Tag Archives: democracy

How Obama’s ‘Trade’ Deals Are Designed to End Democracy

By Eric Zuesse
June 14, 2015
Global Research

 

U.S. President Barack Obama has for years been negotiating with European and Asian nations — but excluding Russia and China, since he is aiming to defeat them in his war to extend the American empire (i.e, to extend the global control by America’s aristocracy) — three international ‘trade’ deals (TTP, TTIP, & TISA), each one of which contains a section (called ISDS) that would end important aspects of the sovereignty of each signatory nation,

  • by setting up an international panel composed solely of corporate lawyers to serve as ‘arbitrators’ deciding cases brought before this panel to hear lawsuits by international corporations accusing a given signatory nation of violating that corporation’s ‘rights’
  • by its trying to legislate regulations that are prohibited under the ’trade’ agreement, such as by increasing the given nation’s penalties for fraud,
  • by lowering the amount of a given toxic substance that the nation allows in its foods,
  • by increasing the percentage of the nation’s energy that comes from renewable sources,
  • by penalizing corporations for hiring people to kill labor union organizers — i.e., by any regulatory change that benefits the public at the expense of the given corporations’ profits. (No similar and countervailing power for nations to sue international corporations is included in this: the ‘rights’ of ‘investors’ — but really of only the top stockholders in international corporations — are placed higher than the rights of any signatory nation.)

This provision, whose full name is “Investor State Dispute Resolution” grants a one-sided benefit to the controlling stockholders in international corporations, by enabling them to bring these lawsuits to this panel of lawyers, whose careers will consist of their serving international corporations, sometimes as ‘arbitrators’ in these panels, and sometimes as lawyers who more-overtly represent one or more of those corporations, but also serving these corporations in other capacities, such as via being appointed by them to head a tax-exempt foundation to which international corporations ‘donate’ and so to turn what would otherwise be PR expenses into corporate tax-deductions. In other words: to be an ‘arbitrator’ on these panels can produce an extremely lucrative career.

These are in no way democratic legal proceedings; they’re the exact opposite, an international conquest of democracy, by international corporations. This “ISDS” sounds deceptively non-partisan, but it’s really a grant to the controlling international investors giving them a ‘right’ against the taxpayers in each of the signatory nations, a ‘right’ to sue, essentially, those taxpayers; and ISDS includes no countervailing ‘right’ to those taxpayers, to sue those international corporations; it’s an entirely one-sided provision, and it even removes the authority of the democratically elected national government to adjudicate the matter. It even removes the appeals-court system: once a decision is reached by the ‘arbitrating’ panel, it is final, it cannot be appealed. And no nation may present a challenge to the constitutionality of the ‘arbitrators’ decision. These treaties, if signed, will override the signatory nation’s constitution, on those matters.

This idea started after World War II and the defeat of the fascist nations on the military battlefields, and it moved this great fascist-v.-democratic war to a different type of battlefield. It’s round 2 of WW II.

Unlike many wars, WW II was an ideological war. On the one side stood the Allies; on the other, the fascist powers. The first fascist leader, Italy’s Benito Mussolini, said in November 1933 that his ideal was “corporatism” or “corporationism,” in which the state, or the national government, serves its corporations (see page 426 there):

“The corporation plays on the economic terrain just as the Grand Council and the militia play on the political terrain. Corporationism is disciplined economy, and from that comes control, because one cannot imagine a discipline without a director.

Corporationism is above socialism and above liberalism. A new synthesis is created. It is a symptomatic fact that the decadence of capitalism coincides with the decadence of socialism. All the Socialist parties of Europe are in fragments.

Evidently the two phenomena—I will not say conditions—present a point of view which is strictly logical: there is between them a historical parallel. Corporative economy arises at the historic moment when both the militant phenomena, capitalism and socialism, have already given all that they could give. From one and from the other we inherit what they have of vitality. …

There is no doubt that, given the general crisis of capitalism, corporative solutions can be applied anywhere.”

The Bilderberg Group

The secret (and still secretive today) Bilderberg group created in 1954, brings together the leaders, and the advisers to the leaders, of international corporations, meeting annually or bi-annually, near the places where major national leaders or potential future leaders have pre-scheduled to congregate, such as this year’s G-7 meeting in Bavaria, so that even heads-of-state (and/or their aides) can quietly slip away unofficially to join nearby the Bilderbergs and communicate privately with them, to coordinate their collective international fascist endeavor (and decide which presidential candidates to fund), to institute a fascist world government that will possess a legal control higher than what’s possessed by any merely national government.

Just as the anti-Russian, anti-Chinese, G-7 conference ended on 8 June 2015, the Bilderberg conference opened 15 miles away three days later (after a few days of vacation in the Bavarian Alps), and Britain’s Telegraph (as it does every year with extraordinary boldness for the Western press) issued the list of attendees, which included top advisors to many heads-of-state, plus major investors in ‘defense’ stocks, plus top propagandists against Russia (such as Anne Applebaum).

Bilderbergers have always been opposed to the old ideal of an emerging global federalism of democracies to constitute an ultimate world government; they instead favor a dictatorial world government, imposed by (the controlling owners of) international corporations. The major international corporations are controlled by perhaps fewer than a hundred people around the world; and, the other billions of people, the mere citizens, will, in this plan, as realized under Obama’s ‘trade’ deals, be fined if a three-person panel of servants (the ‘arbitrators’) to that perhaps fewer than 100 people, rule to say that the given nation has violated the ‘rights’ of those ‘investors,’ and assesses the ‘fine’ against those taxpayers.

The first Bilderberg meeting was called together by Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands in a personal invitation which proposed that, “I think that a ‘partnership for growth’ is a fine idea. A good deal has been said but very little has been done about trade policy, and this would be a good place to start the partnership.” (Note the ‘Partnership’ in “Trans Pacific Partnership,” and in “Transatlantic Trade & Investment Partnership”; but TISA doesn’t use that term.)

Among the leading Americans at the first (and perhaps each of the subsequent) Bilderberg meetings, were Wall Streeters David Rockefeller and George Ball, both of whom subsequently lobbied the U.S. Congress heavily to replace national standards with international standards, something that would be an improvement if done within a democratic framework (which would thus have electoral accountability to the public, and be appealable and amendable), but they didn’t even mention any proposed framework, and virtually everyone at that time was simply assuming that nobody in ’the West’ would have any dictatorial framework in mind; everybody assumed that, after the defeat of the fascist nations, any emerging world government could only be democratic. This isn’t what Bilderbergers actually had in mind, however.

Matt Stoller, on 20 February 2014, bannered, “NAFTA Origins, Part Two: The Architects of Free Trade Really Did Want a World Government of Corporations,” and he reported, from his study of the Congressional Record, that:

After the Kennedy round [international-trade talks] ended [in 1967], liberal internationalists, including people like Chase CEO David Rockefeller and former Undersecretary of State George Ball, began pressing for reductions in non-tariff barriers, which they perceived as the next set of trade impediments to pull down. Ball was an architect of 1960s U.S. trade policy — he helped write the Trade Act of 1962, which set the stage for what eventually became the World Trade Organization.

But Ball’s idea behind getting rid of these barriers wasn’t about free trade, it was about reorganizing the world so that corporations could manage resources for “the benefit of mankind”. It was a weird utopian vision that you can hear today in the current United States Trade Representative Michael Froman’s speeches. …

In the opening statement [by Ball to Congress in 1967], before a legion of impressive Senators and Congressmen, Ball attacks the very notion of sovereignty. He goes after the idea that “business decisions” could be “frustrated by a multiplicity of different restrictions by relatively small nation states that are based on parochial considerations,” and lauds the multinational corporation as the most perfect structure devised for the benefit of mankind.

As for David Rockefeller, he wrote in the 1 February 1999 Newsweek an essay “Looking for New Leadership,” in which he stated (p. 41) the widely quoted (though the rest of the article is ignored): “In recent years, there’s been a trend toward democracy and market economies. That has lessened the role of government, which is something business people tend to be in favor of. But the other side of the coin is that somebody has to take governments’ place, and business seems to me to be a logical entity to do it.” He meant there that international corporations should have supreme sovereignty, above that of any nation. He always emphasized what he proudly called “internationalism.” To him, like to Ball, governments — that is, national governments — were the problem, and democracy is not the solution. The solution is, to exact the contrary: provide supreme sovereignty to international corporations, as an international authority higher than any democracy, or that any nation.

A two-minute video succinctly states the case for UK citizens against ISDS regarding Obama’s proposed TTIP or Transatlantic Trade & Investment Partnership with Europe, but the case equally applies for all citizens, regarding Obama’s TPP with Asia, and his TISA with all countries for “Services,” including financial services and the ‘rights’ that international financial corporations such as banks have to transfer their billionaires’ gambling (‘investment’) losses onto the taxpayers (via megabank bailouts). Obama’s ‘trade’ deals will thus internationalize the system to bail out billionaires on their losses. Furthermore, (as that linked source on TISA explained): if TISA passes, then the United States, which is virtually the only industrialized country that hasn’t socialized the health-insurance function, would be prohibited from ever socializing it. (This, mind you, from the very same Barack Obama who, while he was running against Hillary Clinton in 2008 to win the Democratic Presidential nomination, told the AFL-CIO, “I happen to be a proponent of single-payer universal healthcare coverage.” He didn’t just lie: he’s now fighting to make socialization of health insurance absolutely impossible in the United States. No wonder why as President, Obama’s White House argued to the Supreme Court that no state may limit lying in political campaigns — that lying in politics is Constitutionally protected ‘Free Speech.’ Obama sets the record for phoniness.)

The world is already almost completely fascistic. As I previously reported, it really, truly, is the case that the “World’s Richest 80 People Own Same Amount as World’s Bottom 50%.” And, furthermore, the only rigorous scientific study that has ever been done of the extent to which a recognized ‘democratic’ country actually is a democracy found that that nation definitely is not. The nation was the United States. The U.S. was discovered to be, and long to have been, a dictatorship, in which the people who are not in the richest 10% have no impact whatsoever on the nation’s policies. A brief video accurately summarized that study (by Gillens and Page) and explained why its findings are that way. This 6-minute video is a crash course on political reality. That Gillens and Page study noted at the end, that, “Our findings also point toward the need to learn more about exactly which economic elites (the ‘merely affluent’? the top 1%? the top 0.01%?) have how much impact upon public policy.”

