Thursday, June 23, 2016

Today's Links

Today's Quote: "the hardships experienced by workers across Europe are an inescapable product of the economic policies enforced by the EU."

1---Why is the US government hiding the details about the Orlando Massacre?    Man claiming to be lover of Orlando shooter casts further doubt on “terror” claims

In an exclusive interview Tuesday with the Spanish language television network Univision, a man who identified himself only as Miguel and who appeared with his face and voice disguised said that Mateen had attacked the gay nightclub not as an act not of terrorism, but of “revenge.”
According to his account, Mateen was enraged over a sexual encounter with two Puerto Rican men he had met at the Pulse nightclub, one of whom, he said, later acknowledged that he was HIV positive. He described Mateen as “terrified” of becoming infected with the virus.....

There is a clear political purpose behind the media’s selective reporting. The aim is to support the narrative that Mateen acted as a “domestically radicalized” Islamist terrorist, inspired to violence by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), rather than, as with the far more typical mass shooter in America, driven by mental illness, perceived grievances and the toxic social atmosphere that prevails in a country dominated by unending war and deepening inequality.

The massacre in Orlando is being harnessed to a drive by the US ruling establishment to escalate war abroad and political repression at home. The mass killing has coincided with demands by US generals for the dispatch of more American troops to Iraq as well as a call by some 50 State Department officials for the redirection of the US intervention in Syria to more directly target the Russian-backed government of President Bashar al-Assad.

Meanwhile, the US Senate Wednesday narrowly defeated legislation that would further empower the FBI to troll through the Internet browsing histories, emails and social media activity of American citizens without the necessity of securing a court order. The measure represents a significant expansion of the warrantless searches authorized under the Patriot Act, which require only an administrative subpoena, called a “National Security Letter” (NSL). Over the past decade, the FBI has issued some 300,000 such letters.

While supposedly not including access to the content of emails, the legislation in the Senate would allow the FBI to track the web sites viewed by citizens and determine how long they visited them, as well as the “to” and “from” lines of emails and location information garnered from IP addresses...

Those backing the legislation have invoked the Orlando attack as the pretext for the further shredding of constitutional protections against unreasonable searches and seizures.

2--The Left and the EU: Why Cling to This Reactionary Institution?

The Crushing of Greece

One word should be engraved on the minds of those who, despite all the evidence to the contrary, persist in believing that the EU is an inherently progressive body: ‘GREECE.’ What the EU did to Greece should have dispelled forever the fanciful idea that such an institution has as its fundamental aim the material welfare of ordinary Europeans. But such is the power of the delusional thinking which holds sway amongst the ‘liberal’ apologists for ‘internationalism’ that nothing it seems, not even the destruction of an entire country, the decimation of its industries, and the despoliation of its people, can shake their belief in the manifest virtues of the EU....

Greece illustrates the failings of an economic policy that is being implemented over the objections of the great majority of Europe’s citizens. Indeed, in its unwavering support for neoliberalism the EU represents nothing less than an attempt to perpetuate an economic model which advantages European businesses, whilst eroding the living standards of most Europeans. Particularly in the countries of the eurozone, democracy has been eviscerated by the adamant insistence of the EU on more cuts to government spending. The Growth and Stability Pact effectively prevents large-scale public spending on vital social services to alleviate the effects of a recession, limiting deficits to 3% of GDP. As part of this neoliberal model, national governments are also required each year to submit their budgets to the Commission for its approval, which has increasingly demanded that the rights of workers take second place to paying off the debts accumulated by the financial sector. Whilst the desperate scenes in Greece are an extreme case, high unemployment and chronic poverty have become fixed features of the eurozone, with the number of jobless in Spain, for example, amounting to over 20% of the workforce. Moreover, employers have been given the freedom to disregard the rights of their employees in a bid to raise productivity, sparking a series of labour revolts by workers driven to the edge of despair. In France, to cite the most recent instance, the much hated El-Khomri law, which seeks to increase the working week to 46 hours and is currently being contested by striking unions, was originally based on the recommendations of the Commission...

