Recent Posts

Pages: [1] 2 3 ... 10
History / Shocking discovery of ancient teeth could rewrite human history
« Last post by RE on Today at 10:07:50 AM »

Shocking discovery of ancient teeth could rewrite human history
Mike Wehner @MikeWehner
October 20th, 2017 at 11:46 AM

There’s still many questions to be answered regarding the origins of mankind, but researchers have a pretty good outline of how it all went down — or at least they thought they did, as a new discovery by archaeologists in Germany threatens to shake up every assumption researchers have been relying on for decades.

A set of fossilized teeth from a human ancestor was unearthed in what was once the bed of the mighty Rhine river near the German town of Eppelsheim. That in itself wouldn’t be of any particular interest, but these teeth have a long, long history. They are thought to be around 9.7 million years old, which throws a huge wrench in the accepted timeline of human evolution.

The remains are incredibly significant because, if they are indeed similar to those of known human ancestors from around three million years ago in East Africa, their presence in Germany several millions of years earlier is completely unexplainable by the most widely accepted version of early human ancestry.

The idea that human ancestry began in Africa before spreading elsewhere has been largely supported by fossils found in East Africa, with remains of more evolved pre-human species spreading out from that one central location. There’s no reason why remains from a nearly 10-million-old human precursor should be anywhere near Germany, which is thousands of miles away. In fact, the find was so incredibly unexpected that the researchers who discovered it held off on publishing their finding for a full year to be absolutely sure.

“This is a tremendous stroke of luck, but also a great mystery,” Herbert Lutz., lead researcher and director of the Mainz Natural History Museum, said. “They are clearly ape teeth. Their characteristics resemble African finds that are four to five million years younger than the fossils excavated in Eppelsheim.

Further study is obviously warranted, but it’s not too early to consider the possibility that everything we thought we knew about the spread of early humanity around the world was completely wrong.
Golden Oxen Newz / Gold & Silver News-Gold & The Grand Canyon
« Last post by azozeo on Today at 06:16:25 AM »
<a href="" target="_blank" class="new_win"></a>
History / Michael Hudson: Socialism, Land and Banking: 2017 Compared to 1917
« Last post by RE on Today at 05:32:38 AM »

Michael Hudson: Socialism, Land and Banking: 2017 Compared to 1917
Posted on October 19, 2017 by Yves Smith

By Michael Hudson, a research professor of Economics at University of Missouri, Kansas City, and a research associate at the Levy Economics Institute of Bard College. His latest book is J is for Junk Economics

Socialism a century ago seemed to be the wave of the future. There were various schools of socialism, but the common ideal was to guarantee support for basic needs, and for state ownership to free society from landlords, predatory banking and monopolies. In the West these hopes are now much further away than they seemed in 1917. Land and natural resources, basic infrastructure monopolies, health care and pensions have been increasingly privatized and financialized.

Instead of Germany and other advanced industrial nations leading the way as expected, Russia’s October 1917 Revolution made the greatest leap. But the failures of Stalinism became an argument against Marxism – guilt-by-association with Soviet bureaucracy. European parties calling themselves socialist or “labour” since the 1980s have supported neoliberal policies that are the opposite of socialist policy. Russia itself has chosen neoliberalism.

Few socialist parties or theorists have dealt with the rise of the Finance, Insurance and Real Estate (FIRE) sector that now accounts for most increase in wealth. Instead of evolving into socialism, Western capitalism is being overcome by predatory finance and rent extraction imposing debt deflation and austerity on industry as well as on labor.

Failure of Western economies to recover from the 2008 crisis is leading to a revival of Marxist advocacy. The alternative to socialist reform is stagnation and a relapse into neofeudal financial and monopoly privileges.

Socialism flowered in the 19th century as a program to reform capitalism by raising labor’s status and living standards, with a widening range of public services and subsidies to make economies more efficient. Reformers hoped to promote this evolution by extending voting rights to the working population at large.

Ricardo’s discussion of land rent led early industrial capitalists to oppose Europe’s hereditary landlord class. But despite democratic political reform, the world has un-taxed land rent and is still grappling with the problem of how to keep housing affordable instead of siphoning off rent to a landlord class – more recently transmuted into mortgage interest paid to banks by owners who pledge the rental value for loans. Most bank lending today is for real estate mortgages. The effect is to bid up land prices toward the point where the entire rental value is paid as interest. This threatens to be a problem for socialist China as well as for capitalist economies.

Landlords, Banks and the Cost of Living

The classical economists sought to make their nations more competitive by keeping down the price of labor so as to undersell competitors. The main cost of living was food; today it is housing. Housing and food prices are determined not by the material costs of production, but by land rent – the rising market price for land.

In the era of the French Physiocrats, Adam Smith, David Ricardo and John Stuart Mill, this land rent accrued to Europe’s hereditary landlord class. Today, the land’s rent is paid mainly to bankers – because families need credit to buy a home. Or, if they rent, their landlords use the property rent to pay interest to the banks.

The land issue was central to Russia’s October Revolution, as it was for European politics. But the discussion of land rent and taxation has lost much of the clarity (and passion) that guided the 19th century when it dominated classical political economy, liberal reform, and indeed most early socialist politics.

In 1909/10 Britain experienced a constitutional crisis when the democratically elected House of Commons passed a land tax, only to be overridden by the House of Lords, governed by the old aristocracy. The ensuing political crisis was settled by a rule that the Lords never again could overrule a revenue bill passed by the House of Commons. But that was Britain’s last real opportunity to tax away the economic rents of landlords and natural resource owners. The liberal drive to tax the land faltered, and never again would gain serious chance of passage.

The democratization of home ownership during the 20th century led middle-class voters to oppose property taxes – including taxes on commercial sites and natural resources. Tax policy in general has become pro-rentier and anti-labor – the regressive opposite of 19th-century liberalism as developed by “Ricardian socialists” such as John Stuart Mill and Henry George. Today’s economic individualism has lost the early class consciousness that sought to tax economic rent and socialize banking.

The United States enacted an income tax in 1913, falling mainly on rentier income, not on the working population. Capital gains (the main source of rising wealth today) were taxed at the same rate as other income. But the vested interests campaigned to reverse this spirit, slashing capital gains taxes and making tax policy much more regressive. The result is that today, most wealth is not gained by capital investment for profits. Instead, asset-price gains have been financed by a debt-leveraged inflation of real estate, stock and bond prices.

Many middle-class families owe most of their net worth to rising prices for their homes. But by far the lion’s share of the real estate and stock market gains have accrued to just One Percent of the population. And while bank credit has enabled buyers to bid up housing prices, the price has been to siphon off more and more of labor’s income to pay mortgage loans or rents. As a result, finance today is what is has been throughout history: the main force polarizing economies between debtors and creditors.

Global oil and mining companies created flags of convenience to make themselves tax-exempt, by pretending to make all their production and distribution profits in tax-free trans-shipping havens such as Liberia and Panama (which use U.S. dollars instead of being real countries with their own currency and tax systems).

The fact that absentee-owned real estate and natural resource extraction are practically free of income taxation shows that democratic political reform has not been a sufficient guarantee of socialist success. Tax rules and public regulation have been captured by the rentiers, dashing the hopes of 19th-century classical reformers that progressive tax policy would produce the same effect as direct public ownership of the means of production, while leaving “the market” as an individualistic alternative to government regulation or planning.

In practice, planning and resource allocation has passed to the banking and financial sector. Many observers hoped that this would evolve into state planning, or at least work in conjunction with it as in Germany. But liberal “Ricardian socialist” failed, as did German-style “state socialism” publicly financing transportation and other basic infrastructure, pensions and similar “external” costs of living and doing business that industrial employers otherwise would have to bear. Attempts at “half-way” socialism via tax and regulatory policy against monopolies and banking have faltered repeatedly. As long as major economic or political choke points are left in private hands, they will serve s springboards to subvert real reform policies. That is why Marxist policy went beyond these would-be socialist reforms.

To Marx, the historical task of capitalism was to prepare the way for socializing the means of production by clearing away feudalism’s legacy: a hereditary landlord class, predatory banking, and the monopolies that financial interests had pried away from governments. The path of least resistance was to start by socializing land and basic infrastructure. This drive to free society from economic overhead in the form of hereditary privilege and unearned income by the “idle rich” was a step toward socialist management, by minimizing rentier costs (“faux frais of production”).

Proto-Socialist Reform in the Leading Industrial Nations

Marx was by no means alone in expecting a widening range of economic activity to be shifted away from the market to the public sector. State socialism (basically, state-sponsored capitalism) subsidized pensions and public health, education and other basic needs so as to save industrial enterprise from having to bear these charges.

