Saturday, October 16, 2021

The Obscene Wealth of Bezos and Musk as Millions Struggle

L-R Bezos, Musk and Branson Source

Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired

Think of this, or let it sink in as we say here in the US: According to a poll by the Harvard T.H Chan School of Public Health, almost 40% of American households said they have experienced severe financial difficulties in the past month of the Pandemic, and “About one fifth have depleted all their savings”.

The big business media will claim that workers are profligates, are stupid and live beyond our means. But we know better. And that one fifth is of 40% of households, that’s probably conservative and not a small number.

In addition, the poll finds that, “Nearly 60% of US households earning less than $50,000 a year reported facing serious financial challenges in recent months.”  And thirty percent of that 60% lost all of their savings.

What does it mean to lose all one’s savings? It can mean that everything you put aside after working 40, 50 maybe 60 hours a week over the past 10-15 years or more has evaporated.

As to be expected, the poll found that wealthy people and big business has done well or stayed buoyant during this period, while, “…many lower waged workers were thrust in to financial crisis.” WSJ 10-15-21

I was recently in a rather extensive discussion on Next Door, a local platform for neighborhood gossip and sharing information, that centered around crime and in particular the stealing of catalytic converters, parcels from porches and other petty crime. As usual there are those that are quite adamant that the police should stop this anti-social behavior, “lock ‘em up” is not an uncommon refrain.

I think if you want to discover why someone would risk jail time for stealing a catalytic converter, these figures and other examples of wasteful activity by the US ruling class, like wasting our money flying around in the atmosphere, provide the answer.

I was reading yesterday about a mini feud between two social parasites having a little fun. Well, it’s a little fun for them, but they are doing alright, I would say more than alright, they are the two richest men in the world.

Elon Musk, the world’s richest man, a privileged son from (white) South Africa whose dad owned an emerald mine, is worth $222 billion according to the Bloomberg billionaires index. And on Monday he managed to find the time to send out a tweet apparently in response to the world’s second richest man, Jeff Bezos who’s worth a mere $191 billion. He wanted to remind Bezos that he occupied the number two slot. Musk’s wealth doubled in the past 12 months.

Bezos himself had tweeted earlier referencing an article from 22 years ago that called Amazon’s business model in to question. “Today, Amazon is one of the world’s most successful companies and has revolutionized two entirely different industries.”, he wrote.

According to the Wall Street Journal it is very difficult to gauge the net worth of the richest people in the world because they keep it private.

As these two characters have a pissing contest on Twitter, we might consider what is happening to the rest of us and what those figures really mean in terms of people’s everyday existence; the insecurity, fear, shame being blamed for conditions not of their own making.

There is no greater anti-social behavior than that practiced by this parasitical pair of privileged alpha males, Bezos and Musk and their class.

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Amazon Italian Castel San Giovanni Warehouse Shut Down During SI Cobus

In a general strike of workers called by the national union Si Cobus, thousands of Fedex and other logistics workers of the union blocked the Amazon Casstel San Giovanni warehouse. Amazon, Fed-Ex and other logistics companies are using the police and government to prevent full unionization of the industry and also threatening the immigrant workers who are 85% of the logistics workers.

For more info: Italian S.I. Cobas Fed Ex Workers Face Attacks As Peschiera Leader Is Released

War Against Italian Fed-Ex/Amazon Logistics Workers: Police & Government Repression Attacks Escalate

"We're not criminals” Italian Si Corbus Worker Speaks Out

Italian Class Struggle, Unions And the Political Crisis with Roberto Luzzi

Roberto Luzzi: Facing the coronavirus-capitalist epidemic in Italy

Searches, arrests and complaints for the fight against the Piacenza TNT-FedEx. Hands off the workers and their struggles!

Italians protest police repression of logistic workers in Piacenza

Italy’s Amazon Strike Shows How Workers Across the Supply Chain Can Unite

For more info: Production of Labor Video Project

Monday, October 11, 2021

Stagflation: a demand or supply side story?

By Michael Roberts

The semi-annual meetings of the IMF and World Bank start today where finance ministers and central bankers will meet in a slimmed-down but in-person gatherings in Washington.  This meeting is likely to be overshadowed by the scandal involving the IMF chief Kristalina Georgieva, who may well have been forced to resign as I write after a devastating report on the machinations of senior World Bank officials several years ago.  Georgieva has been accused of manipulating data on ‘Doing Business’ to favour China, Saudi Arabia and other states while she was at the World Bank several years ago. The scandal has divided IMF members, with the US pushing for her to go and European powers wanting her to stay.

But more important than even whether we can ever rely on the scientific honesty of the World Bank and the IMF is what is happening to the world economy as these international agencies meet to review progress on the recovery from the pandemic slump in 2020.

