Tuesday, July 21, 2015
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Retired US Army General Wesley Clark called for the internment of persons deemed “disloyal” to the United States government in an interview with MSNBC last Friday.
Warning of the threat posed by “lone wolf” attacks similar to last week’s mass shooting in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Clark advocated stepped-up surveillance of US communities and pre-emptive detention of persons suspected of ideological or political opposition to US government policies.
“We have got to identify the people who are most likely to be radicalized. We’ve got to cut this off at the beginning,” Clark said.
“On a national policy level, we need to look at what self-radicalization means, because we are at war with this group of terrorists,” the former top military commander added. “They do have an ideology. In World War II, if someone supported Nazi Germany at the expense of the United States, we didn’t say that was freedom of speech, we put him in a camp, they were prisoners of war.”
He continued: “If these people are radicalized and they don’t support the United States and they are disloyal to the United States, as a matter of principle, fine. It’s their right, and it’s our right and obligation to segregate them from the normal community for the duration of the conflict.
“And I think we’re going to have to increasingly get tough on this, not only in the United States, but our allied nations like Britain, Germany and France are going to have to look at their domestic law procedures.”
Clark’s recommendations, proclaimed openly on national television, amount to a recipe for mass detention of political opponents of the American state.
His assertion of the “right and obligation” of the US government to conduct round-ups and mass internment operations against political opposition, specifically citing as his model the methods employed against ethnic Germans and Japanese during the Second World War, provides a chilling insight into the thinking of powerful sections of the US ruling establishment.
Clark’s insistence, moreover, that such measures remain in force “for the duration” of Washington’s temporally and geographically limitless “global war on terrorism” amounts to advocacy of the permanent imprisonment of individuals deemed guilty of no actual crime, but merely being “radicalized” and “disloyal.”
These are not the ravings of some television talking head or military crackpot. Coming from a figure of Clark’s pedigree, such comments necessarily reflect views widely discussed within the US state.
As supreme commander of NATO, Clark held one of the most senior and politically influential posts in the US military. While serving as Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR), Clark oversaw the NATO bombing campaign against Yugoslavia, Operation Allied Force, beginning in March 1999.
In both the 2004 and 2008 presidential campaigns, Clark was considered among the Democratic Party’s leading contenders. He would likely have gained a senior position in the Obama administration had he not backed Obama’s Democratic rival Hillary Clinton after dropping out of the 2008 primary campaign.
His role as a high-profile supporter of Hilary Clinton’s latest presidential bid suggests, however, that Clark’s political ambitions have only been placed on hold. Under a Clinton presidency, Clark could well get the chance to implement his proposals for mass “segregation” of dissidents.
Preparations for the sort of measures advocated by General Clark are clearly well advanced.
In recent weeks, as videos shot in locations from Arizona to New York show, US military units have conducted training exercises, practicing military internment and crowd control techniques at mock internment camps, with military personnel posing as detainees.
Clark’s statements, made last Friday on the major cable news outlet MSNBC, have been met with total silence from the corporate-controlled media, failing to receive even a passing reference in the pages of the New York Times, Washington Post, or the Wall Street Journal.
This silence in the face of an open call for internment of domestic political opponents, issued by one of the country’s leading political generals, underscores the fact that the entire political and media establishment has decisively broken with centuries-old bourgeois democratic norms. The media silence will no doubt serve to encourage forces within the US military and intelligence apparatus to intensify the drive toward dictatorship.
For decades, the military and intelligence bureaucracies have developed the administrative, infrastructural and police components of an embryonic totalitarian state. Congressional hearings in 1987 on the Iran-Contra covert operations conducted by the Reagan administration exposed the existence of a plan developed by the Pentagon, codenamed Rex 84, to detain hundreds of thousands of immigrants and political dissidents and imprison them in militarized prison camps.
One Rex 84 sub-component, Operation Cable Splicer, envisioned the replacement of existing bourgeois political institutions by a shadow dictatorship controlled by a select group of some 100 executive branch cadre.
In the immediate aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terror attacks, the Bush administration staged a dry run of updated Continuity of Government (COG) plans for a “shadow government, deploying dozens of pre-selected officials to a network of secret command-and-control bunkers across America,” the Washington Post reported in March of 2002.
The George W. Bush administration made further preparations for new prison camps in 2006, signing a $400 million contract with KBR to build up the Department of Homeland Security’s “detention and processing capabilities.”
The Obama administration has expanded the authoritarian legal and policy framework developed under previous administrations. Since taking office, Obama has issued annual decrees renewing the state of emergency declared by the Bush administration after 9/11 and further entrenching emergency powers granted to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
In a series of annual National Defense Authorization Acts, the Obama administration has codified the anti-democratic measures implemented under Bush, asserting unlimited power to indefinitely detain or kill individuals without trial.
