Wednesday, October 26, 2011

As the US Slowly Loses Its Sense of Self to Fear

Occupy Oakland & Mercenaries of the Oligarchy:
The 99% vs. The Iron Heel

By Nima Shirazi / October 26, 2011

"We are in power. Nobody will deny it. By virtue of that power we shall remain in power...We have no words to waste on you. When you reach out your vaunted strong hands for our palaces and purpled ease, we will show you what strength is. In roar of shell and shrapnel and in whine of machine-guns will our answer be couched. We will grind you revolutionists down under our heel, and we shall walk upon your faces. The world is ours, we are its lords, and ours it shall remain. As for the host of labor, it has been in the dirt since history began, and I read history aright. And in the dirt it shall remain so long as I and mine and those that come after us have the power. There is the word. It is the king of words--Power. Not God, not Mammon, but Power. Pour it over your tongue till it tingles with it. Power." -- Mr. Wickson, The Iron Heel by Jack London (1908), chapter 4

Jack London didn't just write tales of the Klondike Gold Rush and canine adventure stories. Sometimes he foretold the future. The above quote, written over a century ago and spoken by an aristocratic one-percenter in response to the rising tide of anti-plutocratic sentiment among the working class, is taken from London's dystopic novel, The Iron Heel.

The novel depicts a society of unregulated and unrestrained capitalism; a society of the impoverished and disenfranchised, the unemployed and the unrepresented, at the mercy of a tiny but ruthlessly aggressive corporate elite that controls the government. London describes the perception of "the great mass of the people [who] still persisted in the belief that they ruled the country by virtue of their ballots," when "[i]n reality, the country was ruled by what were called political machines. At first the machine bosses charged the master capitalists extortionate tolls for legislation; but in a short time the master capitalists found it cheaper to own the political machines themselves and to hire the machine bosses."

Furthermore, London delves into the deluded arrogance of the wealthy, stock-holding plutocrats, explaining, "They believed absolutely that their conduct was right. There was no question about it, no discussion. They were convinced that they were the saviours of society, and that it was they who made happiness for the many. And they drew pathetic pictures of what would be the sufferings of the working class were it not for the employment that they, and they alone, by their wisdom, provided for it." Journalists are excoriated for their willingness, for fear of losing their jobs, "to twist truth at the command of [their] employers, who, in turn, obey the behests of the corporations."

The revolutionary hero of the book, Ernest Everhard, at one point addresses an exclusive gathering of the local aristocracy known as The Philomath Club, consisting of "the wealthiest in the community, and the strongest-minded of the wealthy, with, of course, a sprinkling of scholars to give it intellectual tone." Everhard tells the crowd,

"No other conclusion is possible than that the capitalist class has mismanaged, that you have mismanaged, my masters, that you have criminally and selfishly mismanaged...You have failed in your management. You have made a shambles of civilization. You have been blind and greedy."

The Iron Heel preceded Aldous Huxley's Brave New World and Sinclair Lewis' It Can't Happen Here by about two and a half decades and George Orwell's 1984 by over 40 years. It anticipated the rise of totalitarianism in Europe over a decade before Mussolini's Blackshirts marched on Rome. In his Introduction to the 1980 edition of the book, Rutgers professor H. Bruce Franklin explains that London essentially defined Fascism before it even officially existed as "the form that the capitalist state assumes when the oligarchy feels that its economic and political power is seriously threatened by working class revolution."

Franklin proceeds to catalogue the brutal and authoritarian actions and abuses of The Iron Heel's ruling elite as envisioned by its prophetic author:
London foresees: the creation of attractive suburbs for the relatively privileged strata of the working class while the central cities are turned into what he calls "ghettoes" for the masses of unemployed and menial laborers, shoved into the darkest depths of human misery; the deliberate economic subversion of public education in order to spread illiteracy and ignorance; adequate food, health care, and housing priced above the reach of more and more people; the ubiquitous secret police infiltrating all organizations opposing the government; the establishment of a permanent mercenary army; the government conspiring in real and phony bomb plots, in the suppression of books and the destruction of printing presses, in witch hunts aimed at dissident labor leaders, professors, and authors, in destroying the reputations of some of its opponents, imprisoning many others and murdering the few it finds too formidable; spontaneous mass rebellions of the downtrodden people of the central cities; urban guerrillas battling the government's army of mercenaries and police in the canyons of the cities.

