Saturday, December 31, 2011


Blogger's Note: This article brings up to date the fact that subsequent to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report of February 2009 finding no evidence of an Iranian nuclear weapons program (see previous post), a new IAEA Director-General was appointed. This guy, Yakiya Amano, has been kissing up to the U.S. and Israeli factions that are dead set on fomenting an attack on Iran. The U.S. mainstream medea have concealed this fact from the American people. To his credit, Obama (and Leon Panetta) have "...slipped loopholes into the Senate’s anti-Iran legislation, to allow the President to waive Iranian sanctions if he deemed them a threat to national security or to the economy." However, I fear he will not be allowed to impead the Wall-Street and military-industrial-complex's determination to bring on Armageddon soon enough to disguise the global banks' causation of the inevitable global financial crisis it will appear to have triggered.

Original Here

Slip-Sliding to War with Iran
December 29, 2011

Exclusive: Having apparently learned nothing from the Iraq disaster, many of the same political/media players are reprising their tough-guy roles in a new drama regarding Iran. These retread performances may make another war, with Iran, hard to avoid, writes Robert Parry

By Robert Parry

With the typical backdrop of alarmist propaganda in place, the stage is now set for a new war, this time with Iran. The slightest miscalculation (or provocation) by the United States, Israel or Iran could touch off a violent scenario that will have devastating consequences.

Indeed, even if they want to, the various sides might have trouble backing down enough to defuse today’s explosive situation. After all, the Iranians continue to insist they have no intention of building a nuclear bomb, as much as Israeli and American officials insist that they are.

So, this prospective war with Iran – like the one in Iraq – is likely to come down to intelligence assessments on Iran’s intentions and capabilities. And, as with Iraq’s alleged WMD, the many loud voices claiming that Iran is on pace to build a nuclear bomb are drowning out the relatively few skeptics who think the evidence is thin to invisible.

For instance, the recent report from the International Atomic Energy Agency about Iran’s supposed progress toward a nuclear bomb was widely accepted as gospel truth without any discussion of whether the IAEA is an unbiased and reliable source.

In framing the story in support of the IAEA, the major U.S. newspapers and TV networks ignored documentary evidence that the IAEA’s new director-general was installed with the support of the United States and that he privately indicated to U.S. and Israeli officials that he would help advance their goals regarding Iran.

These facts could be found easily enough in WikiLeaks cables that the U.S. news media has had access to since 2010. Yet, the Big Media has ignored this side of the story, even as the IAEA report has been touted again and again as virtually a smoking gun against Iran.

This pattern of ignoring – or downplaying – evidence that runs counter to the prevailing narrative was a notable feature during the run-up to war with Iraq. It is now being repeated not just by the right-wing news media, but by the New York Times, the Washington Post, MSNBC and other centrist-to-left-leaning outlets. [Update: The IAEA report was cited again on Friday in another bellicose editorial in the Times.]

The IAEA Cables

Thus, very few Americans know that U.S. embassy cables from Vienna, Austria, the site of IAEA’s headquarters, revealed that the U.S. government in 2009 was celebrating its success in installing Japanese diplomat Yakiya Amano to replace Egyptian Mohamed ElBaradei, who famously had debunked some of President George W. Bush’s claims about Iraq’s supposed nuclear ambitions.

In a July 9, 2009, cable, American chargé Geoffrey Pyatt said Amano was thankful for U.S. support of his election. “Amano attributed his election to support from the U.S., Australia and France, and cited U.S. intervention with Argentina as particularly decisive,” the cable said.

The appreciative Amano informed Pyatt that as IAEA director-general, he would take a different “approach on Iran from that of ElBaradei” and he “saw his primary role as implementing safeguards and UNSC [United Nations Security Council]/Board resolutions,” i.e. U.S.-driven sanctions and demands against Iran.

Amano also vowed to restructure the IAEA’s senior ranks in ways favored by the United States. In return, Pyatt promised that “the United States would do everything possible to support his [Amano’s] successful tenure as Director General and, to that end, anticipated that continued U.S. voluntary contributions to the IAEA would be forthcoming.”

For his part, Amano stuck out his hand seeking more U.S. money, or as Pyatt put it, “Amano offered that a ‘reasonable increase’ in the regular budget would be helpful.”

Amano also rushed to meet with Israeli officials “immediately after his appointment,”  consulting with Israeli Ambassador Israel Michaeli and leaving Michaeli “fully confident of the priority Amano accords verification issues.” That was another indication Amano’s IAEA would take a hard line against Iran’s alleged nuclear ambitions while ignoring Israel’s undeclared nuclear arsenal.

Michaeli also revealed that Amano’s public remarks about “no evidence of Iran pursuing a nuclear weapons capability” were just for show, designed “to persuade those who did not support him about his ‘impartiality.’” In reality, Amano intended to be anything but impartial.

Amano agreed to private “consultations” with the head of the Israeli Atomic Energy Commission, Pyatt reported. The purpose was to hear Israel’s purported evidence about Iran continuing its work on a nuclear weapon, not to discuss Israel’s refusal to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty or to allow IAEA inspectors into Israeli nuclear sites.

In a subsequent cable dated Oct. 16, 2009, the U.S. mission in Vienna said Amano “took pains to emphasize his support for U.S. strategic objectives for the Agency. Amano reminded ambassador [Glyn Davies] on several occasions that … he [Amano] was solidly in the U.S. court on every key strategic decision, from high-level personnel appointments to the handling of Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program.”

Amano also continued to indicate that he needed to hide his true intentions. “More candidly, Amano noted the importance of maintaining a certain ‘constructive ambiguity’ about his plans, at least until he took over for DG ElBaradei in December” 2009, the cable said.

In other words, the emerging picture of Amano is of a bureaucrat eager to please the United States and Israel regarding Iran’s nuclear program. Wouldn’t that evidence be relevant for Americans deciding whether to trust the IAEA report? But the Big Media apparently felt that the American people shouldn’t know these facts whose disclosure has been limited to a few Internet sites.
[See’s “America’s Debt to Bradley Manning.”]

Similarly, the U.S. press corps is now reporting the dubious allegations about an Iranian assassination plot directed against the Saudi ambassador as flat fact, not as some hard-to-believe accusation comparable to Vice President Dick Cheney’s claims in 2002 that Iraqi officials had a hand in the 9/11 attacks. [See’s “Petraeus’s CIA Fuels Iran Murder Plot.”]

Dangerous Cascade

There is now a cascading of allegations regarding Iran, as there was with Iraq, with the momentum rushing toward war.

