Archive for the ‘Globalization’ Category

Trade envoy fears protectionism growth

January 14, 2009

By Doug Palmer
Reuters
First Posted 09:56:00 01/14/2009

Filed Under: World Financial Crisis, Economy and Business and Finance, Government, Trade (general)

WASHINGTON, United States — The outgoing top US trade negotiator said Tuesday she was concerned about threats to free trade in the United States and abroad, but defended US bailout actions as legal under world trade rules.

“I worry about protectionist trends not just in the United States, (but) in China as well and in other countries,” US trade representative Susan Schwab said in a final news conference before leaving office next week.

“It isn’t just the risk of nasty little protectionist riders and measures going through Congress or major pieces of protectionist legislation … it’s also the damage that inaction and policy paralysis can have,” Schwab said.

President George W. Bush told reporters Monday that failure to win congressional approval of free trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea was one of the biggest disappointments of his second term.

Many Democrats oppose almost all trade deals in the belief they cost more jobs than they create. But other party members have joined with Republicans to approve trade pacts.

Schwab blamed the failure to approve the Colombia, Panama and South Korea accords on the refusal of Democrats, who have controlled Congress since January 2007, to move legislation that “would generate a split in the Democratic caucus.”

Now, with Democratic President-elect Barack Obama replacing Republican Bush next week in the White House, the United States will “have a Democratic party-dominated trade policy by any definition,” Schwab said.

She argued it was important for Congress to approve legislation giving Obama the authority to negotiate new trade agreements because other countries will be moving ahead on that front even if the United States is not.

NO REGRETS

Schwab said she had no regrets about Bush’s decision to try to force a vote on the Colombia agreement, even though that backfired when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi pushed through a measure to indefinitely delay action on the pact.

“The status quo was untenable and it was important to show where the problem was,” Schwab said, insisting that Colombia has already done much to address worker rights and violence concerns that have been raised by Democrats.

The financial crisis that has crippled economic growth across the world has given rise to fears that countries could erect tariff barriers to keep out imports.

Schwab said that would be a mistake, and added the Bush administration has been scrupulous in ensuring that US bailout packages for banks and automakers stay within the bounds of World Trade Organization (WTO) rules.

“We have not at this point seen evidence that we are doing something that would be inconsistent with the WTO,” she said.

Obama has nominated former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk to take over Schwab’s job, although he has yet to be confirmed by the Senate. Congressional sources said they had not yet received Kirk’s nomination paperwork.

Schwab declined to offer any public advice for Kirk, but said she had met with him to discuss the outstanding free trade agreements and where things stand in the seven-year-old Doha round of world trade talks.

She expressed concern about Obama’s plan to “fix” the North American Free Trade Agreement by adding stronger labor and environmental provisions.

“There are always dangers in reopening existing agreements and the next administration is going to have to weigh the pros and cons of that,” Schwab said.

Obama also wants to renegotiate the South Korea agreement because of concerns that Democrats have raised about the pact’s auto provisions.

The South Korean government has been pushing toward a vote on the agreement in its legislature in the hope that would force Washington to follow suit.

Schwab said there were pros and cons to that strategy and it was up to Seoul to decide the best course.(PDI)

Advertisements

GLOBAL NEWS: Thousands in Lebanon, Turkey protest Israel attack

January 5, 2009

BEIRUT (AP) – Thousands protesting Israel’s ground offensive on Gaza converged yesterday in Beirut and the Turkish capital, as the leaders of the only two Mideast Arab nations to sign peace treaties with Israel demanded an end to the attack.

In Yemen, security officials said anti-Israel protesters attacked several Jewish homes in the northern province of Omran, smashing windows and pelting them with rocks. The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because because they were not authorized to talk to the media, said at least one Jewish resident was injured among the tiny minority community.

Lebanese police used water hoses to try to push about 250 demonstrators away from the US Embassy in Lebanon’s capital. When that failed, they fired tear gas, said Lebanese security officials. A second Beirut protest — a sit-in outside the UN building — drew thousands of supporters of Hamas and Lebanon’s Islamic Group.

In Turkey, more than 5,000 people held an anti-Israel rally in Istanbul, waving Palestinian flags and burning effigies of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and President George W. Bush. Also in Istanbul, club-wielding police broke up a small demonstration by protesters who hurled eggs at the Israeli Consulate, the private Dogan news agency reported. There were no reports of arrests or injuries.

Israel’s weeklong aerial bombardment of Gaza and the start of the ground offensive Saturday against Hamas have drawn condemnation across the Muslim and Arab world and news coverage of the invasion has dominated Arab satellite television stations.

Thousands in cities from Tehran to Damascus have also taken to the streets to protest the attacks, which have killed about 500 Palestinians and wounded more than 1,600, according to Gaza officials.

In some cases, the protests of the past week were as directed against Arab governments as much as Israel, with many criticizing their perceived inaction or lack of sufficient support of the Palestinians.

Yesterday, the leaders of Egypt and Jordan — the only two Mideast Arab countries to sign a peace agreement with Israel and maintain diplomatic ties — condemned the ground offensive and called for an end to Israel’s onslaught in Gaza.

Several hundred Jordanians shouting “death to Israel” protested against the Gaza offensive yesterday in two separate demonstrations in central Amman, the Jordanian capital. The protests were peaceful and police made no arrests.

In parliament meanwhile, the Jordanian government came under criticism from Islamic opposition lawmakers demanding that it suspend relations with Israel.

“All options are available to assess the relationship with every side, especially Israel,” Prime Minister Nader al-Dahabi told parliament during a heated debate.

“We will reconsider relations according to our higher national interests,” he said. “We will not remain silent about the situation and the serious deterioration in Gaza and neither about the threat which risks the security of the whole area and its stability.”

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who runs his own Palestinian administration from the West Bank, also denounced Israel’s ground offensive as “brutal aggression” in his harshest words yet in describing Israel’s assault on his Hamas rivals.

Israel says the aim of the operation is to stop the Palestinian militant Hamas group from firing rockets at southern Israeli towns. Hamas is opposed to any peace settlement with Israel and calls for the destruction of the Jewish state.

“This battle will end a (peace) settlement forever,” Hamas’ representative in Lebanon, Osama Hamdan, told the protesters at the sit-in. “This battle will show who are the men.”

Five civilians and one policeman were lightly injured in the clash outside the US Embassy earlier in the day, according to the Lebanese officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

Meanwhile, the leader of Lebanon’s militant Hezbollah group, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, discussed the situation in Gaza with visiting chief Iranian nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili, the group’s Al-Manar TV said.

Al-Manar did not give further details but said Nasrallah and Jalili, who arrived here Saturday from neighboring Syria, discussed “ways of ending this aggression.”

Hezbollah, which is a strong ally of Hamas, possesses a formidable arsenal of rockets and missiles that bloodied Israel during a monthlong war in 2006. Hezbollah has not threatened to join Hamas in its current battle with Israel, but Nasrallah said last week that his men are on alert in case Israel attacks Lebanon.(PhilStar)

GLOBAL NEWS: Gaza civilians left exposed in Israeli invasion

January 5, 2009

GAZA CITY (AP) – With booms from artillery and airstrikes keeping them awake, the 10 members of Lubna Karam’s family spent the night huddled in the hallway of their Gaza City home.

Earlier strikes shattered the living room windows, letting cold air pour in. The Karams haven’t had electricity for a week and have run out of cooking gas. The family, including three small children younger than four, eats cold, canned beans.

“It’s war food,” said Karam, 28. “What else can we do?”

As Israel’s offensive against Hamas moves from pinpointed airstrikes to ground fighting and artillery shelling, Gaza’s civilians are increasingly exposed. Some two dozen civilians were killed within hours after the start of Israel’s ground invasion Saturday night.

Israel says eight days of aerial bombardment, followed by the ground invasion, seek to undermine Hamas’ ability to fire rockets at the Jewish state. So far, more than 500 Palestinians and four Israelis have been killed. Palestinian and UN officials say at least 100 Palestinian civilians are among the dead.

The ground offensives will put Israeli solders, Gaza militants and civilians in much closer quarters.

The guiding principle of Israel’s ground invasion is to move in with full force and try to minimize Israeli casualties, Israeli military correspondent Alex Fishman wrote in the daily Yediot Ahronoth. “We’ll pay the international price later for the collateral damage and the anticipated civilian casualties,” Fishman said.

While Israeli said its airstrikes have targeted only Hamas installations and leaders, some of the bombs were so powerful that they destroyed or damaged adjacent houses.

Karam said she always felt under threat. She said her family didn’t sleep. “We keep hearing the sounds of airplanes and we don’t know if we’ll live until tomorrow, or not,” she said.

Anas Mansour, 21, a resident of the Rafah refugee camp on the Gaza-Egypt border, said he and his family may try to leave the area later yesterday. Mansour said he was sleeping in his clothes, with his identification cards in his pocket in case he had to flee quickly.

He said he could see his neighbor loading a donkey cart with mattresses and blankets to leave, but hadn’t yet decided if he’d do the same. “Where can we go? It’s all the same,” Mansour said.

Deprivation is nothing new in Gaza, but the Israeli-led blockade of the territory has grown increasingly tighter over the past two months, making cooking gas and many foods scare.

Adding to that, last week’s bombings damaged the strip’s sanitary and electrical infrastructure, leaving many residents without power and water, and most shops are now shuttered.

“When there was a siege, we kept taking about a catastrophe,” said Hatem Shurrab, 24, of Gaza City. “But then the airstrikes started, and now we don’t even know what word to use. There’s no word in the dictionary that can describe the situation we are in.”(PhilStar)

Israeli troops invade Gaza

January 5, 2009

Photo is loading...

Smoke caused by explosions rises over Gaza City yesterday. AP

GAZA CITY – Israeli ground troops and tanks cut swaths through the Gaza Strip early yesterday, bisecting the coastal territory and surrounding its biggest city as the new phase of a devastating offensive against Hamas gained momentum.

At least 23 Palestinians were killed in the new fighting as trucks and cars packed with families fled Gaza City and other towns ahead of the biggest Israeli military operation since its 2006 war with Lebanon.

Thousands of soldiers in three brigade-size formations pushed into Gaza after nightfall Saturday, beginning a long-awaited ground offensive after a week of intense aerial bombardment.

Black smoke billowed over Gaza City at first light and bursts of machine-gun fire rang out.

Witnesses said that Israeli infantry units and tanks had taken control of the Salaheddine Road, the main highway along the length of the enclave, dividing Gaza.

TV footage showed Israeli troops with night-vision goggles and camouflage face paint marching in single file. Artillery barrages preceded their advance, and they moved through fields and orchards following bomb-sniffing dogs ensuring their routes had not been booby-trapped.

The military said troops killed or wounded dozens of militant fighters.

Palestinian medics and doctors said 23 Palestinians have been killed – three Hamas fighters and the rest civilians. Many of the casualties were in the northern Gaza town of Beit Lahiya, the scene of some of the heaviest fighting.

A Palestinian child was killed and 11 other children were wounded in the strike, when a tank shell hit a house in eastern Gaza City, Gaza medics said.

Israel launched the nighttime offensive on Saturday after eight days of air strikes in which at least 485 Palestinians died and more than 2,400 were wounded, Gaza medics said.

More than 80 children are among the dead.

Explosions and shooting could be heard in many areas as troops backed by Apache helicopters forged into the territory, they said.

Militants fired mortars and detonated roadside bombs. The heaviest fighting was reported in and around Jabaliya.

Army ambulances were seen bringing Israeli wounded to a hospital in the southern Israeli city of Beersheba. The military reported 30 Israeli troops were wounded, two seriously, in the opening hours of the offensive.

But an army spokeswoman said 28 Israeli soldiers have been wounded, two of them seriously, in the ground invasion.

Hamas said nine soldiers had been killed in the operation. The army refused to comment on the claim.

According to the spokeswoman, “28 soldiers have been wounded, with two of them — an officer and a soldier — seriously wounded.”

A statement from Hamas’s armed wing, the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, said that in monitoring Israeli military radio traffic, it learned that five soldiers had been killed.

In his first public comments since the ground operation was launched, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said yesterday that the invasion was unavoidable and that his government exhausted all other options before approving the operation.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak predicted a long and difficult campaign in Gaza, a densely populated territory of 1.4 million where militants operate and easily hide among the crowded urban landscape.

Hamas threatened to turn Gaza into a “graveyard” for Israeli forces.

“You entered like rats,” Hamas spokesman Ismail Radwan told Israeli soldiers in a statement on Hamas’ Al Aqsa television. “Gaza will be a graveyard for you, God willing.”

The ground operation is the second phase in an offensive that began as a weeklong aerial onslaught aimed at halting Hamas rocket fire that has reached deeper and deeper into Israel, threatening major cities and one-eighth of Israel’s population. Palestinian officials say dozens of civilians were killed in the air offensive.

Rocket fire has persisted, however, and several rockets fell in Israel on Sunday morning, causing no casualties. In much of southern Israel school has been canceled and life has been largely paralyzed.

While the air offensive presented little risk for Israel’s army, sending in ground troops is a much more dangerous proposition.

Hamas is believed to have some 20,000 gunmen intimately familiar with the dense urban landscape. For months, Israeli leaders had resisted a ground invasion, fearing heavy casualties.

No choice but war

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said he decided that the government had no more choice.

“I want to be able to go to the Israeli public and all the mothers and say, ‘We did everything in a responsible manner,’” Olmert said in a statement released by his office.

“In the end, we reached the moment where I had to decide to send out soldiers.”

Olmert stressed the campaign’s objective is to restore quiet to Israel’s south, not to topple Hamas or reoccupy Gaza.

Israel considers Hamas, which has controlled Gaza since June 2007 and is sworn to Israel’s destruction, a terrorist group.

Israel has launched at least two other large ground offensives in Gaza since withdrawing its troops from the area in 2005. But the size of this latest operation dwarfs those, with at least three times the firepower.

Israel also has called up tens of thousands of reserve soldiers, which defense officials said could enable a far broader ground offensive as the operation’s third phase.

The troops could also be used in the event Palestinian militants in the West Bank or Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon decide to launch attacks. Hezbollah opened a war against Israel in 2006 when it was in the midst of a large operation in Gaza.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because the military’s preparations are classified.

Cutting through

An armored force south of Gaza City penetrated as deep as the abandoned settlement of Netzarim, which Israel left along with other Israeli communities when it pulled out of Gaza in 2005, both military officials and Palestinian witnesses said.

Israeli tanks and troops had pushed into two areas of northern Gaza, one near the Erez crossing and another east of the town of Jabaliya, near an Islamic cemetery.

That move effectively cut off Gaza City, the territory’s largest population center with about 400,000 people, from the rest of Gaza to the south.

The offensive focused on northern Gaza, where most of the rockets are fired into Israel, but at least one incursion was reported in the southern part of the strip. Hamas uses smuggling tunnels along the southern border with Egypt to bring in weapons.

Warplanes struck about four dozen targets overnight, including tunnels, weapons storage facilities, areas used to launch mortars and squads of Hamas fighters, the military said.

Israeli tanks opened fire on Hamas positions after entering the impoverished territory and Hamas forces replied with mortar fire, witnesses said.

They said there were explosions and tank fire just north of Jabaliya, where Palestinian militants were responding with rocket fire.

Gunboats backed up the ground forces, attacking Hamas intelligence headquarters in Gaza City, rocket-launching areas and positions of Hamas marine forces.

Hamas has been responding with mortar shells and rocket-propelled grenades. Field commanders communicated over walkie talkie, updating gunmen on the location of Israeli forces. Commanders told gunmen in the streets not to gather in big groups and not to use cell phones. Hamas’ TV and radio stations, broadcasting from secret locations after their offices were destroyed, remained on the air, broadcasting live coverage.

Ground forces had not entered major Gaza towns and cities by early yesterday morning, instead fighting in rural communities and open areas militants often use to launch rockets and mortar rounds. Militants also fire from heavily populated neighborhoods.

Residents of the small northern Gaza community of al-Attatra said soldiers moved from house to house by blowing holes through walls. Most of the houses were unoccupied, their residents already having fled.

Israel launched the air campaign against Gaza on Dec. 27. Gaza health officials say more than 480 Palestinians were killed in the first eight days of the operation.

The breakdown of combatants and civilians remains unclear, but the UN says at least 100 civilians were killed in the initial, aerial phase of the war.

Hundreds of rockets have hit Israel so far, and four Israelis have been killed.

The decision to send ground troops into Gaza was taken after Hamas kept up its rocket fire despite the aerial assault, government officials said. They spoke on condition of anonymity because discussions leading up to wartime decisions are confidential.

Outrage

The ballooning death toll in Gaza — along with concerns of a looming humanitarian crisis — has aroused mounting world outrage, as evidenced by protests that drew tens of thousands of demonstrators in European capitals on Saturday.

“There is a humanitarian crisis. It’s impossible to say how many innocent women, innocent children and innocent babies are being caught up in this conflict, who are being maimed and killed,” said Chris Gunness, a UN spokesman. “This offensive must stop.”

The offensive has sparked spiraling anger in the Muslim world and protests across the globe.

Denunciations also came from the French government, which unsuccessfully proposed a two-day truce earlier this week, and from Egypt, which brokered the six-month truce whose breakdown preceded the Israeli offensive.

Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhum said “what is happening in the UN Security Council is a farce that shows the level that America and Zionist occupier dominates its decisions.”

But the US has put the blame squarely on Hamas. White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said US officials have been in regular contact with the Israelis as well as officials from countries in the region and Europe.

“We continue to make clear to them our concerns for civilians, as well as the humanitarian situation,” he said.

At an emergency consultation of the UN Security Council on Saturday night, the US blocked approval of a statement demanded by Arab countries that would have called for an immediate ceasefire. US deputy ambassador Alejandro Wolff said the US believed that such a statement “would not be adhered to and would have no underpinning for success, (and) would not do credit to the council.”

French President Nicolas Sarkozy is due on Israel today for talks on a ceasefire with Olmert in Jerusalem.

French Foreign Minister Bernard Koucher called the ground invasion a “dangerous military escalation” that would undermine attempts to broker a truce.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown spoke with Olmert, “pressing hard for an immediate ceasefire.”

Hamas began to emerge as Gaza’s main power broker when it won Palestinian parliamentary elections three years ago. It has ruled the impoverished territory since seizing control from forces loyal to moderate Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in June 2007. –AP(PhilStar)

The US War on Terror*

December 28, 2008

“Fascism will never come to America as fascism. It will come as 100 percent Americanism.” Huey Long

“When fascism come to America, it will be wrapped in the flag, carrying a cross” Sinclair Lewis

BY DR. HALUK GERGER
INTERNATIONAL
Posted by Bulatlat

After the Second World War, the US imperialism had premeditated two immediate objectives in its drive to global hegemony. One was to defeat socialism and destroy the Soviet Union together with the regimes allied to it. The second aim was to subvert and subdue the national-democratic revolutions in the colonies and semi-colonies. The anticommunist crusade of the Cold War was the culmination of this plan.

In the preparatory phase of this aggression, the US leaders realized that this kind of total belligerence required tools to manipulate the public opinion for domestic control.

One tool to utilize was fear. As the influential Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Arthur Vandenberg had advised President Truman, ruling classes first needed to “scare the hell out of the American people.”

Secondly, the government moved to curtail the democratic process at the home front and began to repress opposition. McCarthyism was the culmination of this sinister process during which democratic institutions were corrupted and due process of law crudely violated. State and corporate terror was unleashed against dissent. Public opinion was unabashedly manipulated.

Thirdly, it was deemed necessary to demonize and criminalize the targeted regimes, political leaders and movements. As a result, it was hoped, public opinion support would be secured for the legitimization of destructive methods like sabotage, torture, assassination, mass murder, coup d’etats, military dictatorships, brushfire wars, pacification programs, and the like. The aim, in short, was manufacturing pretexts, consent, and justification for imperialist terror.

Militarization of both international relations and the domestic environment followed this conspiracy against democracy and peace. The ideological machinations took the human mind, social sensitivities, and public opinion captive.

In 1941, Henry Luce, in his call for the “American Century,” said that, after the World War II, victorious USA should exercise her right “to exert upon the world the full impact of our influence, for such purposes as we see fit and by such means as we see fit.” And in 1955, as if directly addressing Luce’s ominous call, the US Air Force General (and later Shell Oil Director) James Doolittle, commissioned to lead a Panel of Consultents to undertake a study of CIA covert operations, wrote the following to President Eisenhower:

“It is now clear that we are facing an implacable enemy whose avowed objective is world domination by whatever means and at whatever cost. There are no rules in such a game. Hitherto acceptable norms of human conduct do not apply. If the United States is to survive, long-standing American concepts of “fair play” must be reconsidered. We must develop effective espionage and counterespionage services and must learn to subvert, sabotage and destroy our enemies by more clever, more sophisticated and more effective methods than those weed against us. It may become necessary that the American people be made acquainted with, understand and support this fundamentally repugnant philosophy…”

Finally, we must underline the fact that the imperialist aggression at the time pointed to a profound crisis of the system. It stemmed from a structural crisis, resulted in an humanistic crisis on the part of the aggressor who denied opponents’ humanism. In the end, the world strayed into the “New Order” of imperialist barbarism—leading up to the utter bankruptcy of imperialism itself.

More than half a century after Luce’s pronunciation, the US has embarked upon yet another imperialist onslaught, this time to reap the fruits of its Cold War victory and to impose a new “American Century.”

The Middle East was chosen as the launching pad in this offensive for global hegemony. In the year 2000, The Project for the New American Century, an influential think-tank, released a report called “Rebuilding America’s Defenses: Strategy, Forces and Resources for a New Century.” Among its authors were Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Francis Fukuyama, and W. Bush’s brother Jeb Bush. A critical paragraph in the Report said:

“In the Persian Gulf region, the presence of American forces, along with British and French units, has become a semi permanent fact of life. Though the immediate mission of those forces is to enforce the no-fly zones over northern and southern Iraq, they represent the long-term commitment of the United States and its major allies to a region of vital importance. Indeed, the United States has for decades sought to play a more permanent role in Gulf regional security. While the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification, the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein.”

The report also called for a wholesale militarist reorganization in the United States to add momentum to the global hegemony push they sought, comparable with what the notorious NSC-68 demanded in 1948 for the Cold War drive. The authors were yearning for a congenial domestic atmosphere:

“…the process of [such a militaristic] transformation…is likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event- like a new Pearl Harbor.”

As if God-sent, the pretext for “justification” descended on New York and Washington DC on September 11, 2001. The new much-needed elusive enemy was christened “terrorism.” It would become the blanket term to denigrate all resistance to imperialism and even any opposition whenever the powers that be may wish so.

Again, similar to the precursory Cold War schemes, a new “ruthless” and “dehumanized” enemy had to be invented to paralyze the world with fright and to vindicate imperialist terror. Now, the “baby-eating Chinese communists” gave way to the “blood-thirsty Arab-Moslem terrorists.” Once again, to justify imperialist aggression devoid of moral or legal restraints, and to delude the people to “support this fundamentally repugnant philosophy” of treachery, “a new kind of war” had to be contrived. A new militarism was needed through which Capital could indulge itself in global plunder…

In 2002, in his cover letter of the notorious Presidential Report “The National Security Strategy of the United States of America” President George W. Bush declared a “war of uncertain duration” against the new enemy.

According to the highest authority of the land, the United States faced an enemy and a kind of war that made all previous conduct obsolete, and even dangerous. Reminiscent of Doolittle’s report and the rhetoric of the Cold War, the new strategy text claimed:

“We are menaced less by fleets and armies than by catastrophic technologies in the hands of the embittered few…The struggle against global terrorism is different from any other war in our history. It will be fought on many fronts against a particularly elusive enemy over an extended period of time…But it is not only this battlefield on which we will engage terrorists…The United States of America is fighting a war against terrorists of global reach. The enemy is not a single political regime or person or religion or ideology. The enemy is terrorism…

The regimes of the new enemy states:

* brutalize their own people and squander their national resources for the personal gain of the rulers;
• display no regard for international law, threaten their neighbors, and callously violate international treaties to which they are party;
• are determined to acquire weapons of mass destruction, along with other advanced military technology, to be used as threats or offensively to achieve the aggressive designs of these regimes;
• sponsor terrorism around the globe; and
• reject basic human values and hate the United States and everything for which it stands…

It has taken almost a decade for us to comprehend the true nature of this new threat. Given the goals of rogue states and terrorists, the United States can no longer solely rely on a reactive posture as we have in the past. The inability to deter a potential attacker, the immediacy of today’s threats, and the magnitude of potential harm that could be caused by our adversaries’ choice of weapons, do not permit that option…The major institutions of American national security were designed in a different era to meet different requirements. All of them must be transformed…”

To justify their agenda of war, invasion, subjugation, and pillage, imperialist spokesmen persisted with instilling fear in the hearts and minds of the people. They began to portray a dehumanized enemy, and started a campaign of demonizing all potential opposition and resistance to domination.

On November 12, 2002, at the District of Columbia Metropolitan Police Operations Center, George W. Bush declared that,

“It’s a new charge. It’s a new charge because we learned on that fateful day that America is now a battlefield. It used to be that oceans would protect us…But we learned a tough lesson, that the old ways are gone, that the enemy can strike us here at home,… On September the 11th, 2001, our nation was confronted by a new kind of war…This is a war….And it’s a different kind of war than we’re used to. I explained part of the difference is the fact that the battlefield is now here at home. It’s also a war where the enemy doesn’t show up with airplanes that they own, or tanks or ships. These are suiciders. These are cold-blooded killers. That’s all they are…There should be no doubt in anybody’s mind the nature of the enemy…We’re adjusting to the new world we’re in…As a matter of fact, there hadn’t a morning that hadn’t gone by that I haven’t saw — seen or read threats…It’s the new reality…”

At a press conference in the White House on December 19, 2002, Bush said, “this new threat required us to think and act differently…right after September the 11th, I knew we were fighting a different kind of war.”

He lectured the students and faculty of the National Defense University on the same theme on October 23, 2007:

“Today, you’re training the next generation of leaders to prevail in the great ideological struggle of our time — the global war on terror. We’re at war with a brutal enemy. We’re at war with cold-blooded killers who despise freedom, reject tolerance, and kill the innocent in pursuit of their political vision. Many of you have met this enemy on the battlefields of Afghanistan and Iraq…This new kind of threat has required a new kind of war — and we’re prosecuting that war on many fronts…in order to defeat the ideology of darkness, the ideology of the terrorists…In this new war, the enemy seeks to infiltrate operatives into our country and attack us from within. They can’t beat our armies; they can’t defeat our military. And so they try to sneak folks in our country to kill the innocent, to achieve their objectives. And that’s one of the reasons we passed the Patriot Act…In this new war, the enemy conspires in secret– and often the only source of information on what the terrorists are planning is the terrorists themselves…In this new war, the enemy seeks weapons of mass destruction that would allow them to kill our people on an unprecedented scale…Today, our adversaries have changed. We no longer worry about a massive Soviet first strike. We worry about terrorist states and terrorist networks that might not be deterred by our nuclear forces. To deal with such adversaries we need a new approach to deterrence…”

And Bush said at the start of his annual meeting with the governors at the White House on Feb 25, 2008, “This is a different kind of struggle than we’ve ever faced before. It’s essential that we understand the mentality of these killers…”

So in the end individuals, organizations, nations as well as states have been declared enemy…The whole world became the battlefield…The rules of war and norms of time-honored civilized behavior became obsolete…As time ceased to be a measurement or criterion in the “war against terror,” war has become eternal…Moral traditions of war declared defunct…The “new enemy” did not even deserve the Cold War’s debased criteria of humane treatment…An evil colossus of the fusion of internal and external enemy was constructed that permitted external aggression and internal repression as one indivisible whole in this “new kind of war…” Habitual imperialist viciousness was now called “unprecedented response to new threats…”

When the useful Soviet actuality ceased to exist, the United States needed another all-encompassing enemy. In order to justify a state of perpetual war in pursuit of “full-spectrum dominance,” she substituted the faceless enemy dubbed “terrorism” for the previous one, namely, “godless communism.”

The sinister ploy to dominate the world and subjugate the people all over the globe into permanent servitude was put into practice with the so-called “war on terror.” It officially commenced with the ferocious bombing of Afghanistan and continued with the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq. The immediate result was horrendous suffering for millions, mass killings, wanton destruction, systematic torture, and carnage.

Abominable as they were, Afghan and Iraqi predicament proved to be only a prelude to the systematic onslaught and repression that followed.

Capital’s lust for profit and plunder coupled with the constructed self-righteous nationalist extremism cloaked in and propagated with a so-called divine mission, conditioned the US behavior. She began to act as an international outlaw. From Guantanamo to Bingram, Abu Ghraib and Camp Copper, from secret CIA planes to renditions, the whole world witnessed appalling war crimes. Legal terms have been degenerated into an Orwellian language and as Mary Robinson said, in the lexicon of the “war on terror,” “coercive interrogation” replaced torture and kidnapping became “extraordinary rendition.” Private contractors mandated to kill at will were hired on the pretext of fighting terrorism. As Rahul Mahajam observed,

“Defense Secretary Donald said, ‘we’ll have to deal with the networks. One of the ways to do that is to drain the swamp they live in, and that means dealing not only with the terrorists, but those who harbor terrorists.’ The phrase ‘drain the swamp’ has roots in Mao’s description of a guerrilla army as a fish swimming in the sea of the people. U.S. Counterinsurgency experts after World War II took up the phrase in the concept of ‘draining the sea’ to counter guerrilla warfare-a strategy carried out in South Vietnam by massive bombing, forced evacuation (the strategic hamlet program), deforestation (11 million gallons of Agent Orange was dropped in Vietnam), and large-scale torture and political repression (the Phoenix program). No sooner was the phrase uttered than it was on everyone’s lips, from government officials to newspaper editorials around the world. The logic of extermination…of assuming all who didn’t support the extermination were themselves guilty was all in place. How it played out in practice would depend on how much force was sufficient, not on any consideration of principle.”

General Doolittle theorized about “an implacable enemy” against whom, he claimed, “[h]itherto acceptable norms of human conduct do not apply.” President Bush, fifty years later, spoke of “evil forces” who forced upon the US “a new kind of war and a new approach to deterrence” rendering “old ways” defunct.

The fact of the matter is that the “old ways” go back to the days when the Continent was colonized. When the US monopoly capitalism ventured into its first imperialistic forays, the “old ways” were revived. Max Boot’s narrative of the “old ways” from those old days sound disturbingly familiar:

“Already the army had displayed considerable cruelty in fIghting the Filipinos. Even during the initial campaigm of 1899, there were credible reports of solders shooting prisoners ‘while trying to escape,’ burning towns, and torturing suspects to elicit information. One interrogation techniqe, passed down from the Spaniards, was called the ‘water cure’: the victim would be held down, his mouth propped open, and water forced down his throat until his guts felt close to bursting, then a soldier would push on his stomach to clear out the water. American soldiers became more hard-hearted the longer the guerrilla war dragged on… [Marine Captain known as Tiger of Seibo] personally tortured one prisoner by cutting him with a knife, pouring salt and orange juice on his wounds, and then cutting off his ears…The tiny general [General Jacob Smith] told [Major Littleton Waller],’I want no prisoners. I wish you to kill and burn, the more you kill and the more you burn the better you will please me… I want all persons killed who are capable of bearing arms.’
Waller: ‘I would like to know the limit of age.’
Smith: ‘Ten years…’ ”

The fourth president of the United States, James Madison, had once remarked that “no nation can preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.” One main victim of the “war on terror” has been the US society itself.

Immediately after the September 11 attacks, scores of people were rounded up. They were held in special detention centers without charge and bail. They were brutalized. Most of those apprehended were Arabs and Muslims. Political prisoners were placed under an emergency arrangement and kept in solitary confinement for weeks. Aliens were deported on meager grounds based on obscure clauses in long-forgotten old laws.

At the advent of the Cold War, The National Security Act, the foundation of the CIA with an addendum to this Act, the creation of the Defense Department, the “loyalty investigations,” the Smith and McCarran Acts were landmarks of impending aggression.

A similar pattern can be discerned after September 11, 2001. Only a few weeks after the attacks, Bush signed the Patriot Act into law. As Bush later explained in his address at the National Defense University in October 2007,

“in this new war, the enemy seeks to infiltrate operatives into our country and attack us from within. They can’t beat our armies; they can’t defeat our military. And so they try to sneak folks in our country to kill the innocent, to achieve their objectives. And that’s one of the reasons we passed the Patriot Act.”

Three weeks after the signing of the Patriot Act, Bush authorized military tribunals to try anyone suspected of terrorism with the explicit aim of speedy execution and imprisonment of defendants without bothering themselves with the intricacies of the due process. In 2002, the then White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales advised the president that, “as you have said the war against terrorism is a new kind of war. The nature of the new war places a high premium on other factors, such as the ability to quickly obtain information from captured terrorists and their sponsors in order to avoid further atrocities against American citizens.” Gonzales concluded: “In my judgment, this new paradigm renders obsolete Geneva’s strict limitations on questioning of enemy prisoners and renders quaint some of its provisions.” He also argued that by dropping the Geneva Convention, the president would “preserve his flexibility” in the war on terror. This meant that Geneva Convention rules of treating prisoners of war were not applicable any more and that the US did not bound herself with humanitarian rules of war. Also, the advise indicated that torturing suspected persons has become an urgent necessity “in the new kind of war .”

In November 2002, the Homeland Security Act followed. While the Congress was in session discussing the bill, president Bush spoke:

“It’s a different kind of war than we’re used to. I explained part of the difference is the fact that the battlefield is now here at home…The new kind of war has now placed our police and firefighters and rescue workers on the front lines. You’re already on the front lines. Now you got another line. There’s another front to do our duty to the American people…The enemy moves quickly and America must move quickly. We cannot have bureaucratic rules preventing this President and future Presidents from meeting the needs of the American people. To meet the threats to our country, a President must have the authority, as every President since John F. Kennedy has had, to waive certain rights for national security purposes.”

Then followed the internal intelligence gathering as explained by Bush, speaking at the FBI Academy in Virginia on July 11 2005:

“To defend our homeland, we need the best possible intelligence. We face a new kind of enemy. This enemy hides in caves and plots in shadows, and then emerges to strike and kill in cold blood in our cities and communities. Staying a step ahead of this enemy and disrupting their plans is an unprecedented challenge for our intelligence community. We’re reforming our intelligence agencies to meet the new threats. We’ve established a new National Counterterrorism Center where we are bringing together all the available intelligence on terrorist threats. We’re sharing intelligence across all levels of government — the federal level, the state level, and the local level.”

The Patriot Act was the initiator of a chain reaction of repressive dynamic that beset American society and turned the American people into a victim of the “war on terror.” At this point perhaps it is more appropriate to let the Americans speak out themselves.

Even the partial list presented by Matthew Rothschild to the Americans is horrific indeed:

“The government is monitoring your phone calls and can read your e-mails and open your snail mail.

The government can access records of your large financial transactions, such as buying a house.

Law enforcement officers can bust into your home when you’re not there, riffle through your belongings, plant a recording device on your computer, and leave without notifying you for at least thirty days—and may be a lot more.

You no longer have the right to protest where the president or vice president can see you, or at major public events when they aren’t even present.

Law enforcement officers can now monitor you in public if you are merely exercising your political rights.

They can infiltrate your political organizations.

And they can keep track of you at your place of Worship.

The government can find out from bookstores and libraries the material you’ve been reading, and the bookstore owner and the librarian can’t talk about it, except to their lawyers, for a whole year—or more.

The government can hold you in preventive detention for months on end as a “material witness.”

If you are not a citizen the government can depart you on a technicality or for mere political association.

If you are not a citizen the government can label you an “enemy combatant” and send you to secret prisons around the world, where you may never see the light again—much less a lawyer or a judge.

And even if you are a citizen, the government can label you an enemy combatant and hold you in solitary confinement here in the United States.”

And here are glimpses from his compilation of ordinary citizens’ lives: Marc Schultz was reading an article at the coffee shop, called “Weapons of Mass Destruction: Fox News Hits a New Lowest Common Denominator” while another customer peeking behind called the FBI on him. A few days later two agents visited him in his work place. In West Virginia, Renee Jensen put up a dozen protest signs in her yard like: “Mr. Bush: You’re Fired.” She was interrogated by the Secret Service. Glen Hiller interjected a few times when Bush was speaking at a High School Berkeley Springs, West Virginia. The next day her boss fired her on charge of “unacceptable actions.” In Alabama, Lynne Gobbell put a Kerry bumper sticker on her car. She too was fired from her job. In Vermont, High School teacher Tom Treece assigned his students to write (pro or con) essays and prepare posters on the Iraq War. After midnight, the police entered the classroom and took photos of the students’ works. English teacher at the Forsyth Technical Community College in Winston-Salem, in one her classes criticized the war in Iraq. A few days later, she received a disciplinary letter from her supervisor, and after some time of administrative proceedings, her contract was not renewed. Stephen Kobasa teaching English at Kolbe Cathedral High School in Bridgeport, Connecticut, refused to have an American flag in his classroom. He lost his job in 2005. Near Albany, New York, Stephen Downs and his son Roger bought T-shirts in a mall. Downs put his shirt on, and was arrested. The T-shirt’s messages read: “Peace on Earth.”

Joe Conason, rightly expresses his alarm over the fate of fundamental rights and freedoms in the United States in a state of “continual warfare” conducted with ferocious immorality, vicious bellicosity, and with blithe disregard for the rules of war, absolute contempt for due process of law, and deliberate indifference towards the constitution of the land:

“In American history, authoritarian excess has often accompanied war (or the fear of war), from the Alien and Sedition Acts passed by Madison’s political opponents to Abraham Lincoln’s Civil War suspension of habeas corpus; from the Red Scare of World War I to the internment of Japanese in World War II; from Joseph McCarthy’s depredations at the beginning of the Cold war to Richard Nixon’s abuses during the war in Vietnam. Those wartime encroachments eventually receded, owing to the end of hostilities or the vitality of democratic resistance. But what would happen in a nation beset by continual warfare?”