Earlier in the year, most mainstream forecasts for growth, employment, investment and inflation were bullish, with hopes for a V-shaped recovery based on the COVID vaccination rollout, the ebbing of the virus cases and the boost to many economies from fiscal spending by governments and injections of credit by central banks.  But in recent months, that unabashed optimism has begun to fade.  Just before IMF-World Bank meeting, Georgieva reported that “We face a global recovery that remains “hobbled” by the pandemic and its impact. We are unable to walk forward properly—it is like walking with stones in our shoes!”

She outlined the three stones in her shoes. The first was growth.  At the meeting, the IMF is set to lower its forecasts for global growth in 2021 and expects the divergence between the richer Global North and the poorer Global South to widen.  The second was inflation: “One particular concern with inflation is the rise in global food prices—up by more than 30 percent over the past year.”  And the third was debt: “we estimate that global public debt has increased to almost 100 percent of GDP.” (No mention of private sector debt, which is much more important and at historic highs).

Georgieva posed the risk of what is called ‘stagflation’, ie low or zero growth alongside high or rising inflation.  This is the ultimate nightmare for the major capitalist economies – and of course, the worst possible scenario for working people who would bear the brunt of rising prices for household while income growth remains weak; leading a fall in real incomes. 

This was the story of the 1970s.  So is stagflation coming back in 2022? Let’s look at the GDP growth side first.  The evidence is building up that the ‘sugar rush’ recovery in the major economies after the end of the pandemic lockdowns and after the impact of fiscal spending and easy money is flagging.  For example, in Q3 2021 just ended, the Atlanta Fed GDP Now! forecast for the US economy suggests a sharp slowdown (compared to consensus calls) to just 1.3% annual rate.  And Q4 is likely to be worse. After the ‘sugar rush’ comes the fatigue.

The ‘high frequency’ business activity surveys called the Purchasing Manager’s Indexes (PMIs) are also showing a distinct slowdown in most regions from the peaks of the summer. 

And in the US, the latest official data showed the jobs recovery stalled for a second consecutive month in September.  Coupled with lower business and consumer confidence, this suggests the ‘sugar rush’ there is also over.  In China, the government is grappling with sporadic outbreaks of the Delta coronavirus variant and the risk of a property debt implosion along with an energy shortage. Strong growth over the summer appears to have slowed sharply in the eurozone and UK.

Also, there is the Brookings-FT Tracking Index for the Global Economic Recovery (Tiger) which compares indicators of real activity, financial markets and confidence with their historical averages, both for the global economy and individual countries, capturing the extent to which data in the current period is normal. The latest twice-yearly update shows a sharp snapback in growth since March across advanced and emerging economies.

On the other side of the stagflation scenario, inflation rates are rising everywhere.  Back in December last year the US Fed’s median forecast for inflation in 2021 was 1.8%. In March that was nudged up to 2.4% and then in June up to 3.4%. It is now 4.2%. Over the same period their median forecast for 2022 has risen from 1.9% to 2.2%. The Bank of England’s and the ECB’s numbers have followed a similar path.

Global grocery bills are rocketing.

And energy prices have taken off.

What is causing this rise in inflation generally and in food and energy, in particular?  The standard macroeconomics view is that there ‘excess demand’.  During COVID, consumers built up huge stashes of savings that they could not spend.  But now that economies are opening up again, households are spending heavily at a time when global supply chains have been disrupted by the COVID pandemic. 

This is the view of financial analysts, Jefferies: “the $2.5tn in excess household cash is an important buffer against stagflation, and we show that excess savings are distributed across the entire income distribution. To date, there has been very little evidence of demand destruction. Real spending is still close to cycle highs for most discretionary spending categories, despite significant price increases…A more rigorous analysis of price and volume changes by the San Francisco Fed shows that demand effects are the dominant driver of inflation at the moment, contributing 1.1% to y/y core PCE as of August. In contrast, supply-side effects contributed only 0.2%. This flies in the face of the prevailing narrative which attributes most of the price increases to supply chain disruptions. Yes, product shortages and supply bottlenecks are real, but they are largely a function of excess demand, rather than supply outages.”

So the Jefferies view is that this situation is just temporary or ‘transitional’, to use Fed Chair Powell’s expression.  Once production, employment and investment get going and international supply chain blockages ease, then inflation pressure will also ease and things will get back to ‘normal’.

There are serious doubts about this rosy scenario.  First on the demand side, is it really true that released pent up demand is the cause of rising prices?  The idea that ‘excess cash’ will simply ‘sop up’ the extra costs of gas and food prices seems unlikely.  After all, in the major economies this ‘excess cash’ is mostly in the pockets of the rich, who tend to save rather than spend.  Higher prices are more likely to lead to reductions in spending in so-called ‘discretionary items’ as working-class households try to meet the rising costs of food and energy. 