Just as with Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, the U.S. news media treats Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as a designated villain whose every word is cast as dangerous or crazy. Even left-of-center media personalities, like MSNBC’s Chris Matthews and Rachel Maddow, talk tough against Ahmadinejad, just as many “liberals” did regarding Hussein.

Also, as happened with Iraq – when harsher economic sanctions merged with a U.S. troop build-up, making an escalation toward war almost inevitable – tougher and tougher Western sanctions against Iran have pushed the various sides closer to war.

In November, Iranian anger at escalating sanctions and other hostile acts led to an assault on the British Embassy, which then prompted new European demands for a full-scale embargo of Iranian oil. As tensions have grown, the U.S. Senate tossed in its own hand-grenade, voting 100-0 in favor of hitting Iran with ever more stringent sanctions.

In turn, Iran has threatened to retaliate against the West’s economic warfare by blocking the Strait of Hormuz, through which one-fifth of the world’s oil flows, thus driving up oil prices and derailing the West’s already shaky economies. That threat has led to even more bellicose language from many U.S. political figures, especially the Republican presidential hopefuls who have denounced President Barack Obama for not being tougher on Iran.

With the exception of Rep. Ron Paul, virtually all the leading Republican contenders including Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich – have signaled a readiness to join Israel in a war against Iran. Romney has farmed out his foreign policy agenda to prominent neoconservatives, and Gingrich has gone so far as to suggest a full-scale U.S.-Israeli invasion of Iran to force “regime change.”

As the U.S. news media and politicians mostly reprise their performances on the Iraq invasion in regard to Iran, the principal obstacles to a new war appear to be President Obama and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. Both are said to privately oppose a war with Iran, which was not true of how President George W. Bush and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld felt about Iraq.

Though Obama and Panetta have talked tough about “all options on the table,” the Obama administration slipped loopholes into the Senate’s anti-Iran legislation, to allow the President to waive Iranian sanctions if he deemed them a threat to national security or to the economy.

One intelligence source told me that Obama is playing a delicate game in which he must placate hawkish anti-Iranian sentiments in Israel and on Capitol Hill while he continues to seek a broader Middle East security arrangement that would include Iran in the mix. On Wednesday, administration officials sought to tamp down alarmist anti-Iran reports in the U.S. press.

Still, whether Obama can head off a violent conflict with Iran remains to be seen. As the presidential election grows nearer – and the likely GOP’s nominee hammers at Obama as soft on Iran – a preemptive Israeli attack or a miscalculation by Iran could make war unavoidable.

For its part, the major U.S. news media has done its best, again, to line up the American people behind another war.

[For more on related topics, see Robert Parry’s Lost History, Secrecy & Privilege and Neck Deep, now available in a three-book set for the discount price of only $29. For details, click here.]
Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush, was written with two of his sons, Sam and Nat, and can be ordered at His two previous books, Secrecy & Privilege: The Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq and Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & ‘Project Truth’ are also available there.

Blogger's Note: I was keyed into this article by
Reader Supported News email subscription.

Friday, December 30, 2011


Blogger’s Remarks: The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has found no evidence that Iran is actively working towards developing a nuclear weapon, much less evidence that they are on the verge of completing one. While it is true that Iran is performing low enrichment of uranium suitable for use in nuclear reactors, the IAEA has been actively monitoring their facilities on site. In February of 2009 the IAEA “…reported that Iran continued to enrich uranium contrary to the decisions of the Security Council and had produced over a ton of low enriched uranium.” However, converting low enriched uranium to highly-enriched weapons grade requires many repeated enrichment cycles, an operation that would have been easily recognized by IAEA inspectors …unless some of the low enriched material had been taken to a separate location unknown to the inspectors. Indeed several “news reports” based of hearsay evidence released by U.S. authorities allege that Iran is close to developing a nuclear weapon. But in response to these allegations, “IAEA spokesman (sic) Melissa Fleming asserted that the IAEA had no reason at all to believe that the estimates of low-enriched uranium produced by Iran were an intentional error, and that no nuclear material could be removed from the facility for further enrichment to make nuclear weapons without the agency's knowledge since the facility is subject to video surveillance and the nuclear material is kept under seal.” [This information was extracted from Wikipedia, which provided the following reference: Iran cooperates after understating atom stocks-IAEA" by Mark Heinrich, Reuters Sun February 22, 2009]

Therefore, I am in serious disagreement with the assertion by Edwin Black in the following video that there is any great urgency to stifle Iran’s unproven (and no more than incipient) quest to develop a nuclear weapon. On the other hand, I’m in complete agreement with Black’s reasoning that Washington’s saber rattling in the Persian Gulf will lead to catastrophic consequences for most of the western world (especially the U.S. 5th Fleet!) the moment an all-out attack is launched. The case for war currently being hyped by the mainstream stream media proves that the U.S. government is either run by idiots …or more likely by the global banks, who may reason that a market-crashing event of this magnitude would obscure the fact that their unregulated derivatives trading (amounting to almost $1 QUADRILLION!!!) will be the true reason why the western world’s financial markets will crash in 2012. Treasonous BASTARDS!!! (Read this to understand why.)  They almost pulled this off in 2007 but were foiled by members of the military who gave their lives to prevent it: see here.

Original Here

‘US not ready for all-out conflict with Iran’

Published: 30 December, 2011, 00:10
Edited: 30 December, 2011, 11:42

AFP Photo / Adam Jan 

In the wake of Iran and the US threatening each other with navy might in the Persian Gulf, investigative writer Edwin Black says full military conflict would cripple the oil-dependent US – as well as the rest of the world.

After the International Atomic Energy Agency published a report on the Iranian nuclear program in November, Washington came up with fresh proposals to impose an embargo on Iranian oil. Iran responded with threats to block the Strait of Hormuz, the gateway for the Gulf countries’ crude exports to the rest of the world. With the two countries now showing off their naval capacities on either side of the strait, investigative writer Edwin Black tells RT that in embargos and sanctions Washington is seeking an alternative to a military strike.

America is indeed concerned that Iran may be on the fast track of developing nuclear weapons. But, Black says, the US government is unprepared for this conflict as this would mean Gulf oil supplies would be choked off.

They do not have a plan for an oil interruption. There is a 57-day supply of unrefined oil that can be stretched to about a hundred days,” he told RT.

Iran would not limit itself to merely blocking the Strait of Hormuz, remarks Black. In the event of an all-out conflict, Tehran could target Saudi Arabia’s oil facilities, such as the desulphurization plant at Ab Tak, which processes 70 per cent of Saudi oil, and the Ras Tanura terminal, a major oil port and oil operations center for Saudi Aramco, the world’s largest oil company.