The creation of pan-European institutions that would foster the growth of a single European market, which would trade freely with US corporations, was made a condition of Marshall Aid by the American architects of the new economic order, who greeted every significant move in the direction of greater European unity with satisfaction. In the military sphere, membership of NATO, the armed alliance of states that the US established to further its imperialist interests, required Western European countries to devote a significant part of their budgets to military expenditure and maintain an armed truce with the Soviet Union and its Eastern European satellites, effectively dividing the Continent into two hostile camps, constantly teetering on the edge of nuclear war, for much of the latter half of the twentieth century.

The roots of the EU are therefore to be sought not in the sentimental desire for peace felt by leading statesmen in the wake of war, though this was undoubtedly a desire expressed by masses of ordinary people, but in the essential fact of the post-1945 world that the US displaced Europe as the centre of global power and influence. Power politics not pacifism explains why there has not been another war between the major European states. ...

NATO. This military organisation, formed in 1949 with the supposed aim of defending Western Europe against the USSR, has since the collapse of the Soviet Union more than doubled in size, with many of the new additions former Communist countries situated on Russia’s periphery, revealing its true character as an alliance that exists to extend the global reach of the US...

The briefest look, however, at the destructive polices that have been imposed on the countries of the eurozone, and the chaos that has ensued from imperialist meddling in foreign affairs, is enough to counter the baseless assertion, constantly repeated by those in the remain camp, that in opposing Brexit people will be voting for a worthy attempt to replace nationalist discords with a shared identity based on a commitment to democracy and human rights. The EU is not internationalist in any sense that a genuine member of the left would support. It exists to advance the interests of the business class as against workers, and in its zeal to enrich corporations at the expense of ordinary people it has succeeded in creating such disaffection with the political establishment that fascism, the very phenomenon the EU was in theory designed to prevent, has once more become a formidable force in countries languishing in the grip of high unemployment and low wages....

a reforming Labour government may well assume the reins of government in the very near future. If it takes power in the context of a vote to remain, however, such a government would face real obstacles to implementing its programme in the form of the capitalist safeguards against reform that the EU has established. It would not be able to nationalise the railways, despite the overwhelming support of the public, because the EU has made public ownership of the railways illegal. A Labour government would find it difficult to increase expenditure on the NHS and other much needed public services because of the strict economies that the EU pressures member states to adopt by limiting the budget deficit to 3% of GDP. Furthermore, a social-democratic government of the kind that Corbyn could potentially head, with its commitment to decoupling the economy from its damaging dependence on financial services, would soon discover that competition rules forbid us from subsidising our manufacturing sector or even protecting our steel industry from Chinese dumping through raising tariffs on imports. In short, any government that seeks to overturn the neoliberal consensus will find that, within the confines of the EU, even limited reforms toward that end are a practical impossibility, liable to be struck down by the European Court of Justice as incompatible with EU law at any time....

As others have documented, most of the rights that are invoked by the mainstream left as a reason to vote remain were already in place when we joined the EEC in 1973, and they owe not to a beneficent bureaucracy of Eurocrats but to Britain’s working classes, who won these rights over the course of many years and after a series of hard-fought struggles with the capitalist class. Likewise, the retention of these rights will depend not on the good-will of a remote bureaucracy, which is actively undermining those same rights elsewhere, but on the determination of workers to band together in defence of their standard of living...

supporters of remain seem oblivious to the fact that the whole purpose of enshrining in various treaties the neoliberal principles on which the EU rests, treaties which once concluded cannot be repealed except through the agreement of all 28 member states, is to ensure that such weighty questions are forever removed from the sphere of democratic debate. The electorate of a particular country can vote their government out, but they cannot revoke the set of laws that this government agreed to, nor exercise any control over the unappointed Commission which is granted broad discretion to implement these laws.

3-- GOP Business Leaders Are Backing Clinton

More than 50 business executives, including several longtime Republicans, will endorse Hillary Clinton for president on Thursday as her campaign seeks to capitalize on discomfort with Republican Donald Trump.

They include Jim Cicconi, senior executive vice president at AT&T Services Inc., and Dan Akerson, who held top positions at General Motors Co. and Nextel Communications Inc. A Clinton campaign aide provided the list and said it would be distributed widely on Thursday.

The endorsements reflect continuing unease among some Republicans with the presumptive Republican presidential nominee despite his romp through the primary contest.