However, the most detailed study of the flow of economic benefits and costs in the United States since 2000 has found that all of the economic benefits from ‘America’s economic recovery’ and ‘the end of the recession,’ etc., have gone only to the top 1%. (The ‘news’ media try to say it’s not ‘really’ so, but the finding is based on the most solid of all data, and that’s the most reliable way to calculate anything.) Another study, which I did, also based on the best available data, “The Top 1% of America’s Top 1%,” has shown that the reason for the immense power that’s within the top 10% is the soaring wealth-boost to only the top 0.01%, the very top end of the top end. Comparing the boost to incomes at America’s top 0.1% to that of the top 0.01%, one sees that most of the income of the top 0.1% is actually going to merely the top 0.01%, so that, as I summed it up, “the wealthiest of the billionaires are getting almost everything.” And, this is the situation even before the Bilderberg plan is fully in force. Obama’’s ‘trade’ deals wouldn’t just lock this in; they’d vastly increase the power, and also the wealth, of the perhaps 100 or fewer people who control the largest international corporations.

The fact that these ‘trade’ deals are being pushed right now, means that the people who are in power have concluded that, already, ‘the free world’ is so dictatorial, that the chances that their plan can now be imposed globally are about as good as is likely ever to be the case again. The time is ripe for them to establish a global corporate dictatorship. The political money this year will be flowing like never before.

Turkish election exposes deepening crisis of rule

By Halil Celik and Jean Shaoul
June 6, 2015
World Socialist Web Site

 

Turkey’s parliamentary election on Sunday, June 7, takes place amid increasing social and political tensions on the national and international front that will intensify, whichever party wins.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is seeking an increased majority for his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), in order to push through constitutional changes for a presidential system of government, a move to more authoritarian forms of rule. But after winning three terms in office, the AKP now faces declining support, with polls predicting a reduced majority of 290-300 seats—far short of the 367 required for a constitutional amendment.

In addition, the AKP government’s relations with its traditional allies in NATO and the Middle East became strained following the Arab Spring, when Ankara sought to position itself as the model for Sunni Islamists in the region. It initially opposed the NATO-led war to unseat Libya’s Colonel Muammar Gaddafi. It was particularly vociferous against the Saudi-orchestrated and US-supported military coup against Muslim Brotherhood President Mohammed Mursi—with whom Ankara established close relations, in line with previous US policy.

Turkey’s role in Syria’s sectarian civil war, sponsoring Muslim Brotherhood-dominated opposition groups and financing and arming Islamic militias, including the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), in an attempt to overthrow the regime of its former ally, President Bashar al-Assad, again brought it into conflict with Washington after its own recent turn against ISIS.

Turkey’s choice of allies in the Syrian civil war was motivated by its refusal to lend any support to Syria’s Kurds, who are allied to Turkey’s Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), against whom the Turkish state fought a bitter 30-year-long civil war. Syria’s Kurds have carved up an autonomous state along Turkey’s borders and are opposed to the Islamists.

In partnership with Saudi Arabia and other Gulf States, the Turkish government has deployed tens of thousands of troops to the Syrian border in preparation for a possible invasion. On Thursday, May 7, the secretary-general of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) told journalists that, according to a tip-off from a “very reliable source,” Turkey would “launch a military operation into Syria tonight or Friday.” Two days later, the army chief went on leave for two weeks, ostensibly due to health problems.

The AKP’s aggressive and incoherent foreign policy is no more popular in Turkey than it is among the regime’s US, European and regional allies.

Following years of economic growth of around eight to 10 percent, that benefited a relatively small layer of the population, growth fell to four percent in 2013 and only 2.9 percent last year. As a result of the recession in its major export markets and the fall in the value of the Turkish lira, the country’s trade deficit grew to more than five percent of GDP last year.

Unemployment has risen above 20 percent, reaching 40 percent in the southeastern and predominantly agricultural and Kurdish region. This, along with rising prices, has led to a massive increase in household debt, with consumer credit ballooning eleven-fold.

According to the Credit Suisse’s Global Wealth Report 2014, Turkey is among those countries with “very high inequality.” The share of the top 10 percent of the nation’s wealth was 77.7 percent, the second-highest percentage after Russia. Income disparity grew by 21 percent between 2000 and 2014.

Today, just 100 families monopolize around 30 percent of the total national income. There are 44 dollar billionaires with a combined fortune of $50 billion, up from five in 2002.

These social and economic conditions were the driving force for the first indications of a movement against the AKP government during the Gezi Park protests in June 2013. While that movement was a predominantly middle class protest, the industrial working class has begun to stir.

Three weeks ago, 20,000 metalworkers in various car plants, including workers at Renault, Tofaş and Ford Otosan, went out on strike over pay and conditions in defiance of their union, Türk-Metall. The wildcat strikes brought production in Turkey to a standstill, at a loss of $70 million a day. Türk-Traktör, a factory near Ankara, is still on strike. On June 1, thousands of physicians and health professionals went on a one-day strike in Istanbul.

Tensions within Turkey’s ruling elite are explosive. In late 2013, Erdoğan, who was prime minister at the time, faced off with his former Islamist allies, led by Fethullah Gülen, a US-based preacher, and his Hizmet movement, who are opposed to the AKP’s overtures to the PKK, closing down their network of schools.

The Gülenists responded by instigating a major investigation into corruption involving AKP ministers and Erdoğan’s own family in December 2013. Calling it a “foreign plot” and an “attempt to damage the government made by a parallel state nested within the state,” Erdoğan ordered the removal and reassignment of police officers, prosecutors and judges involved in the investigation, and introduced laws outlawing Hizmet and banning the Gülenists from the police, the courts and government service, replacing them with AKP loyalists.

Erdoğan’s fallout with the Gülenists has forced him to turn to his former political adversaries, the Turkish military and the security establishment, for support.

Since becoming president, Erdoğan and the AKP government, headed by Ahmet Davutoglu, have become even more authoritarian and divisive. The government has clamped down on journalists, closed off critical websites and social media, and indicted more than 105 people for insulting the president.

In violation of the constitution, which accords the presidency a largely ceremonial function above politics, Erdoğan has retained the leadership of the AKP, held public meetings, criticised the opposition parties and called for an increased majority for the AKP in the parliamentary elections to enable the AKP to revise the constitution in favour of a presidential system.

The AKP not only uses the resources of the state to conduct its electoral campaign, but also employs the state institutions and the judiciary against the opposition parties, with pro-AKP judges, prosecutors and police chiefs hindering the electoral campaign of the opposition in a number of cities.

Turkey’s main opposition parties, the Kemalist Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), which espouse equally right-wing economic policies favouring big business, have been unable to make any serious inroads into the AKP’s support.

The predominantly Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) has sought to reposition itself as a “left party” along the lines of Syriza in Greece and Podemos in Spain. Most of the petty-bourgeois liberal left, which previously supported the AKP government, either openly or through the Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), the HDP’s predecessor, are now calling on workers and youth to vote for the HDP. This time, their slogan is “Freedom from the AKP at all costs.”

The HDP is for the first time fielding a national list, rather than independent candidates from the Kurdish region where the party is strongest. It is a risky strategy that means it must attract at least 10 percent of the vote to beat Turkey’s prohibitively high national election threshold to win any seats in parliament. Not a few international commentators, including the right-wing business magazine the Economist, have called for a vote for the HDP to clip Erdogan’s wings.

Should the HDP win the 72 seats that polls are predicting, it could end the era of single-party AKP governments and a return to the previous norm of rule by shaky coalitions. Should the HDP fail to win the necessary votes, all its seats in the Kurdish regions would transfer to the AKP. A defeat will likely lead to claims of electoral fraud and the breakdown of the much stalled “peace process” with the PKK and the Kurds.

Democrats’ Cave-In on TPP and TTIP. Good-Bye Democracy.

by Eric Zuesse
May 14, 2015
Washington’s Blog

 

On Wednesday afternoon, May 13th, a catastrophic failure became clear to the few honest Democrats who were determined to stop Obama’s disastrous ’trade deals’ which are actually going to transfer regulatory sovereignty away from elected government officials as at present (who are answerable to voters), and instead move these powers into the hands of international corporate cartels, which will have the final say over the safety of our air, water, automobiles, and other products, and of the environment, and of workers’ rights (and which regulations will become answerable instead to the controlling stockholders in those mega-corporations). Mega-corporations will set international standards, which none of the signatory nations within the TPP and TTIP will be legally able to exceed without paying heavy penalties to those corporations for violating those corporations’ ‘rights’ under these trade-deals. The current ability of individual nations to establish their own standards will disappear, except to the extent that international corporations allow.

Senators Sherrod Brown, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Harry Reid, and others that wanted to block Fast Track Trade Promotion Authority for these deals — Senators who were against this loss of democratic sovereignty and introduction of international fascism — counted the votes of their Democratic colleagues, and found that, whereas just a day earlier on May 12th the President was 8 votes short of what he needed in order to win this battle for the mega-corporations, that seeming progressive victory was fleeting; it was mostly just for show to the voters, to convince voters that their Senator had tried his or her best and won whatever concessions from the President and the conservatives, that remained possible, so that displaced American workers might receive some compensation for their lost jobs that will result from these international-trade treaties. In other words: a crumb might yet be won for what still remains of America’s labor unions. But product-safety, and the environment, will now be virtual free-fire zones for the large international corporations. 

On May 5th, The Hill had published the list of Senators who were for and against and swayable on this. It was headlined, “The Hill’s Whip List.” From what they reported, it seems that the only Senators who were definitely opposed to these bills, as of that time, were probably the following:

Republicans:

Richard Burr, NC

Rand Paul, KY

Democrats:

Tammy Baldwin, WI

Richard Blumenthal, CT

Sherrod Brown, OH

Bob Casey, PA

Al Franken, MN

Kirsten Gillibrand, NY

Martin Heinrich, NM

Patrick Leahy, VT

Joe Manchin, WV

Ed Markey, MA

Robert Menendez, NJ

Jeff Merkey, OR

Harry Reid, NV

Bernie Sanders, VT (Independent)

Brian Schatz, HI

Charles Schumer, NY

Debbie Stabenow, MI

Tom Udall, NM

Elizabeth Warren, MA

Sheldon Whitehouse, RI

That’s 22 of the 100 Senators. All the others are already either publicly committed to the large international corporations, or else are still bargaining with them, in one way or another, regarding how much financial support their re-election campaigns will be receiving. (And maybe even a few of these 22 will yet turn out to be for sale.) 