In the United States, Simon Patten – the first economics professor at the new Wharton business school at the University of Pennsylvania – defined public infrastructure as a “fourth factor of production” alongside labor, capital and land. The aim of public investment was not to make a profit, but to lower the cost of living and doing business so as to minimize industry’s wage and infrastructure bill. Public health, pensions, roads and other transportation, education, research and development were subsidized or provided freely.[1]

The most advanced industrial economies seemed to be evolving toward some kind of socialism. Marx shared a Progressive Era optimism that expected industrial capitalism to evolve in the most logical way, by freeing economies from the landlordship and predatory banking inherited from Europe’s feudal era. That was above all the classical reform program of Adam Smith, John Stuart Mill and the intellectual mainstream.

But the aftermath of World War I saw the vested interests mount a Counter-Enlightenment. Banking throughout the Western world find its major market in real estate mortgage lending, natural resource extraction and monopolies – the Anglo-American model, not that of German industrial banking that had seemed to be capitalism’s financial future in the late 19th century.

Since 1980 the Western nations have reversed early optimistic hopes to reform market economies. Instead of the classical dream of taxing away the land rent that had supported Europe’s hereditary landed aristocracies, commercial real estate has been made virtually exempt from income taxation. Absentee owners avoid tax by a combination of tax-deductibility for interest payments (as if it is a necessary business expense) and fictitious over-depreciation tax credits that pretend that buildings and properties are losing value even when market prices for their land are soaring.

These tax breaks have made real estate the largest bank customers. The effect has been to financialize property rents into interest payments. Likewise in the industrial sphere, regulatory capture by lobbyists for the major monopolies has disabled public attempts to keep prices in line with the cost of production and prevent fraud by breaking up or regulating monopolies. These too have become major bank clients.

The Beginning and End of Russian Socialism

Most Marxists expected socialism to emerge first in Germany as the most advanced capitalist economy. After its October 1917 Revolution, Russia seemed to jump ahead, the first nation to free itself from rent and interest charges inherited from feudalism. By taking land, industry and finance into state control, Soviet Russia’s October Revolution created an economy without private landlords and bankers. Russian urban planning did not take account of the natural rent-of-location, nor did it charge for the use of money created by the state bank. The state bank created money and credit, so there was no need to rely on a wealthy financial class. And as property owner, the state did not seek to charge land rent or monopoly rent.

By freeing society from the post-feudal rentier class of landlords, bankers and predatory finance, the Soviet regime was much more than a bourgeois revolution. The Revolution’s early leaders sought to free wage labor from exploitation by taking industry into the public domain. State companies provided labor with free lunches, education, sports and leisure activity, and modest housing.

Agricultural land tenure was a problem. Given its centralized marketing role, the state could have reallocated land to build up a rural peasantry and helped it invest in modernization. The state could have manipulated crop prices to siphon off agricultural gains, much like Cargill does in the United States. Instead, Stalin’s collectivization program waged a war against the kulaks. This political shock led to famine. It was a steep price to pay for avoiding rent was paid to a landlord class or peasantry.

Marx had said nothing about the military dimension of the transition from progressive industrial capitalism to socialism. But Russia’s Revolution – like that of China three decades later – showed that the attempt to create a socialist economy had a military dimension that absorbed the lion’s share of the economic surplus. Military aggression by a half dozen leading capitalist nations seeking to overthrow the Bolshevik government obliged Russia to adopt War Communism. For over half a century the Soviet Union devoted most of capital to military investment, not provide sufficient housing or consumer goods for its population beyond spreading literacy, education and public health.

Despite this military overhead, the fact that the Soviet Union was free of a rentier class of financiers and absentee landlords should have made the Soviet Union the world’s most competitive low-cost economy in theory. In 1945 the United States certainly feared the efficiency of socialist planning. Its diplomats opposed Soviet membership on the ground that state enterprise and pricing would enable such economies to undersell capitalist countries.[2] So socialist countries were kept out of the IMF, World Bank and the planned World Trade Organization, explicitly on the ground that they were free of land rent, natural resource rent, monopoly rent and financial charges.

Capitalist economies are now privatizing and financializing their basic needs and infrastructure. Every activity is being forced into “the market,” at prices that need to cover not only the technological costs of production but also interest, ancillary financial fees and pension set-asides. The cost of living and doing business is further privatized as financial interests pry roads, health care, water, communications and other public utilities away from the public sector, while driving housing and commercial real estate deeply into debt.

The Cold War has shown that capitalist countries plan to continue fighting socialist economies, forcing them to militarize in self-defense. The resulting oppressive military overhead is then blamed on socialist bureaucracy and inefficiency.

The Collapse of Russian Stalinism

Russia’s Revolution ended after 74 years, leaving the Soviet Union so dispirited that it ended in collapse. The contrast between the low living standards of Russian consumers and what seemed to be Western success became increasingly pronounced. In contrast to China’s housing construction policy, the Soviet regime insisted that families double up. Clothing and other consumer goods had only drab designs, needlessly suppressing variety. To cap matters, public opposition to Russia’s military personnel losses in Afghanistan caused popular resentment.

When the Soviet Union dissolved itself in 1991, its leaders took neoliberal advice from its major adversary, the United States, in hope that this would set it on a capitalist road to prosperity. But turning its economies into viable industrial powers was the last thing U.S. advisors wanted to teach Russia.[3] Their aim was to turn it and its former satellites into raw-materials colonies of Wall Street, the City of London and Frankfurt – victims of capitalism, not rival producers.

Russia has gone to the furthest anti-socialist extreme by adopting a flat tax that fails to distinguish wages and profits of labor and capital from unearned rental income. By also having to pay a value-added tax (VAT) on consumer goods (with no tax on trading in financial assets), labor is taxed much higher than the wealthy.

Most Western “wealth creation” is achieved by debt-leveraged price increases for real estate, stocks and bonds, and by privatizing the public domain. The latter process has gained momentum since the early 1980s in Margaret Thatcher’s Britain and Ronald Reagan’s America, followed by Third World countries acting under World Bank tutelage. The pretense is that privatization will maximize technological efficiency and prosperity for the economy as a whole.

Following this advice, Russian leaders agreed that the major sources of economic rent – natural resource wealth, real estate and state companies – should be transferred to private owners (often to themselves and associated insiders). The “magic of the marketplace” was supposed to lead the new owners to make the economy more efficient as a byproduct of making money in the quickest way possible.

Each Russian worker got a “voucher” worth about $25. Most were sold off simply to obtain money to buy food and other needs as many companies stopped paying wages. Russia had wiped out domestic savings with hyperinflation after 1991.

It should not be surprising that banks became the economy’s main control centers, as in the West’s bubble economies. Instead of the promised prosperity, a new class of billionaires was endowed, headed by the notorious Seven Bankers who appropriated the formerly state-owned oil and gas, nickel and platinum, electricity and aluminum production, as well as real estate, electric utilities and other public enterprises. It was the largest giveaway in modern history. The Soviet nomenklatura became the new lords in outright seizure that Marx would have characterized as “primitive accumulation.”

The American advisors knew the obvious: Russian savings had been wiped out by the polst-1991 hyperinflation, so the new owners could only cash out by selling shares to Western buyers. The kleptocrats cashed out as expected, by dumping their shares to foreign investors so quickly at such giveaway prices that Russia’s stock market became the world’s top performer for Western investors in 1994-96.

The Russian oligarchs kept most of their sales proceeds abroad in British and other banks, beyond the reach of Russian authorities to recapture. Much was spent on London real estate, sports teams and luxury estates in the world’s flight-capital havens. Almost none was invested in Russian industry. Wage arrears often mounted up half a year behind. Living standards shrank, along with the population as birth rates plunged throughout the former Soviet economies. Skilled labor emigrated.

The basic neoliberal idea of prosperity is financial gain based on turning rent extraction into a flow of interest payments by buyers-on-credit. This policy favors financial engineering over industrial investment, reversing the Progressive Era’s industrial capitalism that Marx anticipated would be a transition stage leading to socialism. Russia adopted the West’s anti-socialist rollback toward neofeudalism.

Russian officials failed to understand the State Theory of money that is the basis of Modern Monetary Theory: States can create their own money, giving it value by accepting it in payment of taxes. The Soviet government financed its economy for seventy years without any need to back the ruble with foreign exchange. But Russia’s central bank was persuaded that “sound money” required it to back its domestic ruble currency with U.S. Treasury bonds in order to prevent inflation. Russian leaders did not realize that dollars or other foreign currencies were only needed to finance balance-of-payments deficits, not domestic spending except as this money was spent on imports.

