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Upstairs Downstairs: The new American class-system economy

By: Jane Stillwater Tuesday January 27, 2015 10:36 am
     This has been a busy month for me, including helping my daughter prepare for the birth of my next granddaughter, getting a bunch of surgical procedures out of the way so I can be bionic by the time I become our new arrival’s caregiver after her new mum goes back to work, worrying about the role of the CIA in creating radical “Islam,” and still struggling through Thomas Piketty’s 600-page book on modern economics. http://endoftheamericandream.com/archives/is-barack-obama-actually-trying-to-help-isis-take-over-syria  And the more that I read in “Capital for the 21st Century,” the angrier I get.

According to Piketty, Europe and America have traditionally been divided into two basic classes for a long long long time:  The “haves” and the “have-nots”.  Traditionally, the “haves” have owned the capital (most of it inherited) and the “have-nots” have provided the labor.  For many past centuries, it had been pretty much upstairs and downstairs in Western economies, just like on TV.  http://www.dailykos.com/story/2015/01/23/1359684/-Billionaire-At-Davos-Lectures-Americans-On-Their-Lifestyle-Expectations?detail=email

     But then two world wars came along and totally shook up these two formerly set-in-stone class lines, creating a unique glitch in time wherein a new large middle class was suddenly born — in both Europe and America.

According to Piketty, this was an almost-unique experience in Western economic history — where the wealthy were taken down a notch and the poor were elevated up.  However, this “accidental equality” was too good to be true for long, and the wealthy classes fought back and the dream died — and so here we are, back again, deja vu, once more playing at “Upstairs Downstairs” like our ancestors have all done since even before the fall of Rome.  Sigh.

     Dontcha just wish that Piketty is wrong about the recent disappearance of the new middle class?  But unfortunately he’s not.
     And here in America, those of us who grew up being middle-class and who liked being relatively free of money worries are now suddenly appalled at this sudden change in our status from “Almost Upstairs” to “Definitely “Downstairs” because, silly us, we hadn’t realized that our relative economic freedom was only just a temporary economic glitch.

I myself can remember when I used to only have to work weekends and summers in the post office in order to make enough money to put myself through graduate school at Cal — and with no student loans.  And before that, back in the early 1960s, I lived in New York City for two whole years with only an occasional part-time job for income.  Those days are totally long gone!

But, even more important, what is the average American today doing in response to this tragic new economic turn of events as he or she watches his or her financial status erode from home ownership to unemployment or worse?  Do we protest?  Demand justice?  Seek redress?  Try to end corporate corruption?  React logically to this dreadful new “Upstairs Downstairs” situation?

Hell no.

Most Americans today do the unthinkable instead.  He or she sides with the wealthy, sides with the bankers, sides with the weapons manufacturers, sides with Wall Street and War Street and sides with the top 1%.  http://www.defensenews.com/story/defense/land/army/2015/01/21/ukraine-us-army-russia/22119315/

      Almost no one in America today (except for me of course) has started pointing his or her finger at the wealthy who have just stolen all of our stuff.  No, he or she is too busy pointing his or her finger at his or her neighbors instead — or at those poor unfortunate souls who are lower down on the economic and social totem pole than him (or her).  It’s like the butler getting yelled at by his greedy-bastard master and then the butler taking it out on the scullery maid and kicking her backside good — instead to telling the greedy-bastard master where to shove it instead.
     Excuse me for having to state the obvious here, but it is the backsides of the inappropriately wealthy that we all should be kicking right now; the insanely wealthy billionaires who are stealing our jobs — and our souls.

So what can we do about it now, in order to get back to the economic Eden that was just stolen from us by a handful of greedy rich dudes?  This is what all patriotic Americans should be asking ourselves right now.  First, we could raise tax rates on the wealthy to match ours — so that they can give at least a little back to the country that has given them so much in the first place.  That would be a good start.

Then we could refuse to vote for anyone who represents banksters, weapons manufacturers, feudal-lord wannabees, billionaires or jerks.  We could actually do that.  All it would involve would be doing a little research on electoral candidates’ funding and priorities, plus using a little anger finally being directed appropriately.  And making sure that every American votes.  How hard could that be?

PS:   And speaking of childbirth, according to Women’s Weekly E-News, “The United States ranks 60th in the world when it comes to maternal mortality, according to a 2014 report by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, below almost every other developed nation.  And the U.S. infant mortality rate is higher than most other developed nations, according to the CDC.” http://womensenews.org/story/momagenda/150122/i-liked-my-epidural-i-read-report

This means that being preggers here in America is much more risky than in sixty other developed countries.  In America today, it really sucks eggs to be a woman of childbearing age.  How “Upstairs Downstairs” is that!  So if you want to become pregnant (or not become preggers at all for that matter), it would be best to move to Iceland or Singapore or Estonia immediately.

PPS:  Europe is also having an “Upstairs Downstairs” moment right now for a different reason; because unemployed refugees from the Middle East are swarming into the EU by the millions and lowering wage prices there a lot — as a clear result of having allowed the US, the UN, the UK and NATO (an alphabet soup that always spells trouble wherever it is served) to kick that particular Middle Eastern hornets’ nest again and again and again.

And now, Europe, you need to get ready for a whole new swarm of unemployed “Downstairs” immigrants about to descend on you from Ukraine too, because the US, UN, UK and NATO alphabet soup has also been kicking the hell out of Kiev and Donbass this whole past year as well — and Ukraine’s borders are a hecka lot closer to Europe than Iraq’s.  Don’t say you haven’t been warned.  http://www.counterpunch.org/2015/01/23/genocides-not-wars/

In terms of nurturing and protecting the nascent middle classes that Piketty described, the US, UN, UK and NATO have clearly screwed up.

To quote Syrian president Bashar Assad on the subject, “[America,] you are the greatest power in the world now; you have too many things to disseminate around the world: knowledge, innovation, IT, with its positive repercussions.  How can you be the best in these fields yet the worst in the political field?  This is a contradiction.  That is what I think the American people should analyze and question.  Why do you fail in every war?  You can create war, you can create problems, but you cannot solve any problem.  Twenty years of the peace process in Palestine and Israel, and you cannot do anything with this, in spite of the fact that you are a great country.”  http://www.foreignaffairs.com/discussions/interviews/syrias-president-speaks

Our “alphabet soup” has clearly screwed up.  http://cluborlov.blogspot.com/2015/01/panic-in-kiev.html

 

John Feffer: Europe’s End?

By: Tom Engelhardt Tuesday January 27, 2015 10:32 am

This article originally appeared at TomDispatch.com. To receive TomDispatch in your inbox three times a week, click here.

Remember the glory days of the 1990s, when our interconnectedness — the ever-tighter embrace of Disney characters, the Swoosh, and the Golden Arches — was endlessly hailed?  It was the era of “globalization,” of Washington-style capitalism triumphant, and the planet, we were told, would be growing ever “flatter” until we all ended up in the same mall, no matter where we lived.  Only a few years later in a twenty-first-century world that, from Ukraine to Libya, Syria to Pakistan, seems to be cracking open under the strain of religious-political conflicts of every sort, isn’t it curious how little you hear about that interconnectedness?  And yet, through time as well as space, we couldn’t be more linked (and not just online), as the Charlie Hebdo murders and the response to them indicated.

Think of the Parisian killers of that moment as messengers from the European past.  After all, the place we have long called “the Middle East” was largely a post-World War I European creation.  The map of the area was significantly drawn, and a number of the countries in the region cobbled together, by and for the convenience of European colonial powers France and England.  Jump slightly less than a century into the future and what one set of powers created, a successor power, the last “superpower” on planet Earth, helped blow a hole through in 2003 with its invasion of Iraq — and the damage is still spreading.

In the rubble of American Iraq, that old European “Middle East” has collapsed in a paroxysm of violence, chaos, and religious extremism (hardly surprising given the circumstances).  And on a planet that’s been “globalizing” since the first European ships with cannons appeared off the coasts of Asia, Africa, and the Americas, how could that crumbling region not send a message back to the world that created it?  That message has been arriving regularly in rusty cargo vessels, as well as in Islamic State videos aimed at the Muslim communities of Europe, and two weeks ago in the outrages in Paris.  Now, the Middle East is threatening to blow a hole in Europe.

It’s a grim irony that TomDispatch regular John Feffer, the director of Foreign Policy In Focus, takes up today.  The disintegration of the Middle East is visibly blowing back on Europe and its hopes for an integrated future.  It will certainly be blood-drenched years before we can hope to know what shape the post-colonial, post-European, possibly even post-superpower Middle East might take.  In the meantime, the shape of a Europe in which the right (and in some places, the left) is rising amid an upswelling of Islamophobia remains remarkably undetermined.

The European Union, that great integrating experiment of the last century, may now, as Feffer writes, be tottering.  There is, however, at least one new form of “integration” that might be emerging.  In France (which, in seeming imitation, if not parody, of the post-9/11 Bush administrationdeclared “war” on Islamic extremism in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo killings), Belgium, Germany, and possibly elsewhere, national security states built on the American model are being strengthened in the American fashion.  We may, in other words, be seeing the sinews of a new, increasingly integrated global security state taking form amid the ruins of the old Middle East and at a moment when the European Union threatens to dissolve. Tom

The Collapse of Europe? 
The European Union May Be on the Verge of Regime Collapse 
By John Feffer

Europe won the Cold War.

Not long after the Berlin Wall fell a quarter of a century ago, the Soviet Union collapsed, the United States squandered its peace dividend in an attempt to maintain global dominance, and Europe quietly became more prosperous, more integrated, and more of a player in international affairs. Between 1989 and 2014, the European Union (EU) practically doubled its membership and catapulted into third place in population behind China and India. It currently boasts the world’s largest economy and also heads the list of global trading powers. In 2012, the EU won the Nobel Peace Prize for transforming Europe “from a continent of war to a continent of peace.”