This is probably the reason why Senator Sherrod Brown was quoted in Huffington Post on May 13th as saying, “I can read votes. I also think that nobody saw us being successful yesterday three days out.” In other words: The token concession to labor unions that Harry Reid was able to swing from Mitch McConnell was the best deal that can be arranged, under the circumstances. 

This outcome was predicted by me on several occasions during the latter half of last year. I summed up on November 4th by noting that: 

For several months now, I have predicted that if no House Democrat would introduce a bill of impeachment against President Barack Obama (for whom I voted, incidentally), then Republicans on November 4th would elect not just one but both houses of Congress, and the closeted conservative Obama would be having a field day during his final two years signing into law lots of pro-big-business, anti-worker, anti-consumer, anti-environmental, legislation, which Democrats in both the House but especially the Senate have thus far been blocking. And, now, on Election Eve, this nightmare seems finally to be coming true. …

It didn’t happen; and so we’ll get an all-conservative Government: Obama’s final two years in office will be spent signing conservative bills into laws that the majority of Democrats in both the House and Senate have, heretofore, blocked: laws reducing the cost-of-living adjustment in the Social Security formula, and approving the TTIP and TPP international trade deals that grant international corporations the power to control the regulations regarding the environment, consumer protection, drug safety, food safety, and virtually all regulatory matters. Republicans and Obama have wanted to transfer those national regulatory powers over to international corporations, but House and Senate Democrats did not; and, now, because there wasn’t a single House Democrat who had the courage to introduce a bill of impeachment against Obama, we will have a Government that is Republican in the House, Republican in the Senate, and Republican in the White House except on women’s issues, where Obama actually has been a Democrat. He hasn’t been lying about that one.

That statement was accompanied by a detailed analysis of the public polling on the question of impeaching Obama.

The only thing that stood even a chance of retaining the Senate for the Democrats was for a Democrat in the House to introduce a bill of impeachment against Obama. Not a single House Democrat stepped forward. That failure, of all House Democrats, was effectively the end of the chances to retain a vestige of democracy in America — and even throughout the other TPP and TTIP countries. It could possibly have prevented TPP and TTIP.

———-

Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of  They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of  CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity, and of  Feudalism, Fascism, Libertarianism and Economics.

To Those Who Believe in Voting

Thoughts on the Least Important Decision People Make Every Four Years

Bu Noel Ignatiev
May 12, 2015
Counter Punch

 

One morning years ago, as I entered the classroom for a course I taught on U.S. history, I found the students engaged in a discussion of elections. One of them, whom I knew to be a supporter of “progressive” causes and who had previously complained about student apathy, asked me in a despairing tone, “Why don’t people vote?”

“I don’t know,” I replied.  “To me, the more interesting question is, Why do they?”

Why do people vote? The individual voter does not choose the winner of the election; she chooses which lever to pull or which box to check on a piece of paper. Yet some people get angry at me and call me a shirker when I tell them I don’t vote. If you don’t vote, they tell me, you have noignatiev right to complain.

Why not, I ask. Where is that written?

Some point out that in the past people died for the right to vote.

That is true, I respond, but beside the point: people also died for the right to terminate unwanted pregnancies, but no one calls abortion a public duty.

Clearly, something is operating here besides logic.

The only explanation I can come up with is that people vote for the same reason they cheer or do the wave at an athletic competition—it makes them feel part of a community. Now, I respect the desire for community. In the good old Hew Hess of Hay, “citizens” choose people to
represent them. To vote is to participate in a community ritual. It begins in grade school, when children elect who among them will get to clean the blackboards.

Rituals reinforce the society that gives rise to them. By reenacting the voting ritual people reinforce a system that ensures their powerlessness. This is true regardless of whom they vote for.

The New Society is based on people acting in concert to shape their lives. Representative versus direct democracy. The Paris Commune. The Flint Sitdown Strike. The Montgomery Bus Boycott. Tahrir Square.

As someone who believes in both the necessity and possibility of a New Society, my goal is to draw a clear line between it and all efforts to “work within the system.” In pursuit of that goal, I pledge not to engage in any discussion of whether one party or candidate is worse than another, whether it is advisable to work for Democrats, whether it makes a difference which Democrat one works for, whether activists should limit their electoral efforts to Socialist candidates, whether it is possible to be both a Socialist and a Democrat.

I promise to share no wisdom about primaries and swing states.

Finally, since I believe that for most people whether or how they vote is probably the least important decision they make every few years, and that most of them know it and will recover their sense of reality as soon as the “silly season” is over, and that they will do what they want regardless of anything I say, I also pledge not to argue with anyone about voting.

One more thing, which may seem to contradict everything I have said above: There are two classes of people who are excluded from voting: the first consists of those convicted of what the state calls “crimes.” Their numbers run into the millions, they are important factors in the economy of the localities where they reside, and their votes could conceivably swing an election; the second group consists of those not counted as “citizens,” who perform a large and increasing amount of the drudge work of the country.

Those who take voting seriously could do worse than undertake a campaign to extend the right to vote to these two classes. Interrogate the candidates. Demand that they declare themselves publicly on these issues. Carry signs. Interrupt debates and election rallies. Do as the Abolitionists – many of whom did not believe in voting – did when they brought the issue of slavery to center stage.

Noel Ignatiev is the author of How the Irish Became White (Routledge, 1995), and co-editor, with John Garvey, of the anthology Race Traitor (Routledge, 1996).  He blogs here. He can be reached at noelignatiev@gmail.com

 

Canada’s parliament adopts bill to greatly expand intelligence agencies’ powers

By Roger Jordan
May 8, 2015
World Socialist Web Site

 

Canada’s House of Commons voted late Wednesday to adopt the Conservative government’s Bill C-51, which, in the name of combatting terrorism, overturns core democratic rights and legal principles

In its third reading, the House voted by 183 to 96 in favour of the legislation. It will now be sent to the Senate for final approval, with the government pressing for Bill C-51 to be proclaimed law before the month’s end.

Bill C-51 authorizes the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) to break the law and violate the Canadian constitution’s “Charter of Rights and Freedoms” in disrupting groups or individuals the state deems to pose a threat to the country’s national security.

While the government has presented CSIS’s new “disruption” powers as directed at terrorist plots, the legislation defines national security in sweeping terms so as to include purported threats to the country’s economic security, territorial integrity, diplomatic interests or constitutional order. The activities CSIS will be permitted to undertake could include everything from breaking into homes and offices to steal computers and seizing bank accounts, to pressing employers to fire national security suspects or mounting smear campaigns against them.

The legislation’s sweeping definition of national-security threats means that CSIS can and will target dissident political groups and protesting workers. Both CSIS and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) have a notorious record of targeting leftwing and working-class organizations stretching back decades.

Not insignificantly, some of the language Bill C-51 uses in describing national security threats echoes that which the Harper government has employed in justifying illegalizing strikes, including by Canada Post, Air Canada and CP Rail workers.

Bill C-51 would also create a new “speech-crime” under which persons could be jailed for up to five years for the promotion of terrorism “in general.” The speech in question need not have been tied to any actual or planned terrorist attack, nor made in public. As legal experts and even sections of the corporate media have observed, this new criminal offense is so vaguely and broadly defined that it could readily be used to target those who express sympathy with groups like Hamas (officially designated a terrorist organization under Canada’s Anti-Terroism Law) or the pro-Russian insurgents in Ukraine, or who oppose Canada’s participation in imperialist wars in the Middle East and elsewhere.

Bill C-51 will also expand the police’s power to detain terrorist suspects without charge and empower the courts to remove “terrorist propaganda” from the internet. The state’s ability to impose travel bans and other restrictions on individuals who have never been charged let alone convicted of a crime is also being greatly expanded.

Bill C-51 guts Canadians’ privacy rights, giving the various national security agencies virtually unfettered access to all government information about individuals who become the subject of a national security investigation. Such investigations, as the Conservative government-appointed Privacy Commissioner noted, can be triggered by simply visiting a country like Pakistan, Afghanistan, or Iran.

Harper’s Conservative government is ramming Bill C-51through parliament at breakneck speed, while whipping up a climate of fear so as to intimidate all opposition to its draconian measures. Since last October’s killings of two Canadian Armed Forces personnel by two disturbed individuals, Harper and his government have systematically portrayed Canada as a country under siege by terrorists, so as to provide justification for the shredding of democratic rights at home and a policy of aggressive war abroad. Just last weekend, Harper seized on his visit to Canadian military personnel in Kuwait involved in the US-led bombing campaign in Iraq and Syria to promote Bill C-51.

In parliament, the government ensured that the bill was subjected to only the most perfunctory scrutiny. The time allowed for consideration of its provisions at the committee stage was extremely curtailed. Only a small number of witnesses were permitted to make brief appearances and those who questioned the bill’s provisions—the vast majority—were routinely derided by government MPs as enablers of terrorism.

The handful of amendments the Conservatives subsequently made to the bill will have virtually no impact on its scope. The attempt to reassure critics that those engaging in civil disobedience and other “unlawful” protests will be exempt from CSIS disruption campaigns is worthless given the ease with which the state can designate such protests as national security threats, if not acts of terrorism.

Despite expressing concerns with certain aspects of the bill, the Liberals voted in favour of it Wednesday evening as they did in the bill’s first and second reading. Party leader Justin Trudeau has claimed that if the Liberals form the government after the upcoming federal election, they will make amendments, but they have conspicuously joined with the government in asserting that the powers of the national-security apparatus must be massively expanded.

Responding to NDP MP Wayne Marsden’s criticism of the Liberals’ stand on Bill C-51, Liberal defence critic Joyce Murray stated, “I would ask the member whether he would want it on his conscience should there be an attack that leads to deaths of Canadians because of the loopholes that the bill is attempting to fix?”

Like the Official Opposition NDP, the Liberals’ main objection to the bill has been the lack of oversight of the intelligence agencies by vetted representatives of the ruling elite.

While the NDP did vote against Bill C-51, its opposition is of a thoroughly unprincipled character. For nearly three weeks after Harper’s late January unveiling of the legislation, the NDP remained almost completely silent, issuing no substantive critique of the bill’s numerous anti-democratic measures. Only after a significant section of Canada’s ruling elite, led by the Globe and Mail, had sharply criticized the bill, warning that so blatant a break with democratic forms of rule could undermine the legitimacy of the government and state, did NDP leaders Thomas Mulcair belatedly announce that his party would oppose Bill C-51.