The preparations for mass detention are part of broader efforts to tighten the grip of the ruling elite over society, using the pretext of an unending “national emergency.” Plans for dictatorial rule have found concrete expression in the imposition of de facto martial law in Boston following the Boston Marathon bombings of 2013 and last year in Ferguson, Missouri following the outbreak of protests against the police murder of Michael Brown.
In March of 2012, President Obama issued an executive order, “National Defense Resources Preparedness,” that empowered the DHS to assume dictatorial control over the US economy, including any and all actions considered “necessary to ensure the availability of adequate resources and production capability, including services and critical technology, for national defense requirements.”
Last week, the Senate Intelligence Committee approved legislation granting the US government new powers to demand regular reporting from social media platforms about individuals suspected of ties to “terrorist activity.”
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After 20 months of negotiations, the Obama administration last week reached agreement with Iran, China, France, Russia, the UK and Germany on a 15-year accord to “normalize” Iran’s civil nuclear program. Should this agreement survive the opposition of sections of the US ruling elite, it will constitute a significant tactical shift on the part of US imperialism, one with potentially far-reaching implications.
Since the 1979 Iranian revolution toppled the Shah’s bloody US-backed dictatorship, implacable opposition to Iran has been a constant in US foreign policy. During the past 12 years, Washington dramatically intensified its campaign of bullying and threats. Having ordered the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq, respectively Iran’s eastern and western neighbors, George W. Bush twice came close to launching war against Iran.
In 2009, the Obama administration sought to bring about regime-change in Tehran via a “Green Revolution” fomented through unsubstantiated claims of a stolen election. Two years later, Washington cajoled its European allies to join the US in imposing the most punishing economic sanctions ever deployed outside a war.
Now, in exchange for sweeping concessions from Iran, Washington has agreed to suspend the economic sanctions and provide Tehran a 15-year path to “normalize” its civil nuclear program.
Obama has stipulated that last week’s agreement with Tehran is limited to the constraints on its civil nuclear program. Yet Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry and other leading US officials have also made clear that they view the agreement as exploratory, a means to test Iran’s intentions. Their policy of “engagement” with Iran is a strategic bet that through a combination of continuing pressure and inducements, including an influx of Western investment, US imperialism will be able to harness Tehran to its predatory agenda.
The Republican Party leadership, the Wall Street Journal and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) are publicly opposing this shift. They are demanding that Obama extract iron-clad guarantees of Tehran’s submission and warning against sidelining the US’s traditional Mideast client states, above all Israel and Saudi Arabia.
The public bluster of the Republicans, however, is not necessarily an indication of the real intentions of the main decision-makers in the Republican Party. To some extent, the Republicans’ opposition can prove useful to Obama in prying further concessions from Tehran. That said, it is far from certain the Iran nuclear accord will be implemented, let alone endure.
The nuclear accord and the fractious ruling class debate over it are a reflection of the mounting problems that US imperialism faces as it seeks through aggression and war to offset the erosion of its relative economic power and to confront multiplying challenges to its global hegemony.
There is deep dissatisfaction within the US ruling class over the outcome of the three major wars the US has waged in the broader Middle East over the past decade-and-a-half. In Ukraine, Washington has thus far been stymied, with the sanctions imposed on Russia failing to produce the desired results. To the Obama administration’s dismay, many of its closest allies, led by Britain, defied the US and signed up as founding members of the Chinese-led Asian Infrastructure Development Bank earlier this year.
All of this has left the Obama administration and the US ruling class groping for an effective, integrated plan of attack.
Certain things can be said concerning the trajectory of US imperialism, the strategic calculations that underlie the proposed shift in US relations with Iran, and the implications of this shift:
* Obama and the entire US ruling elite are determined to maintain US global hegemony through military force.
There is something decidedly ominous about the president’s repeated proclamations over the past week that the failure of his diplomatic turn to Iran would result in war. These comments underscore that Washington is far from renouncing violence and point to the explosive character of global relations.
* Central to American imperialism’s global strategy is dominance over Eurasia, the vast land mass that is home to almost two-thirds of the world’s population.
In pursuit of this aim, Washington has long viewed Iran as an especially significant prize. The country stands at the intersection of three continents (Europe, Asia and Africa), commands the Straits of Hormuz, through which 40 percent of the world’s exported oil flows, straddles two of the world’s most energy-rich regions (Central Asia and the Middle East), and itself possesses the world’s second largest natural gas and fourth largest oil reserves.
* Washington’s trumped-up conflict with Iran over its nuclear program was never just about Iranian-US relations. Nor was it solely about control of the Middle East. It always involved the broader question of US relations with the world’s major powers.