In the competition for “world’s true superpower,” China loses points for still having so many impoverished peasants in its rural hinterlands and a corrupt, illiberal bureaucracy in its cities; the United States, for its crumbling infrastructure and a hypertrophied military-industrial complex that threatens to bankrupt the economy. As the only equitably prosperous, politically sound, and rule-of-law-respecting superpower, Europe comes out on top, even if — or perhaps because — it doesn’t have the military muscle to play global policeman.

And yet, for all this success, the European project is currently teetering on the edge of failure. Growth is anemic at best and socio-economic inequality is on the rise. The countries of Eastern and Central Europe, even relatively successful Poland, have failed to bridge the income gap with the richer half of the continent. And the highly indebted periphery is in revolt.

Politically, the center may not hold and things seem to be falling apart. From the left, parties like Syriza in Greece are challenging the EU’s prescriptions of austerity. From the right, Euroskeptic parties are taking aim at the entire quasi-federal model. Racism and xenophobia are gaining ever more adherents, even in previously placid regions like Scandinavia.

Perhaps the primary social challenge facing Europe at the moment, however, is the surging popularity of Islamophobia, the latest “socialism of fools.” From the killings at the Munich Olympics in 1972 to the recent attacks at Charlie Hebdo and a kosher supermarket in Paris, wars in the Middle East have long inspired proxy battles in Europe. Today, however, the continent finds itself ever more divided between a handful of would-be combatants who claim the mantle of true Islam and an ever-growing contingent who believe Islam — all of Islam — has no place in Europe.

The fracturing European Union of 2015 is not the Europe that political scientist Frances Fukuyama imagined when, in 1989, he so famously predicted “the end of history,” as well as the ultimate triumph of liberal democracy and the bureaucracy in Brussels, the EU’s headquarters, that now oversees continental affairs. Nor is it the Europe that British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher imagined when, in the 1980s, she spoke of the global triumph of TINA (“there is no alternative”) and of her brand of market liberalism. Instead, today’s Europe increasingly harkens back to the period between the two world wars when politicians of the far right and left polarized public debate, economies went into a financial tailspin, anti-Semitism surged out of the sewer, and storm clouds gathered on the horizon.

Another continent-wide war may not be in the offing, but Europe does face the potential for regime collapse: that is, the end of the Eurozone and the unraveling of regional integration. Its possible dystopian future can be glimpsed in what has happened in its eastern borderlands. There, federal structures binding together culturally diverse people have had a lousy track record over the last quarter-century. After all, the Soviet Union imploded in 1991; Czechoslovakia divorced in 1993; and Yugoslavia was torn asunder in a series of wars later in the 1990s.

If its economic, political, and social structures succumb to fractiousness, the European Union could well follow the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia into the waste bin of failed federalisms. Europe as a continent will remain, its nation-states will continue to enjoy varying degrees of prosperity, but Europe as an idea will be over. Worse yet, if, in the end, the EU snatches defeat from the jaws of its Cold War victory, it will have no one to blame but itself.

The Rise and Fall of TINA

The Cold War was an era of alternatives. The United States offered its version of freewheeling capitalism, while the Soviet Union peddled its brand of centralized planning. In the middle, continental Europe offered the compromise of a social market: capitalism with a touch of planning and a deepening concern for the welfare of all members of society.

Cooperation, not competition, was the byword of the European alternative. Americans could have their dog-eat-dog, frontier capitalism. Europeans would instead stress greater coordination between labor and management, and the European Community (the precursor to the EU) would put genuine effort into bringing its new members up to the economic and political level of its core countries.

Then, at a point in the 1980s when the Soviet model had ceased to exert any influence at all globally, along came TINA.

At the time, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and American President Ronald Reagan were ramping up their campaigns to shrink government, while what later became known as globalization — knocking down trade walls and opening up new opportunities for the financial sector — began to be felt everywhere. Thatcher summed up this brave new world with her TINA acronym: the planet no longer had any alternative to globalized market democracy.

Not surprisingly, then, in the post-Cold War era, European integration shifted its focus toward removing barriers to the flow of capital. As a result, the expansion of Europe no longer came with an implied guarantee of eventual equality. The deals that Ireland (1973) and Portugal (1986) had received on accession were now, like the post-World War II Marshall Plan, artifacts of another era. The sheer number of potential new members knocking on Europe’s door put a strain on the EU’s coffers, particularly since the economic performance of countries like Romania and Bulgaria was so far below the European average. But even if the EU had been overflowing with funds, it might not have mattered, since the new “neoliberal” spirit of capitalism now animated its headquarters in Brussels where the order of the day had become: cut government, unleash the market.

At the heart of Europe, as well as of this new orthodoxy, lies Germany, the exemplar of continental fiscal rectitude. Yet in the 1990s, that newly reunified nation engaged in enormous deficit spending, even if packaged under a different name, to bring the former East Germany up to the level of the rest of the country. It did not, however, care to apply this “reunification exception” to other former members of the Soviet bloc. Acting as the effective central bank for the European Union, Germany instead demanded balanced budgets and austerity from all newcomers (and some old timers as well) as the only effective answer to debt and fears of a future depression.

The rest of the old Warsaw Pact has had access to some EU funds for infrastructure development, but nothing on the order of the East German deal. As such, they remain in a kind of economic halfway house. The standard of living in Hungary, 25 years after the fall of Communism, remains approximately half that of neighboring Austria. Similarly, it took Romania 14 years just to regain the gross national product (GDP) it had in 1989 and it remains stuck at the bottom of the European Union. People who visit only the capital cities of Eastern and Central Europe come away with a distorted view of the economic situation there, since Warsaw and Bratislava are wealthier than Vienna, and Budapest nearly on a par with it, even though Poland, Slovakia, and Hungary all remain economically far behind Austria.

What those countries experienced after 1989 — one course of “shock therapy” after another — became the medicine of choice for all EU members at risk of default following the financial crisis of 2007 and then the sovereign debt crisis of 2009. Forget deficit spending to enable countries to grow their way out of economic crisis. Forget debt renegotiation. The unemployment rate in Greece and Spain now hovers around 25%, with youth unemployment over 50%, and all the EU members subjected to heavy doses of austerity have witnessed a steep rise in the number of people living below the poverty line. The recent European Central Bank announcement of “quantitative easing” — a monetary sleight-of-hand to pump money into the Eurozone — is too little, too late.

The major principle of European integration has been reversed. Instead of Eastern and Central Europe catching up to the rest of the EU, pockets of the “west” have begun to fall behind the “east.” The GDP per capita of Greece, for example, has slipped below that of Slovenia and, when measured in terms of purchasing power, even Slovakia, both former Communist countries.

The Axis of Illiberalism

Europeans are beginning to realize that Margaret Thatcher was wrong and there are alternatives — to liberalism and European integration. The most notorious example of this new illiberalism is Hungary.

On July 26, 2014, in a speech to his party faithful, Prime Minister Viktor Orban confided that he intended a thorough reorganization of the country. The reform model Orban had in mind, however, had nothing to do with the United States, Britain, or France. Rather, he aspired to create what he bluntly called an “illiberal state” in the very heart of Europe, one strong on Christian values and light on the libertine ways of the West. More precisely, what he wanted was to turn Hungary into a mini-Russia or mini-China.

“Societies founded upon the principle of the liberal way,” Orban intoned, “will not be able to sustain their world-competitiveness in the following years, and more likely they will suffer a setback, unless they will be able to substantially reform themselves.” He was also eager to reorient to the east, relying ever less on Brussels and ever more on potentially lucrative markets in and investments from Russia, China, and the Middle East.

That July speech represented a truly Oedipal moment, for Orban was eager to drive a stake right through the heart of the ideology that had fathered him. As a young man more than 25 years earlier, he had led the Alliance of Young Democrats — Fidesz — one of the region’s most promising liberal parties. In the intervening years, sensing political opportunity elsewhere on the political spectrum, he had guided Fidesz out of the Liberal International and into the European People’s Party, alongside German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats.

Now, however, he was on the move again and his new role model wasn’t Merkel, but Russian President Vladimir Putin and his iron-fisted style of politics. Given the disappointing performance of liberal economic reforms and the stinginess of the EU, it was hardly surprising that Orban had decided to hedge his bets by looking east.

The European Union has responded by harshly criticizing Orban’s government for pushing through a raft of constitutional changes that restrict the media and compromise the independence of the judiciary. Racism and xenophobia are on the uptick in Hungary, particularly anti-Roma sentiment and anti-Semitism. And the state has taken steps to reassert control over the economy and impose controls on foreign investment.

For some, the relationship between Hungary and the rest of Europe is reminiscent of the moment in the 1960s when Albania fled the Soviet bloc and, in an act of transcontinental audacity, aligned itself with Communist China. But Albania was then a marginal player and China still a poor peasant country. Hungary is an important EU member and China’s illiberal development model, which has vaulted it to the top of the global economy, now has increasing international influence. This, in other words, is no Albanian mouse that roared. A new illiberal axis connecting Budapest to Beijing and Moscow would have far-reaching implications.

The Hungarian prime minister, after all, has many European allies in his Euroskeptical project. Far right parties are climbing in the polls across the continent. With 25% of the votes, Marine Le Pen’s National Front, for instance, topped the French elections for the European parliament last May. In local elections in 2014, it also seized 12 mayoralties, and polls show that Le Pen would win the 2017 presidential race if it were held today. In the wake of the Charlie Hebdo shootings, the National Front has been pushing a range of policies from reinstating the death penalty to closing borders that would deliberately challenge the whole European project.

