Tag Archives: poverty

Ukrainians Dispossessed. Western Financial Elites Impose “Free Markets” and Mass Poverty

Americans are next

By Dr. Paul Craig Roberts
June 6, 2015
PaulCraigRoberts.org

 

drapeau-de-lukraineOver the last 15 months Ukrainians have paid for Washington’s overthrow of their elected government in deaths, dismemberment of their country, and broken economic and political relationships with Russia that cost Ukraine its subsidized energy. Now Ukrainians are losing their pensions and traditional support payments. The Ukrainian population is headed for the graveyard.

On June 1 the TASS news agency reported that Ukraine has stopped payments to pensioners, World War II veterans, people with disabilities, and victims of Chernobyl. According to the report, Kiev has also “eliminated transport, healthcare, utilities and financial benefits for former prisoners of Nazi concentration camps and recipients of some Soviet-era orders and titles. Compensations to families with children living in the areas contaminated by radiation from the Chernobyl accident will be no longer paid either. Ukraine’s parliamentary opposition believes that the Prosecutor General’s Office should launch an investigation against Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk who actively promoted the law on the abolition of privileges.”

Notice that this is a yank of the blanket from under the elderly in Ukraine. “Useless eaters,” they are assigned to the trash can. How do the deceived Maiden student protesters feel now that they are culpable in the destruction of their grandparents’ support systems? Do these gullible fools still believe in the Washington-orchestrated Maiden Revolution? The crimes in which these stupid students are complicit are horrific.

Yatsenyuk, or Yats as Victoria Nuland calls him, is the Washington stooge that the US State Department selected to run the puppet government established by Washington. Yats sounds like a right-wing Republican when he refers to pensions, compensations, and social services as “privileges.” This is the Republican view of Social Security and Medicare, programs paid for by the payroll tax over the working lives of Americans. The Republicans stole the payroll revenues and spent them on their wars that enrich Wall Street and the military/security complex, and now blame “welfare handouts” for America’s fiscal plight.

Is Monsanto’s right to turn Ukraine into GMO food production a privilege?

ls VP Biden’s son’s right to destroy Ukraine’s surface and underground water in fracking operations a privilege?

Are the external costs imposed on Ukrainians by these looting activities a privilege?

Of course not! These are not privileges.

This is the operation of free market economics creating the greatest good for the greatest number. (As many Americans will not realize that I am engaging in satire, I would like to affirm that I am.)

The news report does not say whether the abolished “privileges” are one part of a reform that will replace the terminated “privileges” with a new social support system. Possibly this is the case, but as the termination of pensions and payments was triggered by the coming into effect of Yat’s law to “stabilize the financial condition of Ukraine,” the purpose of the termination of Ukraine’s social welfare system might be to free up money to hand over to the IMF and Western banks. In Ukraine, as in Greece, the gullible and naive population that saw salvation in unity with the West will be driven into the ground.

Russia, of course, will be blamed. I can already write the New York Times and Washington Post editorials and the words that will come from Obama, CNN, and Fox “News.” In fact, so can my intelligent readers.

The same looting is underway in Great Britain, Italy, Spain, Portugal, and the United States. In Great Britain everything achieved by the Labour Party over many decades has been taken away, and not only by the Conservatives but by Labour leader Tony Blair himself.

Tony Blair sold out his constituents for money and is now among the One Percent. Bill Clinton did the same thing. Bill and Hillary were able to spend $3 million on their daughter’s wedding, almost a world record, dwarfing many Hollywood weddings. Obama is not even out of office and is already rich. America’s faithful vassals–Merkel, Hollande, and Cameron–can look forward to equal riches.

Karl Marx was correct when he said that money corrupts all. Everything becomes a commodity that is bought and sold for money.

When money becomes the measure of a person, people have become corrupted. And that is the plight of the Western world.

Where in the West is your wealth, small or large, safe? Nowhere. Washington has destroyed financial privacy everywhere in the West. Washington even forced Switzerland to violate its own laws in order to comply with Washington’s insistence on the absence of any financial privacy.

For decades Americans with foreign bank accounts have been required to report them on their income tax returns. Now if an American owns a gold coin in a vault overseas, this must be reported to Washington.

Once Washington knows the location of your assets, the assets can be confiscated at will. Washington only has to make some declaration or accusation or the other, and your wealth is gone.

As Washington has run the printing presses hard in order to serve a handful of banks that control the US Treasury and the Federal Reserve, unless China and Russia acquiesce to becoming Washington’s vassals, at some point the dollar’s value is going to slide downward. When that happens, the Federal Reserve cannot continue to create new money to meet Washington’s needs.

Where will the money come from? It will come from Americans’ pensions.

Pensions accumulate tax free, and this accumulation will be confiscated in whole or part to make up for the failure to tax, another “privilege.”

That confiscation works that year. But what happens the next year when the dollar is reeling on foreign exchange markets from over-supply?

The answer is that another chunk of American pensions, and I am speaking of private pensions, will be confiscated “in order to stabilize the financial system.” Social Security will be long gone by this time.

Alicia Munnel, who was my replacement as Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Economic Policy in the Clinton regime, advocated many years ago a confiscation of private pensions, including your IRAs and 401Ks, in order to compensate the US government for their non-taxed status.

Alicia has a sinecure at an Eastern university where she continues to advocate against your pension. The joint attack by Clinton Democrats on private pensions and by Conservative Republicans on public pensions means that no American can look forward to having a pension. Americans are only one presidential election away from the loss of their pensions, and it doesn’t matter who they vote for.

Economic security is a thing of the past. Security was a product of the US being the only extant economy following World War II. In those days corporations believed, as did Washington, that companies had obligations not only to shareholders but to employees, customers, and the communities in which they were located.

This meant prosperity for all, not merely, as is the case today, for corporate management and shareholders.

Apologists for exploitation claim that the rich are richer because they are smarter. But the stupidity of the rich is everywhere visible. The greedy fools have destroyed their domestic US market. Really, how stupid can you be? How do Americans buy when they are forced by offshoring out of well paid manufacturing and software engineering jobs into being waitresses, bartenders, retail clerks and part-time Walmart workers in order that corporate bottom lines improve? Who buys the stuff that sustains the profits? Not Americans who no longer have the incomes to do so.

The belief spread by Wall Street and “shareholder advocates” that corporations only have responsibility to their owners and managers has destroyed the American economy.

By locating production offshore, corporations have destroyed the incomes that supported the American consumer market. For example, the incomes associated with the production of Apple computers, I-Pads, and I-Phones are in China. Apple’s American customers do not have the incomes associated with the production of the products that Apple markets to them.

Americans are already dispossessed of their livelihoods and careers and their pensions are next. Wherever we look, the fate of populations under Western influence are the same. The Ukrainians are exploited, the Greeks, the British, the Americans.

Wherever the West has an imprint, the populations are exploited. Exploitation of the many for the few is the Hallmark of the West, a decrepit, corrupt, and collapsing entity.

Kitchen Manager at Colorado School Fired for Buying Lunch for a Poor Student

By Michael Krieger
June 5, 2015
Liberty Blitzkrieg

 

Screen Shot 2015-06-03 at 12.06.01 PMIs this the America we have become? A nation in which oligarchs and white collar criminals are allowed to destroy the economy, use bailout funds to pay themselves record bonuses and face absolutely no consequences, while the growing underclass of peasants are locked up, harassed and looted for the most minor offenses? Yes, indeed it is. We have become little more than a cowed, spineless and spiritually castrated nation.