Russia joined the dollar standard. Buying Treasury bonds meant lending to the U.S. Government. The central bank bought U.S. Treasury securities to back its domestic currency. These purchases helped finance Cold War escalation in countries around Russia. Russia paid 100% annual interest in the mid-1990s, creating a bonanza for U.S. investors. On balance, this neoliberal policy lay Russia’s economy open to looting by financial institutions seeking natural resource rent, land rent and monopoly rent for themselves. Instead of targeting such rents, Russia imposed taxes mainly on labor via a regressive flat tax – too right wing to be adopted even in the United States!

When the Soviet Union dissolved itself, its officials showed no apprehension of how quickly their economies would be de-industrialized as a result of accepting U.S. advice to privatize state enterprises, natural resources and basic infrastructure. Whatever knowledge of Marx’s analysis of capitalism had existed (perhaps in Nicolai Bukharin’s time) was long gone. It is as if no Russian official had read Volumes II and III of Marx’s Capital (or Theories of Surplus Value) where he reviewed the laws of economic rent and interest-bearing debt.

The inability of Russia, the Baltics and other post-Soviet countries to understand the FIRE sector and its financial dynamics provides an object lesson for other countries as to what to avoid. Reversing the principles of Russia’s October 1917 Revolution, the post-Soviet kleptocracy was akin to the feudal epoch’s “primitive accumulation” of the land and commons. They adopted the neoliberal business plan: to establish monopolies, first and most easily by privatizing the public infrastructure that had been built up, extracting economic rents and them paying out the resulting as interest and dividends.

This Western financial advice became a textbook example of how not to organize an economy.[4] Having rejoined the global economy free of debt in 1991, Russia’s population, companies and government quickly ran up debts as a result of its man-made disaster. Families could have been given their homes freely, just as corporate managers were given their entire companies virtually for free. But Russian managers were as anti-labor as they were greedy to grab their own assets from the public domain. Soaring housing prices quickly plagued Russian’s economy with one of the world’s highest-priced living and business costs. That prevented any thought of industrial competitiveness with the United States or Europe. What passed for Soviet Marxism lacked an understanding of how economic rents and the ensuing high labor costs affected international prices, or how debt service and capital flight affected the currency’s exchange rate.

Adversaries of socialism pronounced Marxist theory dead, as if the Soviet dissolution meant the end of Marxism. But today, less than three decades later, the leading Western economies are themselves succumbing to an overgrowth of debt and shrinking prosperity. Russia failed to recognize that just as its own economy was expiring, so was the West’s. Industrial capitalism is succumbing to a predatory finance capitalism that is leaving Western economies debt-ridden.[5] The underlying causes were clear already a century ago: unchecked financial rentiers, absentee ownership and monopolies.

The post-Soviet collapse in the 1990s was not a failure of Marxism, but of the anti-socialist ideology that is plunging Western economies under domination by the Finance, Insurance and Real Estate (FIRE) sector’s symbiosis of the three forms of rent extraction: land and natural resource rent, monopoly rent, and interest (financial rent). This is precisely the fate from which 19th-century socialism, Marxism and even state capitalism sought to save the industrial economies.

A silver lining to the Soviet “final” stage has been to free Marxist analysis from Russian Marxology. Its focus of Soviet Marxology was not an analysis of how the capitalist nations were becoming financialized neo-rentier economies, but was mainly propagandistic, ossifying into a stereotyped identity politics appealing to labor and oppressed minorities. Today’s revival of Marxist scholarship has begun to show how the U.S.-centered global economy is entering a period of chronic austerity, debt deflation, and polarization between creditors and debtors.

Financialization and Privatization Are Submerging Capitalism in Debt Deflation

By 1991, when the Soviet Union’s leaders decided to take the “Western” path, the Western economies themselves were reaching a terminus. Appearances were saved by a wave of unproductive credit and debt creation to sustain the bubble economy that finally crashed in 2008.

The pitfalls of this financial dynamic were not apparent in the early years after World War II, largely because economies emerged with their private sectors free of debt. The ensuing boom endowed the middle class in the United States and other countries, but was debt financed, first for home ownership and commercial real estate, then by consumer credit to purchase of automobiles and appliances, and finally by credit-card debt just to meet living expenses.

The same debt overgrowth occurred in the industrial sector, where bank and bondholder credit since the 1980s has been increasingly for corporate takeovers and raiding, stock buybacks and even to pay dividends. Industry has become a vehicle for financial engineering to increase stock prices and strip assets, not to increase the means of production. The result is that capitalism has fallen prey to resurgent rentier interests instead of liberating economies from absentee landlords, predatory banking and monopolies. Banks and bondholders have found their most lucrative market not in the manufacturing sector but in real estate and natural resource extraction.

These vested interests have translated their takings into the political power to shed taxes and dismantle regulations on wealth. The resulting political Counter-Reformation has inverted the idea of “free market” to mean an economy free for rent extractors, not free from landlords, monopolists and financial exploitation as Adam Smith, John Stuart Mill and other classical economists had envisioned. The word “reform” as used by today’s neoliberal media means undoing Progressive Era reforms, dismantling public regulation and government power – except for control by finance and its allied vested interests.

All this is the opposite of socialism, which has now sunk to its nadir through the Western World. The past four decades have seen most of the European and North American parties calling themselves “socialist” make an about-face to follow Tony Blair’s New Labour, the French socialists-in-name and the Clinton’s New Democrats. They support privatization, financialization and a shift away from progressive taxation to a value-added tax (VAT) falling on consumers, not on finance or real estate.

China’s Socialist Diplomacy in Today’s Hostile World

Now that Western finance capitalism is stagnating, it is fighting even harder to prevent the post-2008 crisis from leading to socialist reforms that would re-socialize infrastructure that has been privatized and put a public banking system in place. Depicting the contrast between socialist and finance-capitalist economies as a clash of civilizations, U.S.-centered “Western” diplomacy is using military and political subversion to prevent a transition from capitalism into socialism.

China is the leading example of socialist success in a mixed economy. Unlike the Soviet Union, it has not proselytized its economic system or sought to promote revolution abroad to emulate its economic doctrine. Just the opposite: To avert attack, China has given foreign investors a stake in its economic growth. The aim has been to mobilize U.S. and other foreign interests as allies, willing customers for China’s exports, and suppliers of modern production facilities in China.

This is the opposite of the antagonism that confronted Russia. The risk is that it involves financial investment. But China has protected its autonomy by requiring majority Chinese ownership in most sectors. The main danger is domestic, in the form of financial dynamics and private rent extraction. The great economic choice facing China today concerns the degree to which land and natural resources should be taxed.

The state owns the land, but does fully tax its rising valuation or rent-of-location that has made many families rich. Letting the resulting real-estate and financialized wealth dominate its economic growth poses two dangers: First, it increases the price that new buyers must pay for their home. Second, rising housing prices force these families to borrow – at interest. This turns the rental value of land – value created by society and public infrastructure investment – into a flow of interest to the banks. They end up receiving more over time than the sellers, while increasing the cost of living and doing business. That is a fate which a socialist economy must avoid at all costs.

At issue is how China can best manage credit and natural resource rent in a way that best meets the needs of its population. Now that China has built up a prosperous industry and real estate, its main challenge is to avoid the financial dynamics that are subjecting the West to debt deflation and burying Western economies. To avoid these dynamics, China must curtail the proliferation of unproductive debt created merely to transfer property on credit, inflating asset prices in the process.

Socialism is incompatible with a rentier class of landlords, natural resource owners and monopolists – the preferred clients of banks hoping to turn economic rent into interest charges. As a vehicle to allocate resources “the market” reflects the status quo of property ownership and credit-creation privileges at any given moment of time, without consideration for what is fair and efficient or predatory. Vested interests claim that such a market is an immutable force of nature, whose course cannot be altered by government “interference.” This rhetoric of political passivity aims to deter politicians and voters from regulating economies, leaving the wealthy free to extract as much economic rent and interest as markets can bear by privatizing real estate, natural resources, banking and other monopolies.

Such rent seeking is antithetical to socialism’s aim to take these assets into the public domain. That is why the financial sector, oil and mineral extractors and monopolists fight so passionately to dismantle state regulatory power and public banking. That is the diplomacy of finance capital, aiming to consolidate American hegemony over a unipolar world. It backs this strategy with a neoliberal academic curriculum that depicts predatory financial and rentier gains as if they add to national income, not simply transfer it into the hands of the rentier classes. This misleading picture of economic reality poses a danger for China sending its students to study economics at American and European universities.

