"The wealthy, not only by private fraud but also by common laws, do every day pluck and snatch away from the people some part of their daily living. Therefore, when I consider and weigh in my mind these commonwealths which nowadays do flourish, I perceive nothing but a certain conspiracy of rich men in procuring their own commodities under the name and authority of the commonwealth.

They invent and devise all means and crafts, first how to keep safely without fear of losing that which they have unjustly gathered together, and next how to hire and abuse the work and labor of the people for as little money and effort as possible."

Thomas More, Utopia

Friday, June 26, 2009

US torture revisited

Here's the part the neo-con apologists for US torture never emphasize (hat tip "David" at EMS News):

"Yasser tearfully described that when he reached the top of the steps 'the party began…They started to put the [muzzle] of the rifle [and] the wood from the broom into [my anus]. They entered my privates from behind.'...Yasser estimated that he was penetrated five or six times during this initial sodomy incident and saw blood 'all over my feet' through a small hole in the hood covering his eyes."
–Physicians for Human Rights, Broken Laws, Broken Lives: Medical Evidence of Torture by US Personnel and Its Impact
The rest

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Change in the air

What? Can't you feel that? Ok, don't take my word for it then, just check the record...

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The beautiful lies we tell

It's funny how no matter what your instincts seem to tell you about the current economic crisis, punditry-land can't wait to direct your attention to the latest signs of "green shoots" making their way through the cracks thus signaling the imminent return of the go-go recent past. Sure, the economy is shedding jobs at the rate of 600,000 per month and the American auto industry has been allowed to sink beneath the waves (those parts not wholly owned by foreign competitors) while trillions in taxpayer funds have been shoveled to the insolvent financial institutions that drove us over the cliff, but ignore all that if you will. You see, this time the very economists who missed the dangerous growth of the largest asset bubble in history and clapped like circus seals as the deregulated financial sector "innovated" the Derivative Beast into existence which now exceeds the combined GDP of the entire world in notational value are now on the case and ask that you trust their sober judgement on this.

Dmitry Orlov neatly splashes cold water on this nonsense in his latest speech. An excerpt:

Economics is not directly lethal, and economists never get sent to jail for criminal negligence or gross incompetence even when their theories do fail. Finance is about the promises we make to each other, and to ourselves. And if the promises turn out to be unrealistic, then economics and finance turn out to be about the lies we tell each other. We want to continue believing these lies, because there is a certain loss of face if we don't, and the economists are there to help us. We continue to listen to economists because we love their lies. Yes, of course, the economy will recover later this year, maybe the next. Yes, as soon as the economy recovers, all these toxic assets will be valuable again. Yes, this is just a financial problem; we just need to shore up the financial system by injecting taxpayer funds. These are all lies, but they make us feel all right. They are lying, and we are buying every word of it.

I highly recommend you read the speech in full. Sobering indeed.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Boo Hoo

The hand wringing and tear jerking over the outcome of the presidential election in Iran continues unabated in the west. Is anyone really surprised? If it seems as though there was but a fraction of this distress among the western punditry over the suspicious outcome of the contest in Mexico where the neoliberal standard bearer Felipe Calderon "won" you aren't imagining things. The following is a handy guide for easy referral the next time a foreign election turns out the "wrong way" and elicits the kind of media hysterics we're suffering through at the moment. This courtesy of the "Angry Arab", As'ad AbuKhalil:

Western Primer on Elections in Developing Countries

Some Western principles in assessing elections in developing countries:

1) When the favored candidates win, the elections are free and fair. And when they lose, elections are certainly unfree and stolen.

2) Violent protests against elections that produce winners favored by the West, are to be strictly condemned and protesters are to be called terrorists, hooligans and mobs (can you imagine if Lebanese opposition supporters were to engage in violent protests against the election results in Lebanon), while violent protests against enemies of the US when they win elections (like in Moldova) are to be admired (and the protesters in those cases are called "democracy activists".

3) It is not against free elections to have Western governments interfere in elections and in funding candidates through Western groups for the promotion of democracy.

