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30.08.2018 Robert Burrowes

Exposing the Giants: The Global Power Elite

Developing the tradition charted by C. Wright Mills in his 1956 classic The Power Elite, in his latest book, Professor Peter Phillips starts by reviewing the transition from the nation state power elites described by authors such as Mills to a transnational power elite centralized on the control of global capital.

Thus, in his just-released study Giants: The Global Power Elite, Phillips, a professor of political sociology at Sonoma State University in the USA, identifies the world’s top seventeen asset management firms, such as BlackRock and J.P Morgan Chase, each with more than one trillion dollars of investment capital under management, as the ‘Giants’ of world capitalism. The seventeen firms collectively manage more than $US41.1 trillion in a self-invested network of interlocking capital that spans the globe.

This $41 trillion represents the wealth invested for profit by thousands of millionaires, billionaires and corporations. The seventeen Giants operate in nearly every country in the world and are ‘the central institutions of the financial capital that powers the global economic system’. They invest in anything considered profitable, ranging from ‘agricultural lands on which indigenous farmers are replaced by power elite investors’ to public assets (such as energy and water utilities) to war.

In addition, Phillips identifies the most important networks of the Global Power Elite and the individuals therein. He names 389 individuals (a small number of whom are women and a token number of whom are from countries other than the United States and the wealthier countries of Western Europe) at the core of the policy planning nongovernmental networks that manage, facilitate and defend the continued concentration of global capital. The Global Power Elite perform two key uniting functions, he argues: they provide ideological justifications for their shared interests (promulgated through their corporate media), and define the parameters of action for transnational governmental organizations and capitalist nation-states.

More precisely, Phillips identifies the 199 directors of the seventeen global financial Giants and offers short biographies and public information on their individual net wealth. These individuals are closely interconnected through numerous networks of association including the World Economic Forum, the International Monetary Conference, university affiliations, various policy councils, social clubs, and cultural enterprises. For a taste of one of these clubs, see this account of The Links in New York. As Phillips observes: ‘It is certainly safe to conclude they all know each other personally or know of each other in the shared context of their positions of power.’

The Giants, Phillips documents, invest in each other but also in many hundreds of investment management firms, many of which are near-Giants. This results in tens of trillions of dollars coordinated in a single vast network of global capital controlled by a very small number of people. ‘Their constant objective is to find enough safe investment opportunities for a return on capital that allows for continued growth. Inadequate capital-placement opportunities lead to dangerous speculative investments, buying up of public assets, and permanent war spending.’

Because the directors of these seventeen asset management firms represent the central core of international capital, ‘Individuals can retire or pass away, and other similar people will move into their place, making the overall structure a self-perpetuating network of global capital control. As such, these 199 people share a common goal of maximum return on investments for themselves and their clients, and they may seek to achieve returns by any means necessary – legal or not…. the institutional and structural arrangements within the money management systems of global capital relentlessly seek ways to achieve maximum return on investment, and … the conditions for manipulations – legal or not – are always present.’

Like some researchers before him, Phillips identifies the importance of those transnational institutions that serve a unifying function. The World Bank, International Monetary Fund, G20, G7, World Trade Organization (WTO), World Economic Forum (WEF), Trilateral Commission, Bilderberg Group, Bank for International Settlements, Group of 30 (G30), the Council on Foreign Relations and the International Monetary Conference serve as institutional mechanisms for consensus building within the transnational capitalist class, and power elite policy formulation and implementation. ‘These international institutions serve the interests of the global financial Giants by supporting policies and regulations that seek to protect the free, unrestricted flow of capital and debt collection worldwide.’

But within this network of transnational institutions, Phillips identifies two very important global elite policy-planning organizations: the Group of Thirty (which has 32 members) and the extended executive committee of the Trilateral Commission (which has 55 members). These nonprofit corporations, which each have a research and support staff, formulate elite policy and issue instructions for their implementation by the transnational governmental institutions like the G7, G20, IMF, WTO, and World Bank. Elite policies are also implemented following instruction of the relevant agent, including governments, in the context. These agents then do as they are instructed. Thus, these 85 members (because two overlap) of the Group of Thirty and the Trilateral Commission comprise a central group of facilitators of global capitalism, ensuring that ‘global capital remains safe, secure, and growing’.