And this is Peter Phillips’ diagnosis of the state of the Union:

“[T]he Bush administration is paltering to the American public with exaggerated misconceptions of worldwide terrorism to frighten us into supporting a global police state, and the US corporate media serves as the handmaid of this deception. With seven hundred military bases and a budget bigger than that of the rest of the world combined, the US military and its corporate media partners have become the new supreme-power force, repressing “terrorism” with full-spectrum dominance and cognitive ideological control…”

The damning joint indictment of Elliot D. Cohen and Bruce W. Fraser in the light of the systematic conduct in the years following the unleashing of the “war on terror” is irrefutable indeed:

“The Nazi government also operated in secrecy…defending its abuses of power in the name of national security…The systematic violations of law and civil liberties in America—the operations of secret prison camps; the president’s claimed right to torture prisoners of war…; the warrantless eavesdropping on phone conversations and e-mail messages; the assumed power of the president to declare martial law and turn America into a police state; the claim that the entire nation is a ‘battlefield in the war on terror’ so that ordinary legal protections don’t apply; the president’s use of signing statements to nullify legislative constraints on executive power; the threat to prosecute journalists for treason if they reported information that endangers ‘national security’ (as determined exclusively by the president and company); the canceling of habeas corpus; the labeling as ‘unlawful enemy combatants’ anyone the president deems ‘hostile’ to the interests of the United States; the suspension of legal protection for whistleblowers who expose government corruption; the attempt to control judicial outcomes (from firing federal prosecutors and intimidating state and federal judges to stocking the Supreme Court with right-wing conservatives)—these and many other antidemocratic, authoritarian activities make the analogy with Nazi Germany not only fitting but compelling…[T]he quest for money and power has created a dangerous, unholy alliance between big business and government, crushing the American dream, snuffing out civil liberties, and leaving us stranded in a media sea of propaganda and lies…[T]he American people…have been shocked and awed into submitting to a megalomaniac government that has made the war on terror a pretext for keeping us all on a short leash…”

Irrespective of their critical public utterences and misgivings on what they call “excesses” of US policies, the member governments of the European Union have been quick to recognize the “common interests,” and seized the opportunity in the “war on terror.” They enthusiastically joined the global crusade and shared the internal repression that went with it. Imperialist belligerence was fused with internal repression. Scores of governments joined hand with the US ruling elite to curtail political dissent and oppress opponents through anti-terror laws. All over the world the “war on terror” was thus turned into a concerted offensive of the ruling classes allied to US imperialism.

The US and its allies, through sovereignty-denial, promoted open-doors imperialism and created new outlets for speculative finance capital to turn the world into a gambling casino. They concocted a bogus legal base and intrigued provocations to intervene wherever capitalist plunder was hindered and imperialist hegemony challenged. To coerce nations into submission they horrendously punished the disobedient. The domestic fronts were pacified through anti-terror lagislation, police-state practices. Curtailment of dissent, violations of basic rights as free speech and association became the common practice. The “war on terror” has become the main tool and excuse in the implementation of the grand design of imperial dominance.

The New World Order created a common interest binding the ruling classes all over the world. The constituent elements of the system were brought together around an ideological common denominator to build up a conspiratiorial network of opression. To check social discontent and resistance in order to create a congenial atmosphere for local and global capitalist accumulation, repression has become one of the main functions of the neoliberal state system. The “war on terror” has become the euphemism of neoliberal onslaught. So the imperialist powers and their lackeys elsewhere began to cooperate in the “war on terror.” An integral part of this colaboration was the corruption of respective legal systems and structured violations of human rights. A new global McCarthyism engulfed the whole world. The right to resist invasion, and organized opposition of the oppressed to exploitation, inequality, hunger, mass unemployement, and political repression have been equated with “terrorism.” This ideological terror has become as destructive as the physical desolation caused by imperialist aggression.

In many parts of the world, notably including “democracies” such as the EU member states, Canada, and Australia, “terrorist lists” were prepared of organizations and political cadres. It was made a criminal offense to have positive relations with those listed. The domestic legislative part the “war on terror” comprised widespread suppression of those who exercised the inalienable right to resist subjugation. With its own lists, the UN supplemented and internationalized such domestic enactments. The “war on terror” has become the “Rambo’s sword” stabbed at human rights and fundamental freedoms. In the course of the “war on terror”, the professed “democracy-building” proved to be “exportation of draconian anti-terror laws.”

Globalization caused severe social-economic dislocations everywhere and together with wars, famine, and epidemics greatly expanded the exodus of people across international borders. Criminalization of immigrants and migrants has attained new heights after the American response to the September 11 attacks. The anti-terror hysteria and “terror laws” have created a new witch-hunt. Minorities and immigrant communities became one of the main victims of this development. The “war on terror” has created a new impetus for racism, and the “anti-terror laws” provided the legal base for persecution of the vulnerable communities. The fueled fear of the “other” was used to tyrannize through anti-terror legislation vocal movements for the rights of minorities.

The criminalization of immigrants have taken grotesque forms as this report from a British paper attests:

“Immigration officers are questioning Tube travelers because they sound ‘foreign’, the Evening Standard has learned. Thousands of passengers are being stopped in a secret operation using tactics the police are specifically forbidden from deploying.

Immigration officers are stopping anyone they consider to look or sound foreign and asking them to produce their papers to prove their right to British residence. Their aim is uncover illegal immigrants and failed asylum seekers. The existence of the spot-check operation has been kept secret by the Home Office but an Evening Standard investigation discovered that teams of immigration officers have been carrying out the procedures since May 2003. It is part of a wider program in which 1,000 suspected illegal immigrants have been detained.

During one operation witnessed by the Evening Standard, a series of people getting off Tube trains were stopped by immigration officers dressed in body armour and carrying handcuffs. The officer in charge said people were picked out for questioning if they sounded foreign. One immigration officer said: ‘If you hear someone speaking a language that’s not European we approach them and ask ‘do you mind if I ask you what nationality you are?’ ‘If they get upset or start acting suspiciously we ask the police to assist and demand identification…”

All these horrendous consequences of the “war on terror,” all suffering, blood and tear, nevertheless, should not conceal the profound crisis of imperialism. All those years of imperialist aggression have shown the absolute futility to subjugate the peoples of the world into servile slaves of Capital. The unrelenting heroic resistances together with deadly contradictions inherent in capitalism have brought about the current severe economic, social, political, strategic, and moral crises of the system. From the US where for more than forty million people securing food is a daily concern to the “wretched of the earth” in Asia, South America, and Africa, the prevalent “food crisis, this profound “humanitarian catastrophe,” is witness to the abyss capitalism has dragged the world into.

It is now time to deliver from this crisis of capitalism and imperialism a democratic-revolutionary front of all the oppressed peoples for national and social emancipation.

*This paper was delivered by the author during the Third International Assembly of the League of Peoples’ Struggle held from June 18-20, 2008 in Hong Kong.

OceanaGold gives up Didipio project

December 20, 2008

BAGUIO CITY — A mining company is temporarily giving up its operations in Didipio, Kasibu town in Nueva Vizcaya, saying the global financial meltdown has affected its business decisions.

OceanaGold, in a media advisory, announced Monday it has “placed the Didipio Gold-copper project in Nueva Vizcaya on care and maintenance following the completion of the strategic review that began in July.”

Admitting it has been affected by the deteriorating global financial crisis, OceanaGold’s CEO Stephen Orr said the global economic conditions require prudent measures to secure and preserve its assets in the Philippines.

“We recognize the inherent value that the Didipio project and our exploration portfolio in the Philippines represent for shareholders but the uncertainty around current financial markets dictates that we affect this strategy,” Orr said.

The company will focus on its New Zealand gold operations it expects to increase production in the fourth quarter of 2008, where the production is predicted between 280,000 to 300,000 ounces priced at US$475 per ounce.

“In these uncertain times, we are focused on maximizing revenue and reducing expenditures to further strengthen the Company’s financial position for the near-term,” Orr said.

Meanwhile, Kalikasan-PNE said OceanaGold’s admission of poor economic condition is “proof that their operations were not economically feasible as the company had projected in the past.”

But the group said the greater factor that led to the company’s failure is the growing resistance and opposition against OceanaGold by the local communities.

“Since the early stage, the indigenous peoples in Nueva Vizcaya have been opposing the project of OceanaGold. The community resistance further escalated due to the human rights violations, landgrabbing, economic displacement and environmental destruction done by OceanaGold in the process of developing its project,” Kalikasan-PNE’s Clemente Bautista said.

In fact, he said, the failure of OceanaGold and of other mining projects such as the Rapu-rapu Polymetallic Project in Albay province are “just a couple of illustrations of how mining corporations and activities are bound to collapse due to the fervent opposition of the people, backed up by the present global situation.”

“This should serve as a warning to other companies and investors, how they should think twice before planning to loot our country’s mineral wealth,” Bautista said.

OceanaGold is just one step shy from totally closing down. In the past, OceanaGold has loaned millions of dollars that have now become insurmountable for the company to repay. During its ‘care and maintenance’ stage, the company will only continue to incur and accumulate losses,”

OceanaGold currently operates in the South Island of New Zealand and in the Philippines. Company assets encompass New Zealand’s largest gold mine at Macraes, which includes the recently commissioned Frasers Underground operation, Reefton Gold Mine also in New Zealand and the Didipio Gold-Copper Project in north Luzon.

OceanaGold is listed on the Toronto, Australian and New Zealand stock exchanges under the symbol “OGC,” according to its media statement. # Northern Dispatch

On the November Elections and the Next Steps in Building the Anti-Imperialist Movement in the U.S.

December 4, 2008

In January, Barack Obama will become the 44th Commander-in-Chief of the U.S government, which controls and protects an empire of corporations, banks, military bases and occupying armies all around the world. Obama has reached this position by loyally serving this bipartisan system in the U.S. Senate and by being vetted, tested and auditioned over the past two years in running for the presidency. In the course of this, Obama convinced the majority of the U.S. capitalist class (his campaign contributions from Wall Street were twice as big as McCain’s) that he was the best candidate to take the reins of empire at a time when the U.S. is bogged down in two wars in the Middle East, and is in the midst of the biggest financial crisis since the Great Depression, with the worst effects on the lives of working people here and around the world yet to come.

BY DAVID PUGH
Collision Course Media
INTERNATIONAL
Posted by Bulatlat

On Nov. 4, 2008, millions of new voters stepped into political life with the hope that the traditional (as many put it) rich-white-male-Christian cultural monopoly on political power would no longer determine the conditions of life in the United States. These millions who stepped forward to be counted — young, poor, women, people of color, the wronged and abused, the falsely accused, sick and disabled, atheists, Muslims, Buddhists, and progressive Christians, displaced, evicted, and laid-off, and other “outcasts” and have-nots — were repelled by that de facto oligarchy, which had, they felt, excluded them. The Bush regime had arrogantly and unsuccessfully led that traditional elite for 8 years of widening wars and monstrous economic crises, which drew widespread domestic and global anger and condemnation. With high hopes, the millions of new voters were joined by millions of others who were trying to find a way out of the mess that this system has been making of their lives and of the world. Black people, Latinos, other people of color, workers, and youth stepped out of the shadows of solitude and “making do” and into political life, albeit within the confines of a presidential election.

By and large, these millions are responding to the promise of access, of open doors. They bring with them the worries and concerns and angers of their lives—of the wars being waged on false pretenses, of the worsening conditions of life. These are the issues they bring with them, though solutions to these issues were not on the electoral table.

On the night of November 4, hundreds of thousands in cities around the U.S. celebrated their success in electing the first Black president and the fact that millions of whites moved past the racist fears and codewords that have habitually set the boundaries of political life.

But to move forward, celebrations must turn to sober, straight talk.

The interests around which Barack Obama and the Democratic Party leadership have coalesced, despite the campaign banner of “change”, are the interests of the rich and the privileged, even as more wars are looming and the economics of the capitalist system here and worldwide are dragging the lives of millions into deeper crisis.

In January, Barack Obama will become the 44th Commander-in-Chief of the U.S government, which controls and protects an empire of corporations, banks, military bases and occupying armies all around the world. Obama has reached this position by loyally serving this bipartisan system in the U.S. Senate and by being vetted, tested and auditioned over the past two years in running for the presidency. In the course of this, Obama convinced the majority of the U.S. capitalist class (his campaign contributions from Wall Street were twice as big as McCain’s) that he was the best candidate to take the reins of empire at a time when the U.S. is bogged down in two wars in the Middle East, and is in the midst of the biggest financial crisis since the Great Depression, with the worst effects on the lives of working people here and around the world yet to come. For them, Obama is a reliable and safe bet to protect their interests. The fact that Obama will be the first Black president is an undeniable asset for the rulers of the U.S. It symbolizes a shift in the overtly racist practices of the country, but not one substantive enough to overcome the built-in tilt and nature of the system.

In fact, while millions have stepped forward under the banner of “Change”, these millions have the challenge to shape the political terrain for the period ahead. Because if left to Obama and the Democratic Party, the base of support for imperialism will not be challenged, but broadened.

What can we expect from an Obama administration? Will Obama be a new face on the same old stuff, or will there be substantial differences?

The capitalist system requires more than a new face. From it’s new CEO and Congress, the system will require more regulation, more government intervention, more international coordination and multilateral, not unilateral, aggression and occupations. It needs more “partnerships” with compliant regimes in semi-colonies and dependent countries in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Therefore, we should:

• Expect a U.S. military surge into the killing fields of Afghanistan to protect a government of US-backed warlords from rival fundamentalists, and another surge across the border into Pakistan. This is one promise that Obama is not likely to break.

• Not expect the return of US troops from Iraq, though there will be “redeployments” and further privatizations of the military. Barack Obama has backtracked from his anti-war promises early in the campaign. He will keep tens of thousands of military advisers, trainers, contractors and bases in Iraq, with large numbers of combat troops stationed in neighboring countries. Obama will send US troops from Iraq to Afghanistan.

• Not expect the withdrawal of U.S. troops, advisers and military
bases from the Philippines, Colombia and other global hotspots where
the U.S. imperialists have important economic and strategic interests.

• Expect an Obama presidency–as he pledged to AIPAC– to continue all-out U.S. support for the state of Israel and its brutal military occupation of the land and people of Palestine.

• Not expect the dismantling of the newly formed U.S. military command for Africa (AFRICOM), which is headed by a Black general. Expect expansion of this invasive hegemonic re-colonization program.

Expect that even with a Black president at the helm, there will be no high level assault of the myriad forms of white supremacy that are woven into the capitalist system. Police brutality and the criminalization of Black youth, unemployment rates of 20% and higher in Black communities, re-segregation of schools, ICE raids and deportations aimed at Mexican and other immigrant communities–all of this will continue and even worsen no matter who is president. During his campaign, Barack Obama even denied that the system of white supremacy exists. In an attempt to prevent severe disruptions and the unraveling of the imperialist political-economic-social order, President Obama will promote a seemingly “post-racial” “multi-cultural-ism” that dismisses the profound oppression and exploitation of millions of Black and Latino people as a thing of the past—or as a product of their own making and failings. And he will couple this with a xenophobic appeal that “we’re all in this together”, and blame the crisis that “we Americans” suffer, on the people of the world.

• Expect continued class polarization. Obama’s support for the $700 billion bailout of banks and financial institutions is a clear indication of where his class loyalties lie. More multi-billion dollar bailouts for banks and big corporations lie ahead. With foreclosures, evictions, credit card defaults, unemployment and poverty on the rise, Obama and the Democrats are talking about palliative measures that will not even begin to address the depths of the crisis.

• Expect austerity programs and cuts in social spending in the years ahead. It will be Obama’s job to sell them to Black, Latino, Asian and white working people in the name of national unity and shared sacrifice.

• Not expect strong support for same sex marriage or women’s rights. Barack Obama is opposed to same sex marriage. Obama supports Roe v. Wade but is trying to find “common ground” with anti-choice activists. We cannot expect Obama’s nominees to the Supreme Court to be jurists who take a firm stand for a woman’s right to an abortion unless there is a determined mobilization by pro-choice and progressive forces to make him and the Democrats do so.

On the positive side, this presidential campaign has swept a new generation into political life and has remade the political stage in many ways. Particularly among this new generation, the Obama campaign and election has generated great hopes and expectations, but inevitably the orientation of the new administration toward politics acceptable to the privileged will heighten the burden on the broad masses of Blacks, Latinos/Chicanos and whites, workers and youth.

As this happens, those who have indulged in uncritical exuberance at the election, will come to realize that the “Obama checks” they have written are being returned for “insufficient funds.”

In the meantime, anti-imperialists must resolve to not give the new administration a pass or a honeymoon. The times require us all to focus and develop the People’s Agenda for educating, organizing and mobilizing in the period ahead, including these issues:

The struggle against War and Empire—from Iraq to Afghanistan and Pakistan, Philippines and Colombia, to ending the thousand US military bases around the world, ending the occupation of Palestine, and upholding the sovereignty of all indigenous and colonized peoples. Support people’s struggles against displacement & for the right to return—in the Gulf Coast, the inner cities, and around the world!

The struggle for Justice—from demanding privacy rights, to demanding full rights for immigrants and organizing to stop ICE raids, to ending the criminalization of youth and the massive imprisonment of millions, to defending the reproductive rights of women, the human rights of LGBTQ communities (people with all sexual orientations), and ending forever the policies of torture, indefinite detentions and rendition. Stop police abuse and racial profiling! Free All Political Prisoners!

The struggle for decent lives—demand complete and universal health care, education, housing, and decent jobs for all. Fight all layoffs, deportations, evictions, foreclosures and utility shutoffs. Demand rollbacks in the price of food, rent, and fuel. Fight for unhindered rights of access to technology, to people’s history, people’s culture, and complete and unrestricted rights to organize, to associate, to protest, to travel–and for the right to organize for self-defense against the rising “backlash” and ongoing tide of racist attacks.

Tremendous challenges and opportunities await struggling people throughout the United States. We must join together to overcome the challenges ahead and seize the opportunities to create the just world we need. Posted byBulatlat.com

Labor Migration in the Philippines: A Dangerous Doctrine

November 12, 2008

The more the economy is stagnant, the less its ability to create jobs, the more dependent government becomes on overseas labor deployment.

By the Policy Study, Publication and Advocacy (PSPA) Program  |  Center for People Empowerment in Governance (Cenpeg)

If the state policy making and legislative agenda do not change course, the whole nation will wake up one day to find that remittances accumulated through off-shore migration or labor exportation have become government’s No. 1 pillar of economic sustainability. Right now, foreign trade and investment – steered by neo-liberal globalization – and reliance on overseas development assistance are the first two pillars, followed by the export of Filipino labor. The state policy of globalization as specified by privatization, liberalization, deregulation, and labor-only contracting binds the three major pillars together.

Labor migration has become the safety valve to the country’s unemployment crisis and a major source of foreign exchange: It has surged way past the domestic job market as the remaining option for many Filipinos. In 2000 alone, more than 800,000 Filipinos were deployed abroad while only less than 200,000 were effectively added to the domestic labor market.(1) As unemployment has worsened under the Arroyo administration compared to the past 50 years some 3,000 Filipinos leave the country every day for overseas jobs – or a total of more than 1 million every year. With remittances growing by the year – 14.4 billion US dollars in 2007 constituting 10 percent of the country’s GDP – the government target is to increase labor migration to 2 million by 2010.(2) And the government is determined to meet the target: From January to April this year there were 516,466 migrant workers deployed thus raising the daily departure to 4,314 from last year’s 3,000.

In fact remittances sent by overseas Filipinos have outstripped both foreign direct investment (FDI) and overseas development assistance (ODA) which have declined in the past several years. FDI was 2.93 billion US dollars in 2007 but minus payments to loans the actual investment inflows fell by 69.3 percent to only 341 million US dollars. Last year’s 14.4 billion US dollars remittances is equal to 25 percent of the total ODA received by the Philippines – that is, in 20 years or from 1986-2006 (39.9 billion US dollars).

In general, last year global foreign remittances already totaled thrice the amount of aid given by donor countries to developing nations: 300 billion US dollars against 104 billion US dollars . No wonder labor migration is now being trumpeted by the United Nations and other multilateral organizations as a centerpiece program for developing economies.

For a government whose economic policy is subordinated to bitter policy prescriptions of the IMF and WB and adherence to the World Trade Organization (WTO), the Arroyo regime’s agenda to make labor migration as a major source of government income received a boost from no less than UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon. Speaking before the Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) on Oct. 29 in Manila, Ban Ki-moon, who is also South Korea’s former foreign minister, hailed migration as “a tool to help lift us out the (current global) economic crisis …(where) countries can draw the greatest possible development benefits.”

A model for migration

Organizers of GFMD chose Manila as the forum venue on account of the Philippines’ being a role model for labor migration among developing countries and chiefly because of the remittances accruing from foreign employment. Of some 8.2 million Filipinos(3) living and working in more than 193 countries/territories around the world, 43 percent are permanent immigrants while the rest or 4.7 million are temporary or contract workers. The Philippines is one of the leading sources of migrant labor in the world market. But it tops in the deployment of caregivers and domestics, 90 percent of them women, as well as in nurses, seafarers (30 percent of the world supply), and other medical workers and professionals.

Hypocritically since the Marcos years, the government denies the existence of a labor export policy. What it cannot hide however is the existence of a government infrastructure developed since the Marcos years that gives prime attention to the export of Filipino workers and professionals. This infrastructure promotes and processes out-migration, exacts – extorts, if you will – various exorbitant fees from outgoing OFWs, accredits recruitment agencies, provides skills training and immigration lectures, and supposedly earmarks benefits for the migrant workers and their families. This bureaucracy, which is headed by the President, includes the labor department’s Philippine Overseas Employment Agency (POEA), Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC), Technical Education and Skills Authority (TESDA), and the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) with its office of migrant affairs and various Philippine Labor Offices (POLOS) based in many countries.

The government also sends several high-level missions every year to market Filipino labor abroad while job fairs for overseas employment are constantly held at home. Before it hosted the GFMD, Arroyo officials joined the first annual Transatlantic Forum on Migration and Integration (TFMI) held last July in Germany. Last month, President Gloria M. Arroyo signed into law the controversial Japan Philippine Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA) which increases the number of Filipino nurses and caregivers deployable to Japan in exchange for relaxing restrictions to the latter’s exports and investments in the country.

No domestic economy

The promotion of labor out-migration is driven by the fact that the country does not have a viable domestic economy to speak of – an economy that generates adequate jobs to its people. Despite government land reform, 70 percent of agricultural land remains in the hands of landlords leaving the country’s millions of farmers unproductive and without a stable income. Instead of basic industries, what the country has are globally-integrated assembly lines or repackaging plants that exploit labor with low wages and lack of job security because of government’s labor contracting policy.

Moreover, labor wages are frozen low in order to attract foreign investment. It is the same policy that government promotes abroad to market Filipino skills in the form of caregivers, construction workers, and other workers. Filipino seafarers are preferred by international shipping companies because the government tolerates the low wages paid them even if monthly benchmark salaries are higher.

Attribute all these to government’s adherence to neo-colonial and now neo-liberal policies which open the country’s weak economy to unrestricted foreign trade and investment threatening not only the productive livelihoods of many Filipinos but also resulting in the shutdown of small industries. Neo-liberal policies exacerbate poverty and unemployment and are generally counter-productive in terms of building a self-sustaining economy and giving jobs.

Epic proportions

With some 4 million jobless Filipinos and another 12 percent underemployed, unemployment under Arroyo has worsened – in epic proportions since the last 50 years. Thus out-migration is a safety valve to the unemployed, including thousands of professionals – the last exit from a country that is about to implode in a social unrest. Labor out-migration has also become a political tool of sorts used by the regime to arrest a growing restlessness – if not discontent – among the people against a corrupt and weak government for its inability to provide jobs and a better future for its people. Yet while its economic management increasingly relies on foreign remittances the government has not seriously taken steps to safeguard the rights of OFWs and improve their labor conditions. For instance, of 193 destination countries for Filipino workers the country has only a handful of bilateral labor agreements.

The more the economy is stagnant, the less its ability to create jobs, the more dependent government becomes on overseas labor deployment. What government cannot provide it sells in the world market to help sustain the economies of advanced countries – that bear constant crisis anyway – and the domestic needs of their ageing populations. But this is dangerous, and not only because even before the government would take this extreme option the whole economy would have collapsed. It will erode the urgency for drastic policy reform and new governance and it will calm the people into complacency and defeatism. Or it can be used by the government to evade comprehensive policy reform that would make the economy more responsive to the basic social and economic rights of the people.

But in the first place what can we expect from a government that persists in the doctrine established by previous regimes embedding economic policies to global, transnational business perspectives? Instructive at this point is a critique of the GFMD by the parallel International Assembly of Migrants and Refugees (IAMR)(4) last week: The GFMD and the UN secretary general’s pro-migration declaration “arose in the midst of the worsening world economic crisis – where far more advanced…countries are fighting their way out of this crisis even as they retain their…control and power, while poverty, unemployment, and underdevelopment continue to aggravate the lives of peoples of Third World countries.”

__________________________________________


End notes

(1) S.P. Go, “Remittances and International Labor Migration: Impact on the Philippines,” Metropolis Inter-Conference Seminar on Immigration and Homeland, May 9-12, 2002, Dubrovnik.

(2) Migrant labor remittances do not include those brought home directly by vacationing Filipinos or by door-to-door transactions, thus the total remittances could be more. In 2007, it is estimated to be as much as $18 billion.

(3) According to the government Commission on Filipino Overseas (CFO, 2008). Other estimates put the number at 10 million in nearly 197 countries.

(4) Held also in Manila on Oct. 28-30, 2008, the IAMR was organized by Migrante International together with the International Migrants Alliance (IMA), IBON Foundation, and other groups.

Why Soldiers Rape: Culture of Misogyny, Illegal Occupation Fuel Sexual Violence in Military

November 1, 2008

The view of women as sexual prey has always been present in military culture. Indeed, civilian women have been seen as sexual booty for conquering soldiers since the beginning of human history. So, it should come as no surprise that the sexual persecution of female soldiers has been going on in the armed forces for decades.

BY HELEN BENEDICT
In These Times http://www.inthesetimes.com/article/3848/
INTERNATIONAL
Posted by Bulatlat

An alarming number of women soldiers are being sexually abused by their comrades-in-arms, both at war and at home. This fact has received a fair amount of attention lately from researchers and the press – and deservedly so.

But the attention always focuses on the women: where they were when assaulted, their relations with the assailant, the effects on their mental health and careers, whether they are being adequately helped, and so on. That discussion, as valuable as it is, misses a fundamental point. To understand military sexual assault, let alone know how to stop it, we must focus on the perpetrators. We need to ask: Why do soldiers rape?

Rape in civilian life is already unacceptably common. One in six women is raped or sexually assaulted in her lifetime, according to the National Institute of Justice, a number so high it should be considered an epidemic.

In the military, however, the situation is even worse. Rape is almost twice as frequent as it is among civilians, especially in wartime. Soldiers are taught to regard one another as family, so military rape resembles incest. And most of the soldiers who rape are older and of higher rank than their victims, so are taking advantage of their authority to attack the very people they are supposed to protect.

Department of Defense reports show that nearly 90 percent of rape victims in the Army are junior-ranking women, whose average age is 21, while most of the assailants are non-commissioned officers or junior men, whose average age is 28.

This sexual violence persists in spite of strict laws against rape in the military and a concerted Pentagon effort in 2005 to reform procedures for reporting the crime. Unfortunately, neither the press nor the many teams of psychologists and sociologists who study veterans ever seem to ask why.

The answer appears to lie in a confluence of military culture, the psychology of the assailants and the nature of war.

Two seminal studies have examined military culture and its attitudes toward women: one by Duke University Law Professor Madeline Morris in 1996, which was presented in the paper ‘By Force of Arms: Rape, War, and Military Culture’ and published in Duke Law Journal; and the other by University of California professor and folklorist Carol Burke in 2004 and explained in her book, Camp All-American, Hanoi Jane and the High-And- Tight: Gender, Folklore and Changing Military Culture (Beacon Press). Both authors found that military culture is more misogynistic than even many critics of the military would suspect. Sometimes this misogyny stems from competition and sometimes from resentment, but it lies at the root of why soldiers rape.

One recent Iraq War veteran reflected this misogyny when he described his Marine Corp training for a collection of soldiers’ works called Warrior Writers, published by Iraq Veterans Against the War in 2008:

The [Drill Instructor’s] nightly homiletic speeches, full of an unabashed hatred of women, were part of the second phase of boot camp: the process of rebuilding recruits into Marines.

Morris and Burke both show that military language reveals this ‘unabashed hatred of women’ all the time. Even with a force that is now 14 percent female, and with rules that prohibit drill instructors from using racial epithets and curses, those same instructors still routinely denigrate recruits by calling them ‘pussy,’ ‘girl,’ ‘bitch,’ ‘lady’ and ‘dyke.’ The everyday speech of soldiers is still riddled with sexist insults.

Soldiers still openly peruse pornography that humiliates women. (Pornography is officially banned in the military, but is easily available to soldiers through the mail and from civilian sources, and there is a significant correlation between pornography circulation and rape rates, according to Duke’s Morris.) And military men still sing the misogynist rhymes that have been around for decades. For example, Burke’s book cites this Naval Academy chant:

Who can take a chainsaw
Cut the bitch in two
Fuck the bottom half
And give the upper half to you?

The message in all these insults is that women have no business trying to be soldiers. In 2007, Sgt. Sarah Scully of the Army’s 8th Military Police Brigade wrote to me in an e-mail from Kuwait, where she was serving:

‘In the Army, any sign that you are a woman means you are automatically ridiculed and treated as inferior.’

Army Spc. Mickiela Montoya, who was in Iraq for 11 months from 2005-2006, put it another way:

‘There are only three things the guys let you be if you’re a girl in the military: a bitch, a hoor a dyke. One guy told me he thinks the military sends women over to give the guys eye candy to keep them sane. He told me in Vietnam they had prostitutes, but they don’t have those in
Iraq, so they have women soldiers instead.’

The view of women as sexual prey has always been present in military culture. Indeed, civilian women have been seen as sexual booty for conquering soldiers since the beginning of human history. So, it should come as no surprise that the sexual persecution of female soldiers has been going on in the armed forces for decades.

* A 2004 study of veterans from Vietnam and all wars since, conducted by psychotherapist Maureen Murdoch and published in the journal Military Medicine, found that 71 percent of the women said they were sexually assaulted or raped while serving.

* In 2003, a survey of female veterans from Vietnam through the first Gulf War by psychologist Anne Sadler and her colleagues, published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine, found that 30 percent said they were raped in the military.

* And a 1995 study of female veterans of the Gulf and earlier wars, also conducted by Murdoch and published in Archives of Family Medicine, reported that 90 percent had been sexually harassed, which means anything from being pressured for sex to being relentlessly teased and stared at.

* A 2007 survey by the Department of Veterans Affairs found that homelessness among female veterans is rapidly increasing as women soldiers come back from Iraq and Afghanistan. Forty percent of these homeless female veterans say they were sexually abused while in the service.

Defense Department numbers are much lower. In Fiscal Year 2007, the Pentagon reported 2,085 sexual assaults among military women, which given that there are about 200,000 active-duty women in the armed forces, is a mere fraction of what the veterans studies indicate.

The discrepancy can be explained by the fact that the Pentagon counts only those rapes that soldiers have officially reported.

Having the courage to report a rape is hard enough for civilians, where unsympathetic police, victim-blaming myths, and the fear of reprisal prevent some 60 percent of rapes from being brought to light, according to a 2005 Department of Justice study.

But within the military, reporting is much riskier. Platoons are enclosed, hierarchical societies, riddled with gossip, so any woman who reports a sexual assault has little chance of remaining anonymous. She will probably have to face her assailant day after day and put up with resentment and blame from other soldiers who see her as a snitch. She risks being persecuted by her assailant if he is her superior, and punished by commanders who consider her a troublemaker. And because military culture demands that all soldiers keep their pain and distress to themselves, reporting an assault will make her look weak and cowardly.

For all these reasons, some 80 percent of military rapes are never reported, as the Pentagon itself acknowledges.

This widespread misogyny in the military actively encourages a rape culture. It sends the message to men that, no matter how they feel about women, they won’t fit in as soldiers unless they prove themselves a ‘brother’ by demeaning and persecuting women at every opportunity. So even though most soldiers are not rapists, and most men do not hate women, in the military even the nicest guys succumb to the pressure to act as if they do.

Of the 40 or so female veterans I have interviewed over the past two years, all but two said they were constantly sexually harassed by their comrades while they were serving in Iraq or Afghanistan, and many told me that the men were worse in groups than they were individually.

Air Force Sgt. Marti Ribeiro, for example, told me that she was relentlessly harassed for all eight years of her service, both in training and during her deployments in 2003 and 2006.

I ended up waging my own war against an enemy dressed in the same uniform as mine. I had a senior non- commissioned officer harass me on a regular basis. He would constantly quiz me about my sex life, show up at the barracks at odd hours of the night and ask personal questions that no supervisor has a right to ask. I had a colonel sexually harass me in ways I’m too embarrassed to explain. Once my sergeant sat with me at lunch in the chow hall, and he said, ‘I feel like I’m in a fish bowl, the way all the men’s eyes are boring into your back.’ I told him, ‘That’s what my life is like.’

Misogyny has always been at the root of sexual violence in the military, but two other factors contribute to it, as well: the type of man who chooses to enter the all-volunteer force and the nature of the Iraq War.

The economic reasons behind enlistment are well understood. The military is the primary path out of poverty and dead-end jobs for many of the poor in America. What is less discussed is that many soldiers enlist as teenagers to escape troubled or violent homes.

Two studies of Army and Marine recruits, one conducted in 1996 by psychologists L.N. Rosen and L. Martin, and the other in 2005 by Jessica Wolfe and her colleagues of the Boston Veterans Affairs Health Center, both of which were published in the journal Military Medicine, found that half the male enlistees had been physically abused in childhood, one-sixth had been sexually abused, and 11 percent had experienced both. This is significant because, as psychologists have long known, childhood abuse often turns men into abusers.

In the ’70s, when the women’s movement brought general awareness of rape to a peak, three men – criminologist Menachim Amir and psychologists Nicholas Groth and Gene Abel – conducted separate but groundbreaking studies of imprisoned rapists. They found that rapists are not motivated by out-of-control lust, as is widely thought, but by a mix of anger, sexual sadism and the need to dominate – urges that are usually formed in childhood. Therefore, the best way to understand a rapist is to think of him as a torturer who uses sex as a weapon to degrade and destroy his victims. This is just as true of a soldier rapist as it is of a civilian who rapes.

Nobody has yet proven that abusive men like this seek out the military – attracted by its violent culture – but several scholars suspect that this is so, including the aforementioned Morris and Rutgers University law professor Elizabeth L. Hillman, author of a forthcoming
paper on sexual violence in the military. Hillman writes, ‘There is the possibility that the
demographics of the all-volunteer force draw more rape- prone men into uniform as compared to civil society.’

Worse, according to the Defense Department’s own reports, the military has been exacerbating the problem by granting an increasing number of ‘moral waivers’ to its recruits since 9/11, which means enlisting men with records of domestic and sexual violence.

Furthermore, the military has an abysmal record when it comes to catching, prosecuting and punishing its rapists. The Pentagon’s 2007 Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military found that 47 percent of the reported sexual assaults in 2007 were dismissed as unworthy of investigation, and only about eight percent of the cases went to court-martial, reflecting the difficulty female soldiers have in making themselves heard or believed when they report sexual assault within the military. The majority of assailants were given what the Pentagon calls ‘nonjudicial punishments, administrative actions and discharges.’ By contrast, in civilian life, 40 percent of those accused of sex crimes are prosecuted.

Which brings us to the question: Do the reasons soldiers rape have anything to do with the nature of the wars we are waging today, particularly in Iraq?

Robert Jay Lifton, a professor of psychiatry who studies war crimes, theorizes that soldiers are particularly prone to commit atrocities in a war of brutal occupation, where the enemy is civilian resistance, the command sanctions torture, and the war is justified by distorted reasoning and obvious lies.

Thus, many American troops in Iraq have deliberately shot children, raped civilian women and teenagers, tortured prisoners of war, and abused their own comrades because they see no moral justification for the war, and are reduced to nothing but self-loathing, anger, fear and hatred.

Although these explanations for why soldiers rape are dispiriting, they do at least suggest that the military could institute the following reforms:

* Promote and honor more women soldiers. The more respect women are shown by the command, the less abuse they will get from their comrades.

* Teach officers and enlistees that rape is torture and a war crime.

* Expel men from the military who attack their female comrades.

* Ban the consumption of pornography.

* Prohibit the use of sexist language by drill instructors.

* Educate officers to insist that women be treated with respect.

* Train military counselors to help male and female soldiers not only with war trauma, but also with childhood abuse and sexual assault.

* Cease admitting soldiers with backgrounds of domestic or sexual violence.

And last – but far from least – end the war in Iraq.

[Editor’s note: This article is adapted from The Lonely Soldier: The Private War of Women Serving in Iraq, to be published by Beacon Press in April 2009.]

Helen Benedict, a professor of journalism at Columbia University, is author of several books concerning social justice and women. Her writings on women soldiers won the James Aronson Award for Social Justice Journalism in 2008.

Halloween 2008 – The Horror of Foreclosures

November 1, 2008

As Halloween neared in 2006, the looming mortgage crisis was already apparent and now two years later the horror of it all hasn’t gone away. It keeps getting worse. We’ve spent the last few months talking about the possibility that two million people might lose their homes by early next year. Now it turns out the total for this year and the next could turn out to be more than six million.

BY CARL BLOICE
BlackCommentator.com
INTERNATIONAL
Posted by Bulatlat

As Halloween neared in 2006, the looming mortgage crisis was already apparent and now two years later the horror of it all hasn’t gone away. It keeps getting worse. We’ve spent the last few months talking about the possibility that two million people might lose their homes by early next year. Now it turns out the total for this year and the next could turn out to be more than six million. August saw a record number of homeowners in distress, over 300,000 homes were at some stage of mortgage default and 91,000 families or individuals lost their homes, Further, about 12 million homeowners – one out of every six – are reported to have zero or negative equity in their homes.

An estimated 7,000 people are losing their homes every day.

The number are scary enough but it’s not hard to imagine the fear and anxiety that grips the individuals and families that have lost, or are about to lose, their living space and with it – for most – their financial resources built up over their working lives. Millions of people who have never missed a mortgage payment are threatened with the loss of the value of their homes. As economist Dean Baker recently noted, ‘A whole cohort of workers is now facing retirement with no wealth.’