Moreover, accelerating inflation in essential goods and services is more likely to be the result of a ‘supply-side’ shock rather than excess demand.  “We are not dealing with demand-push inflation. What we are really going through right now is a massive supply shock,” said Jean Boivin, a former Bank of Canada deputy governor now at the BlackRock Investment Institute. “The way to deal with this is not as straightforward as just dealing with inflation.”   

On the supply side, there are those who argue that the 2020s are not like the 1970s with its stagflation, but more like the 1950s, when inflation incurred from the disruption and spending during the Korean war gave way to rising investment and profitability, so that industrial output and real GDP growth rates rose and inflation subsided.  “With supply shortages set to persist for the next 6 to 12 months, the current period of “stagflation-lite” will persist a while longer. But it is likely to remain a pale imitation of the 1970s stagflation episode. Meanwhile, we do not share the pessimism of those who think that the current supply shortages are just one of a series of stagflationary shocks likely to hit the economy in the coming years.”

But are the 2020s going to be a new ‘golden age’ for capitalism like the 1950s with high profit rates and investment, real wage rises, full employment and low inflation?  I doubt it; first, because the current supply-side ‘shock’ is really a continuation of the slowdown in industrial output, international trade, business investment and real GDP growth that was setting in in 2019 before the pandemic broke.  That was happening because the profitability of capitalist investment in the major economies had dropped to near historic lows, and as readers of this blog know, it is profitability that ultimately drives investment and growth in capitalist economies.

In previous posts, I have provided the evidence of the decline in profitability in the US and elsewhere.  Brian Green has a new analysis of UK business profitability which gets a similar result “before the UK entered the pandemic, the rate of profit had fallen sharply to stand 20% below the last mini peak in 2015.”

Again, you could even argue that the supply-side shock will remain not just because of low profitability and investment, but also because of the hugely increasing costs of dealing with climate change.  This has led to sharp cutbacks in investment in fossil fuel energy exploration and production, putting many economies at risk of an energy supply crisis.  This is the irony of market solutions to the global warming problem: driving up carbon emission prices and taxes merely causes a severe reduction in energy production because planning for the replacement of fossil fuel production with alternatives is non-existent.

If rising inflation is being driven by the weak supply-side rather than an excessively strong demand side, monetary policy won’t work.  Monetary policy works by trying to raise or lower demand. If spending is growing too fast and generating inflation, higher interest rates supposedly dampen the willingness of companies and households to consume or invest by increasing the cost of borrowing.  But even if this theory were correct, it does not apply when prices are rising because supply chains have broken, energy prices are increasing or there are labour shortages.  As Andrew Bailey, governor of the Bank of England, has said: “Monetary policy will not increase the supply of semiconductor chips, it will not increase the amount of wind (no, really), and nor will it produce more HGV drivers.” 

Indeed, as I have argued ad nauseum on this blog, pumping cash or credit into the financial system with ‘quantitative easing’ does not work to boost the economy if the ‘supply-side’ is not growing through lack of profitability.  You can take a horse to water, but you cannot make it drink.  That disconnection applies just as much when central banks tighten policy (ie withdraw credit and raise policy interest rates).  Reducing demand will do little if supply is stagnant for other reasons. 

Nevertheless, central banks are starting to tighten.  Interest rates have already risen in Norway and in many emerging economies, while the US Federal Reserve and the Bank of England have made moves to tighten monetary policy.  This won’t get inflation rates down, but merely increase the risk of a recession as debt servicing costs rise for companies already low on profits.  That’s the dilemma for central banks and governments as they debate the issue of stagflation this week in Washington.

But let me finish this long post by reminding readers that mainstream economics has no coherent theory of inflation.  As Charles Goodhart, a professor at the LSE and former member of the Bank of England’s monetary policy committee, remarked: “the world at the moment is in a really a rather extraordinary state because we have no general theory of inflation”. The two main theories offered: the monetarist theory that money supply drives inflation; and the Keynesian theory that inflation is caused by tight labour markets driving up wage costs, have been debunked by the evidence. 

So the mainstream has fallen back on a theory of inflation based on ‘expectations’.  As Goodhart remarks, this is “a bootstrap theory of inflation”; that as long as inflation expectations remain anchored, inflation itself will remain anchored. But expectations depend on where inflation already is and so provide no predictive power.  Indeed, a new paper by Jeremy Rudd at the Federal Reserve concludes; “Economists and economic policymakers believe that households’ and firms’ expectations of future inflation are a key determinant of actual inflation. A review of the relevant theoretical and empirical literature suggests that this belief rests on extremely shaky foundations, and a case is made that adhering to it uncritically could easily lead to serious policy errors.”

As regular readers of this blog may know, G Carchedi and I have been developing an alternative Marxian theory of inflation. The gist of our theory is that inflation in modern capitalist economies has a long-term tendency to fall because wages decline as a share of total value-added; and profits are squeezed by a rising organic composition of capital (ie more investment in machinery and technology relative to employees).  But this tendency can be countered by the monetary authorities boosting money supply so that money price of goods and services rise, even though there is a tendency for the growth in the value of goods and services to fall.