Clearly, from historic income inequality and over 15% of Americans living in poverty (that's 46.2 million people) to massive budget cuts for public education to FBI infiltration of peace groups to the ever-expanding surveillance state to the stifling of free speech to spooky terrorist plots allegedly thwarted by the very agencies that planned and funded them in the first place, Jack London was on to something. To say the least. The Occupy Wall Street movement around the globe is a testament to our new reality, as presaged by one of our renowned writers.

The Iron Heel is set primarily in California's Bay Area, London's home turf. Yesterday morning, Tuesday October 25, 2012, the non-violent, anti-corporatist protesters occupying two parks in Oakland met their own city's iron heel, jackboots in full riot-gear.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported, "Under cover of darkness early Tuesday, hundreds of police swept into Oakland's Occupy Wall Street protest, firing tear gas and beanbag rounds before clearing out an encampment that demonstrators had hoped would stir a revolution," continuing, "Officers and sheriff's deputies from across the San Francisco Bay area surrounded the plaza in front of City Hall at around 5 a.m. and closed in. Eighty-five people were arrested, mostly on suspicion of misdemeanor unlawful assembly and illegal camping, police said." Reflecting on the raid and arrests which were carried out at the behest Oakland mayor Jean Quan, interim Police Chief Howard Jordan said, "I'm very pleased with the way things went."

In response, thousands of protesters gathered later that same day and faced down a phalanx of Oakland's Finest Fascist, who responded by repeatedly attacking the crowd with more tear gas, batons, rubber bullets, beanbags, concussion grenades, flashbombs, and sound cannons. At one point, Oakland authorities, claiming the protest was "an unlawful assembly," issued this threat: "If you refuse to move now, you will be arrested. If you refuse to move now, chemical agents will be used" (see here) and later warned those peacefully standing their ground, "If you have respiratory problems now is the time to leave." They weren't kidding.

Despite protester's solidarity appeals advancing riot police that "You are the 99%," Oakland forces carried out the bidding of the government on behalf of its Wall Street donors. Just as the NYPD, which last year accepted a massive $4.6 million donation from J.P. Morgan Chase via the New York City Police Foundation, the OPD has demonstrated its willingness to become the private army of the wealthy, abrogating free speech, freedom of assembly, and civil rights in order to crack down on peaceful protests against an unfair system. As London wrote, "hired fighting men of the capitalists...ultimately developed into the Mercenaries of the Oligarchy."

Meanwhile, as gas clouds wafted through the Oakland air, just across the bay in San Francisco, President Barack Obama was at a reelection fundraiser at the W Hotel for which guests shelled out at least $5,000 to attend. It was the latest stop on one of the president's "busiest donor outreach trips of the season." Last week, the Washington Post reported that "despite frosty relations with the titans of Wall Street, President Obama has still managed to raise far more money this year from the financial and banking sector than Mitt Romney or any other Republican presidential candidate."

It remains to be seen whether Obama addresses the police brutality and stifling of dissent that occurred just a few miles from where he dined with his donors, especially in light of what he had to say about the post-election protests and police response in Iran in mid-2009: "We call on the Iranian government to stop all violent and unjust actions against its own people." Earlier this year, Obama recalled what he termed the "peaceful the streets of Tehran, where the government brutalized women and men, and threw innocent people into jail."

In the speech he delivered upon accepting the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, Obama noted his apparent belief that "peace is unstable where citizens are denied the right to speak freely" or "assemble without fear." He affirmed his support of "the hundreds of thousands who have marched silently through the streets of Iran," continuing, "It is telling that the leaders of these governments fear the aspirations of their own people more than the power of any other nation. And it is the responsibility of all free people and free nations to make clear to these movements that hope and history are on their side."

Just last month, in front of the United Nations General Assembly, the president stated, "The Syrian people have shown dignity and courage in their pursuit of justice — protesting peacefully, standing silently in the streets, dying for the same values that this institution is supposed to stand for. And the question for us is clear: Will we stand with the Syrian people, or with their oppressors?"

One can only wonder if Obama will heed the words he spoke at the UN in September 2009, when he told world leaders, "The test of our leadership will not be the degree to which we feed the fears and old hatreds of our people. True leadership will not be measured by the ability to muzzle dissent, or to intimidate and harass political opponents at home. The people of the world want change. They will not long tolerate those who are on the wrong side of history."

Will the president remember what he said at the same podium a year later? "The arc of human progress has been shaped by individuals with the freedom to assemble and by organizations outside of government that insisted upon democratic change and by free media that held the powerful accountable," he declared.

