imagery was made popular by the growth of the Occupy movement, so it seems appropriate that a project of should expand on this understanding and bring the activities of the global elite further to light.

In 2006, a UN report revealed that the world’s richest 1% own 40% of the world’s wealth, with those in the financial and internet sectors comprising the “super rich.” More than a third of the world’s super-rich live in the U.S., with roughly 27% in Japan, 6% in the U.K., and 5% in France. The world’s richest 10% accounted for roughly 85% of the planet's total assets, while the bottom half of the population – more than 3 billion people – owned less than 1% of the world’s wealth.

Looking specifically at the United States, the top 1% own more than 36% of the national wealth and more than the combined wealth of the bottom 95%. Almost all of the wealth gains over the previous decade went to the top 1%. In the mid-1970s, the top 1% earned 8% of all national income; this number rose to 21% by 2010. At the highest sliver at the top, the 400 wealthiest individuals in America have more wealth than the bottom 150 million.

A 2005 report from Citigroup coined the term “plutonomy” to describe countries “where economic growth is powered by and largely consumed by the wealthy few.” The report specifically identified the U.K., Canada, Australia and the United States as four plutonomies. Published three years before the onset of the financial crisis in 2008, the Citigroup report stated: “Asset booms, a rising profit share and favorable treatment by market-friendly governments have allowed the rich to prosper and become a greater share of the economy in the plutonomy countries.”

"The rich," said the report, "are in great shape, financially.”

In early 2013, Oxfam reported that the fortunes made by the world’s 100 richest people over the course of 2012 – roughly $240 billion – would be enough to lift the world’s poorest people out of poverty four times over. In the Oxfam report, "The Cost of Inequality: How Wealth and Income Extremes Hurt Us All," the international charity noted that in the past 20 years, the richest 1% had increased their incomes by 60%. Barbara Stocking, an Oxfam executive, noted that this type of extreme wealth is “economically inefficient, politically corrosive, socially divisive and environmentally destructive...We can no longer pretend that the creation of wealth for a few will inevitably benefit the many – too often the reverse is true.”

The report added: “In the UK, inequality is rapidly returning to levels not seen since the time of Charles Dickens. In China the top 10% now take home nearly 60% of the income. Chinese inequality levels are now similar to those in South Africa, which is now the most unequal country on Earth and significantly more unequal than at the end of apartheid.” In the United States, the share of national income going to the top 1% has doubled from 10 to 20% since 1980, and for the top 0.01% in the United States, “the share of national income is above levels last seen in the 1920s.”

Previously, in July of 2012, James Henry, a former chief economist at McKinsey, a major global consultancy, published a major report on tax havens for the Tax Justice Network which compiled data from the Bank for International Settlements (BIS), the IMF and other private sector entities to reveal that the world’s super-rich have hidden between $21 and $32 trillion offshore to avoid taxation.

Henry stated: “This offshore economy is large enough to have a major impact on estimates of inequality of wealth and income; on estimates of national income and debt ratios; and – most importantly – to have very significant negative impacts on the domestic tax bases of ‘source’ countries.” John Christensen of the Tax Justice Network further commented that “Inequality is much, much worse than official statistics show, but politicians are still relying on trickle-down to transfer wealth to poorer people... This new data shows the exact opposite has happened: for three decades extraordinary wealth has been cascading into the offshore accounts of a tiny number of super-rich.”

With roughly half of the world’s offshore wealth, or some $10 trillion, belonging to 92,000 of the planet's richest individuals —representing not the top 1% but the top 0.001% — we see a far more extreme global disparity taking shape than the one invoked by the Occupy movement. Henry commented: “The very existence of the global offshore industry, and the tax-free status of the enormous sums invested by their wealthy clients, is predicated on secrecy.”

In his 2008 bookSuperclass: The Global Power Elite and the World They Are Making, David Rothkopf, a man firmly entrenched within the institutions of global power and the elites which run them, compiled a census of roughly 6,000 individuals whom he referred to as the “superclass.” They were defined not simply by their wealth, he said, but by the influence they exercised within the realms of business, finance, politics, military, culture, the arts and beyond.