If that is done, the world will be crippled,” he pointed out.

Saudi Arabia, which has declared it will increase oil exports if Iran shuts the Strait of Hormuz, would not fill in the black hole of the world’s oil demands, observes Edwin Black. The main oil transport routes include the same strait, which would cease to be available. Other transport options do not have enough capacity.

There is a backdoor pipeline in Yanbo which has a capacity of about 1-5 million barrels per day, but this cannot make up for the 70 million barrels a day. And the Yanbo pipeline can be bombed as easily as Ras Tanura,” says Black.

The outlook is indeed grim,” he concludes. Most of the world is petrol addicted with maybe Brazil only enjoying the option of using alternative sources of energy. But with the US determination not to let Iran have nuclear weapons, some kind of military conflict looks inevitable.

­'Iran and US playing lose-lose game'

Shirin Shafaie, from the School of Oriental and African Studies and Campaign against Sanctions and Military Intervention in Iran, says the crisis around Iran’s nuclear program requires an urgent diplomatic solution of mutual concessions.

This is a lose-lose situation,” Shafaie told RT. “Everybody is going to lose in that – except some military industrial complexes in the West. But if there is a diplomatic solution, we have a very good nuclear deal between Iran, Turkey and Brazil, which could be revived. On this deal, Iran could have most of its uranium, which is required for fuel rods, enriched abroad. President Obama supported the deal in his letter to the leaders of Brazil and Turkey in 2010.”

Watch RT's full interview with Shirin Shafaie

Thursday, December 29, 2011


Original Here

.                                                                                                                                                                                                .

The Big Lie

Dec 26, 2011 12:00 AM EST

By Michael Thomas

Wall Street has destroyed the wonder that was America.

Imagine a vast field on which a terrible battle has recently been fought, the bare ground cratered by fusillade after fusillade of heavy artillery, trees reduced to blackened stumps, wisps of toxic gas hanging in the gray, and corpses everywhere.

A terrible scene, made worse by the sound of distant laughter, because somehow, on the heights commanding the dead zone, the officers’ club has made it through intact. From its balconies flutter bunting, and across the blasted landscape there comes a chorus of hearty male voices in counterpoint to the wheedling of cadres of wheel-greasers, the click of betting chips, the orotund declamations of a visiting congressional delegation: in sum, the celebratory hullabaloo of a class of people that has sent entire nations off to perish but whose only concern right now is whether the ’11 is ready to drink and who’ll see to tipping the servants. The notion that there might be someone or some force out there getting ready to slouch toward the buttonwood tree to exact retribution scarcely ruffles the celebrants’ joy.

Ah, Wall Street. As it was in the beginning, is now, and hopes to God it ever will be, world without end. Amen.

Or so it seems to me. It was in May 1961 that a series of circumstances took me from the hushed precincts of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where I was working as a curatorial assistant in the European Paintings Department, to Lehman Brothers, to begin what for the next 30 years would be an involvement—I hesitate to call it “a career”—in investment banking. I would promote and execute deals, sit on boards, kiss ass, and lie through my teeth: the whole megillah. In consequence of which, I would wear Savile Row and carry a Hermès briefcase. I had Mme. Claude’s home number in Paris and I frequented the best clubs in a half-dozen cities. But I had a problem: I was unable to develop the anticommunitarian moral opacity that is the key to real success on Wall Street.

I had my doubts from the beginning. A few months after I started to work downtown, I ran into an old friend from college and before, a man later to become one of New York’s most esteemed writers and editors.
Faces of Occupy Wall Street
Nov. 17, 2011: OWS activists are arrested trying to shut down Wall Street., Julie Dermansky / Corbis
“So,” he asked, “how do you like what you’re doing now?”

“I like it quite a lot,” I said. And this was true: these were new frontiers for me, the pace was lively, the money was good enough ($6,500 a year), and there was so much to learn. But there was one aspect of Wall Street that I found morally confusing if not distasteful: “There’s one thing that bothers me, though. It’s this: on the one hand the New York Stock Exchange has sent its president, the estimable G. Keith Funston, out into the countryside, supported by an expensive, extensive advertising campaign, to exhort the proletariat to Own your share of America! As if buying 50 shares of IBM or GM in 1961 is as much of a civic duty as buying a $100 war bond in 1943.”

I then added, “But here’s the thing. At the same time as Funston’s out there doing his thing, if you ask any veteran Wall Street pro how the Street works, the first thing he’ll tell you is: The public is always wrong. Always.” I paused to let that sink in, then confessed, “I have to tell you, I have trouble squaring that circle.”

And that was back when Wall Street was basically honest, brought into line thanks in part to Ferdinand Pecora’s 1933 humiliation of the great bankers of the Jazz Age and even more so because of the communitarian exigencies forced on the nation by war. From Pearl Harbor to V-J Day, greed was definitely not good, and that proscriptive spirit lingered on right up to 1970, when everything started to change, and the traders began their long march through our great houses of finance, with the inevitable consequence that the Street’s moral bookkeeping grew more and more contorted, its corruptions more elaborate, its self-interest less and less governable. What someone has called the “Greed Wars” began.

But now, I think, the game is at long last over.

As 2011 slithers to its end, none of the major problems that led to the crisis point three years ago have really been solved. Bank balance sheets still reek. Europe day by day becomes a financial black hole, with matter from the periphery being sucked toward the center until the vortex itself collapses. The Street and its ministries of propaganda have fallen back on a Big Lie as old as capitalism itself: that all that has gone wrong has been government’s fault. This time, however, I don’t think the argument that “Washington ate my homework” is going to work. This time, a firestorm is going to explode about the Street’s head—and about time, too.

It’s funny; the Big Lie has a long pedigree. A year or so ago, I was leafing through Ron Chernow’s indispensable history of the Morgan financial interests, and found this interesting exchange between FDR and Russell Leffingwell, a Morgan partner and Washington fixer, a sort of Robert Strauss of his day. It dates from the summer of 1932, with FDR not yet in office:

“You and I know,” wrote Leffingwell, “that we cannot cure the present deflation and depression by punishing the villains, real or imaginary, of the first post war decade, and that when it comes down to the day of reckoning nobody gets very far with all this prohibition and regulation stuff.” To which FDR replied: “I wish we could get from the bankers themselves an admission that in the 1927 to 1929 period there were grave abuses and that the bankers themselves now support wholeheartedly methods to prevent recurrence thereof. Can’t bankers see their own advantage in such a course?” And then Leffingwell again: “The bankers were not in fact responsible for 1927–29 and the politicians were. Why then should the bankers make a false confession?”