Even as US dependence on Mideast oil has declined, Washington has stepped up its efforts to maintain control over the Middle East so as to ensure domination over a region that supplies many of its principal competitors in Europe and Asia, including China and Japan, with much of their oil.
* When Obama claims, as he has repeatedly done, that for US imperialism war is the only alternative to a nuclear deal with Iran that realizes many but not all of Washington’s objectives, he is, for once, not lying.
Had the sanctions regime started to unravel, Washington would have faced a demonstrable challenge to its pretensions to world leadership, one that it could not walk away from without suffering a major geo-political defeat. In response, it would have been obliged to extend the sanctions--in other words, retaliate against the “sanctions-busters” by freezing their overseas assets and denying Iran access to the US-European controlled world banking system. Or, in order to avoid such action, which could quickly spiral into a military confrontation with China or Russia, the US would have been compelled to render the issue moot by abandoning the sanctions in favor of all-out war.
The Pentagon has long been planning and gaming such a war. And while the American people know nothing of these plans, in various think tank reports it is openly admitted that a war with Iran—a country four times the size of Iraq and with nearly three times the population, and which has significant state and foreign militia allies—would quickly envelop the entire Middle East. It would further inflame the US-stoked Sunni-Shia sectarian conflict and, at the very least, tie down much of the US military for a protracted period. Last, but not least, such a war would incite rising popular opposition in the US, where class tensions are already fraught after decades of social reaction.
Obama is arguing that US imperialism has a cheaper, more prudent alternative. One, moreover, that, as Defence Secretary Ashton Carter boasted Sunday, “does nothing to prevent the military option” in the future.
* The agreement with Iran has been designed to give the US the maximum leverage over Iran and the maximum strategic flexibility. Should Tehran prove insufficiently pliant or should circumstances change, the US can initiate procedures to automatically “snap back” the sanctions and pivot back to confrontation with Iran.
Moreover, all of Obama’s arguments in favor of the nuclear accord—his assertion that it is better to “test” Iran’s intentions than immediately embark on a war that could prove hugely damaging to US imperialism’s strategic interests—are predicated on Washington’s supposed right to wage pre-emptive war against Iran.
* The Obama administration sees Western engagement with Iran as a means of preventing Tehran from being drawn into closer partnership with China and Russia. China is already Iran’s biggest trading partner and Russia its most important military-strategic partner.
A further US priority is to see if it can enlist Iranian support in stabilizing the Middle East under Washington’s leadership. The US and Iran are already at least tacitly allied in supporting the Iraqi government and Iraqi Kurdish militia in opposing ISIS in Iraq.
The Obama administration has also served notice that it intends to use the nuclear agreement to pressure Iran to assist it in reaching a political agreement in Syria that would see Bashar al-Assad’s Baathist regime replaced by one more amenable to US interests. Reversing previous US policy, Obama announced last week that Tehran should “be part of the conversation” in resolving the Syrian conflict.
* Longer term, the supporters of Obama’s Iran gambit aim to “turn” Iran, transforming it into an advance post of US imperialism in the Middle East and all Eurasia. That means to return the country to the type of neo-colonial subjugation that existed under the Shah’s regime.
Toward this end, Washington plans to probe and exploit the deep fissures within Iran’s bourgeois-clerical regime. It is keenly aware that the reins of Iran’s government are now in the hands of a faction (led by ex-president Hashemi Rafsanjani and his protégé, the current president, Hassan Rouhani) that has argued since at least 1989 for a rapprochement with Washington and has longstanding close ties to European capital.
* The Iran nuclear accord only intensifies the contradictions in US foreign policy, laying the basis for future shocks.
While exploring engagement with Iran, Washington is seeking to placate its traditional regional allies by showering them with offers of new weapons systems and increased military and intelligence cooperation. These actions threaten Tehran, which—notwithstanding the relentless US media campaign aimed at depicting it as an aggressor—already faces a massive military technology gap, not just with Israel, but with Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies.
Nor can the US afford to stand idly by as the European powers scramble to get back into Iran. On Sunday, Germany’s Vice-Chancellor and SPD leader Sigmar Gabriel arrived in Iran at the head of a German business delegation. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius has said he will soon follow.
To secure support from the US ruling elite, Obama is stressing that he has only agreed to lift the latest round of US sanctions on Iran. Other sanctions imposed in the name of opposing terrorism remain, meaning US corporations continue to be effectively barred from doing business in Iran.
If the US is not to lose out in the race to secure Iranian assets, it must either move forward with rapprochement—over the strenuous opposition of Washington’s current Mideast allies--or revert back to confrontation and demand the Europeans and others follow suit.