This website has provided countless examples of how dangerously corrupt our legal system and moral code have become. Here are just a few recent examples:

Florida Man Faces 15 Years in Jail for Having Sex on the Beach (Still No Bankers in Jail)

Girl Gang Raped during Spring Break in Florida as Crowds Stand Around and Do Nothing to Stop It

Protecting and Serving – Florida Police Raid 90-Year-Old Woman’s Home; Find No Drugs but Wreck Home

90-Year-Old WW2 Veteran and Two Clergymen Face 60 Days in Jail for Feeding the Homeless in Florida

Florida Cop Rapes 20-Year Old Woman at Gunpoint While on Duty

Meanwhile…

The U.S. Department of Justice Handles Banker Criminals Like Juvenile Offenders…Literally:

This is a fallen society, and if we don’t reverse the trend fast, it’s only going to get much more unjust and oppressive.

Today, I bring you the latest example of a kind person being severely punished for demonstrating simple humanity. From CBS News:

AURORA, Colo. (CBS4) – Della Curry is out of work, and unashamed, after being fired by the Cherry Creek School District.

A married mother of two, Curry is the former kitchen manager at Dakota Valley Elementary School in Aurora. She lost her job on Friday after giving school lunches to students who didn’t have any money.

“I had a first grader in front of me, crying, because she doesn’t have enough money for lunch. Yes, I gave her lunch,” Curry said.

In the district, students who fail to qualify for the free lunch or reduced lunch program receive one slice of cheese on a hamburger bun, and a small milk.

“I’ll own that I broke the law. The law needs to change,” she said.

Recall how bankers always remind us that they “didn’t break the law,” while thieving everything within arm’s reach from the human race. Something is very, very wrong.

Parent Darnell Hill says Curry had helped out his son when he forgot his lunch money.

He said, “Do something different than fire her. She’s trying to help.”

Curry said she understands the school district was just following policy when it fired her. Now she’s hoping her story will lead to some changes.

“If me getting fired for it is one way that we can try to change this, I’ll take it in a heartbeat,” she said.

This is a brave, caring and thoughtful woman. Think about the terrible incentives society is demonstrating to people when something like this occurs.

Meanwhile, across the pond, London is looking to fine homeless people £1,000 for sleeping near popular tourist spots. Because that makes so much sense.

From Metro UK:

Homeless people could be fined up to £1,000 for sleeping in doorways near popular tourist spots, under new rules launched by a London council.

It’s not clear how destitute rough sleepers are expected to pay.

Of course, demonizing and criminalizing homelessness has been a growing trend in the “land of the free” for many years now. See:

In 33 U.S. Cities, Feeding the Homeless Has Been Criminalized

Doing God’s Work – San Francisco Church Sprays Homeless People with Water to Keep Them Away

Caught on Video – LAPD Guns Down Homeless Man in Broad Daylight

In Liberty,
Michael Krieger

Media hypocrisy over fate of migrant labour in Qatar

By Mark Blackwood
June 5, 2015
World Socialist Web Site

 

The intense campaign to overturn FIFA’s decisions in December 2010 to hold the World Cup in Russia in 2018 and Qatar in 2022 has spawned a slew of articles expressing outrage over the atrocious conditions facing migrant workers building the World Cup site in Qatar face.

Coming as many such statements do from representatives of US and British imperialism and a compliant corporate media, the denunciations are entirely self-serving.

The fate of migrant workers in Qatar, the other Gulf petro-monarchies and throughout the Middle East is horrendous and has long been documented. They all rely on migrant workers from South Asia, employed on low pay and in slave-labour conditions, to maintain their wealth and power, and keep their own restive populations at bay.

Insofar as conditions in Qatar depart from the Gulf norms, it is because of the vast scale of the $260 billion infrastructure and stadiums required for the World Cup, and the time scale in which it must be completed. The number of workers involved is expected to rise to at least a million in a few years’ time, when work starts on the 12 Stadiums.

As numerous reports have revealed, the move by South Asian workers to Qatar in search of money to send back to their families has brought untold suffering and death, as they are forced to toil in temperatures that regularly exceed 50 degrees centigrade for as little as 87 cents an hour.

The most frequently cited statistic is that 1,200 migrant workers, or roughly one a day, have died since Qatar won the bid at the end of 2010 to host the 2022 World Cup—although not all on the World Cup sites. If correct—Qatar rejects the figure and the methodology used to estimate it—then the 2022 World Cup has already claimed more lives than that of the 2013 Rana Plaza disaster in Bangladesh. The Rana Plaza garment factory collapsed in the Bangladesh capital, Dhaka in 2013, killing more than 1,130 workers who were crushed under eight stories of concrete.

By far the greatest number of victims are Indian and Nepalese workers. According to government statistics in India and Nepal, some 279 Indians and 162 Nepalese died in Qatar from cardiac arrest due to mandatory long shifts in searing temperatures, and unsafe working conditions in 2014 alone.

A report by the International Trade Union Confederation published in March 2014 estimated that at this rate 4,000 workers could die in the run up to the World Cup.

Last month, Amnesty International published a briefing entitled Promising Little, Delivering Less: Qatar and Migrant Abuse ahead of the 2022 Football World Cup that said that more than a year after the government promised reforms to improve migrant labour rights, little had been done. An earlier report had identified nine fundamental migrant labour rights issues, but there had been only limited progress on five of these. In four other areas—exit permits, the restriction on changing employers under Qatar’s kafala system, the protection of domestic workers, and the freedom to form or join trade unions—authorities had made no improvements at all.

Amnesty highlighted the case of Ranjith, a Sri Lankan national who had been working in Qatar for five months. Ranjith explained, I was promised 1600 Qatari Riyals ($US370), but when I arrived my boss said I would only get paid 800. Until now, though, I have not been paid anything.

“I haven’t been given an ID or any contract. I wake up at 4am every morning, have my shower and small breakfast then leave my home in the Industrial Area for work at 5am and arrive an hour later at 6am.

“To come to Qatar, I had to take a loan of 130,000 Sri Lankan Rupees [approximately $1,000] at an interest rate of 36 percent. I just want to work and earn some money for my wife and children, but because of my sponsor I cannot change jobs. If I go to the police they will arrest and deport me because I do not have an ID.”

Gana Prasad said , “My Company has never given me my ID so at any time the police can arrest me and I will be stuck in jail. Because of this I rarely leave my camp. My life is just the construction site and this dirty room. If I could I would change jobs, but I can’t because my sponsor has my passport and won’t let me work for another company.”

In order to work in Qatar legally, each migrant worker must pay up to $1,570 and work under the kafala (sponsorship) system that ties workers to their employers, who take complete control of their legal and employment status while in the country. In many cases employers withhold passports and even wages to prevent workers leaving or quitting their jobs. The kafala system is nothing short of a modern day form of slavery imposed on hundreds of thousands of workers.

As a result of the kafala system, employers refused to allow Nepalese workers compassionate leave to return home after the April 25 earthquake. Speaking on the issue to the Guardian, Tek Bahadur Gurung, Nepal’s labour minister, explained, “They have lost relatives and their homes and are enduring very difficult conditions in Qatar. This is adding to their suffering.”

Gurung added, “We are a small, poor country and these powerful organisations are not interested in listening to us.”

This is in fact a lie, as most of the South Asian governments have given the nod to the Gulf States’ atrocious treatment of migrant workers because their remittances provide a crucial safety net for the impoverished masses, thereby deflecting popular anger.