4) Candidates (or even dictators) who serve Western interests are automatically labeled as "reform candidates" (even the Saudi tyrant is referred to as "reform-minded"), while candidates who oppose Western economic and political interests are to be labeled enemies of reform....

6) Western observers of elections are always on hand to declare an election unfair and rigged if the favored candidates lose.

7) The corruption of pro-US candidates (like the March 14 bunch in Lebanon) is preferred to the corruption of, say, Mugabe.

8) The democratic credentials of dictators immediately improve if they change their policies toward the US and if they express willingness to serve US economic and political interests.

9) Countries where dictators do a good job in serving US economic and political interests need not hold elections.

10) If favored candidates can't guarantee electoral victory (like the Palestinian Authority's Abu Mazen, whose term has expired months ago), they don't need to hold elections and will be treated as if they won an election anyway.

11) It is just not logical to assume that people in developing countries can freely ever decide to make choices that are not consistent with political and economic interests of the US....
-As'ad AbuKhalil

Bear in mind as you read the following analysis from Paul Craig Roberts over the events in Iran that outside of the opposition's assertions there is no evidence whatsoever of election fraud on the scale alleged. This from Middle East specialists Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett provides an important overview as well.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Thursday, June 11, 2009

There was once a time...

...when impermissible thoughts could see the light of day.

“The essential act of war is destruction, not necessarily of human lives, but of the products of human labour. War is a way of shattering to pieces, or pouring into the stratosphere, or sinking in the depths of the sea, materials which might otherwise be used to make the masses too comfortable, and hence, in the long run, too intelligent. Even when weapons of war are not actually destroyed, their manufacture is still a convenient way of expending labour power without producing anything that can be consumed. A Floating Fortress, for example, has locked up in it the labour that would build several hundred cargo-ships. Ultimately it is scrapped as obsolete, never having brought any material benefit to anybody, and with further enormous labours another Floating Fortress is built. In principle the war effort is always so planned as to eat up any surplus that might exist after meeting the bare needs of the population. Warfare is also useful in keying up the morale to the necessary pitch.

War hysteria is continuous and universal in all countries, and such acts as raping, looting, the slaughter of children, the reduction of whole populations to slavery, and reprisals against prisoners which extend even to boiling and burying alive, are looked upon as normal, and when they are committed by one's own side and not by the enemy, meritorious. But in a physical sense war involves very small numbers of people, mostly highly trained specialists, and causes comparatively few casualties. The fighting, when there is any, takes place on the vague frontiers whose whereabouts the average man can only guess at, or round the Floating Fortresses which guard strategic spots on the sea lanes. In the centers of civilization war means no more than a continuous shortage of consumption goods, and the occasional crash of a rocket bomb which may cause a few scores of deaths. War has in fact changed its character. More exactly, the reasons for which war is waged have changed in their order of importance.

The consciousness of being at war, and therefore in danger, makes the handing-over of all power to a small caste seem the natural, unavoidable condition of survival. War not only accomplishes the necessary destruction, but accomplishes it in a psychologically acceptable way. In principle it would be simple to waste the surplus labour of the world by building temples and pyramids, by digging holes and filling them up again, or even by producing vast quantities of goods and then setting fire to them. But this would provide only the economic and not the emotional basis for a hierarchical society. What is concerned here is not the morale of the masses, whose attitude is unimportant so long as they are kept steadily at work, but the Party itself. Even the humblest Party member is expected to be competent, industrious, and even intelligent within narrow limits, but it is also necessary that he should be a credulous and ignorant fanatic whose prevailing moods are fear, hatred, adulation, and orgiastic triumph. In other words it is necessary that he should have the mentality appropriate to a state of war."
-George Orwell


"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities. It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population. It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals. It is some 50 miles of concrete pavement. We pay for a single fighter plane with a half million bushels of wheat. We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people ... This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron."
-Dwight D. Eisenhower

I found these remarkable quotes courtesy of some posters over at ATR. Can you imagine words such as these coming from any important political figure today? Neither can I, but it is essential that this become part of the national dialogue if we there is ever to be change we can believe in.