* Other strategic calculations, many of a pragmatic and short-term character, also appear to be bound up with the Obama administration’s decision to consummate a deal with Iran now. One cannot make firm judgments about these calculations, as events are moving rapidly and Washington’s policies are fraught with contradictions.
However, it was striking that in the lengthy interview Obama gave to the New York Times last week, the US president praised President Vladimir Putin, saying the agreement with Tehran could not have been reached without Russia’s strong support. He added that he had been “encouraged” by a recent phone call Putin made to talk about Syria. “That,” declared Obama, “offers us an opportunity to have a serious conversation with them.”
Is it possible that Obama is considering responding positively to Putin’s pleas for a ratcheting down of tensions over Ukraine in exchange for Moscow’s abandonment of Syria’s Assad? Could this be bound up not just with the crisis of US policy in the Middle East, but also with growing tensions between Washington and Berlin? Could this be intended as a shot-across-the-bow to Germany?
The US ruling elite has reacted with dismay to Germany’s cavalier role in the recent negotiations between the EU and Greece—not out of any concern for the Greek masses, but because of Berlin’s bald assertion of its new role as Europe’s disciplinarian.
Should the US ruling elite ultimately opt to move forward with the Iran deal, it will be from the standpoint of better positioning itself to withstand challenges to its dominance, including through military means, from its more formidable opponents, not only Russia and China, but also Germany, Japan and the other imperialist powers.
Go To Original
Hierarchy of Violence: A system of oppression in which those with power, existing above those without, enact and enforce a monopoly of violence upon those lower on the hierarchy. Violence done by those higher on the hierarchy to those lower is normal and is accepted as the order of things. When violence is attempted by those lower on the hierarchy upon those higher, it is met with swift and brutal repression.
December 15th, after the killings of Officers Liu and Ramos of the NYPD, New York City mayor Bill de Blasio tweeted "When police officers are murdered, it tears at the foundation of our society. This heinous attack was an attack on our entire city." On July 18th, the day after Eric Garner, a longtime New Yorker and father of six, waschoked to death by NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo, the mayor of of the Big Apple had only this to say: "On behalf of all New Yorkers, I extend my deepest condolences to the family of Eric Garner."
In his condolences there was no mention of a "heinous attack" against the actual people of New York City. There was no mention of the "tearing at the foundation of our society" either. Still further, in the case for the police officers, de Blasio went as far as to use the word "murdered" long before a shred of evidence was provided. Yet in the face of video footage (that pesky thing called evidence) of Eric Garner's actual murder at the literal hands of an NYPD officer, de Blasio showed no "outrage", only platitudinous sentiment.
Such reactions are typical, but there is nothing shocking about them when we understand that our society operates on a clearly defined, yet often unarticulated, hierarchy of violence, and that the function of politicians and police is to normalize and enforce that violence. Thus, as an institution, police act as state-sanctioned gangs charged with the task of upholding the violent, racist hierarchy of white supremacist capitalism and, whenever possible, furthering a monopoly of power where all violence from/by those higher on the hierarchy upon those lower can be normalized into business as usual.
Any deviation from this business as usual, any resistance - the threat of force displayed in massive protests after Garner's death, or any displacement of state power whatsoever - by those lower on the hierarchy upon those higher is met with brutal repression. This is why cops are always present at protests. It is NOT to "Keep the peace." We have seen their "peace" - tear gas, rubber and wooden bullets, mace, riot gear, sound cannons, and thousands of brutal cops leaving dead bodies. They are not there for peace, but rather to maintain at all times the explicit reminder of America's power hierarchy through the brutalization of black and brown bodies above all others.
This is why de Blasio offered worthless platitudes to Eric Garner's family instead of outrage or solidarity. To him, as heinous as choking an unarmed black person to death is, it was business as usual.
Normalizing the Hierarchy of Violence
By framing this power dynamic as business as usual or "just how things are", it follows that the deployment of violence by police is always justified or necessary. This framing takes a myriad of forms almost always working in tandem to control how we think about the violence enacted by the state and its domestic enforcers, the police. Below are just a few of the tactics employed 24/7, 365 days a year.
Cop Worship and the Criminalization of Blackness. In this hierarchy of violence a cop's life matters infinitely more than a black person's life, and Americans, like NYC mayor Bill de Blasio, are expected to demonstrate sympathy with the lives of police officers. By contrast, Americans are encouraged to scrutinize and question the humanity of black and brown people murdered by police before questioning the lethal force used in otherwise non-lethal situations. This social reality illustrates how power is coordinated and wielded unilaterally, directed against the masses by a specialized minority within the population.