Several undercover investigations have revealed countless human rights abuses inflicted upon Qatar’s migrant work force. For example, one Nepalese carpenter, speaking under conditions of anonymity, told The Mirror newspaper last year, “We’re treated like slaves. They don’t see us as human and our deaths are cheap. They have our passports so we cannot go home. We are trapped.” The Mirror s 2014 investigation went on to uncover evidence of workers who had been beaten by gang masters after their passports were confiscated.

Just last week, the BBC reported that its reporters, invited to Qatar as part of an international delegation, had been detained for several days as a matter of “national security” and interrogated for attempting to gather material on migrants’ housing and working conditions.

Qatar is a key ally of the US, Britain and the other imperialist powers in their endless wars for domination of the region’s energy resources and the suppression of the working class. Despite some tactical differences with the US and its regional allies over its support for the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas in Gaza, Qatar has played a crucial role in the US-led wars on Libya and Syria. It has sponsored and financed right-wing Islamist militias whom the pseudo left parties have called “revolutionaries,” evidently impervious to the fact that Qatar, which imposes a slavocracy at home, is not supporting democracy or progress abroad.

The media are now wringing their hands over the fate of migrant workers in Qatar, citing it as a potential reason for reconsidering the location of the 2022 World Cup. But this will not change these relations fundamentally. Rather, such mock outrage provides a useful stick to beat FIFA into submission, after the US bid for the 2022 World Cup was turned down, while helping to discredit the awarding of the 2018 cup to Russia.

 

The author also recommends:

Gulf allies: A record of repression and torture
[22 April 2011]

The Pathology of the Rich White Family

By Chris Hedges
June 3, 2015
Truth Dig, May 17, 2015

 

Portraits of former Presidents George W. Bush, left, and George H.W. Bush, his father, part of the show “The Art of Leadership: A President’s Diplomacy.” The exhibit of portraits of world leaders by the younger Bush are on display at the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum in Dallas and runs through June 3. (AP / Benny Snyder)

The pathology of the rich white family is the most dangerous pathology in America. The rich white family is cursed with too much money and privilege. It is devoid of empathy, the result of lifetimes of entitlement. It has little sense of loyalty and lacks the capacity for self-sacrifice. Its definition of friendship is reduced to “What can you do for me?” It is possessed by an insatiable lust to increase its fortunes and power. It believes that wealth and privilege confer to it a superior intelligence and virtue. It is infused with an unchecked hedonism and narcissism. And because of all this, it interprets reality through a lens of self-adulation and greed that renders it delusional. The rich white family is a menace. The pathologies of the poor, when set against the pathologies of rich white people, are like a candle set beside the sun.

There are no shortages of acolytes and propagandists for rich white families. They dominate our airwaves. They blame poverty, societal breakdown, urban violence, drug use, domestic abuse and crime on the pathology of poor black families—not that they know any. They argue that poor black families disintegrate because of some inherent defect—here you can read between the lines that white people are better than black people—a defect that these poor families need to fix.

Peddle this simplistic and racist garbage and you will be given a column at The New York Times. It always pays to suck up to rich white families. If you are black and parrot this line, rich white people are overcome with joy. They go to extreme lengths to give you a platform. You can become president or a Supreme Court justice. You can get a television talk show or tenure at a university. You can get money for your foundation. You can publish self-help books. Your films will be funded. You might even be hired to run a company.

Rich white families, their sycophants opine, have tried to help. Rich white families have given poor people numerous resources and government programs to lift them out of poverty. They have provided generous charity. But blacks, they say, along with other poor people of color, are defeated by self-destructive attitudes and behavior. Government programs are therefore wasted on these irresponsible people. Poor families, the sycophants tell us, will not be redeemed until they redeem themselves. We want to help, rich white people say, but poor black people need to pull up their pants, stay in school, get an education, find a job, say no to drugs and respect authority. If they don’t, they deserve what they get. And what the average black family ends up with in economic terms is a nickel for every dollar held by the average white family.

Starting at age 10 as a scholarship student at an elite New England boarding school, I was forced to make a study of the pathology of rich white families. It was not an experience I would recommend. Years later, by choice, I moved to Boston’s Roxbury neighborhood when I was a seminary student. I lived across the street from one of the poorest housing projects in the city, and I ran a small church in the inner city for nearly three years. I already had a deep distaste for rich white families, and that increased greatly after I saw what they did to the disenfranchised. Rich white people, I concluded after my childhood and Roxbury experiences, are sociopaths.

The misery and collapse of community and family in Roxbury were not caused by an inherent pathology within the black family. Rich people who treated the poor like human refuse caused the problems. Layers of institutionalized racism—the courts, the schools, the police, the probation officers, the banks, the easy access to drugs, the endemic unemployment and underemployment, the collapsing infrastructures and the prison system—effectively conspired to make sure the poor remained poor. Drug use, crime and disintegrating families are the result of poverty, not race. Poor whites replicate this behavior. Take away opportunity, infuse lives with despair and hopelessness, and this is what you get. But that is something rich white families do not want people to know. If it were known, the rich would have to take the blame.

Michael Kraus, Paul Piff and Dacher Keltner, social scientists at the University of California, did research that led them to conclude that the poor have more empathy than the rich. The poor, they argued, do not have the ability to dominate their environments. They must build relationships with others to survive. This requires that they be able to read the emotions of those around them and respond. It demands that they look after each other. And this makes them more empathetic. The rich, who can control their environments, do not need to bother with the concerns or emotions of others. They are in charge. What they want gets done. And the longer they live at the center of their own universe, the more callous, insensitive and cruel they become.

The rich white family has an unrivaled aptitude for crime. Members of rich white families run corporations into the ground (think Lehman Brothers), defraud stockholders and investors, sell toxic mortgages as gold-plated investments to pension funds, communities and schools, and then loot the U.S. Treasury when the whole thing implodes. They steal hundreds of millions of dollars on Wall Street through fraud and theft, pay little or no taxes, almost never go to jail, write laws and regulations that legalize their crimes and then are asked to become trustees at elite universities and sit on corporate boards. They set up foundations and are admired as philanthropists. And if they get into legal trouble, they have high-priced lawyers and connections among the political elites to get them out.

You have to hand it to rich white families. They steal with greater finesse than anyone else. If you are a poor black teenager and sprint out of a CVS with a few looted bottles of shampoo, you are likely to be shot in the back or sent to jail for years. If there were an Olympiad for crime, rich white families would sweep up all the medals; blacks would be lucky to come within a mile of the first elimination trial. I don’t know why black people even try to compete in this area. They are, by comparison, utter failures as criminals. The monarchs of crime are rich white people, who wallow in their pilfered wealth while locking away in prisons a huge percentage of poor men of color.

Rich white families are also the most efficient killers on the planet. This has been true for five centuries, starting with the conquest of the Americas and the genocide against Native Americans, and continuing through today’s wars in the Middle East. Rich white families themselves don’t actually kill. They are not about to risk their necks on city streets or in Iraq. They hire people, often poor, to kill for them. Rich white families wanted the petroleum of Iraq and, by waving the flag and spewing patriotic slogans, got a lot of poor kids to join the military and take the oil fields for them. Rich white people wanted endless war for the benefit of their arms industry and got it by calling for a war on terror. Rich white people wanted police to use lethal force against the poor with impunity and to arrest them, swelling U.S. prisons with 25 percent of the world’s prison population, so they set up a system of drug laws and militarized police departments to make it happen.

The beauty of making others kill on your behalf is you get to appear “reasonable” and “nice.” You get to chastise poor people and Muslims for being angry fanatics. You get to spread the message of tolerance with a cherubic smile—which means tolerating the crimes and violence of rich white people. Compare a drive-by shooting in Watts with the saturation bombing of Vietnam. Compare a gangland killing in Chicago with militarized police shooting a person of color almost every day. No one else knows how to churn out corpses like rich white people. One million dead in Iraq alone. And the rich and powerful kill staggering numbers of people and never go to prison. They can retire to a ranch in Crawford, Texas, and paint amateurish portraits of world leaders copied from Google Image Search.

