Friday, May 27, 2011

Save the Economy, Hike the Deficit!

May 27 - 29, 2011
Careening Toward a Third Depression

How do you light a fire under Congress? How do you get these guys to do what they're paid to do?

We're 5 years into this slump, millions of people have lost their homes and jobs, 44 million people are on food stamps, the economy is in the tank, and congress won't lift a finger to help. What's that all about? You'd think that the revision in GDP and the uptick in unemployment claims would set off alarms on Capitol Hill. But it hasn't. They just shrug it off and move on. What do they care? They get their fat paycheck one way or another, so what difference does it make to them? Besides, if they play their cards right, they'll nab a 6-figure lobbying job as soon as they retire and spend the rest of their lives working on their chip-shot and swilling single-malt at the club with their moneybags friends. Doesn't that piss you off?

Congress just doesn't seem to "get it". They don't understand what people are going through; how maxed out they are. We're in the middle of a Depression and all they want to do is score points playing political circlejerk by stonewalling the debt ceiling or jacking-around with Medicare. Meanwhile, unemployment is on the rise (Initial claims rose to 424,000 on Thursday), GDP is falling (1Q GDP revised to 1.8%), durable goods are down 3.6 percent in April, the market is topping out, business investment is flat, Europe's on the ropes, Japan is in a historic slump, China is overheating, the output gap is as wide as it was 6 quarters ago, bank balance sheets are bleeding red from falling home prices and non-performing loans, and the housing market is crashing.

Did I miss something?

Oh yeah, and the Fed's goofy QE2 program is winding down, which means that the last drop of monetary stimulus will be wrung-out by the end of June. That ought to be good for stocks.

So, excuse me for asking, Mr. Bigshot Congressman, but would you mind lending a hand? A little stimulus would be nice. You know, just enough so we can get a job and feed the kids. And if you're worried about the deficits; don't be. They're not a problem. That's just more GOP scaremongering. Here's how economics professor Bradford DeLong sums it up:

"The biggest problem generated by this right now is that Washington DC's focus on the Dingbat Kabuki theater of the long-run fiscal stability of America is keeping it from taking any effective steps to use government to boost employment and output now. And things aren't helped by the fact that the way the rescue of the banking system was carried out convinced a lot of people that stimulus policies exist to enrich the top 1% of Americans at the expense of everybody else.

This means that our hopes for economic recovery right now rest not on any government boost to aggregate demand--whether through fiscal, monetary, or banking policy--but rather on the natural equilibrium-restoring full-employment achieving market forces of the economy, especially in the labor market.

And so we are in trouble: right now there are no signs that the economy is crawling up back to anything like full employment on its own. ... The economy will grow, but we won't close the gap between actual and potential output. We will not for a long time to come get back to the 62 to 64% of the adult population having jobs that we thought was normal back in the decades of the 2000.

And that is the depressing overall macroeconomic picture. I wish I could paint a better one....("DeLong: The Economic Outlook as of May 2011", Economist's View)

Deficits aren't the problem, they're the solution. The government needs to increase spending to make up for the loss of activity in the private sector, otherwise, we're back in the soup. But, here's the good part; the government can borrow at rates that are lower than ever. Just look at the bond market. The 10-year is stuck at 3.12. That means that money is cheap because no one is borrowing, because, well, because the economy is dead-in-the-water. It's like Treasuries are yelling, "Wake up, you idiots, we're in a Depression!"