Mr. Cicconi, who worked in the White House for Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, said he has backed every GOP presidential candidate since 1976. “But this year I think it’s vital to put our country’s well being ahead of party,” he said in a statement provided by the campaign. “Hillary Clinton is experienced, qualified, and will make a fine president. The alternative, I fear, would set our nation on a very dark path.”...

On Wednesday, Brent Scowcroft, a national security adviser for two Republican presidents, endorsed Mrs. Clinton, saying her experience, judgment and understanding of the world prepare her for the job of commander in chief. His support comes a week after Richard Armitage, another longtime Republican foreign-policy hand, said he would back Mrs. Clinton if, as expected, Mr. Trump is the GOP nominee.

4--US wages and jobs decline, inequality rises

The report found that income inequality declined in every state from 1928 until 1979. From 1979 through 2013, by contrast, economic inequality has risen in every state, and in many states it has now reached the level of 1928, the height of the stock market boom before the Great Depression.

Under the Obama administration, economic inequality has grown worse, and the growth is accelerating. In 15 states, the top 1 percent captured all of the income growth between 2009 and 2013. In 10 of these, the top 1 percent captured more than 100 percent of all income growth, with the result that incomes of the bottom 99 percent actually fell....

For the US as a whole, the top 1 percent captured 85.1 percent of all income growth for that five-year period. The average income of the top 1 percent grew 17.4 percent from 2009 to 2013, while the average income of the bottom 99 percent grew only 0.7 percent. The result is that by 2013, the average income of the top 1 percent was 25.3 times the average for the bottom 99 percent.

5--Brexit’s Real Impact Would Be Gradual and Global

Brexit would be the starkest repudiation yet of the postwar consensus favoring ever-deeper global integration. That consensus is already fraying in the face of growing protectionism and anti-immigrant sentiment world-wide. A further unraveling would undermine global growth prospects already clouded by aging populations and miserable productivity....

Indeed, it is rare for any country to deliberately withdraw from a trade pact except to join a better one. Since the World Trade Organization’s inception in 1948 (as the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade), 162 countries have joined and none have left....

The soft underbelly of this economic success is its fragile political legitimacy. Brexit advocates have long chafed at the EU’s interference in British affairs. Yet international treaties like the EU and the WTO are by their nature undemocratic insofar as they compel signatories to bind their own hands for the common good. British firms grouse about EU meddling in their markets but benefit when that meddling knocks down barriers on the continent.

6--Boris Johnson’s closing speech was the defining moment of the campaign

Lowering his voice, he returned, ‘We say they are woefully underestimating this country and what it can do.’ He pointed out the powers and the money we can take back and said we can speak up for ‘the democracy that is the foundation of our prosperity’. He added that ‘if we stand up for democracy, we will be speaking up for hundreds of millions or people around Europe who agree with us but who currently have no voice.’ Suddenly voting leave became about democracy, self-belief and those who were denied a voice. The idea of leave became aspirational and even heroic. Making his hand into a fist of resolution, he declared that if we vote leave tomorrow and take back control, ‘I believe that this Thursday can be our country’s independence day!’

7--UK and Europe face Mutual Assured Destruction if they botch Brexit

We are told too, with the gun of moral blackmail held to our temples, that Europe's strategic order will unravel if we pick at the EU thread, but this an evasion. The EU is unraveling already because the status quo is intolerable and a failed currency project is sapping its credibility.  It is far from self-evident that this supranational venture should be saved in anything like its existing form.

We are seven years into this global cycle and signs of ageing are too obvious to ignore, not least the collapse in US bond yields to depression levels. "More Economic Signs Point to a US Recession", warned a front-page headline across the Wall Street Journal this week. The labour market has buckled. Car sales have slipped. Business investment and profits are both falling...

This may be a false alarm but what is slightly chilling is the sudden ideological pivot by the St Louis Fed, which has come close to suggesting that the US authorities may not be able to  restore the economy to equilibrium.  We face a daunting world where central banks have used up their ammunition, and there is no political consent anywhere for a fiscal New Deal or the nuclear option of helicopter money.
But whether we vote Leave or Remain will not change any of this. All we can do when the next global recession hits is to fall back on Britain's tested institutions and our own elected Parliament to protect us. The EU certainly can't

8---IMF warns the US over high poverty

The US has been warned about its high poverty rate in the International Monetary Fund's annual assessment of the economy.
The fund said about one in seven people were living in poverty and that it needed to be tackled urgently.
It recommended raising the minimum wage and offering paid maternity leave to women to encourage them to work.
The report also cut the country's growth forecast for 2016 to 2.2% from a previous prediction of 2.4%...