There is no decadence like the decadence of rich white people. I knew a billionaire who in retirement spent his time on a yacht smoking weed and being catered to by a string of high-priced prostitutes. The children of rich white families—surrounded by servants and coddled in private schools, never having to fly on commercial airlines or take public transportation—develop a lassitude, sometimes accompanied by a drug habit, that often leads them to idle away their lives as social parasites. Mothers never have to be mothers. Fathers never have to be fathers. The help does the parenting. The rich live encased in little kingdoms, one guarded by their own private security, where the real world does not intrude. They are cultural philistines preoccupied with acquiring more wealth and more possessions. “Material success,” as C. Wright Mills wrote, “is their sole basis of authority.” They meld into the world of celebrity. And the organs of mass media, which they control, turn them into idols to be worshiped solely because they are rich. Public-relations specialists manufacture their public personas. Teams of lawyers harass and silence their critics. Acolytes affirm their sagacity. They soon believe their own fiction.

Daniel Patrick Moynihan in 1965 wrote what is known as the Moynihan Report, or “The Negro Family: The Case for National Action.” The report concluded that “at the heart of the deterioration of the fabric of Negro society is the deterioration of the Negro family.” The oppressed were to blame for their oppression. Social programs alone could not save the poor. The report offers a classic example of a neoliberal economic model repacked as an ideology.

The pathologies of the rich will soon drive us over an economic and ecological cliff. And as we go down, the rich, lacking empathy and understanding, determined to maintain their privilege and their wealth, will use their Praetorian Guard, their mass media, their corporate power, their political puppets and their security and surveillance apparatus to keep us submissive. “The secret of a great success for which you are at a loss to account is a crime that has never been discovered, because it was properly executed,” Honoré de Balzac wrote of the rich in his novel “Le Père Goriot.”

The rich executed a coup d’état that transformed the three branches of the U.S. government and nearly all institutions, including the mass media, into wholly owned subsidiaries of the corporate state. This coup gives the rich the license and the power to amass unimaginable wealth at our expense. It permits the rich to inflict grinding poverty on growing circles of the population. Poverty is the worst of crimes—as George Bernard Shaw wrote, “all the other crimes are virtues beside it.” And the ability of a rapacious power elite to let children go hungry, to let men and women suffer a loss of dignity and self-worth because there are no jobs, to abandon cities to decay and squalor, to toss the mentally ill and the homeless onto the streets, to slash the meager services that give some hope and succor to those who suffer, to lock hundreds of thousands of poor people in cages for years, to wage endless war, to burden students with crushing debt, to unleash state terror and to extinguish hope among the least fortunate exposes our wealthy oligarchs as the most dangerous and destructive force in America.

 

Parasitism and the economic crisis

By Andre Damon
June 2, 2015
World Socialist Web Site

 

The US Commerce Department released figures Friday showing that the US economy contracted sharply, shrinking at an annualized rate of 0.7 percent in the first three months of this year.

Yet despite the disastrous condition of the real economy, all three major US stock indexes reached record highs during the three months covered in the report. In fact, less than 48 hours before the release of the data, the Nasdaq Index closed at an all-time high of 5,107.

While the US real economy has grown by only 13 percent since the depth of the recession in 2009, all three major American stock indices—the Dow Jones Industrial Average, the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq—have more than tripled, each hitting all-time highs.

Far from being mere coincidence, the run-up in stock values and economic slump represent two sides of the same process. They express the extent to which, seven years after the 2008 financial crisis, the whole world economy has become an object for unremitting plunder by the global financial aristocracy, with disastrous social and economic consequences.

This plunder manifests itself in the continual diversion of economic resources into the coffers of billionaire shareholders and corporate executives at the expense of productive activity. This was reflected in the Commerce Department report on the collapse of business investment, which fell at a rate of 2.8 percent in the first quarter of this year.

The sharp fall in investment came despite the fact that US corporations are holding a hoard of some $1.4 trillion in cash and similar assets, the largest such figure on record, amassed as a result of years of record profits amid falling wages and an influx of cheap money from the world’s central banks.

Instead of using this cash to hire workers and build factories, corporations are diverting it to raise dividends, buy back shares, hike executive pay and carry out mergers and acquisitions—all at record levels.

In the aftermath of the 1929 financial meltdown, caused by rampant Wall Street fraud, speculation and parasitism, bankers guilty of many of the greatest crimes that led to the crash were tried and convicted, while new financial regulations, including the Glass-Steagall Act that separated commercial and investment banking, put limits on the size and power of Wall Street. This was the response of the ruling class to immense revolutionary struggles of the time.

As the New York Times recently noted, “In the aftermath of the Great Depression, the nation’s finance industry shrank severely—and remained in a humbled state for most of the next four decades. The economy boomed in this period, with no major financial crises and less income inequality than in recent decades.”

In the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, on the other hand, none of the basic causes of the crash, including the enormous size of the global financial sector and its pervasive criminality, have been even remotely addressed. Rather, under the guidance of the Obama administration, the dominant position of Wall Street in economic, social and political life has only been entrenched and expanded.

The growth in financial parasitism is so pervasive that even mainstream economic institutions have been forced to warn of its dangers. Last month the International Monetary Fund, a bastion of the political establishment, declared in a research paper that economic growth “weakens at higher levels of financial development” and called on governments to take measures to rein in the size of the financial sector.

Despite these warnings, governments throughout the world have shown neither the will nor desire to rein in even the most brazen and criminal manifestations of financial parasitism.

In the US, the Obama Justice Department has ensured that the major banks have been given effective legal immunity for the crimes they have committed before, during and after the 2008 crash. This has been evidenced by one scandal after another—from selling fraudulent subprime mortgages, money laundering, and tax evasion, as well as rigging benchmark interest and foreign exchange rates—for which not a single bank executive has been prosecuted.

Meanwhile, led by the US Federal Reserve, the world’s central banks have responded to every sign of renewed weakness in the global economy by either expanding their money printing operations or scaling back their plans to “normalize” monetary policy.

Two interrelated processes find expression in the response to the 2008 crisis: 1) the long-term decline of American capitalism, and 2) the elevation of financial parasitism to the basic mode of operation of the ruling class. Even in the midst of the Great Depression of the 1930s, the United States was still a rising industrial power, which would establish its global hegemonic position following the Second World War.

The past four decades, however, have seen a relentless decay and decline, with entire industries wiped out, facilitated and demanded by the operations of finance capital. The process through which the ruling class acquires and maintains its wealth has become ever more divorced from the actual process of production.

The policies of the Obama administration are ultimately the expression of the domination of the financial oligarchy over all aspects of economic and political life in the US, the center of international finance. This social layer uses its political and economic leverage not only to promote its parasitic activities, but also to further the drive toward war and dictatorship throughout the world.

There exists no solution to the crisis gripping the global economy outside of the expropriation of the ill-gotten wealth of this oligarchy and the reorganization of society on an egalitarian and socialist basis.

 

US police kill more than two people a day

By Patrick Martin
June 1, 2015
World Socialist Web Site

 

LibertyUS police shot and killed nearly 400 people during the first five months of this year, according to a front-page report published Sunday by the Washington Post. The death rate from police violence against the people they allegedly “serve and protect” amounts to 2.6 per day, or about one person every nine hours. At that rate, American police will shoot to death nearly 1,000 people this year.