Police repression is framed in the mainstream media in such a way that when police commit violence against black and brown communities, it appears to white Americans as if they simply are protecting white communities from black criminality. This is the active dissemination of white supremacy. From it police accrue social capital and power within a conception of black bodies that perpetuates their dehumanization and murder. Completing the cycle, racist white Americans, after participating in the process of dehumanizing black people slain by police, then offer their sympathy, material support, and privilege to killer cops.
For example: George Zimmerman and Darren Wilson received over a million dollarsfor their legal defense funds. Both were either acquitted or not indicted by majority white juries. Officers Liu and Ramos of the NYPD, their families' mortgages are being paid. And thousands of other (white) officers are awarded paid time off (vacation) and non-indictments for what would otherwise be brutal crimes.
Ultimately, cops are praised because they enforce violence on behalf of the moneyed class. They protect existing power, wealth, and the right to exploit for profit, while simultaneously appearing to exist primarily for public safety. Straddling this paradoxical position, cops are worshiped because they are explicitly and implicitly attached to the rewards of privilege under capitalism.
Victim Blaming (Lynching the Dead). Seeking to justify hierarchical violence, the police collude directly with the mainstream media to exalt those who "uphold the law," while eroding the humanity of those whom have had their lives stolen by the police. Most often in the extrajudicial killings of black and brown people this has happened through a process of character assassination, or the process by which authorities and the media dredge up every possible occurrence of a "bad deed" of the victim's to discredit their innocence. It is effective considering dead people cannot defend themselves.
Erasure and Decontextualization. Time and time again police and the mainstream media will attempt to divert attention from the violence of the state by focusing on the retaliation of an oppressed group. This purposeful refocusing is a method of erasing the previous violence visited upon oppressed peoples in order to delegitimize any resistance to police domination. If those higher on the hierarchy can erase the history of those lower on the hierarchy, they effectively erase the oppression they themselves committed and make invisible the power they obtain from it.
We have seen this in the establishment's constant prioritization of defending private property over black and brown lives. As an example, after Mike Brown was slayed in the street by killer cop Darren Wilson the media headlined stories about "looting" instead of the fact that an unarmed 18-year-old child's life was snuffed out. The role of "looting" rhetoric served to remove the context of a white supremacist power structure, its history, and to allow for a game of moral equivalence to be played - one where property damage was as heinous as killing a black child.
In addition it served to usurp the fact that America's justice system has always been and continues to be racist. From its racist policing built on profiling, to its war on drugs which dis-proportionally incarcerates black (and brown) people, to itssentencing laws that increase in severity if you are black, to the fact that a black person is killed by cops or vigilantes every 28 hours. It is murderous and racist to its core, but the neither the mainstream media nor the state will ever admit it.
Narrative Restriction. To build off what Peter Gelderloos said in his piece The Nature of Police, the Role of the Left, discussions in America operate by fixing the terms of debate firmly outside any solutions to the problem. This happens by first establishing "fierce polemics between two acceptable "opposites" that are so close they are almost touching". Surrounding the national "discussion" about police terror, this has manifested as a polemic between "good cops" versus "bad cops". Second, encourage participants toward lively debate, and to third "either ignore or criminalize anyone who stakes an independent position, especially one that throws into question the fundamental tenets that are naturalized and reinforced by both sides in the official debate."
By creating a limited spectrum of discourse an ideological foundation is created for the hierarchy of violence. The end result is a set of normalized choices (reforms) which restrict or repress any competition an actual solution to the problem might bring. What is valued as acceptable within this limited spectrum then is only that which reflects the range of needs of those higher on the hierarchy of violence (reforms which gut radical resistance in order to maintain status quo power structures) and nothing more. In the current "discussion", the prevailing and unapproachable axiom is that the police represent protection and justice, and therefore they are a legitimate presence in our lives. Anyone who says otherwise is an agent of chaos.
This narrowing of the discourse never allows us to deconstruct the fact that policing in our society has nothing to do with justice and everything to do with punishment.
As Against Hired Guns put it, "Regardless of laws that claim we are all innocent until proven guilty, the results of wrongdoing and office referral, investigation and trial, always start and end in punishment. Our society takes this punishment as justice, and even though it is the nature of this system to attempt to prevent crime by deferment regardless of circumstance, many of us still cling to the idea that at its core the system means well. Many of us think to ourselves that aberrations of this are merely "bad apples" and we must expunge or punish them, but the reality is that this is not a unilateral system of justice at all. The police enforce a steady system of punishment on our streets, and punishment is specifically and intentionally directed at Black or Brown people."
The Law and the (In)Justice System. Institutions designed exclusively for punishment, primarily the Prison Industrial Complex (PIC), expose the inability of a penal system to produce justice and the conditions for liberation. Here, the deliberately narrowed discourse concerned only with crime and punishment fabricates a perceived necessity for police that appears undeniable. This is an exploitative deception obscuring the socio-economic conditions that produce poverty and suffering within oppressed communities. On its own terms, the mechanisms of hierarchical violence fail to provide the resources and opportunities necessary for assimilation into a white supremacist capitalism. The ultimate limitation of capitalism is that it will always need an exploitable class of people to produce profit for an insignificantly small wealthy population.