So, while many of the major international institutions are controlled by nation-state representatives and central bankers (with proportional power exercised by dominant financial supporters such as the United States and European Union countries), Phillips is more concerned with the transnational policy groups that are nongovernmental because these organizations ‘help to unite TCC power elites as a class’ and the individuals involved in these organizations facilitate world capitalism. ‘They serve as policy elites who seek the continued growth of capital in the world.’

Developing this list of 199 directors of the largest money management firms in the world, Phillips argues, is an important step toward understanding how capitalism works globally today. These global power elite directors make the decisions regarding the investment of trillions of dollars. Supposedly in competition, the concentrated wealth they share requires them to cooperate for their greater good by identifying investment opportunities and shared risk agreements, and working collectively for political arrangements that create advantages for their profit-generating system as a whole.

Their fundamental priority is to secure an average return on investment of 3 to 10 percent, or even more. The nature of any investment is less important than what it yields: continuous returns that support growth in the overall market. Hence, capital investment in tobacco products, weapons of war, toxic chemicals, pollution, and other socially destructive goods and services are judged purely by their profitability. Concern for the social and environmental costs of the investment are non-existent. In other words, inflicting death and destruction are fine because they are profitable.

So what is the global elite’s purpose? In a few sentences Phillips characterizes it thus: The elite is largely united in support of the US/NATO military empire that prosecutes a repressive war against resisting groups – typically labeled ‘terrorists’ – around the world. The real purpose of ‘the war on terror’ is defense of transnational globalization, the unimpeded flow of financial capital around the world, dollar hegemony and access to oil; it has nothing to do with repressing terrorism which it generates, perpetuates and finances to provide cover for its real agenda. This is why the United States has a long history of CIA and military interventions around the world ostensibly in defense of ‘national interests’.

Wealth and Power

An interesting point that emerges for me from reading Phillips thoughtful analysis is that there is a clear distinction between those individuals and families who have wealth and those individuals who have (sometimes significantly) less wealth (which, nevertheless, is still considerable) but, through their positions and connections, wield a great deal of power. As Phillips explains this distinction, ‘the sociology of elites is more important than particular elite individuals and their families’. Just 199 individuals decide how more than $40 trillion will be invested. And this is his central point. Let me briefly elaborate.

There are some really wealthy families in the world, notably including the families Rothschild (France and the United Kingdom), Rockefeller (USA), Goldman-Sachs (USA), Warburgs (Germany), Lehmann (USA), Lazards (France), Kuhn Loebs (USA), Israel Moses Seifs (Italy), Al-Saud (Saudi Arabia), Walton (USA), Koch (USA), Mars (USA), Cargill-MacMillan (USA) and Cox (USA). However, not all of these families overtly seek power to shape the world as they wish.

Similarly, the world’s extremely wealthy individuals such as Jeff Bezos (USA), Bill Gates (USA), Warren Buffett (USA), Bernard Arnault (France), Carlos Slim Helu (Mexico) and Francoise Bettencourt Meyers (France) are not necessarily connected in such a way that they exercise enormous power. In fact, they may have little interest in power as such, despite their obvious interest in wealth.

In essence, some individuals and families are content to simply take advantage of how capitalism and its ancilliary governmental and transnational instruments function while others are more politically engaged in seeking to manipulate major institutions to achieve outcomes that not only maximize their own profit and hence wealth but also shape the world itself.

So if you look at the list of 199 individuals that Phillips identifies at the centre of global capital, it does not include names such as Bezos, Gates, Buffett, Koch, Walton or even Rothschild, Rockefeller or Windsor (the Queen of England) despite their well-known and extraordinary wealth. As an aside, many of these names are also missing from the lists compiled by groups such as Forbes and Bloomberg, but their absence from these lists is for a very different reason given the penchant for many really wealthy individuals and families to avoid certain types of publicity and their power to ensure that they do.

In contrast to the names just listed, in Phillips’ analysis names like Laurence (Larry) Fink (Chairman and CEO of BlackRock), James (Jamie) Dimon (Chairman and CEO of JPMorgan Chase) and John McFarlane (Chairman of Barclays Bank), while not as wealthy as those listed immediately above, wield far more power because of their positions and connections within the global elite network of 199 individuals.