‘The landscape looks like the Roman Empire after being attacked by Attila the Hun,’ Alan Mallach, a senior fellow at the National Housing Institute and former visiting scholar at the Federal Reserve of Philadelphia, told The Washington Independent earlier this month. ‘It’s really bad out there.’

It was Alan Greenspan, the former head of the Federal Reserve and someone who played a major role in getting us into this mess, who said increasing, home ownership was a way of giving people a stake in the economy and to secure their loyalty to it. Home possession has been touted as a key element in the Bush Administration’s supposed ‘ownership society.’ Today, many of those caught in the vise of the ‘credit crunch’ are feeling left out of the economy, abandoned as the powers-that- be scamper around trying to save the banking system.

And, it’s not just homeowners that are affected.

When the sheriff in Chicago recently announced he was suspending evictions of people being ordered out of their dwelling it was mostly renters he was concerned about, people living in apartment buildings that had been foreclosed upon. ‘You can decide who is right
or wrong here, but the fact is things are getting desperate out there for a lot of people,’
commented CNN anchor Campbell Brown, referring to the sheriff’s decision’ but ‘families are being literally kicked to the curb. And our national leaders, our politicians in Washington and our presidential candidates don’t seem at all close to figuring this out.’

Without question, everybody – homeowners, renters and the dispossessed –has a stake in the efforts to stave off a further deterioration in the country’s economy. Still, we must look on with dismay as official Washington turns a blind eye to this burgeoning foreclosure catastrophe. ‘Between the Fannie and Freddie rescue and the Paulson Plan,’ one official told me, ‘we probably own two-thirds of the mortgages in America,’ wrote Robert Kuttner, co-editor of the American Prospect magazine October 8. ‘But `we’ in this case is the Treasury Department, peopled by former officials of Goldman Sachs, who demonstrate far less concern for the distressed homeowners than for the bondholders.’

As the powers-that-be steadfastly fail to summon up the political will (courage) to effectively confront the foreclosure crisis, efforts are being stepped up to divert attention from its actual cause and direct blame away from those responsible. The most pernicious of these efforts is the assertion that working class people of color are responsible for the situation.

‘A funny thing has happened on the way to the forum,’ wrote Sasha Abramsky in the Guardian (UK) last week. ‘As the institutions of super-capitalism continue to implode, a number of conservative commentators have started to lay the blame for the mess on poor people. Now, that might seem strange given that poor people control approximately no major financial institutions. And it might seem unfair in light of the unprecedented redistribution of wealth away from the working and middle classes and toward the wealthy these past several years.’

‘It might even seem bizarre given the fact that millions of desperate men and women signed onto utterly manipulative, usurious, `creative’ mortgages during the sub-prime gold-rush years, and, as a result, ended up losing what little capital they had accumulated over lifetimes of hard work as well as losing the roofs over their heads. To stretch a point, one could even view such a suggestion as offensive, since so many banks got into trouble by bundling mortgage securities that only preserved their value and generated profits so long as enough poor people signed on for the ride and agreed to be screwed.’

But it’s even more pernicious than that. Every since I begin writing about mortgages and foreclosures two years ago, I have received warnings from readers that some people were trying to blame African Americans and other people of color for the mortgage mess. Over
time, the spread of that racist canard has picked up steam. In the final days of the Presidential campaign it has become standard fare in propaganda of the political rightwing and the Republican Party. Through some strange demented logic, some on the right have tried to blame the economic meltdown on immigrant workers.

Let’s be clear: working class African Americans, Latinos and Asians are not the source of this crisis; they are its victims. The perpetrators of the massive con game played with the nation’s economy at stake are the banks and mortgage companies and the agencies of
government that encouraged them in their nefarious activity. President Bush was only partly right; the country didn’t ‘build too many houses,’ it built more houses than people could afford and the only way to get people to purchase them was to entice or trick them
into credit arrangements that could not be sustained.

And make no mistake about it, black people were targeted for ’subprime’ mortgages. Even when they could afford better loan terms they were often directed toward the riskier variety because these were more profitable for the creditors and their agents. ‘Let’s get real here,’ wrote Abramsky. ‘People borrowed because they were presented with offers they couldn’t
refuse. They were told that home ownership was the path to prosperity, and, like everyone else, they wanted their chance to realize their dreams. When they held back from buying property, they found the decks stacked against them. The same people who urged deregulation of the mortgage industry also lobbied for an end to rent controls and curtailments of government-funded public housing.’

Did some people sign up for loans they had no intention of repaying? Yes. Did some people take out risky mortgages for on property they didn’t inhabit for speculative reasons (something that was also touted as a smart move)? Yes. Did some people say yes to the
wink and nod of the mortgage brokers who agreed to don’t- ask-don’t-tell transactions, which were laughingly called ‘liars’ loans’ by the people in the real estate offices? Yes, but they are a tiny portion of the people who, today, see their total personal wealth being foreclosed on. Blaming the millions of individual and families facing foreclosures for their own plight is obscene.

It has begun to dawn on some people that ironic as it may seem, coming to the aid of those facing foreclosures and evictions is a mandatory step in staving off any further collapse of the nation’s economy.

As economist Mark Weisbrot of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, recently noted, ‘Falling house prices are driving the collapse of the financial system.’ But the recently passed bailout legislation ‘does little to avert the defaults and foreclosures that are pushing house values ever downward. Leaving these Americans out of the bailout bill is unwise and unfair, but neither Congress nor the Bush administration has ever shown anywhere near the sense of urgency to rescue homeowners at the bottom of the collapse as they have for the financiers at the top of it.’

‘If a quick consensus is required, why not include provisions to stop the source of bleeding, to aid the millions of Americans that are losing their homes?’ wrote economist Joseph Stiglitz October 1 in a TheNation.com article: ‘Here’s a Better Bailout Plan.’ ‘Why not spend as much on them as on Wall Street? Do they still believe in trickle-down economics, when for the past eight years money has been trickling up to the wizards of Wall Street? Why not enact bankruptcy reform, to help Americans write down the value of the mortgage on their overvalued home? No one benefits from these costly foreclosures.’

‘It’s unacceptable that lawmakers have yet to come out squarely in favor of bold homeowner relief in the bailout bill,’ The New York Times said editorially last month as the Department of the Treasury bailout bill was making it torturous way through Congress.
‘Secretary Henry Paulson, the biggest advocate of bailing out Wall Street, is also a big roadblock to helping hard-pressed borrowers. He wants to keep relying on the mortgage industry to voluntarily rework troubled loans, even though that approach has failed to
stem the foreclosure tide – and does a disservice to the taxpayers whose money he would put at risk in the bailout.’

‘Many of the assets that Mr. Paulson wants to buy with the $700 billion have gone sour because they are tied to mortgages that have defaulted or are at risk of default. Unless homeowners get some help – and it’s a pittance compared to what Mr. Paulson wants to give to bankers – the downward spiral of defaults, foreclosures and tumbling home prices will continue, which could push down the value of those assets even further.’

‘We could make a strong moral argument that the government has a greater responsibility to help homeowners than it does to bail out Wall Street. But we don’t have to. Basic economics argues for a robust plan to stanch foreclosures and thereby protect the taxpayers’ $700 billion investment.’

‘Millions of Americans are losing their homes.

(Already, some 3.6 million have done so since the subprime-mortgage crisis began.), notes economist, Joseph Stiglitz, in a very illuminating article in the November edition of Vanity Fair magazine. He goes on to write, ‘Financial markets produced loans and other products that were so complex and insidious that even their creators did not fully understand them; these products were so irresponsible that analysts called them `toxic.’ Yet financial markets failed to create products that would enable ordinary households to face the risks they confront and stay in their homes.’

And, ‘Throwing the poor out of their homes because they can’t pay their mortgages is not only tragic – it is pointless. All that happens is that the property deteriorates and the evicted people move somewhere else. The most coldhearted banker ought to understand
the basic economics: banks lose money when they foreclose – the vacant homes typically sell for far less than they would if they were lived in and cared for. If banks won’t renegotiate, we should have an expedited special bankruptcy procedure, akin to what
we do for corporations in Chapter 11, allowing people to keep their homes and re-structure their finances.’

Meanwhile, the worldwide economic meltdown continues.

As MIT Professor Noam Chomsky has observed, ‘The immediate origins of the current meltdown lie in the collapse of the housing bubble supervised by Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, which sustained the struggling economy through the Bush years by debt-based consumer spending along with borrowing from abroad. But the roots are deeper. In part they lie in the triumph of financial liberalization in the past 30 years –
that is, freeing the markets as much as possible from government regulation.’

Halloween 2007 was the day the world stock markets peaked and it’s been more-or-less downhill every since.

At the start of September, John Authors, investment editor for the Financial Times, wrote, ‘Before Halloween closes the door on October, investors can be forgiven for thinking the horror show engulfing equities has yet to climax.’ (BlackCommentator.com/posted by (Bulatlat.com)

BlackCommentator.com Editorial Board member Carl Bloice is a writer in San Francisco, a member of the National Coordinating Committee of the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism and formerly worked for a healthcare union. http://www.blackcommentator.com/295/295_lm_halloween_2008.html

Greenspan Concedes Error on Regulation

October 30, 2008

In his prepared remarks, Alan Greenspan, considered as the infallible maestro of the financial system, said he was in “a state of shocked disbelief” about the breakdown in the ability of banks to regulate themselves. He also warned about the economic consequences of the crisis, saying that he “cannot see how we will avoid a significant rise in layoffs and unemployment.” Consumer spending will decline, too, he said, adding that a stabilization of home prices would be necessary to bring the crisis to its end.

BY MICHAEL M. GRYNBAUM,
The New York Times/Truthout
INTERNATIONAL
Posted by Bulatlat

Facing a firing line of questions from Washington lawmakers, Alan Greenspan, the former Federal Reserve chairman once considered the infallible maestro of the financial system, admitted on Thursday that he “made a mistake” in trusting that free markets could regulate themselves without government oversight.

A fervent proponent of deregulation during his 18-year tenure at the Fed’s helm, Mr. Greenspan has faced mounting criticism this year for having refused to consider cracking down on credit derivatives, an unchecked market whose excesses partly led to the current financial crisis.

Although he defended the use of derivatives in general, Mr. Greenspan, who left office in 2006, told members of the House Committee of Government Oversight and Reform that he was “partially” wrong in not having tried to regulate the market for credit-default swaps.

But in a tense exchange with Rep. Henry A. Waxman, the California Democrat who is chairman of the committee, Mr. Greenspan conceded a more serious flaw in his own philosophy that unfettered free markets sit at the root of a superior economy.
“I made a mistake in presuming that the self-interests of organizations, specifically banks and others, were such as that they were best capable of protecting their own shareholders and their equity in the firms,” Mr. Greenspan said.

Referring to his free-market ideology, Mr. Greenspan added: “I have found a flaw. I don’t know how significant or permanent it is. But I have been very distressed by that fact.”
Mr. Waxman pressed the former Fed chair to clarify his words. “In other words, you found that your view of the world, your ideology, was not right, it was not working,” Mr. Waxman said.

“Absolutely, precisely,” Mr. Greenspan replied. “You know, that’s precisely the reason I was shocked, because I have been going for 40 years or more with very considerable evidence that it was working exceptionally well.”
The oversight committee is holding hearings to determine what gaps in the regulatory structure abetted the crisis that has roiled the world’s financial markets.

Mr. Greenspan appeared alongside Christopher Cox, the chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, and John W. Snow, who served as secretary of the Treasury early in the Bush administration.

In his prepared remarks, Mr. Greenspan said he was in “a state of shocked disbelief” about the breakdown in the ability of banks to regulate themselves. He also warned about the economic consequences of the crisis, saying that he “cannot see how we will avoid a significant rise in layoffs and unemployment.” Consumer spending will decline, too, he said, adding that a stabilization of home prices would be necessary to bring the crisis to its end.

Saying that his thinking “has evolved” in the last year, Mr. Greenspan also defended his record. “In 2005, I raised concerns that the protracted period of underpricing of risk, if history was any guide, would have dire consequences,” he said. “This crisis, however, has turned out to be much broader than anything I could have imagined.” (Truthout/posted by (Bulatlat.com)

World Crisis to Adversely Affect China Too – Sison

October 30, 2008

The current GDP of China is reportedly already USD 3.251 trillion. But China is a huge country with a huge population of 1.33 billion. With a per capita income of only around US$ 2,700, China is still a very poor country, a far cry from the US per capita income of US$ 46,000 in 2007. China and the Philippines have per capita incomes of nearly $2,500 and $1,500, respectively in 2007. Both of them are still ranked below the more than 100 countries with higher per capita income and are among the poor countries of the world. But China has more capacity than the Philippines in coping with the crisis and will more than ever regard the Philippines as a profitable client in the vicinity.

BY NOEL SALES BARCELONA
Bulatlat

As the world’s stocks free fall and the world economy slides towards the brink of a recession comparable to the Great Depression of the 1930s, the Peoples’ Republic of China appears to be better prepared than others.

China’s economy grew by 9.9 percent during the first quarter of 2008. During the third quarter, growth only slipped to nine percent, with decreasing demand for Chinese exports being the main reason for the slide.

During the October 4 Kapihan sa Sulo on the melamine milk scandal involving China, Chito Sta. Romana, ABC television producer in Peking (Beijing), shared his insights not only about why the melamine milk scandal in China happened but also about China, its economy and politics.

Sta. Romana concluded that China is Leninist in politics but capitalist in its economy; US-Chinese relations are “tied on the hips”; the economy of China is now expanding and it’s tilting the balance in world economic affairs; and it wanted to bring more muscle to emerging economies in Asia like India and Indonesia so that the “monopoly” of power of America will be lessen or dispersed. Sta. Romana also said that China doesn’t want to become an imperialist, like the US.

Bulatlat interviewed Jose Maria Sison, founding chairman of the Communist Party of the Philippines, regarding his views on China and his comments on the insights shared by his former comrade Chito Sta. Romana.

Bulatlat: Is there such a thing as capitalist-Leninist China?

Sison: The expression “capitalist-Leninist” is an oxymoron. Indeed, China’s economy is capitalist. But it is not Leninist in politics because state power is not in the hands of the working class.

Bulatlat: How do you see the current relationship between China and the US, both in economy and polity? Sta. Romana said, they’re “tied on the hips.”

Sison: In a sense, the two countries are “tied on the hips”. They can gyrate together in the current global economic and financial crisis. China has become dependent on exports to the US, which are now hard hit by the contraction of US consumer demand. And the values of China’s US dollar holdings, US treasury bills and bonds, US corporate bonds and securities are seriously undercut and damaged by the current crisis.

Bulatlat: By 2010 or maybe later, China’s economy is projected to amount more than US$3 trillion. Considering this, what would be the effect of China on the global economy and the capitalist system?

Sison: The current GDP of China is reportedly already USD 3.251 trillion. But China is a huge country with a huge population of 1.33 billion. With a per capita income of only around US$ 2,700, China is still a very poor country, a far cry from the US per capita income of US$ 46,000 in 2007. China and the Philippines have per capita incomes of nearly $2,500 and $1,500, respectively in 2007. Both of them are still ranked below the more than 100 countries with higher per capita income and are among the poor countries of the world.

Bulatlat: Do you believe that China will become a superpower, economically and politically, while it is said to be “refusing to deploy its army the world over” unlike what the US has done? Or is China now a superpower?

Sison: China has a weak economic base for becoming a superpower. Its military strength is limited to a defensive position. In fact, it is the object of military containment as well as economic engagement by the US.

Bulatlat: What do you think would be the moves of the Chinese government with regards the conflicting claims on the Spratly islands? Sta. Romana was quoted as saying that the Chinese government is now willing to buy the islands for US$2 billion or more.

Sison: The Chinese government seems to prefer the diplomatic approach within the ASEAN-China framework of constructive dialogue and cooperative relations regarding the Spratlys. However, the high bureaucrats and big compradors of China and the Philippines are constantly cooking up deals. The rulers of the Philippines are unprincipled and corrupt enough to sell Philippine interest in the Spratly islands to foreign buyers.

Bulatlat: What do you think of the melamine-tainted milk scandal now hounding China, especially since two milk products, which were found to be toxic, Yili and Mengniu were produced by state corporations?

Sison: The most unscrupulous and worst kinds of capitalist criminals are bred in countries in which capitalism has emerged from the dismantling of socialism by corrupt bureaucrats and their partners in the so-called free market. The US food monopolies have seized the melamine incidents to discourage the purchase of Chinese products in the global market.

Bulatlat: Please give your forecast on the effects of the global economic turmoil and the fast-growing Chinese economy on the Philippines and the Philippine revolution.

Sison: The global economic and financial crisis will worsen at least in the next two years and may extend to as long as 10 years. The Chinese economy will be adversely affected. But China has more capacity than the Philippines in coping with the crisis and will more than ever regard the Philippines as a profitable client in the vicinity.

The worsening crisis generates conditions favorable for the advance of the Philippine revolution. (Bulatlat.com)

Financial meltdown and the madness of imperialism

October 23, 2008

Written by Raymond Lotta
Tuesday, 14 October 2008

“The past 10 days will be remembered as the time the US government discarded a half-century of rules to save American financial capitalism from collapse.”

David Wessel, economics editor, Wall Street Journal, March 27, 2008

“Be greedy when others are fearful.”

Warren Buffet, leading investment capitalist, quoted by The Economist, April 5, 2008

[To the possessor of money capital] “the process of production appears merely as an unavoidable intermediate link, as a necessary evil for the sake of money-making. All nations with a capitalist mode of production are therefore seized periodically by a feverish attempt to make money without the intervention of the process of production.”

Karl Marx, Capital, Volume II, “The Circuit of Money Capital”

The US economy is experiencing the most wrenching financial turmoil since the Great Depression of the 1930s. Global markets have been reeling — as massive loans have turned bad, speculative bubbles have popped, and giant financial institutions have tottered.

Financial turbulence originating in the US has slowly expanded and worsened. There is now a global credit crisis. Banks and financial institutions are weighed down by huge losses caused by “non-performing loans.” Lending channels are choked up, as lenders are being called to pay back their loans, to clean up their balance sheets, and fearful that they are “throwing good money after bad” and won’t be paid back. There is real danger of a breakdown of the financial system. The new president of the International Monetary Fund has stated that the current turmoil poses the greatest financial crisis since the 1930s.[1]

The US has been at the center of what is now a global financial storm. Bear Stearns, one of the largest and oldest investment banks in the US, collapsed in mid-March. The Federal Reserve Bank — which regulates and lubricates the US banking system, and which also plays a special role in the world capitalist economy — has stepped in on an unprecedented scale.

The Federal Reserve took responsibility for $30 billion of basically worthless assets held by Bear Stearns. This paved the way for another financial titan, JP Morgan Chase, to take over the firm. In addition, the Federal Reserve has injected huge amounts of funds into the financial system to ward off additional bank failures and to restore international confidence in the US economy and to prevent the financial crisis from becoming a total financial breakdown.

Fortune magazine in its April 14 issue analyzes the stakes this way:

“The fear — a justifiable one — is that if one big financial firm fails, it will lead to cascading failures throughout the world. Big firms are so interlinked with one another and with other market players that the failure of one large counterparty, as they’re called, can drag down counterparties all over the globe. And if the counterparties fail, it could down the counterparties’ counterparties, and so on.” [2]

PART I. A FIRST CUT: UNFOLDING OF THE CRISIS

The financial tornado gathered force in the spring of 2007, starting in the housing sector. The housing boom of the last few years was a boom in mortgage finance. Lenders, and these were not neighborhood finance companies or street-corner usurers but big corporate financial giants, were seeking to make big profits from their ability to tap into foreign capital flooding into the US over the last decade. The Federal Reserve accommodated and encouraged this by keeping interest rates low.

A. Subprime Lending

Enter the world of subprime lending. Subprime loans are loans made to borrowers who would not qualify for a prime mortgage — because they might have “bad credit histories,” etc. And these loans were aggressively marketed, pushed on people through all kinds of deceitful means, with Black and Latino households disproportionately targeted and victimized (see Revolution, “Subprime Mortgage Crisis,” April 13, 2008).

The originators of these subprime loans, along with various financial middle-men, then “securitized” these loans. This means they combined these loans into larger groups of loans, turned them into complex financial products, and then sold them on financial markets. They sought to maximize fees and to “transfer risk” by quickly selling off these loans to other banks and institutional investors (like mutual and pension funds, university endowments, etc.).

But as housing prices turned down and as interest rates went up, homeowners (or those who thought they were homeowners) found themselves strapped with adjustable mortgages requiring larger payments. And many could not afford payments. This triggered a wave of defaults. Investors and institutions that had purchased these mortgage securities (loans that had been grouped into bonds returning interest) found themselves with billions of dollars of near worthless assets. The financial insurers of these loans, yet another layer of “financial middle-men,” could not cover the risks and damage.

B. Global Financial Shocks

In the summer of 2007, fears of big financial losses caused stock market indexes around the world to plummet, including those in the rapidly growing regions of the Third World.

A financial contagion was taking hold.

Over a trillion dollars of funds from around the globe — with much of this from Asia and oil-exporting countries — were invested in the US subprime market. The collapse in the value of mortgage and credit instruments originating in the US weakened the financial balance sheets of banks and other overseas holders of these investments and set off tremors. For instance, in Great Britain, there was a run on the Northern Rock bank; a German bank required a bailout; and a leading French bank was hit hard.

At the same time, financial institutions in the US and elsewhere holding securities of crumbling or dubious value sought to strengthen their overall financial positions. They not only had to “write down,” that is, greatly reduce the value of the bad (“nonperforming”) loans they held. They also had to sell off “healthier” holdings in other parts of the world (investments unrelated to the subprime activities) in order to meet immediate financial commitments. And these sell-offs have had their own destabilizing global repercussions. This was especially the case last year in the stock markets of the Third World.

C. New Dangers and New Risks

By March 2008, the prices of stock of the big Wall Street players involved in this investment activity, firms like Goldman Sachs and Merrill Lynch, had fallen by some 40 percent. And since the onset of the credit crisis, financial institutions in the US have “written down” more than $230 billion in mortgage loans and other assets.[3]

The Federal Reserve has moved to head off financial panic and to stimulate growth. But these moves have aroused new fears in the still unsettled world financial markets. Why?

There are concerns about the Federal Reserve’s and US Treasury’s ability to absorb what might amount to be hundreds of billions of dollars in bad investments. There are concerns about the ability of the Federal Reserve to pump huge amounts of funds into the US financial system to keep it afloat. There are concerns that short-term and ad hoc efforts to slash interest rates and bail out financial firms may stoke inflation and further weaken the dollar.

This dimension of the crisis, the fragility of the dollar, looms large. It has everything to do with empire. The international role of the dollar — as the world’s leading currency for settling transactions, clearing debts, and holding foreign exchange reserves — is a linchpin of US global supremacy. It is also a linchpin of the whole current global economic order.

But the dollar has been battered in international currency markets. In the last few months, it has sunk to new lows against the euro (the currency used in most of Western Europe), against the Japanese yen, and against the Swiss franc.

Now the dollar has declined considerably in value relative to other major currencies since 2000. But this has been cushioned, managed, and kept functional by the ability of the US economy to attract huge amounts of foreign exchange and foreign capital into financial markets, especially to finance US Treasury debt.

And one of the “disaster scenarios” most worrisome to US imperialist policy makers is the danger of a global run on the dollar: private investors and central banks of other countries unloading their dollar holdings for stronger currencies.

D. A Reflection: Transparency and Anarchy

In early April, on the eve of a gathering of the world’s finance ministers and treasury officials, the International Monetary Fund issued a report on the financial damage caused by the collapse of the housing and credit markets. It warned that financial institutions worldwide might face losses approaching $1 trillion over the next two years. [4] This calculation is far above what had been previously estimated. And according to some financial analysts, even this is a gross understatement.

The free market is extolled by bourgeois ideologues for its “transparency.” This is the idea that markets, prices, and interest rates convey all necessary information: about supply, efficiency, choice, and reward.

But one of the distinguishing features of this crisis is the incredible and pervasive lack of knowledge among lenders, borrowers, traders, and insurers about the quality and backing of what they borrow from others… and even of what they lend to others! Things are obscured, covered up, and very opaque.

  • There is the anarchy of capitalism, as giant agglomerations of capital battle others for market share and profits, and pursue competitive strategies that have unforeseen effects on the larger system.
  • There is the emergence of a newer banking system operating parallel to the older commercial banks. These are the so-called hedge funds, private equity firms, and investment banks. They move huge amounts of capital in and out of financial markets to take advantage of momentary and slight changes in bond prices, interest rates, and currency exchange rates. They borrow against assets that have a shadow existence, far removed from the actual production of value. They have led in creating new financial instruments, in which all kinds of loans of varying risk are bundled together into interest-yielding bonds and the like. And this newer banking system operates in a more unregulated environment than do the commercial banks.
  • This is a highly competitive, turbo-charged financial world, where huge blocks of capital seek quick gains at the expense of others. In this setting, speculation, fraud, and deception become part of survival strategies. One example of this in the unfolding of the financial crisis: financial agencies that rate the risk of things like mortgage-backed securities earn higher fees for providing favorable ratings on these new “financial products.” So they lied and deceived investors about real risk. This led to mis-pricing and to baseless expectations of return on investments.

E. A Reflection: A House … Is Not Always a House

As we descend from the skyscrapers of finance to ground level, the human toll comes into clearer view. At the start of 2008, nearly 1.3 million homes in the US were in some phase of foreclosure. That works out to more than one in every 100 US households. According to Moody’s Economy.com: “not since the Depression has a larger share of Americans owed more on their homes than they are worth.” [5]

Think about it. Something as basic and essential as shelter is commodified. A house becomes an investment; its purchase underwritten by tradable financial instruments; and the lure of homeownership then engulfed by the devastating trade winds of the market. And what happens? People’s savings are wiped out. Their creditworthiness is damaged if not destroyed. And many face the prospect of homelessness.

The problem is not that people don’t need houses. Nor is it that society doesn’t have the resources or knowledge to build houses. The problem is that capital stands as a barrier to meeting human need.

PART II: A SECOND CUT: DEEPER CAUSES AND IMPLICATIONS

Where all this financial turmoil might lead cannot be predicted. A gigantic, speculative credit bubble has burst. Problems in US lending markets and the US banking system have brought on an economic slowdown in the US This in turn is triggering a global slowdown. Consumer goods exporters of Asia that have relied heavily on trade with the US are especially vulnerable. And so too are countries in Eastern Europe that have borrowed heavily to finance growth.

Here is one tiny snapshot of the fallout and pain from the financial crisis. The US housing slump has led to the loss of some 100,000 construction jobs, many that had been filled by undocumented immigrants. That has dramatically slowed the growth of money sent back home by these workers. After nearly quadrupling to $24 billion in 2006 from $6.6 billion in 2000, these earnings sent home grew only 3 percent in 2007, the slowest rate of growth in 20 years. [6] Families in Mexico have come to depend on these remittances for food and clothing and other basic essentials.

The buildup and collapse of this latest speculative bubble, and intensifying financial fragility that could lead to massive breakdown, are in fact outward expressions of deeper processes and transformations at work in the world capitalist economy.

We need to take a step back.

A. Globalization and Financialization

For the last 15 years, world capitalist expansion has pivoted on a particular international dynamic and structure. This has involved heightened financialization and parasitism in the advanced capitalist countries — with the United States at the epicenter of this process; and the fuller integration of low-cost, export-producing countries of the Third World into the world capitalist market — with China at the epicenter of this process.

The turning point in this process was the collapse of the social-imperialist Soviet Union in 1990-91. With the implosion of the Soviet bloc, the main geopolitical obstacle to US imperialist freedom of action was removed. At the same time, and very much in connection with this, imperialist globalization accelerated. (This is analyzed in considerable depth in Notes on Political Economy: Our Analysis of the 1980s, Issues of Methodology, and the Current World Situation, 2000, RCP Publications.)

Over the last 15 years, a globally integrated cheap-labor manufacturing economy, with huge labor reserves from China, India, and other parts of the Third World, along with labor from the former Soviet bloc, has been forged. The globalization of production has had enormous effects on world accumulation: raising profitability for imperialist capital, acting to compress wages, and lowering inflationary pressures. The integration of cheap-labor manufacturing into world production is now so deep that in the US, fully half of imports (mostly consumer goods) come from the Third World.

A revealing statistic: a University of California study looked into who gains when an iPod manufactured by national firms in China is sold in America for $299. Only $4 stays in China with the firms that assemble the devices, while $160 goes to American companies that design, transport, and retail iPods. [7]

When we speak of capitalist accumulation, we are referring to the competitive production of surplus value (the source of profit) based on the exploitation of wage labor; and the investment and reinvestment of profit on an expanding, cost-cheapening, and technologically more productive basis.

When we speak of “financialization,” we are referring to three particular features of the larger structure of capitalist accumulation in this period of imperialist globalization: a) the growing political and economic power of the financial layers of the capitalist class; b) the vast expansion of financial activities and of financial services, like organizing and financing corporate takeovers, insuring investments against risk, creating new financial instruments, etc.—activities in which profit-making involves the siphoning, centralization, and reinvestment of surplus value through financial channels; and c) the increasing separation of finance from production.

This process of financialization has gone the furthest in the United States, and it is a major factor in US imperialism’s ability to preserve and extend its dominance in international financial markets. [8]

Financialization is also a means through which wealth, and effective control over productive forces, is centralized by the imperialist countries — even as production has grown more geographically dispersed and increasingly carried out within subcontractural networks in the Third World.

Financialization involves efforts to squeeze out more “value” from already created value. One measure of this is that in 2006, the daily volume of trading in foreign exchange markets and in derivatives (financial instruments) added up to $11.4 trillion — which almost equals the annual value of global merchandise exports that year. In terms of the shifts in the structure of the US economy, the financial sector’s share of total corporate profits has risen from 8 percent in 1950 to 31 percent last year. [9]

B. Financialization and Production

As far removed as finance may be from processes of production, and as elaborate and multi-layered as its operations have become, finance cannot break free of the sphere of production. Even as it objectively seeks to do so — and even as the disjuncture between the two spheres (production and finance) grows — it is the underlying conditions and profitability of production that set the overall conditions for the accumulation of capital.

Imperialism is a worldwide system of production and exchange. It is the structure of social production —it is the global production of surplus value based on exploitation of people — that is at the foundation of this whole system. And in relation to the production of surplus value, “financialization” is both parasitic and functional. It is parasitic in the sense that financialization drains value from production.

But financialization is functional to the workings of global capitalism in the sense that it facilitates the gathering of money capital into ever-larger agglomerations of capital and finds new profit-yielding channels in which to rapidly invest it … and just as quickly to withdraw it! Global capital faces all kinds of financial uncertainties and risks on its competitive global playing field as it moves through different channels, or circuits, of production. And the “risk-management” techniques provided by the global financial system are actually vital to the accumulation of capital, to the success of “risk-taking,” in the turbo-charged globalized economy. [10] That’s why, for example, money jumps into Thai real estate markets one day, and pulls out and goes into ethanol production in Brazil the nex t…  and then back to mortgage securities.

And there is something else: the inflows and outflows of short-term and speculative capital also act as a perverse means of imposing discipline on and restructuring capitals — a major manufacturing firm can be starved of credit or threatened with a leveraged buyout. And this kind of “financial discipline” has been imposed on whole countries in the Third World—aided, abetted, and orchestrated by the US-dominated International Monetary Fund.

All this is part of the reason that financial instability is a constant feature of capitalism in its more globalized and financialized forms of existence.

Financialization and the globalization of production have been tightly bound up with each other. It can be put this way: there is a relationship between sweatshop labor in Guangdong province in China, the recycling of China’s export earnings into the US Treasury and US financial markets, and the credit-financed expansion in the US of the last decade. Or, to put it more graphically, there is a link between the agony of superexploited labor in the bowels of the new industrial zones of the Third World, the feverish search for high and quick returns at the top of the financial pyramids, and the chaos of the housing markets with people losing their homes in the US.

This is an extreme concentration of the nature of world capitalism. This world is highly bound together by production, trade, and finance. The requirements of life (consumer goods) and the requirements of production (machines and raw materials, etc.) are socially produced, that is, they involve the collective and interconnected efforts of wage-laborers in factories, warehouses, and so forth. But this wealth, the technology and means of producing it, and knowledge itself—all this is privately controlled and deployed by a small capitalist class.

C. Barriers, Contradictions, and Shifting Tectonic Plates

What we are witnessing now is that a particular dynamic of growth, marked by intensified financialization, is generating new contradictions and new barriers to sustained accumulation.

The level of debt to economic output in the US is at an all-time high. The financing of the trade and government deficits of US imperialism (that is, providing credit for purchases of imports and having investors buy Treasury debt) depends on a steady and growing inflow of capital from abroad. But the weakening of the dollar and the emergence of competitor currencies, like the euro, increasingly threatens these mechanisms. And very crucial to this has been the process where dollars earned by countries like China through trade with the US, are then recycled back into the US economy through purchase of Treasury bonds and other investments.

In the US, the financial sector is seriously strained and is a flashpoint of heightened global financial instability, if not breakdown, leading to a major economic slump.

Here we come to a basic point of this analysis: A financial crisis has broken out because of the severe imbalances built up between the financial system — and its expectations of future profits — and the accumulation of capital, that is, the structures and actual production of profit based on exploitation of wage-labor.

The imperialist state is intervening to head off further damage and to discipline and restructure the financial system. But the very complexity of the “financial packages” created during the speculative boom — with their bundled-up loans and long strings of finance — are producing new challenges for policy-makers. As one Yale economist put it, perhaps unintentionally echoing a phrase from Marx: “like the sorcerer’s apprentice, we have created things we do not understand and cannot easily control.”11

This explosive uncertainty is developing against a larger international canvas. Major shifts are taking place in the world capitalist economy. The European market recently eclipsed the US market in size. China’s growing demand for raw materials to fuel its export economy is making it a new player in the scramble for resources and control over them. And China’s increasing importance as a supplier of capital to the US is giving it new leverage. Russia is reemerging as a world imperialist player, owing in part to its vast energy reserves and rising oil and gas prices.

At the same time, and at this very moment of financial crisis, US imperialism’s freedom of maneuver is severely hobbled — and this includes its ability to stimulate the economy through fiscal and monetary policy. The United States has never run such large current account deficits and no single country’s deficit has ever bulked as large relative to the global economy.

D. The Military Fix

Which brings us to one of the “dirty little secrets” of the financial crisis: the military needs and the military costs of empire…and “greater empire.”

There is a brute fact of imperialist accumulation. The whole imperialist system rests on the domination of vast swaths of the globe through savage force, with the US military colossus playing a special role. The US military helps “create the conditions” for US domination, pro-US client regimes in the Third World, and conditions for investment by US corporations.

In the Bush era, US imperialism has been attempting to parlay its military might into a new world order. This involves a restructuring of global political and production relations that will enable it to resolve or mitigate some of the problems and tensions it faces — and to lock in its global supremacy over rivals and potential rivals for decades to come.

The US share of world production has declined to about 20 percent, down from 30 percent forty years ago. But US imperialism is compensating for this by pressing its military advantage as sole imperialist “superpower” (since the collapse of the Soviet Union).

In a recent study, Chalmers Johnson has calculated that defense-related spending for fiscal 2008 will exceed $1 trillion for the first time in history. Leaving out the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, defense spending has doubled since the mid-1990s. [12]

Militarization is also embedded in the US economy. It is a key structural component of growth, scientific research, and technological prowess of US imperialism. And because of its sheer size, it also plays a role in the attempts of the US imperialist state to “manage” and stimulate the economy.

But the recent wave of militarization has put enormous financial strains on US imperialism. It has produced huge deficits that cannot be sustained without the inflow of capital into the US And the wars for “greater empire” are incurring astronomically greater costs than military and government planners had anticipated. Not least because of the setbacks and difficulties US imperialism has encountered in Iraq and Afghanistan.

This is a sharp contradiction for US imperialism — because in many ways it is staking the future of empire on these wars; but these wars have become more costly to wage. And it is the height of hypocrisy for Democrats to now blame the Iraq war for financial crisis — as they consistently voted for war-spending authorizations, to the tune of $500 billion.

PART III: CONCLUSION

This is a financial crisis of historic proportions. And like many other events in the world, this crisis points to the fundamental irrationality and cruelty of the system. It also shows the vulnerability of imperialism to sharp turns that could open up new possibilities for revolutionary advance.

But things unfold in complex, unpredictable, and historically conditioned ways. And as serious and potentially destabilizing as this crisis may become, it is also possible that US imperialism could turn this crisis to its advantage.

We live in an age of “endless war” and environmental devastation. We live in an ever-more globalized capitalist system that thrives on the toil and agony of the great bulk of humanity but that cannot escape the anarchy that lies at its very foundations.

There is necessity and freedom for the imperialists. And so too for the people.


Footnotes

[1] Quoted in Steven R. Weisman, “Financial Regulators Suggest Tighter Controls,” The New York Times, April 12, 2008.

[2] Allan Sloan, “On the Brink of Disaster,” Fortune, April 14, 2008, p. 82. A useful discussion of derivatives, hedge funds, and the like is found in “The Predators’ Ball Resumes: Financial Mania and Systemic Risk,” Interview with Damon Silvers, Multinational Monitor, May-June 2007.

[3] S. Tully, “What’s Wrong With Wall St. and How to Fix It,” Fortune, April 14, 2008, p. 72; Reed Abelson and Louise Story, “G.E. Earnings Drop, Raising Broader Fears,” The New York Times, April 12, 2008.

[4] Sean Farrell, “Financial turmoil could cost $1trn, warns IMF as global growth comes under threat,” Independent.co.uk, April 9, 2008.

[5] Data from RealityTrac.com, January 29, 2008; Moody’s Economy.com, Feb. 21, 2008.

[6] The New York Times, Jan. 24, 2008.

[7] Cited in Charlemagne, “Winners and losers,” The Economist, March 1, 2008, p. 56.

[8] Among informative studies of financialization, neoliberalism, and dollar hegemony are David Harvey, A Brief History of Neoliberalism (London: Oxford, 2005); Andrew Glyn, Capitalism Unleashed (London: Oxford, 2006); Kevin Phillips, American Theocracy (New York: Viking, 2006); Ramaa Vasudevan, “Finance, Imperialism, and the Hegemony of the Dollar,” Monthly Review, April 2008; and C.P. Chandrasekhar, “Continuity or Change? Finance Capital in Developing Countries a Decade after the Asian Crisis,” Economic and Political Weekly, Dec. 15, 2007.