This time, I fear, the public anger will not be deflected. Confessions, not false, will be exacted. Occupy Wall Street has set the snowball rolling; you may not think much of OWS—I have my own reservations, although none are philosophical or moral—but it has made America aware of a sinister, usurious process by which wealth has systematically been funneled into fewer and fewer hands. A process in which Washington played a useful supporting role, but no more than that.

Over the next year, I expect the “what” will give way to the “how” in the broad electorate’s comprehension of the financial situation. The 99 percent must learn to differentiate the bloodsuckers and rent-extractors from those in the 1 percent who make the world a better, more just place to live. Once people realize how Wall Street made its pile, understand how financiers get rich, what it is that they actually do, the time will become ripe for someone to gather the spreading ripples of anger and perplexity into a focused tsunami of retribution. To make the bastards pay, properly, for the grief and woe they have caused. Perhaps not to the extent proposed by H. L. Mencken, who wrote that when a bank fails, the first order of business should be to hang its board of directors, but in a manner in which the pain is proportionate to the collateral damage. Possibly an excess-profits tax retroactive to 2007, or some form of “Tobin tax” on transactions, or a wealth tax. The era of money for nothing will be over.

But it won’t just end with taxes. When the great day comes, Wall Street will pray for another Pecora, because compared with the rough beast now beginning to strain at the leash, Pecora will look like Phil Gramm. Humiliation and ridicule, even financial penalties, will be the least of the Street’s tribulations. There will be prosecutions and show trials. There will be violence, mark my words. Houses burnt, property defaced. I just hope that this time the mob targets the right people in Wall Street and in Washington. (How does a right-thinking Christian go about asking Santa for Mitch McConnell’s head under the Christmas tree?) There will be kleptocrats who threaten to take themselves elsewhere if their demands on jurisdictions and tax breaks aren’t met, and I say let ’em go!

At the end of the day, the convulsion to come won’t really be about Wall Street’s derivatives malefactions, or its subprime fun and games, or rogue trading, or the folly of banks. It will be about this society’s final opportunity to rip away the paralyzing shackles of corruption or else dwell forever in a neofeudal social order. You might say that 1384 has replaced 1984 as our worst-case scenario. I have lived what now, at 75, is starting to feel like a long life. If anyone asks me what has been the great American story of my lifetime, I have a ready answer. It is the corruption, money-based, that has settled like some all-enveloping excremental mist on the landscape of our hopes, that has permeated every nook of any institution or being that has real influence on the way we live now. Sixty years ago, if you had asked me, on the basis of all that I had been taught, whether I thought this condition of general rot was possible in this country, I would have told you that you were nuts. And I would have been very wrong. What has happened in this country has made a lie of my boyhood.

There should be more to America, Gore Vidal has written, than who pays tax to whom. It has been in Wall Street’s interest to shrivel our sensibilities as a nation, to shove aside the verities of which General MacArthur spoke at West Point—duty, honor, country—in favor of grubby schemes and scams and “carried interest” calculations. Time, I think, to take the country back.

This essay was published in Newsweek International's Special Edition, 'Issues 2012,' on sale from December 2011-February 2012.

Thomas is a frequent commentator on Wall Street and the author of Love and Money.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Occupy Rigged Elections: A Call for the Second American Revolution in 2012
Tuesday 27 December 2011

by: Victoria Collier and Ronnie Cummins, Truthout | Op-Ed

When candidates emerge who support the positions and demands of the 99 percent, the more certain we can be that our elections will be rigged.

A protester with the Occupy movement is
led away by law enforcement after interrupting
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie at a campaign
event for former Massachusetts Governor
Mitt Romney.
(Photo: Eric Thayer / The New York Times)
A great battle is coming. The 2012 elections are our chance to turn the tide back toward real democracy, but we must begin immediately. Only by organizing for a democratic revolution now can we break the hold of corporate criminals over our elections and take real power in 2012, legitimately and nonviolently.

Thanks to Occupy Wall Street and the 99 percent movement, millions of Americans are finally shaking off the depression and torpor of the past decade, heeding the mass-consciousness call to reclaim power from corporatist forces that have hijacked our country, our planet, and our future. We may not all have taken to the streets yet, but we will. Or we'll contribute in other creative, personally liberating ways, pitching in with prison-break fervor to unblock the channels of revolutionary energy.

Despite the jeering of the corporate media, the Occupy movement is not going to fade away, burn out or be crushed like the radical movements of the 60s and 70s. The Occupy movement is going to change the world, because the world itself has arrived at a momentous crossroads where change is inevitable. Occupy is part of an unstoppable transformation - the contractions of a new world desperate to be born, based on a renewal of community, tolerance, justice and deep respect for all life. A sane, resilient world capable of withstanding the ecological, climatic and economic upheavals we can no longer avoid.

Now is the time to prepare, in this newly awakened, prerevolutionary phase, for Occupy Elections 2012. Because the closer we get to democratically taking power - when candidates emerge who support the positions and demands of the 99 percent - the more certain we can be that our elections will be rigged.

Anarchists and many younger activists today reject representative democracy as unviable. They are rightly disgusted with the macabre, corporate-sponsored, electoral charade we endure every two years like a recurring nightmare. The Occupy movement has already birthed a powerful new form of roots-down direct democracy, where learning to communicate and really hearing each other is the first step toward rebuilding our shattered and alienated communities.

So, do elections matter anymore? Is representative democracy for the People even possible?

Wherever you are on the revolutionary road, whoever you are in your mind and soul, we ask you to please listen to the message we're conveying today, and consider how it impacts your activism in the coming year.

American elections are not going away any time soon. They are rigged, and we must end the rigging - for the sake of our planet and its 7 billion people, entwined in complex technological and social systems that do require some form of representative government to function.
Our electoral process is rigged in the following ways:
The battle to topple the corporatocracy must strategically attack all of these points. But for the purpose of this call to action - Occupy Rigged Elections - we're going to focus on the last, least understood bullet point: computerized election fraud.

In the end, how ballots are counted - the central control mechanism of democracy - could prove the easiest piece to reclaim; our first real step toward radically shifting power back toward the people.

Computerized Vote Rigging Is a Democratic Cancer

Undiagnosed, spreading through our nation's bones, centralized election rigging has been undermining the health of our democracy for decades, eating away at it from within, leaving us exhausted and hopeless - though unsure of why we're so sick.

But let's get something clear up front: not every election is rigged, so don't be confused by the few decent people who managed to get into office and stay there. First, ask yourself this question: Have they stopped the corporatist takeover? The answer is no.