Besides, deficit spending isn't always a bad thing anyway. Just ask a guy who's been out of work for 99 weeks how much he cares about deficits. Not much, I'll bet. All he cares about is getting a job and paying the bills. Here's a clip from economist Mark Thoma who explains how deficits can actually rev up the economy:

"When the economy goes into recession, deficit spending through tax cuts or the purchase of goods and services by the government can stop the downward spiral and help to turn the economy back around. Thus, deficits can help us to stabilize the economy. In addition, as the economy improves due to the deficit spending the outlook for businesses also improves, and this can lead to increased investment, an effect known as crowding in. Deficits also allow us to purchase infrastructure and spread the bills across time similar to the way households finance the purchase of a car or house, or the way local governments finance schools with bond issues." (Government Deficits: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, Mark Thoma, CBS Moneywatch)

Deficits are just a way of investing in the future, like student loans. You don't hear anyone crybabying about paying for college, do you? No, because it improves their chances for making more money in the future. Sometimes you have to take on a little debt to create better opportunities for yourself. That's just the way it is. It's the same with the economy, the deficits are a bridge to the next credit expansion. But once things are up-and-running and revenues increase, then the government can throttle-back on spending and balance the budget. That's how we've always done it in the past, until we started listening to the Voodoo crackpots, that is. Besides, if we don't increase the deficits now and put people back to work fast, we're going to be stuck in this "underperforming" funk for a very long time. So, we're just shooting ourselves in the foot.

How did we get to where we are today?

Well, when the financial system crashed, the economy plunged and then reset at a lower level of output. So--while we're no longer in freefall--we're still no where near where we should be. And, guess what, we can't get back to trend when 9% of the workforce (16.5% underemployed) is on the sidelines. We have to put people back to work and get them spending. That's the only way to boost demand and kickstart the economy. Of course, big business doesn't mind the current policy, because more of the profits from productivity go to them during a sluggish recovery. So, they're just fine with the way things are right now. They also like the fact that high unemployment puts more pressure on wages. CEO's love that part.

So, how dire is the situation right now?

Well, consider this: QE2 ends on June 30, right? But according to economist David Rosenberg, there's a "89% correlation between the Fed's balance sheet and the movements in the S&P 500 over the past two years." So when the Fed stops purchasing US Treasuries, then stocks will retreat.

Add that to the fact that the states are cutting costs and laying off state workers at record pace to balance their budgets. That just increases deflationary pressures. When money is drained from the system, activity slows, demand weakens, revenues shrink, deficits bulge, and more people are laid off. It's a vicious circle.

Here's how Paul Krugman breaks it down on his blog this week:

"Last year I warned that we seemed to be heading into the "Third Depression" — by which I meant a prolonged period of economic weakness:

' Neither the Long Depression of the 19th century nor the Great Depression of the 20th was an era of nonstop decline — on the contrary, both included periods when the economy grew. But these episodes of improvement were never enough to undo the damage from the initial slump, and were followed by relapses.

We are now, I fear, in the early stages of a third depression. It will probably look more like the Long Depression than the much more severe Great Depression. But the cost — to the world economy and, above all, to the millions of lives blighted by the absence of jobs — will nonetheless be immense.'.....

And nobody in power cares! (Third Depression Watch, Paul Krugman, New York Times)

And that's what makes this political burlesque on Capitoll Hill so excruciating to watch, because it's such a waste. Peoples lives are being ruined for nothing, just because Congress doesn't have the courage to do the right thing. Do you think they'd hesitate if they had to pony-up for another multi-billion dollar weapons system, or another bailout for Wall Street, or more tax cuts for their tycoon friends? Of course not. The only time congress worries about red ink is when it might help working people. Then they throw a major hissyfit, waving their hands overhead and babbling hysterically about the free market. Give me a break. The world's not going to end. The truth is, the rest of the world WANTS us to borrow more because they want to maintain strong demand for their exports and keep their workers busy. That's why they're willing to lend us money so cheap.

So, why don't we oblige them? Why don't we borrow enough money to whittle down unemployment to 4 or 5% and get back on track? After all, we know that fiscal stimulus works, because the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released another report on Wednesday saying that Obama's American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) was a booming success.

Here's a clip from the report:

"The economic stimulus package passed by Congress in 2009 raised gross domestic product, created jobs and helped lower the country's unemployment rate this year..... the Congressional Budget Office said Wednesday.