The System Isn't Broken, It Was Built This Way
Since its formative days as an institution of slavery, policing in America has always been about the maintenance of this country's racist power structure. The major difference today has been an increased technological and military capacity for politicians, the media, and the police to march locked in step with each other in controlling the narrative we see. Politicians like Bill de Blasio still make laws informed by white supremacy. The police still enforce them through the same hierarchy of violence. The media still kowtows to the powered elite's depiction of violent oppression. And we the oppressed are still fighting for our liberation. Thus by now we ought to know that police, as the Gangs of the State tasked with the preservation of white supremacy and capitalism, can only be abolished by a movement which has correctly identified and been equipped with the tools to dismantle the hierarchy of violence.
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On June 15, North Carolina’s state legislature overrode Republican Gov. Pat McCrory’s veto of that state’s controversial “Ag-Gag” bill HB 405, also known as the Property Protection Act. The earliest bills of this kind, which target industry whistleblowers, activists and in some cases journalists, were introduced in the 1990s when the Animal Liberation Front was said to be targeting labs engaged in animal testing. The bills’ legal scope has widened over time to include factory farms as well as most other industries involving animal products.
But unlike the bills passed in seven other states over the years – including in Wyoming, Missouri and Washington where they specifically target animal rights activists – North Carolina’s HB 405 takes things to a whole new level, criminalizing whistleblowing against any and all businesses. Based on “model legislation” provided shortly after 9/11 by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), and originally called the “Animal and Ecological Terrorism Act,” HB 405 signals a new brand of anti-democratic legislation that could proliferate, state by state, in the years to come.
ALEC brings together dues-paying state politicians and corporate or special interest groups to craft a variety of rightwing legislation – from protections for extractive industries to voter suppression laws. Although technically a non-profit, ALEC is extremely partisan, with most of its membership coming from the Republican Party. Included among ALEC’s alumni are Wisconsin Governor and now presidential candidate Scott Walker and House Speaker John Boehner.
With an increasingly unhinged rightwing in Washington unlikely to move their agenda forward federally, corporations like Exxon Mobil, Cargill and Koch Industries have come to rely on ALEC to set precedents with their model legislation in as many states as possible.
So just which businesses are covered under the Property Protection Act? Among the most alarming are elder care facilities, day cares and charter schools. And according to some, this may in part be merely a ploy to shift the spotlight away from Big Ag’s involvement pushing HB 405 and similar bills.
“The ag folks know that if they only give themselves this protection from being exposed, it further proves they have something to hide,” Matthew Dominguez, the public policy director for Farm Animal Protection at the Humane Society, said in a recent interview. “So, in recent years, they’ve intentionally expanded the reach very broadly to cover all business to cover their tracks.”
Although defenders of the North Carolina bill have claimed their goal is not to criminalize whistleblowers in general, an editorial that ran in the Charlotte Observer before Gov. McCrory’s veto was overturned argued this simply isn’t the case.
“The intent of the bill was made clear when Sen. Josh Stein, D-Wake, offered an amendment. He would have given employees protection if the activity they recorded was illegal. Senate leaders wouldn’t even allow a vote on that,” read the editorial.
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When Pope Francis used his bully pulpit to speak out about climate change, conservative global warming deniers were quick to dismiss him. U.S. Sen. James Inhofe said, “The pope ought to stay with his job, and we’ll stay with ours.” Inhofe’s “job”has literally been to spread disinformation on behalf of the fossil fuel industry in order to stymie action against climate change.
Now, the Union of Concerned Scientists has released a damning new reporton how fossil fuel companies have known the risks of climate change for years and worked actively to deceive the public. Dubbed “The Climate Deception Dossiers,” it includes a collection of secret documents and memos over a 27-year period from companies such as ExxonMobil, Chevron, BP, ConocoPhillips and Shell, obtained through a variety of Freedom of Information Act requests, lawsuits and whistleblower leaks. The 85 memos, numbering a total of 330 pages, are available for public viewing.
Nancy Cole, one of the report’s authors, told me in an interviewon “Uprising”that what the documents show in stark relief is that for years fossil fuel companies worked to generate uncertainty in climate science to impact public perceptions. By creating confusion among ordinary Americans, they were able to successfully derail meaningful change. “The fossil fuel companies are simply playing off the same playbook as the tobacco companies and other industries that have sought to deny and deceive the public about the harm of their products,” Cole explained.