The NDP never sought to mobilize Canadians in opposition to Bill C-51 and draw the connection between it and the broader assault on democratic rights, whether in the form of the criminalizing of strikes or the Communications Security Establishment’s (CSE) systematic spying on the metadata of Canadian electronic communications

Instead, the social-democrats did everything to reassure the ruling class that they have no fundamental disagreement over maintaining in place the vast array of anti-democratic, police-state measures implemented since 2001. Mulcair even went so far as to say that if the NDP forms the government after the election, it will not seek to repeal Bill C-51, only, like the Liberals, amend it.

The complicity of the opposition parties has exposed the bankruptcy of the perspective advanced by various protest groups like Openmedia and Protest Canada that have organized “Stop Bill C-51” rallies in recent weeks. While providing an indication of the growing popular hostility to the attack on democratic rights being mounted in the name of combating terrorism, the rallies have been orientated toward pressuring the big business political establishment through a “non-partisan” protest campaign.

This is spelled out on the “StopBillC-51” website. “The silver lining,” it declares, “is that this is an election year and public opposition and support are particularly important to MPs this year. The Bill can be shut down in one of two ways: 1. By having it voted down. If the Liberal MPs can be pressured to change their stance on the bill and every other MP voted against the bill, it would only take seven Tory MPs to break ranks to vote the bill down… 2. By delaying the third vote until parliament breaks for election.”

Nothing could be more bankrupt than seeking to rely on the Liberals and the other parties of the establishment to stand up for democratic rights. It was a Liberal government that began the onslaught on basic rights in the aftermath of 9/11, enshrining a catch-all definition of terrorism in the Criminal Code and vastly expanding the powers of the police and intelligence agencies, including sanctioning CSE’s spying on Canadians’ electronic communications.

The Chretien Liberal government’s break with long-standing democratic and legal norms, together with the construction of a mass surveillance apparatus, was part of an international process which saw the ruling class around the globe turn decisively towards authoritarian forms of rule. In all of the major imperialist powers, the purported threat of terrorism has been used to develop and enforce a vast array of repressive measures that have as their ultimate target the broad masses of working people.

The backdrop to this turn toward authoritarian forms of rule in Canada, as around the world, is an unprecedented growth in social inequality and the ruling elite’s pursuit of an agenda of austerity and war that is inimical to the interests of the vast majority. These processes have intensified since the 2008 global economic meltdown, as the bourgeoisie steps up its class war assault on public services and worker rights. Growing working class opposition has been met with increasing state violence, including the illegalization of virtually all strikes in the federally-regulated sector, the suppression of the 2010 anti-G-20 protests in Toronto, and the Quebec Liberal government’s use of police violence and emergency legislation against the 2012 Quebec students strike.

The imminent adoption of Bill C-51 has illustrated once again that no section of the political establishment can be relied upon to conduct a genuine struggle against the assault on democratic rights. All of the parliamentary parties are complicit in the building up of a vast national security apparatus whose foremost and true target is the growing popular opposition to big business and it agenda of austerity and war.

To stop the authoritarian Bill C-51 and dismantle the reactionary police-state apparatus built up over the past decade and more requires the mobilization of the working class on the basis of a socialist and internationalist programme as fought for by the Socialist Equality Party.

This author also recommends:

Canada’s Bill C-51: A sweeping assault on democratic rights and legal principles—Part 1
[6 March 2015]

Canada’s Bill C-51: A sweeping assault on democratic rights and legal principles—Part 2
[7 March 2015]

Canada’s NDP belatedly opposes Conservatives’ draconian “anti-terror” bill
[23 February 2015]

Canada: Why is the Globe and Mail denouncing Harper’s latest “anti-terrorism” bill?
[18 February 2015]

Jade Helm 15: Police State USA, The End of Posse Comitatus?

By Prof. James F. Tracy
April 28, 2015
Global Research

 

police-state-protestEarlier this year US Retired Non-Commissioned Special Forces Officer Tom Mead addressed the Howard County Texas Board of Supervisors on the Jade Helm 15 military and law enforcement exercises that will be taking place in across the southern United States in Summer 2015.

“What is Jade Helm?” Mead asks those in attendance.

JadeHelmJade Helm is a challenging eight week exercise. Truly, in the Martin and Howard County area we’re only going to be here for about five-to-five and half weeks. The eight weeks comes in where there is the preparation and planning that happens back in Florida and in the Mississippi area. The exercise is a joint military and inter-agency activity. What this means is that we have units from every military service participating in the exercise with us. And we also have some of our inter-agency partners, such as the FBI and the DEA, and some of the other agencies assisting us and working with us in the exercise. (Emphasis added)

The exercise is going to be throughout seven states,” Mead continues.

“Texas is the main bulk of the activity. We are spread from east to west, north to south, throughout the state of Texas. It is a Special Operations Command, General [Joseph L.] Votel-sponsored exercise to improve Special Operations forces’ ability to conduct unconventional warfare as part of the national security” (emphasis added).

 

In the question and answer portion of the presentation, Mead further explains to board members how Jade Helm, a new exercise he describes as also being developed by US Special Operations General Charles T. Cleveland, will now be conducted within the United States annually.

Further, Mead points out that the FBI and DEA will be involved in “questioning” individuals. It is unclear whether the individuals being interrogated are part of the exercise, or what they will be questioned about. “They will actually do some questioning for us at one of the airports in Arizona.” A military or civilian airport? He doesn’t elaborate.

Mead also provides a conflicted response when asked by the county officials if only US military and law enforcement personnel will be involved in the exercise. “Do you use any personnel from NATO, the UN or DHS?” one board member asks (at 12:56 in the above video). “Currently for Jade Helm it is US only. We, ah, that has been one of the discussions that, uhm, I’m not sure if it has occurred yet.”

A sober observer might conclude (as a portion of the public already has) that Jade Helm is likely a means to acclimate America for eventual martial law. Since September 11, 2001 US citizens have experienced a steady erosion of their civil liberties associated with the dubious rationale of the “war on terror.” The increased militarization of law enforcement and now operations like Jade Helm being carried out on domestic soil further indicate how the Posse Comitatus Act, introduced in 1878 and intended to prevent the federal government from using the military for domestic law enforcement, is being steadily eviscerated, though it is important to note that as recently as 2002 the US Congress reaffirmed the significance of the law.

Even the Rand Corporation has suggested that the US military has no clear criteria concerning when and how Posse Comitatus applies to exercises such as Jade Helm. “[I]t is critical,” Rand researchers observe in one study, “that the Army develop doctrine, leadership, and training programs that can provide clear and specific guidance on when and how the Posse Comitatus Act—as well as any other laws that proscribe Army activities in the domestic arena—applies and when it does not.”

The US military also wants to revisit Posse Comitatus, although it appears to regard it as a quaint formality, particulaly in light of its cavalier insistence that Jade Helm go forward unhindered and on an annual basis. “The Posse Comitatus Act is an artifact of a different conflict-between freedom and slavery or between North and South,” one military official argues. “Today’s conflict is also in a sense between freedom and slavery, but this time it is between civilization and terrorism. New problems often need new solutions, and a new set of rules is needed for this issue” (emphasis added). Given Jade Helm’s active collaboration between military and law enforcement such a remark is especially chilling.

Indeed, elected leaders and the federal law enforcement agencies involved in “partnering” with the military in Jade Helm routinely regard the civilian population as if it were a prolific spawning ground for “terrorists” (e.g. here, here, here, here and here).

The confusion over what should be a clear firewall between civil society and military exploits does not bode well for the US citizenry, who will soon be getting a glimpse in the “homeland” of what NATO and its military do on a routine basis to would be terrorists and their loved ones throughout the world.

What Is Obama Up To, With His TPP and TTIP? What Will Remain of Local National Governments?

By Eric Zuesse
April 26, 2015
Global Research

 

TPP-secretThe motivation behind U.S. President Barack Obama’s trans-Pacific trade-deal TPP, and his trans-Atlantic trade-deal TTIP — the motivation behind both of these enormous international trade-deals — is the same, and Democratic U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren and Sherrod Brown are correct: it is not at all progressive. It is instead to transfer political power away from the public in a democracy, and for that power to go instead to the international aristocracy (i.e., to go as far away from any national democracy as is even possible to go).

This is to be done by switching the most fundamental thing of all: the global power-base itself. Instead of that power-base being democratic votes of the national publics, who elect their political representatives who determine the laws and regulations, that national democratic political system becomes instead the exact opposite: the global aristocratic stockholder votes of the international aristocracy who elect the corporate directors of international companies, who will, in their turn, then be selecting the members to the international-trade-panels which, in TPP and TTIP, will, in their turn, be determining the rules and enforcements regarding especially workers’ rights, product-safety, and the environment. 

The international aristocracy’s weakening of these national rules will enable lowering wages of the public, who are the people who don’t control international corporations but who control only their own personal labor, which goes down in value to the lowest hourly wage in the entire international trading-area. This new system will also enable minimizing regulation of the safety of foods and other products and thus maximizing the ability of international corporations to avoid any expenses that companies would otherwise need to devote to raising the safety of their products. Those expenses (the liabilities of dangerous products) will thus be increasingly borne only by the products’ consumers. Risks to investors (which is the thing that aristocrats seek most to avoid) are consequently reduced — shifted more onto the public. It will also enable environmental harms to become virtually free to international corporations that perpetrate them, and to become likewise costs that are borne only by the general public, in toxic air, water, etc. Thus, yet another category of risks to investors will be gone. This will increase profit-margins, which go only to the stockholders — not to the public.

Profits will thus become increasingly concentrated in international corporations and the families that control them, and losses will become increasingly socialized among consumers and workers — and just generally to livers and breathers: the public. ‘Government’ will increasingly be merely the spreader and enforcer of risks and penalties to the public; and, this, in turn, will enhance yet further the ‘free-market’ ideal of there being less and less, or ’smaller,’ government; i.e., of there being less and less of ‘democratic’ government. That’s what the aristocracy’s ’small government’ jag has really been all about: it’s about cost-shifting, from aristocrats, to the public.

Thus, the maximum percentage of the costs — for product-safety, workers’ rights, and the environment — become borne by the public, and the minimum percentage of costs become borne by the stockholders in international corporations. In turn, aristocrats will be able to pass along to their designated heirs their thus ever-increasing dominance and control over the general public. Thus, the concentration of wealth will become more and more concentrated in fewer and fewer families, a gradually smaller hyper-aristocracy. This is what’s happening, and it will happen now a lot more if TPP and TTIP pass. (According to the most detailed study of the matter, as of 2012, the “World’s Richest 0.7% Own 13.67 Times as Much as World’s Poorest 68.7%.” So: the world is already extremely unequal in its wealth-distribution. TPP and TTIP are designed to increase that inequality.)