In Denmark, the far-right People’s Party also won the most votes in the European parliamentary elections. In November, it topped opinion polls for the first time. The People’s Party has called for Denmark to slam shut its open-door policy toward refugees and re-introduce border controls. Much as the Green Party did in Germany in the 1970s, groupings like Great Britain’s Independence Party, the Finns Party, and even Sweden’s Democrats are shattering the comfortable conservative-social democratic duopoly that has rotated in power throughout Europe during the Cold War and in its aftermath.

The Islamophobia that has surged in the wake of the murders in France provides an even more potent arrow in the quiver of these parties as they take on the mainstream. The sentiment currently expressed against Islam — at rallies, in the media, and in the occasional criminal act — recalls a Europe of long ago, when armed pilgrims set out on a multiple crusades against Muslim powers, when early nation-states mobilized against the Ottoman Empire, and when European unity was forged not out of economic interest or political agreement but as a “civilizational” response to the infidel.

The Europe of today is, of course, a far more multicultural place and regional integration depends on “unity in diversity,” as the EU’s motto puts it. As a result, rising anti-Islamic sentiment challenges the inclusive nature of the European project. If the EU cannot accommodate Islam, the complex balancing act among all its different ethnic, religious, and cultural groups will be thrown into question.

Euroskepticism doesn’t only come from the right side of the political spectrum. In Greece, the Syriza party has challenged liberalism from the left, as it leads protests against EU and International Monetary Fund austerity programs that have plunged the population into recession and revolt. As elsewhere in Europe, the far right might have taken advantage of this economic crisis, too, had the government not arrested the Golden Dawn leadership on murder and other charges. In parliamentary elections on Sunday, Syriza won an overwhelming victory, coming only a couple seats short of an absolute majority. In a sign of the ongoing realignment of European politics, that party then formed a new government not with the center-left, but with the right-wing Independent Greeks, which is similarly anti-austerity but also skeptical of the EU and in favor of a crackdown on illegal immigration.

European integration continues to be a bipartisan project for the parties that straddle the middle of the political spectrum, but the Euroskeptics are now winning votes with their anti-federalist rhetoric. Though they tend to moderate their more apocalyptic rhetoric about “despotic Brussels” as they get closer to power, by pulling on a loose thread here and another there, they could very well unravel the European tapestry.

When the Virtuous Turn Vicious

For decades, European integration created a virtuous circle — prosperity generating political support for further integration that, in turn, grew the European economy. It was a winning formula in a competitive world. However, as the European model has become associated with austerity, not prosperity, that virtuous circle has turned vicious. A challenge to the Eurozone in one country, a repeal of open borders in another, the reinstitution of the death penalty in a third — it, too, is a process that could feed on itself, potentially sending the EU into a death spiral, even if, at first, no member states take the fateful step of withdrawing.

In Eastern and Central Europe, the growing crew who distrust the EU complain that Brussels has simply taken the place of Moscow in the post-Soviet era. (The Euroskeptics in the former Yugoslavia prefer to cite Belgrade.) Brussels, they insist, establishes the parameters of economic policy that its member states ignore at their peril, while Eurozone members find themselves with ever less control over their finances. Even if the edicts coming from Brussels are construed as economically sensible and possessed of a modicum of democratic legitimacy, to the Euroskeptics they still represent a devastating loss of sovereignty.

In this way, the same resentments that ate away at the Soviet and Yugoslav federations have begun to erode popular support for the European Union. Aside from Poland and Germany, where enthusiasm remains strong, sentiment toward the EU remains lukewarm at best across much of the rest of the continent, despite a post-euro crisis rebound. Its popularity now hovers at around 50% in many member states and below that in places like Italy and Greece.

The European Union has without question been a remarkable achievement of modern statecraft. It turned a continent that seemed destined to wallow in “ancestral hatreds” into one of the most harmonious regions on the planet. But as with the portmanteau states of the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, and Czechoslovakia, the complex federal project of the EU has proven fragile in the absence of a strong external threat like the one that the Cold War provided. Another economic shock or a coordinated political challenge could tip it over the edge.

Unity in diversity may be an appealing concept, but the EU needs more than pretty rhetoric and good intentions to stay glued together. If it doesn’t come up with a better recipe for dealing with economic inequality, political extremism, and social intolerance, its opponents will soon have the power to hit the rewind button on European integration. The ensuing regime collapse would not only be a tragedy for Europe, but for all those who hope to overcome the dangerous rivalries of the past and provide shelter from the murderous conflicts of the present.

John Feffer is the director of Foreign Policy In Focus at the Institute for Policy Studies, the editor of LobeLog, a TomDispatch regular, and the author of several books, including Crusade 2.0.

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Book, Rebecca Solnit’s Men Explain Things to Me, and Tom Engelhardt’s latest book, Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World.

Copyright 2015 John Feffer

Interview by Christina Vasilaki of SYRIZA’s radio stoKokkino
 with Eric Toussaint of the CADTM

By: GREYDOG Tuesday January 27, 2015 7:09 am

Posted by SnakeArbusto, 99GetSmart

The Troika imposes policies that are destroying social rights in Greece

“An audit committee of the Greek debt could show that 80% of the debt required by the troika is illegal,” said Mr. Toussaint on an interview with Christina Vasilaki, stoKokkino`s correspondent in Brussels.

Éric Toussaint, Senior Lecturer at the University of Liège, is president of CADTM Belgium (Committee for the Abolition of Third-World Debt), and a member of the Scientific Committee of ATTAC France.

“An audit committee of the Greek debt could show that 80% of the debt required by the troika is illegal,” said Mr. Toussaint making reference to Article 7, paragraph 9 of the European Regulation on countries in program adaptation, according to which:

“A Member State subject to a macroeconomic adjustment programme shall carry out a comprehensive audit of its public finances in order, inter alia, to assess the reasons that led to the building up of excessive levels of debt as well as to track any possible irregularity”.

Radio interview transcribed by SnakeArbusto:

CV Which is the EU Regulation that Syriza’s demand for an audit of debt could be based on?

ET In May 2013 the European Parliament and the European Commission adopted a Regulation requiring all countries who sign a Memorandum of Agreement–as in the present case of Greece,  Ireland, Portugal, and Cyprus. Article 7 of this Regulation says that governments will carry out a comprehensive audit of the debt contracted by the country and to identify possible irregularities. So, Paragraph 9 of this Article of the Regulation allows a government headed by SYRIZA to create, immediately, such a commission in implementation of the Regulation.

CV What can be revealed by this audit?

ET For me it’s very clear that the debt contracted by Greece with the Troika, which represents 80% of the Greek debt now, is clearly illegitimate because the Troika has imposed policies on Greece which have destroyed part of the economy of Greece and destroyed the social rights and the economic rights of the population.

CV Do you believe that it’s necessary to write off part of the Greek debt? And what would be the result for access to the international markets in the long term?

ET As you know we have had more than 600 restructurings of debt since 1950. A lot of countries have suspended payment of the debt, and in the case of Greece, if Greece succeeds in imposing a large cancellation of its debt, which is totally possible, I think there is no real problem, after several years, (for Greece) to go back to the market if Greece needs it. But also you could imagine some alternative way of financing Greek development – fiscal reform (), reducing the taxes paid by the poor and increasing the taxes paid by the richest 1% of the population and big private enterprises could allow the government to raise sufficient money to not be obliged to go to the market and contract new debt.

CV Could the extension of the maturity of the loan and the reduction of the interest rates be an alternative solution?

ET Greece needs a real cancellation of a big part of its debt. And for the other part of the debt which will not be cancelled, abolished, a reduction of the interest rates and an extension of the maturity of payment is necessary, I suppose, too. But it’s not an alternative to the cancellation. It’s complementary to cancellation. You need both things.

Radio Interview @ http://cadtm.org/The-Troika-impose-to-Greece

The Estate Liquidation Scam/How to Protect Your Assets

By: perris Tuesday January 27, 2015 6:25 am

Our parents estate was embezzled by an “estate liquidator” after my father’s death a few years ago.

Mom and Dad were accomplished and well known antique dealers in the NY area. Mom had a keen eye with a sense for art and craftsmanship that proved invaluable. They purchased items that had little or unknown value at that time, but most would increase in collectability exponentially by the end of their lives.

The embezzler used a common scam that’s being run throughout the country. The scam targets those vulnerable who’ve just lost a loved one, or the elderly who have to liquidate assets for emergencies and/or important expenses.

The con begins with the predator forming an “estate liquidation” corporation. They work hard creating a false reputation for services by posting good reviews themselves. In addition, many times after just a few consignments at reputable auction houses and antique stores, they may even get these businesses vouching for their credibility.

Once that reputation is established they go to work.

The scam exploits a loophole in the law called “the right of possession”. This “right of possession” means that if you give someone your property for ANY reason, (i.e. to polish your jewelry, get an appraisal, etc), they can do whatever they want with those possessions! They do not have to provide you with any information about your property’s whereabouts or pay you for your property!

They can sell the items without reporting the sale or remitting proceeds to you. They can claim anything happened to the items, since they now have “the right of possession”. By not returning your items or paying you for them it will not be considered theft (a crime). It becomes a civil issue, as a breach of contract.

When it happens to you/your family, there is little recourse. You can sue (which I did); and although you’ll probably win, these predators dissolve their corporation claiming “no assets”. They simply re-emerge after your suit, as a new corporate entity. Voila!, They have happily acquired a family’s life long collections, with no reason to pay for it. They have “converted” your property to their property using fraud and deception -and they’ve done it LEGALLY (by using legal loop holes)!

That’s right, this form of theft is actually technically LEGAL! (Unless there is a pattern that can be proven; however proving a pattern can be difficult, time consuming and costly).

This con is being run all around the country with nearly identical scripts. It’s as if this is a cottage industry where these con men/women share ideas and legal concepts with each other for converting assets.

Our lawyer advised us NOT to sue. He told us that although we would probably win, it could easily cost us over $20,000 for this legal pursuit and most likely get nothing back for our trouble and time. Our attorney predicted the predator would simply declare insolvency, and walk away from any judgment Scott free.