The century that has elapsed since Russia’s October 1917 Revolution has produced a substantial Marxist literature describing how finance capitalism has overpowered industrial capitalism. Its dynamics occupied Marx in Volumes II and III of Capital (and also his Theories of Surplus Value). Like most observers of his era, Marx expected capitalism to make a substantial step toward socialism by overcoming the dynamics of parasitic capital, above all the tendency for debt to keep on expanding at compound interest until it produces a financial crash.

The only way to control banks and their allied rentier sectors is outright socialization. The past century has shown that if society does not control the banks and financial sector, they will control society. Their strategy is to block government money creation so that economies will be forced to rely on banks and bondholders. Regulatory authority to limit such financial aggression and the monopoly pricing and rent extraction it supports has been crippled in the West by “regulatory capture” by the rentier oligarchy.

Attempts to tax away rental income (the liberal alternative to taking real estate and natural resources directly into the public domain) is prone to lobbying for loopholes and evasion, most notoriously via offshore banking centers in tax-avoidance enclaves and the “flags of convenience” sponsored by the global oil and mining companies. This leaves the only way to save society from the financial power to convert rent into interest to be a policy of nationalizing natural resources, fully taxing land rent (where land and minerals are not taken directly into the public domain), and de-privatizing infrastructure and other key sectors.


Markets have not recovered for the products of American industry and labor since 2008. Industrial capitalism has been sacrificed to a form of finance capitalism that is looking more pre-capitalist (or simply oligarchic and neofeudal) with each passing year. The resulting polarization forces every economy – including China – to choose between saving its bankers and other creditors or freeing debtors and lowering the economy’s cost structure. Will the government enforce bank and bondholder claims, or will it give priority to the economy and its people? That is an eternal political question spanning pre-capitalist, capitalist and post-capitalist economies.

Marx described the mathematics of compound interest expanding to absorb the entire economy as age-old, long predating industrial capitalism. He characterized the ancient mode of production as dominated by slavery and usury, and medieval banking as predatory. These financial dynamics exist in socialist economies just as they did in medieval and ancient economies. The way in which governments manage the dynamics of credit and debt thus are the dominant force in every era, and should receive the most pressing attention today as China shapes its socialist future.

[1] I give the details in “Simon Patten on Public Infrastructure and Economic Rent Capture,” American Journal of Economics and Sociology 70 (October 2011):873-903.

[2] My book Super-Imperialism (1972; new ed. 2002) reviews this discussion during 1944-46.

[3] I discuss the IMF and World Bank plan to wipe out Russian savings with hyperinflation and make manufacturing investment uneconomic in “How Neoliberal Tax and Financial Policy Impoverishes Russia – Needlessly,” Mir Peremen (The World of Transformations), 2012 (3):49-64 (in Russian). МИР ПЕРЕМЕН 3/2012 (ISSN 2073-3038) Mir peremen М. ХАДСОН, Неолиберальная налоговая и финансовая политика приводит к обнищанию России, 49-64.

[4] I give details in “How Neoliberals Bankrupted ‘New Europe’: Latvia in the Global Credit Crisis,” (with Jeffrey Sommers), in Martijn Konings, ed., The Great Credit Crash (Verso: London and New York, 2010), pp. 244-63, and “Stockholm Syndrome in the Baltics: Latvia’s neoliberal war against labor and industry,” in Jeffrey Sommers and Charles Woolfson, eds., The Contradictions of Austerity: The Socio-Economic Costs of the Neoliberal Baltic Model (Routledge 2014), pp. 44-63.

[5] For more analysis see Dirk Bezemer and Michael Hudson, “Finance is Not the Economy: Reviving the Conceptual Distinction,” Journal of Economic Issues, 50 (2016: #3), pp. 745-768.
An analysis of IUCN’s Red List of endangered species places 10 drivers of the Holocene-Anthropocene Mass Extinction in order of severity. It concludes that classical environmental threats like deforestation, hunting and overfishing – in 2016 – still top the list of biodiversity killers.

Anthropogenic climate change is currently affecting 19 percent of species that are listed as threatened or near-threatened – making it the 7th extinction driver. (Stating the obvious: this position will change, as temperatures continue to rise.)

Six classical killers are still bigger drivers of the Holocene-Anthropocene Mass Extinction than climate change is. Overexploitation (“the harvesting of species from the wild at rates that cannot be compensated for by reproduction or regrowth”) is still by far the biggest threat to Earth’s biodiversity – second is agricultural activity.

In order of numbers of species affected the top-10 of extinction drivers is: 1. overexploitation (including deforestation, hunting and fishing); 2. agriculture (its direct ecological effects, excluding land use change); 3. urbanisation; 4. invasive species and disease; 5. pollution (agricultural, domestic, industrial); 6. ‘system modification’ (deliberate fires, dams); 7. climate change; 8. human disturbance (tourism, war); 9. transport; 10. energy production (not to be confused with energy pollution).

Two useful exercises: comparing what’s worse – and what’s getting worse

Extinction drivers work synergistically, so therefore tackling any one of them is always useful – faced with the challenge of slowing down the global decline in biodiversity. But of course we also want to know which are the largest single culprits – and here the analysis of currently endangered species offers a really good starting point.

It was published in Nature in August 2016, as a commentary article under the title ‘Biodiversity: the ravages of guns, nets and bulldozers’ – which clearly helps to put feet on the ground and remove any romantic notion of what a mass extinction looks like in practice.

The analysis was performed by a four-person team under lead author Sean Maxwell, a PhD student in environmental management at the University of Queensland, where co-authors Richard Fuller and James Watson are both associate professors. Fourth author is Thomas Brooks, head of science at the International Union for Conversation of Nature (IUCN) – the organisation that maintains the global Red List of endangered species that was evaluated by the group:

he above image shows the taxonomic representation of the IUCN Red List [that seems to place relative weight on ‘higher’ animal biodiversity, considering the extent of plant biodiversity on Earth]. Birds have the highest number of threatened and near-threatened species, followed by amphibians. Mammal species take the third place on the list. (Malacostraca are a large class of crustaceans, Magnoliopsida are a class of flowering plants and Anthozoa at place 5 are a class of marine invertebrates that includes all species of coral.)

Results of the study clearly show that classical environmental stressors are currently still a larger threat to Earth’s biodiversity than the relative newcomers [for comparison overexploitation affects 6,241 species on the IUCN Red List, agricultural activity affects 5,407 species – while invasive species threaten 2,084 Red List species and climate changes affects 1,688].

As the two images directly above and below indicate there is (apart from indirect synergy) also direct synergy between the drivers – as the vast majority of threatened biodiversity (6,994 species out of 8,688 species – that’s 81 percent) is impacted by multiple large groups of extinction drivers simultaneously.

Another indication of the synergy between extinction drivers: the ‘interaction potential’ between major threat classes. The width of links between nodes represents how many species are simultaneously threatened by the two connected threat classes. Only links that have more simultaneously threatened species than the mean (860 species) for the network are shown.

Furthermore it is of course also important to assess the relative development of these extinction drivers:

Climate change is runner up on the extinction drivers list

The authors acknowledge that especially climate change is set to become a far-larger threat to biodiversity in the future – stating “climate change will become an increasingly dominant problem in the biodiversity crisis.”

For us that makes sense for two very important reasons. The first is climate inertia – on very many levels, from fossil lock-in emissions (decades), ocean-atmospheric temperature inertia (yet more decades), Earth system temperature inertia (centuries to millennia) to ecological climate impact inertia (impacts becoming worse over time under a constant stress) – all this to illustrate anthropogenic climate change, although already manifesting itself, is still very much an escalating problem for the future. We’ll just link to our ‘Real’ Global Temperature graph for background illustration of the intrinsically delayed onset of climate change – the warming itself, let alone its consequences. (And from there of course biodiversity loss is exponential to warming.)

The second reason is the possibility that the ecological effects of climate change (the portion that is already manifesting itself) are currently already larger than thought – something that can be masked by looking at individual species and is better assessed when looking at ecosystems or entire biomes. Climate change has the potential to kill most of the coral reefs, climate change has the potential to kill most of the Arctic marine ecosystem*, climate change has the potential to dry out most of the Amazon rainforest – individual examples of macro-scale climate-biodiversity tipping points. The associated stressors are possibly already building up, while direct extinctions still lack.