Replying to Mr. Wickson's threats of violence and repression in order to maintain the Oligarchy's stranglehold on society, Ernest Everhard, noble protagonist of The Iron Heel, declares:

"We know, and well we know by bitter experience, that no appeal for the right, for justice, for humanity, can ever touch you. Your hearts are hard as your heels with which you tread upon the faces of the poor. So we have preached power. By the power of our ballots on election day will we take your government away from you."

With the Occupy movement growing stronger, more determined, fearless and united with every tear gas canister launched and each protester beaten, pepper sprayed, and arrested, it is surely a movement that can no longer be silenced or suppressed.

As Ernest's wife, fellow revolutionary, and narrator of The Iron Heel, Avis Cunningham Everhard asserts:

"The solidarity of labor is assured, and for the first time will there be an international revolution wide as the world is wide."

[Nima Shirazi is a political commentator from New York City.]

Source / Wide Asleep in America

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Sunday, October 23, 2011

Harsh Realities for Us All: Just Since the Reagan Era Has Homelessness Become Illegal

Throw Them Out With the Trash: Why Homelessness Is Becoming an Occupy Wall Street Issue
By Barbara Ehrenreich / October 20, 2011

As anyone knows who has ever had to set up a military encampment or build a village from the ground up, occupations pose staggering logistical problems. Large numbers of people must be fed and kept reasonably warm and dry. Trash has to be removed; medical care and rudimentary security provided -- to which ends a dozen or more committees may toil night and day. But for the individual occupier, one problem often overshadows everything else, including job loss, the destruction of the middle class, and the reign of the 1%. And that is the single question: Where am I going to pee?

Some of the Occupy Wall Street encampments now spreading across the U.S. have access to Port-o-Potties (Freedom Plaza in Washington, D.C.) or, better yet, restrooms with sinks and running water (Fort Wayne, Indiana). Others require their residents to forage on their own. At Zuccotti Park, just blocks from Wall Street, this means long waits for the restroom at a nearby Burger King or somewhat shorter ones at a Starbucks a block away. At McPherson Square in D.C., a twenty-something occupier showed me the pizza parlor where she can cop a pee during the hours it’s open, as well as the alley where she crouches late at night. Anyone with restroom-related issues -- arising from age, pregnancy, prostate problems, or irritable bowel syndrome -- should prepare to join the revolution in diapers.

Of course, political protesters do not face the challenges of urban camping alone. Homeless people confront the same issues every day: how to scrape together meals, keep warm at night by covering themselves with cardboard or tarp, and relieve themselves without committing a crime. Public restrooms are sparse in American cities -- "as if the need to go to the bathroom does not exist," travel expert Arthur Frommer once observed. And yet to yield to bladder pressure is to risk arrest. A report entitled “Criminalizing Crisis,” to be released later this month by the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, recounts the following story from Wenatchee, Washington:

"Toward the end of 2010, a family of two parents and three children that had been experiencing homelessness for a year and a half applied for a 2-bedroom apartment. The day before a scheduled meeting with the apartment manager during the final stages of acquiring the lease, the father of the family was arrested for public urination. The arrest occurred at an hour when no public restrooms were available for use. Due to the arrest, the father was unable to make the appointment with the apartment manager and the property was rented out to another person. As of March 2011, the family was still homeless and searching for housing."

What the Occupy Wall Streeters are beginning to discover, and homeless people have known all along, is that most ordinary, biologically necessary activities are illegal when performed in American streets -- not just peeing, but sitting, lying down, and sleeping. While the laws vary from city to city, one of the harshest is in Sarasota, Florida, which passed an ordinance in 2005 that makes it illegal to “engage in digging or earth-breaking activities” -- that is, to build a latrine -- cook, make a fire, or be asleep and “when awakened state that he or she has no other place to live.”

It is illegal, in other words, to be homeless or live outdoors for any other reason. It should be noted, though, that there are no laws requiring cities to provide food, shelter, or restrooms for their indigent citizens.

The current prohibition on homelessness began to take shape in the 1980s, along with the ferocious growth of the financial industry (Wall Street and all its tributaries throughout the nation). That was also the era in which we stopped being a nation that manufactured much beyond weightless, invisible “financial products,” leaving the old industrial working class to carve out a livelihood at places like Wal-Mart.

As it turned out, the captains of the new “casino economy” -- the stock brokers and investment bankers -- were highly sensitive, one might say finicky, individuals, easily offended by having to step over the homeless in the streets or bypass them in commuter train stations. In an economy where a centimillionaire could turn into a billionaire overnight, the poor and unwashed were a major buzzkill. Starting with Mayor Rudy Giuliani in New York, city after city passed “broken windows” or “quality of life” ordinances making it dangerous for the homeless to loiter or, in some cases, even look “indigent,” in public spaces.