Although our lawyer advised against the law suit, I DID pursue this predator, vigorously, in spite of the futility. I wanted to prove fraud and “pierce the corporate veil”.

Our lawyer also correctly advised me these types of con men hide their personal assets too and are often referred to as “financial ghosts”. I was advised that “it won’t help even if you do “pierce the veil” (another costly and time consuming process) as most likely, there will not be personal assets to attach in the con man’s name busines(s).

My family decided that in honor of our parents lifelong passion and their often times back breaking labor, we could not allow this man to steal their decades of hard work. We WOULD pursue this man, not only suing him (in spite of the futility), to at least begin establishing a paper trail, a record of fraud. But also, to do everything in our power, and do our best to have him criminally investigated and hopefully prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. We wanted to begin setting an official court record that might eventually facilitate prosecution for when he targets new victims. We prayed he would eventually be brought to the bar of justice under all criminal fraud statutes.

The plan went well, even better than I thought we could accomplish at first. We not only prevailed in Civil Court, but in the process this predator (in trying to cover his tracks) dug his own grave. He unwittingly provided me with information which helped us track his previous corporate entities for well over a decade. We in fact discovered OVER 40 PREVIOUS LAW SUITS. MILLIONS of his victims assets converted to his own property.

We were dumbfounded and AGHAST this had not been prosecuted before us. His court record existed, is long, consistent and clear.

I’ll talk about just ONE of these victims;

An elderly women that was selling her long held art and antique collections so she could enter assisted living, entrusted this very same con man (who embezzled our parents estate) with almost her entire life’s resources. He left her almost penniless, and no longer able to pay for her care. The courts document he took her for nearly 800k in property. And this ‘man’ simply claimed to “have no assets”. He dissolved the corporation she hired him under, then re-emerged, going on to target dozens of other victims. Among these new victims, was my family, and I lost our parents lifelong legacy. All of this is documented in public court records.

With my personal court win and these previous law suits in hand, I enlisted the help of a former federal prosecutor, someone who had SUCCESSFULLY tried a very similar case a few years prior in another state.

He put together a “memorandum” which he said the DA would find impossible to refuse.

And now, after almost 2 years of constant contact from my family (pleading with them to stop this predator, to no avail) the DA in Nassau county NY FINALLY agreed there should be “an investigation”.

Here comes the part that’s mind boggling;

Believe it or not, even with this paper trail of serial embezzlement, they STILL might not prosecute this predator. Yes, even with this paper trail, DOZENS of previous victims and an ongoing scheme amassing millions of dollars in assets, they may not prosecute!

I have devoted this part of my life to seeking justice for my parents lifelong work. I will not rest until this man and his con is finally legally stopped, and he can no longer victimize families and people who are at their most vulnerable and fragile times of their lives.

HOPEFULLY I can also initiate legislation that will put this common con game to an end.

That’s the story. It is ongoing, with hills and valleys of both successes and disappointments. This story won’t be over as far as I am concerned until this man brought to justice and prosecuted.

How you can Guard Against This Con;
Disclaimer;
I am NOT a lawyer, I am not giving legal advice. I cannot give legal advice. I can only speak from my own experience about what has worked for not only us, but for the many we have helped who have also been this man’s victims.

The following are suggestions I believe will help guard against the con.

Even if you follow the suggestions below, you STILL might become a victim, this is NOT inoculation, These suggestions MAY help if you or someone you know is faced with a similar situation.

1)You CANNOT trust an internet reputation. Internet reputations can be and are gamed all the time. Nor can you trust recommendations provided by the predator (even though this is an obvious statement, they rely on your trust and this method of recommendation is used successfully).

2) Do NOT trust a BBB rating as they do NOT report negative issues which have been adjudicated in court EVEN IF THE COMPANY LOST EVERY COURT CASE the Better Business Bureau might STILL give the company an A+ rating and they may even post, in spite of court documentation, that “there are no unresolved claims”.

3) When the company uses a term like “we have been in business for over 25 years”, check their corporate records If they exaggerated established dates even a little, find someone else.

4) Their “Insurance” Is NOT insurance for you!!
When they say they are “licensed, bonded and insured” CHECK THE LICENSE. Make sure it is in the industry, and that it is a long standing license.

Disregard any existing insurance policy the company might present that does not name you specifically, preferably as “the insured”, if not that, the least you must be named as “additionally insured”. Even if their document is authentic, insurance that has their name as the insured means it is for THEIR loss not for yours. You need them to take out an insurance policy with YOU as either insured or additionally insured.

Speak with the insurance company personally
, record the conversation if possible.

These con men can easily create a false insurance policy

DO NOT ACCEPT A CERTIFICATE OF INSURANCE (even with your name on it); it is a worthless piece of paper that gives you NO protection or guarantees.

You need to contact the insurance company personally, and get it IN WRITING, (email documentation should be enough). Have them authenticate the fact that YOU will be compensated EVEN IF THE COMPANY YOU ARE HIRING AND IS PAYING FOR THE INSURANCE CAUSES THE LOSS DELIBERATELY!

THE COMPANY MUST BE BONDED

This is probably the most important safeguard. You MUST have that bond in hand. You MUST contact the bond company and make sure YOU will get compensation if the contractor causes loss, even if he causes loss on purpose, and you MUST get in writing that YOU will be informed IN WRITING if the bond or insurance is going to be cancelled for any reason, at least 30 days before it is cancelled.

The bond and or insurance should probably be around 5 times the value you believe your property is worth (which is usually a value placed by the con man). I thought my parent’s store was worth a few hundred thousand (based on the con man’s appraisal) when in fact it was worth millions.

Maintain your own homeowners insurance

In the event something similar happens to you, there is a good chance your own personal insurance company will entertain the claim, check with them, you might need to get a rider and appraisals for your valuables, the appraiser should come to your home and should not be too expensive.

The Legislative FIX
I expect to create a web page and make this a permanent public document, and I will begin my campaign getting protective legislation enacted.

The legislative fix is so simple it’s laughable. The only legislation that needs to be passed is “if you are handling other peoples assets without sufficient bond, and there is loss, it is a criminal matter”

Perris

How Torture Wins In the US Marketplace of Ideas

By: spocko Monday January 26, 2015 10:57 pm

Over two thirds of Christians support the torture of terrorist suspects.

Washtington Post Poll, January 3, 2015

How did this happen? How did actions considered morally repugnant and war crimes in World War II, become acceptable now? And by Christians, goddamnit! Who made this happen, who let this happen, who helped it happen? And finally, is there a way to change this opinion?

My friend Dr. Rebecca Gordon, goes into detail on some of these questions in her book Mainstreaming Torture, but recently I saw a TV show and heard a radio program that illustrated how some of it happened. It took a mix of secrecy, rhetorical tricks and proactive marketing to make torture become acceptable in the US.

First I watched a tv series set in 1962 in a slightly different America. Here’s the opening scene:

Fade in: Two men are watching a color newsreel in an elegant theatre. The title reads, “A New Day in America.” We see images of smiling workers in factories, farms and office settings. The announcer says, “Everyone has a job, everyone knows the part they play keeping our country strong.” he adds, “but our greatest days lie ahead.”

In the seats a note is handed off. As one of the men leaves he is silhouetted by the American flag flying on the screen. As the flag unfurls you see the stars have been replaced by a white swastika on a blue background. The announcer ends with, “Sieg Heil.” 

This is the opening scene from the new Amazon TV series “The Man in the High Castle.” (The first episode is free.)

In this alternative history, based on the Phillip K. Dick book, the Nazi’s won World War II, the US is split between the Japanese in the west and the Nazi’s in the east.

In this timeline Hitler wasn’t defeated. The Nuremberg Trials never happened. The atrocities committed by one group of humans on another were never revealed, condemned or punished.

 Additionally, the ideas behind the justification and need for torture weren’t discredited, nor were the people who suggested them. This also means the people who provided the intellectual, legal, moral or religious foundation for torture, genocide and other war crimes were not repudiated.

 Imagine a United States in which the people who provided the justification for torture weren’t discredited, shunned or marginalized by their various communities.

In the show it’s fifteen years after World War II. What do people normally do after a war? They go on with their lives. Some go back to academia, others to law firms or into government positions as “senior advisers.”

 Christian religious leaders go back to their churches to give Sunday sermons about the Bible and the New Testament. 

 People write books, become pundits and experts in their field. They talk to the media, go on talk shows to plug their latest books and go on the speaking circuit to explain how they won the war.

In this alt-US, do they allow some dissension, or do they attack, smear and jail people who try to reveal the whole story

 We often hear this question, “How could Germans gone along with the atrocities that were happening?” Lots of answers.

  • They didn’t know.
  • They knew but were afraid to speak up because of the fear of their own safety.
  • They knew, but were told these actions were necessary for safety and success.
  • They agreed with the actions.
  • They were angry at the people whom they believed hurt them and their country and wanted to hurt them back.
  • They rejected previously agreed upon legal, practical, moral and religious views about torture and accepted new definitions, rationals and priorities that were provided to them for justification of torture and other war crimes.

Who’s Selling Torture In the Marketplace Of Ideas?

Which leads me to the radio program I heard,  Does Mass Phone Data Collection Violate The 4th Amendment? It was a debate hosted by Intelligence Squared with John Yoo arguing that mass phone data colletion does NOT violate the 4th Amendment.

Yoo is introduced  as “controversial” by ABC correspondent John Donvan. Yoo makes a few jokes about Berkeley liberals, the audience laughs and claps and it’s off to the races.

The intro reminded me of a guest on the Tonight Show offering up a funny story before he sets up the clip from his latest fish-out-of water buddy film. 

Here’s the video link to the intro. Here’s the transcription link to the debate.

Spoiler Alert! Yoo’s side lost. The audience’s minds were changed.