However Ms Lagarde warned that "not only does poverty create significant social strains, it also eats into labour force participation, and undermines the ability to invest in education and improve health outcomes".
"Our assessment is that, if left unchecked, these four forces - participation, productivity, polarisation and poverty - will corrode the underpinnings of growth and hold back gains in US living standards," she added.
The report called on the US to invest more in education, as well as implement better social programmes such as childcare to help poorer Americans get jobs

9--Erdogan wants to be ‘sultan of Islamic state,’ former model-turned-fighter tells RT

10--'Heroin epidemic': US users at 20yr high - UN

In addition to heroin deaths, the US has also seen a surge in deaths caused by fentanyl, a synthetic opioid 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Fentanyl was the drug that killed pop singer Prince just two months ago

11--State Dept "dissent memo", video (Crosstalk)

12--The Brexit referendum: A turning point in European politics

Never before has there been such a concerted intervention of leading figures from the Armed Forces and the security services MI5 and MI6 into political life. Both sides proclaim their commitment to NATO and its ongoing offensive against Russia and China. The Remain camp argues that British membership of the EU and the EU in general strengthen NATO, while the Leave camp maintains that British membership ties the UK to plans, pushed above all by Germany, to create a European Army, which will undermine NATO and raise the spectre of Germany establishing its unchallenged hegemony over the continent...

The Brexit referendum is a product of the deepening antagonisms produced by the drive of the rival imperialist powers to dominate the world’s markets and strategic resources. It is this conflict that has fatally undermined all efforts to unify the continent economically and politically on the basis of capitalism. Unless the working class intervenes, this will end in the Balkanisation of Europe and a rapid descent into the conditions that gave rise to two world wars.

13--Omar Mateen: takes one to know one

In 2013 Mateen threatened a court officer with a claim that he knew al Qaeda operatives. According to local law enforcement the FBI then attempted to lure Mateen into a phony terror plot but he “did not bite.”

The FBI has a long and ignoble history of entrapping people, and hundreds have been convicted based on the work of informants. There is at least one other instance of a man targeted to become an informant who instead lashed out and performed an act of terror on his own....

At a time of increased U.S. violence and surveillance his disturbed son comes in contact with law enforcement who attempt to include him in their long list of naïve and/or mentally ill victims. If Omar Mateen was inspired by ISIS it is worth pointing out that this group is strongest in places where the U.S. has intervened...

Mateen was obviously in need of mental health care but that doesn’t let the government off the hook for inspiring him to act. He might have ended up killing people somewhere else, just like the lone wolf, self-radicalized, psychotic Americans who kill in schools, universities, and movie theaters. But his madness played out under the influence of American foreign policy and the government shares responsibility for the carnage carried out on this occasion.

While Mateen was surely a sick individual he knew other terrorists when he saw them. He enjoyed taking photos of himself in NYPD clothing. It takes one to know one.

14--The Fraudulent Case for a Syrian Escalation

Assad’s government “possesses significant wells of legitimacy,” Cambanis writes, “his rule has maintained some degree of buy-in from millions of Sunni Arabs, as well as thousands of Kurds. . . .

“Conversations suggest there are plenty more, perhaps numbering in the millions, who do not like the way Assad runs Syria but prefer his secular, pluralistic dictatorship to the alternative they believe the rebellion offers: violence, anarchy, or a Sunni theocracy. . . . The alternative, in their view, is the kind of unchecked sectarianism they have heard about in areas controlled by Islamic State, Nusra, Ahrar, . . .  even supposedly moderate Free Syrian Army-branded groups.”

So here you have it: Millions of Syrian support Assad, or prefer him to the alternative. His armed opponents are mainly radical Islamists, varying only in their willingness to make tactical compromises. All previous U.S. efforts to rally an effective force of “moderates” have failed utterly.

So what exactly makes interventionists think that doubling down on a failed strategy will produce a different and better outcome? In light of these failures, how dare they claim the moral high ground? What gives them the right even to be taken seriously as foreign policy experts? It’s time to call most of these armchair warriors what they are: frauds.

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