No one has yet tallied all the suffering occasioned by this crackdown -- the deaths from cold and exposure -- but “Criminalizing Crisis” offers this story about a homeless pregnant woman in Columbia, South Carolina:

"During daytime hours, when she could not be inside of a shelter, she attempted to spend time in a museum and was told to leave. She then attempted to sit on a bench outside the museum and was again told to relocate. In several other instances, still during her pregnancy, the woman was told that she could not sit in a local park during the day because she would be ‘squatting.’ In early 2011, about six months into her pregnancy, the homeless woman began to feel unwell, went to a hospital, and delivered a stillborn child."

Well before Tahrir Square was a twinkle in anyone’s eye, and even before the recent recession, homeless Americans had begun to act in their own defense, creating organized encampments, usually tent cities, in vacant lots or wooded areas. These communities often feature various elementary forms of self-governance: food from local charities has to be distributed, latrines dug, rules -- such as no drugs, weapons, or violence -- enforced. With all due credit to the Egyptian democracy movement, the Spanish indignados, and rebels all over the world, tent cities are the domestic progenitors of the American occupation movement.

There is nothing “political” about these settlements of the homeless -- no signs denouncing greed or visits from leftwing luminaries -- but they have been treated with far less official forbearance than the occupation encampments of the “American autumn.” LA’s Skid Row endures constant police harassment, for example, but when it rained, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa had ponchos distributed to nearby Occupy LA.

All over the country, in the last few years, police have moved in on the tent cities of the homeless, one by one, from Seattle to Wooster, Sacramento to Providence, in raids that often leave the former occupants without even their minimal possessions. In Chattanooga, Tennessee, last summer, a charity outreach worker explained the forcible dispersion of a local tent city by saying, “The city will not tolerate a tent city. That’s been made very clear to us. The camps have to be out of sight.”

What occupiers from all walks of life are discovering, at least every time they contemplate taking a leak, is that to be homeless in America is to live like a fugitive. The destitute are our own native-born “illegals,” facing prohibitions on the most basic activities of survival. They are not supposed to soil public space with their urine, their feces, or their exhausted bodies. Nor are they supposed to spoil the landscape with their unusual wardrobe choices or body odors. They are, in fact, supposed to die, and preferably to do so without leaving a corpse for the dwindling public sector to transport, process, and burn.

But the occupiers are not from all walks of life, just from those walks that slope downwards -- from debt, joblessness, and foreclosure -- leading eventually to pauperism and the streets. Some of the present occupiers were homeless to start with, attracted to the occupation encampments by the prospect of free food and at least temporary shelter from police harassment. Many others are drawn from the borderline-homeless “nouveau poor,” and normally encamp on friends’ couches or parents’ folding beds.

In Portland, Austin, and Philadelphia, the Occupy Wall Street movement is taking up the cause of the homeless as its own, which of course it is. Homelessness is not a side issue unconnected to plutocracy and greed. It’s where we’re all eventually headed -- the 99%, or at least the 70%, of us, every debt-loaded college grad, out-of-work school teacher, and impoverished senior -- unless this revolution succeeds.

[Barbara Ehrenreich, TomDispatch regular, is the author of Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America (now in a 10th anniversary edition with a new afterword).]

Source / TomDispatch

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Saturday, October 8, 2011

Occupy Wall Street Could Take Lessons from This

Chilean demonstrators are hit by a jet of water during a rally against the public state education system in Santiago. Photograph: Ivan Aldarado/Reuters.

Chilean girls stage 'occupation' of their own school in education rights protest
By Jonathan Franklin / October 7, 2011

For five months, girls demanding free university education for all have defied police to occupy their state school

Sleeping on a tiled classroom floor, sharing cigarettes and always on the lookout for police raids, the students of Carmela Carvajal primary and secondary school are living a revolution.

It began early one morning in May, when dozens of teenage girls emerged from the predawn darkness and scaled the spiked iron fence around Chile's most prestigious girl's school. They used classroom chairs to barricade themselves inside and settled in. Five months later, the occupation shows no signs of dying and the students are still fighting for their goal: free university education for all.

A tour of the school is a trip into the wired reality of a generation that boasts the communication tools that feisty young rebels of history never dreamed of. When police forces move closer, the students use restricted Facebook chat sessions to mobilise. Within minutes, they are able to rally support groups from other public schools in the neighbourhood. "Our lawyer lives over there," said Angelica Alvarez, 14, as she pointed to a cluster of nearby homes. "If we yell 'Mauricio' really loud, he leaves his home and comes over."