PRE-DEBATE POLL RESULTS

46% FOR | 17% AGAINST | 37% UNDECIDED

POST-DEBATE POLL RESULTS

66% FOR | 28% AGAINST | 6% UNDECIDED

After watching the debate I thought about all the people who promoted and are still promoting Yoo and his ideas vs those who challenged them. Conservatives love to talk about winning in the “Marketplace of Ideas.” I laugh when I hear this. It reminds me of the sales people I knew who would half jokingly say, “All I want is an unfair advantage.”

The pro-torture forces look for venues where they have an unfair advantage like one sided “debates” where they control the microphone or use strawmen instead of guests.

They want to talk to people and venues they can control via fear and rhetoric. For example, Dick Cheney on Meet the Press talking to Chuck Todd about torture.  Todd wasn’t going to really push Cheney, he might be seen to have an option, or worse, risk Cheney not coming on the show again.

 (BTW, listen to this great clip from the Jimmy Dore Show where Todd admits if he “barks” at guests they won’t come back on the show. Audio clip, starts at 24:45 )

If Todd and the rest of the corporate media aren’t going to challenge these ideas can we get them to book an anti-Dick Cheney to go on shows and challenge him?

When only the sellers of torture are being bought by the media as public the best guests and leading experts, we get an United States like in The Man in the High Castle. We have won the war but lost the values that we believed made us special.

Is this our flag?
american flag in the breeze

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Or is it really this flag? What are our current values? 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

Next, what will it take to change this opinion? Who will do it? Will anyone pay for doing it in the marketplace of ideas? Or should we just accept Dick Cheney’s reality has won and move on?? What are our current values?

*American Flag, by Eric Lynch via Creative Commons license

*Flag from screen grab of The Man in The High Castle via Amazon Production’s 

Chris Hedges: Killing Ragheads for Jesus: On Watching ‘American Sniper’

By: CTuttle Monday January 26, 2015 7:00 pm

Actor Bradley Cooper (r) playing U.S. Navy Seal sniper Chris Kyle in the film ‘American Sniper.’ (Photo: Public domain)

“American Sniper” lionizes the most despicable aspects of U.S. society—the gun culture, the blind adoration of the military, the belief that we have an innate right as a “Christian” nation to exterminate the “lesser breeds” of the earth, a grotesque hypermasculinity that banishes compassion and pity, a denial of inconvenient facts and historical truth, and a belittling of critical thinking and artistic expression. Many Americans, especially white Americans trapped in a stagnant economy and a dysfunctional political system, yearn for the supposed moral renewal and rigid, militarized control the movie venerates. These passions, if realized, will extinguish what is left of our now-anemic open society.

The movie opens with a father and his young son hunting a deer. The boy shoots the animal, drops his rifle and runs to see his kill.

“Get back here,” his father yells. “You don’t ever leave your rifle in the dirt.”

“Yes, sir,” the boy answers.

“That was a helluva shot, son,” the father says. “You got a gift. You gonna make a fine hunter some day.”

The camera cuts to a church interior where a congregation of white Christians—blacks appear in this film as often as in a Woody Allen movie—are listening to a sermon about God’s plan for American Christians. The film’s title character, based on Chris Kyle, who would become the most lethal sniper in U.S. military history, will, it appears from the sermon, be called upon by God to use his “gift” to kill evildoers. The scene shifts to the Kyle family dining room table as the father intones in a Texas twang: “There are three types of people in this world: sheep, wolves and sheepdogs. Some people prefer to believe evil doesn’t exist in the world. And if it ever darkened their doorstep they wouldn’t know how to protect themselves. Those are the sheep. And then you got predators.”

The camera cuts to a schoolyard bully beating a smaller boy.

“They use violence to prey on people,” the father goes on. “They’re the wolves. Then there are those blessed with the gift of aggression and an overpowering need to protect the flock. They are a rare breed who live to confront the wolf. They are the sheepdog. We’re not raising any sheep in this family.”

The father lashes his belt against the dining room table.

“I will whup your ass if you turn into a wolf,” he says to his two sons. “We protect our own. If someone tries to fight you, tries to bully your little brother, you have my permission to finish it.”

There is no shortage of simpletons whose minds are warped by this belief system. We elected one of them, George W. Bush, as president. They populate the armed forces and the Christian right. They watch Fox News and believe it. They have little understanding or curiosity about the world outside their insular communities. They are proud of their ignorance and anti-intellectualism. They prefer drinking beer and watching football to reading a book. And when they get into power—they already control the Congress, the corporate world, most of the media and the war machine—their binary vision of good and evil and their myopic self-adulation cause severe trouble for their country. “American Sniper,” like the big-budget feature films pumped out in Germany during the Nazi era to exalt deformed values of militarism, racial self-glorification and state violence, is a piece of propaganda, a tawdry commercial for the crimes of empire. That it made a record-breaking $105.3 million over the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday long weekend is a symptom of the United States’ dark malaise.

“The movie never asks the seminal question as to why the people of Iraq are fighting back against us in the very first place,” said Mikey Weinstein, whom I reached by phone in New Mexico. Weinstein, who worked in the Reagan White House and is a former Air Force officer, is the head of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, which challenges the growing Christian fundamentalism within the U.S. military. “It made me physically ill with its twisted, totally one-sided distortions of wartime combat ethics and justice woven into the fabric of Chris Kyle’s personal and primal justification mantra of ‘God-Country-Family.’ It is nothing less than an odious homage, indeed a literal horrific hagiography to wholesale slaughter.”

Weinstein noted that the embrace of extreme right-wing Christian chauvinism, or Dominionism, which calls for the creation of a theocratic “Christian” America, is especially acute among elite units such as the SEALs and the Army Special Forces.

The evildoers don’t take long to make an appearance in the film. This happens when television—the only way the movie’s characters get news—announces the 1998 truck bombings of the American embassies in Dar es Salaam and Nairobi in which hundreds of people were killed. Chris, now grown, and his brother, aspiring rodeo riders, watch the news reports with outrage. Ted Koppel talks on the screen about a “war” against the United States.

“Look what they did to us,” Chris whispers.

He heads down to the recruiter to sign up to be a Navy SEAL. We get the usual boot camp scenes of green recruits subjected to punishing ordeals to make them become real men. In a bar scene, an aspiring SEAL has painted a target on his back and comrades throw darts into his skin. What little individuality these recruits have—and they don’t appear to have much—is sucked out of them until they are part of the military mass. They are unquestioningly obedient to authority, which means, of course, they are sheep.

We get a love story too. Chris meets Taya in a bar. They do shots. The movie slips, as it often does, into clichéd dialogue.

She tells him Navy SEALs are “arrogant, self-centered pricks who think you can lie and cheat and do whatever the fuck you want. I’d never date a SEAL.”

“Why would you say I’m self-centered?” Kyle asks. “I’d lay down my life for my country.”

“Why?”

“Because it’s the greatest country on earth and I’d do everything I can to protect it,” he says.

She drinks too much. She vomits. He is gallant. He helps her home. They fall in love. Taya is later shown watching television. She yells to Chris in the next room.

“Oh, my God, Chris,” she says.

“What’s wrong?” he asks.

“No!” she yells.

Then we hear the television announcer: “You see the first plane coming in at what looks like the east side. …”

Chris and Taya watch in horror. Ominous music fills the movie’s soundtrack. The evildoers have asked for it. Kyle will go to Iraq to extract vengeance. He will go to fight in a country that had nothing to do with 9/11, a country that columnist Thomas Friedman once said we attacked “because we could.” The historical record and the reality of the Middle East don’t matter. Muslims are Muslims. And Muslims are evildoers or, as Kyle calls them, “savages.” Evildoers have to be eradicated.

Chris and Taya marry. He wears his gold Navy SEAL trident on the white shirt under his tuxedo at the wedding. His SEAL comrades are at the ceremony.

“Just got the call, boys—it’s on,” an officer says at the wedding reception.

The Navy SEALs cheer. They drink. And then we switch to Fallujah. It is Tour One. Kyle, now a sniper, is told Fallujah is “the new Wild West.” This may be the only accurate analogy in the film, given the genocide we carried out against Native Americans. He hears about an enemy sniper who can do “head shots from 500 yards out. They call him Mustafa. He was in the Olympics.”

Kyle’s first kill is a boy who is handed an anti-tank grenade by a young woman in a black chador. The woman, who expresses no emotion over the boy’s death, picks up the grenade after the boy is shot and moves toward U.S. Marines on patrol. Kyle kills her too. And here we have the template for the film and Kyle’s best-selling autobiography, “American Sniper.” Mothers and sisters in Iraq don’t love their sons or their brothers. Iraqi women breed to make little suicide bombers. Children are miniature Osama bin Ladens. Not one of the Muslim evildoers can be trusted—man, woman or child. They are beasts. They are shown in the film identifying U.S. positions to insurgents on their cellphones, hiding weapons under trapdoors in their floors, planting improvised explosive devices in roads or strapping explosives onto themselves in order to be suicide bombers. They are devoid of human qualities.

“There was a kid who barely had any hair on his balls,” Kyle says nonchalantly after shooting the child and the woman. He is resting on his cot with a big Texas flag behind him on the wall. “Mother gives him a grenade, sends him out there to kill Marines.”

Enter The Butcher—a fictional Iraqi character created for the film. Here we get the most evil of the evildoers. He is dressed in a long black leather jacket and dispatches his victims with an electric drill. He mutilates children—we see an arm he cut from a child. A local sheik offers to betray The Butcher for $100,000. The Butcher kills the sheik. He murders the sheik’s small son in front of his mother with his electric drill. The Butcher shouts: “You talk to them, you die with them.”

Kyle moves on to Tour Two after time at home with Taya, whose chief role in the film is to complain through tears and expletives about her husband being away. Kyle says before he leaves: “They’re savages. Babe, they’re fuckin’ savages.”