Pay attention to the balance of power; watch it tipping ever further toward the corporatist/fascist side of the scale. Meanwhile, the spectacle of democracy maintains a pacified public. In other words, they will let some of "our" people in, or let some of our initiatives pass, while they keep winning more power, overall. Additionally - not all elections are easy to rig, and some have far higher stakes. But there is one constant in the equation:

Every election can be rigged. Undetectably.

If this is news to you, hang on to your hat. Once you understand how the machinery of the American voting system actually works, you're going to feel a little stunned, as if you came home from a three month vacation to discover you left your keys hanging in the front door.

Over the past 40 years - since computers first came online for use in processing and reporting votes - our secretaries of state and election supervisors have literally sold our democratic system to a small criminal cadre of extreme right-wing and religious ideologues who lurk behind shady voting machine companies. The top three are Diebold (purchased by ES&S in 2009), ES&S, and Sequoia Pacific (purchased by Dominion). They manufactured the majority of voting machines and software that secretly count our ballots.

Read it again. Let it sink in.

Yes, it's insane. For this reason alone, we have every reason to have lost faith in electoral democracy, but as you can see, we need to understand why it is failing. We need to know whose big, fat, dirty thumb is on the scale. We need to know how we lost our power before we can hope to reclaim it.

Hand-Counted Paper Ballots NOW!

This is the organic solution. Properly designed, cast in see-through plastic boxes, counted by hand, in public, on election day, with a stringent set of safeguards and a vigilant public  - paper ballots can deliver fast results and provide a fully transparent and accountable voting system. Attempted fraud can be detected and prevented. Conversely, computerized election theft is accomplished secretly, within the "proprietary" software owned by the corporations who manufacture the machines.

Did you know that no one - not even an election supervisor - is allowed to view the software?

Did you know that the Vulnerability Assessment Team (VAT) at the US Department of Energy's (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois just hacked a Diebold Accuvote touch-screen voting machine by remote control with $26 in computer parts?

We know these things because a small group of American election integrity activists have been working tirelessly, without much recognition or compensation, to compile a mountain of evidence:
  • Detailing the criminal histories and the partisan and extremist ties of the voting machine manufacturers
  • Demonstrating how the machines can be rigged and hacked
  • Exposing Department of Justice (DOJ) coverups of election fraud evidence
  • Exposing the roll of the corporate media in aiding and abetting election fraud
See the resource list at the end of this article to learn more. Get informed. Take action, and please help us fight back – WE NEED YOU.

Democracy is our birthright, but it has never been fully realized. We've had to fight and die for the right to fight and die for it. It's a dream, a shared vision, a work in progress that has been derailed. Though some activists idealize earlier times - pre-industrial, communal, tribal - we can't go backwards, only forward. What do we want today? Tomorrow? What do we want for ourselves and our children?

We want our damn democracy back.

We want the chance to make it real for the first time, with our own candidates who truly represent the needs of the people, and with a safe voting system accountable to the people.

Help us organize to secure hand-counted paper ballots before the 2012 elections. This is something we can do, if we start now. The stakes of those elections could not be higher.

Join Occupy Rigged Elections on Facebook, started by activists responsible for the historic occupation of the Statehouse in Madison, Wisconsin. They are organizing now to recall Koch-brother puppet Gov. Scott Walker in 2012.

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Victoria Collier

Victoria Collier is the daughter and niece of James and Kenneth Collier, authors of the book "Votescam: The Stealing of America." She is the editor of

Ronnie Cummins

Ronnie Cummins is the national director of the Organic Consumers Association, campaigning on behalf of its 1 million members for food safety, public health and corporate accountability.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011


Original Here

The Book of Jobs

Forget monetary policy. Re-examining the cause of the Great Depression—the revolution in agriculture that threw millions out of work—the author argues that the U.S. is now facing and must manage a similar shift in the “real” economy, from industry to service, or risk a tragic replay of 80 years ago.

The banks got their bailout. Some of the money went to bonuses. Little of it went to lending. And the economy didn’t really recover—output is barely greater than it was before the crisis, and the job situation is bleak. The diagnosis of our condition and the prescription that followed from it were incorrect. First, it was wrong to think that the bankers would mend their ways—that they would start to lend, if only they were treated nicely enough. We were told, in effect: “Don’t put conditions on the banks to require them to restructure the mortgages or to behave more honestly in their foreclosures. Don’t force them to use the money to lend. Such conditions will upset our delicate markets.” In the end, bank managers looked out for themselves and did what they are accustomed to doing.

Even when we fully repair the banking system, we’ll still be in deep trouble—because we were already in deep trouble. That seeming golden age of 2007 was far from a paradise. Yes, America had many things about which it could be proud. Companies in the information-technology field were at the leading edge of a revolution. But incomes for most working Americans still hadn’t returned to their levels prior to the previous recession. The American standard of living was sustained only by rising debt—debt so large that the U.S. savings rate had dropped to near zero. And “zero” doesn’t really tell the story. Because the rich have always been able to save a significant percentage of their income, putting them in the positive column, an average rate of close to zero means that everyone else must be in negative numbers. (Here’s the reality: in the years leading up to the recession, according to research done by my Columbia University colleague Bruce Greenwald, the bottom 80 percent of the American population had been spending around 110 percent of its income.) What made this level of indebtedness possible was the housing bubble, which Alan Greenspan and then Ben Bernanke, chairmen of the Federal Reserve Board, helped to engineer through low interest rates and nonregulation—not even using the regulatory tools they had. As we now know, this enabled banks to lend and households to borrow on the basis of assets whose value was determined in part by mass delusion.

The fact is the economy in the years before the current crisis was fundamentally weak, with the bubble, and the unsustainable consumption to which it gave rise, acting as life support. Without these, unemployment would have been high. It was absurd to think that fixing the banking system could by itself restore the economy to health. Bringing the economy back to “where it was” does nothing to address the underlying problems.

The trauma we’re experiencing right now resembles the trauma we experienced 80 years ago, during the Great Depression, and it has been brought on by an analogous set of circumstances. Then, as now, we faced a breakdown of the banking system. But then, as now, the breakdown of the banking system was in part a consequence of deeper problems. Even if we correctly respond to the trauma—the failures of the financial sector—it will take a decade or more to achieve full recovery. Under the best of conditions, we will endure a Long Slump. If we respond incorrectly, as we have been, the Long Slump will last even longer, and the parallel with the Depression will take on a tragic new dimension.