We have tested this theory during the COVID pandemic slump for US inflation. During the year of the COVID, corporate profitability and profits fell sharply. Wage bills also fell. As our theory predicted, the results were deflationary. But the Fed pumped in more money.  US M2 money supply was up 40% in 2020.  So US inflation, after dropping nearly to zero in the first half of 2020, moved back up to 1.5% by year end.

In slumps, the velocity of money, which is the pace of turnover of the existing money supply in an economy, falls.  People and businesses make fewer transactions and instead tend to ‘hoard’ money.  That was certainly the case in 2020, where the velocity fell to a 60-year low.  Such a fall is hugely deflationary.  But in 2021, the velocity of money stopped falling.

In 2021, all the factors that led to a near zero inflation rate in the US in mid-2020 began to reverse.  At that time last year, we made a forecast that if profits and wages began to rise (wages, say by 5-10%; money supply by about 10%, then our model suggested that US inflation of goods and services would rise, perhaps to about 3.0-3.5% by end 2021.  Actually, money supply has continued to rise faster than we forecast.  And so US inflation is now over 4%, not 3.0-3.5% as we forecast. 

What our theory of inflation suggests that the US economy over the next few years is more likely to suffer from stagflation ie 3%-plus inflation with less than 2% growth, than from either deflation or inflationary ‘overheating’ (4%-plus).

Bill Maher's Not so Wrong Here. It's the Working Class that is Missing

Richard Mellor

I thought this video was worth posting here but feel I have to say something. I should add that these are just my personal quick thoughts after watching it. There are others who participate in our weekly Zoom meetings and/or who support this blog in other ways and they are entitled to express their views here. I am not speaking for them.


I don’t watch Bill Maher’s show, though he can be very funny at times and I certainly have lots to disagree with him about, but I do not think he is far off in this video when it comes to electoral politics and his predictions of events leading up to the next election including the primaries.


Maher is one of the many late night comedians, basically all Democratic Party supporters, who use political satire to sway public opinion and basically trash the Republican Party. The absence of an independent political party of the working class here, coupled with the deafening silence of organized labor’s hierarchy on most matters of importance, has led to an exodus from electoral politics of millions of workers. In the 2016 election, close to 100 million opted out and the undemocratic Electoral College installed Trump after Hilary Clinton’s victory. 


The 2020 election result was different and resulted in  the highest voter turnout as a percentage of eligible voters since 1900. “Worker Joe” Biden beat Trump and received 81 million votes against Trump’s 74 million. In my view,  this reflected a strong desire to return society to some sense of normality after four years of Trumpism and many workers have told me that was why they voted; Trump was too divisive, racist, and an embarrassment to the country. It was not a wave of support for Biden who some have referred to as the Senator from DuPont due to his connections to the giant Chemical company.


But as far as electoral politics goes, Trump has a huge potential base for 2024 and I think that Maher is not far wrong in his analysis of events occurring at the moment and Trump’s strategy for the future.


I do not watch any of the late night pundits but Maher as far as I can see is the most critical of them, critical of the “left” which means the Democratic Party, one of the most powerful capitalist parties in the world. As a liberal he has savaged the liberals of late as the whining toadies they are and takes them up for their obsession with identity politics and failure to be in tune with the real mood in society. One’s sexual orientation and announcing it to the world has become the heroic revolutionary statement of the modern era.

Millionaire celebrities and movie stars lecture people, normally white celebrities lecturing white workers about how bad they are and how they must apologize for their privilege at a time when conditions for white workers have deteriorated to the point where millions of them have sunk in to poverty and life expectancy among this “privileged” group is declining. Needless to say, these exhortations from millionaires and billionaires do not get an echo and the right wing forces have a field day with it. The rise of Trump is in many ways a result of these factors.


In his presentation above, Maher is trying to scare the populous in to electoral politics on the Democratic Party side. The problem is that one of the reasons US workers have abandoned politics altogether is the disgust with both parties of capitalism. The Democratic Party is just as dirty and wages, working conditions, the lack of social services, housing, health care and other public services have deteriorated under both Democratic and Republican Administrations.


Here in California, we have basically a one party state as the Democrats have control of the legislature and the governorship. Yet we have a housing and homeless crisis with tent cities appearing everywhere. In one of the richest cities in the world, San Francisco, home to many Tech billionaires, the homeless and mentally ill, live in the streets in huge numbers. The right wing forces point to this and that the city smells of urine, which is the case as anyone who has walked from the Financial Center to The Civic Center knows. The homeless are blamed for a crisis not of their own making.


Both parties of capitalism are in a crisis, with the Republican Party becoming the party of Trump and the traditional old conservative base being driven out.  The Democrats offer a return to normalcy but there as never been a normalcy. For decades, the US working class has been savaged. Basic rights, housing, education, access to health care, are beyond the reach of millions of Americans and then the pandemic hit.