Furthermore, President Obama and the Republican Party in Congress (which support him on this, and on all other matters that are of highest concern to America’s aristocracy, such as the defeat of Russia, China and the other BRICS nations — for example, by Obama’s yanking Ukraine away from Russia’s aristocracy and into control instead by America’s aristocracy) are ensuring that America’s aristocracy will be increasingly on top internationally, and these trade-deals are additionally taking advantage of America’s being the top power across both of this planet’s two major oceans: the Atlantic, and the Pacific.

In other words: the United States, with the TPP & TTIP, will be in the extraordinary position of basically locking in, perhaps for the next century, the U.S. aristocracy’s participation in both of the two major international-trade compacts. This commercial lock-in will retain the American aristocracy’s control over the national aristocracies of almost all of the other major industrial nations — encompassing virtually all of the northern hemisphere, which is where most of this planet’s land-mass is located.

Consequently: not only will the global aristocracy control the global public, but the U.S. aristocracy will also control the other aristocracies in ways that will increase their collective power against any non-member national aristocracy; and, so, America’s Empire will be increasingly the biggest global Empire that the world has ever known, by exploiting the publics everywhere, and not only within merely one country.

Obama told graduating West Point cadets, on 28 May 2014: “China’s economic rise and military reach worries its neighbors. From Brazil to India, rising middle classes compete with us, and governments seek a greater say in global forums.” In other words: part of these future military officers’ jobs will be to help make sure that the BRICS, and other countries that have lower per-capita wealth than in America, stay poor, so that America’s aristocrats can send jobs there instead of pay America’s own workers to do it — in other words: get America’s workers competing against ones in poor countries, rather than get America’s investors competing against ones in poor countries. He’s telling America’s military that they are soldiers in this international class-war, paid by the public, but working actually for America’s aristocracy and not for the public, but against America’s public — to drive down their wages, food-safety, etc.

This is the way toward a certain type of world government by the super-rich for the super-rich, keeping them and their appointed heirs in control over the assets of the entire globe — both its natural and its human resources — and using as the local agents throughout the world the local aristocrats, who will be the people who will keep their local publics in line and working for the ever-increasing intensification of the planet’s wealth, in the hands of, first, the global aristocracy, and, second, America’s aristocracy as being the globally dominant aristocracy.

What will remain of local national governments will then become mere shells.

Benito Mussolini, who was inspired by Vilfredo Pareto (whom Mussolini called “the Karl Marx of fascism”), who was also the founder of modern economic theory and especially of its Welfare Criterion, which shapes so much of the rest of economics and especially all cost-benefit analyses (such as of proposed means to restrain global warming), explained as follows the “corporationism” that he held to constitute fascism:

The corporation plays on the economic terrain just as the Grand Council and the militia play on the political terrain. Corporationism is disciplined economy, and from that comes control, because one cannot imagine a discipline without a director. Corporationism is above socialism and above liberalism. A new synthesis is created.

Following below this article will be Mussolini’s essay on that issue, in which he sets forth what he claims is a post-capitalist, post-socialist, ideology, and which the also self-described post-capitalist post-socialist Barack Obama (as an agent for the global aristocracy) is increasingly putting into actual practice — especially via TPP & TTIP.

Regarding specifically international-trade deals, Mussolini’s master, Pareto, said that the free market should reign supreme and untrammeled by the State in all regards, not only within nations, but also, and even especially, between nations. As I noted in this regard, in my recent book on the historical development of fascism, up to and including our own time:

“Pareto was consistently a free-market purist, since at least 1896. For example, in his 1 September 1897 ’The New Theories of Economics’ in the Journal of Political Economy, he stated: ‘Were I of the opinion that a certain book would contribute more than any other to establish free trade in the world at large I would not hesitate an instant to give myself up heart and soul to the study of this particular work, putting aside for the time all study of pure science.’ He also said there: ‘We have been able vigorously to prove that the coefficients of production are determined by the entrepreneurs in a régime of free competition precisely in the same way as a socialist government would have to fix them if it wanted to realize a maximum of ophelimity [his invented term for ‘welfare’ in order to obscure the actual value-base so as to enable economists to pretend to be value-free even as they ranked things in benefit/cost analyses that are, in fact, applying his pro-aristocratic or ‘fascist’ theory] for its subjects.” [And notice there Pareto’s slip-up, referring to the government as having not ‘citizens’ but instead ‘subjects’ — the  underlying aristocratic assumpion, that the public are ‘subjects’ instead of real ‘citizens’.] Pareto always challenged whether a socialist government would be able to achieve that, but he was here saying that the free market would do it naturally, just like the physiocrats had said that ‘natural law’ should reign instead of any tampering with it.

Pareto set Adam Smithian economics, and the economics of the French physiocrats who had laid the foundation for Smith’s economic theory, upon a basis that subequent economists could then develop mathematically in a way that would hide the theory’s essential fascism — the modernized (i.e., post-agrarian) form of feudalism.

Barack Obama and congressional Republicans are simply carrying this fascist operation to the next level. As for congressional Democrats, they are split on it, because (at least until the new economic theory that I put forth in my new book) no one yet has formulated an economic theory for a democracy; current economic theory has been designed instead specifically for a fascism — an aristocratically controlled State. Consequently, the few progressive Democrats that still remain in Congress are experiencing difficulty to communicate easily and readily to the public what the real political and economic stakes are in Obama’s proposed TPP and TTIP: the transfer of national democratic sovereignty over to an international fascist aristocracy, which will be dominated by American aristocrats. Without that transfer, of democratic national sovereignty to international fascist bodies that represent global corporate management, these deals would be nothing.

This transfer is called Investor-State Dispute Settlement, or ISDS. It is really an emerging, and distictively fascistic, world government. It is not at all democratic, and it is a creeping form of international government which, to the extent that it becomes imposed, reduces national sovereignty. The prior, progressive, type of world-government proposal, which had been fashionable after World War II in order to make a WW III less likely, was based instead upon the idea of an international federation ofindependent democracies. ISDS has nothing in common with that, the original vision for world government. It is instead pure fascism, on an international scale.

In the first decades after World War II, Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s vision of an ultimately emerging democratic world government predominated, aiming for an emerging democratic United Nations, which would evolve to encompass in an increasingly equalitarian way more and more of the world; but, after Republican control started becoming restored in the U.S. with Dwight Eisenhower and his installation of the Dulles brothers to control and shape future U.S. international policies, things moved increasingly in the direction of a U.S.-aristocracy-based control over the world (especially with the Allen Dulles CIA coup in 1953 Iran); and Barack Obama is thoroughly in that fascist, overwhelmingly Republican, tradition, even though he is nominally a ‘Democrat.’ Some analysts even consider Obama to be a CIA operative from early in his life. (The CIA, when Eisenhower came into office, placed the CIA’s pro-Nazis into control; and, afterward, this control has only become more deeply entrenched there.) The British journalist Robert Fitch seems to have figured Obama out even as far back as 14 November 2008, right after Obama was elected to become President. Basically, Fitch described Obama as a fascist who had determined to rise to power by fooling progressives into thinking he was one of them. He was portraying Obama as a Manchurian-candidate, Trojan-Horse, Republican-in-Democratic-rhetorical-clothes, conservative operative. He had Obama right, even that early.

As regards not what economic theory but instead empirical economic studies indicate would likely be the result from both the TPP and the TTIP: one independent economic analysis has been done for each of these two international-trade deals, and both of them come up with the same conclusion: the publics everywhere will lose wealth because of them, but aristocrats, especially in the United States, will gain wealth because of them. They’ll probably do what they were designed to do.

As regards what some of Obama’s defenders say about his trade-deals, namely that Investor-State Dispute Settlement is merely a detail and the overall deal is good: that’s like saying that a person’s health is good but the brain or the heart needs to be fixed or maybe even replaced. These people know it’s a bad deal; that’s why they support it. They’re being paid by the aristocracy.

Would Hillary Clinton Be Any Better?

What, then, about Obama’s intended successor? Would she be any different? Here’s the record concerning that:

On 23 February 2008, Hillary Clinton stood before microphones and cameras, and harangued in angry tones, “Shame on you, Barack Obama!” alleging that two of his campaign’s flyers lied about her positions.

One of the flyers said that her proposed health-insurance mandate would penalize Americans who didn’t buy health insurance. It was true but she tried to deny it. (Only after Obama was elected did he copy her plan by merely adding the individual mandate to his own.) The other flyer which Hillary was complaining about, quoted Newsday’s characterization of Hillary’s NAFTA view in 2006: “Clinton thinks NAFTA has been a boon to the economy.” Hillary now was also claiming that this was a lie. Many in the press blindly supported her accusation against Obama here, because “a boon” was Newsday’s phrase, not hers. However, again, it was she, and not Obama, who was lying. Her 2003 Living History (p. 182) actually did brag about her husband’s having passed NAFTA, and she said: “Creating a free trade zone in North America — the largest free trade zone in the world — would expand U.S. exports, create jobs and ensure that our country was reaping the benefits, not the burdens, of globalization.” This was one of, supposedly, her proudest achievements, which were (p. 231) “Bill’s successes on the budget, the Brady bill and NAFTA.” But Hillary was now demanding that Obama apologize for his flyer’s having said: “Only Barack Obama fought NAFTA and other bad trade deals.” That statement was just a fact, notwithstanding what Hillary, and many of the major U.S. “news” media, were now alleging. (Obama was saving his worst to be delivered to the nation only after he would become President — and, especially, after he would be re-elected and then he could be free to go far-right, which was his genuine inclination even at the start, though he couldn’t achieve the goal if he didn’t first deceive about what his goal actually is, so that he could maybe get into position to achieve it.)

On 20 March 2008, the day after Hillary finally released her schedule during her White House years, the Nation’s John Nichols blogged “Clinton Lie Kills Her Credibility on Trade Policy,” and he said: “Now that we know from the 11,000 pages of Clinton White House documents released this week that [the] former First Lady was an ardent advocate for NAFTA; … now that we know she was in the thick of the maneuvering to block the efforts of labor, farm, environmental and human rights groups to get a better agreement; … now that we know from official records of her time as First Lady that Clinton was the featured speaker at a closed-door session where 120 women opinion leaders were hectored to pressure their congressional representatives to approve NAFTA; now that we know from ABC News reporting on the session that ‘her remarks were totally pro-NAFTA’ and that ‘there was no equivocation for her support for NAFTA at the time’; … what should we make of Clinton’s campaign claim that she was never comfortable with the militant free-trade agenda that has cost the United States hundreds of thousands of union jobs?”