The Post study counts only victims of police gunshots, excluding those who die in police custody from other forms of violence, such as Freddie Gray in Baltimore, who died April 19 of a fractured spine after a deliberate “rough ride” in the back of a police van.

The newspaper embarked on a comprehensive, year-long survey of police shootings because there is no central record of such deaths. An FBI estimate of 1.1 shooting deaths by police per day proved to be less than half the number of killings the Post was able to document, using interviews, police reports, local news accounts and other sources.

The preliminary findings through the first five months of the year give a grim picture of the daily toll from police violence.

  • Half of those shot to death by police were white, one third black and the remainder Hispanic or Asian. The vast majority of the victims were poor or working class.
  • Half of police killings took place after police were called to intervene in a social situation like a domestic disturbance, suicide attempt, or mental breakdown, not a robbery or other crime.
  • One-quarter of the victims, 92 out of 385, were described as mentally ill.
  • One-sixth of the victims, 63 out of 385, were completely unarmed (49) or carrying toy weapons (14). Of these, 20 percent were shot while fleeing from police.
  • Eight of the victims were children younger than 18 years old. The oldest victim was 83.
  • Los Angeles police had the most fatal shootings of any department, eight since January 1.

In only three deaths out of 385, less than 1 percent, have charges been brought against the police. In each of these cases there was video evidence against the officer who fired the shots. These include the well-publicized killing of Walter Scott, a 50-year-old black man in South Carolina, where police officer Michael Slager was caught on a cellphone camera shooting the victim in the back; the killing of Eric Harris, a 44-year-old black man, by reserve deputy Robert Bates in Oklahoma; and the killing of David Kassick, a 59-year-old white man, by officer Lisa Mearkle, who shot him twice in the back after he refused to pull over for a traffic stop in Pennsylvania.

The Washington Post story made headlines around the world, with many newspapers publishing excerpts of the report under headlines like “Police kill two a day in US.” Among the news outlets calling their readers’ attention to official brutality in the United States were Sputnik International (Russia), Press TV (Iran), Daily Sabah (Turkey), the Manila Standard (Philippines), the Hindustan Times (India), the Toronto Star (Canada), and the Sydney Morning Herald (Australia).

Since the eruption of popular protest last August over the unpunished police murder of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and the massive, military-style repression of the protests by police and National Guard troops, press reports, and especially social media, have given the world’s population a far different—and far more accurate—understanding of the brutal reality of social relations in the United States.

And the carnage continues. On Friday night, Oklahoma highway patrol officers shot to death a man who they were supposedly rescuing after his pickup truck stalled in rising floodwaters. Two men, apparently brothers, were trying to push the truck free when the police arrived and told them to leave the vehicle and evacuate to higher ground. An argument followed. Nehemiah Fischer, 35, allegedly attacked the police and they shot him to death on the spot. The second man, Brandon Fischer, 40, was arrested and taken to Okmulgee County jail.

The same night, two Oregon State Police troopers killed a man in rural Josephine County, after responding to a domestic disturbance call. The victim, 55-year-old Robert Box, died at Three Rivers Medical Center in Grants Pass. No details of the circumstances of the killing have yet been made public.

Also Friday, Lyndhurst, New Jersey police shot and killed 36-year-old Kevin K. Allen, an African-American man. The police claim that Allen, who had arrest warrants for failure to appear for a county work-release program, came at them with a knife after they recognized and accosted him inside the public library. This was the second fatal shooting in northeast New Jersey in 10 days, after the May 21 killing of Elvin Diaz, 24, in Hackensack, following an altercation with two cops who went to his home at the request of his probation officer.

On Thursday night, a Carrollton, Georgia police officer shot and killed a man who he claimed was reaching for a holstered gun. Police Corporal Chad Cook shot Kenneth Joel Dothard twice in the head. Dothard, a 40-year-old Air Force veteran, had two drug convictions after leaving the military, the last six years ago, and was living in a motel room at the time of his death.

Last Wednesday, Long Beach, California shot and killed a 20-year-old man after he fell through a second-story window in a drunken altercation with friends. Feras Morad was cut and bloodied when police arrived, and “continued to behave irrationally,” according to the police account, threatening the cop, who then shot him to death. Morad, a Cal State Long Beach student and champion debater in high school, was unarmed.

All these police killings took place in the week following the decision of an Ohio judge to clear police officer Michael Brelo, who fired 49 shots into the car occupied by an unarmed black man and woman, Timothy Russell, 43, and Malissa Williams, 30, in November 2012. Brelo was part of a lynch mob of more than 100 Cleveland cops who took part in the chase that ended with 137 rounds fired, all by the police. Brelo stood on the hood of the car and took the last 15 shots of the fusillade, after every other cop had ceased firing. The judge acquitted him on the spurious legal ground that it could not be determined with certainty exactly which cops had fired the 47 shots that hit the two victims.

Brelo’s exoneration is not the exception, but the rule, not only in Ohio, but everywhere in the United States. According to a report in Sunday’s New York Times, reviewing police shootings in Broward County, Florida, just north of Miami, since 1980, a period that covers 168 shooting deaths, no police officer has ever been charged.

The Obama administration has gone out of its way to defend the police at all levels against charges of brutality and murder. Only three days after the exoneration of Brelo, the Justice Department announced a settlement with the Cleveland police that mandated a series of toothless “reforms” while failing to call for the prosecution of officers guilty of brutality, including the officer who shot 12-year-old Tamir Rice in Cleveland last year. The purpose of the settlement was clear: to put the administration’s stamp of approval on the exoneration of Brelo and other killer cops, while lending support to the city’s Democratic political establishment.

A week earlier, Obama himself traveled to Camden, New Jersey for a photo-op with the local police department, announcing an additional $163 million in funding for local police forces, with a large share of the funds targeted for training police to use military hardware. Obama declared, “The overwhelming number of police officers are good, fair, honest and care deeply about their community, putting their lives on the line every day.”

Actually, according to federal reports, a total of 57 police officers (out of more than 1 million local, state and federal cops) died by violence in the line of duty in 2013, the latest year for which comprehensive statistics are available. Contrary to the claims of police apologists, that makes being a policeman one of safer occupations in America, much less dangerous than working class jobs involving physical labor in mining, manufacturing, construction, transportation or agriculture.

 

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US establishment shields killer cops
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More than a quarter of Chicago county jail inmates suffer severe mental illness

By George Marlowe
June 1, 2015
World Socialist Web Site

 

Recent reports have highlighted the fact that at least a quarter of the prison population at Chicago’s Cook County Jail suffer from serious mental health illnesses.

Speaking to the Chicago Tribune, the new head of the jail noted that out of the jail’s approximately 8,000 detainees, some 1,900 have been identified as suffering from mental illness. Dr. Nneka Jones, a 37-year-old clinical psychologist now in charge of the jail, told the press it is becoming a “social epidemic.”

In a previous interview with ThinkProgress, Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart admitted, “Conservative numbers are 25, but we think it’s closer to 30 or 35 percent of our jail population that has a mental illness… so we’ve effectively become the largest mental health hospital in the country.”

Located in the highly impoverished West Side of Chicago, the dilapidated and sprawling jail is the largest single-site prison in the country. Conditions have long been dangerous and brutal for inmates, particularly the mentally ill, and are unlikely to change for the better. In a chiefly cosmetic move the Cook County sheriff appointed Dr. Nneka Jones as executive director of the facility on May 26, the first time a mental health professional has been hired to run a major US jail.