The Obama administration and Congressional Democrats said the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, passed while the U.S. struggled to emerge from a severe recession, would save or create 3.5 million jobs while cutting taxes, investing in roads, bridges and other infrastructure, extending unemployment benefits and expanding aid to states....

The CBO report out Wednesday said the plan increased the number of people employed by between 1.2 million and 3.3 million, and lowered the unemployment rate by between 0.6 and 1.8 percentage points in the first quarter of 2011.

The stimulus package also raised gross domestic product, the broadest measure of economic output, by between 1.1% and 3.1% in the same period...." ("CBO Says Stimulus Boosted Growth, Will Add More to Deficit", Wall Street Journal)

Okay, so ARRA boosted growth by roughly 2% and added about 2 million new jobs to the workforce just like the administration predicted. So, that settles it, right? We now have solid proof that the program worked, so what are we waiting for? Congress needs to push through a second round of stimulus, put people back to work and get the economy firing on all 6 cylinders. No more foot dragging.

Mike Whitney lives in Washington state. He can be reached at

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Guernica / Mike Elk: Major Union Victory for Rite Aid Workers Offers Roadmap for Labor Movement

Guernica / Mike Elk: Major Union Victory for Rite Aid Workers Offers Roadmap for Labor Movement

By Mike Elk
By arrangement with Alternet.Org.

On Sunday, 500 Rite Aid workers at the company’s massive Southwest Distribution Center in Lancaster, California signed a three-year tentative agreement with the management of Rite Aid. The contract was a strong one, providing affordable health care, protections against jobs being outsourced to subcontractors (a common practice in the warehousing industry), job safety requirements, and most stunningly, wage increases in each of the next three years. While many unions are making concessions to keep companies open, the Longshoremen Union was actually able to win a wage increase—an extraordinarily rare feat.

“Helping workers win a union contract today usually requires a long struggle, a comprehensive campaign on the outside and strong leadership and rank and file action on the inside, in order to overcome the vicious anti-union attacks by employers, but victories are still possible as the Rite Aid Campaign shows” says ILWU Spokesman Craig Merrilees. “It takes an incredible amount of perseverance, determination and creativity to win, but we can do it.”

The victory is a testament to the resolve of the workers and organizers—it’s a success five years in the making. It reveals how tough the environment for rehabilitating the labor movement is, but also how it is still possible to win through creative, direct action.
Rite Aid engaged in bad faith bargaining known as “surface bargaining“ for over a year before finally bargaining with workers.

“We’re excited about winning this victory, even if it took longer than it should have” said Carlos “Chico” Rubio, a 10-year warehouse worker who was on the union bargaining committee. Unlike many unions that do win a good contract, the union was quick not to praise the boss for agreeing to a contract, but to point out instead that the process was a long and costly one. Workers decided to first start organizing a union in March of 2006 and hoped to have a new contract within several months, not five years.

Rite Aid management responded with the typical toolbox of anti-union tactics.

They hired a team of expensive union busters to hold anti-union intimidation sessions and captive audience meetings. They threatened to fire workers if they supported the union and even fired two workers for wanting to a join a union. They asked a delay of over 18 months from the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) on scheduling a vote so that they could have more time to run intimidation sessions to make workers wary of joining a union. Finally after two years of organizing and despite massive anti-union attacks, workers voted to join a union 283 to 261 in an NLRB supervised election in June of 2008.

Then when Rite Aid workers finally won a union election, Rite Aid engaged in bad faith bargaining known as “surface bargaining” for over a year before finally bargaining with workers.

“Rite Aid made this process much more difficult on workers and families than it needed to” said ILWU International Vice President Ray Familathe, who helped workers reach their May 1 settlement. Workers though did not give up; they organized a tough and dogged campaign to counter the anti-union efforts of Rite Aid management.