Until now, the Depression was the last time in American history that unemployment exceeded 8 percent four years after the onset of recession. And never in the last 60 years has economic output been barely greater, four years after a recession, than it was before the recession started. The percentage of the civilian population at work has fallen by twice as much as in any post-World War II downturn. Not surprisingly, economists have begun to reflect on the similarities and differences between our Long Slump and the Great Depression. Extracting the right lessons is not easy.

any have argued that the Depression was caused primarily by excessive tightening of the money supply on the part of the Federal Reserve Board. Ben Bernanke, a scholar of the Depression, has stated publicly that this was the lesson he took away, and the reason he opened the monetary spigots. He opened them very wide. Beginning in 2008, the balance sheet of the Fed doubled and then rose to three times its earlier level. Today it is $2.8 trillion. While the Fed, by doing this, may have succeeded in saving the banks, it didn’t succeed in saving the economy.

Reality has not only discredited the Fed but also raised questions about one of the conventional interpretations of the origins of the Depression. The argument has been made that the Fed caused the Depression by tightening money, and if only the Fed back then had increased the money supply—in other words, had done what the Fed has done today—a full-blown Depression would likely have been averted. In economics, it’s difficult to test hypotheses with controlled experiments of the kind the hard sciences can conduct. But the inability of the monetary expansion to counteract this current recession should forever lay to rest the idea that monetary policy was the prime culprit in the 1930s. The problem today, as it was then, is something else. The problem today is the so-called real economy. It’s a problem rooted in the kinds of jobs we have, the kind we need, and the kind we’re losing, and rooted as well in the kind of workers we want and the kind we don’t know what to do with. The real economy has been in a state of wrenching transition for decades, and its dislocations have never been squarely faced. A crisis of the real economy lies behind the Long Slump, just as it lay behind the Great Depression.

For the past several years, Bruce Greenwald and I have been engaged in research on an alternative theory of the Depression—and an alternative analysis of what is ailing the economy today. This explanation sees the financial crisis of the 1930s as a consequence not so much of a financial implosion but of the economy’s underlying weakness. The breakdown of the banking system didn’t culminate until 1933, long after the Depression began and long after unemployment had started to soar. By 1931 unemployment was already around 16 percent, and it reached 23 percent in 1932. Shantytown “Hoovervilles” were springing up everywhere. The underlying cause was a structural change in the real economy: the widespread decline in agricultural prices and incomes, caused by what is ordinarily a “good thing”—greater productivity.

t the beginning of the Depression, more than a fifth of all Americans worked on farms. Between 1929 and 1932, these people saw their incomes cut by somewhere between one-third and two-thirds, compounding problems that farmers had faced for years. Agriculture had been a victim of its own success. In 1900, it took a large portion of the U.S. population to produce enough food for the country as a whole. Then came a revolution in agriculture that would gain pace throughout the century—better seeds, better fertilizer, better farming practices, along with widespread mechanization. Today, 2 percent of Americans produce more food than we can consume.

What this transition meant, however, is that jobs and livelihoods on the farm were being destroyed. Because of accelerating productivity, output was increasing faster than demand, and prices fell sharply. It was this, more than anything else, that led to rapidly declining incomes. Farmers then (like workers now) borrowed heavily to sustain living standards and production. Because neither the farmers nor their bankers anticipated the steepness of the price declines, a credit crunch quickly ensued. Farmers simply couldn’t pay back what they owed. The financial sector was swept into the vortex of declining farm incomes.

The cities weren’t spared—far from it. As rural incomes fell, farmers had less and less money to buy goods produced in factories. Manufacturers had to lay off workers, which further diminished demand for agricultural produce, driving down prices even more. Before long, this vicious circle affected the entire national economy.

The value of assets (such as homes) often declines when incomes do. Farmers got trapped in their declining sector and in their depressed locales. Diminished income and wealth made migration to the cities more difficult; high urban unemployment made migration less attractive. Throughout the 1930s, in spite of the massive drop in farm income, there was little overall out-migration. Meanwhile, the farmers continued to produce, sometimes working even harder to make up for lower prices. Individually, that made sense; collectively, it didn’t, as any increased output kept forcing prices down.

Given the magnitude of the decline in farm income, it’s no wonder that the New Deal itself could not bring the country out of crisis. The programs were too small, and many were soon abandoned. By 1937, F.D.R., giving way to the deficit hawks, had cut back on stimulus efforts—a disastrous error. Meanwhile, hard-pressed states and localities were being forced to let employees go, just as they are now. The banking crisis undoubtedly compounded all these problems, and extended and deepened the downturn. But any analysis of financial disruption has to begin with what started off the chain reaction.

The Agriculture Adjustment Act, F.D.R.’s farm program, which was designed to raise prices by cutting back on production, may have eased the situation somewhat, at the margins. But it was not until government spending soared in preparation for global war that America started to emerge from the Depression. It is important to grasp this simple truth: it was government spending—a Keynesian stimulus, not any correction of monetary policy or any revival of the banking system—that brought about recovery. The long-run prospects for the economy would, of course, have been even better if more of the money had been spent on investments in education, technology, and infrastructure rather than munitions, but even so, the strong public spending more than offset the weaknesses in private spending.

Government spending unintentionally solved the economy’s underlying problem: it completed a necessary structural transformation, moving America, and especially the South, decisively from agriculture to manufacturing. Americans tend to be allergic to terms like “industrial policy,” but that’s what war spending was—a policy that permanently changed the nature of the economy. Massive job creation in the urban sector—in manufacturing—succeeded in moving people out of farming. The supply of food and the demand for it came into balance again: farm prices started to rise. The new migrants to the cities got training in urban life and factory skills, and after the war the G.I. Bill ensured that returning veterans would be equipped to thrive in a modern industrial society. Meanwhile, the vast pool of labor trapped on farms had all but disappeared. The process had been long and very painful, but the source of economic distress was gone.

he parallels between the story of the origin of the Great Depression and that of our Long Slump are strong. Back then we were moving from agriculture to manufacturing. Today we are moving from manufacturing to a service economy. The decline in manufacturing jobs has been dramatic—from about a third of the workforce 60 years ago to less than a tenth of it today. The pace has quickened markedly during the past decade. There are two reasons for the decline. One is greater productivity—the same dynamic that revolutionized agriculture and forced a majority of American farmers to look for work elsewhere. The other is globalization, which has sent millions of jobs overseas, to low-wage countries or those that have been investing more in infrastructure or technology. (As Greenwald has pointed out, most of the job loss in the 1990s was related to productivity increases, not to globalization.) Whatever the specific cause, the inevitable result is precisely the same as it was 80 years ago: a decline in income and jobs. The millions of jobless former factory workers once employed in cities such as Youngstown and Birmingham and Gary and Detroit are the modern-day equivalent of the Depression’s doomed farmers.