He and his fellow platoon members spray-paint the white skull of the Punisher from Marvel Comics on their vehicles, body armor, weapons and helmets. The motto they paint in a circle around the skull reads: “Despite what your momma told you … violence does solve problems.”

“And we spray-painted it on every building and walls we could,” Kyle wrote in his memoir, “American Sniper.” “We wanted people to know, we’re here and we want to fuck with you. …You see us? We’re the people kicking your ass. Fear us because we will kill you, motherfucker.”

The book is even more disturbing than the film. In the film Kyle is a reluctant warrior, one forced to do his duty. In the book he relishes killing and war. He is consumed by hatred of all Iraqis. He is intoxicated by violence. He is credited with 160 confirmed kills, but he notes that to be confirmed a kill had to be witnessed, “so if I shot someone in the stomach and he managed to crawl around where we couldn’t see him before he bled out he didn’t count.”

Kyle insisted that every person he shot deserved to die. His inability to be self-reflective allowed him to deny the fact that during the U.S. occupation many, many innocent Iraqis were killed, including some shot by snipers. Snipers are used primarily to sow terror and fear among enemy combatants. And in his denial of reality, something former slaveholders and former Nazis perfected to an art after overseeing their own atrocities, Kyle was able to cling to childish myth rather than examine the darkness of his own soul and his contribution to the war crimes we carried out in Iraq. He justified his killing with a cloying sentimentality about his family, his Christian faith, his fellow SEALs and his nation. But sentimentality is not love. It is not empathy. It is, at its core, about self-pity and self-adulation. That the film, like the book, swings between cruelty and sentimentality is not accidental.

“Sentimentality, the ostentatious parading of excessive and spurious emotion, is the mark of dishonesty, the inability to feel,” James Baldwin reminded us. “The wet eyes of the sentimentalist betray his aversion to experience, his fear of life, his arid heart; and it is always, therefore, the signal of secret and violent inhumanity, the mask of cruelty.”

“Savage, despicable evil,” Kyle wrote of those he was killing from rooftops and windows. “That’s what we were fighting in Iraq. That’s why a lot of people, myself included, called the enemy ‘savages.’… I only wish I had killed more.” At another point he writes: “I loved killing bad guys. … I loved what I did. I still do … it was fun. I had the time of my life being a SEAL.” He labels Iraqis “fanatics” and writes “they hated us because we weren’t Muslims.” He claims “the fanatics we fought valued nothing but their twisted interpretation of religion.”

“I never once fought for the Iraqis,” he wrote of our Iraqi allies. “I could give a flying fuck about them.”

He killed an Iraqi teenager he claimed was an insurgent. He watched as the boy’s mother found his body, tore her clothes and wept. He was unmoved.

He wrote: “If you loved them [the sons], you should have kept them away from the war. You should have kept them from joining the insurgency. You let them try and kill us—what did you think would happen to them?”

“People back home [in the U.S.], people who haven’t been in war, at least not that war, sometimes don’t seem to understand how the troops in Iraq acted,” he went on. “They’re surprised—shocked—to discover we often joked about death, about things we saw.”

He was investigated by the Army for killing an unarmed civilian. According to his memoir, Kyle, who viewed all Iraqis as the enemy, told an Army colonel: “I don’t shoot people with Korans. I’d like to, but I don’t.” The investigation went nowhere.

Kyle was given the nickname “Legend.” He got a tattoo of a Crusader cross on his arm. “I wanted everyone to know I was a Christian. I had it put in red, for blood. I hated the damn savages I’d been fighting,” he wrote. “I always will.” Following a day of sniping, after killing perhaps as many as six people, he would go back to his barracks to spent his time smoking Cuban Romeo y Julieta No. 3 cigars and “playing video games, watching porn and working out.” On leave, something omitted in the movie, he was frequently arrested for drunken bar fights. He dismissed politicians, hated the press and disdained superior officers, exalting only the comradeship of warriors. His memoir glorifies white, “Christian” supremacy and war. It is an angry tirade directed against anyone who questions the military’s elite, professional killers.

“For some reason, a lot of people back home—not all people—didn’t accept that we were at war,” he wrote. “They didn’t accept that war means death, violent death, most times. A lot of people, not just politicians, wanted to impose ridiculous fantasies on us, hold us to some standard of behavior that no human being could maintain.”

The enemy sniper Mustafa, portrayed in the film as if he was a serial killer, fatally wounds Kyle’s comrade Ryan “Biggles” Job. In the movie Kyle returns to Iraq—his fourth tour—to extract revenge for Biggles’ death. This final tour, at least in the film, centered on the killing of The Butcher and the enemy sniper, also a fictional character. As it focuses on the dramatic duel between hero Kyle and villain Mustafa the movie becomes ridiculously cartoonish.

Kyle gets Mustafa in his sights and pulls the trigger. The bullet is shown leaving the rifle in slow motion. “Do it for Biggles,” someone says. The enemy sniper’s head turns into a puff of blood.

“Biggles would be proud of you,” a soldier says. “You did it, man.”

His final tour over, Kyle leaves the Navy. As a civilian he struggles with the demons of war and becomes, at least in the film, a model father and husband and works with veterans who were maimed in Iraq and Afghanistan. He trades his combat boots for cowboy boots.

The real-life Kyle, as the film was in production, was shot dead at a shooting range near Dallas on Feb. 2, 2013, along with a friend, Chad Littlefield. A former Marine, Eddie Ray Routh, who had been suffering from PTSD and severe psychological episodes, allegedly killed the two men and then stole Kyle’s pickup truck. Routh will go on trial next month. The film ends with scenes of Kyle’s funeral procession—thousands lined the roads waving flags—and the memorial service at the Dallas Cowboys’ home stadium. It shows fellow SEALs pounding their tridents into the top of his coffin, a custom for fallen comrades. Kyle was shot in the back and the back of his head. Like so many people he dispatched, he never saw his killer when the fatal shots were fired.

The culture of war banishes the capacity for pity. It glorifies self-sacrifice and death. It sees pain, ritual humiliation and violence as part of an initiation into manhood. Brutal hazing, as Kyle noted in his book, was an integral part of becoming a Navy SEAL. New SEALs would be held down and choked by senior members of the platoon until they passed out. The culture of war idealizes only the warrior. It belittles those who do not exhibit the warrior’s “manly” virtues. It places a premium on obedience and loyalty. It punishes those who engage in independent thought and demands total conformity. It elevates cruelty and killing to a virtue. This culture, once it infects wider society, destroys all that makes the heights of human civilization and democracy possible. The capacity for empathy, the cultivation of wisdom and understanding, the tolerance and respect for difference and even love are ruthlessly crushed. The innate barbarity that war and violence breed is justified by a saccharine sentimentality about the nation, the flag and a perverted Christianity that blesses its armed crusaders. This sentimentality, as Baldwin wrote, masks a terrifying numbness. It fosters an unchecked narcissism. Facts and historical truths, when they do not fit into the mythic vision of the nation and the tribe, are discarded. Dissent becomes treason. All opponents are godless and subhuman. “American Sniper” caters to a deep sickness rippling through our society. It holds up the dangerous belief that we can recover our equilibrium and our lost glory by embracing an American fascism.

© 2015 TruthDig

Chris Hedges writes a regular column for Truthdig.com. Hedges graduated from Harvard Divinity School and was for nearly two decades a foreign correspondent for The New York Times. He is the author of many books, including: War Is A Force That Gives Us Meaning, What Every Person Should Know About War, and American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America. His most recent book is Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle.

Boston Bombing News: the embarassing Mr. O’Toole – part II

By: woodybox Monday January 26, 2015 9:26 am

When the courtroom for the Tsarnaev trial opened last Friday, the media crowd was expecting an indignant judge telling off the defense for their last – the third – motion for change of venue. The day before O’Toole had chided the motion, calling it “improper” because it allegedly revealed the identity of jurors and thereby damaging the process.

Michael Hayes:

expecting a bit of fire from Judge O’Toole, who’s angry re: yesterday’s defense motion

Alysha Palumbo:

The judge has not yet ruled on the defense motion to change the venue, but he did issue a scathing order on it last night

Mike Hayes:

Day 9 of Tsarnaev jury selection. Should start with an awkward conversation about confidential juror responses made public by the defense.

But minutes before the session started, a response filing of the defense already circulated: a motion to strike the word “improper”. The paper is a well reasoned and determined denial of any wrongdoing, especially when it comes to the revealing of IDs. The crowd was surprised.

Jim Armstrong:

Minutes ago, Tsarnaev’s defense team responded, asking judge to strike the word “improper”  from his filing, saying they did nothing wrong.

Mike Hayes:

Tsarnaev’s lawyers file a response to the judge’s criticism of their Change of Venue motion, calling it “unwarranted”;

J. M. Lawrence:

Tsarnaev defense fires back at Judge’s finding, say no damage done revealing anonymous quotes from juror questionnaires.Judge said improper

No wigging from the judge – the filings were not even mentioned at the session. The defense lawyers were very careful in formulating the motion. It exercises pressure on the judge, if he likes it or not. The answers of the potential jurors show that the necessity of a change of venue in order to constitute a neutral jury is obvious in the Tsarnaev case. David Bruck left no doubt that a refusal to move the trial out of Boston will lead to an appeal.

What’s up with judge O’Toole? Independent observers like E.F. Beall, James Henry or Harvey Silverglate have expressed deep discomfort with his onesided rulings. About a year ago, David Frank predicted a myriad of appeals and judicial complications if O’Toole would stick to his tight time schedule. But he did. The two months shift from November 2014 to January 2015 was little more than a cosmetic operation.

O’Toole’s next job is to pick a jury. Given his past behavior it is almost certain that the prosecution has his ear again in this important matter and the defense is impelled to fruitless gesticulations. This doesn’t bode well for the composition of the jury and will probably deliver more fodder for appeal.