For five months, the students at Carmela Carvajal have lived on the ground floor, sometimes sleeping in the gym, but usually in the abandoned classrooms where they hauled in a television, set up a private changing room, and began to experience school from a different perspective.

The first thing they did after taking over the school was to hold a vote. Approximately half of the 1,800 students participated in the polls to approve the takeover, and the yays outnumbered the nays 10 to one.

Now the students pass their school days listening to guest lecturers who provide free classes on topics ranging from economics to astronomy. Extracurricular classes include yoga and salsa lessons. At night and on weekends, visiting rock bands set up their equipment and charge 1,000 pesos (£1.25) per person to hear a live jam on the basketball court. Neighbours donate fresh baked cakes and, under a quirk of Chilean law, the government is obliged to feed students who are at school – even students who have shut down education as usual.

So much food has poured in that the students from Carmela Carvajal now regularly pass on their donations to hungry students at other occupied schools.

Municipal authorities have repeatedly attempted to retake the school, sending in police to evict the rebel students and get classes back on schedule, but so far the youngsters have held their ground.

"It was the most beautiful moment, all of us in [school] uniform climbing over the fence, taking back control of our school. It was such an emotional moment, we all wanted to cry," Alvarez said. "There have been 10 times that the police have taken back the school and every time we come and take it back again."

The students have built a hyper-organised, if somewhat legalistic, world, with votes on everything including daily duties, housekeeping schedules and the election of a president and spokeswoman. The school rules now include several new decrees: no sex, no boys and no booze. That last clause has been a bit abused, the students admit.

"We have had a few cases of classmates who tried to bring in alcohol, but we caught them and they were punished," said Alvarez, who was stationed at the school entrance questioning visitors. Alvarez, who has lived at the school for about four months, laughed as she described the punishment. "They had to clean the bathrooms," she said.

Carmela Carvajal is among Chile's most successful state schools. Nearly all the graduates are assured of a place in top Chilean universities, and the school is a magnet, drawing in some of the brightest minds from across Santiago, the nation's capital and a metropolis of six million.

But the story playing out in its classrooms is just a small part of a national student uprising that has seized control of the political agenda, wrongfooted conservative president Sebastián Piñera, and called into question the free-market orthodoxy that has dominated Chilean politics since the Pinochet era.

The students are demanding a return to the 1960s, when public university education was free. Current tuition fees average nearly three times the minimum annual wage, and with interest rates on student loans at 7%, the students have made financial reform the centrepiece of their uprising.

At the heart of the students' agenda is the demand that education be recognised as a common right for all, not a "consumer good" to be sold on the open market.

Currently, many Chilean schools are for-profit institutions, run as businesses. Until recently, the classified section of the leading newspaper, el Mercurio, regularly featured schools for sale, in adverts that often described the institutions as highly profitable investments.

The Chilean uprising has changed that. Now owners of public schools have begun posting employment ads in local newspapers for security guards to fend off attempts by students to seize the schools. One advert offered employment to able-bodied men who could use dogs to repel potential student takeovers. ("No experience necessary," it read.)

Politicians and many parents fret that the cancellation of classes has turned 2011 into "a lost year" for public education, but for many of the students the past five months has been the most intensive education of their life.

"I have become a lot more mature. I used to judge my classmates by their looks. Now I understand them and together we stand up for what we believe," said Camila Gutierrez, 15, a freshman at Carmela Carvajal. "It has been exhausting, but if you want something in life, you have to fight for it."

The first murmurings of the "Chilean Winter" came in in late May with the first takeover of a public school. Five months later, around 200 state elementary and high schools as well as a dozen universities have now been occupied by students. Weekly protest marches gather between 50,000-100,000 students throughout the nation, with especially large turnouts in coastal cities of Valparaiso and Concepcion. Charismatic student leader Camila Vallejo - known as Comandante Camila - has become a cult hero across Latin America. Initially, the protestors's demands for free universal education was flatly rejected by the conservative administration of president Sebastian Pinera, but the government is now moving incrementally towards meeting their demands.

Talks between the ruling conservative government and striking students collapsed on Wednesday evening with irate students accusing the government of failing to provide new proposals. But Government officials responded that the students would be welcomed back to negotiate.