The consequences for consumer spending, and for the fundamental health of the economy—not to mention the appalling human cost—are obvious, though we were able to ignore them for a while. For a time, the bubbles in the housing and lending markets concealed the problem by creating artificial demand, which in turn created jobs in the financial sector and in construction and elsewhere. The bubble even made workers forget that their incomes were declining. They savored the possibility of wealth beyond their dreams, as the value of their houses soared and the value of their pensions, invested in the stock market, seemed to be doing likewise. But the jobs were temporary, fueled on vapor.

Mainstream macro-economists argue that the true bogeyman in a downturn is not falling wages but rigid wages—if only wages were more flexible (that is, lower), downturns would correct themselves! But this wasn’t true during the Depression, and it isn’t true now. On the contrary, lower wages and incomes would simply reduce demand, weakening the economy further.

Of four major service sectors—finance, real estate, health, and education—the first two were bloated before the current crisis set in. The other two, health and education, have traditionally received heavy government support. But government austerity at every level—that is, the slashing of budgets in the face of recession—has hit education especially hard, just as it has decimated the government sector as a whole. Nearly 700,000 state- and local-government jobs have disappeared during the past four years, mirroring what happened in the Depression. As in 1937, deficit hawks today call for balanced budgets and more and more cutbacks. Instead of pushing forward a structural transition that is inevitable—instead of investing in the right kinds of human capital, technology, and infrastructure, which will eventually pull us where we need to be—the government is holding back. Current strategies can have only one outcome: they will ensure that the Long Slump will be longer and deeper than it ever needed to be.

wo conclusions can be drawn from this brief history. The first is that the economy will not bounce back on its own, at least not in a time frame that matters to ordinary people. Yes, all those foreclosed homes will eventually find someone to live in them, or be torn down. Prices will at some point stabilize and even start to rise. Americans will also adjust to a lower standard of living—not just living within their means but living beneath their means as they struggle to pay off a mountain of debt. But the damage will be enormous. America’s conception of itself as a land of opportunity is already badly eroded. Unemployed young people are alienated. It will be harder and harder to get some large proportion of them onto a productive track. They will be scarred for life by what is happening today. Drive through the industrial river valleys of the Midwest or the small towns of the Plains or the factory hubs of the South, and you will see a picture of irreversible decay.

Monetary policy is not going to help us out of this mess. Ben Bernanke has, belatedly, admitted as much. The Fed played an important role in creating the current conditions—by encouraging the bubble that led to unsustainable consumption—but there is now little it can do to mitigate the consequences. I can understand that its members may feel some degree of guilt. But anyone who believes that monetary policy is going to resuscitate the economy will be sorely disappointed. That idea is a distraction, and a dangerous one.

What we need to do instead is embark on a massive investment program—as we did, virtually by accident, 80 years ago—that will increase our productivity for years to come, and will also increase employment now. This public investment, and the resultant restoration in G.D.P., increases the returns to private investment. Public investments could be directed at improving the quality of life and real productivity—unlike the private-sector investments in financial innovations, which turned out to be more akin to financial weapons of mass destruction.

Can we actually bring ourselves to do this, in the absence of mobilization for global war? Maybe not. The good news (in a sense) is that the United States has under-invested in infrastructure, technology, and education for decades, so the return on additional investment is high, while the cost of capital is at an unprecedented low. If we borrow today to finance high-return investments, our debt-to-G.D.P. ratio—the usual measure of debt sustainability—will be markedly improved. If we simultaneously increased taxes—for instance, on the top 1 percent of all households, measured by income—our debt sustainability would be improved even more.

The private sector by itself won’t, and can’t, undertake structural transformation of the magnitude needed—even if the Fed were to keep interest rates at zero for years to come. The only way it will happen is through a government stimulus designed not to preserve the old economy but to focus instead on creating a new one. We have to transition out of manufacturing and into services that people want—into productive activities that increase living standards, not those that increase risk and inequality. To that end, there are many high-return investments we can make. Education is a crucial one—a highly educated population is a fundamental driver of economic growth. Support is needed for basic research. Government investment in earlier decades—for instance, to develop the Internet and biotechnology—helped fuel economic growth. Without investment in basic research, what will fuel the next spurt of innovation? Meanwhile, the states could certainly use federal help in closing budget shortfalls. Long-term economic growth at our current rates of resource consumption is impossible, so funding research, skilled technicians, and initiatives for cleaner and more efficient energy production will not only help us out of the recession but also build a robust economy for decades. Finally, our decaying infrastructure, from roads and railroads to levees and power plants, is a prime target for profitable investment.

The second conclusion is this: If we expect to maintain any semblance of “normality,” we must fix the financial system. As noted, the implosion of the financial sector may not have been the underlying cause of our current crisis—but it has made it worse, and it’s an obstacle to long-term recovery. Small and medium-size companies, especially new ones, are disproportionately the source of job creation in any economy, and they have been especially hard-hit. What’s needed is to get banks out of the dangerous business of speculating and back into the boring business of lending. But we have not fixed the financial system. Rather, we have poured money into the banks, without restrictions, without conditions, and without a vision of the kind of banking system we want and need. We have, in a phrase, confused ends with means. A banking system is supposed to serve society, not the other way around.

That we should tolerate such a confusion of ends and means says something deeply disturbing about where our economy and our society have been heading. Americans in general are coming to understand what has happened. Protesters around the country, galvanized by the Occupy Wall Street movement, already know.

Joseph Stiglitz autobiography (provided by blogger)

Saturday, December 24, 2011


Original Here

THURSDAY DEC 22, 2011 8:14 am
When Democracy Becomes Disposable

Benton Harbor Emergency Manager Joseph
Harris speaks at the MLGMA Summer
Conference 2011, held on July 28 in St.
Joseph, Mich., a town next door to Benton
Harbor.   (Photo courtesy Michigan
Municipal League/Flickr
The Laboratory for Our Future is the ominous subtitle of Charles Bowden's haunting 1998 book about Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.

The seedy but highly profitable laboratory revealed by Bowden, also author of the harrowing book Murder City about narco wars in Juarez, brings together the 19th-century model of sweatshop labor with 21st-century technology to generate maximum earnings for the U.S.-owned firms while offering minimal pay under NAFTA's protections.

In 1999, for example, GE CEO Jack Welch collected $92 million in compensation, more than his 15,000 Mexican workers combined. U.S.-based corporations pay no taxes and only minimal annual fees in Juarez, so the vast majority of social costs are borne by the citizenry. As former Juarez Mayor Gustavo Elizondo explains, "We have no way to provide water, sewage, and sanitation works. Every year we get poorer and poorer even though we create more and more wealth."