Using a creative campaign Rite Aid workers were able to force management to sit down at the table and bargain with them. Workers started by attending yearly stockholder meetings and opening lines of communications with stockholders and board members. They released detailed reports about how much money the union busting efforts of Rite Aid was costing the company. Workers were able to persuade some stockholders to put pressure on Rite Aid to negotiate a fair and equitable contract.

Likewise, they used their leverage against Rite Aid by expanding the fight across various unions and the country. They formed a coalition of nationwide Rite Aid workers from various unions including UFCW, SEIU, and Teamsters who coordinated their strategy. Workers reached out to powerful community allies with groups like United Students against Sweatshops and Jobs with Justice. They held protests in nearly 50 cities across the country against Rite Aid and promised to apply more heat if Rite Aid didn’t settle the contract dispute in California.

Most importantly, the workers union had a strong presence within the distribution center in Lancaster, California. Workers even engaged in “work to rule,” where they purposely slowed down movement in the distribution center in order to put pressure on the company to settle a contract. Even last year, 75 workers walked off the job for a day in Lancaster, California to protest Rite Aid’s lack of good faith bargaining.

Finally, when negotiations seemed to be breaking down at the last second, they launched a “pinpoint” boycott campaign at two Rite Aid workers at two Rite Aid Stores in San Pedro, California on April 1, 2011. They persuaded hundreds of seniors to switch their prescriptions to other pharmacies. The threat of a larger boycott spreading forced Rite Aid to finally settle the contract a month later.

The feat that the Longshoremen’s Union (ILWU) achieved is a rare one in the labor movement. Nearly half of all union drives result in defeats for workers trying to organize a contract. Less than half of the workers who do get a contract are able to get one within the first year. Often failure to reach a contract in the first year can kill a union all together. Overall, fewer than 1 in 6 organizing drives ever results in a union contract for workers in the workplace.

Many unions have now negotiated card checks agreements, wherein the union agrees to weaker, concessionary contracts ahead of time in exchange for the right to organize a workplace without the type of brutal interference from the employer. While these types of agreements can often result in contracts for workers, they are weak contracts—the type of contracts that ultimately the employer wants. It gives all the power to the boss in terms of what type of contract to give workers and very little to the workers. The ILWU campaign at Rite Aid shows that it is still possible for unions to win good first contracts.

Copyright 2011 Mike Elk

By arrangement with Alternet.Org.

Mike Elk is a third-generation union organizer who writes for Campaign for America’s Future.

Guernica / Joshua Holland: Did Osama bin Laden Win the “War on Terror”?

Guernica / Joshua Holland: Did Osama bin Laden Win the “War on Terror”?

By Joshua Holland
By arrangement with AlterNet.Org.

We now have conflicting accounts of Osama bin Laden’s death at the hands of a U.S. special forces team in a tony Pakistani suburb this week.

President Obama, in his address to the nation Sunday night, painted a picture of a perfectly clean, morally unambiguous operation: he said the U.S. was prepared to take the terror leader alive, but a major firefight ensued and, after trying to use his wife as a human shield, bin Laden went down with guns blazing.

The White House “revised” several key details of the raid in the following days. Bin Laden wasn’t armed after all (he still “resisted,” officials say, although it’s unclear how one resists a heavily armed special forces team without a weapon), and he didn’t use a human shield. One official told CNN that there were no armed guards at the compound, another told Reuters that the Navy Seals team had been ordered to kill rather than capture bin Laden and NBC News reported that nobody fired a shot at the SEALs. Bin Laden’s daughter, who was present during the raid, said that U.S. forces first captured their quarry alive and then executed him.

We don’t know what happened that night. But we should at least acknowledge that there were any number of reasons why dumping bin Laden’s corpse in the ocean would have been seen as far less problematic than taking him alive. What, exactly, would they have done with him? The International Criminal Court can only consider cases committed after 2001, and trying him in a domestic court with its evidentiary procedures was never an option. He could have been tried by military commission, but that process hasn’t been widely accepted as legitimate.