[*) For illustration – the authors present an example of the Arctic marine ecosystem collapse on individual threatened species level: "Hooded seals (Cystophora cristata) are among the 1,688 species affected. These have dropped in abundance by 90% in the northeastern Atlantic Arctic over the past few decades as a result of extensive declines in regional sea ice, and so in the availability of sites for resting and raising pups."]

This ‘extinction inertia’ is just a bit more than a hypothesis. It’s an underlying trend that can be deduced from population extinctions and intraspecific biodiversity decline we learned in part 14 of this series. That’s the general decline of ordinary species – species that are not (yet) on the Red List of IUCN.

That should worry us. Just like poaching. Just like bulldozers. Just like logging and overfishing. It really is a massive problem. The largest we have on Earth.
Doom Psychology & Philosophy / Human Anxiety in Late-Stage Capitalism
« Last post by RE on Today at 05:20:08 AM »

Human Anxiety in Late-Stage Capitalism

Superficial explanations for today’s social anxiety and political discontent miss the underlying reality: the crisis of late-stage capitalism in its frantic death throes, explains poet Phil Rockstroh.

By Phil Rockstroh

A number of recent press articles, including an over 8,000-word feature piece in The New York Times have asked, to quote the Times’ headline, “Why Are More American Teenagers Than Ever Suffering From Severe Anxiety?”

Although the question was proffered, the reporters and editors responsible for the articles remain resolutely obtuse to the obvious: The bughouse crazy environment of late-stage capitalist culture evokes classic fight-or-flight responses attendant to episodes of severe anxiety and panic attacks.

The word panic has its derivation in reference to Pan, the Greek god of wilderness and wildness, of the animal body encoded within human beings and its attendant animalistic imperatives. To wit, deracinate an animal from its natural habitat and it will evince, on an instinctual basis, a fight-or-flight response.

If caged, the unfortunate creature will pace the confines of its imprisonment, chew and tear at its fur and flesh, become irritable, enervated, languish and even die from the deprivation of the environment it was born to inhabit. A caged animal, even if the unfortunate creature endures captivity, is not the entity nature conceived; the living being has been reduced to A Thing That Waits For Lunch.

Human beings, animals that we are, respond in a similar fashion. Experiencing anxiety is among the ways our innate animal spirits react to the capitalist cage. Inundate a teenager with the soul-defying criteria of the corporate/consumer state, with its overbearing, pre-careerist pressures, its paucity of communal eros, its demands, overt and implicit, to conform to a shallow, manic, nebulously defined yet oppressive societal order, and insist that those who cannot adapt, much less excel, are “losers” who are fated to become “basement dwellers” in their parents’ homes or, for those who lack the privilege, be cast into homelessness, then the minds of the young or old alike are apt to be inundated with feelings of angst and dread.

Worse, if teenagers are culturally conditioned to believe said feelings and responses are exclusively experienced by weaklings, parasites, and losers then their suffering might fester to the point of emotional paralysis and suicidal inclinations.

No Real Remedies

What does the capitalist state offer as remedy? Obscenely profitable, corporately manufactured and widely prescribed psychoactive medications. Treatment, which, at best, merely masks symptoms and bestows the illusion of recovery.

As R. D. Laing observed: “What we call ‘normal’ is a product of repression, denial, splitting, projection, introjection and other forms of destructive action on experience. It is radically estranged from the structure of being.”
Read also:

In short, it is insanity to be expected to adapt to socially acceptable insanity. Yet we are pressured to adapt to, thus internalize odious, groupthink concepts and tenets. To cite one such groupthink example: homelessness is natural to the human condition and is a communally acceptable situation.

Closer to fact: The problem of homelessness is the result of a societal-wide perception problem — the phenomenon is the very emblem of the scrambling, twisting, dissociating, and displacing of perception that capitalist propagandists specialize in. Homelessness would be considered a relic of a barbaric past if this very simple principle was applied: Having access to permanent shelter is a human right and not a privilege.

What kind of a vile, vicious people would deny that simple proposition? Those conditioned by a lingering Puritan/Calvinist mindset to believe: Punishment for resisting the usurpation of the fleeting hours of one’s finite life must be severe. If the over-class can no longer get away with, as was once common practice in the Puritan/Calvinist tradition, public floggings to whip the labor force into line, then those who will not or cannot comply will be cast onto the cold, unforgiving concrete of a soulless cityscape.

It comes down to this, societies that are ridden with vast wealth inequity, due to the machinations of a rapacious over-class, create the obscenity known as homelessness. Moreover, the situation is only one of the numerous obscenities inherent to state capitalism. Obscenities that include, events that are dominating the present news cycle, e.g., the predations of a lecherous movie mogul, to the sub-cretinous doings and pronouncements of a Chief of State who is a bloated, bloviating, two-legged toxic waste dump.

Trump, No Aberration

How is it then, liberals fail to grasp the fact that the Trump presidency is not an aberration; rather, his ascension to power should be regarded as being among the high probability variables of late-stage capitalism and empire building? The psychopathic, tangerine-tinged clown Trump is the embodiment of the Second Law of Thermodynamics, a development that is concomitant to over-expanded empires. Thus he will continue to flounce deeper into the quagmire of crash-engendering, economic legerdemain and perpetual war.

Empires are death cults, and death cults, on a subliminal basis, long for their own demise. Paradoxically, the collective mindset of imperium, even as it thrusts across the expanse of the world, renders itself insular, cut off from culturally enhancing novelty, as all the while, the homeland descends into a psychical swamp of churning madness.

A draining of the swamp of the collective mind cannot come to pass, for the swamp and citizenry are one. Withal, the likes of leaders such as Trump rise from and are made manifest by the morass of the culture itself. In a swamp, the gospel of rebirth and redemption is heard in the song of humus. New life rises from its compost.
Read also:
Trump: Α very confused President!

In the presence of Trump’s debased mind and tombified carcass, one is privy to arias of rot. While Hillary Clinton’s monotonous tempo was the dirge of a taxidermist — cold, desiccated of heart, and devoid of life’s numinous spark — Trump’s voice carries the depraved cacophony of a Célinean fool’s parade … its trajectory trudging towards the end of empire.

As liberals new BFFL (Best Friend for Life) George W. Bush might ask, “Is our liberals learning.”

In a word, no. For example, the collective psyche of U.S. culture as been enflamed by the revelations that actresses were coerced into sexual encounters with a movie mogul whose power in the industry was only matched, even enhanced, by his sadistic nature. The staff of his company assisted, was complicit in, or remained silent about his lechery, as did the whole of the movie industry and the entertainment press. All as NFL athletes are being threatened with expulsion from the League if they kneel during the national anthem.

The Great Unspoken

Yet the great unspoken remains: The enabling of and submission to the degradation, exploitation and tyranny, and the lack of resistance thereof share a common and singular factor: The careerism of all concerned. The cultural milieu concomitant to capitalism is at the rotten root and noxious blossoming of the situation.

Jean-Luc Godard’s 1967 cinematic barnburner “Two or Three Things I Know About Her” should be required viewing for those unaware or in denial of the acuity of the film’s theme i.e., becoming enmeshed within the psychical landscape of dominance, degradation, and submission inherent to and inseparable from capitalist/consumer culture will cause one to become party to societal sanctioned prostitution. When life is negotiated within a collective value system that devalues and deadens the individual’s inner life thus warps every human transaction, anomie descends, the worst among a people ascend to positions of power.

“Panic is the sudden realization that everything around you is alive.” — William S. Burroughs, from Ghost of Chance

When friends visited me in New York, where I lived for decades, I would take them on walking tours through the city. We would cross the Westside Highway and stroll the pedestrian walk along the Hudson River, or cross the East River by walking across the Brooklyn Bridge.

The effect of these excursions on people was often profound … the combined elements of the elemental beauty of the rivers and vastness of the city’s architecture and scope, clamor, and the dense interweaving of traditional ethnic customs and ad hoc social codes of New Yorkers often would heighten the visitors’ senses and open them to larger, more intricate awareness of themselves and extant reality … the freeways of the contemporary mind (conditioned to be constantly engaged in manic motion, with one’s mind either frenzied by an obsession with performing (ultimately futile) maneuvers directed to saving time — or stalled at a frustration inducing standstill) were replaced by the exigencies of life at street level, i.e., novel situations that had to be apprehended and negotiated.
Read also:
Transforming Central East Europe

The possibilities of life seemed greater. The crimped eros of insular suburban thought became loosened before the city’s intricacies and expansiveness. Although: Not all, or even a scant few, New Yorkers can maintain the state of being. Few of us can live by Rilke’s resolve to “make every moment holy.” Life, in the city, becomes grotesquely distorted … High rents, inflicted by hyper-gentrification, in combination with the deification of success and its cult of careerism overwhelm one’s psyche … There is so far to fall.

