How the Trans Pacific Partnership Signals the Death of the Republic

The deal’s proponents cannot see they are selling out U.S. sovereignty to foreign and multinational corporations.
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The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government.    — Article IV, Section 4, US Constitution

A republican form of government is one in which power resides in elected officials representing the citizens, and government leaders exercise power according to the rule of law. In The Federalist Papers, James Madison defined a republic as “a government which derives all its powers directly or indirectly from the great body of the people . . . .”

On April 22, 2015, the Senate Finance Committee approved a bill to fast-track the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a massive trade agreement that would override our republican form of government and hand judicial and legislative authority to a foreign three-person panel of corporate lawyers.

The secretive TPP is an agreement with Mexico, Canada, Japan, Singapore and seven other countries that affects 40% of global markets. Fast-track authority could now go to the full Senate for a vote as early as next week. Fast-track means Congress will be prohibited from amending the trade deal, which will be put to a simple up or down majority vote. Negotiating the TPP in secretand fast-tracking it through Congress is considered necessary to secure its passage, since if the public had time to review its onerous provisions, opposition would mount and defeat it.

Abdicating the Judicial Function to Corporate Lawyers

James Madison wrote in The Federalist Papers:

The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, . . . may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny. . . . “Were the power of judging joined with the legislative, the life and liberty of the subject would be exposed to arbitrary control, for the judge would then be the legislator. . . .”

And that, from what we now know of the TPP’s secret provisions, will be its dire effect.

The most controversial provision of the TPP is the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) section, which strengthens existing ISDS  procedures. ISDS first appeared in a bilateral trade agreement in 1959. According to The Economist, ISDS gives foreign firms a special right to apply to a secretive tribunal of highly paid corporate lawyers for compensation whenever the government passes a law to do things that hurt corporate profits — such things as discouraging smoking, protecting the environment or preventing a nuclear catastrophe.

Arbitrators are paid $600-700 an hour, giving them little incentive to dismiss cases; and the secretive nature of the arbitration process and the lack of any requirement to consider precedent gives wide scope for creative judgments.

To date, the highest ISDS award has been for $2.3 billion to Occidental Oil Company against the government of Ecuador over its termination of an oil-concession contract, this although the termination was apparently legal. Still in arbitration is a demand by Vattenfall, a Swedish utility that operates two nuclear plants in Germany, for compensation of €3.7 billion ($4.7 billion) under the ISDS clause of a treaty on energy investments, after the German government decided to shut down its nuclear power industry following the Fukushima disaster in Japan in 2011.

Under the TPP, however, even larger judgments can be anticipated, since the sort of “investment” it protects includes not just “the commitment of capital or other resources” but “the expectation of gain or profit.” That means the rights of corporations in other countries extend not just to their factories and other “capital” but to the profits they expect to receive there.

In an article posted by Yves Smith, Joe Firestone poses some interesting hypotheticals:

Under the TPP, could the US government be sued and be held liable if it decided to stop issuing Treasury debt and financed deficit spending in some other way (perhaps by quantitative easing or by issuing trillion dollar coins)? Why not, since some private companies would lose profits as a result?

Under the TPP or the TTIP (the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership under negotiation with the European Union), would the Federal Reserve be sued if it failed to bail out banks that were too big to fail?

Firestone notes that under the Netherlands-Czech trade agreement, the Czech Republic was sued in an investor-state dispute for failing to bail out an insolvent bank in which the complainant had an interest. The investor company was awarded $236 million in the dispute settlement. What might the damages be, asks Firestone, if the Fed decided to let the Bank of America fail, and a Saudi-based investment company decided to sue?

Abdicating the Legislative Function to Multinational Corporations

Just the threat of this sort of massive damage award could be enough to block prospective legislation. But the TPP goes further and takes on the legislative function directly, by forbidding specific forms of regulation.

Public Citizen observes that the TPP would provide big banks with a backdoor means of watering down efforts to re-regulate Wall Street, after deregulation triggered the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression:

The TPP would forbid countries from banning particularly risky financial products, such as the toxic derivatives that led to the $183 billion government bailout of AIG. It would prohibit policies to prevent banks from becoming “too big to fail,” and threaten the use of “firewalls” to prevent banks that keep our savings accounts from taking hedge-fund-style bets.

The TPP would also restrict capital controls, an essential policy tool to counter destabilizing flows of speculative money. . . . And the deal would prohibit taxes on Wall Street speculation, such as the proposed Robin Hood Tax that would generate billions of dollars’ worth of revenue for social, health, or environmental causes.

Clauses on dispute settlement in earlier free trade agreements have been invoked to challenge efforts to regulate big business. The fossil fuel industry is seeking to overturn Quebec’s ban on the ecologically destructive practice of fracking. Veolia, the French behemoth known for building a tram network to serve Israeli settlements in occupied East Jerusalem, is contesting increases in Egypt’s minimum wage. The tobacco maker Philip Morris is suing against anti-smoking initiatives in Uruguay and Australia.