On Thursday when thousands of students gathered for a protest march in downtown Santiago, Government officials refused to authorize a march route that included a central thoroughfare and defiant students used social media to send out a singular message – the march is on. For much of Thursday, downtown Santiago was awash in tear gas and rioting youth. Smashed cars, 137 arrests and mutual accusations that the violence was avoidable further highlighted the gulf between student leaders and the Pinera government.

With imaginative protests including a kiss-a-thon in which 3,000 couples groped and smooched for exactly fifteen minutes, the Chilean student movement has captured the imagination of a long dormant but apparently disenchanted Chilean public. The unified front of students also counts on support from an estimated 6 of 10 adults in Chile, far higher than the nation's political coalitions or President Sebastian Pinera whose recent approval ratings has ranged from 22% to 30%. However the frequent violence which accompanies the street marches has outraged many Chileans who see their cherished stability now on the edge of social chaos.

Source / Guardian

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Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Why Is the Right Wing Always So Hypocritical?

Iran Business Partners: Cheney & Reagan, not Just the Koch Brothers
By Juan Cole / October 4, 2011

Bloomberg’s revelations that a subsidiary company owned by the radical rightwing billionaire brothers, Charles and David Koch, sold millions of dollars in refinery equipment to Iran has produced widespread outrage on the blogosphere, given that Koch-backed politicians of the Tea Bagger persuasion have been among the more vociferous hawks calling for war on Iran.

The report alleges that the Koch brothers’ companies routinely paid bribes to get contracts abroad, that they essentially usurped petroleum from federal lands, that they knowingly exposed consumers to benzene poisoning, and that they did business with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as recently as 2007. The Koches are perhaps the most far-right figures in American politics that do not actually wear white robes; their father was among the founders of the extremist John Birch Society.

But the cries of outrage won’t likely do any good. Their companies do $100 billion a year in business and each of the bothers is worth $20 billion. In the United States, which is ruled by its business class the way medieval England was ruled by the Norman aristocracy, being a billionaire is most often a get out of jail free card. Some troglodyte from the Wall Street Journal that CNN kept serving up to us for economic analysis actually once said on air that there is no point in punishing financiers guilty of securities fraud legally, since they are being taken out of the game and won’t be able to play the markets any more, and that is all the punishment anyone needs. It was like listening to a squire explain why his lord did not deserve to be drawn and quartered for his crimes because just not being able to visit the royal court was condign punishment in itself.

Those innocent of recent history are being overly breathless about this revelation. You want a billionaire trading illegally with Iran and a happy ending? How about numerous examples?

There is Iran-Contra, in which Ronald Reagan had his underlings steal T.O.W. missiles and missile launchers from the Pentagon warehouses, sell them illegally to Iran, take the black money paid by Ayatollah Khomeini to Reagan and launder it through Swiss accounts, and send it to right wing death squads in Nicaragua trying to overthrow the left leaning Sandinista government. The Right wing beatified Reagan and named an airport after him, and nobody ever brings up Iran-Contra any more. Rupert Murdoch made Oliver North, one of the conspirators who shredded the US constitution, a millionaire by putting him on television to tell us war fairy tales.

Bill Clinton had Eric Holder do the paperwork to pardon billionaire Marc Rich, who is alleged to have done illegal oil deals with Iran on behalf of Israel as part of the Iran-Contra scandal and then was accused of declining to pay millions in taxes to the US on his profits. (I don’t know. Do you have to pay taxes on money you make from dealing with a government on the State Department’s terrorism list? I mean, the money is sort of in the subjunctive mood and isn’t supposed to exist in the first place.)

Then, Dick Cheney did business with Iran when he was CEO of Halliburton in 1995-2000. All you have to do is set up an offshore subsidiary run by non-Americans, and you can do all the business you like with Iran. Cheney liked a lot of business with the ayatollahs.

The cries of hypocrisy miss the genius of these scams run on the American public. The companies that defy the spirit of the sanctions on countries like Iran gain valuable experience working on projects there. If the same companies can successfully lobby Washington to go to war against their client, then in Phase IV they will be awarded no-bid contracts on the grounds that no other company has their experience on the ground in the now-conquered country.

Nothing will come of it. Koch-backed politicians will go on rattling sabers at Iran even while they find ways to do business with it. They will go on denying global climate change, and denying that breathing gasoline fumes is bad for you. If they do get up a war on Iran, they’ll make money on that, too. This is because, as points out, the system is set up for the 1 percent, not for the 99 percent (us). Your keyboard outrage will pass, and they will go on making billions, and go on making money from the enemy, whether before or after the war.

Source / Informed Comment

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