Angst (the word originally can be traced to the ancient Greek deity Ananke, the immovable by prayer and offering bitch Goddess of Necessity and the root word of anxiety) clamps down one’s sense of awareness. Ananke dominates the lives of the non-privileged citizenry while Narcissus, Trump’s, the Clintons’, and their financial and cultural elitists’ patron God rules the day. The pantheon of possibility has been decimated, a cultural cleansing has been perpetrated, by the egoist caprice of the beneficiaries of the late capitalist dictatorship of money.

Hence, we arrive at the primal wisdom tacitly conveyed by anxiety-borne states of fight or flight. Due to the reality that capitalism, on both an individual and collective basis, drives individuals into madness, all as the system destroys forest and field, ocean and sea and the soul-scape of all who live under its rapacious dominion, our plight comes down to this: We either struggle and strive, by and any and all means, to end the system — or it will end us.

* Phil Rockstroh is a poet, lyricist and philosopher bard living, now, in Munich, Germany. He may be contacted: and at FaceBook:
Knarfs Knewz / Pollution linked to one in six deaths
« Last post by knarf on Today at 05:19:26 AM »
Almost all of these deaths occurred in low- and middle-income countries, where pollution could account for up to a quarter of deaths. Bangladesh and Somalia were the worst affected.

Air pollution had the biggest impact, accounting for two-thirds of deaths from pollution.

Brunei and Sweden had the lowest numbers of pollution-related deaths.

Most of these deaths were caused by non-infectious diseases linked to pollution, such as heart disease, stroke and lung cancer.

"Pollution is much more than an environmental challenge - it is a profound and pervasive threat that affects many aspects of human health and wellbeing," said the study's author, Prof Philip Landrigan, of the Icahn School of Medicine, at Mount Sinai in New York.

The biggest risk factor, air pollution, contributed to 6.5 million premature deaths. This included pollution from outdoor sources, such as gases and particulate matter in the air, and in households, from burning wood or charcoal indoors.

The next largest risk factor, water pollution, accounted for 1.8 million deaths, while pollution in the workplace was linked to 800,000 deaths globally.

About 92% of these deaths occurred in poorer countries, with the greatest impact felt in places undergoing rapid economic development such as India, which had the fifth highest level of pollution deaths, and China, which had the 16th.
UK faring worse

In the UK, about 8% or 50,000 deaths are estimated to be linked to pollution. This puts the UK in 55th place out of the 188 countries measured, placing them behind the US and many European countries, including Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Denmark.

Dr Penny Woods, of the British Lung Foundation, said: "Air pollution is reaching crisis point worldwide, and the UK is faring worse than many countries in Western Europe and the US.

"A contributing factor could be our dependence on diesel vehicles, notorious for pumping out a higher amount of poisonous particles and gases.

"These hit people with a lung condition, children and the elderly hardest."

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said a £3 billion plan had been put in place to improve air quality and reduce harmful emissions.

A spokesman said: "We will also end the sale of new diesel and petrol cars by 2040, and next year we will publish a comprehensive Clean Air Strategy which will set out further steps to tackle air pollution."

Mike Hawes from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders said the latest diesel cars were the cleanest in history. He said the biggest change to air quality would be achieved "by encouraging the uptake of the latest, lowest emission technologies and ensuring road transport can move smoothly".

In the United States, more than 5.8% - or 155,000 - deaths could be linked to pollution.

The authors said air pollution affected the poor disproportionately, including those in poor countries as well as poor people in wealthy countries.

Study author Karti Sandilya, from Pure Earth, a non-governmental organisation, said: "Pollution, poverty, poor health, and social injustice are deeply intertwined.

"Pollution threatens fundamental human rights, such as the right to life, health, wellbeing, safe work, as well as protections of children and the most vulnerable."

The results were the product of a two-year project. The authors have published an interactive map illustrating their data.
Knarfs Knewz / Florida: Anti-racists rally against Richard Spencer
« Last post by knarf on Today at 05:14:30 AM »
Chanting "No Trump, no KKK, no fascist USA", protesters marched on the University of Florida's (UF) Gainesville campus to rally against a speech by white supremacist Richard Spencer.

Some 500 police officers also descended on the campus on Thursday.

Livestream video of the demonstration showed community members, anti-racists and anti-fascist activists marching and singing "Not in my town, not in my state, we don't want your Nazi hate".

Some estimated that at least 1,000 people joined the march.

Spencer is a leading member of the alt-right, a loosely-knit coalition that includes neo-Nazis, white supremacists and white nationalists who advocate the creation of a white ethno-state.

Inside the auditorium, the audience booed as Spencer took to the podium, according to the Gainesville Sun, a local daily.

"Go home, Spencer," many shouted in unison with fists raised in the air.

According to local media, at least 1,000 people joined the march against Richard Spencer on Thursday

According to the Gainesville Sun, a flustered Spencer replied: "Y'all aren't tolerant. Y'all aren't anything! Y'all are full of s**t. You all are acting like animals and the communist antifa [anti-fascist] that you are."

By the early afternoon, at least one person was arrested for carrying a firearm on campus, the Alachua County Sheriff's Office said on Twitter.

Mitch Emerson, a community organiser who was involved in planning the "No Nazis at UF" rally, said protesters were voicing their opposition to "a group that poses imminent threat of violence".

"I've seen a lot of controversial speakers," he told Al Jazeera.

"To me, that is an important part of the campus experience."

"But there is a big difference between someone [holding controversial views] and saying we need to ethnically cleanse the country."

On Thursday morning, UF President W Kent Fuchs urged students, faculty and staff "not to follow their [white supremacists'] game plan".

In a video message posted on Twitter, Fuchs said Spencer and his followers hope to "create protests against their right to speak on campuses such as ours so that they're portrayed as on the side of the law … and that we then are against the law".
State of emergency

Because UF allowed Spencer's group to control ticket distribution, some racial minorities were turned away from the event, according to the Dream Defenders activist organisation and social media users.

The Dream Defenders @Dreamdefenders

Dream Defender turned away from the event: “They said people like me aren't welcome.” #NoNazisatUF
1:04 PM - Oct 19, 2017

    1 1 Reply
    20 20 Retweets

Thursday's event is the first high profile appearance by alt-right figures since August's "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, the country's largest white supremacist protest in decades.

On August 12, white supremacists from across the country descended on Charlottesville for the "Unite the Right" rally, where they protested the city's decision to remove a Confederate statue.

As Unite the Right participants clashed with community members, anti-racists and anti-fascists throughout the city, one attendee, James Alex Fields, allegedly ploughed his car into a march of counterdemonstrators. The attack killed 32-year-old Heather Heather and injured 19 others.

Spencer had originally applied for a permit to speak at UF on September 12. Citing public safety in the wake of Charlottesville, the university did not grant Spencer a permit for that date.

After threats of legal action, UF allowed Spencer's National Policy Institute, a white supremacist think-tank, to reschedule the speech for Thursday.

In the run-up to the event, Florida Governor Rick Scott declared a state of emergency in Alachua County, where the university is located.

"I find that the threat of a potential emergency is imminent," the governor said in an executive order on Monday.

The National Policy Institute did not reply to Al Jazeera's request for a comment.

In a statement released earlier this month, UF said that although it "denounced Spencer's white supremacist rhetoric", the university was required to "allow the free expression of all viewpoints".

The statement also said the university said it has spent upwards of $600,000 on security, which involved the participation of the university's police department, the Alachua County Sherriff's Department, the Gainesville Police Department and other law enforcement agencies.

Of that total, Spencer's National Policy Institute was asked to pay $10,564 to rent the venue and contribute to security costs.

Emerson criticised the decision to spend the large sum of money on security for Spencer and his followers.

"I understand the need for security. But why are the students' tuition dollars and Florida's tax dollars going toward subsidising this?" he told Al Jazeera by telephone ahead of Thursday's rally.

Instead, Emerson argued that UF should have denied a permit for Spencer and used the funds for legal protection against a potential lawsuit.
'Flash protests'

Ahead of Spencer's speech on Thursday, the Daily Stormer, one of the largest neo-Nazi websites in the country, urged its followers to hold impromptu demonstrations outside of Jewish and African American institutions in Gainesville.

The site's founder, Andrew Anglin, instructed followers to cover racist or explicitly Nazi tattoos and dress in a manner that does not identify them as white supremacists.

Anglin called for brief flash protests outside of Jewish-owned businesses, the Chabad Jewish Center, the Institute of Black Culture and the Gainesville Sun office.