The next day, ABC’s Jake Tapper, at his “Political Punch” blog, headlined “From the Fact Check Desk: The Clinton Campaign Misrepresents Clinton NAFTA Meeting,” and he reported: “I have now talked to three former Clinton Administration officials whom I trust who tell me that then-First Lady Hillary Clinton opposed the idea of introducing NAFTA before health care, but expressed no reservations in public or private about the substance of NAFTA. Yet the Clinton campaign continues to propagate this myth that she fought NAFTA.” She continued this lie even after it had been repeatedly and soundly exposed to be a lie.

Consequently: the only real difference between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama is that Obama is a vastly more skilled liar. It’s how he has gotten as far as he has. She probably won’t; she’s the same incompetent now that she was back then.

Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of  They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity, and of Feudalism, Fascism, Libertarianism and Economics.


Excerpts from George Seldes’s 1935 book about Mussolini, Sawdust Caesar:

APPENDIX 15

Capitalism and the Corporate State 

by Benito Mussolini, November, 1933

Is this crisis which has afflicted us for four years a crisis in the system or of the system? This is a serious question. I answer: The crisis has so deeply penetrated the system that it has become a crisis of the system. It is no longer an ailment; it is a constitutional disease.

Today we are able to say that the method of capitalistic production is vanquished, and with it the theory of economic liberalism which has illustrated and excused it. I want to outline in a general way the history of capitalism in the last century, which may be called the capitalistic century. But first of all, what is capitalism?

Capitalism is … a method of industrial production. To employ the most comprehensive definition: Capitalism is a method of mass production for mass consumption, financed en masse by the emission of private, national and international capital. Capitalism is therefore industrial and has not had in the field of agriculture any manifestation of great bearing.

I would mark in the history of capitalism three periods: the dynamic period, the static period, and the period of decline.

The dynamic period was that from 1830 to 1870. It coincided with the introduction of weaving by machinery and with the appearance of the locomotive. Manufacturing, the typical manifestation of industrial capitalism, expanded. This was the epoch of great expansion and hence of the law of free competition; the struggle of all against all had full play.

In this period there were crises, but they were cyclical crises, neither long nor universal. Capitalism still had such vitality and such power of recovery that it could brilliantly prevail.

There were also wars. They cannot be compared with the World War. They were brief. Even the War of 1870, with its tragic days at Sedan, took no more than a couple of seasons.

During the forty years of the dynamic period the State was watching; it was remote, and the theorists of liberalism could say: ‘You, the State, have a single duty. It is to see to it that your administration does not in the least turn toward the economic sector. The better you govern the less you will occupy yourself with the problems of the economic realm.’ We find, therefore, that economy in all its forms was limited only by the penal and commercial codes.

But after 1870, this epoch underwent a change. There was no longer the struggle for life, free competition, the selection of the strongest. There became manifest the first symptoms of the fatigue and the devolution of the capitalistic method. There began to be agreements, syndicates, corporations, trusts. One may say that there was not a sector of economic life in the countries of Europe and America where these forces which characterize capitalism did not appear.

What was the result? The end of free competition. Restricted as to its borders, capitalistic enterprise found that, rather than fight, it was better to concede, to ally, to unite by dividing the markets and sharing the profits. The very law of demand and supply was now no longer a dogma, because through the combines and the trusts it was possible to control demand and supply.

Finally, this capitalistic economy, unified,’trustified,’ turned toward the State. What inspired it to do so? Tariff protection.

Liberalism, which is nothing but a wider form of the doctrine of economic liberalism, received a death blow. The nation which, from the first, raised almost insurmountable trade barriers was the United States, but today even England has renounced all that seemed traditional in her political, economic and moral life, and has surrendered herself to a constantly increasing protectionism.

After the World War, and because of it, capitalistic enterprise became inflated. Enterprises grew in size from millions to billions. Seen from a distance, this vertical sweep of things appeared as something monstrous, babel-like. Once, the spirit had dominated the material; now it was the material which bent and joined the spirit. Whatever had been physiological was now pathological; all became abnormal.

At this stage, super-capitalism draws its inspiration and its justification from this Utopian theory: the theory of unlimited consumers. The ideal of super-capitalism would be the standardization of the human race from the cradle to the coffin. Super-capitalism would have all men born of the same length, so that all cradles could be standardized; it would have babies divert themselves with the same playthings, men clothed according to the same pattern, all reading the same book and having the same taste for the movies — in other words, it would have everybody desiring a single utilitarian machine. This is in the logic of things, because only in this way can super-capitalism do what it wishes.

When does capitalistic enterprise cease to be an economic factor? When its size compels it to be a social factor. And that, precisely, is the moment when capitalistic enterprise, finding itself in difficulty, throws itself into the very arms of the State; It is the moment when the intervention of the State begins, rendering itself ever more necessary.

We are at this point: that, if in all the nations of Europe the State were to go to sleep for twenty-four hours, such an interval would be sufficient to cause a disaster. Now, there is no economic field in which the State is not called upon to intervene. Were we to surrender — just as a matter of hypothesis — to this capitalism of the eleventh hour, we should arrive at State capitalism, which is nothing but State socialism inverted.

This is the crisis of the capitalist system, taken in its universal significance. …

Last evening I presented an order in which I defined the new corporation system as we understand it and wish to make it.

I should like to fix your attention on what was called the object: the well-being of the Italian people. It is necessary that, at a certain time, these institutions, which we have created, be judged and measured directly by the masses as instruments through which these masses may improve their standard of living. Some day the worker, the tiller of the soil, will say to himself and to others: ‘If today I am better off practically, I owe it to the institutions which the Fascist revolution has created.’

We want the Italian workers, those who are interested in their status as Italians, as workers, as Fascists, to feel that we have not created institutions solely to give form to our doctrinal schemes, but in order, at a certain moment, to give positive, concrete, practical and tangible results.

Our State is not an absolute State. Still less is it an absolutory State, remote from men and armed only with inflexible laws, as laws ought to be. Our State is one organic, human State which wishes to adhere to the realities of life. …

Today we bury economic liberalism. The corporation plays on the economic terrain just as the Grand Council and the militia play on the political terrain. Corporationism is disciplined economy, and from that comes control, because one cannot imagine a discipline without a director.

Corporationism is above socialism and above liberalism. A new synthesis is created. It is a symptomatic fact that the decadence of capitalism coincides with the decadence of socialism. All the Socialist parties of Europe are in fragments.

Evidently the two phenomena — I will not say conditions — present a point of view which is strictly logical: there is between them a historical parallel. Corporative economy arises at the historic moment when both the militant phenomena, capitalism and socialism, have already given all that they could give. From one and from the other we inherit what they have of vitality.

We have rejected the theory of the economic man, the Liberal theory, and we are, at the same time, emancipated from what we have heard said about work being a business. The economic man does not exist; the integral man, who is political, who is economic, who is religious, who is holy, who is combative, does exist.

Today we take again a decisive step on the road of the revolution.

Let us ask a final question: Can corporationism be applied to other countries? We are obliged to ask this question because it will be asked in all countries where people are studying and trying to understand us. There is no doubt that, given the general crisis of capitalism, corporative solutions can be applied anywhere. But in order to make corporationism full and complete, integral, revolutionary, certain conditions are required.

There must be a single party through which, aside from economic discipline, enters into action also political discipline, which shall serve as a chain to bind the opposing factions together, and a common faith.

But this is not enough. There must be the supremacy of the State, so that the State may absorb, transform and embody all the energy, all the interests, all the hopes of a people.

Still, not enough. The third and last and the most important condition is that there must be lived a period of the highest ideal tension.

We are now living in this period of high, ideal tension. It is because step by step we give force and consistency to all our acts; we translate in part all our doctrine. How can we deny that this, our Fascista, is a period of exalted, ideal tension?

No one can deny it. This is the time in which arms are crowned with victory. Institutions are remade, the land is redeemed, cities are founded.

Here are two excerpts from the Seldes book’s APPENDIX 9, “the Labor Charter,” a document that dates from 22 April 1927:

Art. 2. Labor in all forms, intellectual, technical and manual, is a social duty. In this sense, and in this sense only, is it protected by the State. From the national point of view all production is a unit; its objects are unitary and can be defined as the wellbeing of the producers and the development of national strength.

Art. 7. The Corporate State considers private initiative in the field of production the most efficacious and most useful instrument in the interest of the nation. Private organization of production being a function of national interest, the organization of the enterprise is responsible to the State for the direction of its production. Reciprocity of the rights and duties is derived from the collaboration of the productive forces. The technician, office employee and worker is an active collaborator in the economic undertaking, the direction of which is the right of the employer, who has the responsibility for it.

The Election that Matters will Take Place in the Streets

By Rob Urie
April 19, 2015
Counter Punch

 

Be Gone Labor, Environment

Whether it is broadly perceived at present or not, an economic bomb was just dropped on the loose coalition of political and economic interests— Black Lives Matter, the $15 minimum wage movement, the residual of Occupy and the immigrants’ rights movement, by the political Party that a half-century or so ago nominally represented like issues, the Democrats. With President Barack Obama getting ‘fast-track’ authority for the uber-corporate friendly, anti-labor and anti-environment TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) and establishment candidates Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush the likely contenders for President in 2016, both mainstream political Parties are doubling down on the neoliberal, neoconservative status quo.

As Mr. Obama most certainly understands, the ISDS (Investor-State Dispute Settlement) provisions of the TPP render ‘liberal’ and ‘progressive’ civil labor and environmental proposals moot— issues like a minimum wage and what type of fuels U.S. utilities can burn will be decided by corporate lawyers in tribunals outside of civil jurisdiction. Appeals to Hillary Clinton to oppose the agreement— Jeb Bush and Congressional Republicans have already signaled their support; illustrate the folly of political ‘lesser-evilism.’ Ms. Clinton is a committed neoliberal and any opposition she might offer would most certainly be an election ploy. Given the ‘political capital’ that Mr. Obama is expending to get the TPP passed, it is reasonable to assume that it represents the culmination of the neoliberal takeover that has consumed the Democrat Party for the last half-century.

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Hillary Clinton. Original image source: dailyoftheday.com.