So in all probability the trial will start in Boston with two or three weeks delay. O’Toole’s hope might be to go over the case details as quickly as possible. But he was probably not told by the prosecutors how weak their case actually is. If the cases collapses – because things turn out to be different and more awkward than written down in the indictment – this will also be a heavy blowback for Mr. O’Toole personally. His former decisions will be scrutinized and he has good chances to become the most prominent judge in recent history. But not in a way he will like.

 

Many thanks to pbszebra for preserving the tweets

Miller and Schivone, Bringing the Battlefield to the Border

By: Tom Engelhardt Monday January 26, 2015 8:52 am

This article originally appeared at TomDispatch.com. To receive TomDispatch in your inbox three times a week, click here.

[Note for TomDispatch Readers: For those of you fascinated by America’s borderlands, note that for another week you can get a signed, personalized copy of Todd Miller’s book Border Patrol Nation in return for a $100 contribution to this site, as you can my book Shadow Government, Maya Schenwar’s new book, Locked Down, Locked Out: Why Prison Doesn't Work and How We Can Do Better, and other offerings. Just check out our donation page for the details. Tom]

Predator drones, tested out in this country’s distant war zones, have played an increasingly prominent role in the up-armoring of the U.S.-Mexican border. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) launched its first Predator in 2004, but only really ramped up drone use in March 2013.  There have been approximately 10,000 Predator flights along that border since. The agency had plans to expand its ten-Predator fleet — nine after a $12 million maritime drone crashed off the California coast, as those robotic planes are wont to do — to 24. It was going to dispatch some of them to the Canadian border as well. (You never know, after all, what dark forces might descend on us from the chilly north.) The CBP even got into the chummy habit of encouraging interagency drone-addiction by loaning its Predators out to the FBI, the Texas Department of Public Safety, and the U.S. Forest Service, among other places. You might say that the CBP was distinctly high on drones.

Only one problem: the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general recently audited the use of drones on the border and issued a scathing report, calling them “dubious achievers” and essentially declaring them an enormous waste of money, time, and personnel.  At $12,255 a flight hour (when not simply grounded), military-grade drones turned out to cost way more than the CBP estimated or reported, flew far less often, and helped find a mere 2% of the immigrants crossing the border without papers.  As Craig Whitlock of the Washington Post reported, “Less than one-tenth of 1 percent of border-crossing apprehensions were attributed to drone detection.”  The inspector general suggested that the CBP should, among other things, shelve its plans to expand its drone fleet (at the cost of a mere $443 million).

Based on such a report from the IG — the CBP is part of the Department of Homeland Security — you might assume that it would be curtains for the drone program.  But if you’re a betting kind of guy in twenty-first-century Washington, you’re not going to put your money on any self-respecting part of the national security state giving up, or even cutting back, on its high-tech toys.  Drones, after all, are sexy as hell and what self-respecting government official wouldn’t want a machine onto which you could attach even more seductively high-tech devices like Vader (think deep, breathy voice, though the acronym stands for “Vehicle and Dismount Exploitation Radar”), a set of sensors that can detect motion on the ground. So CBP has instead struck back, accusing the inspector general of cherry-picking his data and misconstruing more or less everything.

Meanwhile, the drones continue to fly and the CBP, as Todd Miller who covers the militarization of America’s borders for TomDispatch has long noted, remains gaga for high-tech border toys of just about any sort. Today, Miller and Gabriel Schivone suggest that, whatever waste and extravagance may be involved, our already heavily technologized borders and the increasingly robot-filled skies over them are just at the beginning of an era of border-closing high-tech extravaganzas.  When it comes to visions of how to shut down the world, it’s evidently time to call in the real experts, the Israelis, who live in a country without fully demarcated borders, and yet have had a remarkable amount of experience building high-tech wallsTom

Gaza in Arizona
How Israeli High-Tech Firms Will Up-Armor the U.S.-Mexican Border
By Todd Miller and Gabriel M. Schivone

It was October 2012. Roei Elkabetz, a brigadier general for the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), was explaining his country’s border policing strategies. In his PowerPoint presentation, a photo of the enclosure wall that isolates the Gaza Strip from Israel clicked onscreen. “We have learned lots from Gaza,” he told the audience. “It’s a great laboratory.”

Elkabetz was speaking at a border technology conference and fair surrounded by a dazzling display of technology — the components of his boundary-building lab. There were surveillance balloons with high-powered cameras floating over a desert-camouflaged armored vehicle made by Lockheed Martin. There were seismic sensor systems used to detect the movement of people and other wonders of the modern border-policing world. Around Elkabetz, you could see vivid examples of where the future of such policing was heading, as imagined not by a dystopian science fiction writer but by some of the top corporate techno-innovators on the planet.

Swimming in a sea of border security, the brigadier general was, however, not surrounded by the Mediterranean but by a parched West Texas landscape. He was in El Paso, a 10-minute walk from the wall that separates the United States from Mexico.

Just a few more minutes on foot and Elkabetz could have watched green-striped U.S. Border Patrol vehicles inching along the trickling Rio Grande in front of Ciudad Juarez, one of Mexico’s largest cities filled with U.S. factories and the dead of that country’s drug wars. The Border Patrol agents whom the general might have spotted were then being up-armored with a lethal combination of surveillance technologies, military hardware, assault rifles, helicopters, and drones. This once-peaceful place was being transformed into what Timothy Dunn, in his book The Militarization of the U.S. Mexico Border, terms a state of “low-intensity warfare.”

The Border Surge

On November 20, 2014, President Obama announced a series of executive actions on immigration reform. Addressing the American people, he referred to bipartisan immigration legislation passed by the Senate in June 2013 that would, among other things, further up-armor the same landscape in what’s been termed — in language adopted from recent U.S. war zones — a “border surge.” The president bemoaned the fact that the bill had been stalled in the House of Representatives, hailing it as a “compromise” that “reflected common sense.” It would, he pointed out, “have doubled the number of Border Patrol agents, while giving undocumented immigrants a pathway to citizenship.”

In the wake of his announcement, including executive actions that would protect five to six million of those immigrants from future deportation, the national debate was quickly framed as a conflict between Republicans and Democrats. Missed in this partisan war of words was one thing: the initial executive action that Obama announced involved a further militarization of the border supported by both parties.

“First,” the president said, “we’ll build on our progress at the border with additional resources for our law enforcement personnel so that they can stem the flow of illegal crossings and speed the return of those who do cross over.” Without further elaboration, he then moved on to other matters.

If, however, the United States follows the “common sense” of the border-surge bill, the result could add more than $40 billion dollars worth of agents, advanced technologies, walls, and other barriers to an already unparalleled border enforcement apparatus. And a crucial signal would be sent to the private sector that, as the trade magazine Homeland Security Today puts it, another “treasure trove” of profit is on the way for a border control market already, according to the latest forecasts, in an “unprecedented boom period.”

Like the Gaza Strip for the Israelis, the U.S. borderlands, dubbed a “constitution-free zone” by the ACLU, are becoming a vast open-air laboratory for tech companies. There, almost any form of surveillance and “security” can be developed, tested, and showcased, as if in a militarized shopping mall, for other nations across the planet to consider. In this fashion, border security is becoming a global industry and few corporate complexes can be more pleased by this than the one that has developed in Elkabetz’s Israel.

The Palestine-Mexico Border

Consider the IDF brigadier general’s presence in El Paso two years ago an omen. After all, in February 2014, Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) agency in charge of policing our borders, contracted with Israel’s giant private military manufacturer Elbit Systems to build a “virtual wall,” a technological barrier set back from the actual international divide in the Arizona desert. That company, whose U.S.-traded stock shot up by 6% during Israel’s massive military operation against Gaza in the summer of 2014, will bring the same databank of technology used in Israel’s borderlands — Gaza and the West Bank — to Southern Arizona through its subsidiary Elbit Systems of America.

With approximately 12,000 employees and, as it boasts, “10+ years securing the world’s most challenging borders,” Elbit produces an arsenal of “homeland security systems.” These include surveillance land vehicles, mini-unmanned aerial systems, and “smart fences,” highly fortified steel barriers that have the ability to sense a person’s touch or movement. In its role as lead system integrator for Israel’s border technology plan, the company has already installed smart fences in the West Bank and the Golan Heights.

In Arizona, with up to a billion dollars potentially at its disposal, CBP has tasked Elbit with creating a “wall” of “integrated fixed towers” containing the latest in cameras, radar, motion sensors, and control rooms. Construction will start in the rugged, desert canyons around Nogales. Once a DHS evaluation deems that part of the project effective, the rest will be built to monitor the full length of the state’s borderlands with Mexico. Keep in mind, however, that these towers are only one part of a broader operation, the Arizona Border Surveillance Technology Plan. At this stage, it’s essentially a blueprint for an unprecedented infrastructure of high-tech border fortifications that has attracted the attention of many companies. 

This is not the first time Israeli companies have been involved in a U.S. border build-up. In fact, in 2004, Elbit’s Hermes drones were the first unmanned aerial vehicles to take to the skies to patrol the southern border. In 2007, according to Naomi Klein in The Shock Doctrine, the Golan Group, an Israeli consulting company made up of former IDF Special Forces officers, provided an intensive eight-day course for special DHS immigration agents covering “everything from hand-to-hand combat to target practice to ‘getting proactive with their SUV.’” The Israeli company NICE Systems even supplied Arizona’s Joe Arpaio,“America’s toughest sheriff,” with a surveillance system to watch one of his jails.

As such border cooperation intensified, journalist Jimmy Johnson coined the apt phrase “Palestine-Mexico border” to catch what was happening. In 2012, Arizona state legislators, sensing the potential economic benefit of this growing collaboration, declared their desert state and Israel to be natural “trade partners,” adding that it was “a relationship we seek to enhance.”