He also suggested that the protesters chant "Jews will not replace us", a slogan that white supremacists used during the "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville last month.

Inside the auditorium, Spencer was joined by well-known white supremacists Mike Enoch, a podcaster who is also known as Mike Penovich, and Eli Mosley, leader of Identity Evropa.

Lecia Brooks, outreach director of the Alabama-based Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a watchdog that monitors hate groups, explained that Spencer's appearance in Gainesville comes after months of white supremacist recruitment campaigns on university campuses.

"Their hope is to pick up as many disenfranchised whites on college campuses as they can," she told Al Jazeera, alluding to a surge in white supremacist flyer distribution and racist incidents on campuses.

Between the November 8 election of President Donald Trump and April, the SPLC documented at least 330 bias incidents at universities.

Amid widespread public backlash, a string of universities and cities declined to provide Spencer and other far-right figures with event permits after the deadly violence in Charlottesville.

Among the universities that rejected Spencer's application for speaking events are Texas A&M and Ohio State University.

"They have been trying to have Charlottesville 2.0 and 3.0 since [August]," said Brooks, "and now they are trying to regroup because they received bad media with the death of Heather Heyer."
Knarfs Knewz / ‘Murder insurance’ or protection, US gun debate
« Last post by knarf on Today at 05:10:13 AM »
The National Rifle Association is offering insurance for people who shoot someone, outraged gun-control advocates have said it could foster more violence and give gun owners a false sense of security to shoot first and ask questions later.

Some have called it "murder insurance," and have said that rather than promoting personal responsibility and protection, it encourages gun owners to take action and not worry about the consequences. And, they said, it's being marketed in a way that feeds on the nation's racial divisions.

Guns Down, a gun-control group formed last year, is running an ad campaign to criticise the NRA's new insurance. It's just the latest group to take aim at the NRA's offering.

"The reason I call it 'murder insurance' is because if you look at the way this is marketed, it's really sold in the context of 'There's a threat around every corner, dear mostly-white NRA member,' and that threat is either a black man or a brown man or some other kind of person of colour," said Guns Down director Igor Volsky.

"So when you inevitably have to use your gun to defend yourself from this threat around every corner, you have insurance to protect you."

Carry Guard insurance was launched this past spring by the NRA. Rates range from $13.95 a month for up to $250,000 in civil protection and $50,000 in criminal defence to a "gold plus" policy that costs $49.95 a month and provides up to $1.5 million in civil protection and $250,000 in criminal defence.

The NRA isn't the only gun lobbying group offering such insurance. The United States Concealed Carry Association has been in the business much longer and provides up to $2m in civil costs and $250,000 for criminal defence. But the NRA is the most prominent gun-rights group in the country and it offered similar insurance previously. And Carry Guard is more comprehensive and being marketed more aggressively than it has been previously. It's drawing attention to a type of policy that was relatively obscure until now.

Guns Down's advertising campaign casts a spotlight on the policies and asks the two insurance companies involved with it - Lockton Affinity, which administers it, and Chubb, the underwriter - to drop it. The campaign includes a video message from Sybrina Fulton, mother of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed teen shot and killed in 2012 by a neighbourhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman whose case drew nationwide notoriety.

The video featuring Fulton begins with images showing some of the most racially divisive moments in recent history — from the white supremacists who protested in Charlottesville, Virginia, to surveillance footage showing Dylann Roof, who shot and killed nine African Americans in 2015 during a prayer meeting at a church in Charleston, South Carolina.

"They spend millions lobbying for laws that allow them to 'shoot first' and 'stand their ground.' But that just makes it easier to get away with murder," Fulton says. She criticises the insurance and implores viewers to tell Chubb and Lockton Affinity to drop the insurance - and to not buy their products until they do.

Lockton declined to comment to The Associated Press. In a statement, Chubb told the AP that it provides insurance for a wide range of risks and when customers are engaged in "lawful activity," including hunting, shooting at gun ranges or when a firearm accidentally discharges. It noted that Carry Guard includes training and safety courses.

Neither Chubb nor Lockton would provide data on the number of policies sold or the claims filed.

Carry Guard was aggressively promoted during this year's NRA annual meeting, with life-sized posters featuring spokeswoman Dana Loesch holding a card that offers three tips for what to do after shooting someone: Call 911, wait for police to arrive and then call the Carry Guard number for legal assistance. It advises gun owners to not speak with police about the incident until speaking first with a lawyer.

The NRA insurance doesn't require policyholders to take any safety or tactical training courses but encourages them to do so. Initial training courses cost $850 a student for a three-day session.

Peter Kochenburger, an insurance expert at the University of Connecticut School of Law, has been following the emergence of gun insurance. There's no way to track the number of policies sold or the number of claims filed, though he suspects the latter is fairly small.

Such insurance might benefit society, he said, because it could compel the industry to research ways to make gun ownership and storage safer or by providing discounts to gun owners who take safety courses.

But it could also lead to a "moral hazard" of unintentionally emboldening a gun owner to shoot someone by offering a false sense of security. And the potential backlash against the insurance companies involved might not be worth the revenue such a niche policy could generate, he said.

"Is the potential public relations mess worth the small amount," Kochenburger said. "'Murder insurance': That's terrible PR."

200,000 protest jailing of Catalonian nationalist leaders in Barcelona
By Paul Mitchell
19 October 2017

The jailing this week of the leaders of the largest separatist organisations in Catalonia—Jordi Sànchez of the Catalan National Assembly (ANC) and Jordi Cuixart of Òmnium Cultural—was met with demonstrations throughout Catalonia culminating in a 200,000-strong protest in Barcelona on Tuesday night.

The incarceration of the two marks the first jailings of political prisoners since the end of the fascist dictatorship of General Francisco Franco.

A mass mobilisation has been scheduled for Saturday afternoon calling for their release. There are talks of another “national strike” by the “Board for Democracy”, which comprises 60 organisations including the ANC, Òmnium Cultural, the UGT and CCOO unions and the employers umbrella organisations, CECOT and PIMEC.

Sànchez and Cuixart are being held pending investigation of trumped-up sedition charges, which carry a maximum sentence of 15 years imprisonment. They are accused of orchestrating demonstrations on September 20 and 21, which attempted to prevent police raids on organisations promoting the October 1 Catalan independence referendum.

The arrests came after weeks of sustained repression by the Popular Party (PP) government of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy. Catalan government officials have been arrested, scores of websites closed, millions of posters and leaflets seized, print shops and newspapers searched, meetings banned, and hundreds of mayors threatened with prosecution for supporting the referendum.

On October 1, the PP government sent in tens of thousands of police in a failed attempt to prevent the referendum. Social media was flooded with images of Civil Guards forcing their way into polling places, grabbing ballot boxes and beating up peaceful, defenceless voters, hundreds of whom were injured. A nationalist, law-and-order hysteria has been whipped up and far-right protests encouraged.

Today, by 10am, Catalan regional premier Carles Puigdemont must “clarify” whether or not he has declared independence—following his statement last week in which he reaffirmed the right of Catalonia to independence, but that it would not be declared for several weeks in order to allow for negotiations with Madrid.

If he does not deny the declaration of independence, many reports suggest Rajoy’s Council of Ministers will invoke measures under article 155 of the Spanish Constitution—routinely described as the “nuclear option”—that suspend Catalan autonomy. Such a step lays the basis for imposing direct rule from Madrid through military intervention.

According to media reports, the regional parliament (Generalitat), will be dissolved and a “transitional governmental authority” will be created, composed of appointed technocrats who will take over the functioning of the various Catalan ministries.

Puigdemont would be allowed to continue as President of the regional government, but he would be stripped of his powers. Vice-president Oriol Junqueras, responsible for the finances of the Generalitat—and blamed for driving away investment in Catalonia and companies relocating their headquarters—could be removed. Junqueras and other officials are likely to be rounded up and imprisoned as Jordi Sánchez and Jordi Cuixart have been.

The next step, according to reports, would then be to hold new elections in Catalonia. These would not be convened by the regional government as normally the case but under the control of Madrid. Whether parties calling for independence would be allowed to stand is increasingly unlikely, as calls for their banning increase.

The government is not talking openly at the moment of military intervention, but logistics troops have been sent to support National Police and Civil Guard units in Catalonia and details of the “Chain Mail” troop deployment plan have been published alongside comments from military figures.