[9] See Chandrasekhar, “Continuity or Change,” pp. 37-38; The New York Times, Dec. 11, 2007.

[10] On financialization as a means to contain financial disorder and to impose neoliberal discipline, see Christopher Rude, “The Role of Financial Discipline in Imperial Strategy,” in Leo Panitch and Colin Leys, eds., Socialist Register 2005: The Empire Reloaded (London: Merlin Press, 2004). [back]

[11] David Dapice, “Bad Spell on Wall Street,” Policyinnovations.org, January 24, 2008. [back]

12. Chalmers Johnson, “Why the US has really gone broke,” mondediplo.com (English edition), February 5, 2008.

[This articles was also published (on April 18, 2008) on countercurrents.org. Raymond Lotta is author of the books, America in Decline and Maoist Economics and the Road to Revolutionary Communism.]

Mula US hanggang RP: Krisis sa balikat ng bayan

October 21, 2008

Ilang-Ilang D. Quijano

KAHIT ipinasa ng Kongreso ng US ang $700 Bilyong piyansa para sa nagbagsakang higanteng mga bangko at institusyong pampinansiya sa US, naniniwala ang mga eksperto sa ekonomiya na magtatagal ang pandaigdigang krisis pang-ekonomiya. Isinalba, pansamantala, ang mga “haligi ng kapitalismo.” Pero pinangangambahang magdurusa – sa kagyat at pangmatagalan – ang mga mamamayan hindi lamang ng US kundi ng mundo, kabilang ng Pilipinas.

Pinuri ni Pang. Arroyo ang bailout o Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 na pinirmahan ni US Pres. George W. Bush noong Oktubre 3. Aniya’y unang hakbang ito sa “mahabang daan” patungo sa pagnormalisa ng mga merkadong pinansiyal. Inudyok niya ang mga mamamayan na “manatili sa landas” habang inaasikaso ng kanyang administrasyon ang mga hakbang para mapangalagaan ang ekonomiya ng bansa.

Pero hindi nagiging matapat ang administrasyong Arroyo sa mga epekto sa mga mamamayan ng tinataguriang “pinakamatinding krisis ng sistemang kapitalismo” sa loob ng 80 taon. Ang inilatag ding mga plano ng kanyang pangkat pang-ekonomiya ay hindi batayang mga repormang pang-ekonomiya, kundi “mala-Bush” na mga solusyong ikalulugi ng mga mamamayan para sa ganansiya ng mga dati nang nakikinabang sa sistema.

Nawala ‘na parang bula’

Positibo si Sek. Margarito Teves ng DoF (Department of Finance) na makatutulong ang bailout para maiwasan ang pandaigdigang resesyon na pinangangambahan maging ng IMF (International Monetary Fund). Ayon sa IMF, may 25 porsiyentong tsansa na bumaba sa tatlong porsiyento ang tantos ng paglago (growth rate) ng pandaigdigang ekonomiya sa 2008 at 2009 o katumbas ng resesyon.

Gayunpaman, ayon kay Paul Quintos, ekonomista at executive director ng Eiler (Ecumenical Institute for Labor Education and Research), pumasok man sa pandaigdigang resesyon o hindi, tiyak ang “pagbagal ng produksiyon, paglaki ng disempleyo, pagtumal ng pamilihan, at pagtindi ng kahirapan ng mga mamamayan.”

Dulot ang pagkabangkarote ng tatlo sa limang pinakamalaking bangko sa pamumuhunan – Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, at Merrill Lynch – ng pagputok ng artipisyal na bula sa real estate. Para lumobo ang halaga ng pag-aaring pampinansiya ng US at makapag-engganyo ng pagkonsumo, nag-alok ang malalaking bangko ng US ng mababang interes sa mga pautang sa pabahay. Inengganyong mangutang maging ang maliliit lamang ang kita batay sa pinalobong halaga ng isinanglang mga bahay nila (tinatawag na subprime mortgages). Pero nakapako naman ang sahod kaya’t nabigong makapagbayad ang karamihan simula noong 2006.

Unti-unting nalugi ang mga bangko at institusyong pampinansiya di lamang sa US kundi sa buong daigdig na sumugal sa di-kontroladong ispekulasyon. Noong Setyembre 30, naganap sa 30 bansa ang pinakamatarik na pagbagsak ng stock market sa kasaysayan. Sa tantiya ng IMF, aabot sa US$ 945-B ang halaga ng pagkalugi at pagbagsak ng halaga ng mga pag-aari sa US (asset write-downs). Sa iba pang pagtantiya, ayon kay Quintos, maaaring umabot sa $30 Trilyon ang kabuuang halagang “mawawala nang parang bula” sa buong daigdig dahil sa yumanig na krisis.

Malawakang tanggalan

Pagyayabang noong una ni Nestor Espenilla, deputy governor ng Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, di-gaanong apektado sa krisis ang lokal na merkadong pinansiyal. Umano’y isang porsiyento lamang ng buong sistema ng pagbabangko sa Pilipinas ang US$ 386 Milyon na exposure sa Lehman Brothers ng pitong bangko at kaya ng mga itong tumindig sa sariling mga paa.

Pero sa press briefing sa Malakanyang kamakailan, sinabi ni Sek. Ralph Recto ng National Economic Development Authority na magiging mas matumal kaysa inaasahan ang buong takbo ng ekonomiya. Mula sa growth target sa GDP na 5.5 hanggang 6.4 porsiyento ngayong taon, naging 4.4 hanggang 4.9 porsiyento na lamang. Ibig sabihin, mas malalim at malawak ang mga epekto sa lokal na ekonomiya ng pandaigdigang krisis pampinansiya kaysa nais aminin ng administrasyong Arroyo.

Noong Agosto 2007 nang unang pumutok ang krisis sa subprime ng US, nawala ang P2-T na halaga-sa-papel ng sapi sa Philippine Stock Exchange, ayon kay Quintos. Sinabi rin niyang bumaba nang 12.3 porsiyento ang lakas ng piso laban sa dolyar ngayong taon at posibleng sumadsad muli sa P50 kada dolyar.

Higit pa sa negatibong epekto sa stock exchange at exchange rate ang inaasahang pagtumal sa pagpasok sa bansa ng dayuhang kapital at pagliit ng merkado para sa iniluluwas na mga produkto at serbisyo sa US. Paliwanag ni Quintos, “pinakamalalang maaapektuhan ng krisis ang mga bansang atrasado [gaya ng Pilipinas] na mahigpit na nakatali sa neokolonyal na relasyong pangkalakalan sa US.”

May 16 porsiyento ng kabuuang eksport ng Pilipinas ang napupunta sa US habang 70 porsiyento ang di-direktang napupunta dito sa pamamagitan ng ibang mga bansang Asya kung saan binubuo (ina-assemble) ang mga kasangkapan bago i-eksport din sa US, ayon sa datos ng Ibon Foundation. Dahil sa mas mahigpit na pagkokonsumo doon, inaasahang liliit ang US$ 9.4-B na direktang kinita mula sa mga eksport sa US noong 2007.

Inaasahan ding tutumal ang mga dayuhang pamumuhunan mula sa US sa pagmamanupaktura, BPO (Business Process Outsourcing), at serbisyong pampinansiya. May 20 porsiyento ito ng kabuuang FDI (foreign direct investment). Mula sa mga merkado sa US ang halos 90 porsiyento ng kita ng BPO na nakasentro sa mga call center.

Ipinagmamalaki pa naman ng administrasyong Arroyo na numero unong tagalikha ng trabaho ang mga Export Processing Zones at BPO. Pero pagsasara ng maliliit na negosyo at malawakang tanggalan ang nakaamba sa mga ito at iba pang apektadong industriya. Mula Hulyo 2007 (hudyat ng krisis sa subprime sa US) hanggang Hulyo 2008 na lamang, 125,000 manggagawa sa pagmamanupaktura ang tinanggal sa trabaho—inaasahang tataas ang bilang nila. Inaasahang apektado rin ang mga ahente ng call center na karamiha’y nasa National Capital Region.

Maging ang pagluwas ng mga OFW (Overseas Filipino Worker), inaasahang babagal. Sa buong mundo, ayon sa International Labor Organization, tinatayang limang milyong manggagawa ang mawawalan ng trabaho dahil sa pagtumal ng pandaigdigang ekonomiya. Noong nakaraang buwan, 159,000 manggagawa ang natanggal sa trabaho sa US—na ngayo’y makikipag-agawan pa ng oportunidad sa mga OFW at iba pang migrante doon.

“Malilimitahan ang bilang ng mga Pilipinong makakahanap ng trabaho sa ibang bansa, ” ani Quintos. Mangangahulugan umano ito ng mas kaunting remitans at mas matamlay ding konsumo sa Pilipinas dahil sa laki ng papel ng remitans sa lokal na ekonomiya.

Solusyon nga ba?

Umaasa ang administrasyong Bush na sasapat ang mahigit US$ 1.3-T inilaan nito para maisalba ang ekonomiya ng US mula sa pagkabangkarote ng malalaking institusyong pampinansiya. Bukod sa US$700-B bailout, naglagak ito ng US$ 29-B para bilhin ang Bear Stearns, US$ 200-B para isalba ang dalawang pinakamalaking nagpapautang sa pabahay na Freddie Mac at Fannie Mae, US$ 85-B para bilhin ang mayoryang kontrol ng papalubog na American Investment Group, at US$ 180-B para pasiglahin ang merkadong pinansiyal.

Umaani ng batikos ang administrasyong Bush dahil sa halip na parusahan ang “kasakiman” (greed) ng mga ispekulador, ginamit pa ang buwis ng mga mamamamayan para sagipin ang mga ito. Gaya ng kung paano, ayon sa Bayan (Bagong Alyansang Makabayan), ginamit ni Pangulong Arroyo ang VAT (Value-Added Tax) para pagtakpan ang palpak na mga polisyang pang-ekonomiya na nagdulot ng piskal na krisis noon. Ngayon, dagdag-buwis at iba pang pampasigla sa ekonomiya (fiscal stimulus) pa rin ang panukala ng administrasyong Arroyo para manatiling nakalutang ang ekonomiya ng bansa sa gitna ng pandaigdigang krisis pampinansiya.

Nanawagan si Teves sa Kongreso na ipasa ng Kongreso ang P1.4-T pambansang badyet na may nakalaang P147.5-B para sa imprastruktura. Ayon kay Recto, “Ang mantra ng Neda ay infra, infra, infra para mapaunlad ang growth rate ng ekonomiya.”

Gayunpaman, nasa depensiba ang gobyernong Arroyo sa paggastos ng pondo para sa imprastruktura na kilalang napupunta lamang sa korupsiyon. Kaya napilitan si House Espiker Prospero Nograles kamakailan na ihayag na hindi gagamitin ang pondo ng mga pulitiko para sa 2010 halalan, kasabay ng pagtatayo ng komite na magmomonitor nito. Tinitingnan naman ni Quintos na “pansamantala” ang epekto ng ganitong pampasigla sa ekonomiya.

Tinutulak din ng DoF ang mga panukalang batas para sa rasyunalisasyon ng insentibo sa buwis ng mga kompanya (fiscal incentives) at buwis sa sigarilyo at alkohol (sin taxes). Inaasahang kikita ng P10-B ang gobyerno sa una, at P12-B hanggang P25-B sa huli. Para pa rin sa dagdag-kita, agresibo nang ibinebenta ng gobyerno ang Petron Corp. at Philippine National Oil Corp. sa minimithing halagang P41-B.

Pero ayon kay Quintos, pabibilisin lamang nito ang pribatisasyon ng pinakamahahalagang asset ng gobyerno na ikadurusa rin ng mga mamamayan sa anyo ng mas mataas na presyo ng langis. Ibig sabihin din ng desididong tutok ng administrasyong Arroyo na pataasin ang kita ng gobyerno, malayong alisin nito ang VAT.

Repormang kailangan

Ngunit ayon sa Ibon Foundation, mas lalong nagiging makabuluhan ang panawagan at paglaban ng mga mamamayan para sa kagyat na lunas mula sa hagupit ng pandaigdigang krisis pampinansiya. Kabilang dito ang pag-alis sa VAT at P125 dagdag-na-sahod ng mga manggagawa.

Lalo pa at inaasahan umanong lumipat ang ispekulatibong kapital sa pangangalakal ng mga komoditi (commodities futures trading) gaya ng langis, mineral, at produktong pang-agrikultura na magtutulak pataas ng presyo ng pagkain at enerhiya. Ngayon pa lamang, dalawang-katlo (2/3) ng populasyon ng mundo ang dumaranas ng double-digit inflation at nasasadlak lalo sa kahirapan. Sa Pilipinas, 2.3 milyon ang nadaragdag sa mahihirap tuwing tataas nang 10 porsiyento ang presyo ng pagkain, ayon sa Asian Development Bank.

Sa halip na sa imprastruktura, bayad-utang, at sa militar mapunta ang kalakhan ng pambansang badyet sa susunod na taon, inirekomenda rin ng Ibon Foundation na ilagak ito sa kritikal na mga serbisyong sosyal na nakakatanggap lamang ng maliit na porsiyento gaya ng kalusugan (2.5 porsiyento), edukasyon (14.5 porsiyento), at pabahay (0.4 porsiyento).

Sinabi naman ni Quintos na ang pangmatagalang mga solusyon sa krisis ay ang “pagbasura sa mga patakarang neo-liberal,” “pagpapatupad ng tunay na repormang agraryo,” at “komprehensibong pambansang industriyalisasyon” na magpoprotekta sa Pilipinas mula sa mga kombulsyon sa sistemang kapitalista na pinaghaharian ng US.

Hanggang mailugar ang mga ito, babalikatin ng mga Pilipino, kasama ng iba pang mamamayan ng mundo, ang krisis ng kapitalismo na nagpapatuloy at tumitindi.(PinoyWeekly)

Governments bail out banks

October 13, 2008

Reuters
First Posted 20:59:00 10/13/2008

LONDON—Governments across the world launched multi-billion dollar bailouts on Monday to shore up tottering global banks and Britain called for a new Bretton Woods agreement to reshape the world financial system. The slew of bank bailouts worth hundreds of billions of dollars were designed to stave off the world’s worst financial crisis in nearly 80 years, accompanied by declining global economic growth and the threat of widespread recession.

“Only by global action can we fully restore the confidence that is needed and build the international financial order,” said British Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

He called on world leaders to create a new “financial architecture” to reflect the global reach of economics and banking, in much the same way that the current international economic system was set up at a conference in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, in 1944.

In the United States, focus was on Morgan Stanley, whose share price plunged 58 percent in the last week, after Japan’s Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group said on Monday it had invested $9 billion under revised terms, a move analysts said was likely to bolster still fragile market confidence.

Britain said it would spend up to 37 billion pounds ($63.95 billion) buying into top UK banks, making the UK government the biggest shareholder in Royal Bank of Scotland and the merged Lloyds TSB/HBOS.

France will use two entities to help banks overcome the financial crisis with one offering 300 billion euros in guarantees on interbank lending and the other a Є40 billion fund to take stakes in companies, media said.

Germany will launch a rescue plan including a fund to provide up to Є400 billion ($548.9 billion) in guarantees for banks, according to a draft bill seen by Reuters on Monday.

Bank guarantees provided by the fund will run until December 31, 2009, the draft bill showed.

And the Italian government was to meet later in the day to look at new measures for financial stability.

Japanese Finance Minister Shoichi Nakagawa, meanwhile, said his country would consider guaranteeing all bank deposits if necessary, news agency Jiji reported.

Both Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama and Republican counterpart John McCain were also preparing to roll out plans to rescue the country from economic uncertainty and rising joblessness.

Euro zone leaders held an emergency meeting on Sunday and French President Nicolas Sarkozy said people could expect a flurry of coordinated announcements from national capitals across Europe later on Monday.

In tandem on Monday, European central banks said they would lend out as much US dollar liquidity as commercial banks need in a further bid to tame money market tensions.

In a joint announcement with the US Federal Reserve, the European Central Bank, the Bank of England and the Swiss National Bank said they would meet all bids from commercial banks at a fixed interest rate.

Australia and New Zealand earlier guaranteed all bank deposits and Indonesia upped its guarantee to 2 billion rupiah ($203,000) while India pledged more liquidity to help financial markets.

Qatar launched a $5.3 billion plan to purchase shares of its listed banks. Saudi Arabia cut its lending rate on Sunday to provide liquidity to its banks and the United Arab Emirates guaranteed bank deposits.

The moves followed a weekend of crisis talks in the United States and Europe in which governments pledged to support the financial system, which has moved to the brink of collapse as it suffers from both steep losses in the credit market and a lack of trust in lending that has frozen the flow of capital.

The need for bailouts has become particularly trenchant against a background of a global economic slowdown, with many countries facing recession.

The crisis has swept across financial markets, sending many stock markets into free fall. MSCI’s main world stocks index, for example, has lost a quarter of its value since the beginning of October.

But equity investors appeared to be comforted by the government bailouts on Monday. The pan-European FTSEurofirst was up 5.2 percent and Asian shares outside of Japan, which was closed for a holiday, gained around 7 percent.

US stocks index futures pointed to similarly solid gains at the Wall Street open.

“We are arguably now near the end point in terms of the extremely violent sell off in equities and widening in spreads, said Sean Maloney, a bond strategist at Nomura.

Money markets — the heart of the credit crisis — eased but remained tight. Three-month dollar Libor fell to 4.75250 percent from 4.81875 percent on Friday.

Banks deposited a record 155 billion euros overnight at the European Central Bank, rather than lend to each other.

Authorities have been trying to avoid a repeat of the decision to allow Lehman Brothers to go bust.

The Federal Reserve gave its approval on Sunday to the takeover of Wachovia Corp by Wells Fargo & Co. (PDI)

Editorial Cartoon: (JPEPA) Trojan Horse

October 13, 2008

Full of Japoks

Capitalism’s Unsoundness

October 12, 2008

There is a large measure of truth to the observation of an increasing number of analysts that the fundamental reasons for the meltdown we are witnessing today–the fundamental and fatal “unsoundness” of the capitalist system–had long been rigorously and scientifically analyzed 120 years ago, just as it was about to enter its monopoly stage.

BY CAROL PAGADUAN-ARAULLO
Streetwise / Business World
Posted by Bulatlat

Mike Whitney, in “Economic Depression in America” (June, 2008) writes: “The real origin of the problem is…in the prevailing ‘trickle down’ orthodoxy which opposes any increases in wages or benefits for working people… (T)oday’s captains of industry and finance refuse to accept … that if workers aren’t adequately paid for their labor–and wages do not keep pace with production–then the economy cannot grow because consumers do not have the money to buy the things they make.

“Greenspan and his ilk believed that they could prosecute the class war and make up the difference by relaxing lending standards, changing bankruptcy laws, and by creating a nearly endless array of exotic financial products that expanded credit… By crushing the worker the Friedmanites have killed the golden goose. The world’s most prosperous consumer society is in terminal distress and no amount of ‘free market’ gibberish will keep it from crashing.”

That capitalist orthodoxy of profit maximization at the expense of workers and producers in general, has been swallowed hook, line and sinker by the crop of Philippine economic policymakers/managers in a succession of governments post independence. The “sound economic fundamentals” that they crow about is nothing more than this backward feudal (not just agricultural) economy tied to and almost completely dependent on foreign, especially the US, capital and economy.

The remittances of Filipino migrants, foreign loans, foreign investments (direct and speculative) are what keep the Philippine economy afloat, albeit floundering, in the rough seas of debt and deficit. All this time, the economy has been in a state of chronic distress, even as the ruling elite and the government continue to give standard assurances that it can weather any external shocks such as soaring oil and food prices as well as economic downturns in the economies of its biggest trading partners and a slew of host countries for Filipino migrant labor.

Capitalism’s, or more precisely, monopoly capitalism’s latest doctrinal expression is the so-called neoliberal or “free market” policy framework with its regime of liberalization, deregulation and privatization under the popular signboard of “globalization”. In the Philippines, this dogmatic mindset — passed of as conventional wisdom — has wrought record levels of joblessness and intensifying/expanding hunger, poverty and misery; persistent macroeconomic fragility with periodic acute economic/financial crises; intractable social unrest and armed conflicts; the inevitable escalation of military/police crackdowns; and an overall climate of political instability and state repression.

The US and world financial meltdown and economic recession is generating waves of destruction that can engulf the hapless economies of dependent/semicolonial countries such as ours. The Filipino people, especially the masses of the poor, exploited and oppressed, have long been suffering from the economic crunch. With the latest financial turmoil hitting the centers of global capital, the situation is bound to get worse. There can be no easy way out.

If anything can be salvaged from this catastrophic situation, not seen since the Great Depression of the 30s, perhaps it would be by treating it as a wake-up call. This most destructive crisis of finance capitalism should cast serious doubt on, if not shatter, the myth of “sound fundamentals” intoned by our thoroughly brainwashed and/or untruthful economic and political leaders.

We need to break our overweening dependence on foreign capital and economies. Instead we should strive for greater self-reliance and economic as well as political sovereignty so that we can chart an independent course to genuine agrarian reform, national industrialization, economic prosperity, egalitarianism and social justice.

Rough seas are ahead not only for Philippines and other under/maldeveloped countries, but for peoples all over the world. The crisis will not only be in the sphere of the economy but in geopolitics as well.

Grave economic crises have always been followed closely by war, because war has always been a way out of crisis, albeit temporarily, for the monopoly capitalists, imperialist states and their client regimes. This has been the case from the turn of the century, when capitalism qualitatively changed from its free enterprise to monopoly character, to include the Spanish-American War, the two World Wars, the “Cold War” between the US and the Soviet Union and the US-led “war on terror”.

The grounds for the so-called “war on terror” were actually being laid when the economic crisis (slowdown, unemployment, runaway household and federal debt, etc) started. As revealed by US geo-political strategy documents and policy papers of the neoconservative block controlling the White House, this was long before the putative “terrorist attacks” of September 11, 2001 on the US mainland.

Thus the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, the Balkans, Sudan, Georgia (South Ossetia) and the war being threatened against Iran are all about oil supply, pipelines and their strategic control. We must not forget that in our part of the world as well, that is, with regard to the country conflict over the Spratly Islands, it’s all about oil and other natural resources plus critical ship lanes too.

The crisis of global capitalism will surely intensify political maneuverings and military intervention and aggression as imperialist powers scramble to retain and extend spheres of influence, dumping grounds for goods and capital and sources of vital energy supplies and other resources.

The war of terror will intensify: the US and other countries have started to use other pretexts (natural and man-made calamities, human rights, ethnic struggles, etc) to intervene militarily and eventually invade sovereign countries. This is already happening right here in the Philippines, overtly in Mindanao but more surreptitiously in other parts of the country where armed anti-imperialist revolutionary forces have taken root.

The up side of all this is that conditions are ever more favorable for arousing, organizing and mobilizing the toiling peoples of the world against their exploiters and oppressors and the system that grinds them down and eventually kills them and their dreams.

People everywhere are struggling to survive and to break free from the unjust and inhuman system of global monopoly capitalism that has kept them in shackles, in order to build a social system that promotes their basic interests, assures them of a life free from want, upholds the dignity of honest labor and ushers in a truly liberating future.

There is a large measure of truth to the observation of an increasing number of analysts that the fundamental reasons for the meltdown we are witnessing today — the fundamental and fatal “unsoundness” of the capitalist system — had long been rigorously and scientifically analyzed 120 years ago, just as it was about to enter its monopoly stage.

The logical conclusion: capitalism creates its own gravediggers.(Business World / Posted by Bulatlat)

Published in Business World
10-11 October 2008

Sinking Deeper into Crisis

October 12, 2008

It is true that the financial crisis affecting the US and the other centers of capitalism, including Germany, UK and Japan, would not bring the country down into a recession and crisis. The Philippines is already in a state of crisis, in the first place. What it would do is to sink the country deeper into crisis as the main factors propping up the economy would weaken, and the advanced capitalist countries would accelerate the plunder of the country through ramming through agreements and policies that would help mitigate the impact of the crisis in their own countries while worsening it in ours.

BY BENJIE OLIVEROS
ANALYSIS
Bulatlat

When the series of bankruptcies began on September 15, 2008, the Arroyo government told the public that the exposure of local banks to Lehman Brothers was too small to affect the local economy. Later, President Arroyo assured the people that contingency plans and safety nets are being readied just in case. But now the Arroyo government is talking about “staying the course” as rougher times are ahead.

It is true that the financial crisis affecting the US and the other centers of capitalism, including Germany, UK and Japan, would not bring the country down into a recession and crisis. The Philippines is already in a state of crisis, in the first place. What it would do is to sink the country deeper into crisis as the main factors propping up the economy would weaken, and the advanced capitalist countries would accelerate the plunder of the country through ramming through agreements and policies that would help mitigate the impact of the crisis in their own countries while worsening it in ours.

Loans would be hard to come by as credit tightens. There is currently an international credit freeze as banks refuse to lend even to each other. This credit squeeze is supposedly the target of $700 billion bailout plan of the US and the UK’s £500 billion bailout package. But these would merely keep their banks afloat and would not increase the amount of money available for lending, especially to other countries. The Arroyo government already announced that it would stop its practice of prepaying loans before their dates of maturity as the value of the peso is sinking, and perhaps in anticipation of the tightening of credit.

Remittances of overseas Filipinos would likewise be affected as the job situation in the US worsens. The US has shed 760,000 jobs from January to September 2008, and this would definitely affect Filipinos residing there. The US is the single biggest source of remittances from overseas Filipinos at 49 percent of the total.

Even the temporary source of dollar reserves, portfolio investments is already affected with a net outflow of $636 million during the first half of the year.

The so-called sunshine industry of local employment Business Process Outsourcing, which is current employing around 200,000 graduates and is perhaps the only industry that has still been aggressively hiring before the crisis erupted, would also be affected as 90 percent of its contracts are from US companies.

Passing on the crisis

The timing of the passage of the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA) by the Senate was not only insidious – as it was passed late Wednesday night on the last day of session before the Senate goes on a one month recess- it also shows the urgency by which Japan wanted it passed.

Aside from containing unconstitutional provisions, the JPEPA is more for the benefit of Japan than the Philippines. It is aimed at liberalizing trade and investments between both countries. But the trade relations that would be intensified favors Japan more than the Philippines.

According to data gathered by IBON Foundation, in 2003, Japan’s exports to the Philippines amounted to ¥1.0419 trillion, consisting mainly of machinery and industrial goods. On the other hand, Philippine exports to Japan amounted to ¥815.5 billion, consisting mainly of bananas, mangoes, and other fruits and farm products, which are mainly produced by TNCs (Transnational corporations) such as Del Monte and Dole. This translates into a negative trade balance for the Philippines in the amount of ¥226.4 billion. Intensifying trade between both countries would only worsen the country’s trade deficit more.

In terms of investments, Japan wanted to do away with foreign equity limitations. In 2007, Japan was the second biggest investor in the Philippines, with direct investments amounting to P38.587 billion ($836,157,579 at the 2007 average exchange rate of $1=P46.148) . But cumulatively, it is the biggest investor at $3.9 billion as of 2005. With the various tax holidays, fiscal incentives, and the right to repatriate profits freely, Japanese corporations gain more out of investments than the Philippines, which, at most, gains from the foreign exchange they bring in and the minimal employment generated by their corporations. Also included in the agreement, is a provision for “Performance Requirement Prohibitions”, which disallow the Philippine government from setting requirements or conditions to Japanese investors, such as requiring them to use or purchase domestic goods and local services.

The Philippine government is hyping about the supposed opening up of Japan to nurses and other health workers. But they have to undergo language training and qualification requirements. While acquiring these skills they can be hired as apprentices who are reportedly overworked and underpaid in Japan.

This is the first bilateral agreement entered into by the Philippines. With the slow pace of agreements at the World Trade Organization – mainly caused by resistance and disagreements regarding removal of protectionist policies and subsidies being maintained, ironically, by advanced capitalist countries – and the world economic crisis, it is expected that the Philippines would be pressured to enter into more disadvantageous bilateral agreements by other advanced capitalist countries that are likewise frantically searching for fields of investment, which would enable them to take advantage of cheaper costs, including labor, and penetrate more markets to generate higher profits to help them stave off the crisis.

These, on the other hand, would result in higher current account deficits for the country, more bankruptcies of local firms and agricultural producers who would lose out in the competition with giant TNCs, more extraction and destruction of the country’s natural resources, more landlessness and displacements as TNCs grab the land of farmers and indigenous peoples, and more exploitation of workers, all adding up to a worsening of the crisis of the Philippines.

Staying the course

Amid the crisis, the Arroyo government is determined to “stay the course” of high taxes, liberalization, deregulation, and privatization. But for whom?

While the government is pushing forward with the privatization of the remaining assets of the government, such as in the power and energy sectors – as it tries to sell its remaining assets in power generation and transmission and its 40 percent stake in Petron- the US, UK, Germany, Netherlands, and other advanced capitalist countries are taking over their banks and investments houses, and mortgage lending firms.

As the Arroyo government refuses to compel oil companies to rollback pump prices consistent with its policy of deregulation, advanced capitalist countries are talking about regulating their financial sector, even to the extent of setting ceilings on the salaries and benefits of executives, and regulating lending activities.

While the Arroyo government is further opening up the country to the entry of imports and investments to the detriment of local manufacturing and agriculture, advanced capitalist countries are pushing for bilateral agreements favoring their own TNCs.

And as the Arroyo government refuses to repeal the VAT even in the face of high prices, the US has included in its bailout plan, tax rebates for its citizens and the UK is compelling banks that avail of its own bailout plan to extend normal credit lines to homeowners and small businesses.

In justifying the UK bailout plan, Prime Minister Gordon Brown was quoted as saying “This is not a time for conventional thinking or outdated dogma but for the fresh and innovative intervention that gets to the heart of the problem.” (Funny how the same argument was used against those opposing globalization.)

More repression

The course that the Arroyo government is stubbornly taking is bringing it in direct confrontation with the Filipino people who are already suffering from the crisis, and are being asked to take more. This would surely make the people more restless and would most probably result in a strong protest movement.

Consistent with its dictatorial ways, the Arroyo government would respond to this with more repressive measures and human rights violations. And it would get ample support from the US, which would also expectedly intensify its “war on terror” to prop up its ailing economy by giving business to its military weapons industry, to impose its will on developing countries to get greater concessions for its TNCs, and to assert its political-military hegemony amid the crisis in the world.

This would only sharpen the contradictions between the oppressed peoples of the world versus the advanced capitalist countries and its client states. Bulatlat

Big Trouble in Detroit:How the U.S. Auto Industry Wrecked Itself

October 12, 2008

This corporate Congress cannot be expected to issue serious demands, set tough conditions, or impose strict rules on the auto companies to ensure their workers receive fair pay and benefits, and prevent their fat-cat executives from making off big while leaving their companies in shambles.

BY RALPH NADER
Counterpunch INTERNATIONAL
Posted by Bulatlat

The Big Three are in big trouble, and they have themselves to thank for it.Ford and General Motors have reported substantial losses in the second quarter amounting to $15.5 billion, and $8.7 billion, respectively, while Chrysler, which was bought off last year by a private equity firm, Cerberus, refuses to reveal its financial standing.

It is no wonder why their lobbyists were spotted schmoozing with members of Congress at the Democratic and Republican National Conventions, liquoring up in their plush suites and private parties while they made their case for direct government loans which, if approved, would likely add to our federal deficit.

Last December, Congress approved a $25 billion loan to automakers and their suppliers under the Energy Independence and Security Act, though it has yet to be funded. That bill includes a modest requirement for automakers to increase their average vehicle fuel efficiency to 35 mpg — a benchmark we should have set decades ago, and would allow the companies to have their way with virtually no oversight or accountability.

This corporate Congress cannot be expected to issue serious demands, set tough conditions, or impose strict rules on the auto companies to ensure their workers receive fair pay and benefits, and prevent their fat-cat executives from making off big while leaving their companies in shambles.

Such blatant giveaways have become the norm in Washington since the corporate stranglehold of Congress and the White House have smothered the forces seeking worker, consumer and environmental justice.??But this recent example should not discount our long history of dealing with corporate failures in more public and effective ways than just ponying up billions on demand at any big corporation’s whim.

In 1979 when Chrysler was on the verge of bankruptcy, the automaker came crying to Congress for a bailout, which they eventually got, but Congress wasn’t as much of a pushover.

Back then, at least the corporate chieftains were grilled by Congress and had to agree to give something back for Uncle Sam bailing them out — good jobs and pensions for their workers, and more efficient cars to reduce reliance on foreign oil and reduce prices at the pump.

Now the CEOs don’t even have to leave Detroit and they get much more money for almost no return commitment to America, while they outsource jobs and pollute our environment.

During discussion on a proposed loan bill to bailout Chrysler in October 1979, Senator William Proxmire (D-WI) who chaired the Senate Banking Committee issued his opposition to Chrysler’s request and noted: “We let 7,000 companies fail last year — we didn’t bail them out. Now we are being told that if a company is big enough… we can’t let it go under.” He went on to call the proposed deal “a terrible precedent.”??Raising the government’s demand for performance standards, President Carter’s Treasury Secretary William Miller told Chrysler officials, “it’s going to be so awful, you’ll wish you never brought the whole thing up.”

Today, we rarely hear such candid opposition to corporate orders shouted at their congressional servants who lack the fortitude to put serious restraints and conditions on mismanaged, reckless big business and their overpaid CEOs seeking tax-payer salvation.

As a part of the Chrysler deal in the late Seventies, the government took out preferred stock warrants and after the company turned itself around and repaid its loan seven years early, the government ended up cashing out, receiving $400 million in the appreciated stock.

And Congress made clear to Chrysler that it had specific conditions the company had to meet before receiving the loan guarantee. It forced the company to contribute $162,500,000 into an employee stock ownership trust fund geared to benefit at least 90 percent of its employees, design more fuel efficient autos to help reduce consumption of foreign oil, and prohibit wages and benefits from falling below a level set three months before the legislation was passed.

Today, congressional actions to grant multi-billion dollar loans to the corporations lack the reciprocity some in Congress demanded 30 years ago. Before Congress irresponsibly dips into the public piggy bank, this time it would be wise to look back at how the government once dealt with Chrysler’s dilemma, require clear benchmarks to deliver on the next generation of green collar jobs, improved fuel efficiency and gain a substantial return on its investment, not just in monetary value, but in the longterm viability of the domestic motor vehicle fleet.

Congress needs to call on the auto industry to innovate their way out of this morass into which they’ve engineered themselves into. A sensible strategy would be to issue stock warrants to the government, like in the 70s, which would create an incentive for Congress to keep pressure on the auto industry to improve. Public Congressional hearings are a must.

Will Congress echo its actions of 30 years ago when it scrutinized corporate demands, grilled company executives, and imposed conditions to ensure fair compensation and safety for workers? Or will Congress continue down the road of corporate servitude, refusing to stand up for workers, consumers, taxpayers and the environment in its session-ending stampede and flight away from auto industry accountabilities? (Counterpunch/posted by Bulatlat)

Ralph Nader is running for president as an independent.

Swimming Lessons for Washington and Wall Street?The Predators’ Bailout

October 12, 2008

If I recall correctly, the very same US Congress that is considering bailing out the big financial corporations that got the economy into its current mess because of their greed and the government’s willingness to forgo any regulation of their doings (and the doings of their sister companies in the energy sector) made it almost impossible for individual working people in the US to declare bankruptcy. Yet, they are enabling these giants of the Wall Street economy to get out of their financial catastrophes by making us foot the bill. Furthermore, they have the nerve to tell us it is for the good of the country. Now, I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I can honestly recall the last time the White House, Congress or Wall Street did anything for the good of the country that I know.

BY RON JACOBS
Counterpunch INTERNATIONAL
Posted by Bulatlat

Let me get this straight. The Congress is meeting with the Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson this week. Mr. Paulson, who works for the White House, says he has a plan to save the US economy. That plan involves bailing out the same companies that got the economy into the mess it is in today. The money for the bailout plan is going to come from the people who are already paying for two pointless, brutal and expensive occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan.–the US taxpayers. More precisely, the US taxpayers who make between $25, 000 and $150,000 a year–the people the government likes to call the middle class. These people are already making less in real wages than they were ten years ago and many of them are facing foreclosures and other financial problems of their own.

If I recall correctly, the very same US Congress that is considering bailing out the big financial corporations that got the economy into its current mess because of their greed and the government’s willingness to forgo any regulation of their doings (and the doings of their sister companies in the energy sector) made it almost impossible for individual working people in the US to declare bankruptcy. Yet, they are enabling these giants of the Wall Street economy to get out of their financial catastrophes by making us foot the bill. Furthermore, they have the nerve to tell us it is for the good of the country. Now, I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I can honestly recall the last time the White House, Congress or Wall Street did anything for the good of the country that I know.

Sure, they started a war against Afghanistan under the pretense that they were going to chase down and capture the guys who organized those planes flying into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. That’s gone real well. I mean, look at Afghanistan now. The Pentagon is sending more troops and the White House and Congress are giving the okay. Dozens of civilians are dying in US air strikes as the occupiers fight a growing guerrilla army. They also started a war in Iraq that has done nothing but brought greater misery to that country and its people. It has also caused over 30,000 US casualties, with over 4000 of those casualties being dead men and women whose families are still not sure what they died for. Oh yeh, the price of fuel at the pump has increased by almost four dollars in some places across this land and the number of jobs has decreased steadily. That is, of course, unless you look at the military. Those job openings continue to grow.

But somebody must have benefited from this, right? And we all know who they are. The energy industry has raked in historically huge profits, all the while claiming that they deserve them while insisting that they get further tax breaks. Tax breaks which Congress willingly grants. The war industry has also made a bundle. Some companies, like General Dynamics, have doubled their net earnings just in the past four years. Others, like Haliburton, have used their insider connections to capture dozens, if not hundreds, of no-bid contracts that involve several documented cases of outright fraud and corruption. Yet, they continue to obtain the contracts and avoid prosecution. Then, there are those so-called security contractors, whose employees murder Iraqi citizens, media workers, and even Iraqi employees of the US-installed regime in Baghdad and face no penalties. Meanwhile, the contractor corporations themselves reap huge profits while also selling their services to agencies stateside that are involved with immigration and disaster management. So, uniformed thugs who answer to no one are now performing police duties here in the US. It’s like the Pinkertons of old in the employ of the Rockefellers, Carnegies and the government they ran back then.