But at the opposite end of the globalization process from Juarez, there's another laboratory conducting a related experiment : Benton Harbor, Mich., which once hosted jobs that have moved to places like Juarez. Like the workers in Juarez, impoverished residents of Benton Harbor—which is 92 percent African-American—have been stripped of democratic rights.

In Juarez, the prevalence of fraudulent political elections stolen and brutal repression have deprived the mostly female "maquiladora" workforce in assembly plants of any meaningful voice in either their workplaces or society.

In Benton Harbor, a unionized manufacturing workforce has been cast aside and the presence of nearly 10,000 overwhelmingly poor and black people are a potential obstacle to corporations like Whirlpool implementing a plan for redeveloping the area. Benton Harborites, too, have been rendered utterly powerless.

Thanks to Public Act 4, promoted by a Whirlpool ally and signed by GOP Gov. Rick Snyder, Benton Harbor Emergency Manager Joe Harris gained expanded powers to override decisions made by the democratically elected City Council and School Board. He literally expelled the elected mayor from his own office. Harris and other managers can also negate union contracts and other city agreements.

Gov. Snyder seems to believe that a state takeover of cities is more essential to their health than providing actual financial aid, which has been reserved for Michigan corporations in the form of $1.7 billion in tax cuts. Meanwhile, in part because of state budget cuts, Harris plans to raise water rates by about 40 percent even though 20 percent of the city's residents can't or won't pay city fees.

The Whirlpool Corp., headquartered in Benton Harbor, is playing a huge role in re-shaping the city, specifically in two major projects:
  • A heavily taxpayer "incentivized" new corporate campus for 4,000 professionals, as Whirlpool began off-shoring jobs in the 1980s (its Fort Smith Ark. plant is being relocated to Mexico)
  • A 530-acre Harbor Shores development including a Jack Nicolaus-designed golf course, high-end shopping, and condominiums. Whirlpool is also busy promoting an "Arts District" that attracts many affluent whites but few local black residents.
Whirlpool's role is not universally praised, as the New York Times Magazine' Jonathan Mahler reports in his December 18 cover story:
To skeptics of the redevelopment of Benton Harbor, Whirlpool looks less like a good corporate citizen than another company manipulating the system, leveraging its power to maximize its tax breaks and taking advantage of the town's access to federal and state grant money. (It's worth noting that Whirlpool hasn't paid any federal corporate income taxes in the United States for the last three years, partly, the company says, because of losses due to the recession.)
But the recession explanation covers only a small part of Whirlpool's tax picture, according to Matt Gardner, executive director of the Washington, DC-based Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy. Losses in recent years of economic troubles in the U.S. have been offset by foreign profits.

Further, in 2007, Whirlpool reported U.S. profits of $103 million, but earned an additional $701 million abroad that will not be taxed until Whirlpool brings the money back into the United States. Moreover, Whirlpool got a federal tax rebate of $28 million that year. In 2006, $231 million in U.S. earnings were topped off by another $388 million in foreign profits.

Whirlpool's central role in the town and redevelopment plans has led many Benton Harbor residents to feel that the corporation views them as distinctly disposable and mainly a barrier to their plans. As Mahler summarizes,
It's being converted into a resort town for wealthy weekenders and Whirlpool employees that, when all is said and done, its struggling black population will either be driven out by the development or reduced to low-wage jobs cleaning hotel rooms, carrying golf bags or cutting grass.
Mahler observes,
The juxtaposition of Benton Harbor's impoverished population and its two rising monuments to wealth -- all wedged into a little more than four square miles -- make it almost a caricature of economic disparity in America.

But at the same time, it offers a window into one possible future for towns across the country, places that can no longer support their own economies or take care of their citizens and may ultimately have no choice but to turn their fate over to private industry and nonprofits. The way things are going, more and more states may start to look like Michigan, and more and more towns may start to look like Benton Harbor.
The Benton Harbor scenario is actually a familiar one for other de-industrialized cities wracked by massive industrial job loss or poor cities wrecked by natural disasters. As Hurricane Katrina tore off roofs and exposed the destroyed interiors of homes, it also peeled back the genteel veneer of elite opinion about New Orleans revealing that many top corporate and political figures viewed the majority of its residents to be essentially irrelevant, if not an outright impediment, to the restructuring of the city's devastated economy.

The flight of the city's poorest citizens was viewed openly as a chance for a fresh start. It not only removed a substantial part of the Big Easy's poor, black population for whom the city's economic leaders no longer saw as their responsibility to provide employment, but it also severely diminished their voting power and ability to have a role in determining how the city would be rebuilt.

The Arts District formula being applied to Benton Harbor has also been tried out in my hometown of Racine, Wis., a factory town of 80,000 hollowed out by the loss of well over 40 percent of its manufacturing base since 1980.

The solution: replacing more than 13,000 mostly unionized factory jobs with a new art museum and a cluster of art galleries and crafts shops. New York Times reporter Robert Sharoff fully bought into this re-invented Racine, a vision seemingly derived from the work of neo-liberal urbanist Richard Florida:
This formerly gritty industrial city roughly 70 miles north of Chicago and 30 miles south of Milwaukee on the shores of Lake Michigan has been trying for much of the last decade to reinvent itself as an artistÕs colony and tourist destination. The efforts have included the opening of the $11 million Racine Art Museum on Main Street in 2003 and the creation of a gallery district centering on nearby Sixth Street.
This stunning premise that the museum and 12 art galleries could significantly fill in the economic Grand Canyon left by the destruction of 13,000 family-supporting factory jobs reflects the same mentality that can view the Harbor Shores development as a path to prosperity for Benton Harbor's impoverished African-American population.

Despite Mahler's moving and insightful description of a de-industrialized city being re-shaped by those who destroyed the economic base, with the victims being deprived of any voice, he fails to point out several fundamental features:
  •  Those harmed most by past corporate decisions are treated as disposable people standing in the way of corporate-defined reconstruction.
  • Democracy and public participation are early victims to this process.
  •  With corporate elites having shrunken government's public-interest role in planning and economic development, major "job-creation projects" must be shaped around generating profit with the needs of the majority a negligible concern.
But despite all the rhetoric about corporations rushing to the rescue of troubled cities--whether New Orleans, Benton Harbor, or Racine—massive public subsidies to CEOs advocating "free enterprise" are an essential element.

It's a formula for private benefit with public funding, for a distorted form of "development" devoid of democracy or public benefit.