The conditions in the jail have previously been deemed so hazardous and inhumane that they were considered a violation of prisoners’ constitutional rights by federal authorities in 2008. In the last five years alone, with the deepening of the economic and social crisis, the number of inmates with mental health illnesses has more than doubled.

Cermak Health Services, the on-site hospital at the jail run by the county, suffers from extreme overcrowding and poor quality care. Most detainees with severe mental health issues are treated in an emergency triage fashion to temporarily ameliorate mental health issues with medications or to subdue detainees who have outbursts. The highly overcrowded jail and its hospital have effectively become a dumping ground for the mentally ill with no proper alternatives.

Alongside the decimation of social safety nets and the deterioration of the social conditions in Chicago, there has been a sharp increase in mental health problems. Those suffering from severe mental health illnesses—including schizophrenia, severe depression, bipolar disorders and trauma—are caught up in devastating cycles of poverty and homelessness.

Instead of providing adequate mental health services to those who need it the most, Cook County and Illinois officials have carried out severe cuts to such programs. The increasing number of people held in jail is a direct result of the bipartisan assault on access to mental health care for the indigent. With diminishing access to psychiatric beds in hospitals and community mental health centers, many of the most vulnerable are thrown into the criminal justice system and subjected to brutal treatment, which make matters worse.

According to the National Alliance of Mental Health, between 2009 and 2012 the state of Illinois made the fourth-largest cuts to such programs of any state in the country, cutting spending by 32 percent. The draconian cuts imperiled tens of thousands in need of psychiatric services, assistive community treatment, housing or crisis services.

In 2012, Chicago’s Democratic mayor, Rahm Emanuel, closed six of the city’s 12 mental health facilities. The same year Illinois Democratic Governor Pat Quinn closed the nearby Tinley Park Mental Health Center. The shuttered facility was subsequently used for urban warfare training exercises.

Current Republican Governor Bruce Rauner’s budget for fiscal year 2016, which starts in June, targets providers of community-based health care centers for savage cuts. Rauner is calling for an $82 million reduction in funding for the Department of Human Service’s mental health division. This is a cut of 15 percent of the department’s current funding. Rauner claims this is necessary to close a $6 billion shortfall in his proposed state budget.

The cuts will eliminate funding for psychiatry, housing programs for the homeless and care coordinators who direct the mentally ill to appropriate care. Care providers have been outraged by the budget proposals and point out that many of those who desperately need care will be driven to the streets, hospital emergency rooms and prisons.

Such cuts only exacerbate the homeless crisis. An analysis by the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless estimates that over 138,575 Chicagoans were homeless in the course of the 2013-14 school year, a staggering 19.4 percent increase from the previous year. That number is a direct result of the 2013 school closures, with nearly 22,144 students now considered homeless in Chicago Public Schools.

According to a report by the US Conference of Mayors, over 25 to 30 percent of those who are homeless suffer from severe mental health problems including schizophrenia and bipolar disorders. Lacking affordable housing and care, those who end up on the streets inevitably find themselves locked up in the overcrowded and brutal conditions of Cook County Jail.

One national expert on jail operations has recently testified that detainees at Cook County Jail face an “extremely high risk” of harm, making it one of the most dangerous jails in the country. According to the Chicago Tribune, during a hearing of a civil lawsuit brought by the MacArthur Justice Center at Northwestern University, Jeffrey A. Schwartz testified that a culture of brutality exists within the prison due to “serious failures” of staff leadership exasperating the problem.

However, US District Judge Virginia Kendall denied Schwartz’s motion to require Sheriff Dart to stem the alleged “crisis of violence” in the jail. In an attempt to cover up for abuse under his watch, Dart has dismissed the allegations as a “fictitious novel” and suggested the lawsuit is unnecessary.

Far from such conditions being “fictitious,” the violent treatment of mentally disabled prisoners across the country has come under scrutiny with a recent report from Human Rights Watch. The report highlights that violent and deadly abuse is rampant in US jails and prisons all across the country.

In many respects, the clock has been turned back centuries. There are now ten times more mentally ill people in prisons than in hospitals. The availability of psychiatric beds per capita has decreased to levels before 1850—before the American Civil War—when efforts were made to treat the mentally ill in hospital settings instead of imprisoning them. In the 1800’s, efforts were made by figures such as Dorothea Dix and more far-sighted layers within the ruling class to stop the imprisonment and cruel and inhumane treatment of the mentally ill.

The growing number of detainees suffering from mental illness in Cook County jail reveals the enormous regression American society has undergone. With no answer to the vast social problems it has caused, the ruling elite and the Democratic Party political establishment that has long run America’s third largest city have no answer outside of criminalizing the poor.

The End of Monsanto

By Julie Lévesque
May 30, 2015
Global Research

 

RoundUpCancer032515An increasing number of countries are banning Monsanto’s cancer-linked Roundup herbicide, a.k.a. glyphosate. Others are banning Monsanto’s GMOs. Meanwhile, Monsanto-funded U.S. presidential candidate Hillary Clinton thinks “(t)here is a big gap between what the facts are, and what the perceptions are.” Actually the facts are established: Monsanto’s herbicides and GMOs are harmful to humans and animals. Several studies have demonstrated it and even led the World Health Organization to issue a warning against glyphosate’s links to cancer.

In fact, Monsanto knew 35 years ago that its glyphosate was linked to cancer and other health issues. GM-Free Cymru discovered this while looking into the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) archives from the early 80′s:

There were many animal experiments (using rats, mice and dogs) designed to test the acute and chronic toxicity of glyphosate in the period 1978-1986, conducted by laboratories such as Bio/dynamics Inc for Monsanto and submitted for EPA consideration… but like all the other older studies they were and still are treated as Trade Secrets and cannot be freely accessed for independent scrutiny. That in itself is suggestive that the studies contain data which Monsanto still does not wish to be examined by experts in the toxicology field. It is also deeply worrying that EPA acceded to the routine Monsanto requests for secrecy on the flimsiest of pretexts.

However, archived and accessible EPA Memos from the early 1980′s do give some indications as to what the rat studies contain (9). Although the studies predate the adoption of international test guidelines and GLP standards they suggest that there was significant damage to the kidneys of the rats in the 3-generational study… In the rat study results, the changes in the bladder mucosa are significant because metabolites, concentrated by the kidneys, have led to hyperplasia that could be considered as a very early and necessary step in tumour initiation. (GM-Free Cymru, Monsanto Knew of Glyphosate / Cancer Link 35 Years Ago, April 19, 2015)

Genetically modified foods are also linked to health issues including gluten disorders:

The Executive Director of the Institute for Responsible Technology (IRT) Jeffrey M. Smith has discovered a link between gluten disorders and GM foods in a study he conducted last year. Gluten disorders have sharply risen over the past 2 decades, which correlates with GM foods being introduced into the food supply. Smith asserts that GM foods – including soy and corn – are the possible “environmental triggers” that have contributed to the rapid increase of gluten disorders that effect close to 20 million American’s today. (Steven MacMillan, Monsanto’s GMO Food and its Dark Connections to the “Military Industrial Complex”, The Analyst Report, July 03, 2014)

Ironically, Hillary praises GMOs but during their stay at the White house, the Clintons, just like the Obamas, were fed organic food:

The Clinton and Bush II families ate organic foods. Walter Scheib was White House executive chef from 1994 – 2005.

He had “the professional challenge of fulfilling Hillary Clinton’s mandate of bringing contemporary American cuisine and nutritionally responsible food to the White House,” he said.

Nearly all foods used were gotten from local growers and suppliers. A small White House roof garden was used for produce grown without pesticides and fertilizers. Organic foods were prioritized.