Anyhow, back to that financial bailout and the arrogance assumed by those who are proposing it and those who will vote for it. Every time I hear about a CEO of some corporation that fails getting a multimillion dollar compensation package I can’t help but wonder: why is it that these guys get paid for doing their job so poorly that the company they manage fails? I know that in every job I have ever had that if I don’t do my job correctly than I get fired, plain and simple. If I’m lucky I might get a small unemployment check for a few months, but usually when a worker gets fired there is no compensation whatsoever. So, it pisses me off that these guys, from Lee Iacocca to the folks who ran Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac into the sewer not only get what the rich people call a parachute, but that they genuinely think they deserve one. I say push them out of the plane and let them try to fly. That’s what happens when people who work for a living lose their jobs.

The government isn’t any better, either. What could arguably be called the worst presidential administration in history will be leaving Washington next January. Yet, when those men and women hop on their chartered planes and head out of town, will they have to wonder where their next meal is coming from? Of course not. Almost every single one of them will fetch a nice retirement check for the rest of their lives. In addition, many of them will continue to receive the best health care in the world and hand us the bill. Others will go directly back into the business they were in before they joined the government. Naturally, those businesses will most certainly be better off than when these men and women left them to work in what I loosely term public service. After all, I’m not convinced that there is much servicing the public going on in DC any more. It’s more like servicing the wealthy and their bank accounts. As for Congress, these folks can spend two years in DC kissing corporate ass and hanging out in K Street offices and then go back to their other life with a lifetime pension and that same health care referred to previously. Bet the average reader can’t depend on a package like that.??It’s time Wall Street and Washington DC start practicing for itself what it preaches to the rest of us. No more bailouts and no more fat no-bid contracts. No more wars fought by other people’s kids for the war industry’s profits and the politicians’ egos. No more pay raises and no more free health care. No more taxpayer-funded travel and no more free gas. No more compensation packages unless they do a good job. Either that, or share the wealth and make health care universal, wars illegal, and fuel affordable.

It’s time we tell these folks: Bail your own selves out. Or, if you can’t, then start swimming. That’s what you expect us regular folks to do. (Counterpunch/posted by Bulatlat)

Ron Jacobs is author of The Way the Wind Blew: a history of the Weather Underground, which is just republished by Verso. Jacobs’ essay on Big Bill Broonzy is featured in CounterPunch’s collection on music, art and sex, Serpents in the Garden. His first novel, Short Order Frame Up, is published by Mainstay Press. He can be reached at: rjacobs3625@charter.net

Transport Leader Says Gov’t Should Go After ‘Legal Loot’ of Oil Companies

October 12, 2008

The militant Pagkakaisa ng mga Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operators Nationwide (Piston or Unity of Drivers and Operators’ Associations Nationwide) said that the government should go after what it described as “legal looters” of motorists’ money – the giant oil companies.

BY NOEL SALES BARCELONA
Bulatlat

The militant Pagkakaisa ng mga Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operators Nationwide (Piston or Unity of Drivers and Operators’ Associations Nationwide) said that the government should go after what it described as “legal looters” of motorists’ money – the giant oil companies.

The call comes after Bureau of Customs (BoC) Commissioner Napoleon L. Morales boasted about the BoC’s achievements in running after oil smugglers after the Court of Tax Appeals (CTA) junked the temporary restraining order (TRO) filed by BSJ Fishing and Trading, Inc. to prevent the implementation of the Commissioner’s visitorial powers in its facilities at the Navotas Fish Port Complex.

Due to the lifting of the TRO, the BOC has been able to seize P2 million (US$42,018.57) worth of suspected smuggled oil, said Morales in a press briefing at the weekly Kapihan sa Sulô last Saturday, Oct. 11.

Steve Ranjo, president of Piston, however said the P2 million worth of suspected smuggled oil seized by the BoC is just a fraction of the amount being looted, legally through the continuous implementation of the Downstream Oil Industry Deregulation Act of 1998 and the value-added tax (VAT) on oil products.

“It’s common knowledge among transport organizations that there is some oil being smuggled and sold domestically. Morales himself said, in a meeting with Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes, that billions of pesos’ worth of oil were illegally transported to the Philippines. But it’s only a pittance compared to the billions of pesos being extracted from the motorists’ pockets because of the uncontrolled increases in petroleum prices” Ranjo said in an interview.

He added that it is the BoC’s job to go after the smugglers and seize contrabands, but said the issue of high oil prices goes beyond smuggling.

“The government should probe deeply into the matter of speculation on oil prices, over-taxation on oil such as VAT, and the inutility of government agencies in controlling soaring oil prices, despite their knowledge of how speculation increases pump prices,” Ranjo said. (Bulatlat.com)

JPEPA Ratification Puts Philippines in More Danger vs Global Crisis

October 12, 2008

Contrary to President Arroyo’s statement that the ratification of Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA) will protect the country from the global financial crisis, it will make the country more vulnerable to economic shocks.

BY IBON FOUNDATION
Posted by Bulatlat

Contrary to President Arroyo’s statement that the ratification of the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA) will protect the country from the global financial crisis, it will make the country more vulnerable to economic shocks.

JPEPA and similar free trade deals further opens the local economy to more foreign plunder and drags the country to the global crisis worsened by trade and investment liberalization, said IBON research head Sonny Africa. Bilateral deals like JPEPA enable beleaguered countries like Japan to pass their crisis to other economies in the region through more liberalization.

Even as Japan claims that it is on the way to recovery, its economy has been grappling with stagnant growth and high unemployment for nearly two decades and is aiming to further open up other economies to cope with its internal problems. The emerging scenario of a US economic slowdown, financial disorder, soaring energy and food prices only make its situation more urgent.

The experience of the country with similar free trade deals such as the GATT-WTO, which the Senate ratified in 1994, has proven that no amount of safety nets could protect the economy and the people’s livelihood from the harmful effects of liberalization.

According to IBON research head Sonny Africa, it is ironic that the Senate ratified the JPEPA even as the WTO talks broke down precisely because of questions on the supposed development gains to be achieved from trade and investment liberalization. “When will this government learn from the harmful effects of liberalization on the economy?” he asked.

The approval of JPEPA surrenders Philippine sovereignty and will reinforce the country’s backwardness. The country will be further prevented from implementing economic policies essential for its development and will be obliged to give similar disadvantageous terms in pending deals with the US, European countries and others.

“There is no real gain for the Philippines and especially the poorest and most marginalized sectors with JPEPA. In agriculture it is the big corporate plantations that will gain and not the country’s millions of small farmers,” Africa added.

To protect and build the domestic economy, the country needs trade protection against imports such as tariff and non-tariff barriers and investment controls, and not free trade deals like JPEPA that only further expose the country and deepen its links to the failing global economy. (Posted by Bulatlat)

Groups Outraged Over JPEPA Ratification

October 12, 2008

At stake in our fight against JPEPA is the protection and preservation of our natural resources and our environment, the defense against the exploitation and oppression of human labor against the Arroyo regime’s pimping of Filipino nurses, caregivers and skilled workers, the rightful claim of indigenous peoples to their ancestral domains, of farmers and workers to the dignity of labor, and the fortification of our citizenship as Filipinos against bilateral measures that intensify the barbaric nature of neocolonialism,” said CONTEND.

BY RONALYN V. OLEA
Bulatlat

Various groups expressed outrage over the ratification of the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA). The Philippine Senate ratified the treaty late at night of October 8.

Those who voted for the JPEPA were Miriam Defensor Santiago, Manuel Roxas III, Edgardo Angara, Rodolfo Biazon, Alan Peter Cayetano, Jinggoy Estrada, Juan Ponce Enrile, Gregorio Honasan, Panfilo Lacson, Loren Legarda, Ramon ‘Bong’ Revilla Jr., Miguel Zubiri, Manuel Villar Jr., and Lito Lapid.

Only four senators voted against the approval of the treaty. They were Aquilino Pimentel Jr, Ma. Consuelo ‘Jamby’ Madrigal, Francis Escudero, and Benigno ‘Noynoy’ Aquino Jr.

Members of the NO DEAL! Movement trooped to the Japanese embassy in Manila, Oct. 10 to show indignation over the JPEPA.

The NO DEAL! Movement is a broad alliance of organizations and individuals opposed to unequal economic agreements.

Betrayal

In a news article posted at the website of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), Kalookan Bishop Deogracias Iñiguez said, “Of course it’s very disappointing because the Senate decided to pass the JPEPA even if there were several provisions that would be detrimental to the Filipino people.”

Iñiguez is the chairperson of the Public Affairs Committee of the CBCP.

Six other bishops have earlier called on the Senate to reject the bilateral agreement. They were Cagayan de Oro Archbishop Antonio Ledesma, Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo, Bishops Rolando Tirona (Infanta), Antonio Tobias (Novaliches) and Infanta Bishop-Prelate Emeritus Julio Labayen.

Meanwhile, the Health Alliance for Democracy (HEAD), an organization of health professionals, said, “The senators who ratified the patently onerous trade agreement have placed health personnel everywhere, even those not seeking work in Japan, in a very disadvantageous and vulnerable position.”

Dr. Geneve E. Rivera, HEAD secretary general, said, “Pro-JPEPA senators have institutionalized the commodification of health workers and professionals in a trade deal. They should be made accountable for this betrayal.”

Rivera added, “Parang ‘Bagsak-presyo’ ng mga nurses. (It’s like a rummage sale of nurses). This is the message that the Arroyo government and pro-JPEPA senators is sending to the world.”

Rivera said, “All health personnel working across the globe should make these pro-JPEPA senators feel their wrath by denouncing them in public and in the coming elections.”

No shield

The NO DEAL! Movement belied claims of Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Trade Secretary Peter Favila that the JPEPA will cushion the impact on the country of the worsening US and global economic crisis. Arnold Padilla, NO DEAL! Movement spokesperson said, “The JPEPA will result in the further destruction and underdevelopment of the national economy. The short- and long-term impacts of the global economic crisis on the Philippines will be further magnified as the JPEPA starts its devastation of local jobs and livelihood and marginalize Filipino investors. The supposed benefits that will accrue from the treaty such as increased exports to Japan and more Japanese investment are false as our actual experience in the past decades of export orientation and foreign capital-driven economy clearly show.”

The HEAD also slammed Roxas’ assertion that ratifying JPEPA is both “timely and necessary” to keep the country ‘globally competitive.’ “If this was a race to the bottom, if this was an auction of Filipino nurses to the lowest bidder, then Sen. Roxas is right. Is this what he wants?” said Rivera.

In a statement, the Congress of Teachers for Nationalism and Democracy (CONTEND), called JPEPA as ‘a bankrupt free market solution.’

“If there is one significant lesson that we must learn from the Wall Street meltdown, it is the fact that our fraught economic conditions will never be solved by the so-called free market solution,” said CONTEND.

The group said, “JPEPA is no different from the World Trade Organization (WTO) agreement rammed through the stomachs of the laboring Filipino masses by US imperialism.”

The Philippines became a member of the WTO in 1994. “Fourteen years after that fatal blow on our sovereignty and dignity as a people, we already know better than upping the ante for yet another project of imperialist plunder. At stake in our fight against JPEPA is the protection and preservation of our natural resources and our environment, the defense against the exploitation and oppression of human labor against the Arroyo regime’s pimping of Filipino nurses, caregivers and skilled workers, the rightful claim of indigenous peoples to their ancestral domains, of farmers and workers to the dignity of labor, and the fortification of our citizenship as Filipinos against bilateral measures that intensify the barbaric nature of neocolonialism,” said CONTEND.

Bad precedent

Moreover, Padilla said that JPEPA would set the precedent for more unequal economic agreements for the Philippines. He cited the upcoming negotiations between the Philippines and the European Union (EU) on their Partnership Cooperation Agreement (PCA) as part the EU-ASEAN negotiation process for a free trade agreement (FTA). Padilla maintained, “Certainly, the EU will use the JPEPA as yardstick for trade and investment concessions it will seek from the Philippines in the PCA. The problem is that the country has already surrendered much of its patrimony and economic sovereignty to the Japanese in the JPEPA such as on unrestricted foreign ownership and investment. The Europeans will ask for more, and then the Americans when they negotiate their own FTA with us. What else will be left for the country?”

In its submitted position paper to the Senate, the HEAD had also warned that JPEPA would set a dangerous precedent for its anti-migrant worker provisions, which may be used by other countries who need Filipino health personnel.

Supreme Court

Padilla said they will question the treaty’s constitutionality by filing a petition before the Supreme Court.

Legal experts have pointed out that the JPEPA’s terms on national treatment, most favored nation (MFN), and prohibition of performance requirements violate several provisions of the 1987 Constitution. (Bulatlat.com)

Oil Deregulation Minus the Jargon

October 12, 2008

Deregulation is quite simple but the powers-that-be tend to provide complicated explanations in claiming that it should be given a chance to work despite what is happening in the world market. Indeed, a clear understanding of oil deregulation leads one to oppose it, especially at the onset of unabated oil price hikes and inconsequential rollbacks.

BY DANILO ARAÑA ARAO
Bulatlat

Stripped of all the technical jargon, the deregulation that is characteristic of the downstream oil industry is very easy to understand.

In order for the economy to progress, there is a need to remove all barriers to free competition. The government should not directly compete with local and foreign investors, hence the need to sell to the private sector (i.e., “privatize”) government-owned and controlled corporations (GOCCs) like Petron which competes with private companies like Shell and Chevron.

Unlike in the past, the deregulated regime allows any industrialist to invest in the downstream oil industry. Data from the Department of Energy (DOE) show that there are 601 new industry players competing with the so-called Big Three – Petron, Shell and Chevron.

In removing the regulations that used to prevent free competition, government officials and neoliberal thinkers expect the empowerment of consumers. They argue that under a deregulated regime, consumers are “empowered” in the sense that they now have more choices. If in the past there were only three companies, there are now hundreds to choose from.

For those who believe in the principle of globalization (of which deregulation is one of the tenets, the other two being liberalization and privatization), the measurement of “consumer power” is defined along the lines of increased choices. (i.e., “If the consumer has the choice, the consumer has the power.”)

More companies mean “better and freer” competition which would then result in lower prices and better services for the consumers. The tendency of the capitalist, according to those who argue for deregulation, is to attract as many customers as possible in whatever ways necessary, like creative advertisements, substantial discounts and, of course, lower prices.

The deregulation of the downstream oil industry started in April 1996. The prices of gasoline and diesel then were P9.50 ($0.185 at the 1996 exchange rate of $1=P51.31) and P7.03 ($0.13) per liter, respectively. As a result of oil price hikes in the years that followed, gasoline and diesel reached more than P60 ($1.33 at the July 2008 exchange rate of $1=P44.956) and P50 ($1.11) per liter.

There have been rollbacks since August but these are said to be not enough based on the prices of Dubai crude and the peso-dollar exchange rate. The table below illustrates this point.

Average Retail Prices of Selected Petroleum Products,
Dubai crude prices and Peso-Dollar Exchange Rate
September 2007 and 2008 (in peso per liter except LPG)
Sept. 25, 2007 Sept. 19, 2008 Increase a/
Unleaded gas 40.95 50.96 24.44%
Diesel 35.45 49.94 40.87%
LPG b/ 480-533 598-659 23.64%
Dubai crude
(in US$ per barrel) c/ 75.68 87.01 14.97%
Peso-dollar exchange rate (in peso per US$) d/ 46.1315 46.6922 1.21%
Sources of basic data: Department of Energy; Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas; and New Zealand Ministry of Economic Development
a/ Percentage increase for LPG based on highest price for the period in review
b/ Dealers’ pick-up price (11 kg)
c/ 2007 price as of September 28
d/ Monthly average for September 2007 and 2008

It is easy to argue that we currently live in an “abnormal” situation due to the continued increase in the price of crude in the world market. The weekly average Dubai crude, for example, reached its highest last July 4 at $137.27 per barrel. As of September 26, it is pegged at $96.68 per barrel.

However, one notices an even more abnormal increase in the pump price of diesel, widely consumed by the transport sector, relative to the increase in Dubai crude.

Twelve years have passed since the implementation of oil deregulation and the only positive effect it had was on the profits of oil companies and increased tax collection of the government, especially with the increase of the value-added tax from 10 percent to 12 percent and its expansion in 2005 to include petroleum products. For 2008, the Department of Finance expects a collection of P73.4 billion ( $1,543,443,519 at the October 10, 2008 exchange rate of $1=P47.556) from the VAT on petroleum products.

Why did the expected lowering of prices of petroleum products not happen in a deregulated regime? Unlike others, petroleum products are said to be “demand inelastic.” This means that the demand for such products is not affected by fluctuations in prices because these are needed by the public.

The transport sector, for example, absolutely needs petroleum products to continue with its operations and it will always procure such products regardless of the price.

In my independent monitoring of the prices of petroleum products, what Petron, Shell and Chevron normally do is to take the lead in increasing prices and the industry players would follow afterwards. The different oil companies normally maintain only a price differential of P0.50 per liter.

Deregulation is quite simple but the powers-that-be tend to provide complicated explanations in claiming that it should be given a chance to work despite what is happening in the world market.

Indeed, a clear understanding of oil deregulation leads one to oppose it, especially at the onset of unabated oil price hikes and inconsequential rollbacks. (Bulatlat.com)

This is a shortened version of the paper presented by the author at the 30th anniversary lecture of IBON Foundation last October 7. His slide presentation (in PDF) may be retrieved from http://www.dannyarao.com/files/arao-downstream-oil-deregulation.pdf.

US ‘War on Terror,’ Intervention in Philippines to Intensify amid Global Economic Crisis – Analysts

October 12, 2008

Analysts of global economic developments deemed that the US-led ‘war on terror’ will intensify and escalate as a result of the US financial and economic crisis.

BY RONALYN V. OLEA
Bulatlat

Analysts of global economic developments deemed that the US-led ‘war on terror’ will intensify and escalate as a result of the US financial and economic crisis.

Rey Casambre, chairperson of the International League of People’s Struggles (ILPS)-Philippine chapter, said that the US financial and economic crisis has clearly turned into a global financial and economic crisis.

Jose Enrique Africa, research head of think-tank IBON Foundation, said, “The US financial crisis sharply reflects the financial crisis of the world capitalist system as a whole.”

Africa said, “The global recession is here, and the economic downturn will be severe. It has emerged in the US but is already spreading to Europe.”

He said it is intrinsic to capitalism for the rate of profit from production to fall. Capitalist drive for profits through speculation, however, is also grossly unsustainable, said Africa.

Interestingly,in his paper for the Forum on Global Financial Crisis of the ILPS Third International Assembly in Hong Kong this June, Jose Maria Sison has already said, “The economic and financial crisis of the US and world capitalist system has worsened to a new and unprecedented level since the Great Depression.”

History

Casambre said, “Historically, wars have resulted from the intensification of global financial and economic crises.”

He said that the World War II was a direct result of the crisis that culminated in the Great Depression of the 30s. “This is because the rivalry of imperialist powers for spheres of influence: sources of raw materials and cheap labor, dumping ground of products and surplus capital, etc. also intensifies with the intensification of crisis. The economic rivalry leads to and is eventually resolved by political, and ultimately military, means,” he said.

Edilberto Villegas, political economist and professor at the University of the Philippines Manila, said that instigating war is the tested way for monopoly capitalism to recover. He said that the recession in the 1990s and the high-tech bubble burst in 2000 resulted to US wars.

Villegas said, “To be able to recover, the US will intensify its military aggressiveness.” He maintained that the speculation on oil and food will become secondary as the demand for oil has declined. “They will again resort to a military solution.”

He said it is the inherent nature of war to destroy and this will rev up military production.

‘War on terror’

Casambre said that the US “war on terror” came in the wake of the economic downturn in the US characterized by manufacturing slowdown, burgeoning national debt and budget deficit, ballooning household debt, among others.

Casambre said further that although the 9/11 bombings were used as a pretext for launching the “war on terror”, it eventually became clear that the war strategy and campaign plans that were executed had been prepared long before 9/11, as early as 1992 when Dick Cheney was the US Defense Secretary under the older George Bush.

“The war on terror, like other wars of aggression and military intervention, somewhat mitigated the US economic crisis then by spurring war production. However, it was the corporations in the military industrial complex that benefited most, enjoying tax cuts on top of fat military contracts, and the economic relief was unsustainable because it did not generate jobs and income for the reserve army of unemployed.”

He said that the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq had little to do with the Al- Qaeda, Saddam Hussein and weapons of mass destruction. “The real reasons were control of oil resources and the Middle East and Central Asia regions, which are strategic because of their geographic location south of Russia and west of China.”

Afghanistan, other targets

Casambre added, “This is underscored by recent statements by Democratic Presidential candidate [Barack] Obama that the US should pay more attention to Afghanistan because the real enemy is not the Al-Qaeda but Russia and China.

Villegas said both US presidential candidates have not opposed the US war on terror. He said that Obama merely said that the war in Iraq did not work out. “He [Obama] is not against the war on terror, he just wants to transfer to Afghanistan.”

Villegas said Iran is also a possible target. He said both Obama and Republican candidate John McCain are open to a military approach toward Iran if the latter will not stop developing its nuclear program. The only difference, said Villegas, is that McCain is not open to negotiate while Obama said he will employ diplomacy.

Villegas said the US is implementing a one-sided policy on nuclear development. “It should apply to themselves. The US is the number one manufacturer of nuclear weapons,” he said. He also said the US-backed Israel government is more advanced than Iran when it comes to nuclear weapons.

Villegas said the US only wants to justify possible attacks on Iran and North Korea.

Villegas also said the US is also interested in Central Asia. “They need the oil pipes there, such as in Georgia. They are now setting up military bases.”

Casambre of ILPS maintained, “Ethnic conflicts and ‘liberation’ struggles are also used to instigate proxy wars, such as in Africa, the Balkans and in the former Soviet republics. All these can be expected to escalate and intensify with the intensification of the global economic crisis.

Villegas said that China is seen by the US as an emerging military power. “The US will continue to guard East Asia, with the aim of encircling China. The US does not want to be displaced from the region.”

The US will maintain their forces in Asia, especially in Japan and in the Philippines.

Philippines

Villegas said the Philippines is a strategic point for the US’ implementation of its policy on China.

Casambre said the US crisis will intensify US military intervention in the Philippines. “The Philippines has strategic value to the US in its global geopolitical designs. It is a valuable military outpost guarding the South China Sea where more than half of world trade, including oil, passes. It is at the middle of what US strategists call the “arc of instability” which extends from Northeast Asia, down to Southeast Asia and westward to Central Asia, the Middle East and West Africa. It is also at the middle of the two potential major “theaters of war”: Northeast Asia and the Middle East. It is surrounded by states with large Muslim populations.”

Casambre said that the US will remain interested in the Philippines as it is also rich in still untapped natural resources, including oil and natural gas.

Contradictions, challenges

Sison said, “As the crisis of the world capitalist system worsens, the contradictions among the imperialist powers will sharpen and generate conditions favorable for the rise of revolutionary movements.”

He said that imperialist powers collude with each other against the oppressed peoples and nations in general but they compete with each other for sources of cheap raw materials, markets, fields of investment and spheres of influence. “As a result of the full restoration of capitalism in former revisionist-ruled countries, imperialist countries competing with each other and seeking to redivide the world have increased in number. The world has become more cramped than ever for the competitions and rivalries of the imperialist powers,” he said.

Sison said further, “The US is increasingly resented by other imperialist powers for presuming to have sole hegemony over the whole world and for trying to grab the lion’s share of spoils in every continent. At the same time, it is already overextended and weakening in certain parts of the world. Contradictions are developing between the US and Russia and China jointly or separately. So are those between the US and the European Union. These contradictions involve economic, financial, political, security and other issues.”

Villegas said that anti-imperialist groups must see the weakening position of the US in the economic sphere. “The workers, especially in the US and Europe should organize themselves against monopoly capitalism.”

He said the US cannot control the crisis. “Despite the bailout, the US economy is going down.” He added, While the US may prop up military production, the question is how long can they keep up such wars.

Casambre said that anti-imperialist forces must seriously and scientifically study the global crisis – the developments and implications – in order to explain to the general public what is really happening, expose the contradictions, the unjust, undemocratic and criminal nature of imperialism, in concrete and scientific terms. He said that the Filipino people and peoples of the world must launch protests and other mass actions against imperialist war and plunder and build the broadest anti-imperialist front of all democratic, patriotic, progressive forces everywhere. (Bulatlat.com)

World stocks drop on widespread panic (Scramble for cash sparked)

October 10, 2008

By Kevin Plumberg
Reuters
First Posted 10:50:00 10/10/2008

HONG KONG — Asia stocks dropped sharply on Friday, with Japan’s Nikkei plunging 11.0 percent, while the yen and gold rose on growing fears that no government effort so far has rejuvenated credit markets or kept the global economy from a path to recession.

The Nikkei share average plummeted in early trade, and the Osaka stock exchange had to halt trading after a circuit breaker was tripped.

Overnight Wall Street stocks crumbled in the final minutes of trade, with the S&P 500 falling 7.6 percent.

Selling in equity markets was brutally swift, taking the MSCI index of Asia-Pacific stocks excluding Japan down 3.5 percent to the lowest since June 2005.

Government bond futures soared as the rapid decline in Asia stocks forced investors to buy the nearest safe haven despite fears of a supply glut that have recently weighed on US Treasuries.

“Equity and fixed income markets seem to be stuck in a negative feedback loop as the lack of interbank lending and funding and waning investor confidence keep pushing one another,” UBS currency strategists said in a note to clients.

The 10-year Japanese government bond future was up 0.4 point to 138.89 and the 10-year US Treasury note futures were up more than a full point

The US dollar fell to the lowest since March against the yen, at 98.55 yen

Spot gold prices were up 2.0 percent to $923.30 an ounce to the highest since July.

US crude oil futures fell about 3.0 percent to a fresh 12-month low in electronic trade on Friday on concerns the growing global financial crisis would send demand for fuel slumping.

By 0033 GMT, US crude for November delivery was at $83.99 a barrel, down $2.59 from Thursday’s settlement, having earlier fallen to as low as $83.81.

(PDI)

IMF readies bailouts for countries

October 10, 2008

By Lesley Wroughton
Reuters
First Posted 08:40:00 10/10/2008

WASHINGTON — The International Monetary Fund said on Thursday it was ready to lend to countries hit by the global credit crunch, and had activated an emergency financing mechanism first used in the 1990s Asian crisis.

The Fund already sent a mission to Iceland, where the government has seized control of its largest bank, and has warned that the worst financial crisis since the 1930s Great Depression could inflict lasting economic harm on the world.

“Yesterday I activated emergency procedures of the IMF to respond quickly,” IMF Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn told a news conference. “We are ready to answer any demand by countries facing problems,” he said, adding that no country is immune from the crisis.

The IMF chief said the IMF was willing to provide financial assistance not only to emerging and developing nations, but also to Western countries.

“Nobody knows if some … advanced economies will not also be in need of some help by the IMF,” he said, adding that countries needing to borrow will face more streamlined conditionality than normal and funding will be made available quickly. “Very quickly means two weeks at most,” he added.

After several years of no major crises in emerging economies, the move puts the IMF’s board of member countries and staff on alert that the Fund will have to respond quickly if a country needs financial help.

It also puts the global financial firefighter more at the forefront of the current financial crisis following months of being on the sidelines.

Panic over toxic, illiquid US mortgage loans has sapped confidence in financial institutions, forced governments to pledge hundreds of billions of dollars of taxpayer money and pushed Western and other central banks to deliver their first coordinated interest rate cut.

Speaking ahead of IMF and World Bank meetings of world finance leaders in Washington this weekend, Strauss-Kahn said the main task for policy-makers was to restore confidence and calm global markets.

Group of Seven finance ministers and central bank chiefs also meet in Washington on Friday to consider their options.

The IMF’s emergency facility was created in 1995 as a way of speeding up the approval of loans to countries in peril.

It was first used in 1997 to help the Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia and South Korea end crushing runs on their currencies during the Asian financial crisis.

The IMF, which played a central role in the bailouts of countries in Asia and Latin America in the 1990s, relied on lending to fund its operations. But with fewer crises over the years, it had faced a growing income deficit, prompting an agreement in April to sell some of its gold stocks and invest profits in government and corporate bonds.

The IMF has about $200 billion immediately available to lend to countries in need but can tap other sources. This is small compared to the trillions of dollars central banks and governments have poured into the financial system over the past few weeks.

UNDER PRESSURE

Emerging markets are under pressure again after strains in the United States and Europe spread. Investors are fleeing their securities for safer assets, foreign banks are cutting lending and the countries’ exporters are braced for weaker demand from Western consumers.

Strauss-Kahn renewed calls for more coordinated steps to calm panicky markets beyond the unprecedented simultaneous action of central banks on Wednesday to cut interest rates.

He said the global economy was on the cusp of recession but with quick and forceful action, the spreading crisis could be contained.

“All kinds of cooperation has to be recommended. All lonely acts have to be avoided, if not condemned,” he said.

His calls for more coordination were backed by World Bank President Robert Zoellick who said he hoped a meeting of Group of Seven industrial nations on Friday will indicate they “are getting ahead of the curve.”

He said while countries will take different actions, tailored for their own circumstances, they should coordinate beyond just the G7 members to target the same basic problems.

“The actions need to be coherent and reinforcing,” he said, referring to Wednesday’s simultaneous rate cut by central banks.

(PDI)

Editorial Cartoon: American Gigolo

October 7, 2008

Ready to woo them votes with a bunch of Alaskan flowers.

UN adopts new Somalia piracy resolution : Urges states to deploy military ships, planes

October 7, 2008

Agence France-Presse
First Posted 22:41:00 10/07/2008

UNITED NATIONS — The UN Security Council on Tuesday unanimously adopted a resolution urging states to deploy naval vessels and military aircraft to actively join the fight against rampant piracy off the coast of lawless Somalia.

Resolution 1838 “calls upon all states interested in the security of maritime activities to take part actively in the fight against piracy on the high seas off the coast of Somalia, in particular by deploying naval vessels and military aircraft.”

The French-drafted text urges states with naval vessels and military aircraft operating on the high seas and airspace off the Somali coast “to use the necessary means, in conformity with international law…for the repression of acts of piracy.”

It again “condemns and deplores all acts acts of piracy and armed robbery at sea against vessels off the coast of Somalia.”

It said that “the provisions in this resolution apply only with respect to the situation in Somalia and shall not affect the rights or obligations or responsibilities of member states under international law.”

Last June, the 15-member Council had already adopted a resolution empowering states to send warships into Somalia’s territorial waters with the government’s consent to combat piracy and armed robbery at sea.

The June resolution had given a six-month mandate to states cooperating with Somalia’s transitional government (TFG) in fighting piracy to “enter the territorial waters of Somalia for the purposes of repressing acts of piracy and armed robbery at sea.”

The waters off Somalia — which has not had an effective central government for more than 17 years and is plagued by insecurity — are considered to be among the most dangerous in the world.

Dozens of ships, mainly merchant vessels, have been seized by pirates off Somalia’s 3,700 kilometers (2,300 miles) of largely unpatroled coastline.

The pirates operate high-powered speedboats and are heavily armed, sometimes holding ships for weeks until they are released for large ransoms paid by governments or owners.

Tuesday, pirates holding a Ukrainian ship carrying tanks and military hardware with 21-member crew off the coast of Somalia said that a deal could be reached soon for the vessel’s release.

“A deal might be sealed by Wednesday and then we will issue a statement regarding the end of the matter,” said Sugule Ali, a spokesman for the estimated 50 pirates holding the MV Faina since September 25.

The pirate would not comment on the amount of ransom being negotiated. (PDI)

Davids vs Goliaths: Face off in Mindanao mines

October 3, 2008

By Edwin G. Espejo

GA_googleFillSlot(“Philippine_areas_incontent_mediumrectangle300x250”);

_GA_googleAdEngine.createDOMIframe(‘google_ads_div_Philippine_areas_incontent_mediumrectangle300x250′ ,’Philippine_areas_incontent_mediumrectangle300x250’);

FILIPINO partners of foreign mining firms are slowly beginning to realize that inviting prospective offshore investors is proving to be more than they could handle than all shades of activists opposed to mining operations in the country.

These differences are taking deep roots in the boardrooms where giants in the global mining industry are slowly building up their interests and investments in Philippine mining companies.

What’s your take on the Mindanao crisis? Discuss views with other readers

Asiaticus Management Corporation (Amcor) president Vicente Jayme Jr. said the difference goes beyond clashes over management style and cultural sensitivities.

“We have altogether different objectives which resulted into the delay of our exploration activities,” Jayme said, referring to Australian mining giant BHP Billiton with which he and his Filipino group have a joint venture agreement to explore ore deposits at the Pujada Nickel Project in Davao Oriental.

Trouble began when Filipino partners of Amcor questioned the priorities of BHP Billiton, which owns 40 per cent of the company.

“We have been waiting for them (BHP Billiton) over the last seven years to make good of their commitment to pour in investment for the project exploration,” he said in an interview at the break of the first Mindanao Mining Forum held at the Waterfront Insular Hotel in Davao City two days ago.

His fellow company official, Amcor Vice President Lauriano Barrios, said he is getting the impression that big foreign mining companies are only engaged in “mine banking.”

By claiming stakes in Philippine mining projects, he said these mining giants are already amassing huge profits in the stock markets. “They are building up their capital at our expense,” Barrios said.

While acknowledging that their case is mere microcosm of clashing interests between Filipino and foreign investors, Jayme said each and every mining corporation has its own peculiarities.

He has a point.

At the Sagittarius Mines Incorporated (SMI) in Tampakan, South Cotabato, an internecine corporate war is also brewing.

Xstrata Copper, a subsidiary of Xstrata Plc, is engaged in a bitter and costly war to hold off a bid of investors from taking control over the 34 per cent stake held by its partner, another Australian mining firm Indophil Resources Ltd., after it foiled an attempt by Hongkong-based Stanhill Consortium to get into the corporate picture.

Filipino corporate conglomerate Alsons Group is now trying to buy Indophil’s stake at Tampakan Copper and Gold Project.

With ore deposits of over 12.8 million tons of 0.6 per cent copper and 15.2 million ounces of 0.2 grams per ton of gold, The Tampakan Copper and Gold Project is reportedly the biggest of its kind in Asia. This potential find has sent the share prices of Indophil Resources Ltd., at the Australian Stock Exchange from AUS$0.35 per share to 1.32 per share at the time Stanhill made its offer in June this year.

The corporate war in SMI has spilled over to the corporation itself. The ensuing corporate shakedown following the takeover of Xstrata people in the management of SMI has heightened the opposition to the mining operations of the company.

A former consultant of SMI said, since Xstrata gained control over the project, nothing good has come out for the company in the local media.

Filipino partners of Philex Gold in Surigao are likewise moving to buy out the 50 per cent interest of Anglo American Plc following divergent views with the foreign mining firm “on a number of assumption and conclusions made in (its) feasibility studies such as metal prices, treatment and refining charges, engineering and owner’s costs and capital contingency.”

Jayme, whose father is former public works and finance secretary Vicente Jayme Sr. during the Aquino administration, said some global mining companies are using their “proprietary rights” over mining technologies and stacks off cash to hold Filipino mining interest hostage.

He said they finally decided to rescind their contract with BHP Billiton “because of our commitment to the communities.”

If need be, they will do it on their own sans BHP Billiton, he pointed out.
Technologies, he revealed, are no longer the private domains of these foreign mining firms.

“We have made several consultations with Chinese and Japanese mining firms and they are willing to help us out,” Jayme said.

BHP Billiton is the world’s biggest diversified mining company and holds varying amount of stakes over scores of mining claims all over the world. Xstrata Plc, on the other hand, is the world’s fourth largest mining firm while Anglo American Plc is among the world’s leading mining giants.

Barrios said with BHP Billiton having so much and so many interests in mining all over the world, exploring nickel at the Pujada project has become the least of its priorities.

“What about us? We cannot wait for them forever. Ginugutom nila ang mga (They are starving the Filipino) investors,” he rued.

Jayme refused to characterize the ongoing boardroom wars in many local mining firms with foreign partners as a product of birthing pains following the passage of Republic Act (RA) 7942 or the Philippine Mining Act of 1995.

RA 7942 was crafted to ostensibly resuscitate the mining industry in the country which, during the pre Martial Law era, was Asia’s biggest and most developed.

Until recently, Mindanao has been largely untapped as past mining operations were heavily concentrated in Luzon and Visayas. Since the passage of the law, there are already over 64 mining applications from 26 mining firms in the South Cotabato-Cotabato-Sultan Kudarat-Saragani-General Santos City (Soccsksargen or Central Mindanao Region) area alone.

With the Supreme Court (SC) in 2004 upholding the constitutionality of the RA 7942, which allows foreign corporations to wholly own mining firms and claims in the country, there is no telling where these intra-corporate wars are headed to.

Jayme is not straightforwardly asking the government to intervene and review its policy on the development of the mining industry in the country. But he has these parting words: “Support what is Filipino that belongs to the Filipinos.” (SunStar)

US Senate votes on new bailout

October 2, 2008

Thursday, October 2, 2008

<!–

Page: 1

–>

<!– /* Font Definitions */ @font-face { panose-1:0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0;} /* Style Definitions */ p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal {mso-style-parent:””; margin:0in; margin-bottom:.0001pt; font-size:12.0pt;”Times New Roman”; mso-fareast-“Times New Roman”;} p.NoParagraphStyle, li.NoParagraphStyle, div.NoParagraphStyle {mso-style-name:”\[No Paragraph Style\]”; mso-style-parent:””; margin:0in; margin-bottom:.0001pt; line-height:120%; text-autospace:none; font-size:12.0pt; mso-fareast-“Times New Roman”; color:black;} @page Section1 {size:12.5in 21.5in; margin:.6in 28.45pt .6in 28.45pt;} div.Section1 {page:Section1;} –>


/* Style Definitions */
table.MsoNormalTable
{mso-style-name:”Table Normal”;
mso-style-parent:””;
font-size:10.0pt;”Times New Roman”;}
<!– /* Font Definitions */ @font-face { panose-1:0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0;} /* Style Definitions */ p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal {mso-style-parent:””; margin:0in; margin-bottom:.0001pt; font-size:12.0pt;”Times New Roman”; mso-fareast-“Times New Roman”;} p.NoParagraphStyle, li.NoParagraphStyle, div.NoParagraphStyle {mso-style-name:”\[No Paragraph Style\]”; mso-style-parent:””; margin:0in; margin-bottom:.0001pt; line-height:120%; text-autospace:none; font-size:12.0pt; mso-fareast-“Times New Roman”; color:black;} @page Section1 {size:12.5in 21.5in; margin:.6in 28.45pt .6in 28.45pt;} div.Section1 {page:Section1;} –>
/* Style Definitions */
table.MsoNormalTable
{mso-style-name:”Table Normal”;
mso-style-parent:””;
font-size:10.0pt;”Times New Roman”;}
WASHINGTON – In a surprise move to resurrect US President George W. Bush’s $700-billion Wall Street rescue plan, Senate leaders scheduled a vote on the measure for Wednesday but added a tax cut plan already rejected by the House of Representatives.