On the margins, there has been some debate about the morality—and legality—of such a “kill team” operation, but most Americans, understandably, couldn’t care less. Even if we did assassinate him, so what? Bin Laden was a mass murderer, the bastard got his just rewards, and the U.S. government proved it could still accomplish a major national goal. The country got closure for the attacks of 9/11, and perhaps could now begin to wind down its “war on terror.”

That discussion has overlooked an important question, however. Setting aside the moral and legal implications, and our visceral, emotional satisfaction at seeing an outlaw shot down, would the decision to kill rather than capture him have been in the best interests of the U.S. and the international fight against terrorism?
Martyrdom has always been a powerful inspiration for others. I certainly don’t blame Americans for rejoicing in the news of bin Laden’s death, but we may have given him the exact ending he would have wanted.

I would argue that it would not have been—that, in fact, the reverse would hold true. Osama bin Laden is widely seen to have become a figurehead without direct operational command of the organization he founded. His importance, at this point in time, was largely symbolic. He served as an inspiration for extremists around the globe. Had he a choice in the matter, I have no doubt that he would have wanted nothing more than to die in a hail of gunfire by foreign troops in a predominantly Muslim country, a martyr to his cause, rather than rot away in a military prison, aging poorly and providing living proof that the world’s most prominent terrorist—a figure who had been elevated to an existential threat—was ultimately impotent in the face of the world’s greatest super-power.

Martyrdom has always been a powerful inspiration for others. I certainly don’t blame Americans for rejoicing in the news of bin Laden’s death, but we may have given him the exact ending he would have wanted, and, in doing so, we may have inspired others to follow his path to a “glorious” expiration.

This, again, is entirely speculative so long as the details of the raid remain obscure. But it mirrors another argument that is not so: that Osama bin Laden’s attacks provoked the U.S. into a disastrous over-reaction—drawing it into an unwinnable and often hellish ground-war in Afghanistan and ultimately costing us thousands of American lives, trillions of dollars in national wealth, an enormous amount of international prestige and, more importantly, influence over global affairs.

That argument was ably sketched out this week by Ezra Klein of the Washington Post, based on an interview he conducted with Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, the Director of the Center for the Study of Terrorist Radicalization at the neoconservative Foundation for Defense of Democracies. As Klein put it, Gartenstein-Ross thinks bin Laden “had a strategy that we never bothered to understand, and thus that we never bothered to defend against.” His goal was not some fantasy about establishing a worldwide caliphate or imposing “Sharia law” on Greenwich Village; having seen the Soviet Union decline in large part by bankrupting itself in an arms race with the U.S., with a huge assist from the Mujahadeen fighting them in Afghanistan, his objective was to wage economic war against the United States by drawing it into a similar conflict.

Writing in Foreign Policy, Gartenstein-Ross noted that “the Soviet Union didn’t just withdraw from Afghanistan in ignominious defeat, but the Soviet empire itself collapsed soon thereafter, in late 1991.”

Thus, bin Laden thought that he hadn’t just bested one of the world’s superpowers on
the battlefield, but had actually played an important role in its demise. It is indisputable
that the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan did not directly collapse the Soviet Union;
the most persuasive connection that can be drawn between that war and the Soviet
empire’s dissolution is through the costs imposed by the conflict.

“The campaign [against the Soviets] taught bin Laden a lot,” wrote Klein:

For one thing, superpowers fall because their economies crumble, not because they’re
beaten on the battlefield. For another, superpowers are so allergic to losing that they'll
bankrupt themselves trying to conquer a mass of rocks and sand. This was bin Laden’s
plan for the United States, too.