Rajoy is travelling Thursday afternoon to Brussels to take part in the European Council summit of the heads of state and government of the European Union (EU). The EU has consistently declared that Catalonian succession is an “internal” crisis that Spain must resolve within the limits set by its Constitution—a view taken by the Trump administration in the US. The PP crackdown enjoys the support of the EU and the US because they fear the break up of the EU and the NATO alliance into a patchwork of competing mini-states.

To that end, Catalonia does not even feature as an official item on the summit agenda. “We do not intend to put it on the agenda, but of course, if President Rajoy wants to talk about it, we will reflect it on the agenda,” said one senior European official.

The Secretary General of the Socialist Party (PSOE), Pedro Sánchez, is also visiting Brussels. His main role is to cover for the PP and attempt to counteract depictions of the repressive measures being enacted by the Spanish state. On Wednesday, he met the president of the European Parliament, Antonio Tajani, the High Representative for Foreign Policy, Federica Mogherini, and the President of the Socialist Group in the European Parliament, Giani Pittella, before taking part in a conference organized by the European Social-Democratic faction. Today he will meet European Commission president Jean Claude-Juncker.

The unrelenting juggernaut of police state measures being imposed in Catalonia by the PP government, which rules over the fifth largest, supposedly democratic, capitalist country in Europe, is a warning to workers and youth across the continent and internationally. The green light given to the PP’s repression, supported by the right-wing Citizens party and the PSOE by the EU and US is further confirmation that the global ruling elite will not tolerate any opposition to its social counter-revolutionary policies.

What is happening in Catalonia will become the benchmark for rule across Europe.

The rapid re-emergence of such repressive measures in a country, which the PSOE and Communist Party insisted had resolved its bitter 20th century history of class struggle, revolution and dictatorship through the “transition to democracy”—following the death of Franco in 1975—is a graphic expression of the collapse of the post-World War II global capitalist order.

The political settlement concocted during the Transition has disintegrated. The PSOE, the Spanish ruling elite’s main party of government in the post-Franco period, has been discredited by decades of policies of austerity and war.

The critical question is the political mobilization of the entire Spanish and European working class in struggle against the return to police state rule and any attempt to mobilise the army.

Workers and youth in Catalonia, throughout Spain and across the continent must demand an end to the brutal repression being carried out in Catalonia. All troops and government forces must be withdrawn from Catalonia and those held captive as political prisoners immediately released.

Opposition to state repression cannot be mounted under the auspices of the ruling parties in Madrid or the Catalan nationalists, who are unflaggingly hostile to the working class.

The International Committee of the Fourth International insists that the only viable policy against the danger of war and dictatorship is to fight to unify the working class in Spain and Europe in a struggle against capitalism and for the socialist reorganization of society. This can be carried out only in revolutionary struggle against all of Spain’s bourgeois factions, whether in Madrid or Barcelona.
Knarfs Knewz / Tarana Burke: #MeToo didn't start with Harvey Weinstein
« Last post by knarf on Today at 05:08:10 AM »

Every year, an average of 321,500 people above the age of 12 are raped or sexually assaulted in the US

"Me, too."

That's what Tarana Burke wishes she had said nearly a decade ago, when a young girl who had survived sexual violence was trying to connect with her over the pain she was experiencing.

A survivor of sexual violence herself, Burke said she wasn't equipped to deal with what the young girl was telling her at the time.

"When she left, when she walked away, I kept saying … 'All you had to say was, 'Me, too,'" Burke recalled.

"That sat with me for the longest time."

That's why Burke - a public speaker and community organiser based in New York - named the movement she founded about 10 years ago to support and amplify the voices of survivors of sexual violence, assault and abuse, "Me too".

"I just felt like it was succinct and powerful, and I felt like it can be a conversation starter … or it can be the whole conversation. You just really don't have to say much more," Burke told Al Jazeera.

#MeToo goes viral: 'A watershed moment'

This week, women from around the world began using #MeToo on social media to share their own experiences with sexual harassment and sexual assault.

The two-word hashtag was mentioned more than 1.7 million times on Facebook, according to social media analytics programme TalkWalker, and more than 1.5 million times on Twitter, according to Trendsmap.

The posts were sparked by news reports that revealed how Hollywood super-producer Harvey Weinstein had allegedly sexually assaulted and harassed numerous women over several years.

Weinstein, who has denied many of the accusations, was fired as cochairman of The Weinstein Company, and forced to resign from the company's board of directors this week.

His behaviour was reportedly an open secret in Hollywood, with high-profile actors, journalists and others quietly warning each other about being alone with the prominent producer for fear of sexual abuse.

The public revelations regarding Weinstein have raised other important questions about sexual harassment and assault, especially in the workplace.

Many are asking how Weinstein was able to sustain his alleged abuse for so long, and how prevalent it is for men in positions of power to wield that power in abusive ways.

"Unfortunately, this kind of sexual predatory behaviour is a lot more common than most of us think it is," said Sheela Raja, a clinical psychologist at the University of Illinois at Chicago and an author of books on how sexual abuse survivors can overcome trauma.

"It's a positive thing that we are now having some of these larger discussions," she said.

"Maybe this will be a watershed moment."
Hundreds of thousands affected

Every year, an average of 321,500 people above the age of 12 are raped or sexually assaulted in the US, according to the anti-sexual violence organisation RAINN.

A vast majority are women and girls, and many survivors experience post-traumatic stress disorder or have suicidal thoughts tied to their assault.

Sexual violence also disproportionately impacts women of colour.

Approximately one in five (22 percent) Black women will be raped in her lifetime in the US, according to a 2010 survey.

More than a quarter (26.9 percent) of women who identify as American Indian or Alaska Native will also be raped, the survey found.

In Canada, one in three women will experience sexual violence in her lifetime, according to the Native Women's Association of Canada.

More than half (54 percent) of aboriginal women in Canada reported severe forms of family violence, including sexual assault, compared with 37 percent of non-aboriginal women.

Accounts of sexual violence are common, and they aren't confined to the film or television industry.

Fox News' Roger Ailes and Bill O'Reilly were recently forced to resign after they were accused of sexually harassing female colleagues; the vice president of the University of Southern California stepped down after an investigation was launched into his treatment of women; innumerable reports have exposed the toxic culture in Silicon Valley and what has been dubbed a "sexual-harassment crisis" in the tech industry there.

    Whether you know it or not, you do know a survivor of sexual harassment and sexual violence, and we all need to operate based on that premise instead of necessarily forcing people to come forward with all of their painful stories.

    Sheela Raja, University of Illinois at Chicago

Earlier this week, US Olympic gymnast McKayla Maroney published an open letter on Twitter saying that she had been repeatedly sexually abused by a team doctor since she was 13 years old.

"People should know that this is not just happening in Hollywood. This is happening everywhere. Wherever there is a position of power, there seems to be potential for abuse," Maroney wrote.

The will to make excuses for abusers, while disbelieving survivors' accounts of that abuse, is also common.

"There's a lot of people complicit for this kind of abuse to continue, and it takes a lot of really, really brave survivors to come forward and talk about their story to really help change the culture on these things," the University of Illinois at Chicago's Raja told Al Jazeera.

However women shouldn't feel like the onus is solely on them to share their stories of abuse again and again, since this can be re-traumatising, Raja said.

"Whether you know it or not, you do know a survivor of sexual harassment and sexual violence, and we all need to operate based on that premise instead of necessarily forcing people to come forward with all of their painful stories," she said.

Educating men so they can recognise situations that are making women uncomfortable, and how they can intervene, is important, as is providing education in workplaces and schools.

"Now we need men to step up and say, 'How are we going to participate in changing the culture around some of these things?'" Raja said.
'Bigger than a moment in time'

Burke said she understands the impetus for survivors to share stories of sexual violence or harassment on social media, and to demonstrate the prevalence of the problem.

Prior to #MeToo, several similar social media campaigns had also gone viral.

The hashtag #BeenRapedNeverReported drew attention to the issue of sexual violence after Canadian media presenter Jian Ghomeshi was accused of sexually assaulting multiple women in 2014.

Earlier this year, #YesAllWomen was also widely used to denounce sexism and violence against women more generally.

But reading social media posts about this type of trauma has been triggering for many people, Me Too's Burke said.

She added that she hopes the conversation can shift from focusing on the scope of the problem to finding out what types of support survivors need to begin to heal.

"What happens when these people open themselves up? What happens when they start talking about things that they've possibly never talked about in their lives? Where do you point them, what direction do they go in, how do you support them?" Burke asked.

"This is bigger than a moment in time," she continued.

"I don't ever try to define what healing looks like for anybody. But I think when we start sharing stories of healing … it changes the conversation."
Pages: [1] 2 3 ... 10