Sen. Harry Reid, leader of the Democratic majority, who sets the Senate agenda, and Republican leader Mitch McConnell disclosed the plan Tuesday. The Senate plan also would raise federal deposit insurance limits to $250,000 from $100,000 per account, as suggested by both presidential nominees a few hours earlier.

The move to add tax legislation – including a set of popular business tax breaks – risked a backlash from House Democrats insisting they be “paid for” with savings elsewhere.

By also adding legislation to prevent more than 20 million middle-class taxpayers from feeling the bite of the alternative minimum tax, the step could build momentum from House Republicans for the Wall Street bailout. The presidential candidates, Sens. John McCain, the Republican, and Democrat Barack Obama, intend to fly to Washington for the votes, as does Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware, the Democratic vice presidential candidate.

The alternative minimum tax was created in the 1970s to bring in money from very rich people who avoided heavy taxes through legal loopholes; inflation and escalation in salaries over the decades have put millions of middle-class wage-earners in the range of the increased tax unless it is changed.

The surprise move to have a Senate vote on Wednesday capped a day in which supporters of the imperiled multibillion-dollar economic rescue fought to bring it back to life, courting reluctant lawmakers with a variety of other sweeteners, including the plan to reassure Americans their bank deposits are safe.

Wall Street, at least, regained hope. The Dow Jones industrials average rose 485 points, one day after a record 778-point plunge after the US House rejected the plan worked out by congressional leaders and the Bush administration.

Before Reid and McConnell’s move, lawmakers, Bush and the two rivals to succeed him all rummaged through ideas new and old, desperately seeking to change a dozen House members’ votes and pass the $700-billion plan.

The tax plan passed the Senate last week, on a 93-2 vote. It included the alternative tax relief, $8 billion in tax relief for those hit by natural disasters in the Midwest, Texas and Louisiana, and some $78 billion in renewable energy incentives and extensions of expiring tax breaks. In a compromise worked out with Republicans, the bill does not pay for the AMT and disaster provisions but does have revenue offsets for part of the energy and extension measures.

That was not enough for the House, which insisted that compensation from other expenses be supplied to offset the energy and extension parts of the package.

The Senate move seems aimed at “jamming” the House into accepting the deficit-financed tax cuts. Conservative Democrats will not like the idea, but some Congress-watchers suspect most Democrats might be willing to go along.

Still, the House is where the problems are, and leaders there were scrounging for ideas that might appeal to a few of the 133 Republicans and 95 Democrats who rejected the proposal on Monday.

Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd, a Democrat, told reporters, “I’m told a number of people who voted ‘no’ yesterday are having serious second thoughts about it.” He added, however, “There’s no game plan that’s been decided.”

The idea drawing the biggest support was to raise the federal deposit insurance limit, now $100,000 per account, to $250,000. Several officials, including presidential nominees John McCain and Barack Obama, endorsed the change.

So did the agency that runs the program.

Within hours of the candidates’ separate statements, Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. chairman Sheila Bair asked Congress for temporary authority to raise the limit by an unspecified amount. That could help ease a crisis of confidence in the banking system, Bair said.

She said the overwhelming majority of banks remain sound but an increase in the cap would help ease a crisis of confidence in the banking system as well as encourage banks to begin more lending.

Other ideas include extending unemployment insurance benefits, typically a Democratic goal, but one that appeals to some Rust Belt Republicans. Another Democratic-backed idea would double the property tax deduction taken by people who do not itemize their taxes. And another calls for more spending on transportation infrastructure projects, which would create more jobs.

Monday’s House vote was a stinging setback to leaders of both parties and to Bush. The administration’s proposal, still the heart of the legislation under consideration, would allow the government to buy bad mortgages and other deficient assets held by troubled financial institutions. If successful, advocates of the plan believe, that would help lift a major weight off the already sputtering national economy.

The proposal ignited furious responses from thousands of Americans, who flooded congressional telephones. The House voted 228-205 against the plan. Some lawmakers reported a shift in constituent calls pouring into their offices Tuesday after the record stock market decline. Many callers, they said, want Congress to do something without “bailing out Wall Street.”

Bush renewed his efforts, speaking with McCain and Obama and making another statement from the White House. “Congress must act,” he declared.

Though stock prices rose, more attention was on credit markets. A special rate that banks charge each other shot higher, further evidence of a tightening of credit availability.

Bush was talking about everyday Americans on Tuesday, not banks or other financial institutions. And no supporters were using the word “bailout.”

The president noted that the maximum $700 billion in the proposed bill was dwarfed by the $1 trillion in lost wealth that resulted from Monday’s stock market plunge.

“The dramatic drop in the stock market that we saw yesterday will have a direct impact on retirement accounts, pension funds and personal savings of millions of our citizens,” Bush said. “And if our nation continues on this course, the economic damage will be painful and lasting.” – AP (PStar)

Gloria: Focus is on insulating RP

October 1, 2008

PRESIDENT Arroyo yesterday said her economic team is working hard to insulate the country’s economy from the financial crisis in the United States.

Arroyo said the economic team is focusing on managing the inflationary pressure to avert any continued hike in prices of commodities, and in sustaining economic growth to “continue to generate jobs and deliver the tax revenues we need to fuel our investment,”

She said the government is also strengthening the banking system to improve the fiscal health, encourage investment, sustain the economic growth and insulate the economy from the volatility in the world market.

“We have been working hard to make sure that food supplies remain stable. We’re working hard to make sure that there is food on the table of every Filipino. We have also been introducing measures to lift the burden of high fuel prices from our people,” Arroyo said.

However, details of the programs were not mentioned.

Arroyo convened her economic team Tuesday night in Malacañang to further discuss measures and to assess the impact on the economy of the developments in the US including the rejection of the US House of Representatives on the $700 billion bailout package.

Expected to attend the meeting were Budget Secretary Rolando Andaya Jr., Finance Secretary Margarito Teves, Trade Secretary Peter Favila, Bangko Sentral governor Amando Tetangco, Planning Secretary Ralph Recto, Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap, and Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes.

Andaya foresees that if the US Congress continues to reject the bailout plan, the current economic crisis could worsen and be far worse than the Asian financial crisis of 1997.

He said this would mean among others, that the interest rates would go up and exports would shrink. The US is the biggest trading partner of the Philippines.

“Mas concern namin kung ano ang effect. What will be the negative effects if a bailout does not materialize? Of course, down the line new taxes would be one of the options,’ he said.

Sen. Mar Roxas called on the Bangko Sentral, the DOF and other government financial institutions not to keep the public “out of the loop” about the unraveling global financial crisis.

“Lack of information only causes uncertainty among the public. As long as the BSP and DOF communicate clearly with the people – from sophisticated investors to ordinary depositors – we are containing speculation,” he said.

Roxas, chair of the committee on trade and commerce, said more importantly, the economic managers must take stock of any impact of the financial crisis on the real economy, which may happen within a few months unless plans to plug these are put in place.

Roxas said that instead of panicking or taking imprudent actions, the government and private sector institutions should take this challenge as an opportunity to plan strategically for the future.

“We already know that global markets are changing in an increasingly dynamic and interconnected way. We all know that we cannot be in ‘business-as-usual’ mode forever,” he said. – Jocelyn Montemayor (Malaya)

======================

My Take:

What’s the detail?

Just asking.

Bailout rejected

October 1, 2008

Shock vote sends global markets sliding

NEW YORK/WASHINGTON — US lawmakers rejected a $700 billion bailout plan for the financial industry in a shock vote that sent global markets sliding as the world credit crisis claimed more banks.

By a vote of 228-to-205 the House of Representatives rejected a compromise plan that would have allowed the Treasury Department to buy up toxic debt from struggling banks.

The plan’s defeat sent US stocks down sharply, with the Dow Jones industrial average briefly falling more than 700 points, its biggest intraday drop ever.

Shares had already been under pressure following sharp declines in Asian and European shares on fears the crisis was spreading. Global money markets remained frozen, even as central banks poured in cash in an attempt to boost liquidity.

Capping three hours of debate on Capitol Hill, House majority leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland had warned lawmakers that the cost of inaction would be an economic calamity beyond Wall Street.

“A meltdown would begin, it is true, on a few square miles of Manhattan, but before it was over, all of us know, no city or town in America would be untouched,” Hoyer said.

When the contentious bailout plan was announced by the Bush administration last week, some House Republicans balked at spending so much taxpayer money just before US elections.

Republican House members voted against the bailout by a more than 2-to-1 margin. A majority of Democrats voted in favor.

US President George W. Bush was scheduled to make a statement on the rescue package at 12:45 GMT Tuesday (8:45 p.m. in Manila) after meeting on Monday with economic advisers including Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke to consider the administration’s next move.

“I was disappointed in the vote that the United States Congress (had) on the economic rescue plan,” Bush told reporters in Washington. “Our strategy is to continue to address this economic situation head-on and we’ll be working to develop a strategy that will enable us to continue to move forward.”

The Senate returns on Wednesday and the House on Thursday after a break for the Jewish New Year holiday of Rosh Hashanah. No laws can be passed in their absence but their staffs could work on a revised plan.

The showdown on the bailout proposal came too late for Wachovia Corp, which agreed to sell most of its assets to Citigroup Inc. in a deal brokered by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.

The Dow Jones industrial average was down more than 4 percent and the broader S&P 500 index was down nearly 6 percent. Oil fell $8 a barrel.

Earlier, European shares dropped to a three-and-a-half year closing low with bank shares weighing heavily.

“Investors are fearful, frenetic, especially when it comes to banking shares. They want to get out now and see the after effects from afar,” said Frank Geilfuss, head analyst at Bankhaus Loebbecke.

Around the world, investors were dumping assets they regarded as risky. World stocks were down sharply, while gold and US Treasuries surged in the rush to safety.

The world’s central banks, led by the US Federal Reserve, announced a $330 billion expansion of currency swap arrangements, which allows them to increase the amount of money they can provide in their home markets, effectively throwing more money at the crisis.

Earlier, the governments of Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg moved to partly nationalize Belgian-Dutch group Fortis NV with an injection of more than $16 billion, and German lender Hypo Real Estate Holding AG secured a credit line from the German government and banks of up to 35 billion euros.

British mortgage lender Bradford & Bingley Plc was brought under the government’s wing, shares of French bank Dexia tumbled on a report that it might need emergency capital, and bank rescue deals also emerged in Iceland, Russia and Denmark.

“The contagion is spreading to mainland Europe and everyone’s asking, ‘Who’s next?’” said Mark Sartori, head of European sales trading at Fox-Pitt, Kelton in London.

As investors raced for safe havens, Asian stocks trimmed deep early losses after Wall Street’s biggest fall since the crash of 1987.

“It’s hard to imagine what’s going to happen. It’s kind of scary,” said Masayoshi Okamoto, head of dealing at Jujiya Securities in Tokyo. “In particular, European banks were putting up a front that nothing was wrong, but now they’re falling one after another.”

Shares in Asia recovered from early lows but were still down about 3 percent.

Oil fell on fears of further economic slowdown, and the Japanese yen hit a 4-month high.

Investors worried that a collapse in financial markets would tip the United States economy into a painful recession that drags the rest of the world down with it.

“We do not rule out a US recession being deep and long and having a severe global impact,” said Gerard Lyons, chief economist at Standard Chartered in London. – Reuters (Malaya)

===========

My Take:

Just watched the “Illuminati” documentary.

And it makes me think about the possibility that the Illuminati’s are going bankrupt and they wanted to use the American taxpayer’s money to cushion their fall and retain their grasp on the money.

The thought makes me shiver.

Just thinking aloud.

Big Banks Go Bust: Time to Reform Wall Street

September 27, 2008

We must go further in fixing the financial sector – most importantly by downsizing it. The financial sector accounted for more than 30 percent of corporate profits in 2004. Back in the 1950’s and 1960’s, the country’s period of most rapid growth, the financial sector accounted for less than 10 percent of corporate profit.

BY DEAN BAKER
The Campaign for America’s Future/Truthout
INTERNATIONAL
Posted by Bulatlat

With the demise of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, IndyMac, Bear Stearns and now Lehman Brothers, we’ve been treated to the failure of more major financial firms than during any year since the Great Depression. The sight of rich bankers getting the boot might be lots of fun if it were just a spectator sport. Unfortunately, we are in the game with these clowns.

As a result of their incompetence, irresponsibility and greed, the housing bubble was allowed to grow to dangerous proportions. Its collapse threw the economy into recession, putting millions of people out of work and lowering the wages of those who still have their jobs. The plunge in house prices has destroyed much of the life savings for tens of millions of people nearing retirement.

Meanwhile, the bankers who messed up and destroyed the companies who hired them are still multimillionaires. Most of them are still in their old jobs getting multimillion-dollar pay packages. This is a sector that badly cries out for reform, and there is no better time than now to put it into place.

The first target for reform should be the outrageous salaries drawn by the top executives at financial firms. The crew that lost tens of billions at Citigroup, Merrill Lynch and the rest have received tens of millions, possibly even hundreds of millions, in compensation for their “work” over the last few years.

There is a general problem in corporate America of stockholders being unable to effectively organize to rein in top management. This problem is most serious in the financial industry.

Thankfully, the credit crisis gives us the tools we need to rein in executive pay. Currently, the major surviving investment banks (e.g. Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs) are operating on life support. They are drawing money at below-market interest rates from the Federal Reserve Board’s discount window. This privilege (for which they pay nothing) can easily be worth billions of dollars a year.

These banks are also operating with an explicit guarantee from Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke to their creditors that he will honor their loans in the event that an investment bank, like Bear Stearns, goes belly up. This guarantee is enormously valuable. Investors who make loans to Merrill Lynch or Morgan Stanley don’t have to worry about the health of these companies because Bernanke has said that, if necessary, he will use public money to pay them back.

While we don’t want a chain reaction of banking collapses on Wall Street, the public should get something in exchange for Bernanke’s generosity. Specifically, he can demand a cap on executive compensation (all compensation) of $2 million a year, in exchange for getting bailed out. For any bank that is not on board, Bernanke could make an explicit promise to their creditors – if the bank goes under, you will get zero from the Fed.

This can be an effective way to restore sanity to the salaries paid on Wall Street. And, this can be a good example for setting executive pay more generally. Any time a company comes to the public for a handout, like tax breaks for oil companies or low-interest loans for auto companies, the $2 million cap on all compensation goes into effect.

This is important directly because much of the country’s wealth has been steered into these folks’ pockets, but also because the outrageous compensation packages on Wall Street distorted pay structures throughout the economy. Presidents of universities often get over $1 million a year, and even top executives at private charities can often earn near $1 million a year. These salaries seem low when compared to their counterparts in the corporate world, but they are outrageous when compared to the paychecks of typical workers.

Of course, we must go further in fixing the financial sector – most importantly by downsizing it. The financial sector accounted for more than 30 percent of corporate profits in 2004. Back in the 1950’s and 1960’s, the country’s period of most rapid growth, the financial sector accounted for less than 10 percent of corporate profit.

The financial sector performs an incredibly important function in allocating savings to those who want to invest in businesses, buy homes or borrow money for other purposes. But shuffling money is not an end in itself. The explosion of the financial sector over the last three decades has led to a proliferation of complex financial instruments, many of which are not even understood by the companies who sell them, as we have painfully discovered.

The best way to bring the sector into line is with a modest financial-transactions tax. Such taxes have long existed in other countries. For example, the United Kingdom charges a tax of 0.25 percent on the purchase or sale of share of stock. This is not a big deal to someone who holds their shares for ten years, but it could be a considerable cost for the folks who buy stocks in the morning that they sell in the afternoon.

Comparable taxes on the transfer of all financial instruments (e.g. options, futures, credit default swaps, etc.) could go a long way in reducing speculation and the volume of trading in financial markets. Such a tax could also raise an enormous amount of money – easily more than $100 billion a year. This would go a long way toward funding national health care insurance or a major green infrastructure project.

And, this tax would be hugely progressive. Middle-income shareholders might take a small hit; but it would be comparable to raising the capital gains tax rate back to 20 percent, where it was before it was cut to 15 percent in 2003. The real hit would be on the big speculators and the Wall Street boys, the folks who gave us the housing crisis. Given what the Wall Street crew has done for us, this is change that we can believe in. (Posted by Bulatlat)

Dean Baker is the co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR). He is the author of “The Conservative Nanny State: How the Wealthy Use the Government to Stay Rich and Get Richer” (www.conservativenannystate.org). He also has a blog, “Beat the Press,” where he discusses the media’s coverage of economic issues. You can find it at the American Prospect’s web site.

On the current global financial crisis

September 27, 2008

Written by Prof. Jose Ma. Sison

I wish to comment on the gravity of the current financial crisis of the world capitalist system and on the impact of this in the various major contradictions in the world, with special attention to the people’s resistance in Asia, Africa and Latin America and in the imperialist countries.

Gravity of the global financial crisis

The economic and financial crisis of the US and world capitalist system has worsened to a new and unprecedented level since the Great Depression. This signifies the utter failure of the attempt of the US and other imperialist powers to overcome the problem of stagflation under Keynesianism with the policy shift to neoliberalism. Instead, the latter policy has aggravated and deepened the crisis of overproduction in the real economy and has given free rein to the abuses of finance capitalism.

The states of imperialist and other countries have adopted the policy to press down wage levels and cut back social spending. They have allowed the monopoly bourgeoisie to accelerate the concentration and centralization of productive and finance capital in its hands through the denationalization of underdeveloped economies, privatization of public assets, liberalization of investments and trade and deregulation at the expense of the working people, women, children and the environment-all in the name of “free market” globalization.

The consistent result has been the actual contraction of the world market, as the purchasing power of the working people has declined and has limited the demand for the products of expanded production. Ever intent on maximizing profits by raising the organic composition of capital (constant capital over variable capital), the monopoly bourgeoisie has reduced industrial employment and regular employment in imperialist countries by shifting production to a few other countries, like China, India and the Southeast Asian countries, in order to avail of cheap labor.

The illusion of economic growth has been conjured for the entire world capitalist system through the wanton expansion of money supply and credit. The imperialist states and nearly all other states have gone into unrestrained local and foreign borrowing to cover trade and budgetary deficits. The state and private banks have expanded credit and the private corporations have gone into heavy indebtedness by getting bank loans and issuing corporate bonds. To maintain the US as the biggest consumer market, US households have been given a seemingly endless flow of credit, culminating in the housing bubble and ending in the ongoing mortgage meltdown.

The truth about the US economy is now out. The sordid facts about the con game of the lead economy of the world capitalist system are being exposed. The debts of the US federal government, the private corporations and households are unsustainable and cannot be paid back. And yet the US policy makers continue to expand the money supply and lower the interest rates. The industrial decline and the runaway federal debt of the US have undermined the long-touted role of the US as the engine of global economic growth and the global market of last resort as well as the value of the US dollar as the reserve currency of the world.

The US economy has become dependent on credit provided by certain oil producing countries and by countries supplying consumer goods. It has fallen into a prolonged state of camouflaged recession since 1999 when the high tech bubble was about to burst. Some US economists now describe the US economy as being in a state of inflationary recession and is halfway into an hyper-inflationary Weimar Republic-type of depression that has a high potential of leaping into Great Depression II. The other industrial capitalist economies are being pulled into the vortex of the global financial crisis that the US chiefly has stirred up.

The few other countries from which the US imports cheap consumer goods face decreasing orders, a credit crunch and the declining value of the US dollar. The chronically depressed underdeveloped countries in the third world find themselves in a far worse situation than before. The overwhelming majority of them have become net fuel and food importers. Their peoples are grievously victimized by the manipulated shortages and price gouging by the global and regional cartels directed by the monopoly capitalists in the US and other imperialist powers. The entire world capitalist system can be summed up as being in a state of depression, especially if we fully take into account the actual social and economic conditions of the oppressed peoples and nations.

Consequences of the global financial crisis

The gravity of the economic and financial crisis of the world capitalist system is such that we can expect the worsening and sharpening of contradictions between the imperialist countries and the oppressed peoples and nations, between the imperialist countries and certain countries that invoke national independence, among the imperialist powers themselves and between the monopoly bourgeoisie and the working class in the imperialist countries.

The crisis of the world capitalist system inflicts social devastation at its worst and suffering at its most painful on the oppressed peoples and nations in Asia, Africa and Latin America. It is therefore understandable why we see here the most widespread spontaneous and organized actions of mass protest and the revolutionary armed struggles that seek to end imperialist domination and overthrow the puppet regimes. The main contradiction in the world is that between the imperialist powers and the oppressed peoples and nations.

The extent of existing revolutionary armed struggles is already formidable, as we observe those in Iraq, Afghanistan, Colombia, Peru, Brazil, Nigeria, Philippines, Turkey, India and other South Asian countries. The potential is high for the revolutionary armed struggles to arise in more countries in several continents. The crisis of the world capitalist system generates the favorable objective conditions for the further spread of people’s wars for national liberation and democracy.

Since the end of World War II, many new national states have arisen from the colonies and semi-colonies either as a result of the revolutionary movements for national liberation or as a result of neocolonial compromise. Most of them are now in the clutches of neocolonialism and neoliberalism. But there are some states which invoke bourgeois nationalism or socialism and assert national independence against the imperialists and their agents. Those states born from successful national liberation movements, such as China, North Korea and Cuba, have been the most effective in asserting national independence and preventing US aggression.

We have also seen the Yugoslavia of Milosevic and Iraq of Saddam resisting the worst of imperialist impositions and being subjected to wars of aggression launched by the US. Currently, there are other countries whose governments stand up to imperialist domination and move to nationalize imperialist enterprises. Venezuela of Hugo Chavez is a prime example. As the crisis of the world capitalist system worsens, we are going to see more dramatic events in the contradictions between the imperialist countries and the countries that assert national independence.

The imperialist powers collude with each other against the oppressed peoples and nations in general. But they compete with each other for sources of cheap raw materials, markets, fields of investment and spheres of influence. As a result of the full restoration of capitalism in former revisionist-ruled countries, imperialist countries competing with each other and seeking to redivide the world have increased in number. The world has become more cramped than ever for the competitions and rivalries of the imperialist powers.

The US is increasingly resented by other imperialist powers for presuming to have sole hegemony over the whole world and for trying to grab the lion’s share of spoils in every continent. At the same time, it is already overextended and weakening in certain parts of the world. Contradictions are developing between the US and Russia and China jointly or separately. So are those between the US and the European Union. These contradictions involve economic, financial, political, security and other issues. As the crisis of the world capitalist system worsens, the contradictions among the imperialist powers will sharpen and generate conditions favorable for the rise of revolutionary movements.

Within imperialist countries, contradictions are surfacing between the monopoly bourgeoisie and the working class. Under the auspices of neoliberalism, the wage and living conditions of the working class have deteriorated drastically. Job security for most workers has evaporated. Worker youth, women and immigrants are discriminated against, exploited and oppressed. Social benefits won over a long period of time have been gravely eroded. Trade union and other democratic rights have been undermined and curtailed.

As the crisis of the world capitalist system worsens, the monopoly bourgeoisie will try to further exploit and oppress the workers. It will pit one section of the working class against another. For the purpose, it will use chauvinism, racism, religious bigotry and fascism. But it is precisely the escalating exploitative and oppressive acts of the monopoly bourgeoisie that will drive the workers to fight back and wage revolutionary struggle. The class struggle in the imperialist countries has never been eliminated. It has only been suppressed for quite a long while. It is now resurgent.

[Prof. Jose Maria Sison is chairperson of the International Coordinating Committee of the International League of Peoples’Struggle (ILPS). The foregoing article (original title: “Implications and consequences of the global financial crisis to the people’s anti-imperialist movement”) was written as a contribution to the Forum on Global Financial Crisis, Third International Assembly, held in Hong Kong on 19 June 2008. Visit the author’s site to read more analyses on various issues.]

3 oil minnows face Customs audit

September 25, 2008

The Bureau of Customs will start reviewing the oil importation and shipment records of three small oil companies as part of a drive to boost revenue collection.

The bureau’s Post-Entry Audit Group, headed by Customs Assistant Commissioner Rolando Ligon Jr., will notify Eastern, Flying V and Unioil about the audit.

“We have prepared notices of audit, and we will inform these oil firms that we will conduct a review of their importations for the last year,” Ligon told reporters Wednesday.

He said the audit would also cover the oil importations made by the three oil companies for 2004, 2005 and 2006.

“It does not mean that if you are placed on audit, you are guilty. Let us wait until the audit ends before making any judgment,” Ligon said.

Up next for audit, he added, are oil giants Caltex, Petron and Shell, subjects of the first round of review.

“So far, there has been no evidence of smuggling [against the oil giants], just discrepancy issues,” Ligon said.

Ligon’s team, which Customs Commissioner Napoleon Morales formed to boost revenue collection, was able to collect more than P80 million in additional revenue for the post-entry audit for the last six months.

As of July, the group got P33.5 million (steel), P14.472 million (paper products), P8.631 million (hardware), P3.965 million (motor industry), P3.460 million (electronics), P2.2 million (liquor), P2.7 million (plastic), P1.046 million (general merchandise) and P2.9 million from other classifications.
–Anthony Vargas

=========

My Take:

Hmmm… Could the giants had a hand on this?  Is this a way of suppressing one rival’s growth and maintaining the tri-grip to the oil monopoly in the country?

Just asking…

Editorial Cartoon: The Fall

September 21, 2008

And the Fallen

RP Exposure To US Financial Crisis To Result In Business Slowdown

September 21, 2008

The exposure of Philippine banks to the global financial crisis, whether significant or not, will result in the contraction of local businesses and job losses because economic liberalization has made the local banking system vulnerable to external factors.
According to research group IBON Foundation, Philippine banks are merely a conduit of foreign capital, and being in a liberalized and deregulated environment, are vulnerable to the current volatility of global finance.

Even as the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas has assured the public that only a few local banks have exposure to cash-strapped US investment banks, the impact on local businesses will be felt since majority of investments in the country are dominated by foreign capital, accounting to around 54% of total flows in the country. Thus though not exposed to the bankrupt Lehman Brothers, investments in the country are affected by the jitters of foreign capital.

The local banking system, dominated by foreign banks, will likely be prudent in lending to small local businesses and would instead opt to protect large businesses with foreign capital. Unavailable access to lending would result in business slowdown and possibly lead to more establishment closures. As it is, financial losses have led to a significant number of closures among establishments in the past years.

Business slowdown will worsen the country’s unemployment, which is already at its record high, as business owners will be forced to cut down on their labor force or close shop. Job losses will be first felt in all trade and investment enclaves in the country, both manufacturing and business process outsourcing (BPOs), and then by the few Filipino firms exporting to the US and related markets.

The global crisis will further worsen the Philippines’ own economic crisis as neoliberal reforms have further deepened its links to the US and the global economy. However, the economy would have been less vulnerable if the domestic economy were not overly dependent on trade, foreign loans and capital, and if nationalist economic policies were in place. (end)

IBON will hold an Usapang IBON to discuss the US financial crisis on 24 September, 1-5 pm at the IBON Center 114 Timog Ave.,QC. Speakers are Dr. Ed Villegas (IBON chairperson) and Ms. Rosario Bella Guzman (IBON executive editor). You are cordially invited to the forum.

US-Iraq Agreement Leaked

September 17, 2008

leaked version of last month’s draft of the proposed US-Iraq status of forces agreement (SOFA) suggests that the Iraqi parliament may not be consulted before it is signed, despite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s promises to do so. The pact would govern the future US presence in Iraq. The draft indicates no intent to set a deadline for withdrawal of “noncombat” troops from Iraq. It also grants immunity from Iraqi law to US military personnel, no matter where they are located.

BY MAYA SCHENWAR
T r u t h o u t
Posted by Bulatlat
Vol. VIII, No. 31, September 7-13, 2008

A leaked version of last month’s draft of the proposed US-Iraq status of forces agreement (SOFA) suggests that the Iraqi parliament may not be consulted before it is signed, despite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s promises to do so. The pact would govern the future US presence in Iraq. The draft indicates no intent to set a deadline for withdrawal of “noncombat” troops from Iraq. It also grants immunity from Iraqi law to US military personnel, no matter where they are located.

The draft was translated and provided to Truthout by Raed Jarrar, Iraq consultant for the American Friends Service Committee. It comes after months of assurances from Maliki that the agreement would be sent to parliament. However, the draft SOFA states, “This agreement goes into effect on the day that diplomatic memos confirming all constitutional procedures have been met in both countries are exchanged,” and sets a December 31 deadline for this memo exchange.

Designating a memo exchange between executive branches as the go-ahead to put the plan into action opens up a gaping loophole, making it simple to bypass parliamentary ratification, according to Jarrar. Since the “constitutional procedures” that are to be followed aren’t specified – and Iraq’s laws are not yet set in stone – the Maliki administration’s lawyers could easily interpret a bilateral executive agreement as constitutional. Unlike parliament, the Iraqi executive branch operates out of the US green zone and is backed by the United States.

“I won’t be surprised if someone in the Iraqi executive branch decides that it is enough to read the agreement before the parliament, or ‘consult’ with them, or pass it as a law with simple majority or whatever other tricks they might pull,” Jarrar told Truthout, adding that the December 31 deadline makes the language even more suspect. “How can they make sure all ‘constitutional procedures’ [are completed] before December 31? What will happen if they are not done?”

The prospect of an impending deadline certainly clashes with hopes of parliamentary approval, according to Dr. Mahmoud Al-Mashhadani, head of the Iraqi parliament. In a rare interview with the news agency Al-Arabiya, Al-Mashhadani stressed that parliament could not even consider a SOFA right now, since a law governing procedures on international agreements has not been passed.

“The Iraqi constitution determines that the House of Representatives must first enact a law to ratify the Law of Treaties and Agreements, and must vote or pass this law through parliament by two-thirds majority,” Al-Mashhadani said. “So, before discussing the treaty, we must enact this law by two-thirds.”

Al-Mashhadani stated that the Law of Treaties and Agreements would “take a long time to pass,” and would “not be enacted before the end of the year.”

Therefore, the SOFA draft deadline would not allow the possibility of parliamentary approval before passage.
Iraq’s executive branch has a history of circumventing the legislature, according to Foreign Policy in Focus Fellow Erik Leaver: The administration did not consult parliament in 2007 when it agreed on the extension of the UN mandate allowing a continuing US presence in Iraq. However, says Leaver, because parliament has been so publicly vocal in its insistence on being involved in the SOFA process, ignoring the legislature may have heavier consequences this time around.

“I would expect a legal challenge in Iraq – and perhaps the US – if the accord moves forward in an exchange of memos,” Leaver told Truthout. “Beyond legal challenges, enormous political pressure would be put upon him, perhaps causing a rise in instability and a certain delay in the scheduled [2008] fall elections in Iraq.”

Jarrar suggested that bypassing parliament may even “lead to some groups quitting the political process.”
Ahmed Ali, an Iraqi correspondent based in Diyala, told Truthout that the possible circumvention of parliamentary approval reveals the nature of the agreement itself: It runs contrary to the wishes of most Iraqi people and their representatives, who would rather all troops leave the country quickly.

“[The SOFA] is superficial,” Ali said. “They are telling Iraqis, ‘You have to accept it; you can say no word.’”

Meanwhile, the American people and their representatives are getting a similarly short end of the stick, according to Steve Fox, director of the American Freedom Campaign, a nonpartisan organization that works to combat executive power abuses. Fox notes that, although SOFAs are usually bilateral executive agreements, the US-Iraq pact goes far beyond the bounds of a traditional SOFA, since it grants US military personnel the authority to continue fighting. (Typical SOFA provisions include US military members’ banking and postal procedures, legal policies relating to military personnel and the transport of Americans’ property into and out of the country.)

“For the past seven years, the president has treated Congress like an inferior branch of government,” Fox told Truthout. “This pending agreement with Iraq is just another example. It is clear that the agreement goes beyond the reach of a traditional SOFA and it should be approved by Congress before it goes into effect. But the president has no intention of seeking Congressional approval. In our opinion, Congress should issue a ’signing statement’ of its own, declaring the agreement unconstitutional and signaling that it will fund the activities outlined in the agreement at its own discretion.”

Timetable for (Partial) Withdrawal

Over the past couple of months, Maliki has firmly advocated a quick, total withdrawal of US troops. Many in Iraq believe that his strong language is intended to sell the SOFA to parliament. However, if parliament is not consulted on the deal, it will likely contain very weak withdrawal guidelines, as outlined in the leaked draft.

The draft states that a deadline will be set to pull out “combat troops,” though the exact date had not been filled in at the time of its release. No timeline is provided for the departure of noncombat troops. Those soldiers would be permitted to linger indefinitely on “installations and areas agreed upon” – the agreement’s lingo for “military bases.”

The “noncombat” designation is notably vague, according to Leaver.

“It doesn’t define what role noncombatant troops would have, nor does it define the potential numbers left behind,” Leaver said, adding that the agreement doesn’t specify what role remaining military contractors would play in a “post-withdrawal” Iraq.

Although its definitions might be murky, the way the agreement’s “withdrawal” plan will be received in Iraq is fairly clear, according to Ali.
“In a word, this arrangement is a new face for the occupation,” Ali said.

Troop Immunity

The SOFA draft grants US troops full immunity from Iraqi law, stating, “The U.S. has exclusive legal jurisdiction over U.S. armed forces members and civilian members inside and outside installations and areas agreed upon.”

Following that clause is a “suggestion” from the Iraqi negotiators, which proposes that US personnel be given immunity “except for intentional crimes and major mistakes.”

“Intentional crimes and major mistakes” are not defined, and according to Jarrar, the “Iraqi suggestions” sprinkled throughout the draft do not hold much water.

“All the Iraqi suggestions show that the Iraqi team doesn’t have much leeway,” Jarrar said.

The generous immunity clause is not standard for SOFAs, according to Joseph Gerson, author of “The Sun Never Sets: Confronting the Network of Foreign Military Bases.” In fact, in countries with more leverage, like Japan and western European nations, US soldiers who commit crimes may well be subject to native law. By seeking blanket immunity for troops in “post-withdrawal” Iraq, the Bush administration is following a treacherous historical pattern.

“Such indemnification is often sought by the Pentagon when new bases are established, and it is as close to a raw practice of imperialism as one can imagine,” Gerson told Truthout.

Leaver notes that the wide-open immunity clause coincides with a high prevalence of US-inflicted civilian casualties in Iraq, leaving victims of those crimes with no recourse.

According to Ali, that’s an untenable loophole.

“The US troops should be tried by Iraqi law,” Ali said. “Every day, they kill people by mistake. Let’s imagine that whole case in the United States, what the result would be – can you?” Truthout/Posted by Bulatlat

Bush Said to Give Orders Allowing Raids in Pakistan

September 17, 2008

President Bush secretly approved orders in July that for the first time allow American Special Operations forces to carry out ground assaults inside Pakistan without the prior approval of the Pakistani government, according to senior American officials.

BY ERIC SCHMITT and MARK MAZZETTI
New York Times
Posted by Bulatlat
Vol. VIII, No. 32, September 14-20, 2008

WASHINGTON — President Bush secretly approved orders in July that for the first time allow American Special Operations forces to carry out ground assaults inside Pakistan without the prior approval of the Pakistani government, according to senior American officials.

The classified orders signal a watershed for the Bush administration after nearly seven years of trying to work with Pakistan to combat the Taliban and Al Qaeda, and after months of high-level stalemate about how to challenge the militants’ increasingly secure base in Pakistan’s tribal areas.

American officials say that they will notify Pakistan when they conduct limited ground attacks like the Special Operations raid last Wednesday in a Pakistani village near the Afghanistan border, but that they will not ask for its permission.

“The situation in the tribal areas is not tolerable,” said a senior American official who, like others interviewed for this article, spoke on condition of anonymity because of the delicate nature of the missions. “We have to be more assertive. Orders have been issued.”

The new orders reflect concern about safe havens for Al Qaeda and the Taliban inside Pakistan, as well as an American view that Pakistan lacks the will and ability to combat militants. They also illustrate lingering distrust of the Pakistani military and intelligence agencies and a belief that some American operations had been compromised once Pakistanis were advised of the details.

The Central Intelligence Agency has for several years fired missiles at militants inside Pakistan from remotely piloted Predator aircraft. But the new orders for the military’s Special Operations forces relax firm restrictions on conducting raids on the soil of an important ally without its permission.

Pakistan’s top army officer said Wednesday that his forces would not tolerate American incursions like the one that took place last week and that the army would defend the country’s sovereignty “at all costs.”

It is unclear precisely what legal authorities the United States has invoked to conduct even limited ground raids in a friendly country. A second senior American official said that the Pakistani government had privately assented to the general concept of limited ground assaults by Special Operations forces against significant militant targets, but that it did not approve each mission.

The official did not say which members of the government gave their approval.

Any new ground operations in Pakistan raise the prospect of American forces being killed or captured in the restive tribal areas — and a propaganda coup for Al Qaeda. Last week’s raid also presents a major test for Pakistan’s new president, Asif Ali Zardari, who supports more aggressive action by his army against the militants but cannot risk being viewed as an American lap dog, as was his predecessor, Pervez Musharraf.

The new orders were issued after months of debate inside the Bush administration about whether to authorize a ground campaign inside Pakistan. The debate, first reported by The New York Times in late June, at times pitted some officials at the State Department against parts of the Pentagon that advocated aggressive action against Qaeda and Taliban targets inside the tribal areas.

Details about last week’s commando operation have emerged that indicate the mission was more intrusive than had previously been known.

According to two American officials briefed on the raid, it involved more than two dozen members of the Navy Seals who spent several hours on the ground and killed about two dozen suspected Qaeda fighters in what now appeared to have been a planned attack against militants who had been conducting attacks against an American forward operating base across the border in Afghanistan.