The TPP would empower not just foreign manufacturers but foreign financial firms to attack financial policies in foreign tribunals, demanding taxpayer compensation for regulations that they claim frustrate their expectations and inhibit their profits.

Preempting Government Sovereignty

What is the justification for this encroachment on the sovereign rights of government? Allegedly, ISDS is necessary in order to increase foreign investment. But as noted in The Economist, investors can protect themselves by purchasing political-risk insurance. Moreover, Brazil continues to receive sizable foreign investment despite its long-standing refusal to sign any treaty with an ISDS mechanism. Other countries are beginning to follow Brazil’s lead.

In an April 22nd report from the Center for Economic and Policy Research, gains from multilateral trade liberalization were shown to be very small, equal to only about 0.014% of consumption, or about $.43 per person per month. And that assumes that any benefits are distributed uniformly across the economic spectrum. In fact, transnational corporations get the bulk of the benefits, at the expense of most of the world’s population.

Something else besides attracting investment money and encouraging foreign trade seems to be going on. The TPP would destroy our republican form of government under the rule of law, by elevating the rights of investors – also called the rights of “capital” – above the rights of the citizens.

That means that TPP is blatantly unconstitutional. But as Joe Firestone observes, neo-liberalism and corporate contributions seem to have blinded the deal’s proponents so much that they cannot see they are selling out the sovereignty of the United States to foreign and multinational corporations.

For more information and to get involved, visit:

Flush the TPP

The Citizens Trade Campaign

Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch

Eyes on Trade

 

Ellen Brown is an attorney, chairman of the Public Banking Institute, and author of 12 books. In her latest book, The Public Bank Solution, she explores successful public banking models historically and globally. She is currentlyrunning for California State Treasurer on a state bank platform.

http://www.alternet.org/economy/how-trans-pacific-partnership-signals-death-republic?akid=13038.265072.ctYc-n&rd=1&src=newsletter1035406&t=19

Chasing shadows: Europe’s misguided war on smugglers

By Carlos Delclós On April 25, 2015

Post image for Chasing shadows: Europe’s misguided war on smugglersBy declaring war on the smugglers, the EU is not just ignoring the root causes of the Mediterranean drownings, but threatening to make matters worse.

Photo by Ahmed Jadallah.

There are tears that burn and tears that heal. There are tears that are recurring because we forget why we cried them, or never knew to begin with. They come back in waves. Finally, there are the crocodile’s tears, which he sheds as he consumes his victims. They are not unreal, but they come back as shadows.

Take, for instance, the weeping of the European Commission after every spectacular disaster in the Mediterranean. For two decades, reports of capsized boats and deaths by the dozens or hundreds have been followed by somber statements from European leaders and calls for “urgent” action. This emphasis on urgency, often echoed by activists and human rights organizations, can be useful in forcing political decisions that address the most immediately distasteful aspects of a systemic problem. But by reducing that problem to a seemingly manageable scale, it can also sideline necessary considerations of its root causes. And that, in turn, can lead to bad ideas.

When nearly 400 people died en route to Lampedusa in October of 2013, Europe’s urgent response was spearheaded by the Italian government via the Mare Nostrum operation. This search-and-rescue program was recently scrapped and replaced by Operation Triton, following arguments that Mare Nostrum encouraged irregular migration by making it safer. Smaller in scope, Triton is oriented not towards protecting lives, but towards surveillance and border protection. The result of this change, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), has been a dramatic increase in deaths, while the flow of arrivals has increased only slightly according to figures from the Italian Ministry of the Interior. As sociologists have argued for years, more securitization has made migration more dangerous and done nothing to reduce the flows of people.

In response to the massive number of deaths in the Mediterranean between April 13 and 19, many have been quick to call for the return of a humanitarian search-and-rescue program like Mare Nostrum. Yet even this program, though undoubtedly more humane than Triton, was unable to prevent thousands of deaths at Europe’s southern border during its period of operation. The fact of the matter is that the border is doing exactly what it is intended to do, namely channel and protect the accumulation of global capital in the North by filtering and excluding the people from the South through bureaucracy and the selective application of violence.

It is thus misleading and counterproductive to treat the horrific deaths in the Mediterranean as the result of an uncaring administrative decision. What they are is a disturbing manifestation of the European status quo. Not a deviation, but a moment of truth in which we see that the world’s deadliest North-South border (28,000 deaths since 2000 according to the IOM) is situated in the world’s most unequal North-South border zone.

What framing the moment as an emergency does is produce a state of exception that opens the way for oppressive, reactionary legislation. European leaders seemed to have this in mind on April 23, when the Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship Dimitris Avramopoulos announced, “Our response is clear and unequivocal. Europe is declaring war on smugglers.” He went on to announce member states’ broad support for the ten-point action plan on migration that was proposed three days earlier. Aside from promising to carry out more search-and-rescue activities, the plan allocates more funds to FRONTEX (the EU’s border control agency), extends European authority into third countries and suggests a possible military mission to capture and destroy smugglers’ boats.

This sudden shift of focus from a politically damaging humanitarian disaster to a discussion about shadowy networks of smugglers is a common rhetorical device in political discussions about irregular migration. It allows politicians to adopt a moralistic discourse that depicts people who migrate as helpless victims preyed upon by a dark and criminal enemy. But the reality is hardly so clear-cut. As Patrick Kingsley points out in a recent article for The Guardian:

“Smugglers do not maintain a separate, independent harbor of clearly marked vessels, ready to be targeted by EU air strikes. They buy them off fishermen at a few days’ notice. To destroy their potential pool of boats, the EU would need to raze whole fishing ports.”

It seems unlikely that European leaders are unaware of this: journalists, migration analysts and human rights organizations have argued for years that the criminalization of people smuggling may be doing more to globalize harm than prevent it. Ultimately, smugglers are simply part-time players in a transnational informal economy created around and sustained by the European Union’s failure to provide safe, legal and affordable pathways for people to seek asylum or simply try out a life in a new setting. By declaring war on them, European leaders are not just ignoring the root causes of the thousands of deaths each year in the Mediterranean, but actually threatening to make things worse by adding more of the violence and instability that is driving more and more people in the region to take increasingly desperate measures.

Carlos Delclos is a sociologist, researcher and editor for ROAR Magazine. Currently he collaborates with the Health Inequalities Research Group at Pompeu Fabra University and the Barcelona Institute of Metropolitan and Regional Studies at the Autonomous University of Barcelona.

 

http://roarmag.org/2015/04/europe-migrant-smugglers-mediterranean/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+roarmag+%28ROAR+Magazine%29

Majority of US public aid recipients are from working families

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By Zaida Green
25 April 2015

A recent report by the University of California, Berkeley, shows that 73 percent of people enrolled in welfare programs are from working families, surviving on poverty-level wages. An earlier study by the UC Berkeley reported that 25 percent of all workers in the United States relied on some form of public aid.

Titled The High Public Cost of Low Wages, the study reports that of the 29 million families that depended on SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) for food assistance in the period 2009- 2011, 10.3 million had working family members, but still needed assistance. Some 34.1 million workers and their family members were dependent on Medicaid for health care and did not receive health insurance from their employers. Overall, some 56 percent of combined state and federal assistance goes to working families.

The authors point out that data in the study does not include the impact of the Medicaid expansion contained in the Obama administration’s Affordable Care Act. Both state governments and the federal government will share these costs.

The report noted that despite the official claims of an economic recovery, the wages and benefits for most American workers have continued a “decades-long stagnation.” In fact, inflation-adjusted wages for the bottom decile of wage earners were 5 percent lower in 2013 than they were in 1979. During the same period, real median hourly wages of American workers overall were just 5 percent higher.

Between 2003 and 2013, the real wages of the bottom 70 percent of households, i.e., those with an annual income at or under $83,000, either stagnated or declined. According to the US Census Bureau, the real median household income in 2013 was 8 percent lower than in 2007.

The overwhelming majority of jobs that have been created in the wake of the 2008 financial crash are low-wage or part-time and offer few if any benefits. Compared to the start of the recession, the number of full-time jobs in the US has decreased, while the number of part-time jobs has increased by 2 million.

Many of these jobs are in the service industries, particularly retail stores and restaurants. According to the UC Berkeley report, nearly half of all fast-food workers, child-carers, and home health aides, and a quarter of part-time college faculty, are enrolled in at least one public assistance program.

The wages of these jobs often sink below $10.30 per hour. Federal law permits employers to pay tipped workers, such as those working in restaurants, a sub-minimum wage of $2.13 per hour. The federal minimum wage is $7.25, well below the official poverty line for a family of two. Many of these workers are forced to work multiple jobs just to stay afloat.

Workers employed part-time at colleges and universities often must search for other sources of income during the summer months between academic terms. Some states ban adjunct professors and other teachers from claiming unemployment benefits during this time.

The majority of fast-food workers are employed part-time, working 30 hours per week. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics puts the average wage of a fast-food worker at $9.03 per hour, amounting to an average annual income of just $14,000. However, even full-time employment is not enough to supplement the meager wages in the industry. The families of more than half of fast-food workers rely on welfare programs. One in five lives in poverty.

Though tens of millions of families depend on welfare benefits to survive, the ruling class is carrying out ruthless attacks on these vital social programs.

SNAP’s budget will be slashed by $8.7 billion over the next decade. The TANF (Temporary Assistance to Needy Families) program itself is a product of reactionary “welfare reform,” imposing arbitrary time limits on child care benefits and requiring adults to find employment in order to continue receiving aid past a certain time period.

While mass layoffs, austerity, and savage attacks on the standard of living have defined the “economic recovery” for the working class, a tiny financial elite has seen their coffers balloon. Between 2003 and 2013, the net worth of the world’s billionaires more than tripled from $1.4 trillion to $5.4 trillion. The wealth of the world’s billionaires set a new record this year, at $7.05 trillion.

The author also recommends:

The face of food stamp cuts
[18 April 2014]

 

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2015/04/25/berk-a25.html

An entire industry is dedicated to getting your privacy back.

The Anti-Surveillance State: Clothes and Gadgets Block Face Recognition Technology, Confuse Drones and Make You (Digitally) Invisible

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Last spring, designer Adam Harvey hosted a session on hair and makeup techniques for attendees of the 2015 FutureEverything Festival in Manchester, England. Rather than sharing innovative ways to bring out the audience’s eyes, Harvey’s CV Dazzle Anon introduced a series of styling methods designed with almost the exact opposite aim of traditional beauty tricks: to turn your face into an anti-face—one that cameras, particularly those of the surveillance variety, will not only fail to love, but fail to recognize.

Harvey is one of a growing number of privacy-focused designers and developers “exploring new opportunities that are the result of [heightened] surveillance,” and working to establish lines of defense against it. He’s spent the past several years experimenting with strategies for putting control over people’s privacy back in their own hands, in their pockets and on their faces.

Harvey’s goal of “creating a style that [is] functional and aesthetic” has driven several projects and collaborations, including a method for “spoofing” DNA, and via the Privacy Gift Shop, his drone-thwarting Stealth Wear line (clothing he claims “shields against thermal imaging…[which is] used widely by military drones to target people,” seen below) and the OFF Pocket phone sleeve, able to keep out unwanted wireless signals.

His CV Dazzle designs for hair and makeup obscure the eyes, bridge of the nose and shape of the head, as well as creating skin tone contrasts and asymmetries. Facial-recognition algorithms function by identifying the layout of facial features and supplying missing info based on assumed facial symmetry. The project demonstrates that a styled “anti-face” can both conceal a person’s identity from facial recognition software (be it the FBI’s or Facebook’s) and cause the software to doubt the presence of a human face, period.

Harvey’s work is focused on accessibility in addition to privacy. “Most of the projects I’ve worked on are analog solutions to digital challenges,” he said. His hair and makeup style tips – a veritable how-to guide for how to create “privacy reclaiming” looks at home – are “deliberately low-cost.” His current project – software to “automatically generate camouflage…that can be applied to faces” – will allow a user to “create [their] own look and guide the design towards [their] personal style preferences.”

Other low-tech protections against widespread surveillance have been gaining ground, too. Though initially designed as a tongue-in-cheek solution to prying eyes and cameras, Becky Stern’s Laptop Compubody Sock offers a portable, peek-free zone to laptop users, while the CHBL Jammer Coat and sold-out Phonekerchief use metal-infused fabrics to make personal gadgets unreachable, blocking texts, calls and radio waves. For people willing to sport a bit more hardware in the name of privacy, the Sentient City Survival Kit offers underwear that notifies wearers about real-life phishing and tracking attempts, and its LED umbrella lets users “flirt with object tracking algorithms used in advanced surveillance systems” and even “train these systems to recognize nonhuman shapes.”

Large companies are also getting in on the pushback against increasing surveillance. Earlier this year, antivirus software leaders AVG revealed a pair of invisibility glasses developed by its Innovation Labs division. The casual looking specs use embedded infrared lights “to create noise around the nose and eyes” and retro-reflective frame coating to interfere with camera flashes, “allowing [the wearer] to avoid facial recognition.” In early 2013, Japan’s National Institute of Informatics revealed a bulky pair of goggles it had developed for the same purpose.

A spokesperson for Innovation Labs claims its glasses represent “an important step in the prevention against mass surveillance…whether through the cell phone camera of a passerby, a CCTV camera in a bar, or a drone flying over your head in the street.” Innovation Labs says that, with a person’s picture, facial recognition software “coupled with data from social networking sites can provide instant access to the private information of complete strangers. This can pose a serious threat to our privacy.” Though AVG’s glasses are not scheduled for commercial release, Innovation Labs said that individuals can take a number of steps to prevent their images from being “harvested”:

“First and foremost, make sure you’re not allowing private corporations to create biometrics profiles about you. When using social networks like Facebook, be aware that they are using facial recognition to give you tag suggestions. Facebook’s DeepFace was already tested and trained on the largest facial dataset to-date (an identity labeled dataset of more than 4 million facial images belonging to thousands of identities).”

Holmes Wilson of nonprofit Fight for the Future, which works to defend online privacy and freedoms on various fronts, is more concerned with other types of privacy invasion than real-life image harvesting. “It’s pretty unlikely in most of the world that you’ll get followed around using a network of street cameras with face recognition,” he said. “It’s probably pretty likely, though, that you’ll get filmed by police at a protest. But [there’s] not much you can do about that other than wearing a mask.”

Wilson advises people concerned about privacy breaches through surveillance to first focus on the ways in which their gadgets are supplying info to third parties. “The place where it’s easiest to fight back against surveillance is in protecting the security of your messages,” he said, adding that message security “can be a problem for activists, too.” He said apps like Textsecure, Signal, and Redphone can make it “a lot harder for people to spy on you.” Wilson added:

“Phones are the biggest thing. Lots of people think of smartphones as the big privacy problem, but old-fashioned phones are just as bad, and worse in some ways. All cellphones report on your location to the network as you move around. That’s just how they work, and they need to send that information or the system won’t know where to send your call. There’s no way to turn that off, other than by turning off the phone and, for good measure, taking the battery out.”

In collaboration with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Fight for the Future recommends a variety of options for encrypting messages, password-protecting accounts and securing a user’s various communication and browsing activities via Reset the Net. Wilson encouraged those with specific privacy concerns to check out tutorials, resources and break-downs of privacy issues from Surveillance Self-Defense.

Last year, Facebook announced that its DeepFace facial recognition technology can detect a person’s identity from photos with 97.25 percent accuracy, only a hair below the 97.5 percent success rate for humans taking the same test. Currently, a congressional front is preparing to extend surveillance powers granted to legal bodies by Section 215 of the Patriot Act—the NSA’s legal foothold of choice with regard to mass collection of US phone records since 2006, and set to expire on June 1—with the light-on-reform USA Freedom Act.

It seems likely that a growing number of both tech-wary and tech-savvy people will continue weighing how best to ensure their personal privacy, whether by putting stark makeup on or by turning their phones off.

Janet Burns is a writer in Brooklyn, NY. Her website is warmlyjanetburns.com.

http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/anti-surveillance-state-clothes-and-gadgets-block-face-recognition-technology?akid=13037.265072._uEekz&rd=1&src=newsletter1035368&t=5

Obama’s drone warfare: Assassination made routine

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25 April 2015

Perhaps the most extraordinary aspect of President Obama’s announcement Thursday that two hostages of Al Qaeda, an American and an Italian, were killed in a US drone missile strike in Pakistan is the lack of any significant reaction from official political circles or the media.

There was a certain amount of tut-tutting in the press and expressions of sympathy for the family of Dr. Warren Weinstein, the longtime aid worker in Pakistan who was kidnapped by Al Qaeda in 2011 and killed by the US government in January 2015.

But there was no challenge to the basic premise of the drone missile program: that the CIA and Pentagon have the right to kill any individual, in any country, on the mere say-so of the president. Drone murder by the US government has become routine and is accepted as normal and legitimate by the official shapers of public opinion.

Obama’s own appearance Thursday was chilling. He made perfunctory expressions of regret, but only because the latest victims of US drone strikes included an American and an Italian who were being held hostage. It was a transparently poor acting performance, convincing no one but the editors of theNew York Times, who praised Obama’s “candor and remorse.”

After blaming the deaths of Weinstein and Giovanni Lo Porto on “mistakes” made because of “the fog of war,” Obama declared, “But one of the things that sets America apart from many other nations, one of the things that makes us exceptional, is our willingness to confront squarely our imperfections and to learn from our mistakes.” He had decided to admit responsibility for the deaths because “the United States is a democracy, committed to openness, in good times and in bad.”

What a farce! Far from admitting “mistakes,” Obama, the political front man for the military-intelligence apparatus, was making clear that the drone assassination program would continue and no one would be held accountable for the latest atrocity.

Today’s America is “exceptional” only in the degree to which the entire ruling elite has embraced a policy of reckless violence around the globe that includes murder, torture and aggressive war. The United States is run by criminals.

A major test of any American president is readiness to approve state killings in his or her capacity as the political representative, not of the American people, but of a cabal of generals and CIA assassins. How much longer before such actions are carried out not just in remote parts of Afghanistan or Yemen, but in major urban centers of major countries, including, ultimately, the United States itself?

The drone strike in Pakistan’s Shawal Valley that killed Weinstein and Lo Porto is part of an unending campaign of death and destruction. Obama did not even have to sign off on this particular missile strike, since he has given the CIA blanket authority to conduct such operations in the predominately Pashtun-populated Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan.

The claim that drone attacks target individuals designated by the US military-intelligence apparatus as “terrorists” is hardly a limitation, given the indiscriminate application of this term to anyone offering significant resistance to US foreign policy, as well as the cynical practice of posthumously applying the label of “enemy combatant” to any military-age male killed by a US drone-fired missile.

Moreover, as events in Syria and Libya demonstrate, yesterday’s anti-American “terrorist” can become today’s “rebel” or “freedom fighter,” the recipient of US cash, military training and weaponry. Similarly, today’s “freedom fighter” or ally in the “war on terror” can become tomorrow’s target for overthrow or assassination.

The CIA recruited Al Qaeda sympathizers for its overthrow of the Libyan regime and murder of Muammar Gaddafi, formerly an ally, and for the ongoing regime-change operation against President Bashar al-Assad in Syria. The latter effort gave rise to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, in which terrorists turned “rebels” were subsequently branded terrorists, in accordance with the twists and turns of US foreign policy.

Obama administration officials have confirmed that the drone missile attack that killed Weinstein and Lo Porto was a “signature strike,” in which targets are not identified by name, but selected on the basis of a pattern of activities supposedly consistent with those of a terrorist group. The CIA carried out a drone missile attack that killed six people, including Weinstein and Lo Porto, based on aerial observation of the comings and goings at the building targeted, without actually knowing who was there or what their relation, if any, was with Al Qaeda or the Taliban.

Such attacks are in flagrant violation of international law. The US is trampling on the sovereignty of Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and other countries where it carries out such strikes.

Drone missile murders are war crimes under the Geneva Conventions, which forbid deliberate attacks on civilians or military operations that recklessly endanger civilians. According to a study by the human rights group Reprieve, US drone missile strikes targeting 41 supposed terrorists killed a total of 1,147 people, including many women and children.

Not a single significant voice in the US political or media establishment has been raised against the elevation of assassination to a major element of American foreign policy. In the 1970s, when the US Senate’s Church Committee held hearings on CIA assassination plots against a handful of foreign leaders, its revelations had the capacity to shock. There was a reaction even at the highest levels of the political establishment, and the White House was compelled to issue an executive order disavowing murder as a tool of government policy.

Today there is no such reaction. On the contrary, earlier this month the Timesrevealed that congressional leaders had put pressure on the White House and CIA for more acts of drone missile murder. Describing discussions about whether to kill or capture a Texas-born Islamist who had joined Al Qaeda in Pakistan, Mohanad Mahmoud Al Farekh, the Times reported: “During a closed-door hearing of the House Intelligence Committee in July 2013, lawmakers grilled military and intelligence officials about why Mr. Farekh had not been killed.” (See: “US targeted second American citizen for assassination”).

The American media is well aware of the drone missile death toll, but covers it up. An article Friday in the Times noted that the White House refuses point-blank to discuss civilian victims of drone missile attacks when they are Pakistani or Yemeni. “When Americans have been killed, however, the Obama administration has found it necessary to break with its usual practice and eventually acknowledge the deaths, at least in private discussions with reporters,” the newspaper wrote.

The lack of any significant protest of the latest revelations of US war crimes is a warning to the working class, both in the United States and internationally. As the WSWS has consistently warned, the war drive of imperialism is inseparably linked to a frontal assault on democratic and social rights.

The struggle against war and in defense of democratic rights requires a turn to the working class, the only social force capable of disarming the ruling elite. That is the purpose of the International May Day Online Rally called by the International Committee of the Fourth International for Sunday, May 3. We urge all readers and supporters of the WSWS to register for the rally today.

Patrick Martin

 

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2015/04/25/pers-a25.html

Most US states saw jobs losses in March

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By Ed Hightower
24 April 2015

The US Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics report on state and regional unemployment for March 2015 shows a deteriorating economic situation. Despite modest job growth nationally, nonfarm payroll employment declined in 31 states and the District of Columbia last month. Only 18 states saw an increase in employment.

In particular, states and regions that once benefited from a boom in domestic oil production are now hemorrhaging jobs as a result of the oil price decline. States with the largest over-the-month job losses were Texas (25,000), Oklahoma (12,900) and Pennsylvania (12,700).

In percentage terms, the largest over-the-month declines in employment occurred in Oklahoma (0.8 percent), followed by Arkansas, North Dakota, and West Virginia (0.6 percent each).

The rapid job losses in Texas—America’s second most populous state with 27 million residents, with an economic output equivalent to Spain—has generated concerns in major economic and political circles. March 2015 is the first time in 53 months that the state of has showed a net loss of jobs.

JP Morgan Chase economist Michael Feroli was among many analysts who predicted a severe loss of oil-related jobs in the state in late 2014, earning him the ire of then-President of the Dallas Federal Reserve who last month, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, publicly dismissed such predictions with contempt.

Referring to the March jobs report, Feroli said if the national economy had lost jobs in the same proportion as Texas did, the US would have lost 304,000 jobs last month, an amount associated with a full-blown recession.

The slump in oil prices threatens jobs in other industries, including steel and automobile manufacturing. The steel sector closely followed the boom in shale oil and natural gas production over the past several years when higher oil prices prevailed. Globally, the industry has undergone a restructuring over the last quarter century that is almost without parallel, forcing prices down and destroying jobs and productive infrastructure.

On Friday, United States Steel Corporation sent layoff notices to 1,404 workers involved in producing pipe and tube products used in the oil and gas sector. The layoffs could come as early as June for 579 employees at a plant in Lone Star, Texas, 166 at a factory in Houston, 255 at a mill in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and 404 managers in the company’s tubular operations.

Since March, US Steel has announced plans to idle its Granite City, Illinois, factory that employs 2,000 workers, a tubular steel facility in Ohio employing 614 workers, as well as layoffs and closures in Pennsylvania and Minnesota.

Ford Motor Company announced Thursday that it will idle 700 workers at the Michigan Assembly Plant in the Detroit suburb of Wayne starting June 22, citing decreased demand for more fuel-efficient vehicles. The facility produces a number of vehicles in this category, including the Ford Focus, Focus ST, Focus Electric, C-Max hybrid and C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid.

Sales of the Ford Focus fell 14.5 percent in March, and sales of the C-Max Hybrid were down 22 percent during the same period and by 31 percent during the first quarter. General Motors has announced similar plans for facilities making its more fuel-efficient models.

The United Steelworkers and the United Auto Workers unions accept without question the destruction of tens of thousands of jobs by the corporate giants, with the USW predictably blaming foreign steelmakers for “dumping” steel.

The report on state unemployment further exposes the Obama administration’s lies about the supposed economic “recovery.” It dovetails with poor economic figures in recent months, including retail sales, industrial production and home building, all of which point to a deepening economic downturn.

Flush with more than $1.3 trillion in cash—and benefiting from virtually free credit poured into the financial markets by the Federal Reserve—major corporations are not investing in expanding production. Instead they are pouring billions into stock buybacks and dividends to benefit wealthy investors, and to fuel a wave of mergers and acquisitions that will destroy even more jobs. Meanwhile the workers who remain are subjected to unrelenting demands for lower wages and benefits and higher levels of exploitation.

Financial news outlets are now referring to “mega-mergers.” A case in point is this month’s takeover by energy giant Shell of the smaller firm BG in a $70 billion deal. ExxonMobil is also widely expected to make a bid for BP. Both the Shell-BG mega-merger, as well as any acquisitions by rival ExxonMobil, will serve to boost profits not through new investment in infrastructure, but through layoffs, closures and the lowering of labor costs.

While better-paying jobs in the US manufacturing sector are evaporating, what little job growth there is consists largely of low wage service sector work. In one sign of the deteriorating conditions for workers in these industries, a study by the University of California’s Center for Labor Research and Education released April 13 found that a majority of spending on public assistance programs goes to households headed by someone who is working.

“When companies pay too little for workers to provide for their families, workers rely on public assistance programs to meet their basic needs,” Ken Jacobs, chair of the labor center and co-author of the new report said in a press release.

Thus, at the state and federal level, the US government subsidizes companies that pay poverty wages, to the tune of $153 billion per year.

According to the report, workers in a diverse range of occupations systematically rely on public assistance, and in staggering proportions, including frontline fast-food workers (52 percent), childcare workers (46 percent), home care workers (48 percent) and even part-time college faculty (25 percent).

While Wall Street executives are making record bonuses, four out of 10 bank tellers in New York City are forced to rely on some form of public assistance because their wages are too low to survive.

 

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2015/04/24/jobs-a24.html

Hillary the Hawk

There’s No Two Ways About It
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by CHARLES DAVIS and MEDEA BENJAMIN

Announcing her latest campaign for the presidency, Hillary Clinton declared she was entering the race to be the champion for “everyday Americans.” As a lawmaker and diplomat, however, Clinton has long championed military campaigns that have killed scores of “everyday” people abroad, from Iraq to Yemen. As commander-in-chief, there’s no reason to believe she’d be any less a hawk than she was as the senator who backed George W. Bush’s war in Iraq, or the Secretary of State who encouraged Barack Obama to escalate the war in Afghanistan. If her nomination is as sure a thing as people say, then antiwar organizing needs to start right away.

Hillary has already won the support of those who continually agitate for war. “I feel comfortable with her on foreign policy,” Robert Kagan, a co-founder of the neoconservative Project for the New American Century, told The New York Times last summer. “If she pursues a policy which we think she will pursue,” he said, “it’s something that might have been called neocon, but clearly her supporters are not going to call it that; they are going to call it something else.”

We’re going to call it what it is: More of the same sort of murderous policies that destroyed Iraq, destabilized Libya, killed women and children with cluster bombs and drones in Yemen, and legitimized the undermining of democracy in Honduras. There’s little chance the Republicans will nominate someone better, but given Clinton’s record as a senator and Secretary of State – the latter giving us a very good idea of how she would approach foreign affairs once in office – it will be hard for them to find anyone much worse.

We know that Clinton is no reliable friend of peace. Today she supports diplomacy with Iran, but back in 2009, as Secretary of State, she was adamant that the U.S. keep open the option of attacking the Islamic Republic over never-proven allegations it was seeking the nuclear weapons that Israel already has. Her attempts to portray herself as an ally of those who are pro-peace, as a sort of reluctant imperialist, is the same sort of co-opting distortion that has helped quiet opposition to President Obama’s pro-war agenda. If anything, Hillary is even more militaristic than the ostensibly reluctant warrior she’s campaigning to replace. Still, that hasn’t stopped her from trying to be all things to all people — even people like us.

Indeed, in March 2003, Clinton did something she will probably never willingly do again: She met with CODEPINK to explain her support for war. “I like pink tulips around this time of the year,” she began, “[they] kind of remind ya that there may be a spring. Well, you guys look like a big bunch of big tulips!” It got progressively more awkward after that. “I admire your willingness to speak out on behalf of the women and children of Iraq,” said Clinton, but, “There is a very easy way to prevent anyone from being put into harm’s way and that is for Saddam Hussein to disarm and I have absolutely no belief that he will.”

We thought the easiest way to prevent harming the women, children and other living things in Iraq was to stop a war of aggression ostensibly over weapons of mass destruction that UN inspectors on the ground couldn’t find and which were, in fact, never found because they didn’t exist. Clinton, however, was steadfast: “If Saddam were serious about disarming he would have been much more forthcoming. . . . The very difficult question for all of us is how does one bring about the disarmament of someone with such a proven track record of a commitment, if not an obsession, with weapons of mass destruction?”

Her answer: Destroying Iraq by dropping millions of U.S.-made WMDs, including bombs with depleted uranium that have more than doubled the country’s pre-2003 rate of cancer. Speaking to the women of CODEPINK, Clinton even explicitly defended George W. Bush’s unilateralism, citing her husband’s go-it-alone intervention in Kosovo.

In 2011, when the Arab Spring came to Libya, Clinton was the Obama administration’s most forceful advocate for going above and beyond a no-fly zone to depose Muammar Gaddafi, whose U.S.-trained security forces were killing Libyans with the help of weapons and equipment provided by his erstwhile allies in the US, Britain and France. She even out-hawked Robert Gates, the defense secretary first appointed by George W. Bush who was less than enthusiastic about going to war. When Libyan rebels carried out an extrajudicial execution of their country’s former dictator, her response was sociopathic: “We came, we saw, he died,” she said, smiling and laughing. That sent a message that the U.S. would look the other way at crimes committed by allies against its official enemies; indeed, the same policy of tolerance for friends’ war crimes that arguably led Gaddafi to believe he could get away with killing anyone he labeled “Al Qaeda.”

Libya was part of a pattern for Clinton. On Afghanistan, she advocated a repeat of the surge in Iraq, encouraging President Obama to more than double the number of troops there. Her State Department also provided cover for the expansion of the not-so-covert drone wars in Pakistan and Yemen. Clinton’s top legal adviser, Harold Koh, exploited his pre-government reputation as an advocate for human rights to declare in a 2010 speech that not only did the government have the right to detain people without charge at Guantanamo Bay, but it can kill them with unmanned aerial vehicles anywhere in the world.

Clinton practiced “soft power” diplomacy too, of course: After Honduran forces trained at the U.S. School of the Americas carried out a coup against elected president Manuel Zelaya, Clinton’s State Department immediately got to work on legitimizing the regime that seized power. As commentator Mark Weisbrot observes, she even said as much in her book, Hard Choices: “In the subsequent days [after the coup] I spoke with my counterparts around the hemisphere, including Secretary [Patricia] Espinosa in Mexico,” wrote Clinton. “We strategized on a plan to restore order in Honduras and ensure that free and fair elections could be held quickly and legitimately, which would render the question of Zelaya moot.”

The subsequent “free and fair” election would end up being between two candidates who supported a coup opposed by most “everyday people” in Honduras, now one of the most violent, drug-war ravaged countries in the world; she has also called for deporting child refugees fleeing that violence. In Honduras as elsewhere: It seems it’s not the lives of “everyday people” that are of chief concern to politicians like Clinton.

When Barack Obama became president, the anti-war movement became his first casualty – followed by a group of Pakistanis droned to death three days after his inauguration. We should never lose hope that we can bring about positive change, but actually changing the world for the better requires being aware that whoever sits in the White House come January 2017 is not going to be our friend.

Charles Davis is a writer in Los Angeles. His work has been published by outlets such as Al Jazeera, The New Republic and Salon.

Medea Benjamin is the co-founder of the peace group CODEPINK and the human rights organization Global Exchange. She is also the author of Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control.

 

http://www.counterpunch.org/2015/04/23/hillary-the-hawk-2/