Rothkopf noted: “Each member is set apart by his ability to regularly influence the lives of millions of people in multiple countries worldwide. Each actively exercises this power and often amplifies it through the development of relationships with other superclass members.”

The global elite are of course not defined by their wealth alone, but through the institutional, ideological and individual connections and networks in which they wield their influence. The most obvious example of these types of institutions are the multinational banks and corporations which dominate the global economy. In the first scientific study of its kind, Swiss researchers analyzed the relationship between 43,000 transnational corporations and “identified a relatively small group of companies, mainly banks, with disproportionate power over the global economy.”

In their report, "The Network of Global Corporate Control", researchers noted that this network – which they defined as "ownership" by a person or firm over another firm, whether partially or entirely – “is much more unequally distributed than wealth” and that “the top ranked actors hold a control ten times bigger than what could be expected based on their wealth.” The “core” of this network – which consists of the world's top 737 corporations – control 80% of all transnational corporations (TNCs).

Even more extreme, the top 147 transnational corporations control roughly 40% of the entire economic value of the world’s TNCs, forming their own network known as the “super-entity.” The super-entity conglomerates all control each other, and thus control a significant portion of the rest of the world’s corporations with the “core” of the global corporate network consisting primarily of financial corporations and intermediaries.

In December of 2011, the former deputy secretary of the Treasury in the Clinton administration, Roger Altman, wrote an article for the Financial Times in which he described financial markets as “a global supra-government” which can “oust entrenched regimes... force austerity, banking bail-outs and other major policy changes.” Altman said bluntly that the influence of this entity “dwarfs multilateral institutions such as the International Monetary Fund” as “they have become the most powerful force on earth.”

With the formation of this “super-entity” – a veritable global supra-government – made up of the world’s largest banks and corporations exerting immense influence over all other corporations, a new global class structure has evolved. It is this rarefied group of individuals and firms, and the relations they hold with one another, that we wish to further understand.

According to the 2012 report, "Corporate Clout Distributed: The Influence of the World’s Largest 100 Economic Entities," of the world’s 100 largest economic entities in 2010, 42% were corporations while the rest were governments. Among the largest 150 economic entities, 58% were corporations. Wal-Mart was the largest corporation in 2010 and the 25th largest economic entity on earth, with greater revenue than the GDPs of no less than 171 countries.

According to the Fortune Global 500 list of corporations for 2011, Royal Dutch Shell next became the largest conglomerate on earth, followed by Exxon, Wal-Mart, and BP. The Global 500 made record revenue in 2011 totaling some $29.5 trillion — more than a 13% increase from 2010.

With such massive wealth and power held by these institutions and "networks" of corporations, those individuals who sit on the boards, executive committees and advisory groups to the largest corporations and banks wield significant influence on their own. But their influence does not stand in isolation from other elites, nor do the institutions of banks and corporations function in isolation from other entities such as state, educational, cultural or media institutions.

Largely facilitated by the cross-membership that exists between boards of corporations, think tanks, foundations, educational institutions and advisory groups — not to mention the continual "revolving door" between the state and corporate sectors — these elites become a highly integrated, organized and evolved social group. This is as true for the formation of national elites as it is for transnational, or global, elites.

The rise of corporations and banks to a truly global scale – what is popularly referred to as the process of “globalization” – was facilitated by the growth of other transnational networks and institutions such as think tanks and foundations, which sought to facilitate these ideological and institutional structures of globalization. A wealth of research and analysis has been undertaken in academic literature over the past couple of decades to understand the development of this phenomenon, examining the emergence of what is often referred to as the "Transnational Capitalist Class" (TCC). In various political science and sociology journals, researchers and academics reject a conspiratorial thesis and instead advance a social analysis of what is viewed as a powerful social system and group.