Supported by an AC-130 gunship, the Special Operations forces were whisked away by helicopters after completing the mission.

Although the senior American official who provided the most detailed description of the new presidential order would discuss it only on condition of anonymity, his account was corroborated by three other senior American officials from several government agencies, all of whom made clear that they supported the more aggressive approach.

Pakistan’s government has asserted that last week’s raid achieved little except killing civilians and stoking anti-Americanism in the tribal areas.

“Unilateral action by the American forces does not help the war against terror because it only enrages public opinion,” said Husain Haqqani, Pakistan’s ambassador to Washington, during a speech on Friday. “In this particular incident, nothing was gained by the action of the troops.”

As an alternative to American ground operations, some Pakistani officials have made clear that they prefer the C.I.A.’s Predator aircraft, operating from the skies, as a method of killing Qaeda operatives. The C.I.A. for the most part has coordinated with Pakistan’s government before and after it has launched missiles from the drone. On Monday, a Predator strike in North Waziristan killed several Arab Qaeda operatives.

A new American command structure was put in place this year to better coordinate missions by the C.I.A. and members of the Pentagon’s Joint Special Operations Command, made up of the Army’s Delta Force and the Navy Seals.

The move was intended to address frustration on the ground about different agencies operating under different marching orders. Under the arrangement, a senior C.I.A. official based at Bagram air base in Afghanistan was put in charge of coordinating C.I.A. and military activities in the border region.

Spokesmen for the White House, the Defense Department and the C.I.A. declined to comment on Wednesday about the new orders. Some senior Congressional officials have received briefings on the new authorities. A spokeswoman for Senator Carl Levin, a Michigan Democrat who leads the Armed Services Committee, declined to comment.

American commanders in Afghanistan have complained bitterly that militants use sanctuaries in Pakistan to attack American troops in Afghanistan.

“I’m not convinced we’re winning it in Afghanistan,” Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the House Armed Services Committee on Wednesday. “I am convinced we can.”

Toward that goal, Admiral Mullen said he had ordered a comprehensive military strategy to address the border region between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The commando raid last week and an increasing number of recent missile strikes are part of a more aggressive overall American campaign in the border region aimed at intensifying attacks on Al Qaeda and the Taliban in the waning months of the Bush administration, with less than two months to go before November elections.

State Department officials, as well as some within the National Security Council, have expressed concern about any Special Operations missions that could be carried out without the approval of the American ambassador in Islamabad.

The months-long delay in approving ground missions created intense frustration inside the military’s Special Operations community, which believed that the Bush administration was holding back as the Qaeda safe haven inside Pakistan became more secure for militants.

The stepped-up campaign inside Pakistan comes at a time when American-Pakistani relations have been fraying, and when anger is increasing within American intelligence agencies about ties between Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate, known as the ISI, and militants in the tribal areas.

Analysts at the C.I.A. and other American spy and security agencies believe not only that the bombing of India’s embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, in July by militants was aided by ISI operatives, but also that the highest levels of Pakistan’s security apparatus — including the army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani — had knowledge of the plot.

“It’s very difficult to imagine he was not aware,” a senior American official said of General Kayani.

American intelligence agencies have said that senior Pakistani national security officials favor the use of militant groups to preserve Pakistan’s influence in the region, as a hedge against India and Afghanistan.

In fact, some American intelligence analysts believe that ISI operatives did not mind when their role in the July bombing in Kabul became known. “They didn’t cover their tracks very well,” a senior Defense Department official said, “and I think the embassy bombing was the ISI drawing a line in the sand.” New York Times/posted by Bulatlat

US Reported to Kill 12 in Pakistan

September 17, 2008

As the American campaign against suspected Al Qaeda and Taliban militants in Pakistan’s tribal areas seemed to intensify on Friday, two missiles fired from remotely piloted American aircraft killed 12 people on Friday in an attack on a village compound in North Waziristan, according to a local journalist and television reports.

BY PIR ZUBAIR SHAH AND ALAN COWELL
The New York Times/Truthout
Posted by Bulatlat
Vol. VIII, No. 32, September 14-20, 2008

Islamabad, Pakistan – As the American campaign against suspected Al Qaeda and Taliban militants in Pakistan’s tribal areas seemed to intensify on Friday, two missiles fired from remotely piloted American aircraft killed 12 people on Friday in an attack on a village compound in North Waziristan, according to a local journalist and television reports.

At the same time, fighting between Pakistan security forces and militants elsewhere in the wild lands bordering Afghanistan killed 32 militants and two soldiers, The Associated Press reported, citing a Pakistan Army spokesman, Maj. Murad Khan.

The missile strike was said to have taken place near Miran Shah, the main settlement in North Waziristan, before first light Friday and was aimed at the home of a local tribesman, Yousaf Khan Wazir, who was among the dead, a local journalist said, speaking in return for anonymity.

A Pakistani intelligence official said most of the dead in the attack were “Punjabi Taliban.” The term refers to militants from the Punjab Province of Pakistan. The target was said to be a militant training camp, the official said, asking not to be named because he was not authorized to speak publicly.

The missiles were fired at a village called Tole Khel, two miles east of Miran Shah, and the dead included women and children, according to residents speaking to Pakistani reporters. There was no immediate word on the reported attack from American or Pakistani military authorities.

Pakistan’s government has little control in the tribal areas which the United States regards as safe havens for Al Qaeda and Taliban militants. In July, President Bush approved secret orders permitting American Special Operations forces to carry out ground assaults inside Pakistan without the prior approval of the Pakistani government, according to senior American officials.
Earlier this month, American forces raided a Pakistani village near the Afghan border in an attack that angered Pakistani officials who asserted that it had achieved little except killing civilians and stoking anti-Americanism in the tribal areas.

According to two American officials briefed on the raid, more than two dozen members of the Navy Seals spent several hours on the ground, supported by an AC-130 gunship, and killed about two dozen suspected Al Qaeda fighters before they were whisked away by helicopter.
Some Pakistani officials have made clear they prefer the C.I.A.’s Predator drone aircraft as the means of killing Qaeda operatives without the deployment of American troops on the ground.

In the missile strike 0n Friday, Pakistani gunships hovered over the area after the attack and a Pakistani military convoy in the area was hit by a roadside bomb that wounded three government soldiers, Pakistan state television reported.

The attack was the second of its kind this week. On Monday, a missile strike from a Predator killed several Arab Qaeda operatives. The increasing missile strikes are seen as part of a more aggressive overall American campaign in the border region less than two months before America’s presidential elections. The New York Times/posted by Bulatlat

Pir Zubair Shah reported from Islamabad and Alan Cowell from Paris.

Indonesia Experience Debunks Claims of JPEPA Advocates of Increased Economic Gains

September 17, 2008

The recently-implemented Indonesia-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement (IJEPA) promised increased exports to Japan. But as the IJEPA went into effect in July, Indonesian Industry Minister Fahmi Idris said that Indonesia’s main exports, such as agricultural products and timber, will continue to face high non-tariff barriers in the form of quality standards, while Japanese high-tech imports will be able to enter the Indonesian market with lower import taxes.

BY IBON FOUNDATION
Posted by Bulatlat
Vol. VIII, No. 31, September 7-13, 2008

As proponents of the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA) continue to warn against the possibility of being left out if the pact is not ratified, the experience of Indonesia shows that its own bilateral deal with Japan has not resulted in increased economic gains.

The recently-implemented Indonesia-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement (IJEPA) promised increased exports to Japan. But as the IJEPA went into effect in July, Indonesian Industry Minister Fahmi Idris said that Indonesia’s main exports, such as agricultural products and timber, will continue to face high non-tariff barriers in the form of quality standards, while Japanese high-tech imports will be able to enter the Indonesian market with lower import taxes. The same situation is expected if the JPEPA is ratified, as Philippine pineapples and bananas would face strict phytosanitary standards before being allowed to enter the Japanese market.

Moreover, major Japanese investors in Indonesia threatened to pull out of the country unless issues such as sufficient power supply were resolved. This discredits claims by JPEPA advocates that the trade pact with Japan would guarantee a flood of Japanese investments as Japanese investors would still have to consider factors other than the JPEPA before they decide to invest in the Philippines, such as labor costs and infrastructure.

Some Indonesian analysts believe that Japan may be the bigger winner in the IJEPA, as the pact could help ensure for Japan a steady supply of Indonesian liquefied natural gas through increased Japanese investments in Indonesia’s energy sector. According to an official of the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Indonesia will likely become more dependent on Japan, to the detriment of local industry.

The IJEPA demonstrates how Japan’s bilateral trade agreements are not about genuine economic partnership or development but rather a tool it uses to advance Japanese corporate interests. Senators should heed this lesson and reject the JPEPA lest the country be trapped in a bad deal that compromises the Philippines’ future economic prospects. IBON Foundation/posted by Bulatlat

IBON is a convenor of No Deal! Movement Against Unequal Economic Agreements.

IBON Foundation, Inc. is an independent development institution established in 1978 that provides research, education, publications, information work and advocacy support on socioeconomic issues.

Pump Prices Still Above Normal Levels

September 17, 2008

Even as world crude prices have gone down to approximately their January 2008 levels, current pump prices are still above the averages for the period January-March 2008.

BY ALEXANDER MARTIN REMOLLINO
Bulatlat
Vol. VIII, No. 32, September 14-20, 2008

Press Sec. Jesus Dureza said, in a press conference Sept. 12, that the recent rollback in oil prices by P2 to P3 is a “big argument against those who are shouting deregulation;” although the Press Secretary might have meant “regulation” as militant groups are calling for the scrapping of the Downstream Oil Industry Deregulation Act and for the regulation of oil prices.

Demands for the repeal of the 12 percent value-added tax (VAT) on petroleum products and the scrapping of the Downstream Oil Industry Deregulation Act have intensified during the first half of the year amid a series of oil price hikes starting last January. Oil price hikes severely affected the prices of commodities, as petroleum products are used in the production and transportation of goods.

Oil firms have claimed that the frequent spikes in the prices of their products are offshoots of their supposed need to recover losses from the jumps in world oil prices. World crude prices increased at a seeming uncontrollable pace with projections that it would hit $200 per barrel. But they peaked at $147 per barrel before they went down steadily. Mainstream analysts claimed that diminishing oil reserves, weather disturbances, and geopolitical factors such as the impending war between the US and Iran caused prices to rise; although some attribute it to a speculation frenzy in the oil futures market, especially after the sub-prime mortgage crisis in the US when hedge fund managers lost millions of dollars.

In the Philippines, oil companies have implemented a total of seven rollbacks since last August. These rollbacks have brought down prices by P8.50 ($0.18 at the Sept. 12 exchange rate of $1:P46.86) a liter for gasoline and P6.50 ($0.14) for diesel.

But according to Arnold Padilla of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan’s (Bayan or New Patriotic Alliance) Public Information Department, oil companies should have implemented bigger rollbacks in the prices of their products, considering that crude oil prices in the world market have gone back to the level they were at during the first quarter of 2008.

The following table, based on data from the Department of Energy (DoE), show the monthly average retail prices of diesel and gasoline from December last year to August this year:

Monthly Average Retail Prices of Unleaded Gasoline and Diesel
(December 2007-August 2008)

Average retail price

as of

Unleaded

(P/liter)

Diesel

(P/liter)

23 Aug 2008

55.96

54.94

30 Jul 2008

60.46

60.02

30 Jun 2008

59.46

52.44

27 May 2008

51.96

44.94

30 Apr 2008

47.96

40.94

31 Mar 2008

46.46

39.44

26 Feb 2008

43.96

36.94

29 Jan 2008

44.45

38.45

26 Dec 2007

44.45

38.45

Source: Department of Energy

World crude prices in the oil futures market first hit the $100/barrel mark in January this year, while its spot price was around $92.93. The local pump price of unleaded gasoline in January was at P44.45 ($0.948) per liter and diesel at P38.45 ($0.82). World crude prices in the futures market hit $103/barrel in February and $110/barrel in March, with spot prices reaching $93.51 in February and $99.32 in March. Local pump prices in February and March ranged from P43.96 to P46.46 ($0.938 to $0.99) for unleaded gasoline and from P36.94 to P39.44 ($0.788 to $0.84) for diesel.

Brent crude oil for October delivery last traded at $99.43 and light, sweet crude at New York Mercantile Exchange at $101.74. Spot prices range between $93.06, for oil from the Urals, to $104.04 for Louisiana sweet oil. Local pump prices now range from P51.25-52.85 ($1.09-1.13)/liter for unleaded gasoline, and P48.95-51.09 ($1.04-1.09)/liter for diesel.

The current range of pump prices for unleaded gasoline and diesel is visibly still above the monthly averages for the period January-March 2008, bolstering the claims of drivers and militant organizations that the current oil price rollbacks are not enough.

“Clearly, oil price slides in the world market do not automatically translate into proportionate rollbacks in the local market,” Padilla said in an interview.

“This happens because the oil industry is deregulated,” Padilla pointed out.

The downstream oil industry was deregulated in April 1996, upon the passage of Republic Act No. 8180. Two years later, RA 8180 would be replaced with RA 8479, which eliminated the first law’s provisions on tariff differential, stocking of inventories, and predatory pricing.

Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who was a senator in 1995-1998, authored RA 8479 among other laws paving the way for the Philippines’ entry into the World Trade Organization (WTO) framework.

Arguments for regulation

Under deregulation, the Philippines has been suffering from more frequent oil price hikes than during the pre-deregulation period. The increased frequency of oil price hikes under the deregulated environment contributed greatly to bringing prices of petroleum products to their present exorbitant levels.

Padilla also said that the deregulation of the oil industry has made the Philippines more vulnerable to the effects of speculation in the world market.

Last June, four market analysts testified at a US Senate hearing, that speculation accounted for 30 percent of world oil prices.

Michael Masters of Masters Capital Management said that if the US Congress passed a law limiting speculation, the price of oil would drop closer to marginal price of $65/75/barrel. Fadel Gheit of Oppenheimer & Co., Edward Krapels of Energy Security Analysis, and Roger Diwan of PFC Energy Consultants agreed with Masters.

“Record oil prices are inflated by speculation and not justified by market fundamentals,” Gheit said. “Based on supply and demand fundamentals, crude-oil prices should not be above $60 per barrel.”

The $60 to $65 per barrel range was the average price of crude oil from 2005-2007.

Padilla said that regulation would protect the people both from the effects of speculation in the world market and local oil companies’ profiteering because any increase would have to be approved by the government. Another proposal being put forward by militant groups is centralized procurement of oil.

“With centralized procurement, it is the government that is in charge of importing our oil requirements,” Padilla said. “The government thus can enter into bilateral agreements in which both parties agree not to be affected by speculation,” he explained.

“Also, with centralized procurement, the government would have a sense of the actual costs of oil, unlike the situation right now in which we cannot tell the real costs,” he added. “The government can therefore call the oil companies to task if they peg their prices way above the costs of importing oil.” Bulatlat

‘No sanction for failure to ratify Asean Charter before December’

August 24, 2008

By Pia Lee-Brago
Sunday, August 24, 2008

<!–

Page: 1

–>

No sanction will be imposed on the Philippines and other members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations if they will fail to ratify the ASEAN Charter, Manila’s “brainchild,” before the Bangkok summit in December, according to a ranking official of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).

But the DFA official, who asked not to be named, said it is embarrassing for the Philippines if the Senate fails to approve the Charter because the country had committed to its ratification.

“There will be no sanctions if members fail to ratify the ASEAN Charter. (But) we committed we will do all efforts to sign and implement the Charter,” the official said.

Military-ruled Myanmar became the third country to ratify the ASEAN Charter that includes the creation of a human rights body, but the Philippines still has to fulfill its commitment to ratify it in time for the ASEAN summit in December.

The official said ratification of the Charter should be a priority when the Senate resumes session.

“It has been submitted to the Senate. I don’t want to comment. Hopefully they will have hearings when sessions resume. We’re not the only one that has not ratified; the others are Thailand and Indonesia,” the official said.

When asked if President Arroyo’s statement during the ASEAN summit in Singapore last November – that the Senate would have difficulty ratifying the Charter because of Myanmar’s failure to implement democratic reforms – will lead to non-approval of the Charter, the official said the President was only expressing her view.

“What President Arroyo said is that some senators will have a problem ratifying. She was saying her view. But it’s a priority for us, the Charter,” the official added.

Myanmar, earlier perceived to block and shelve the document’s ratification, ratified the Charter after ASEAN slammed the nation’s ruling junta for extending the detention of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Some ASEAN members are reportedly apprehensive that the Philippines may be the last country to ratify the regional grouping’s landmark Charter, causing a delay in the implementation of the document.

ASEAN diplomats said they have been coaxing the Philippines to approve the Charter through formal and informal communications.

“We wanted the Philippines to cooperate in the aspect of ratification. If they will not ratify, there may be a problem,” a diplomat said.

Brunei, Malaysia, Laos, Singapore, Vietnam and Cambodia have already ratified the Charter, which ironically is a brainchild of the Philippines.(PhilStar)

===========

My Take:

Seems that the Philippine government is notorious on not signing what its putting into writing, teheee.

Out Now! Coalition questions US presence in Baliki war

August 23, 2008

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/22 August) – A group opposing US military presence in the country is questioning the presence of US troops in Barangay Baliki, Midsayap, North Cotabato last Sunday and wants the Senate and House of Representatives to probe “increasing US military involvement in Mindanao and US meddling in the GRP-MILF peace negotiations.”

The US Troops Out Now Coalition-Mindanao made these calls in a statement signed by Philippine Independent Church Bishop Felixberto Calang.

A MindaNews team chanced upon a team of US soldiers and their Filipino counterparts near a detachment of the 38th IB in Barangay Baliki, Midsayap, North Cotabato on August 17, searching for unexploded 500-pounder GP (general purpose) bombs fired from OV-10 Bronco bomber aircraft on supposed MILF targets the previous Sunday, August 10.

One of two 500-pounder unexploded bombs was detonated by the joint RP-US team.

A Filipino sergeant said the American soldier he escorted and was seen by the MindaNews team, was with three other US troops.

MindaNews asked one of the American soldiers at the Hill Top Inn in Midsayap, where they were billeted, but he said, “I don’t talk to reporters.”

The soldiers went to Baliki on board two silver Toyota Hi-Lux Vigo vehicles with no plate numbers, just a plate bearing the initials “VFA” (for Visiting Forces Agreement).

The US Troops Out Now Coalition-Mindanao in a statement said they question “the presence of US troops involved in actual combat operations in pursuit of Moro rebels in Mindanao.”

“The VFA clearly surrenders our national sovereignty and is being used to legalize the wanton exercise of US hegemony in the Philippines through terror-mongering,” it said.

“Next to the February 4 massacre in Maimbung, Sulu where residents claimed to have seen US soldiers accompanying local troops in military operations, the Baliki incident is another proof that the United States has been engaged in actual military intervention in Mindanao wars,” it said.

“While Philippine Army officials try to justify the US troops’ participation as mere assistance in ordinance disposal, this shows that the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) is blurring the distinction between ‘exercise’ and ‘actual combat’ to legally justify permanent American presence and engagement in Mindanao,” the group said.

“Government’s failure to disclose to the public the Terms of Reference (TOR) governing the presence of US troops in Mindanao, including the docking of US warships like the USS Vandegrift (in Cagayan de Oro and other parts of Mindanao) in March this year, is highly suspect.

”Out Now!-Mindanao is apprehensive that US military presence is part of the US government’s double-edged policy of engagement with the MILF. While it facilitates peace negotiations and provides post-settlement aid package on one hand,  it is engaged in counter-insurgency pursuit operations in the guise of counter-terrorism on the other,” it added. (MindaNews)

Bush wins Obama’s backing over Georgia

August 22, 2008

Agence France-Presse
First Posted 10:05:00 08/22/2008

CHESAPEAKE — Democratic White House hopeful Barack Obama staged a rare show of unity with President George W. Bush Thursday by endorsing his approach to the crisis between Georgia and Russia.

Obama, whose Republican rival John McCain has been hammering the Georgia issue to flag his own national-security credentials, said tough talking alone would not suffice in diplomacy.

“The situation with Russia and Georgia is very serious. This is the first time that Russia has moved into somebody’s territory since the collapse of the Soviet Union,” Obama told an evening rally here in southern Virginia.

“It indicates a new stage in the relationship between Russia and the West. We’ve got to be firm with the Russians, in alliance with our European allies, that this kind of behavior is intolerable,” the Illinois senator said.

While opposing the US president on just about every point of domestic and international policy, Obama said: “I’m supportive of what George Bush has been doing.

“There will be a time later for politics. I’m a big believer that when you’re in a crisis, America speaks with one voice,” he said, drawing warm applause from a capacity crowd of 2,600 people in a school gymnasium.

Bush told Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili on Thursday that he wanted a quick end to Russia’s “siege” of the former Soviet republic, the White House said.

Earlier, the White House had demanded that Moscow withdraw its forces “now” from Georgia and warned there can be no Russia-NATO military cooperation until the volatile crisis is over.

Obama has said Russia’s aspirations to join the World Trade Organization should be put on ice, while the uncompromising McCain has gone further by calling for Moscow’s eviction from the powerful G8 club of nations.

At the rally, the Democrat said his message to Russia was that unless its forces vacate Georgia, “we will be suspending a whole range of international talks.”

Discussing US foreign policy as a whole, the Iraq war critic said: “There are times when we are going to have to use military force.”

But with effective use of diplomacy and alliances, “if we are leading by example, we will have more influence and more leverage than just by acting tough,” he said.

“We have to act tough and smart,” Obama added, a day after top advisors accused McCain of being “reckless” and “trigger-happy.”

Russian tanks poured into Georgia on August 8, initially to repel an attempt by Georgia’s small, US-trained army to seize control of pro-Moscow South Ossetia, which unilaterally declared its independence from Tbilisi after the Soviet Union fell.(PDI)

=============

My Take:

Very clear.

Whoever takes the chance to sit as new US President, will serve its dreaded and devious foreign policy.

Suckers.

GlobalUSAtion: Lawyers, Human Rights and the Contradictions of the Legal Order

August 21, 2008

BY GILL H BOEHRINGER
Division of Humanities, Macquarie University
Sydney, Australia
Contributed to Bulatlat
Vol. VIII, No. 28, August 17-23, 2008

“First thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers”
Shakespeare, Henry VI, Part II [Act 4, Sc.2]

“First they came for the lawyers…”
News commentator, re Musharraf’s sacking of Pakistan judges, 2007

“If they remove the fountain of justice, where will the people go?”
Judge of the Lahore High Court, Pakistan, 2008

“Rules established by men who have control of organized power and which are enforced against the recalcitrant by the lash, prison, and even murder”
Tolstoy-a definition of law

“Laissez faire economics is anarchy plus a constable”
Thomas Carlyle

Introduction

In this paper I want to highlight the contradictory nature of law and human rights. As historically and socially constructed concepts and practices they are necessarily contradictory, and therefore must be examined critically to pierce the ideological veil which makes them seem forces solely for good. It is that “common sense” view that needs to be challenged.

The quotations above reflect this contradictory nature. Killing (or removing) all the lawyers is what many would wish to do! Be they dictators/autocrats out of fear of the principled opposition of legal advocates, as in the cases of Musharraf and Arroyo; or those who, as in Shakespeare (on one reading), had seen lawyers consistently and often corruptly oppose the needs, desires and rights of ordinary people. The ideological faith in the capacity of “the law” to protect the common people is typically reflected in the views of the Judge from Pakistan-law as the “fountain of justice”. But Count Tolstoy reminds us of the dark side of law-an instrument of repression used by the powerful against those seen not as humans, rather simply as problems to be “resolved”. Importantly in this age of “free trade”, Carlysle, speaking across the centuries, reveals an historic truth: the freedom of the trader is backed by the sanction of the state.

I start with a brief discussion of the role of the USA in relation to human rights. This is important because of the power of the country but also because of what many scholars have called USA “exceptionalism”. Whatever we might think, the crucially important ideological self-understanding of the American people has been that it is not, nor has it ever been, an “empire”; and that whatever it has done in dealing with other countries and peoples has been done to bring them freedom, civilization, democracy and, in the language of recent times, human rights. Here I want to make the point that what the USA has been doing in the past four decades is not just a few wrong policy choices and/or badly managed wars etc, but part of a historical pattern. It is systemic and structural, not just a recent “failing” to be corrected in the next-kinder, gentler- installment. Change there will be after the disaster of Iraq and Afghanistan, but change ain’t always what we want or need!

Having discussed the role of lawyers in resistance to oppressive regimes, using both traditional court-orientated as well as a variety of non-curial tactics, much of it based on human rights concepts and some of it integrated with social movements’ struggles, I move on to consider some of the problems with “human rights” for a long term revolutionary strategy.

In the last section I look at some of the ways in which it might be possible to move beyond “human rights”, while recognizing that in the contemporary period, the critical struggle for human rights will remain of fundamental importance. Importantly, the struggle for human rights- in the sense of dignity, the absence of inequality and unnecessary suffering caused by oppression and exploitation- cannot be divorced from the revolutionary re-constitution of societies from the bottom up: the constitution of new democratic peoples’ republics around the globe. Speed the day!

GlobalUSAtion , AmeriKa and “human rights” in perspective

Why GloabalUSAtion? Because language is important in anti-hegemonic work, and the USA (which I will refer to as AmeriKa) needs to be singled out for particular obloquy. It is the global hegemon, despite its current domestic and foreign problems. It is the driving force behind much of the oppressive and exploitative activity in the world today. Yet the nation maintains a certain positive aura as a protector of freedom, democracy and “human rights”, while the Bush regime attracts the opprobrium for the nefarious global adventures of the AmeriKan corporate-state axis of evil. It is important that AmeriKa is recognized for the imperialist power that it is and that, unlike in the post-Viet Nam Carter years, it is not able to rehabilitate its international reputation under a new and more charismatic President. Under Carter the country largely regained its stature through a comprehensive “human rights” initiative despite the appalling loss of life and social-economic devastation it had wrought in South East Asia only a few years before.

AmeriKa has been for a long time a major cause of the loss of human rights around the world. Indeed, it commenced its rise to international super-power status, and major “human rights” moral entrepreneur, with
its imperial adventures in Cuba and the Philippines in 1898 and the years following. In both cases, while bringing “freedom” it intervened to block the autonomous development of peoples who were on the verge of throwing off the Spanish yoke in order to grasp their own destiny. It was early “regime change”. (In fact, it followed the “regime change” AmeriKa had engineered in Hawai’i a few years previously.) In the Philippines, as in Iraq and many countries in the intervening years, AmeriKan imperialism was the cause of enormous loss of life. Again as in Iraq with the infamous “Mission Accomplished”, though the President of the USA announced the Filipino “insurgency” was over in 1902, the guerrilla war lasted for many years beyond that with great loss of civilian life, including several massacres in Mindanao, one as late as 1913. And as in Iraq and Viet Nam before it, AmeriKa used a panoply of techniques for “pacification” among which were: torture of many kinds, including the “water cure”; free-fire zones and the correlative forced concentration or “hamletting” of civilians; food, crop, animal and village destruction; wanton killings and massacres of civilians; reprisals against civilians for revenge and/or deterrence; executions of guerrillas, in particular leaders such as Sakay (in 1906) after surrender on promise of amnesty; denial of combatant status and re-labeling as ladrones or bandits; use of military commissions and kangaroo courts. And it should be noted that one of the two most famous “pacification” campaigns, the “battle for Batangas” in Southern Luzon, in which most of the tactics indicated above were used, is today the subject of study in US military institutions.

GlobalUSAtion and lawyers resistance

I am using the concept of globalization in a particular and limited way. Here it refers to the processes-political, military, and economic-whereby countries around the world have been brought under the domination of the USA and its “allies”, using the alphabet soup of international institutions (UN, WTO, IMF, etc) and the World Bank. A major effect of this has been to dramatically increase and deepen poverty while increasing disparities in living conditions significantly, at the same time placing the human rights of hundreds of millions people under grave threat.

In a recent paper Stuart Russell and I have discussed the role that lawyers in four different countries- Pakistan, Philippines, Malaysia, and France- have played in resisting state policies which were, directly or indirectly, responses to GlobalUSAtion. While the well known phrase from Shakespeare “First thing we do, Let’s kill all the lawyers” might find widespread support from those who have experienced the calumny of traditional lawyers weaving their magic on behalf of the state or corporate power, and historically from many on the Left, today the image of lawyers is more clearly contradictory. Lawyers are also playing an important, often courageous role, in resisting oppression and exploitation across a wide range of issues. The argument made in that paper is that as the process of globalization proceeds apace, the state, to maintain the crucial façade of democracy, is increasingly required to act under color of law to maintain the conditions of existence whereby multi-national (and national) capital can continue to exploit the masses and their natural resources. Even authoritarian states try to maintain the conditions of their own existence under color of law in order to try to minimize the perception of illegitimacy and possible efforts for regime change from internal or external forces. In part this is because of the current strength of the discourse of human rights.

It is the dependence by states, and capital, on the legal order which has put lawyers in a strategic position of great importance. It has called forth lawyer- resistance in the courts and, latterly, outside the courts, usually integrated with other social movements but occasionally as a separate body of lawyers. In each of the four countries, lawyers have played a significant, even a leading part, in public resistance-outside the courts- to state attacks on human rights. In three countries lawyers went on strike and demonstrated vigorously against specific actions and policies of repressive regimes. In Pakistan the lawyers- resistance movement was an important factor in the electoral victory of Musharraf’s opponents. And the lawyers’ movement in that country, under the leadership-at least symbolic- of the Chief Justice, continues to play an important role in the politics of constituting the new government and the heralded reform program.

In the Philippines, progressive lawyers have played an important role in opposing the corrupt and vicious Arroyo regime. While there have not been lawyer strikes, as far as I know, lawyers have been comprehensively engaged in resistance activity both in and outside the courts, as well as in anti-regime activities of a densely organized and courageous civil society. Tragically, but perhaps not surprisingly, a number of lawyers have been assassinated by agents of the state during Arroyo’s governance.

Much of the lawyer-resistance activity has been based in struggles for human rights. It is clear, then, that the concept of human rights, institutionalized at the international level in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the two Covenants-on civil and political rights, and on social, economic and cultural rights- provides an important ideological basis for challenging state and, perhaps to a lesser extent, corporate activity in denial of those rights. It is fair to say that around the world, the appeal to human rights has been a strong weapon in struggles for democracy, justice, equality, and the protection of our environment.

Michel Foucault has written:
“It seems to me that the real political task in a society such as ours is to criticize the working of the institutions which appear to be both neutral and independent; to criticize them in such a way that the political violence which has always exercised itself obscurely through them will be unmasked, so that we can fight them.”

While the extent to which law appears “neutral and independent” varies from country to country-perhaps from North to South- and surely from class to class, I think we can agree with the general thrust of Foucault’s message, and here apply it to the concept, and practice, of human rights which carries with it such ideological power.

Human Rights and “Humanitarian Intervention” in a Globalising World

In this and the following section I want to look briefly at some problems and limitations of human rights. Perhaps the most problematic issue in contemporary human rights discourse is that of “humanitarian intervention”. It is a broad and historically laden concept which I will briefly introduce. What we are faced with is the reality that many countries have used the moral and emotional appeal of human rights to justify intervention in other countries. Sometimes such intervention is based on a combination of reasons, including, eg, security (Tanzania’s invasion of Uganda which led to the destruction of the repressive Amin (Regime); restoring to power an unlawfully deposed government which had previously been democratically elected (the USA in Haiti, at that time backing President Aristide). Sometimes there are fundamental strategic reasons, as we have seen in Iraq where the USA justified the invasion in 2003, particularly ex post facto (no WMD having been found), as being in the interests of the Iraqi people and their human rights. Some of these interventions are unilateral, some multilateral, and often with some degree of involvement/commitment of the United Nations. An interesting current debate has arisen about Burma, the problem for the Left presented by the catastrophe there and the attempts to force solutions on the regime of the Generals.

I have mentioned only a few “human rights” or “humanitarian interventions”. There have been many more, especially in recent times. (In earlier times, colonial interventions were often justified as bringing “civilization” to savages or bringing “Christianity” to pagans etc). If it is a universal concept such that there ought to be interventions whenever there are substantial human rights under threat, then given the appalling and widespread violations of human rights in the world today, we could expect to see a world of continuous conflict. But, of course, we do not. Such interventions tend to be highly selective regarding those who are to be protected and those who will be left unprotected. We are well aware of the shameful history AmeriKa has in supporting, and installing, brutal regimes around the globe. Surely it is not being cynical to suggest that strategic rationales-not least what is good for capital- play a fundamental part in determining who gets to “benefit” from “humanitarian interventions”, some of which, perhaps most, are certainly “imperialist interventions”. That they are overwhelmingly North v South is surely strong evidence of that proposition, particularly in view of the historic and systemic exploitation of the latter by the former.

In the period of AmeriKa’s overseas imperialism commencing with Hawai’I in the 1890s, I believe the USA has been the leading intervenor in the world. ( and I am bracketing the “Indian Wars”, the “Mexican Wars” and the ideological “Manifest Destiny”-not to mention the hypocritical Monroe Doctrine-plus Japan and China in the latter half of the 19th century and early 20th). It has also been the leading purveyor of “humanitarian intervention”. Its massive power to do so remains, despite the morass it has jumped into in Iraq and Afghanistan. In this “post-Westphalian” context where national sovereignty and the (theoretical) strict limits on the use of inter-state force appear to be subordinated to the market imperatives of global capitalism, the use of “human rights” as a major ideological justification for future interventions seems certain.

Of course the use of “human rights” as an ideological weapon does not mean that we need turn our backs on the idea of resisting their violation. Nor does it necessarily mean that all state/multi-state/UN interventions to solve human rights abuse should be condemned, although that could be seen to be a reasonable principle given the historical record. Nevertheless, I would be reluctant to adopt what was after all a principle established to ensure peace and stability-as it suited the protagonists-in the interest of protecting emerging nation-states and capital accumulation. There may be positive examples (eg Cuba in Southern Africa-if that had been the USA we would surely have seen it in less positive terms!) which demonstrate that this is a matter to be decided on perceived consequential grounds: will it work for the masses, and is it really about human rights? In discussing means and ends generally, Trotsky, in debate with the American philosopher, John Dewey, argued that not all means are justified but the means would be justified if the action really has the tendency to liberate mankind. A major practical problem with that approach is, of course: who gets to decide? Given the record, one would have to assume it would normally be those with the most power (Iraq demonstrates this well. Around the world the masses opposed the invasion while the UN was suckered by a deceitful AmeriKa). But again, life is full of contradictions, and one of the opportunities presented by aspects of globalization is the capacity for progressive forces to join together in constituting an international standard regarding the use of force to intervene for humanitarian purposes.

Another way to look at the issue is to ask: what is the alternative to state(s) or international intervention? What should we look to in the longer term? I would argue that we need to look toward the strengthening of the political power of the masses to act both nationally and internationally so that they eliminate the need for external intervention by anti-liberatory institutions such as the capitalist state(s) or even international
institutions such as the UN which are largely under their control.

Contradictions of Legal Order: against and for positivism

In this section I will raise and very briefly discuss some of the issues which are now being widely discussed in the debate over rights in a globalized world. In some respects, these are issues which have been discussed for more than a century on the Left, going back to Marx and Engels, and even further in the long history of the emergence of what we call today human rights.

First, law is a cultural artifact which is socially constructed within a particular social formation and therefore takes a particular form. In its contemporary form, and in the form most of us experience it first-hand, it is, generally speaking, “posited” by the state. It is what provides -or denies- us our rights. It is called “positive” law. In a capitalist society, even in a democracy, the law will largely reflect the interests of the wealthy and powerful. It could not be otherwise. Yet by its very nature, it is a site of struggle over legislation (Marx provides us, in Capital vol. 1, with a discussion of struggle over the Factory Acts); the interpretation of both the letter and spirit of the law but also the “facts” of the case; the policies and consequences to be considered-perhaps even including a discussion of the history of the emergence of the law; implementation of the law, or not; sanctions under the law; and reform of the law, or not. Then, especially today, there are struggles in various related sites, about whether other institutions should be created- Boards,Tribunals, Special Courts,etc-for determining, in different ways, the ‘rights” of persons or entities. In all of this, there is room for the assertion of rights against the state and against the wealthy and powerful. Thus I would argue-and there would be those who write off the argument- that we can ill afford to take an ultra-Left line and ignore the possibilities of positive law in contemporary societies. I will say more about our Filipino lawyer comrades (not that they need me to say it for them!) but they have demonstrated over the years how important contesting state and corporate capital in the courts really is. I suspect Prof. Sison may have a strong view on the contradictory nature of positive law after his recent experiences.

While human rights can be protected in the struggles within positive law, they are certainly limited by the nature of bourgeois law. It is state law, and the state, in general, disfavors the poor, marginalized, and Others in society. Further, the rights that are generally given protection, however weak, are individual rights not collective rights; further, the rights which are protected do not tend to be economic, social and cultural rights. Thus, while we can be for positive law, we also need to be against positive law in the sense of seeking more and different protection. I am here referring to what has been called law-from-below in contrast to the concept of positive law. Now there is a more radical view emerging, specifically focused on law and globalization, which I will refer to as subaltern counter-hegemonic legal struggle (SCHLS). A leading writer in this movement, De Sousa Santos, uses the phrase “subaltern cosmopolitan legality” which he sees as the legal counterpart to “counter-hegemonic globalisation”; there are other versions, but we speak the same language in general! What is being referenced is the movement amongst progressive lawyers and their allies to contest traditional philosophical and political frameworks, concepts, methods, practices of “top-down law”. It is in that sense against-positivism, state law and the traditional understanding of law from above ie that it should protect the wealthy and powerful and operate to exclude, exploit and oppress the masses. As De Sousa Santos puts it

“(S)ubaltern cosmopolitan legality follows the path of counter-hegemonic struggles first theorized by Gramsci…counter-hegemonic politics and legality aim to erode the ideology and coercive institutions that sustain and naturalize the hegemony of dominant classes and groups….Counter-hegemonic politics and subaltern cosmopolitan legality, however, go beyond this deconstructive phase. Indeed, they ultimately seek to offer new understandings and practices capable of replacing the dominant ones and thus of offering a new common sense.” It is a project which he argues “is both a critique of dominant conceptions of low-intensity, representative democracy and an ambitious proposal for the radicalization of political and economic democracy”.