While I think Maher’s analysis of future events is not so far out there (the whole Trump period has taught most of us to be less conditional in our approach) it appears there is a spike in open confrontations between labor and capital developing as many people predicted. For two years those workers who provide basic needs, from transport to food production and working in fast food joints like Chipotle and others have been told how valuable they are, how important they are and that they are the “essential” workers. Workers know what “essential” means hand have taken note.


A care home not far from me, had a banner up for months with “Heroes” work here in bold letters. These workers are some of the most exploited and abused in society along with those in the meat industry and other factory type work. Front line workers in the hospitals who were called “traitors” by some Trump supporters for wearing masks have risked their lives on the job and worked exhaustively under extreme conditions.


There appears to be an increasing pushback within the ranks of organized labor as well, as more strikes are occurring and more importantly, the rejection of contracts forced on union members by their own leaders who, when capitalism enters crisis moves immediately to bail it out, always at the expense of their own members living standards and working conditions. This obstacle of our own leadership in organized labor will have to be breached and will be breached at some point.


So while I think Maher is not so far off describing the electoral process and the developing struggles between the two competing bourgeois parties in their equally degenerate democratic process, what he lacks is an understanding of the class conflict that will inevitably arise as the cost of the crisis that will be placed on the backs of working people no matter which party is in power. This should be expected of course, he has limits.


The situation in the US is very volatile, but the working class population is not as conservative as we are led to believe; we have just witnessed a huge multi-racial movement against police violence and racism here. Yes class consciousness has been driven back and an understanding of the heroic struggles and militancy of the working class from the rise of trade unionism and the struggles against racism and violence, to the Civil Rights movement that shook US capitalism to its foundations has been obscured, and is being obscured by the “woke” liberals and their obsession with identity politics. This is harmful but it will not last.


It is this potential power of the US working class and its inevitable entrance on to the stage that Maher does not and cannot see. I am not saying it will be easy. But we are in for a turbulent ride ahead.


Thursday, October 7, 2021

American Values? Guantanamo, the CIA and US Torture

Richard Mellor

Afscme Local 444, retired


I know I have written of this before but when I was in eastern Macedonia in 2001-2, I had to go to these Internet cafes to write and to communicate with home. I wrote a few posts about being back in Macedonia as I loved it when I was there twice before and it was part of Yugoslavia.


The interesting thing was that when I got off the plane after my arrival from Vienna, I came upon this huge rally in the main square in Skopje and wondered what it was about. I walked up to this guy to ask him and he had this large button on his lapel with the words, Thank You Mr. President on it.


I wasn’t sure what it was about but he told me it was for our beloved war mongering, imbecilic president George W Bush. “What!” I responded, “Millions of us can’t stand him back home.” The majority of the crowd appeared to be Christian Slavs. The guy told me that Bush or the US had recognized the name of their country as The Republic of Macedonia. It didn’t seem like a big deal to me but apparently there were Greeks demonstrating on the other side of the border because they consider that they are Macedonian.  Things have changed and that seems to have been settled (for a moment).


Anyway, after I settled down I met a guy in an Internet café who told me that there were swarms of northern Europeans and Americans there now from different corporations there looking to set up shop and take advantage of the cheap labor. The visitors also included preachers and missionaries of various US religions trying to find recruits.  Many Yugoslavs are fairly political and well aware of the US and CIA role in the world and how they have on many occasions used religious organizations as a cover for their meddling activities.


But one time I couldn’t help noticing that I was being followed by two men. My friend had suggested I register with the local police when I arrived which I did and assumed it might be a local police safety measure. Some people had told me that in this post 911 period, there were tons of Americans there and there were suspicions about them.


I stepped in to the nearest Internet café and they came in also. It was a bit disconcerting as they sat either side of me, not directly to my right and left but a couple of seats away. They never spoke.


I am convinced that they were not police but possibly US personnel as the US, I found out later, had renditioned one person at least from Macedonia who, like many of them was tortured despite being completely innocent. Khaled el-Masri was his name and he was, “…..shackled, beaten, stripped naked, sodomised and drugged before being secretly transferred to a CIA-run “black site” prison in Afghanistan.” It seems US torturers see sodomy as quite the thing when interrogating people, specially people with religious convictions and of the Muslim kind, though as a Lebanese, el Masri might have been a Christian.


Fortunately I was not a threat which I am grateful for.


The US had these Black Sites everywhere, places where they would be safe from the scrutiny of the US population and muckrakers back home. One site was in Poland where Abu Zubaydah, who was captured, in Pakistan in 2002, was taken. In Poland the CIA tortured and brutalized Abu Zubaydah. He was transferred to Guantanamo in 2006


In 2010 lawyers representing him filed suit against Poland for collaborating with the CIA in torturing him during his time at the Polish Black Site.  His torture included water boarding, rectal rehydration, and being slammed in to walls. (WSJ 10-7-21). “In 2002 It lasted for 20 days, 24 hours a day. He was waterboarded 83 times in that period alone." Says Cornell law professor Joseph Margulies who was later to become one of his lawyers. 