Sowing doubt is a popular tactic used by industry groups to stave off regulation. In fact, a 1969 memoby a tobacco executive explicitly stated that “doubt is our product since it is the best means of competing with the ‘body of fact’ that exists in the minds of the general public. It is also the means of establishing a controversy.” Just as this strategy enabled an industry that has led to millions of deathsworldwide, fossil fuel companies are spreading doubt through campaigns of disinformation that are likely to cause a similar, if not greater, death toll.
A 1998 memofrom the American Petroleum Institute spells out that strategy very clearly: “Victory will be achieved when average citizens ‘understand’ (recognize) uncertainties in climate science; recognition of uncertainties becomes part of the ‘conventional wisdom.’ ”
As Cole noted, “They don’t have to win. They just need to sow doubt, they need to make uncertainty their product. That makes it harder for the public to rally around the solutions that we should have been working around for decades and it gives policymakers an excuse for not taking action.”
Among “The Climate Deception Dossiers” is a leaked 1991 strategy memoto the Information Council on the Environment, a front group for coal interests. Under “strategies,” the memo reads, “Reposition global warming as theory (not fact).” The idea was to create a series of advertisements questioning the reality of climate change through ads targeting demographic groups that the industry thought would be most receptive to such information: less-educated males and young lower-income women. And they did just that, in venues such as “The Rush Limbaugh Show.”
The deception didn’t stem from a sincere belief that global warming is a myth. Scientists working for fossil fuel companies have known for decades that climate change is a serious problem. A 1995 letterfrom Mobil Oil Corporation (before it merged with Exxon to become ExxonMobil) describing how global warming is a reality that “is well established and cannot be denied” is among the trove of documents that Cole and her fellow scientists analyzed. “These companies banded together and sought purposely to deceive the public and our policymakers and to undermine the potential for action,” she said.
So slimy has their behavior been, so shameful their lies, that at one point in 2009 a public relations firm hired by oil and gas companies sent letters to members of Congress purportedly from nonprofit groups with forged signatures. “The fossil fuel companies ramp up every time there is a possibility of legislation or policy being put into place that would reduce carbon emissions,” said Cole. She added that the forged letters were sent “right before a big vote in the U.S. Congress on a bill that would have begun to reduce carbon emissions in the U.S., known as the Waxman-Markey Bill, the first big federal effort to curb carbon emissions. And so they just pulled out all the stops.”
Because fossil fuel companies have successfully staved off climate action federally, it has only been at the state level that progressive, climate-friendly policies have had some measure of success. But the industry started to catch on and worked in concert with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) to disseminate deception. Most of the major oil, gas and coal companies are members of ALEC. Cole sees ALEC’s role in derailing some of these state-level policies as “very frustrating and infuriating ... and disgusting.” According to her group’s report, “ALEC provides a means for major fossil fuel companies to pay lip service to the realities of climate science in their public-facing materials while their behind-the-scenes memberships and sponsorships support misinformation and block climate action.” One annual ALEC meeting featured famed climate denier Joseph Bast, president of the Heartland Institute.
The Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA), a powerful trade group, has also engaged in dirty tricks and outright lies to stymie action at the state level. The scientists’ report cites includes an internal PowerPoint presentationby WSPA President Catherine Reheis-Boyd, which she presented to the Washington Research Council only last November, and which was leaked to the press. In it, WSPA boasts of the many grass-roots-sounding front groups that it has created or engaged with to manufacture opposition to climate-friendly policies.
The decades-long strategy of denying climate change by fossil fuel companies has clearly worked in their favor. There is a stark “before and after” effect. The year 1988 was a turning point, when the United Nations formed the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. It was also the year NASA climate scientist James Hansen gave historic testimony to Congress about the human impact of climate change, which generated a front-page headline in The New York Times. Today the effects of catastrophic climate change and the countless studies examining it rarely, if ever, make the front pages of any major newspaper.
Because fossil fuel companies have adopted many of the same tactics as Big Tobacco with similarly fatal consequences, perhaps they deserve the same fate. There was a time when cigarette sellers such as Philip Morris seemed untouchable. But today, they have not only been forced to pay out massive sumsof money in compensation to victims, they have also had to publicly state that they were wrong. In a poetically just move, tobacco companies have been required to admit their lies and deceptionin advertisements, as part of a settlement with the Justice Department.
Oil companies are the largest and most profitable corporations in the world. We ought to envision a time when fossil fuel companies are publicly shamed, humiliated and targeted for massive disinvestment, when oil profits are redirected toward paying for the damage done to our climate, and when, rather than derail climate action, they will be forced to admit they lied all along. Humanity cannot afford anything less.