Informing modern political theory, in the late nineteenth century the German philosopher Wilhelm Dilthey developed the ‘telos of becoming,’ the purpose (telos) that becomes evident through subsequent history. When applied to American politics a trajectory from Jimmy Carter’s neoliberal resurgence to Bill Clinton’s social capitulation accompanied by NAFTA and deregulating the banks led to Barack Obama’s current push for the TPP. With polls consistently showing the American public well to the left of mainstream Party policies, modern Republicans lack the finesse for the political long con. With the TPP as soon-to-be-accomplished fact, from bank bailouts to the revived unitary Presidency, from extra-judicial drone murders to endless wars, Barack Obama is the gifted salesperson for a new corporate totalitarianism.

The Rationale

By accounts Mr. Obama does have a rationale for his support of the TPP, a ‘strategic vision’ that illuminates the interests at stake— as well as the utter irrelevance of the electorate and the broader American people in the ‘deal.’ The logic goes approximately like this: multinational corporations— banks, arms manufacturers, oil and gas companies and various and sundry industrialists already rule ‘the world.’ The choice from this point forward is between ‘our’ corporations and Asian, mainly Chinese, state-sponsored corporatism. The problem for the rest of us is that this is an updated eighteenth century European ‘royalist’ view— it is neutron bomb politics where the 99.9% of us who also occupy the planet, and the planet itself, have been assumed away. The ghettoization of the political and economic ‘leadership’ classes has facilitated a deeply delusional internal logic in policy ‘circles.’

From within this view the rest of Mr. Obama’s policies make sense. The bailouts of banks and bankers were to keep the ‘real’ players in the game. U.S. sponsored chaos across the Middle East is a contest for regional, and global, dominance where the lives of the ‘little people’ who are its casualties are irrelevant to the ‘higher purpose.’ Obamacare expands the proportion of the domestic population tied to the corporate model of social relations. Domestic surveillance is the hierarchical model of corporate control applied to a network of engineered social relations— technology defines the realm of social possibility through the inclusion and exclusion of broader social possibility. Left apparently unconsidered is that this unchecked corporatism seems at present the quickest path to mass extinction of most living things on the planet.

Group Hug in Hell

For Democrats in particular the election cycle revives the preference for religious imagination with increasingly toxic results. This imagination has been joined with the capitalist idea of progress through embedded history presented as the new and improved product line. If only we elect a ______ to the Presidency the world will be right. Had these aspirations ever borne meaningful relation to actual outcomes the conceit might make some sense. Margaret Thatcher demonstrated that a woman can force a hard-right turn as well as any man. Clarence Thomas was appointed to the Supreme Court because he proved himself useful to the institutional hard-right by throwing tens of thousands of hard-fought anti-discrimination lawsuits by the poor and disenfranchised into the dustbin without review. Absent a miraculous end-of-term conversion the neoliberal, neoconservative Barack Obama is set to make Jimmy Carter into a retrospective Democrat hero.

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Puppets negotiate a trade agreement in hell. Original image source: pinterest.com.

It is more than a bit ironic that in a country with nominally democratic aspirations the quest for a leader who will deliver ‘the people’ from their bonds becomes abdication, infinite ‘progress’ that never quite relates last year’s savior to this year’s bonds. Coincident is the want for more emotionally satisfying incantations, better explanations for the facts that are their opposite. Neocons and neoliberals are statespersons and responsible economists when the Blue Party is in office and war-mongers and readers of economic goat entrails when the Red Party is in office. The totality of the ideological distance between Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton can be found in the few names that don’t overlap on their contributor lists. The pragmatists hoping for ‘a seat at the table’ don’t appear to have realized that they are once again on the menu.

The root of this electoral delusion lies in the contradiction between political and economic democracy. Posed as compatible, even complimentary, American democracy was conceived in plutocracy and slavery, in the three-fifths a chattel person slaves accrued to those who owned them. Two centuries before the Supreme Court’s ‘Citizen’s United’ ruling the owner of fifteen slaves held the political ‘personhood’ of nine slaves (3/5 = 0.6 X 15 = 9) plus himself. Fealty to legislative and judicial precedence has antique white guys in fact and spirit communing with the social facts of past centuries that have been so skillfully reconstituted in modern social technologies. ‘Private’ contributions to political campaigns approximate the distribution of income. Representative democracy has the same representatives representing the interests of factory owners and ‘their’ employees. Labor leaders who are paid like bosses act like bosses.

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The devil you think you know. Original image source: cinehouse.blogspotuk.com.

The recurring ritual of liberal and progressive commentators pleading with Democrat candidates to consider their policy prescriptions conveys the well-padded chairs in well-appointed offices that will greet their ritual humiliation once the votes have been counted. Self-important distinctions between REDBLUE voters and the ‘irrelevant’ left will be on public display until the first Presidential ‘compromise’ hits the news. The first few compromises will be ‘pragmatic,’ a signal that HILLBUSH wants to ‘reach across the aisle’ to accrue political capital for the important votes. The next few will be accedence to the Conservative / Christian temperament of the voters whose divided vote called for small ‘c’ change. And the next few still will signal the inability for transformative organization by the liberal-left until the current savior needs to rouse the troops for the next election.

The (Corporate) People Will be Heard

For those occupying less hospitable environs, a/k/a the overwhelming preponderance of persons on / in the world, the pageantry of radical irrelevance which is electoral politics retains some entertainment value from the distance. The perpetual chide that not voting accedes political power to those who do accepts at face value that political power is gained at the ballot box. The only major Democrat to win in the 2014 mid-term elections, Pennsylvania’s Tom Wolf, just put forward the most radically neo-liberal state budget in modern history. While ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) has been partially exorcised from the utterly corrupt Pennsylvania state legislature due to bad press, Democrat Wolf’s election victory brought back the ALEC platform without the political baggage. Who says voters don’t have a voice?

While Tom Wolf is but one Governor and Pennsylvania but one state, the tie between the mainstream political Parties and impossible-to-dislodge political and economic interests transcends local politics. The class dynamic at work in Pennsylvania is mirrored nationwide: a group of moderately literate, self-interested neoliberal opportunists are using the residual agrarian / urban, state / city frame to enrich themselves by looting the cities under the cover of neoliberal ideology. How many privatized school cheating scandals, misbegotten student debts and industrial sewers that used to be town water supplies need exist before the distance between words and deeds is obvious?

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Foreign policy the American way. Original image source: pixels.com.

The political dynamic being brought to the fore is rapidly increasing class antagonism. Those either too busy or disinterested to understand exactly how far down the neoliberal rat hole the Democrat Party has descended will be seeing it in their paychecks and health insurance premiums in coming weeks and months. With fortune (Machiavelli’s ‘fortuna,’ not banker script) in play, the TPP may be Hillary Clinton’s undoing. It places the Democrat Party so decisively in the pockets of the corporate-totalitarian right that the more prescient forces of the liberal-progressive establishment might choke on their continuing support for Democrat policies. Republicans are ‘worse’ in the sense of being less skilled at selling corporate interests as those of ‘the people.’ But given that the actual policies of both Parties are close to identical, the political choice is either for the existing system or against it without the faux distinctions of Party politics.

The present amorphous coalition of Black Lives Matter, the $15 minimum wage movement (why not $21 plus benefits?), the residual of Occupy and the immigrants’ rights movement embody the political with economic issues that sum to true political opposition to the heavily cloistered political mainstream. Crude materialist theories of political interests, the first ______ President, etc., have been the tools of cynical political opportunists selling similar policies with carefully circumscribed difference for some decades now. Barack Obama has his reasons for pushing the TPP. But if you believe that they are ‘your’ reasons you haven’t read the fine print. The only politics likely to matter in the next few years will be decided in the streets, not at the ballot box.

Rob Urie is an artist and political economist. The images that accompany this piece are his iteration of previously existing images. This approach derives from a social theory of art.

Wave of assassinations in Ukraine targets critics of Kiev regime

By Alex Lantier
April 19, 2015
World Socialist Web Site

 
In the lead-up to the May 9 celebration of the 70th anniversary of the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany at the end of World War II, there has been an accelerating wave of political assassinations targeting critics of the Western-backed, far-right regime in Kiev.

Yesterday evening, a group calling itself the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA)—the name of a Ukrainian fascist militia that collaborated with Nazi forces in carrying out ethnic genocides of Jews and Poles during World War II—claimed responsibility for the killings. In a statement emailed to opposition legislators and political commentators, it also gave “anti-Ukrainian” persons 72 hours to leave the country or be killed if they stayed behind.

It pledged to carry out the “complete extermination” of enemies of Ukraine and a “merciless insurrectionary struggle against the anti-Ukrainian regime of traitors and Moscow toadies,” according to a report in Der Spiegel .

The killing spree began this week with the murder of journalist Sergey Sukhobok. On Wednesday evening, Oleg Kalashnykov was found dead in his home in Kiev. He was a former parliamentarian from the Party of Regions and a close ally of President Viktor Yanukovych, the pro-Russian politician ousted in a NATO-backed, fascist-led putsch in February of 2014 that installed the current regime in Kiev.

According to Interior Ministry advisor Anton Heraschenko, killers were waiting for Kalashnykov outside his residence and shot him when he returned.

Before his death, Kalashnykov indicated that he had received death threats over his call to commemorate May 9. He addressed a letter to his friends warning that “open genocide on dissent, death threats, and constant dirty insults” had become the “norm” since he publicly raised the issue. He reportedly added in the letter that Ukraine was under Nazi occupation.

On Thursday, pro-Russian journalist Oles Buzyna was shot and killed near his house in Kiev by two unidentified masked gunmen firing from a car. Buzyna had edited the Segodnya newspaper, a pro-Russian publication financed by Ukraine’s richest oligarch, Rinat Akhmetov, a multi-billionaire who was also one of the leading sponsors of Yanukovych’s Party of the Regions. Also killed on Thursday was Neteshinskiy Vestnik editor Olga Moroz.

The killings were the latest in a spate of deaths of high-profile opponents of the Kiev regime. The victims have largely been political and media associates of the faction of the post-Soviet Ukrainian business oligarchy tied to Akhmetov, Yanukovych and the Kremlin oligarchy in Russia. Other deaths include:

* Aleksey Kolesnik, former chairman of the Kharkov regional government, found hanged on January 29;

*Stanislav Melnik, a Party of Regions member reportedly close to Akhmetov, found shot in the bathroom of his Kiev apartment on February 24;

*Sergey Valter, the mayor of Melitopol, found hanged before his trial on February 25, leaving no suicide note;

*Aleksandr Bordyuga, the deputy chief of Melitopol police, found dead the next day, in his garage;

*Mikhail Chechetov, a former member of the Party of Regions, who jumped from the window of his 17th floor apartment in Kiev on February 28, leaving a suicide note;

*Sergey Melnichuk, a prosecutor who fell from a 9th floor apartment in Odessa on March 14.