Did it work? Well, that depends on how you look at it. The U.S. economy is far more resilient than the Soviet economy of the 1980s, and we haven’t gone anywhere, so in that sense it did not. But prior to the attacks, the Congressional Budget Office projected that we’d see budget surpluses throughout the decade. We face a large deficit now, in large part, because of Bush’s decision to declare a “war” on terrorism—and to wage conventional wars against Afghanistan and Iraq—and then pass the first war-time tax cuts in the history of the Republic.
It would be a mistake to link the so-called “Arab Spring” directly to the decline of American influence in the Middle East, but it would be equally shortsighted to dismiss it as a contributing factor.

I would take the analysis a step further. The decision to go to “war” against a tactic also brought with it significant restrictions on our civil liberties; no longer could we credibly claim to be a beacon of freedom that the world ought to emulate.

Finally, we have to consider some geopolitics. University of Chicago scholar Robert Pape, one of the world’s foremost experts on suicide terrorism, argues that all such acts have a common goal: to induce Democracies to withdrawal from lands they occupy (either directly or by proxy). The decision to declare “war” on terrorism—and a couple of nation-states—led directly to the death and displacement of hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians, as well as the scandals surrounding Abu Ghraib, the CIA’s secret detention facilities, extraordinary renditions, Guantanamo Bay, and all the rest. And all of those things resulted in a very significant decline in the United States’ global prestige, and our ability to influence global events.

Since its founding, al Qaeda has had two big, fat targets aside from the United States: the Saudi and Egyptian governments. Ten years after 9/11, the regime of Hosni Mubarak is gone, and last week, the Wall Street Journal reported that Israeli officials were “urging Washington to make it clear that the U.S. would intervene in Saudi Arabia should the survival of that government be threatened.” It would be a mistake to link the so-called “Arab Spring” directly to the decline of American influence in the Middle East, but it would be equally shortsighted to dismiss it as a contributing factor.

Perhaps this argument gives bin Laden too much credit. But terrorism is ultimately a tactic used by marginal extremist groups against far more powerful enemies. Bin Laden couldn’t have known that we’d invade Iraq, but the idea that the United States under George W. Bush would react to acts of terror with acts of war against at least Afghanistan was not terribly difficult to predict. And the ruinous results of that reaction are apparent. We’re still around, and it’s likely that we have now killed or captured every single human being who was operationally involved in the attacks of 9/11, so perhaps it was a draw. But a superpower spending trillions to fight with a handful of terrorists to a draw may have been the best outcome for which bin Laden realistically could have hoped.

This is important to understand for one reason. As Daveed Gartenstein-Ross noted, “bin Laden’s strategic ideas for beating a superpower…have permeated his organization, and are widely shared by al Qaeda’s affiliates.” Osama bin Laden may be dead, but his ideology remains, and we continue to hemorrhage blood and treasure in a futile conflict into which the “terror mastermind” may well have drawn us. It’s time that we stop doing what international terrorists want us to do.

Copyright 2011 Joshua Holland ________________________________________________________________________

This essay originally appeared at AlterNet.Org.

Joshua Holland is an editor and senior writer at AlterNet. He is the author of The Fifteen Biggest Lies about the Economy: And Everything Else the Right Doesn’t Want You to Know about Taxes, Jobs, and Corporate America

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Guernica / Noam Chomsky: My Reaction to Osama bin Laden’s Death

Guernica / Noam Chomsky: My Reaction to Osama bin Laden’s Death

Noam Chomsky: My Reaction to Osama bin Laden’s Death
May 6, 2011

We might ask ourselves how we would be reacting if Iraqi commandos landed at George W. Bush’s compound, assassinated him, and dumped his body in the Atlantic.