Not surprisingly, the methods of SCHLS are different from those of traditional lawyering and, to some extent, go beyond those of radical lawyers involved in more traditional, litigation or law reform focused, human or civil rights struggles. SCHLS can be imagined as “all-in-wrestling” with the state. All progressive forces are tapped, in networks and alliances, to radically re-configure the “legal field”. The strategy of SCHILS is the mobilization of these forces, in all manner of activities- legal, illegal and non-legal- at all levels-local, provincial, national, regional and international- using not only courts but any other institutions which can be harnessed to the struggle. The immediate goal is to seek variation in the patterns of positive law concepts and practices which create exclusions, inequalities, abuses, but also to support the masses as they insert themselves further and more effectively in counter-hegemonic struggles around the globe. While much of this thinking is just emerging in the North, there are numerous examples of SCHLS across the South and some in what has been referred to as “the inner North” (or what used to be known as the “internal colonies”). In the following section I will exemplify SCHLS in a case study which I have been working on and which others here know at first hand-the struggle in the Philippines against the Arroyo regime.

SCHLS in the Philippines

Filipino lawyers have played an important role in the resistance to the neo-liberal regime of Arroyo which has an appalling record of repression, corruption and devastation of the environment in concert with the TNCs which have been pillaging the country for years. The policies of the regime-and previous regimes it must be remembered-have resulted in a chaotic economy which has typically seen the rich enriched, the poor further immiserated, and the country turned into the largest importer of rice in the world. Resistance to the regime has taken many forms, at a great price: nearly 1000 have been killed (including lawyers and judges), hundreds disappeared and/or tortured. Harassment/intimidation is widespread, not least at election time when even corrupt actions (vote fraud) by the President were not deemed to be sufficient to ensure electoral success for reaction.

What has impressed me is the density and sophistication of Philippine civil society, and the strength and determination of the progressive sector. Across the country there is active resistance to various programs of the state and activities of the TNCs. A comprehensive system of networks and alliances involving traditional and new social movements, NGOs and sympathetic institutions including some sectors of the religious community. Links with progressive political parties are also strong. All of these provide the manpower, resources and communications which are pro-active, as well as reactive, in the constant counter-hegemonic work eg regarding trade union and other labor struggles, peasant struggles for land and the protection of the environment which also draws in fisherfolk, and a host of other areas of resistance. As in other sectors, there is a national force-the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers, as well as a loose federation of local and regional lawyers groups. In the entire gamut of counter-hegemonic resistance, progressive lawyers have been in the thick of struggles. They have often acted, with rapidity and acuity in defence of the civil and human rights of those being attacked by the state. They have also counter-attacked by challenging “terrorist legislation”, the ironically named Human Security Act of 2007; and they have carried a large part of the burden-with other sector support- in the national and international exposure of the atrocities committed by agents of the state, ie human rights violations in the form of Extrajudicial Killings and Disappearances. It is not an exaggeration to say that the regime has felt the “heat” from the constant “shadowing” of state activity by the lawyers using a variety of techniques. One of the results of the combined pressure upon the state was the extraordinary national Summit on Extrajudicial Killings and Disappearances called by the Chief Justice in 2007. From this came a number of positive recommendations. Several have been implemented, including new legal weapons (writs) to be used by lawyers against the state in protection of security rights of the people.

This political intervention by the Supreme Court judges is a good example of the contradictions of legal order, given the historic understanding of the neutrality of the judiciary. Another somewhat unusual example is the 2007 French lawyers’ strike against Sarkozy neo-liberal reforms of the legal system: to close many local and regional courts and to reduce the availability of legal aid (while decriminalizing certain white-collar activity, and imposing longer/indeterminate custodial terms on some sex offenders). It was nation-wide, creative and militant, involving senior lawyers, judges, bar associations etc. However, some of the judges involved in the strike were also amongst those who applied severe sanctions to “rioting” migrant youth in the banlieu of Paris, some of the very people who would be disadvantaged by the closure of the local courts.

In the end, the reforms were largely pushed through. But other lawyer resistance actions we have studied have been more successful, eg Malaysian lawyers’ demonstrations against abuses in the long-drawn out Anwar matter, and in solidarity with Hindus being discriminated against; and of course, most dramatic-the Pakistan lawyers’ demonstrations which were crucial in the developing resistance to Musharraf.

Budgeting” for social justice and human rights

In recent years a number of techniques have been used by lawyers and their allies in the struggle to demonstrate the culpability of repressive states. These would include Popular Courts/Tribunals such as the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal. Another important contribution is the monitoring and recording state activity and publishing it widely, as Karapatan has so successfully done. In recent years the notion of “budgeting” has developed in many countries, two of which, Tanzania and Brazil, are useful to note here.

In Porto Allegre, Brazil “participatory budgeting” brought direct in-put from the grassroots into decisions on budgetary allocation and policy. In brief, this was possible because of the strength of the labor movement and the Left generally. Although it was extra-legal, the strength of the workers and the Left made it possible. Institutions were created outside the formal legal political structure, and the political situation was such that they had to be recognized as a legitimate part of the budgeting process.

In Tanzania, “gender budgeting” developed as a response to the negative effects on women, especially poor women, of the neo-liberal policies of the Tanzanian government, particularly after it was forced to capitulate to the IMF and undergo a “Structural Readjustment Program” in the 1980s. It was basically the mobilization of a coalition of progressive forces to 1) analyze state resource allocation and a range of policies to evaluate the effect on women,( later broadened to include poor and excluded groups generally because of the reality of interdependence); 2) to examine the role of TNCs and imperial links; and 3) to develop a democratic , informal extra-parliamentary “opposition”. Having done this, over a period of years, they were capable of bringing a transformative agenda to the public, and to bring pressure on the local, then higher levels of government-using national and international links- lobbying, demonstrations etc to try to achieve a re-distribution of resources which would be consistent with the agenda they had developed at grass-roots level.

Conclusion

I have only seen reports on these processes. Obviously there are potential problems, such as cooption and providing legitimacy for the state, as there are in any counter-hegemonic program. There are advantages as well, in developing capacity and consciousness of those involved. I suggest that a similar program for social justice and human rights might be worth considering as a part of SCHLS. In summary, building a coalition of forces which would have the kind of focus indicated in the Tanzania experience: analysis of government policies specifically dealing with law in order to assess the effect which legislation and court decisions have had, or will have, on the people i.e. is there, or is there likely to be, a negative result in terms of social justice and human rights?; putting the analysis in the framework of a progressive agenda to be fought for; and organizing grassroots “opposition” behind counter-hegemonic understandings and practices of law to try to de-mystify the legal framework in which the state and TNCs operate.

As a first step, as a legal academic, I recognize it will be necessary to challenge the traditional teaching of positive law in our Universities, a process of which I have some, mixed, experience! Contributed to Bulatlat

REFERENCES

Antons,C and Gessner,V (eds) Globalisation and Resistance: Law Reform in Asia since the Crisis (2007).

Aronowitz,S and Gautney,H (eds) Implicating Empire: Globalization and resistance in the 21st century world order (2003).

Barratt, B, Human Rights and Foreign Aid: For love or money? (2008).

Blum,W, Killing Hope:US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II (1995).

Boehringer, G H and Russell, S, “Capitalism, lawyers and the State” Alternative Law Journal (forthcoming, Sept., 2008).

Bricmont, J, Humanitarian Imperialism: Using Human Rights to Sell War (2006).

Brysk, A, Globalization and Human Rights (2003).

Caney, S and Jones, P (eds) Human Rights and Global Diversity (2001).

De Feyter, K Human Rights:Social Justice in the Age of the Market (2005).

De Sousa Santos, B and Rodriguez-Garavito, C A, Law and Glogalization from Below: Towards a Cosmopolitan Legality (2005).

Drydyk, J and Penz, P, Global Justice, Global Democracy (eds) (1997).

Dunne, T and Wheeler, N J, Human Rights in Global Politics (1999).

Evans, T, The Politics of Human Rights:A Global Perspective (2001).

Ghai, Y, Luckham, R and Snyder,F (eds) The Political Economy of Law: A Third World reader (1987).

Gibney, M J, (ed) Globalizing Rights: The Oxford Amnesty lectures 1999 (2003).

Held, D and McGrew (eds), The Global Transformations Reader: An Introduction to the Globalization Debate (2000).

Ishay, M R, The Human Rights Reader: Major Political Essays, Speeches, and Documents from Ancient Times to the Present (2nd ed., 2007).

Ishay, M R, The History of Human Rights; From Ancient Times to the Globalization Era (2004).

Trotsky, L, Dewey, J and Novack, G, Their Morals and Ours:Marxist vs. Liberal Views on Morality (5th ed, 1973).

Rajagopal, B, International law from below: Development, Social Movements and Third World Resistance (2003).

Woodiwiss, A, Globalisation, human rights and labour law in Pacific Asia (1998).

Making a Killing

August 21, 2008

The Military and the Monetary, they get together whenever they think its necessary, they’ve turned our brothers and sisters into mercenaries, they are turning the planet, into a cemetery (Gil Scott-Heron)

BY AZIZ CHOUDRY
GATT Watchdog
Contributed to Bulatlat
Vol. VIII, No. 28, August 17-23, 2008

In the late 1990s, well before Bush’s ‘war on terror’, New Zealand TV screened a particularly awful US action drama called ‘Soldier of Fortune Inc.’, about an elite team (composed of former US Marines, Delta Force, CIA, British SAS personnel) who performed ‘unofficial’ covert missions for the US Government. They would get a briefcase full of money from a shadowy military liaison and head to the Middle East, Latin America, Haiti, or the Balkans, or smoke out foreign agents and assorted enemies within the USA, missions for which Washington could claim plausible deniability because none were active duty soldiers. It was a dirty job, but someone had to do it to keep ‘US democracy’ safe, for a price. Sounds familiar? Truth is indeed sometimes stranger than fiction, and the onscreen adventures of this squad of special operations and intelligence experts pale into insignificance when held up against reality.

We live and struggle in an era of blatantly militarized capitalism and the violence of capital. War, occupation, national security ideologies and repression of dissent –at home and abroad – make for booming business opportunities the world over. As pro-free market US journalist Thomas Friedman succinctly put it: “The hidden hand of the market will never work without a hidden fist – McDonald’s cannot flourish without McDonnell Douglas, the builder of the F-15. And the hidden fist that keeps the world safe for Silicon Valley’s technologies is called the United States Army, Air Force and Marine Corps.”

Militarized capitalism: The military-industrial complex in 2008

What is the military-industrial complex in 2008? Where is it? What does it look like? I am not even sure if the phrase, used so famously by former US president Dwight Eisenhower in 1961 is the best descriptor to encompass the many tentacles and facets of the war and security industry and the links and connections between capital and its political allies. Do terms like ‘defence industry’ and ‘arms trade’ adequately encompass the face of today’s war profiteers, whose devastating impacts can equally be found in the high-tech apartheid wall being built by Israel to seal off the West Bank and Gaza, and its Western Hemispheric counterpart on the US-Mexico border, in the computer flight simulation programs provided to US and British military by Canada’s CAE, in private corporate mercenary armies like Blackwater, DynCorp and Aegis in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere, in the outsourced intelligence, IT, interrogation and translation services of L-3/Titan, in the massive military aid budgets which the US gives to the governments of Israel, Pakistan, Egypt and Colombia, among others, and in the ‘hearts and minds’ operations of US Special Operations Forces based in the Philippines doing ‘humanitarian work’ – medical, dental and other social services, including infrastructure projects in many remote communities in Mindanao- services which should be the function of a government, as much as it is in weapons production and arms exports.

Like all transnational corporations, these companies enjoy both patronage and revolving door relationships with the highest echelons of governments and their armed forces, tax breaks, support for exports, and all kinds of other incentives which help them to focus firmly on their bottom line – profit. US administrations, regardless of their party allegiance, brim with politicians with investments and business interests in the defence industry and war profiteers, perhaps most vividly symbolized by Dick Cheney’s ties to Halliburton and its multi-billion-dollar contracts to provide construction, hospitality, and other services to the US military after the invasion of Iraq in 2003. But it is business as usual for US militarized capitalism. An April 2008 Centre for Responsive Politics report states that US Congress members invested US $196 million of their own money in companies that receive hundreds of millions of dollars a day from Pentagon contracts to provide goods and services to US armed forces, ranging from aircraft and weapons manufacturers to producers of medical supplies and soft drinks. To cite a couple of typical revolving door examples, the General Dynamics board of directors includes an ex-Vice Chief of US Army staff, a former US Air Force General, a former Chief of Naval Operations in the US Navy, and a former Chief of Defence Procurement at the British Ministry of Defence, while Canada’s CAE’s current and former executives include a former Canadian deputy minister for international trade and foreign affairs, and former PM Brian Mulroney’s head of staff.

Hired Guns, Big Bucks, No Rules

Private armies hired by governments and companies are not new. The British East India company hired private mercenaries to fight proxy wars and gain control over India. But the exponential growth, sophistication and globalization of private security industry contractors like Blackwater and DynCorp, both of which derive well over 90% of their business from US government contracts, is striking. If regular soldiers often literally get away with murder, how much more so for private mercenaries given the lack of any oversight of their activities, under no effective regulatory regimes, although they are contracted by governments and paid out of public funds? They operate with impunity and immunity. They recruit and deploy former military and police from around the world, some of them veterans of the most repressive military forces in the world. On their website, Blackwater, whose contract with the US State Department was recently renewed despite outrage at one of many incidents in which their guards shot and killed 17 Iraqi civilians in Nisour Square, Baghdad, last September, claim: “We treat others with the highest degree of dignity, equal opportunity and trust. We respect the cultures and beliefs of people around the world”. On the ground, “Blackwater has no respect for the Iraqi people,” an Iraqi Interior Ministry official told a Washington Post reporter in 2007. “They consider Iraqis like animals, although actually I think they may have more respect for animals. We have seen what they do in the streets. When they’re not shooting, they’re throwing water bottles at people and calling them names. If you are terrifying a child or an elderly woman, or you are killing an innocent civilian who is riding in his car, isn’t that terrorism?”

All dollars, no sense

A February 2008 Center for Arms Control and Non-proliferation report notes that, adjusted for inflation, the Pentagon budget for fiscal year (FY) 2009 is the largest since World War II – US $ 515.4 billion: more even than during the Vietnam and Korean wars, or the peak of Reagan’s Cold War spending. The US spends more than the next 45 highest spending countries in the world combined, accounts for 48% of the world’s total military spending, 5.8 times more than China, 10.2 times more than Russia, and 98.6 times more than Iran. The same report cites US Office of Management and Budget estimates that total annual funding for the Defense Department alone will grow to $546 billion by FY 2013 – a conservative estimate. Total Pentagon spending, not including funding for the Department of Energy or for actual combat operations for the period FY’09 through FY’13 will reach $2.6 trillion. Last year, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) estimated that world military expenditure in 2006 reached US $1204 billion – a 3.5 % increase in real terms since 2005, and a 37% increase over the 10-year period since 1997. In 2006, the 15 countries with the highest spending accounted for 83% of the world total.

While the US military-industrial complex and military spending dwarfs the rest of the world, it has had a multiplier effect on other countries, coupled with its military aid packages and global ‘security’ hysteria. Japan’s government recently announced major military upgrades while South Korea, China, and Russia have all increased military spending. 2008 is a record year for Israeli defence spending. By 2006, four of the world’s 100 top arms production firms were Israeli: Israel Aircraft Industries, Israel Military Industries, Elbit Systems and Rafael. An October 2007 CBC report, based on customs data only on exports specifically for military use, found that between 2000 and 2006, Canada’s arms exports rose 3.5 times, during which time Canada, the world’s sixth-biggest supplier, exported CDN $3.6 billion in military goods. But there is little transparency on arms control, and the true picture of Canadian military exports is hard to track since the federal government has not released annual reports providing detailed information covering the years since 2002 to Parliament. A former subsidiary of Montreal-based SNC Lavalin, SNC Tec, for example, manufactures small arms ammunition for US military (SNC Tec was sold in 2006 to General Dynamics, after antiwar activists highlighted the Canadian corporate connection to bullets fired from US guns in Iraq).

A license to kill: The façade of arms control

Identifying and tracking the many tentacles of the weapons and agents of mass destruction is frustratingly difficult. For all of the criticisms of Third World governments’ secrecy and lack of transparency in terms of defence spending and military operations, so many loopholes exist in so-called First World countries with regard to arms control. For example, most military shipments from Canada to the US go untracked, since they do not require government permits because of a defence agreement signed between Ottawa and Washington in the 1940s. Some critics have noted that the export licencing requirements are so minimal that it is possible that some of that equipment moves to third parties.

Some EU governments have undermined, bypassed or ignored national export criteria and the EU code of conduct on arms exports. Spain and other countries (including Britain, and of course the US) have authorized transfers of equipment and other assistance to Colombia into the hands of state security forces and paramilitaries who have committed major human rights abuses. Italian-made small arms have also been shipped to countries in conflict or where violations of human rights occur, including Algeria, Colombia, Eritrea, Indonesia, India, Israel, Kazakhstan, Nigeria, Pakistan and Sierra Leone. British activist and writer Mark Thomas illustrates how British high-tech company Radstone does not require a licence to export supplies, the computer components comprising the “brains” of the Predator drone, an unmanned Aerial vehicle produced by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, which was used by the CIA to fire missile strikes at Yemen against Al-Qaeda suspects in 2002, in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan in 2006, in an attack killing possibly up to 25 people including 5 women and 5 children, and more recently in the same region of Pakistan. British researcher Anna Stavrianakis argues that “[r]ather than acting to restrict arms exports, the guidelines against which arms export licence applications are assessed are vague and interpreted in such a way as to facilitate exports”. She continues, “the pro-export stance of successive UK governments, the close relationship they have with the arms industry, and the emphasis on military power as an indicator of prestige on the world stage, must all be challenged, as they form the parameters within which licensing occurs”.

According to a 2006 Amnesty International report, over 200 Chinese military trucks – normally running on US Cummins diesel engines – were shipped to Sudan in August 2005, despite a US arms embargo on both countries and the involvement of similar vehicles in killing and abducting civilians in Darfur. Chinese military hardware is shipped regularly to Burma, including the 2005 supply of 400 military trucks to Myanmar’s army. Chinese military exports went to Nepal in 2005 and early 2006, including a supply of Chinese-made rifles and grenades to Nepalese security forces, who were brutally repressing people’s movements. China is also implicated in the growing illicit trade in Chinese-made Norinco pistols in Australia, Malaysia, Thailand and particularly South Africa, often used for crimes like robbery and rape.

Militarized repression of dissent and imperialist globalization

Many governments, from the Philippines to India to Colombia, are waging overt or covert wars against resistance movements and government opponents, fostering a climate of fear in which arms and equipment are used for containing domestic dissent and security crackdowns against ‘enemies within’ – resistance movements of the poor, mobilizations of women, Indigenous Peoples, the landless, peasants, and workers, movements against free trade agreements and neoliberal reforms. Conflicts over land and inequitable access to resources are fuelled and exacerbated by the militarization of corporate activities such as mining, oil, gas, industrial farming and forestry industries. For example, a US District court judge has agreed that there is evidence showing that Chevron paid and equipped Nigerian military and police to shoot and torture protesters opposing the oil company’s activities in the Niger Delta region. Freeport McMoran paid Indonesian military, police and private security forces who attacked local communities around its Grasberg gold and copper mine in West Papua. And let’s not forget how the founder and chief executive of Aegis, former British Army Lt. Col. Tim Spicer was also founder of Sandline, another mercenary company contracted by the Papua New Guinea government over a decade ago for US $36 million for an ill-fated attempt to put down an indigenous independence movement in Bougainville, which had shut down the huge copper mine at Panguna, owned by a subsidiary of Rio Tinto. The military and the monetary, indeed.

As Uruguayan analyst/journalist Raul Zibechi notes, urban peripheries in Third World countries have also become war zones where states attempt to maintain order based on the establishment of a sort of ‘sanitary cordon’ to keep the poor isolated from ‘normal’ society. Such militarized containment of the poor reflects political and economic elites’ fear of challenges to state power from poor urban movements. The systematic undermining of states’ capacities to provide for the welfare of their populations, coupled with the disproportionate percentage of national budgets spent on the military militarization has fuelled poverty and conflict.

Kollsman, Inc. a New Hampshire-based subsidiary of Elbit, an Israeli firm involved with building the apartheid wall in occupied Palestine, was contracted by the Department of Homeland Security as part of a consortium that also includes Boeing subsidiary Boeing Integrated Defense Systems Unit to develop SBInet, a high-tech security system for the U.S.-Mexico (and US-Canada) borders, part of the Secure Border Initiative. As New York-based activist groups Ad Hoc Coalition for Justice in the Middle East and Desis Rising Up & Moving (DRUM) put it, “Elbit will import Israeli military technology, tested on Palestinians, for use against poor immigrants here.”
Militarization and enforceable free-market disciplines are tools to make countries ‘safe’ for foreign investors, at the expense of local communities’ rights to determine their own futures. World Trade Organization (WTO) agreements undermine social and environmental policies, but protect the war industry through a ‘security exception’ in the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) (Article XXI). The security exception states that a country cannot be stopped from taking any action it considers necessary to protect its essential security interests; actions ‘relating to the traffic in arms, ammunition and implements of war and such traffic in other goods and materials as is carried on directly for the purpose of supplying a military establishment (or) taken in time of war or other emergency in international relations’. While structural adjustment and trade and investment liberalization are being imposed throughout the Asia-Pacific region and beyond, health, education, and social budgets slashed, and support for most local industries or agriculture dismantled, corporate welfare and subsidies to the defence industry, and high levels of military spending remains alive and well.

Capitalist killing machines get gender-sensitive makeover: Women resist

The burden of war, conflict, violence and militarized capitalism falls disproportionately on women. The impacts on women can be seen not only in conflict zones but through the proliferation of small arms and the creeping militarization of communities and societies at large, leading to more violence against women in domestic and community contexts, rapes, sexual violence, displacement and the exaltation of warrior masculinities. Women are more likely to become war refugees. Unsurprisingly then, it has also been women who have led resistance against militarization, war and violence, US military bases and the accompanying masculinization of broader society and social behaviour. It is usually women who pick up the pieces in communities ripped apart by war, violence and state repression. Cynthia Enloe notes that social workers who address issues of domestic violence “agree that military service is probably more conducive to violence at home than at any other occupation”. Meanwhile, we are subjected to constant claims that a primary goal of the US-led invasion and occupation of Afghanistan is to liberate Afghani women. Commenting on this, Sunera Thobani notes, “one battle in the ideological war was to be waged on the terrain of gender relations, … rallying western populations around fantasies of saving Muslim women would be more effective than rallying them around the overtly imperialist policies of securing US control over oil and natural gas supplies.”

Just as purported humanitarian concerns are wheeled out as justifications for thinly-veiled imperialist wars over resources, military contractors and war profiteering corporations portray themselves as inclusive, socially progressive and gender-sensitive. On their corporate websites, these corporations’ core business is painted over with a cosmetic veneer that could cause us to forget that it is for war and killing people. For example, Pentagon contractors like Northrop Grumman boast of their “workforce diversity” and showcase their women executives. The Canadian and US defence industries have set up organizations like Women in Defence and Security (WiDS), signed memorandums of understanding with Canada’s Department of National Defence, and are affiliated with the Canadian Association of Defence and Security Industries (CADSI), an industry-led association of more than 550 member firms in the defence and security industries in Canada to “promote the advancement of women leaders in defence and security professions across Canada”. Raytheon, the maker of “Bunker Buster” bombs, Tomahawk and Patriot missiles, lobbed at Afghanistan and Iraq, causing many deaths, proclaims: “Diversity at Raytheon is about inclusiveness — providing an atmosphere where everyone feels valued and empowered to perform at a peak level, regardless of the many ways people are different”. Virginia-based Booz Allen Hamilton, one of the biggest suppliers of technology and personnel to US government spy agencies like the CIA, NSA, Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA), as well as the US Department of Defence and Department of Homeland Security (former CIA director R. James Woolsey is now a senior vice president of Booz Allen), also boasts how it is committed to diversity in the workforce “because we believe that diversity of backgrounds contributes to different ideas, which in turn drives better results for clients. To us, diversity means all the ways individuals differ from one another—race, gender, ethnicity, physical abilities, educational background, country of origin, age, sexual orientation, skills, income, marital status, parental status, religion, work experience, and military service”. Then there is Aegis Defence Services whose employees were caught on video randomly shooting automatic weapons at civilian cars in Baghdad’s airport road, which claims “Our equal-opportunity policy emphasizes our aim to create a work environment that is inclusive and non-discriminatory, where all employees are empowered by their individuality and encouraged to use it in order to achieve success”. Greenwashing environmentally destructive corporations is despicable enough. Yet there is something particularly obscene about the ways in which these corporations hide behind such mission and values statements and commitments to “diversity”, complementing the claims of the militaries in Afghanistan to be liberating Afghani women.

Conclusion

Many NGOs campaign for instruments like a Global Arms Trade Treaty. But when we see the spectrum of industries and political actors which benefit from militarized capitalism, and the way in which the US, Israel, and other leading producers and users of cluster munitions refused to attend last month’s Dublin Diplomatic Conference on Cluster Munitions which adopted an international treaty banning cluster munitions that cause unacceptable harm to civilians, it should be clear that we must go beyond these strategies to confront the system that underpins obscene profits for a few, at the expense of the many, through military contracting and war profiteering. That system is capitalism. Those of us who research must continue to expose and oppose militarization and the violence of capitalism in all its forms, in our communities, nationally and internationally. In doing so we need to support, build and sustain mass movements that understand the interconnectedness of war, neoliberal globalization, corporate profits, the repression of dissent, “peacekeeping”, “reconstruction”, the criminalization and militarization of immigration, violence against women, and colonialism.

[1] Gil Scott-Heron. Work For Peace. Taken from the album Spirits, TVT Records, 1994.

[2] Thomas Friedman, 28 March 1999, New York Times Magazine, Manifesto for the fast world

[3] http://www.cnn.com/SPECIALS/cold.war/episodes/12/documents/eisenhower.speech/

[4] See http://stopthewall.org

[5] BBC News. US-Mexico ‘virtual fence’ ready. 23 February 2008. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/7260179.stm

[6] http://www.cae.com

[7] Jackie Northam. U.K. Firm awarded largest Iraq security contract. http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=14586525

[8] For example, DynCorp’s employees in Colombia contracting to the US State Department in its so-called War on Drugs, have engaged as combatants in counterinsurgency operations against rebels (see http://www.colombiajournal.org/colombia19.htm). A number of DynCorp employees and supervisors contracted to UN peacekeeping operations in the Balkans were involved with forced prostitution rings, including children. (see Kelly Patricia O’Meara. US: DynCorp Disgrace. Insight Magazine. 14 January 2002, http://www.corpwatch.org/article.php?id=11119)

[9] Pratap Chatterjee. Outsourcing Intelligence in Iraq: A report on L-3/Titan. CorpWatch. 29 April 2008. http://www.corpwatch.org/article.php?id=15017; Titan, one of the civilian contractors employed by the Pentagon and whose employees were involved in the abuse of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib. See, for example, Peter Beaumont, Abu Ghraib abuse firms are rewarded. The Observer, 16 January 2005. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2005/jan/16/usa.iraq

[10] Center for Public Integrity. http://www.publicintegrity.org/militaryaid/

[11] Roland Simbulan. U.S. Military Forces: Negotiated Subservience by an Illegitimate Government. Bulatlat. Vol. VIII, No. 5, March 2-8, 2008. http://www.bulatlat.com/2008/03/u-s-military-forces-negotiated-subservience-illegitimate-government

[12] http://www.corpwatch.org/article.php?list=type&type=15

[13] http://www.opensecrets.org/news/2008/04/strategic-assets.html

[14] http://investing.businessweek.com/research/stocks/people/board.asp?symbol=GD

[15] Richard Sanders. We Didn’t Really Say “No” to Missile Defence.
http://www.policyalternatives.ca/MonitorIssues/2006/10/MonitorIssue1457/

[16] Tim Spicer, Founder and CEO of Aegis, (which holds the largest single security contract in Iraq), who prefers the term ‘private military company’ to ‘mercenary’, approvingly cites this as historical model as a precedent for soldiers of fortune today. See Tim Spicer. (1999). An Unorthodox Soldier: Peace and War and the Sandline Affair. Edinburgh: Mainstream Publishing.

[17] These include former Chilean, South African, Bosnian, Filipino, Salvadoran and Colombian soldiers and police. Bill Berkowitz. Mercenaries ‘R’ Us. AlterNet. 24 March 2004.http://www.alternet.org/waroniraq/18193/; Danna Harman. Firms tap Latin Americans for Iraq. Christian Science Monitor, 3 March 2005.http://www.csmonitor.com/2005/0303/p06s02-woam.html

[18] James Risen. Iraq Contractor in Shooting Case makes comeback. New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/10/world/middleeast/10blackwater.html?ref=middleeast

[19] CNN. Blackwater incident witness: “It was hell”. http://www.cnn.com/2007/WORLD/meast/10/02/blackwater.witness/index.html

[20] Blackwater Worldwide. Company Core Values. http://www.blackwaterusa.com/company_profile/core_values.html

[21] Steve Fainaru. Where Military Rules Don’t Apply. Washington Post. 20 September 2007. http://www.pulitzer.org/year/2008/international-reporting/works/fainaru05.html

[22] Christopher Hellman and Travis Sharp. Center for Arms Control and Non-proliferation. Fiscal Year 2009 Pentagon Spending Request Briefing Book http://www.armscontrolcenter.org/policy/securityspending/articles/fy09_dod_request/

[23] http://yearbook2007.sipri.org/chap8

[24] John Feffer. Asia’s Hidden Arms Race. 16 February 2008. http://www.alternet.org/story/77225/

[25] Another record year for defence spending in 2008. Haaretz, 28 December 2007. http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/939217.html

[26] http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/POL34/006/2006/en/dom-POL340062006en.html

[1] SNC Unloads its ammunition unit. Montreal Gazette. 24 February 2006.

[27] SNC Unloads its ammunition unit. Montreal Gazette. 24 February 2006. http://www.canada.com/montrealgazette/news/business/story.html?id=b1770c43-b9f8-4c6e-bef4-386f75347dd0

[28] Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC). News In Depth: Arming The World. http://www.cbc.ca/news/background/arming-the-world/

[29] Helen Hughes. Europe’s Deadly Business. Le Monde Diplomatique, 11 June 2006. http://mondediplo.com/2006/06/11armscontrol

[30] Mark Thomas (2006). As used on the famous Nelson Mandela. Reading: Ebury Press.

[31] Anna Stavrianakis (2008).The façade of arms control http://www.caat.org.uk/publications/government/facade-2008-02.php

[32] Amnesty International. China: Sustaining conflict and human rights abuses. June 2006.

[33] Constance Ikokwu. Chevron to Face Trial in U.S. Over Nigeria Killings. This Day (Lagos). 16 August 2007. http://allafrica.com/stories/200708160007.html

[34] Down To Earth. (May 2003). Military protection funds exposed. http://dte.gn.apc.org/57Frp.htm

[35] http://www.aegisworld.com/index.php/tim-spicer

[36] Roger Moody. The Mercenary Miner. Multinational Monitor. June 1997 http://www.multinationalmonitor.org/hyper/mm0697.09.html

[37] The Militarization of the World’s Urban Peripheries, Americas Policy Program Special Report (Washington, DC: Center for International Policy, http://americas.irc-online.org/am/4954

[38] Kollsman, Inc. Kollsman to Participate in Homeland Security’s SBInet Program Boeing Team Member to Show Technologies at Border Management Summit,
Oct. 23-25. Press release, 31 October 2006
http://www.kollsman.com/company/news/pr_10312006.asp

[39] http://www.boeing.com/defense-space/sbinet/index.html

[40] http://nyc.indymedia.org/en/2006/11/78913.shtml

[41] Aziz Choudry. (2003). War, Globalization and the WTO: Forever New Frontiers. Third World Network. http://www.twnside.org.sg/title/twr151n.htm

[42] General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, art. XXI, Oct. 30, 1947, 61 Stat. A-ll, 55 U.N.T.S. 194

[43] Cynthia Enloe. (1983). Does Khaki Become You? London: Pluto, p.87.

[44] Sunera Thobani. (2007). Exalted subjects: Studies in the making of race and nation in Canada. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, p.218.

[45] See, for example, Jean Bricmont. (2006). Humanitarian Imperialism: Using human rights to sell war. New York: Monthly Review Press, and Sherene Razack (2004). Dark Threats and White Knights: The Somalia Affair, peacekeeping and the new imperialism. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

[46] http://www.northropgrumman.com/diversity/workforce.html

[47] http://www.wids.ca/

[48] http://www.defenceandsecurity.ca/

[49] http://www.corpwatch.org/article.php?list=type&type=13

[50] http://www.raytheon.com/diversity/

[51] http://www.boozallen.com/careers/a_great_place_to_work/diversity

[52] http://www.aegisworld.com

[53] War On Want. Corporate mercenaries. http://www.waronwant.org/Corporate+Mercenaries+13275.twl

[54] Christian Science Monitor, 30 May 2008. Global cluster-bomb ban draws moral line in the sand. http://www.csmonitor.com/2008/0530/p04s06-woeu.html

* The article is from a talk delivered by Mr. Aziz Choudry at a workshop on women and war organized by the Asia-Pacific Research Network titled “The Military-Industrial Complex and Impacts on the Third World”, 17 June 2008. Aziz Choudry is an activist and writer based in Aotearoa (New Zealand). An organiser with the GATT Watchdog group, he is also a committee member of the Philippines Solidarity Network of Aotearoa.

Arroyo: ‘Defend every inch of Philippine territory’

August 18, 2008

By Lira Dalangin-Fernandez
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 12:52:00 08/18/2008

MANILA, Philippines — President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has ordered the police and military to “defend every inch of Philippine territory” against forces of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Arroyo issued the directive Monday following reports of more than a dozen casualties as Moro rebel forces overran several towns in Lanao del Norte.

The President also ordered troops to “restore peace in affected areas” in the province as she condemned the “sneaky and treacherous attacks” as a “violation of the peace agreement and a challenge to progress in Mindanao.”

“Because of these sneaky attacks, as commander-in-chief, I have ordered the AFP and PNP to defend every inch of Philippine territory against MILF forces and immediately restore peace in affected areas in Lanao del Norte,” Arroyo said in a statement she delivered at the new executive building briefing room.

Arroyo said the government would “not tolerate and would not crush any attempt to disturb the peace and development in Mindanao.”

Arroyo also announced that she was calling an emergency meeting of the National Security Council “to assess the situation in Lanao and other areas in Mindanao and come up with concrete, firm, and decisive action” to defend the people in the region.

“I assure our people that the government will defend them at all cost from any move that will disrupt the aspiration for genuine and lasting peace,” Arroyo said.

With a report from Christine Avendaño, Inquirer

=============

My Take:

This is now a declaration of war.

Just what I declared in my previous posts(My Take comments and rants), this war is the government’s way out of the MOA-AD mess.

This is a shock and awe tactic.  They want to shock us of the Mindanao situation and awe us of the seemingly “patriotic” act of protecting our country from the MILF.

And yet, they are baring our natural resources to the US who are silently positioning itself in the very heart of Mindanao.

NATO supports Georgia, split on Russia stance

August 18, 2008

BRUSSELS: NATO foreign ministers are set to show their support for Georgia at an extraordinary meeting on Tuesday, but their views on how to deal with the resurgent Russian bear appear far from unified.

The 26 NATO foreign ministers are ready to champion Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity when they meet in Brussels, while urging Moscow and Tbilisi to honor the ceasefire brokered by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, a NATO official said.

The Allies should also stress their regret at the loss of civilian life and insist on the need for access for humanitarian aid, while repeating their criticism of the “disproportionate force” used by Russia, the NATO source added.

However on longer-term strategic questions concerning relations with Tbilisi and Moscow, the Alliance, created in 1949 to deal with the Soviet Union, remains divided as memories of the Cold War are rekindled.

Russian troops entered Georgia in response to a Tbilisi offensive on August 7 to retake South Ossetia, which broke away in the 1990s.

Since then the West has scrambled for a coherent diplomatic response.

The emergency NATO meeting in Brussels was called by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who will seek to convince Washington’s Alliance partners that there must be “consequences” of Russia’s military action in Georgia.

For Washington that could mean reviewing Russian participation in international institutions and its WTO aspirations. In a concrete example of what could be done, the US military last week canceled international naval exercises with Russia.

US NATO Ambassador Kurt Volker believes that “there can’t be business as usual when an open conflict is going on in a territory that is a partner of NATO with Russia involved.”

However some Western leaders are unwilling to see ties with a resurgent, oil-rich Russia deteriorate any further.

“Major European countries have been all over the place,” on the Russia-Georgia issue, says Robin Shepherd, senior research fellow at London’s Chatham House think tank.

“The Germans and the French have been playing a very cautious game. Italy has practically sided with the Russians on this,” he told Agence France-Presse.

Meanwhile, Eastern European EU members, with vivid memories of the Soviet bloc, are “going to be scarred by this in the sense that they are just not seeing the kind of solidarity with Georgia that they believe Europe should be showing,” added Shepherd.

Even on relations with Georgia the Alliance is split, as Tbilisi’s integration into NATO continues to be another area of deep division.

At the last NATO summit in Bucharest in April, the leaders agreed that Georgia and Ukraine should join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization eventually, but neither nation was formally given candidate status and no timetables were set.

“The US, Poland, the Czech Republic and a few other countries want NATO to draw lessons from the Georgia war. They assume that NATO made a mistake in Bu­charest,” said Tomas Valasek, director of foreign policy at the Center for European reform.

These nations feel NATO’s stance was construed by Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili as a sign of support but by Russia as a sign of weakness.

“They’ll say that Russia has felt emboldened by NATO’s refusal to give Georgia and Ukraine MAPs [NATO Membership Action Plans]. The message they will say that Russia took away from the Bucharest decision is that pressure works.”

But Valasek doesn’t expect a NATO policy change.

“To France and Germany the Georgia war proves that we should never extend security guarantees, explicit or implicit, to any country who we are not willing to go to war over.”

He believes the war has “almost certainly” moved Georgia away from NATO membership and that Russia “will be a more difficult partner for the next few months and years.”
— AFP(ManilaTimes)