As Val Burris and Clifford L. Staples argued in an article for the International Journal of Comparative Sociology (Vol. 53, No. 4, 2012), “as transnational corporations become increasingly global in their operations, the elites who own and control those corporations will also cease to be organized or divided along national lines.” They added: “We are witnessing the formation of a ‘transnational capitalist class’ (TCC) whose social networks, affiliations, and identities will no longer be embedded primarily in the roles they occupy as citizens of specific nations.” To properly understand this TCC, it is necessary to study what the authors call “interlocking directorates,” defined as “the structure of interpersonal or interorganizational relations that is created whenever a director of one corporation sits on the governing board of another corporation.”

The growth of “interlocking directorates” is primarily confined to European and North American conglomerates, whereas those in Asia, Latin America and the Middle East largely remain “isolated from the global interlock network.” Thus, the “transnationalization” of corporate directorates and, ultimately, of global class structures “is more a manifestation of the process of European integration – or, perhaps, of the emergence of a North Atlantic ruling class.”

The conclusion of these researchers was that the ruling class is not “global” as such, but rather “a supra-national capitalist class that has gone a considerable way toward transcending national divisions,” notably in the industrialized countries of Western Europe and North America; in their words, "the regional locus of transnational class formation is more accurately described as the North Atlantic region.” However, with the rise of the "East" – notably the economic might of Japan, China, India, and other East Asian nations – the interlocks and interconnections among elites are likely to expand as various other networks of institutions seek to integrate these regions.

The influence wielded by banks and corporations is not simply through their direct wealth or operations, but through the affiliations, interactions and integration by those who run the institutions with political and social elites, both nationally and globally. While we can identify a global elite as a wealth percentage (the top 1% or, more accurately, the top 0.001%), this does not account for the more indirect and institutionalized influence that corporate and financial leaders exert over politics and society as a whole.

Monday, June 10, 2013

"We hack everyone everywhere,"

From The Guardian "I had the authorities to wiretap anyone – you, a federal judge, to even the president if I had a personal email." He describes a "horrifying" infrastructure where he and other analysts could intercept the vast majority of human communications around the world.

And now Edward Snowden has gone and blown it open – literally. He has stepped out of the shadows and revealed himself to be the source of the Guardian's string of recent disclosures of what the National Security Agency has been up to in recent years – some of it ostensibly legal. He asserts that the NSA has routinely misled the people who are supposed to oversee its actions. He is only too aware that he has himself broken the law by going public with his concerns and that the consequences could well be personally extremely uncomfortable. His actions make him a different kind of frightening figure – to those whose methods he is now directly challenging.

The script for what happens next is, in a sense, routine. It is certain that the US government and security agencies will pursue Snowden to the ends of the earth – appropriately, in his case, since he has taken himself off to Hong Kong. But in other ways the usual processes are already wrong. There is no need for a leaks inquiry: the source has outed himself. And Snowden's current location complicates matter immensely for the US administration. He cannot easily be arrested, rendered and kept in solitary confinement – the fate of another young whistleblower, Bradley Manning, currently on trial and facing an eternity in prison. Edward Snowden promises to be a much more complex problem.

It is doubtless futile to suggest that the US government holds off from its pursuit of Snowden. The legal and diplomatic machinery is probably unstoppable. The appropriate authorities will doubtless bear in mind the parallels with the last comparable attempt to prosecute such a high-profile whistleblower – Daniel Ellsberg, leaker of the Pentagon Papers, who also revealed his own actions. His case, 40 years ago this year, was dismissed on grounds of government misconduct.

But it is not, we hope, ridiculous to suggest that both White House and Congress (and governments abroad, including in Westminster) take an intense interest in what Snowden has to say.

President Obama made much this week of the constitutional oversights of the intelligence infrastructure from both Congress and the courts – even if the secret proceedings of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Courts offer limited comfort to the general public. If this oversight is to be at all meaningful members of Congress ought to be seeking the earliest opportunity to learn what Snowden has to say – by video link, if necessary. Snowden is self-evidently not a common thief. He is more like a conscientious objector. It is not enough for Congress to outsource his interrogation to the FBI. It is vital, above all, that elected representatives test the truth of what he is saying – and not simply the ones who, it seems all too possible, have been asleep while minding the shop.

© 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited