Aug 6, 2011

Republican Con Job Deluxe


Republican Con Job Deluxe
Edited on Sat Aug-06-11 06:50 PM by vonarrow
Republican Con Job Deluxe

"It's the 'new normal' we all have to deal with." - CNN's Wolf Blitzer.

Today's political narrative on CNN is the 'new normal" the precious TV pundits are going to CONtinue shove down our throats each and every day: If big cuts aren't made soon, there could be further downgrading of America's credit rating.

Today's narrative, repeated via different "experts" ad nauseaum, infers we must make big cuts to Social Security and Medicare or face further downgrading of America's credit. Since when does the Republican Party and Standard & Poor hold the American economy hostage? Since the Republican Party begrudgingly realized the fact Obama is very most likely going to trounce any Republican Party candidate, that's when.

These are some of the most harmful lies ever disseminated to the general public. These so-called "experts" are nothing more than mouthpieces for their corporate and political masters and financial self-interest. The MSM is working overtime manufacturing so-called, "conventional wisdom" that says Social Security and Medicare must be cut, or face further downgrading of America's credit and the worsening of our economy. Wolf Blitzer actually asked one so-called CNN "expert" if there was anything the U.S. could have done to avoid yesterday's S&P downgrading of America's credit, and the guy said yes, the cuts to Social Security and Medicare should have already been made, and if the cuts would have already been made, S&P wouldn't have downgraded U.S. credit. Blitzer further "helped out" by saying yes, the tough decisions have to be made. (inappropriately mischaracterizing Social Security as what ails America's economy)

Since when does a shady corporation named Standard & Poor (a questionable organization at best, criminal at worst) dictate U.S. economic policy to America's political system and parties? This is the SAME CORPORATION that issued BOGUS credit ratings for bogus mortgage securities. Since when does Standard and Poor possess the GALL AND MORAL IMPERATIVE to publicly WARN politicians and voters that if they don't leave the Bush tax cuts intact, S&P will possibly downgrade America's credit even further? Since this morning, when top S&P executives appeared on CNN and MSNBC specifically warning Americans that if they don't cut Social Security and Medicare, there will be further downgrading of America's credit rating.

When S&P calculated America's debt ratio, etc., they counted the Bush tax cuts as permanent beyond 2012, when they are set to expire. This accounts for the $2 trillion discrepancy between the U.S. Treasury Dept. and Standard & Poor. Even Warren Buffet said S&P erred in downgrading America's AAA rating: S&P Erred in Cutting U.S. Rating: Buffett

I personally believe S&P's downgrading of America's credit rating is a direct result of President Obama refusing to endorse the permanent renewal of the Bush tax cuts. The Bush tax cuts were and remain a gross tax loophole which caused a big part of the financial mess America is suffering from right now.

(Why S&P Has No Business Downgrading the U.S.)
Robert Reich

Standard & Poor's downgrade of America's debt couldn't come at a worse time. The result is likely to be higher borrowing costs for the government at all levels, and higher interest on your variable-rate mortgage, your auto loan, your credit card loans, and every other penny you borrow.

Why did S&P do it?

Not because America failed to pay its creditors on time. As you may have noticed, we avoided a default.

And not because we might fail to pay our bills at the end of 2012 if tea-party Republicans again hold the nation hostage when their votes will next be needed to raise the debt ceiling. This is a legitimate worry and might have been grounds for a downgrade, but it's not S&P's rationale.

S&P has downgraded the U.S. because it doesn't think we're on track to reduce the nation's debt enough to satisfy S&P — and we're not doing it in a way S&P prefers.

Here's what S&P said: "The downgrade reflects our opinion that the fiscal consolidation plan that Congress and the administration recently agreed to falls short of what, in our view, would be necessary to stabilize the government's medium-term debt dynamics." S&P also blames what it considers to be weakened "effectiveness, stability, and predictability" of U.S. policy making and political institutions.

Pardon me for asking, but who gave Standard & Poor's the authority to tell America how much debt it has to shed, and how?

If we pay our bills, we're a good credit risk. If we don't, or aren't likely to, we're a bad credit risk. When, how, and by how much we bring down the long term debt — or, more accurately, the ratio of debt to GDP — is none of S&P's business.

S&P's intrusion into American politics is also ironic because, as I pointed out recently, much of our current debt is directly or indirectly due to S&P's failures (along with the failures of the two other major credit-rating agencies — Fitch and Moody's) to do their jobs before the financial meltdown. Until the eve of the collapse S&P gave triple-A ratings to some of the Street's riskiest packages of mortgage-backed securities and collateralized debt obligations.

Had S&P done its job and warned investors how much risk Wall Street was taking on, the housing and debt bubbles wouldn't have become so large – and their bursts wouldn't have brought down much of the economy. You and I and other taxpayers wouldn't have had to bail out Wall Street; millions of Americans would now be working now instead of collecting unemployment insurance; the government wouldn't have had to inject the economy with a massive stimulus to save millions of other jobs; and far more tax revenue would now be pouring into the Treasury from individuals and businesses doing better than they are now.

In other words, had Standard & Poor's done its job over the last decade, today's budget deficit would be far smaller and the nation's future debt wouldn't look so menacing.

We'd all be better off had S&P done the job it was supposed to do, then. We've paid a hefty price for its nonfeasance.

A pity S&P is not even doing its job now. We'll be paying another hefty price for its malfeasance today.

Robert Reich: S&P Debt Warning is 'Height of Hubris'

WASHINGTON) -- It's the "height of hubris" for ratings agency Standard & Poor's to suggest it may cut the credit rating of the U.S. even if the debt crisis is solved, says Robert Reich, former labor secretary in the Clinton administration.

"No credit rating agency has gone as far as S&P," he told ABC News on Wednesday. "That's a highly political move. I'm surprised they are doing it."

Reich, who is a professor of public policy at the University of California, Berkeley and has also worked under Presidents Carter and Obama, called the credit rating agency's latest reports "irresponsible."

With just days to go until the Treasury estimates the U.S. could default on its sovereign debt, Reich said S&P has no business sharing its political opinions about U.S. economic policy. The U.S. currently has the highest AAA rating on its debt, which tops $14 trillion. A lower debt rating would mean higher borrowing costs for the U.S., adding billions more to the debt.

While ratings agencies testified Wednesday at a House financial services committee hearing on their role in the subprime mortgage market, Reich pointed out that Standard & Poor's contributed to the financial meltdown by giving AAA ratings to some of Wall Street's riskiest packages of mortgage-backed securities and collateralized debt obligations.

S&P's threat of a downgrade to the nation's credit rating goes one step further than Moody's and Fitch, the other two major credit rating agencies, by declaring even if Congress agrees to lift the $14.3 trillion debt limit, they and President Obama must also reduce the deficit by $4 trillion over 10 years.

In April, Standard & Poor's cut the U.S. ratings outlook to negative from stable and warned that its AAA rating is at risk unless lawmakers agree on a plan by 2013 to reduce the budget deficit and nation's debt.

Robert Reich: You Can Officially Blame The Double Dip On The Republicans

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Romney mystery milllion dollar donor comes forward


new essay by petras - Colombia: Pillage, Promise and Peace



Colombia:  Pillage, Promise and Peace

James Petras


Invited paper to be presented to the “Encuentro Nacional de comunidades Campesinas, Afrodescendientes e Indigenas por la Tierra y la Paz de Colombia

“El dialogo es la Ruta”

12 al 15 de agosto 2011











Colombia:  Pillage, Promise and Peace

James Petras


            We live in a time of great destruction and grand economic opportunities and Latin America is no exception.  In the global context, the US Empire is engaged in destructive wars (Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Libya, Yemen, Somalia and Haiti).  In contrast China, India, Brazil, Argentina and other “emerging economies” are expanding trade, investments and reducing poverty.  The European Union (EU) and the United States (USA) are in deep economic crises.  The EU “periphery” (Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Spain) are totally bankrupt.  The US “dependencies” in North America (Mexico), Central America and the Caribbean are virtual narco-states plagued by mass poverty, astronomical crime rates and economic stagnation.  The US dependencies are plundered by foreign multi-nationals, local oligarchs and corrupt politicians.

            Colombia stands at the crossroads:  it can follow in the footsteps of its predecessor, narco-President Alvaro Uribe and remain a military dependency, a lone outpost of the US Empire in South AmericaColombia can remain at the margin of the most dynamic world markets and at war with its people or via a new socio-political leadership it can effect a profound reorientation of policy and consummate a transition toward greater integration with the dynamic markets of the world.

            Colombia has all the objective ingredients (material and human resources) to be part of the dynamic new order.  But first and foremost it must shed its role as the militarized vassal of the United States and an object of exploitation by a rentier oligarchy.  Colombia must cease backing US coups (Honduras, Venezuela) and threatening its neighbors (Ecuador).

            Colombia cannot develop its productive forces and finance the modernization of higher education and upgrade technical training and expend billions on the hundreds of thousands of military, paramilitary, police and intelligence operatives.  The military repressive apparatus is directed at repressing the most productive, creative e and motivated sectors of the labor force.  Prosperity depends on civil peace which depends on the profound demilitarization of the Colombian state.  The connection between economy and military is clear.  China spends one tenth of the US military budget but grows five times fasterBrazil’s independent foreign policy and realignment with the Asian market has led to high growth, while Mexico, as a satellite of the North American Free Trade Treaty, is a stagnant, failed state.

De-Militarization:  The Specificities of Colombia:

            Colombia is the most militarized society in Latin America, with the highest number of civil society victims.  “Militarism” in Colombia includes the largest active military force operating within state boundaries and being the largest recipient of military financing from the greatest militarist power in the world.  As a subordinate client of the US Empire, Colombia has the worst human rights record, as far as the killing of journalists, trade unionists, peasant activists and human rights advocates.

            State and para-state violence, however, is not random; over 4 million Colombian farmers, peasants and rural intermediaries have been forcibly dispossessed and their lands seized by big landowners, narco-traffickers, generals and businesspeople allied with the government.  In other words State terror and mass dispossession is a peculiarly Colombian method of “capital accumulation”.  State violence is the method  to secure the means of production to increase agro-exports at the expense of family farmers.

            In Colombia, state and para-state extermination replaces the market and “contractual relations” in effecting economic transactions.  The unequal relations between a militarist state and popular civil society movements has been the principal impediment to a transition from an oligarchical political regime to a pluralistic representative democratic electoral system.

         Colombia combines 19th century forms of elite representation with highly developed 21st century means of military repression:  a case of combined and uneven development.  As a result we find ‘unbalanced growth’; an overdeveloped military, police, paramilitary apparatus and underdeveloped social and political institutions willing and capably of engaging in negotiations through reciprocity and compromises within a civic framework.

            The state culture of “permanent war” undermines the conditions of trust and reciprocity and raises unacceptable risks to any social and political interlocutors.

            Within the militarized state – especially because of its deep-rooted links to regional US military institutions – only “negotiations” which reinforce the current socio-economic order and political institutional arrangement are acceptable. Even recognized “peace mediators” engage in one-sided “negotiations” demanding unilateral concessions from insurgents and rarely make demands for reciprocal concessions from the State.

            Most Latin American countries which have gone through a transition from dictatorial rule to electoral politics have respected opponents; only Colombia has murdered the entire political leadership and activists - from the Patriotic Union – who converted from armed to electoral struggle.  No other Latin American  (or European or Asian)opposition has experience the state violence inflicted on the Union Patriotica (UP):  the murder of 5,000 activists including Presidential and Congressional candidates.

            South America’s current center-left regimes, their thriving economies and the free and open social movement struggles, are a product of social upheavals (between 1999-2005) which ended ‘militarized politics’.  Popular revolts in Bolivia, Argentina, Ecuador, and Venezuela cleared the way for the Center-Left.  In Brazil, Uruguay and Chile social movements helped displace rightwing regimes.

            As a result of mass struggles and popular uprisings, center-left regimes pursue relatively independent economic policies and progressive anti-poverty programs.  They have raised living standards and provide political and social space for continued class struggle.

            Colombia is one of the few countries which have failed to make the transition from a right-wing militarist regime to a center-left welfare and development model, because unlike the rest of Latin America it has yet to experience a popular uprising, resulting in a new political configuration.



Peace Settlements:  Central America or Indo-China?

“Peace settlements” produce winners and losers and reflect the external and internal correlation of forces.  The process of negotiation, including who is consulted in setting priorities and making concessions ,is central to the future trajectory of the “peace process”.

Recent history provides us with two diametrically opposed ‘peace processes’ with dramatically different consequences:  the Indo-Chinese peace settlement of 1973-75 and the Central American peace settlements of 1992-1993.  In the case of Indo-China and more specifically the Vietnamese-US peace settlement, the National Liberation Front (NLF), secured the withdrawal of the US military forces, the dismantling of US military bases and the de-militarization of the state.  The NLF agreed to a process of political integration based on the recognition of certain basic socio-economic and political reforms, including agrarian reform, the repossession of farms by millions of displaced peasants and the prosecution of civilian and military officials charged with crimes against humanity.  The FLN negotiators made political concessions but were in close consultation with their mass base of peasants, workers and professionals.  They upheld the principle of democratizing the state and demilitarizing society as essential conditions for ending the war.

Over the past 35 years, Vietnam has evolved from an independent socialist toward a mixed public-private capitalist economy, transiting toward higher growth and higher living standards but increasing inequalities and greater corruption.

In contrast, the Central American peace agreements signed by the guerrilla leaders led to the end of armed conflict and the incorporation of the insurgent elite into the electoral system.  However, there were no basic changes in the military, economic and social system.  None of the mass popular organizations were consulted.  The bulk of the armed fighters, both popular insurgents and paramilitary mercenaries, were discharged and became an army of “armed” unemployed.  Over the past 20 years, criminal gangs have taken over large swathes of Central America, while the ex-Farabundo Marti guerrilla elite and their Guatemalan/ Nicaraguan colleagues, have become affluent businesspeople and allied with conservative electoral politicians.  They are protected by private bodyguards and oblivious of the conditions of 60% of the population living below the poverty-line.  The “peace accords” in Central America served as a vehicle for social mobility for the guerrilla elite.  They did not end the violence.  Every year more people meet a violent death than were killed during the years of civil war.

The Vietnamese and Central American peace agreements took place during different international moments.  In the 1970’s the Soviet Union and China provided broad international material and political support to the Vietnamese.  During the Central American peace negotiations, the Soviet Union disintegrated, China was turning to capitalism and Cuba was facing a “special period” of economic crises because of the loss of Soviet aid and trade.

Clearly the change in the international correlation of forces influenced but did not determine the unfavorable results in Central America.  In less than a decade after the disastrous Central American peace accords, Venezuela, under President Chavez, proceeded to defeat a coup and advanced toward a socialist transformation. Popular revolts overthrew neo-liberal rulers in Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador and elsewhere.  The end of the USSR did not end successful class struggles in Latin America.

            The reactionary political correlation of forces of the 1990’s has changed dramatically.  By 2011, only Central America, Mexico and Colombia remain as islands of reaction in a sea of resurgent leftism and popular struggles in South America, North Africa and South Asia.

            The Central American peace settlement, with its acceptance of the militarized state, linked to agro-mineral export elites and narco-criminal gangs has become a monument for a failed “peace process”.  The Vietnamese peace settlement, while far from perfect, at least has provided peace, security, agrarian reform, and higher income for the peasantry and workers.         No doubt Colombia has historical and structural differences with Central American and Indo-China. 

            The armed social movements in Colombia have a specific history which preceded the Central Americans insurgents by many years and has developed political ties with certain regions and social movements which have endured over time.  Unlike Central American and Vietnam insurgents they are also not dependent on “external” supporters.  Above all the failed experience with “political reconciliation” in Central America has caused Colombian insurgents to raise significant conditions regarding the peace process, namely demilitarization and socio-economic reforms (agrarian reform and land recovery for the dispossessed).  “Peace at any price” will only lead to new and equally virulent forms of violence, as is the case today in Mexico with 10,000 killings a year 7,000 murders a year in El Salvador and an equal amount of homicides in Guatemala.

            The Vietnam experience of peace via social justice and de-militarization seems to ensure a modicum of prosperty.  Certainly the international correlation of forces has dramatically improved. Latin America has replaced neo-liberal puppet regimes.  The Latin American economies have found dynamic Asian markets independent of the US.  Popular revolts in the Middle East and Asia – from Tunisia to Afghanistan are forcing the US military to retreat.  The international and regional context is very favorable if Colombia can take advantage of it.  The method and modes of struggle ,those which unite popular movements without distinction, should be openly discussed and resolved without exclusions .  The insurgency is part of the solution, not the problem.  The key to a successful dialogue is the demilitarization of the state-ending the US military presence, terminating Plan Colombia and converting military spending to economic and social development.




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