By Noam Chomsky

It’s increasingly clear that the operation was a planned assassination, multiply violating elementary norms of international law. There appears to have been no attempt to apprehend the unarmed victim, as presumably could have been done by 80 commandos facing virtually no opposition—except, they claim, from his wife, who lunged towards them. In societies that profess some respect for law, suspects are apprehended and brought to fair trial. I stress “suspects.” In April 2002, the head of the FBI, Robert Mueller, informed the press that after the most intensive investigation in history, the FBI could say no more than that it “believed” that the plot was hatched in Afghanistan, though implemented in the UAE and Germany. What they only believed in April 2002, they obviously didn’t know 8 months earlier, when Washington dismissed tentative offers by the Taliban (how serious, we do not know, because they were instantly dismissed) to extradite bin Laden if they were presented with evidence—which, as we soon learned, Washington didn’t have. Thus Obama was simply lying when he said, in his White House statement, that “we quickly learned that the 9/11 attacks were carried out by al Qaeda.”

Nothing serious has been provided since. There is much talk of bin Laden’s “confession,” but that is rather like my confession that I won the Boston Marathon. He boasted of what he regarded as a great achievement.

There is also much media discussion of Washington’s anger that Pakistan didn’t turn over bin Laden, though surely elements of the military and security forces were aware of his presence in Abbottabad. Less is said about Pakistani anger that the U.S. invaded their territory to carry out a political assassination. Anti-American fervor is already very high in Pakistan, and these events are likely to exacerbate it. The decision to dump the body at sea is already, predictably, provoking both anger and skepticism in much of the Muslim world.

It’s like naming our murder weapons after victims of our crimes: Apache, Tomahawk… It’s as if the Luftwaffe were to call its fighter planes “Jew” and “Gypsy.”

We might ask ourselves how we would be reacting if Iraqi commandos landed at George W. Bush’s compound, assassinated him, and dumped his body in the Atlantic. Uncontroversially, his crimes vastly exceed bin Laden’s, and he is not a “suspect” but uncontroversially the “decider” who gave the orders to commit the “supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole” (quoting the Nuremberg Tribunal) for which Nazi criminals were hanged: the hundreds of thousands of deaths, millions of refugees, destruction of much of the country, the bitter sectarian conflict that has now spread to the rest of the region.

There’s more to say about [Cuban airline bomber Orlando] Bosch, who just died peacefully in Florida, including reference to the “Bush doctrine” that societies that harbor terrorists are as guilty as the terrorists themselves and should be treated accordingly. No one seemed to notice that Bush was calling for invasion and destruction of the U.S. and murder of its criminal president.

Same with the name, Operation Geronimo. The imperial mentality is so profound, throughout western society, that no one can perceive that they are glorifying bin Laden by identifying him with courageous resistance against genocidal invaders. It’s like naming our murder weapons after victims of our crimes: Apache, Tomahawk… It’s as if the Luftwaffe were to call its fighter planes “Jew” and “Gypsy.”

There is much more to say, but even the most obvious and elementary facts should provide us with a good deal to think about.

Copyright 2011 Noam Chomsky

Noam Chomsky is Institute Professor emeritus in the MIT Department of Linguistics and Philosophy. He is the author of numerous best-selling political works. His latest books are a new edition of Power and Terror, The Essential Chomsky (edited by Anthony Arnove), a collection of his writings on politics and on language from the 1950s to the present, Gaza in Crisis, with Ilan Pappé, and Hopes and Prospects, also available as an audiobook.

To read more blog entries from Noam Chomsky click HERE . Read Guernica’s interview with Noam Chomsky here.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Drug Laws, Prisons and the Economy

The U.S. imprisons more people per capita than any country on earth, accounting for 25 percent of the world’s prisoners, despite having just five percent of the world’s population.

America currently holds over two million in prisons with double that number under supervision of parole and probation, according to federal government figures.

Mass incarceration consumes over $50-billion annually across America – money far better spent on creating jobs and improving education.

Under federal law persons with drug convictions are permanently barred from receiving financial aid for education, food stamps, welfare and publicly funded housing.

Only drug convictions trigger these exclusions under federal law. Violent bank robbers, white-collar criminals like Wall Street scam artists who steal billions, and even murderers who’ve done their time do not face the post-release deprivations slapped on those with drug convictions on their records, including those imprisoned for simple possession, and not major drug sales.