First families continue getting wholesome pesticide/GMO-free foods while promoting frankenfoods hazardous to human health for Monsanto and other biotech giants. (Stephen Lendman, Hillary Clinton Endorses GMOs. White House Meals are Organic, Global Research, May 25, 2015)

As Mike Adams reports, Hillary Clinton has  hired former Monsanto lobbyist to run her campaign and her law firm used to have Monsanto as a client. It is no surprise that she strongly advocates GMOs.

If GMOs are as good as Hillary pretends they are, however, why are the first families not eating any and why are so many countries banning them?

The reasons for the bans recall the allegedly fraudulent 2012 Seralini study:

In response to a 2004 study declaring Monsanto’s NK603 GMO maize safe:

“…a predominantly French team led by Prof Gilles-Eric Séralini undertook a two-year (over 700 days), feeding trial [2], which was otherwise similar. Their work was published in September 2012, also inFCT. The early warnings that had been dismissed in the Monsanto paper developed into serious illnesses, including damage to liver, kidneys, pituitary gland and, most notably, early deaths and development of large tumours in females. In addition, the study included trials of minute amounts of Monsanto’s Roundup, the herbicide to which tolerance has been genetically engineered into NK603, in the rats’ drinking water.” (Christina Sarich Former Monsanto Employee Fired from Major Scientific Journal’s Editor Position, Natural Society, March 30, 2015)

The study was labeled fraudulent soon after its publication and was retracted from the Journal of Food and Chemical Toxicology. Shortly before the study was retracted, ex-Monsanto employee Richard Goodman had been appointed Associate Editor. He has since been removed from the Editorial Board of the scientific journal along with Editor-in-Chief, A. Wallace Hayes:

After the Seralini study was retracted, hundreds of scientists contacted the journal to ask them why they were doing so, claiming that they were giving in to pressure from the biotech industry. (Ibid.)

The WHO’s recent warning seems to have triggered a domino effect, inciting countries to ban Monsanto products and which could lead to its demise.

Here is a list of bans which are either in effect or on their way all around the world, as well as studies showing the damages caused by Monsanto’s products:

Glyphosate ban

Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka’s Newly Elected President Bans Glyphosate (Monsanto Roundup) – Deadly Chronic Kidney Disease Increased 5-Fold

Sri Lanka’s newly elected president, Maithripala Sirisena, has announced that the import of Monsanto’s favorite killing-tool, glyphosate, will no longer be allowed in the country.

Sirisena is a farmer and ex health minister, and blames glyphosate for rising rates of chronic kidney disease (CKD) throughout the Sri Lankan farming community.

The Netherlands

Netherlands Bans Monsanto’s Roundup to Protect Citizens from Carcinogenic Glyphosate

Late last year, the Dutch parliament voted to ban the sale of glyphosate-based herbicides to private parties. The ban, under which agricultural use is excluded, was initially proposed several years ago. However, it is thought that Monsanto influence prevented it from taking place at the time.

Brazil

Brazil’s Public Prosecutor Wants to Ban Monsanto’s Chemicals Following Recent Glyphosate-Cancer Link

While some agencies in Brazil have been busy giving 3 new GMO crops green lights, the country’s public prosecutor has written the Brazil’s National Health Surveillance Agency (ANVISA) asking it to urgently re-evaluate their stance on the ‘likely carcinogenic’ herbicide ingredient, glyphosate. The letter was written with an expectation that the agency will ban the main ingredient in Monsanto’s best selling herbicide.

Germany (European Union)

German Ministers Call for EU-Wide Ban on Monsanto’s Deadly Glyphosate Herbicide (Roundup)

State consumer protection ministers in Germany are advocating an EU-wide ban on glyphosate herbicides in response to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) categorization of the chemical as “probably carcinogenic.”

Argentina

30,000 Doctors in Argentina Demand that Glyphosate (Monsanto Roundup) Be Banned

The doctors are part of FESPROSA, Argentina’s Union of medical professionals. Citing the World Health Organization’s recent declaration that the glyphosate chemicals used in Monsanto’s best-selling herbicide Round Up (formulated to use on Round Up Ready crops) are “likely carcinogenic,” they add an additional disclaimer:

Glyphosate is also associated with:

  • Spontaneous abortions

  • Birth defects

  • Skin disease

  • Respiratory illness

  • Neurological disease

Bermuda

Bermuda Suspends Glyphosate-Ridden Monsanto Roundup Indefinitely

Following a recent study on Monsanto’s best-selling herbicide Roundup and its main chemical ingredient glyphosate, Bermuda has decided to suspend any importation of glyphosate/Roundup until further research give reason to lift the suspension.

GMOs ban

France

French Parliament Moves Beyond Monsanto, Bans GMO Corn

France’s lower house of Parliament banned GM corn in a sweeping fashion, Reuters reported. Now, no variety of GM corn can be cultivated because of its toxic threats to the soil, insects and human health.

U.S.

The Maui GMO Ban and the Monsanto-Dow Criminal Human Experimentation

In the last election, the voters of Maui, in a ballot measure, decided to place a temporary ban on further Dow/Monsanto GMO/pesticide experiments in Maui County.

Immediately, Monsanto, Dow, and yes, even the County government of Maui (betraying their own voters), lined up against the results of the vote.

Hungary

Hungary Destroys All Monsanto GMO Corn Fields

Hungary has taken a bold stand against biotech giant Monsanto and genetic modification by destroying 1000 acres of maize found to have been grown with genetically modified seeds, according to Hungary deputy state secretary of the Ministry of Rural Development Lajos Bognar.

Unlike many European Union countries, Hungary is a nation where genetically modified (GM) seeds are banned.

Peru

Peru Passes Monumental Ten-Year Ban on Genetically Modified Foods

In an act of defiance against bloated biotech companies like Monsanto, Peru has officially passed a law banning genetically modified ingredients within the nation for a period of 10 years…

While the ban will stop the flow of GM foods within the nation’s borders, a recent test conducted by the Peruvian Association of Consumers and Users (ASPEC) found that 77 percent of supermarket products tested contained GM contaminants.

Russia

Why Is Russia Banning GMOs While the US Keeps Approving Them?

The VP of Russia’s National Association for Genetic Safety, Irina Ermakova, has said:

“It is necessary to ban GMOs, to impose moratorium (on) it for 10 years… It has been proven that not only in Russia, but also in many other countries in the world, GMOs are dangerous. Methods of obtaining the GMOs are not perfect, therefore, at this stage, all GMOs are dangerous. Consumption and use of GMOs obtained in such way can lead to tumors, cancers and obesity among animals.

China

Geopolitics of Organic Food: Russia, China and France Ban GMOs

Russia’s stance against GMO is mirrored elsewhere, including in France where just recently Monsanto’s GM corn was banned and in China where the importing of US GM corn has been outlawed. The backlash against GMO has widespread appeal due to well-placed health and environmental concerns among increasingly informed populations. But the drive to push back against GMO in nations like Russia and China also has a geopolitical dimension.