Russian and Ukrainian officials have traded accusations of responsibility for the killings. Speaking on a call-in television show, Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed his condolences to the families of the victims and said of Buzyna’s killing, “It is not the first political assassination, we have seen a series of such killings in Ukraine.”

Officials in Kiev offered up dubious arguments to blame the killings on Russia. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko called the killings “a deliberate provocation which plays into the hands of our enemies, destabilizing the political situation in Ukraine.”

In the meantime, officials and far-right parliamentarians in Kiev have openly endorsed and celebrated the murders. While lawmaker Borys Filatov rejoiced that “one more piece of sh*t” had been eliminated,” Irina Farion, a lawmaker of the fascist Svoboda Party, attacked Buzyna as a “degenerate” and hoped that his “death will somehow neutralize the dirt this [expletive] has spilled… Such ones go to history’s sewers.”

Political responsibility for the killings rests with the imperialist powers that oversaw and backed the Kiev putsch. They have encouraged Kiev to wage a bloody civil war against pro-Russian regions of eastern Ukraine and covered up its reliance on fascistic, anti-Russian forces. In the resulting political atmosphere, opponents of the Kiev states can be murdered without investigation and with political impunity.

What is occurring in Ukraine is a warning to the international working class. With the support of Washington and its European allies, which are moving to train the neo-Nazi militias that make up much of the Ukrainian regime’s National Guard, an ultra-right regime has emerged in a major European country.

With Ukraine’s economy disintegrating and its population resisting Kiev’s attempts to reinstate the draft to wage war against eastern Ukraine, Kiev is seeking to crush domestic dissent and relying ever more directly on the far right. Terrified that mass opposition might coalesce around the May 9 holiday, it has banned public discussion of communism. It also rehabilitated the UPA and the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN).

This is the culmination of a series of police state measures by the Kiev regime that have enjoyed the full support of its NATO backers. During last year’s Ukrainian legislative elections, opposition candidates, including Pyotr Symonenko, the Stalinist Communist Party of Ukraine’s (KPU) former presidential candidate, were physically attacked by fascist thugs.

Even before the murder of Buzyna, Kiev regime officials and sympathizers were demanding draconian punishments of journalists who oppose the regime. Last month, Ukrainian Minister of Information Policy Yuri Stets demanded that journalists in the breakaway eastern Ukrainian Donbass region serve prison terms of eight to 15 years.

In an account on Facebook of a speech he had given at Harvard University, pro-Kiev regime commentator and political analyst Yuri Romanenko boasted that he had argued for murdering pro-Russian journalists and summarized his arguments.

“The Ukrainian army must selectively and carefully eliminate Russian journalists covering the situation in Donbass. We need to direct Ukrainian army snipers to shoot people wearing PRESS helmets, making them priority targets,” Romanenko wrote. “Since the media represent a destructive weapon and allow Russia to operate not only in the war zone but across Ukraine, taking out several dozen journalists in the conflict zone will reduce the quality of the picture presented in the Russian media and, therefore, reduce the effectiveness of their propaganda.”

The murder of Kalashnykov, Buzyna and their political associates emerges directly from the foul political atmosphere produced by such ranting. It is an indictment of the NATO powers backing the regime in Ukraine and the illusions peddled by the Western media and corrupt pseudo-left groups that the right-wing protests on the Maidan and the February 2014 putsch were part of a democratic revolution.

While these forces insisted, without any proof, that the murder of Russian opposition politician Boris Nemtsov was a crime carried out by the Russian government, they are maintaining a hypocritical silence as the Kiev regime’s internal opponents are gunned down in the streets.

 

Getting the Cure Right for a Sick Democracy

By David Swanson
April 17, 2015
Washington’s Blog

 

Here’s what I think we need:

  • No private election spending.
  • Free media air time on our air waves for candidates qualified by signature gathering.
  • Public financing, ballot access, and debate access for candidates qualified by signature gathering.
  • No gerrymandering.
  • Hand-counted paper ballots publicly counted in every polling place.
  • Election day holiday.
  • Limited campaign season.
  • Automatic voter registration.
  • Full representation for Washington, D.C., and all of the U.S. colonies in the Caribbean and Pacific.
  • Voting rights regardless of criminal conviction.
  • National popular vote with no electoral college.
  • Mandatory voting with an option for “none of the above.”
  • Abolition of the Senate.
  • A larger House of Representatives.
  • Direct public vote on important matters (national initiative).
  • Ban on war profiteering.
  • Ban on secret budgets and agencies.
  • Ban on executive power use by vice presidents.

Here’s how we could get it: Declare the current system so broken that you will invest not a minute and not a dime in trying to elect anyone president of the United States. Instead, put all that effort and money into a policy-driven nonviolent activist campaign for these reforms and other urgent policy changes (peace, the environment, etc.) at the local, state, and federal levels.

A “Democracy Slam” planned for April 22 at American University is a step in the right direction, mostly. Let’s take a look at their proposals:

“Reform #1: Fix current primary election system with ranked choice voting: Rob Richie of FairVote on his paper with Stanford’s Larry Diamond why traditional primary rules and California Top Two model should be fixed with ranked choice voting and forms of Louisiana Top Two model. Rebuttal: Peter Rosenstein”

This is 100% well-intended but conflicts with hand-counted paper ballots publicly counted in every polling place, except in cases — such as small local elections or caucuses — in which there is only one polling place. In those cases, this reform should absolutely be used. In other cases, I think backers of this reform will find that the collection of reforms listed above accomplish most or all of the intended results.

“Reform #2: Shareholders, not CEOs, decide on corporate political spending: Lisa Gilbert of Public Citizen on reforms for SEC rules to ensure shareholders have a right to know and engage with how their CEO’s are spending money they invest in politics. Jamie Raskin on his “Shareholders United” proposal.”

This is a good partway step toward no private election spending. Here’s a place to support it in your state right now.

“Reform #3: Guarantee access for a third candidate to presidential debates: Alexandra Shapiro of Change the Rule on guaranteeing third candidate in presidential debates based on ballot access and signature collection. Rebuttal: David Lublin”

Of course, on its own this is not going to fix much. The third candidate will make the debate better or worse but not seriously contend for the election under the current system. What’s needed are debates open to more than three candidates, under a system in which the financial advantage of the current big two parties is eliminated. Such a reformed debate system could include a final debate between a small number, perhaps even two — which makes a certain sense under the winner-take-all system — but the finalists would have to be determined by fair public voting or polling. (Whether to keep the current system or switch to a parliamentary one is optional, of course. There would be big advantages to de-emphasizing the executive. I don’t list that change above because I don’t think it’s strictly needed to rid the U.S. system of its corruption.)

“Reform #4: Factor women candidates in Voting Rights Act case remedies: Dania Korkor of FairVote on why representation of women candidates of color deserves consideration in decisions about Section 2 voting rights remedies.”

Also non-millionaire candidates.

“Reform #5: Reduce impact of money on elections with voting rule reforms: Mark Schmitt of the New American Foundation on his paper with FairVote’s Rob Richie on why reform of voting rules and ballots should be pursued to reduce the demand for money in elections. Rebuttal by Lisa Gilbert, Public Citizen.”

This may be #1 again.

“Reform #6: Free courts from redistricting thicket w/fair representation voting: Drew Spencer of FairVote on “Escaping the Redistricting Political Thicket” paper, written with Cam Ferrante, on the legal argument for fair representation voting to free courts from choosing among competing redistricting criteria. Rebuttal: Trent England, OCPA.”

This sounds like an effort to advance the cause of no gerrymandering.

“Reform #7: Require all citizens to cast a ballot: William Galston of the Brookings Institution makes the case for compulsory voting and the impact of high voter turnout elections. Rebuttal: Sarah John, FairVote.”

This isn’t necessary, but I think the pros outweigh the cons if there’s an option for “None of the Above.”

“Reform #8: Best state reform of Electoral College is National Popular Vote: John Koz of National Popular Vote and state senator Jamie Raskin debate Trent England of Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs and Sean Parnell of Impact Policy Management, with audience vote on merits of National Popular Vote and final words from participants.”

Yes, good idea.

Reform #9: Right to Vote Amendment: Congressman Mark Pocan (WI-2) Rebuttal: Reading of paper excerpt from Heather Gerken, Yale Law School. Rebuttal response: Shuya Ohno, Advancement Project.”

Yes and it should be a right that is not stripped away for any reason.

“Reform #10: Government By the People Act Small – Donor Empowerment and Public – Match Financing: Congressman John Sarbanes (MD-3) Rebuttal: Sean Parnell, Impact Policy Management.”

This is an attempt to work around the bribery system without simply banning private spending. I wonder if it could have an impact, that is if it could keep up with the soaring pricetags of elections.

“Reform #11: Independent redistricting – Lessons from Arizona and Iowa: Aaron Scherb, Common Cause.”

Good: no gerrymandering.

“Reform #12: Fair representation voting – Lessons from cumulative voting in Illinois: Rob Richie, FairVote.”

Presumably Richie will argue against cumulative voting, so it’s not really a reform proposal.

“Reform #13: Forms of Top Two primary – Lessons from California and Washington: Harry Kresky, Open Primaries.”

This seems not to reform anything either.

“Reform #14: Ranked choice voting – Lessons from civility study of local elections: Grace Ramsey, FairVote.”

This is a return of #1, again.

“Reform #15: Collaborative legislative policymaking – Lessons from 2014 study: Andrew Douglas, FairVote.”

This might be a step in the general direction of national initiative, of greater citizen participation.

“Reform #16: Greater gender parity – Lessons from legislatures with more women: Cynthia Terrell, Representation 2020.”

This sounds like a question of whom to vote for (or what to aim for with reforms) more than how to design an election system.

“Reform #17: Fixing primaries by boosting turnout in a national primary: John Fortier, Bipartisan Policy Center.”

A lot of these reforms could do some good, but in many cases would not be needed in combination with others. And some important reforms are missing. The package of reforms listed at the top of this article would give us free, fair, open, verifiable elections.

The tricky part is that we won’t have the resources to work for these reforms unless people do something that I’ll repeat here because it is nearly incomprehensible to many: Boycott the presidential election of 2015-16. Leave it alone. Don’t fund it or promote it. Fund and work on real activism instead.<--break->