Go To Original
There has been so much attention on Greece in recent weeks, but the truth is that Greece represents only a very tiny fraction of an unprecedented global debt bomb which threatens to explode at any moment. As you are about to see, there are 24 nations that are currently facing a full-blown debt crisis, and there are 14 more that are rapidly heading toward one. Right now, the debt to GDP ratio for the entire planet is up to an all-time record high of 286 percent, and globally there is approximately 200 TRILLION dollars of debt on the books. That breaks down to about $28,000 of debt for every man, woman and child on the entire planet. And since close to half of the population of the world lives on less than 10 dollars a day, there is no way that all of this debt can ever be repaid. The only “solution” under our current system is to kick the can down the road for as long as we can until this colossal debt pyramid finally collapses in upon itself.
As we are seeing in Greece, you can eventually accumulate so much debt that there is literally no way out. The other European nations are attempting to find a way to give Greece a third bailout, but that is like paying one credit card with another credit card because virtually everyone in Europe is absolutely drowning in debt.
Even if some “permanent solution” could be crafted for Greece, that would only solve a very small fraction of the overall problem that we are facing. The nations of the world have never been in this much debt before, and it gets worse with each passing day.
According to a new report from the Jubilee Debt Campaign, there are currently 24 countries in the world that are facing a full-blown debt crisis…
■ Costa Rica
■ Dominican Republic
■ El Salvador
■ The Gambia
■ Marshall Islands
■ Sri Lanka
■ St Vincent and the Grenadines
And there are another 14 nations that are right on the verge of one…
■ Cape Verde
■ Sao Tome e Principe
So what should be done about this?
Should we have the “wealthy” countries bail all of them out?
Well, the truth is that the “wealthy” countries are some of the biggest debt offenders of all. Just consider the United States. Our national debt has more than doubled since 2007, and at this point it has gotten so large that it is mathematically impossible to pay it off.
Europe is in similar shape. Members of the eurozone are trying to cobble together a “bailout package” for Greece, but the truth is that most of them will soon need bailouts too…
All of those countries will come knocking asking for help at some point. The fact is that their Debt to GDP levels have soared since the EU nearly collapsed in 2012.Spain’s Debt to GDP has risen from 69% to 98%. Italy’s Debt to GDP has risen from 116% to 132%. France’s has risen from 85% to 95%.
In addition to Spain, Italy and France, let us not forget Belgium (106 percent debt to GDP), Ireland (109 debt to GDP) and Portugal (130 debt to GDP).
Once all of these dominoes start falling, the consequences for our massively overleveraged global financial system will be absolutely catastrophic…
Spain has over $1.0 trillion in debt outstanding… and Italy has €2.6 trillion. These bonds are backstopping tens of trillions of Euros’ worth of derivatives trades. A haircut or debt forgiveness for them would trigger systemic failure in Europe.EU banks as a whole are leveraged at 26-to-1. At these leverage levels, even a 4% drop in asset prices wipes out ALL of your capital. And any haircut of Greek, Spanish, Italian and French debt would be a lot more than 4%.
Things in Asia look quite ominous as well.
According to Bloomberg, debt levels in China have risen to levels never recorded before…
While China’s economic expansion beat analysts’ forecasts in the second quarter, the country’s debt levels increased at an even faster pace.Outstanding loans for companies and households stood at a record207 percent of gross domestic product at the end of June, up from125 percent in 2008, data compiled by Bloomberg show.
And remember, that doesn’t even include government debt. When you throw all forms of debt into the mix, the overall debt to GDP number for China is rapidly approaching 300 percent.
In Japan, things are even worse. The government debt to GDP ratio in Japan is now up to an astounding 230 percent. That number has gotten so high that it is hard to believe that it could possibly be true. At some point an implosion is coming in Japan which is going to shock the world.
Of course the same thing could be said about the entire planet. Yes, national governments and central banks have been attempting to kick the can down the road for as long as possible, but everyone knows that this is not going to end well.
And when things do really start falling apart, it will be unlike anything that we have ever seen before. Just consider what Egon von Greyerz recently told King World News…
Eric, there are now more problem areas in the world, rather than stable situations. No major nation in the West can repay its debts. The same is true for Japan and most of the emerging markets. Europe is a failed experiment for socialism and deficit spending. China is a massive bubble, in terms of its stock markets, property markets and shadow banking system. Japan is also a basket case and the U.S. is the most indebted country in the world and has lived above its means for over 50 years.So we will see twin $200 trillion debt and $1.5 quadrillion derivatives implosions. That will lead to the most historic wealth destruction ever in global stock, with bond and property markets declining at least 75 – 95 percent. World trade will also contract dramatically and we will see massive hardship across the globe.
So what do you think is coming, and how bad will things ultimately get once this global debt crisis finally spins totally out of control?