Studies

Monsanto Double Standards and the Crumbling “Scientific Myths” of the GMO Biotech Sector

Monsanto Roundup: The Impacts of Glyphosate Herbicide on Human Health. Pathways to Modern Diseases

Study Shows Monsanto Roundup Herbicide Link to Birth Defects

Cancer of Corruption, Seeds of Destruction: The Monsanto GMO Whitewash

Former Pro-GMO Biotech Scientist Admits GMOs Aren’t Safe, Refutes Claims by Monsanto

The Toxic Impacts of GMO Maize: Scientific Journal Bows to Monsanto, Retracts anti-Monsanto Study

More Evidence that Herbicide Glyphosate (Monsanto Roundup) Causes Cancer

Chronic Kidney Failure 5 Times Higher in Glyphosate-Ridden (Monsanto Roundup) Areas, Study Confirms

Wall Street buybacks: Another expression of parasitism

By Nick Beams
May 29, 2015
World Socialist Web Site

 

In the biological world, a parasite lives at the expense of the host, sucking out its nutrients and life forces, and sometimes killing it. Analogies of course have their limits, but nonetheless they can be suggestive. And this is certainly so in the case of the rampant financial parasitism that has become the dominant feature of the American economy and, by extension, the world economy as a whole.

An article published in the Wall Street Journal this week details some of the impact of hedge funds on the operations of major US corporations, and the way in which their insatiable drive for profit through financial manipulations is sucking the lifeblood out of the economy and contributing to its deepening breakdown.

The article is based on a study conducted for the newspaper by S&P Capital IQ. It found that companies in the S&P 500 index had “sharply increased their spending on dividends and [share] buybacks to a median 36 percent of operating cash flow in 2013, from 18 percent in 2003.” The doubling of this rate was accompanied by a fall in spending by those companies on plant and equipment, from 33 percent to 29 percent over the same period.

The study found that in companies targeted by so-called “activist investors”—that is, hedge funds that hold hundreds of millions and sometimes billions of dollars on behalf of their wealthy investors—the figures were even higher. Targeted companies reduced capital spending from 42 per cent to 29 percent of operating cash flow and increased spending on dividends and share buybacks to 37 percent of operating cash flow from 22 percent.

One of the main factors facilitating these operations has been the provision of ultra-cheap money by the US Federal Reserve, which has kept official interest rates at almost zero, leading to historically low interest rates in financial markets. Hedge funds are able to use borrowed money to acquire major share holdings in corporations and then push for share buybacks and the payment of increased dividends. The buybacks, in turn, can be financed through borrowed funds at low interest rates.

The aim is to produce a rise in the share price of the company or generate an increased dividend flow returning large profits for the “activists,” often accompanied by job cuts or the outright closure of parts of the targeted company deemed not to be making a sufficient contribution to “shareholders’ funds.” At the end of the process, vast profits have been pocketed, without a single atom of new wealth being created, while productive capacity has been curtailed.

The consequences of these vampire-like operations are most prominent in major industries. The US energy giants, which have splurged billions on buybacks, dividends and mergers, have refused for decades to invest in infrastructure, leading to a situation where workers are subjected to 16-hour days and increasingly unsafe working conditions. Likewise, the auto industry firms and telecoms are notorious for their resistance to wage increases, while engaging in the same financial manipulation.

The deeper the economic crisis, the more frenzied the speculation. The article noted that since 2010 the number of activist campaigns directed at securing buybacks and increased dividends had risen by 60 percent. Last year there were 348 such campaigns, the most since 2008, and a further 108 in the first quarter of this year. Hedge funds now control $130 billion in assets, more than double the amount they held in 2011. This means that once they leverage these funds through borrowing at ultra-low rates, they can target virtually any corporation.

Would-be reformers of the capitalist economy will no doubt argue that these dangers can be overcome through the development of mechanisms or increased regulations to promote the “good” side of corporate activity—research and development and real investment—while taking action to control the “bad” side—parasitism. But the question remains: Why has it emerged now?

Underlying tendencies at the very center of the capitalist economy are at work. The long-term downward pressure on the rate of profit, which has led to the continuous restructuring of the American and global capitalist economy over the past four decades, is the driving force behind the rise of speculation and parasitism.

Well-known voracious hedge-fund investor Carl Icahn, cited in the Wall Street Journal article, pointed to these trends saying the economy was “being dragged down by too many mediocre CEOs, and it’s dangerous if profitability is going down despite interest rates being at zero.”

However, his resort to a “bad man” theory of economics does not pass even a preliminary examination. The same tendencies are also clearly visible in Europe and throughout the world’s major capitalist economies where, despite ultra-low interest rates, investment remains at historically depressed levels, reflecting a lack of profitable outlets.

Furthermore, any attempt to separate out the “good” and the “bad’ sides of corporations runs up against the fact, as Marx explained at the time of the emergence of joint stock companies in the middle of the 19th century, that the origin of parasitism is lodged in their very structure. The formation of such companies, he wrote, “reproduces a new financial aristocracy, a new kind of parasite in the guise of company promoters, speculators and merely nominal directors: an entire system of swindling and cheating with respect to the promotion of companies, issuing of shares and share dealing.”

For a whole period of capitalist development, notwithstanding swindling and cheating, the corporation or joint-stock company facilitated the development of the productive forces through the aggregation of capital to finance large-scale developments, which sustained the living standards of the mass of the population. Those days have long gone.

The elevation of parasitism to the basic mechanism of profit accumulation is bound up with the objective crisis of capitalism and, connected to this, the absolute stranglehold of the financial aristocracy over every aspect of economic and political life. Swindling, cheating and the destruction of the productive forces—above all through the impoverishment of the most important productive force of all, the working class—is a symptom of the rot and decay of the entire socioeconomic order.

It establishes the unanswerable case for the taking into public ownership of the major corporations, the banks and the entire finance industry as part of the socialist restructuring of economic life. This is the perquisite for establishing a society where the productive forces, created by the labor of the working class, can be used for social advancement.

11 Thought Provoking Images Show What Humans Are Really Doing To The Planet

By Arjun Walia
May 28, 2015
Collective Evolution

 

2Go to school, get a job, pay your bills, and try to put yourself in a position to earn enough money to be able to live – this is our current human experience. But while we’re busy focusing on how survive, our planet is being trashed at an exponential rate.

Is it possible to create a human experience where we don’t destroy the planet? Is it possible for everybody to have their basic necessities met without the use of money? Is it possible to create a “system” where money is not even needed? We believe so, but there still seems to be a harsh resistance to this type of thinking, despite the tremendous amount of options that exist to change our world.

For example, we could use hemp and other biodegradable non-toxic ingredients to manufacture our products – products that don’t harm the environment, but actually help to heal it. No more plastic, no more deforestation. Hemp can also be used to generate energy and boasts over 50,000 other uses, but this crop is still illegal in many places.

Again, hemp is just one small example out of many with big implications. There exist a number of problems that urgently need to be addressed, and the fact that a handful of corporations pretty much own the entire planet and all its resources doesn’t help, but things are changing, there is still good out there. Imagine if these corporations came together and pooled all of their resources to change the world. What a difference that would make. We need a shift in consciousness to save the planet, a network that is not driven by greed, fear, and ego, but one that is driven by a common goal: the betterment of our planet and the well-being of all life on Earth.

This is absolutely possible to achieve, and sometimes I feel that because this is such a simple idea in essence, people don’t believe it. It’s not uncommon for many to refer to economics, business, finance, the very system that enslaves us; it’s hard for many to imagine a world without money or to understand how that world would even function in practice. I believe this simply comes from an ignorance of solutions that are out there and the way our world works in general. Self-education is the key to making change happen.

I’ve said this before and I will say it again, working in this field for a number of years now and being interested in it for even longer, the progress we’ve made as a human race is astounding. Anybody who pays attention to this type of thing can clearly see that. At the same time, we have a long way to go, and there are many steps for the human race to take, but we are indeed heading in the right direction.

These are just a few pictures to get you thinking, and they’ve been floating around the internet for a while. We apologize if you’ve already seen them, but we definitely wanted to archive them on our website as they do provide some valuable food for thought.

 

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