In the US, lawyers for Zubaydah are seeking testimony from James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen who were CIA contractors, psychologists that designed torture methods, (Something sort of Nazi like about this isn’t there).  They designed the now infamous US interrogation practices that have been used throughout the world and in Guantanamo Bay. These two of course call torture “interrogation techniques”, but there are no two ways about it, they are modern day torturers; Of Zubaydah, “….he's the poster child for the program." Says Margulies. Another of their victims tells of his experiences here.  At one point Mitchell and Jessen, concluded that Zubaydah was, “….a broken man and they concluded he didn't know anything more. But the CIA thought he did, so the torture continued.”  NYT 10-6-21


The US is trying to block these two giving testimony based on national security and like Trump, Biden is also refusing to release information about Zubaydah’s treatment.


The issue is before the Supreme Court, a body composed of old lawyers whose job it is to protect capital and the capitalist system and we know there’s a few misogynists up there. As the NYT puts it:


“The central issue of the case concerns whether a detainee at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, who has never been charged with a crime can subpoena testimony from the CIA contractors who supervised his torture.”


This whole episode reflects “American values” as much as anything else. History is not pleasant as the powerful maintains their power through violence and coercion of one sort or another. Every US worker should be appalled at these events rather than turning a blind eye and carrying on with our lives as if nothing has happened. The prisons in this country are full of working class people. Had we been paying attention to what the state we call ours has been doing outside (and inside) our borders, 911 may never have occurred or at elast we would know why it occurred.


I know that I give no credence whatsoever to those who blame the German people for allowing millions of “undesireables” to be tortured, killed and sent to death camps.  How could they let that happen? People say.


It’s not so hard to understand now is it. Abu Zubaydah is still in Guantanamo along with 38 other prisoners and never been charged with a crime, and personally, I couldn’t name one of them.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in Jacobin: On Kyrie Irving’s Vaccine Refusal

Republished from Jacobin

NBA great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar writes in Jacobin arguing that athletes like Kyrie Irving aren’t making a “personal choice” by refusing the COVID vaccine — they’re jeopardizing the public health of all through their platforms.

Former NBA player Kareem Abdul-Jabbar during a ceremony at Pauley Pavilion in Los Angeles, 2017. (John W. McDonough / Sports Illustrated via Getty Images)

I’m a huge fan of LeBron James, both as one of the greatest basketball players ever and as a humanitarian who cares about social injustice. I have written his praises many times in the past and undoubtedly will in the future. I admire him and have affection for him. But this time, LeBron is just plain wrong — and his being wrong could be deadly, especially for the Black community.

After Golden State Warriors’ Andrew Wiggins received criticism for refusing to get the COVID-19 vaccine for personal reasons, his teammate Draymond Green said the public needs to “honor” that decision: “There is something to be said for people’s concerns about something that’s being pressed so hard,” he stated. “Why are you pressing this so hard? You have to honor people’s feelings and their own personal beliefs.” To which LeBron responded that he “couldn’t have said it better myself.” Actually, it couldn’t have been said worse.

Wiggins has since received the vaccine, though he made clear that it was under financial duress. Other than vague claims about “freedom,” he’s never offered rational support for his stance. Neither has Brooklyn Nets point guard Kyrie Irving, who continues to reject the expertise of prominent immunologists without reason, contributing to vaccine hesitancy among people in the Black community, who are dying at twice the rate of white people. His lack of regard for Black lives doesn’t deserve acceptance, nor does his lack of regard for the health and welfare of the NBA community.

On the surface, it appears that Draymond and LeBron are arguing for the American ideal of individual freedom of choice. But they offer no arguments in support of it, nor do they define the limits of when one person’s choice is harmful to the community. They are merely shouting, “I’m for freedom.” We’re all for freedom, but not at the expense of others or if it damages the country. That’s why we mandate seat belts, motorcycle helmets, car insurance, and education for our children. For example, seat belt compliance is at 88 percent in the United States, but that 12 percent that doesn’t comply results in 47 percent of car accident fatalities (seventeen thousand) and costs US employers $5 billion a year, and those costs are passed on to us. They made the choice, but we survivors are left to deal with the grief and the price tag.

The cost of COVID-19 for this country is difficult to measure. We can come up with a monetary amount: Harvard economists say it’s cost us $16 trillion so far — money that might have been spent to build the country, provide jobs, or help the disadvantaged. But the real cost is the seven hundred thousand lives, thousands of which could have been saved if they’d followed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention protocols and gotten vaccinated. And thousands more are dying every day. Add to that the medical costs of those who will suffer for years from long-haul symptoms.