In this way, the doors were opened to a new world order in which the United States and Israel are to become partners in the “laboratory” that is the U.S.-Mexican borderlands. Its testing grounds are to be in Arizona. There, largely through a program known as Global Advantage, American academic and corporate knowhow and Mexican low-wage manufacturing are to fuse with Israel’s border and homeland security companies.

The Border: Open for Business

No one may frame the budding romance between Israel’s high-tech companies and Arizona better than Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild. “If you go to Israel and you come to Southern Arizona and close your eyes and spin yourself a few times,” he says, “you might not be able to tell the difference.”

Global Advantage is a business project based on a partnership between the University of Arizona’s Tech Parks Arizona and the Offshore Group, a business advisory and housing firm which offers “nearshore solutions for manufacturers of any size” just across the border in Mexico. Tech Parks Arizona has the lawyers, accountants, and scholars, as well as the technical knowhow, to help any foreign company land softly and set up shop in the state. It will aid that company in addressing legal issues, achieving regulatory compliance, and even finding qualified employees — and through a program it’s called the Israel Business Initiative, Global Advantage has identified its target country.

Think of it as the perfect example of a post-NAFTA world in which companies dedicated to stopping border crossers are ever freer to cross the same borders themselves. In the spirit of free trade that created the NAFTA treaty, the latest border fortification programs are designed to eliminate borders when it comes to letting high-tech companies from across the seas set up in the United States and make use of Mexico’s manufacturing base to create their products. While Israel and Arizona may be separated by thousands of miles, Rothschild assured TomDispatch that in “economics, there are no borders.”

Of course, what the mayor appreciates, above all, is the way new border technology could bring money and jobs into an area with a nearly 23% poverty rate. How those jobs might be created matters far less to him. According to Molly Gilbert, the director of community engagement for the Tech Parks Arizona, “It’s really about development, and we want to create technology jobs in our borderlands.”

So consider it anything but an irony that, in this developing global set of boundary-busting partnerships, the factories that will produce the border fortresses designed by Elbit and other Israeli and U.S. high-tech firms will mainly be located in Mexico. Ill-paid Mexican blue-collar workers will, then, manufacture the very components of a future surveillance regime, which may well help locate, detain, arrest, incarcerate, and expel some of them if they try to cross into the United States.

Think of Global Advantage as a multinational assembly line, a place where homeland security meets NAFTA. Right now there are reportedly 10 to 20 Israeli companies in active discussion about joining the program. Bruce Wright, the CEO of Tech Parks Arizona, tells TomDispatch that his organization has a “nondisclosure” agreement with any companies that sign on and so cannot reveal their names.

Though cautious about officially claiming success for Global Advantage’s Israel Business Initiative, Wright brims with optimism about his organization’s cross-national planning. As he talks in a conference room located on the 1,345-acre park on the southern outskirts of Tucson, it’s apparent that he’s buoyed by predictions that the Homeland Security market will grow from a $51 billion annual business in 2012 to $81 billion in the United States alone by 2020, and $544 billion worldwide by 2018.

Wright knows as well that submarkets for border-related products like video surveillance, non-lethal weaponry, and people-screening technologies are all advancing rapidly and that the U.S. market for drones is poised to create 70,000 new jobs by 2016. Partially fueling this growth is what the Associated Press calls an “unheralded shift” to drone surveillance on the U.S. southern divide. More than 10,000 drone flights have been launched into border air space since March 2013, with plans for many more, especially after the Border Patrol doubles its fleet.

When Wright speaks, it’s clear he knows that his park sits atop a twenty-first-century gold mine. As he sees it, Southern Arizona, aided by his tech park, will become the perfect laboratory for the first cluster of border security companies in North America. He’s not only thinking about the 57 southern Arizona companies already identified as working in border security and management, but similar companies nationwide and across the globe, especially in Israel.

In fact, Wright’s aim is to follow Israel’s lead, as it is now the number-one place for such groupings. In his case, the Mexican border would simply replace that country’s highly marketed Palestinian testing grounds. The 18,000 linear feet that surround the tech park’s solar panel farm would, for example, be a perfect spot to test out motion sensors. Companies could also deploy, evaluate, and test their products “in the field,” as he likes to say — that is, where real people are crossing real borders — just as Elbit Systems did before CBP gave it the contract.

“If we’re going to be in bed with the border on a day-to-day basis, with all of its problems and issues, and there’s a solution to it,” Wright said in a 2012 interview, “why shouldn’t we be the place where the issue is solved and we get the commercial benefit from it?”

From the Battlefield to the Border

When Naomi Weiner, project coordinator for the Israel Business Initiative, returned from a trip to that country with University of Arizona researchers in tow, she couldn’t have been more enthusiastic about the possibilities for collaboration. She arrived back in November, just a day before Obama announced his new executive actions — a promising declaration for those, like her, in the business of bolstering border defenses.

“We’ve chosen areas where Israel is very strong and Southern Arizona is very strong,” Weiner explained to TomDispatch, pointing to the surveillance industry “synergy” between the two places. For example, one firm her team met with in Israel was Brightway Vision, a subsidiary of Elbit Systems. If it decides to set up shop in Arizona, it could use tech park expertise to further develop and refine its thermal imaging cameras and goggles, while exploring ways to repurpose those military products for border surveillance applications. The Offshore Group would then manufacture the cameras and goggles in Mexico.

Arizona, as Weiner puts it, possesses the “complete package” for such Israeli companies. “We’re sitting right on the border, close to Fort Huachuca,” a nearby military base where, among other things, technicians control the drones surveilling the borderlands. “We have the relationship with Customs and Border Protection, so there’s a lot going on here. And we’re also the Center of Excellence on Homeland Security.”

Weiner is referring to the fact that, in 2008, DHS designated the University of Arizona the lead school for the Center of Excellence on Border Security and Immigration. Thanks to that, it has since received millions of dollars in federal grants. Focusing on research and development of border-policing technologies, the center is a place where, among other things, engineers are studying locust wings in order to create miniature drones equipped with cameras that can get into the tiniest of spaces near ground level, while large drones like the Predator B continue to buzz over the borderlands at 30,000 feet (despite the fact that a recent audit by the inspector general of homeland security found them a waste of money).

Although the Arizona-Israeli romance is still in the courtship stage, excitement about its possibilities is growing. Officials from Tech Parks Arizona see Global Advantage as the perfect way to strengthen the U.S.-Israel “special relationship.” There is no other place in the world with a higher concentration of homeland security tech companies than Israel. Six hundred tech start-ups are launched in Tel Aviv alone every year. During the Gaza offensive last summer, Bloomberg reported that investment in such companies had “actually accelerated.” However, despite the periodic military operations in Gaza and the incessant build-up of the Israeli homeland security regime, there are serious limitations to the local market.

The Israeli Ministry of Economy is painfully aware of this. Its officials know that the growth of the Israeli economy is “largely fueled by a steady increase in exports and foreign investment.” The government coddles, cultivates, and supports these start-up tech companies until their products are market-ready. Among them have been innovations like the “skunk,” a liquid with a putrid odor meant to stop unruly crowds in their tracks. The ministry has also been successful in taking such products to market across the globe. In the decade following 9/11, sales of Israeli “security exports” rose from $2 billion to $7 billion annually.

Israeli companies have sold surveillance drones to Latin American countries like Mexico, Chile, and Colombia, and massive security systems to India and Brazil, where an electro-optic surveillance system will be deployed along the country’s borders with Paraguay and Bolivia. They have also been involved in preparations for policing the 2016 Olympics in Brazil. The products of Elbit Systems and its subsidiaries are now in use from the Americas and Europe to Australia. Meanwhile, that mammoth security firm is ever more involved in finding “civilian applications” for its war technologies. It is also ever more dedicated to bringing the battlefield to the world’s borderlands, including southern Arizona.

As geographer Joseph Nevins notes, although there are many differences between the political situations of the U.S. and Israel, both Israel-Palestine and Arizona share a focus on keeping out “those deemed permanent outsiders,” whether Palestinians, undocumented Latin Americans, or indigenous people.

Mohyeddin Abdulaziz has seen this “special relationship” from both sides, as a Palestinian refugee whose home and village Israeli military forces destroyed in 1967 and as a long-time resident of the U.S.-Mexico borderlands. A founding member of the Southern Arizona BDS Network, whose goal is to pressure U.S. divestment from Israeli companies, Abdulaziz opposes any program like Global Advantage that will contribute to the further militarization of the border, especially when it also sanitizes Israel’s “violations of human rights and international law.”

Such violations matter little, of course, when there is money to be made, as Brigadier General Elkabetz indicated at that 2012 border technology conference. Given the direction that both the U.S. and Israel are taking when it comes to their borderlands, the deals being brokered at the University of Arizona look increasingly like matches made in heaven (or perhaps hell).  As a result, there is truth packed into journalist Dan Cohen’s comment that “Arizona is the Israel of the United States.”

Todd Miller, a TomDispatch regular, is the author of Border Patrol Nation: Dispatches From the Front Lines of Homeland Security. He has written on border and immigration issues for the New York Times, Al Jazeera America, and NACLA Report on the Americas and its blog Border Wars, among other places. You can follow him on twitter @memomiller and view more of his work at toddwmiller.wordpress.com.

Gabriel M. Schivone, a writer from Tucson, has worked as a humanitarian volunteer in the Mexico-U.S. borderlands for more than six years. He blogs at Electronic Intifada and Huffington Post’s “Latino Voices.” His articles have appeared in the Arizona Daily Star, the Arizona Republic, StudentNation, the Guardian, and McClatchy Newspapers, among other publications. You can follow him on Twitter @GSchivone.

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Book, Rebecca Solnit’s Men Explain Things to Me, and Tom Engelhardt’s latest book, Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World.

Copyright 2015 Todd Miller and Gabriel M. Schivone