The only support for Draymond’s statement is his belief that when people “press hard,” there’s something inherently wrong with their opinion. There is no logic to that statement. If I press hard against institutional racism, if I press hard against police brutality, if I press hard against recent laws making it harder for minorities to vote, if I press hard against child pornography, if I press hard in support of #MeToo, am I automatically wrong?

On the contrary, the passion of those urging vaccines might suggest that there’s some urgency to their opinion. That the situation is serious and we need to take immediate action to protect people. That thousands are dying every day, mostly among the unvaccinated. That people in the Black community, where vaccine hesitancy is high, are dying at a disproportionately higher rate than white people. That publicly talking about honoring opinions that contribute to their deaths is irresponsible.

The country also mandates against drunk driving, “pressing hard” against the freedom to drive under the influence. We do that because drunk driving kills eleven thousand Americans every year and costs us more than $44 billion. Vaccine deniers and those who want to “honor” them are like drunk drivers who are convinced they’re okay to drive. When they make it home without an accident, that means they were right. Until they aren’t. Which is why 97 percent of COVID deaths are among the unvaccinated.

And while some who don’t get the vaccine might never get sick or, if they do, suffer mild symptoms, they are still potentially spreading the disease to others, killing some. While we’re honoring the unvaccinated, COVID cases are rising alarmingly among young children.

I think of the situation like those old fire brigades, when people stood in a line, passing buckets of water to save their neighbor’s house from burning to the ground. Maybe some people were afraid to join the line. But when the town leaders joined in, it encouraged others to do their duty. Today’s celebrities and athletes are like those town leaders. You either join the line to save your neighbor’s home, or you stand by and let it burn because you don’t owe them anything.

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

Zionism & The Firing Of UK University of Bristol Sociologist David Miller

Very interesting interview here. Miller mentions the similarity between the situation in Israel/Palestine and Northern Ireland. This is important as it was the first British governor of Jerusalem speaking of the creation of a Jewish state in the region that it would be "our loyal little Ulster in the Middle East.". It is not for love of Jews that western capitalism supports Zionism, but as the most reliable ally, a foothold in the area after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. The revolutionary potential of the Arab masses prevents any Arab/Muslim state from playing the same role.  Important information on how to support David Miller and other links are below. Admin

The attacks on critics of Israel including university faculty members is escalating and at the University of Bristol, sociologist David Miller was terminated on October 1, 2021 by the University for alleged anti-semitism. WorkWeek's Steve Zeltzer interviews Miller about how he began to investigate the role of Israel and Zionism and how there has been an organized effort to shutdown criticism of Israel. He also discusses the role of Israel in the UK and how they have organized a campaign to suspend former Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn and also film maker Ken Loach from the Labour Party. This interview was done on October 5, 2021.

For further information: Professor Miller's sacking by Bristol University:
We must resist Israel’s war on British universities

Zionist Attacks On SFSU AMED Arab & Muslim Ethnicities & Diasporas Program, The CFA & Labor Rally Demands Justice For SFSU Professor Rabab Abdulhadi, Palestinian Students & Ed Program

SF Community Labor Rally Defends Palestinian Professor Rabab Abdulhadi Against Zionist Lawsuit

Rally Demands Justice For SFSU Professor Rabab Abdulhadi, Palestinian Students & Ed Program

SF Community Labor Rally Defends Palestinian Professor Rabab Abdulhadi Against Zionist Lawsuit

Frontline with Ken Loach On Jeremy Corbyn
Israel lobby demands firing of professor who opposes Zionism UK Bristol University lobby in defense of David Miller and academic freedom-
10 years in jail for critizing Zionist apartheid Isreal

Defend UK Professor David Miller! Defend Free Speech!

200 academics back lecturer under attack from 'proud Zionists'

Artists stand with Ken Loach and against McCarthyism

Labour Against The Witch Hunt

Lethridge Professor Anthony Hall & The FBI Seizure Of The American Herald Tribune Website

Expulsion Of Shop Steward By UK GMB
Production of Labor Video Project

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

The CIA Plot to Kidnap or Kill Julian Assange

October 5, 2021

The CIA Plot to Kidnap or Kill Julian Assange in London is a Story that is Being Mistakenly Ignored

by Patrick Cockburn


Photograph Source: Jeanne Menjoulet – CC BY 2.0


Reprinted from Counterpunch

Three years ago, on 2 October 2018, a team of Saudi officials murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. The purpose of the killing was to silence Khashoggi and to frighten critics of the Saudi regime by showing that it would pursue and punish them as though they were agents of a foreign power.

It was revealed this week that a year before the Khashoggi killing in 2017, the CIA had plotted to kidnap or assassinate Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, who had taken refuge five years earlier in the Ecuador embassy in London. A senior US counter-intelligence official said that plans for the forcible rendition of Assange to the US were discussed “at the highest levels” of the Trump administration. The informant was one of more than 30 US officials – eight of whom confirmed details of the abduction proposal – quoted in a 7,500-word investigation by Yahoo News into the CIA campaign against Assange.

The plan was to “break into the embassy, drag [Assange] out and bring him to where we want”, recalled a former intelligence official. Another informant said that he was briefed about a meeting in the spring of 2017 at which President Trump had asked if the CIA could assassinate Assange and provide “options” about how this could be done. Trump has denied that he did so.

The Trump-appointed head of the CIA, Mike Pompeo, said publicly that he would target Assange and WikiLeaks as the equivalent of “a hostile intelligence service”. Apologists for the CIA say that freedom of the press was not under threat because Assange and the WikiLeaks activists were not real journalists. Top intelligence officials intended to decide themselves who is and who is not a journalist, and lobbied the White House to redefine other high-profile journalists as “information brokers”, who were to be targeted as if they were agents of a foreign power.

Among those against whom the CIA reportedly wanted to take action were Glenn Greenwald, a founder of the Intercept magazine and a former Guardian columnist, and Laura Poitras, a documentary film-maker. The arguments for doing so were similar to those employed by the Chinese government for suppressing dissent in Hong Kong, which has been much criticised in the West. Imprisoning journalists as spies has always been the norm in authoritarian countries, such as Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Egypt, while denouncing the free press as unpatriotic is a more recent hallmark of nationalist populist governments that have taken power all over the world.

It is possible to give only a brief precis of the extraordinary story exposed by Yahoo News, but the journalists who wrote it – Zach Dorfman, Sean D Naylor and Michael Isikoff – ought to scoop every journalistic prize. Their disclosures should be of particular interest in Britain because it was in the streets of central London that the CIA was planning an extra-judicial assault on an embassy, the abduction of a foreign national, and his secret rendition to the US, with the alternative option of killing him. These were not the crackpot ideas of low-level intelligence officials, but were reportedly operations that Pompeo and the agency fully intended to carry out.

This riveting and important story based on multiple sources might be expected to attract extensive coverage and widespread editorial comment in the British media, not to mention in parliament. Many newspapers have dutifully carried summaries of the investigation, but there has been no furor. Striking gaps in the coverage include the BBC, which only reported it, so far as I can see, as part of its Somali service. Channel 4, normally so swift to defend freedom of expression, apparently did not mention the story at all.

In the event, the embassy attack never took place, despite the advanced planning. “There was a discussion with the Brits about turning the other cheek or looking the other way when a team of guys went inside and did a rendition,” said a former senior US counter-intelligence official, who added that the British had refused to allow the operation to take place.

But the British government did carry out its own less melodramatic, but more effective measure against Assange, removing him from the embassy on 11 April 2019 after a new Ecuador government had revoked his asylum. He remains in Belmarsh top security prison two-and-a-half years later while the US appeals a judicial decision not to extradite him to the US on the grounds that he would be a suicide risk.

If he were to be extradited, he would face 175 years in prison. It is important, however, to understand, that only five of these would be under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, while the other 170 potential years are under the Espionage Act of 1917, passed during the height of the patriotic war fever as the US entered the First World War.

Only a single minor charge against Assange relates to the WikiLeaks disclosure in 2010 of a trove of US diplomatic cables and army reports relating to the Iraq and Afghan wars. The other 17 charges are to do with labeling normal journalistic investigation as the equivalent of spying.

Pompeo’s determination to conflate journalistic inquiry with espionage has particular relevance in Britain, because the home secretary, Priti Patel, wants to do much the same thing. She proposes updating the Official Secrets Act so that journalists, whistle-blowers and leakers could face sentences of up to 14 years in prison. A consultative paper issued in May titled Legislation to Counter State Threats (Hostile State Activity) redefines espionage as “the covert process of obtaining sensitive confidential information that is not normally publicly available”.

The true reason the scoop about the CIA’s plot to kidnap or kill Assange has been largely ignored or downplayed is rather that he is unfairly shunned as a pariah by all political persuasions: left, right and centre.

To give but two examples, the US government has gone on claiming that the disclosures by WikiLeaks in 2010 put the lives of US agents in danger. Yet the US Army admitted in a court hearing in 2013 that a team of 120 counter-intelligence officers had failed to find a single person in Iraq and Afghanistan who had died because of the disclosures by WikiLeaks. As regards the rape allegations in Sweden, many feel that these alone should deny Assange any claim to be a martyr in the cause of press freedom. Yet the Swedish prosecutor only carried out a “preliminary investigation” and no charges were brought.

Assange is a classic victim of “cancel culture”, so demonised that he can no longer get a hearing, even when a government plots to kidnap or murder him.

In reality, Khashoggi and Assange were pursued relentlessly by the state because they fulfilled the primary duty of journalists: finding out important information that the government would like to keep secret and disclosing it to the public.

Patrick Cockburn is the author of War in the Age of Trump (Verso).