Predictably then, Phillips observes, these three individuals have similar lifestyles and ideological orientations. They believe capitalism is beneficial for the world and while inequality and poverty are important issues, they believe that capital growth will eventually solve these problems. They are relatively non-expressive about environmental issues, but recognize that investment opportunities may change in response to climate ‘modifications’. As millionaires they own multiple homes. They attended elite universities and rose quickly in international finance to reach their current status as giants of the global power elite. ‘The institutions they manage have been shown to engage in illegal collusions with others, but the regulatory fines by governments are essentially seen as just part of doing business.’

In short, as I would characterize this description: They are devoid of a legal or moral framework to guide their actions, whether in relation to business, fellow human beings, war or the environment and climate. They are obviously typical of the elite.

Any apparent concern for people, such as that expressed by Fink and Dimon in response to the racist violence in Charlottesville, USA in August 2017, is simply designed to promote ‘stability’ or more precisely, a stable (that is, profitable) investment and consumer climate.

The lack of concern for people and issues that might concern many of us is also evident from a consideration of the agenda at elite gatherings. Consider the International Monetary Conference. Founded in 1956, it is a private yearly meeting of the top few hundred bankers in the world. The American Bankers Association (ABA) serves as the secretariat for the conference. But, as Phillips notes: ‘Nothing on the agenda seems to address the socioeconomic consequences of investments to determine the impacts on people and the environment.’ A casual perusal of the agenda at any elite gathering reveals that this comment applies equally to any elite forum. See, for example, the agenda of the recent WEF meeting in Davos. Any talk of ‘concern’ is misleading rhetoric.

Hence, in the words of Phillips: The 199 directors of the global Giants are ‘a very select set of people. They all know each other personally or know of each other. At least 69 have attended the annual World Economic Forum, where they often serve on panels or give public presentations. They mostly attended the same elite universities, and interact in upperclass social setting[s] in the major cities of the world. They all are wealthy and have significant stock holdings in one or more of the financial Giants. They are all deeply invested in the importance of maintaining capital growth in the world. Some are sensitive to environmental and social justice issues, but they seem to be unable to link these issues to global capital concentration.’

Of course, the global elite cannot manage the world system alone: the elite requires agents to perform many of the functions necessary to control national societies and the individuals within them. ‘The interests of the Global Power Elite and the TCC are fully recognized by major institutions in society. Governments, intelligence services, policymakers, universities, police forces, military, and corporate media all work in support of their vital interests.’

In other words, to elaborate Phillips’ point and extend it a little, through their economic power, the Giants control all of the instruments through which their policies are implemented. Whether it be governments, national military forces, ‘military contractors’ or mercenaries (with at least $200 billion spent on private security globally, the industry currently employs some fifteen million people worldwide) used both in ‘foreign’ wars but also likely deployed in future for domestic control, key ‘intelligence’ agencies, legal systems and police forces, major nongovernment organizations, or the academic, educational, ‘public relations propaganda’, corporate media, medical, psychiatric and pharmaceutical industries, all instruments are fully responsive to elite control and are designed to misinform, deceive, disempower, intimidate, repress, imprison (in a jail or psychiatric ward), exploit and/or kill (depending on the constituency) the rest of us, as is readily evident.

Defending Elite Power

Phillips observes that the power elite continually worries about rebellion by the ‘unruly exploited masses’ against their structure of concentrated wealth. This is why the US military empire has long played the role of defender of global capitalism. As a result, the United States has more than 800 military bases (with some scholars suggesting 1,000) in 70 countries and territories. In comparison, the United Kingdom, France, and Russia have about 30 foreign bases. In addition, US military forces are now deployed in 70 percent of the world’s nations with US Special Operations Command (SOCOM) having troops in 147 countries, an increase of 80 percent since 2010. These forces conduct counterterrorism strikes regularly, including drone assassinations and kill/capture raids.

‘The US military empire stands on hundreds of years of colonial exploitation and continues to support repressive, exploitative governments that cooperate with global capital’s imperial agenda. Governments that accept external capital investment, whereby a small segment of a country’s elite benefits, do so knowing that capital inevitably requires a return on investment that entails using up resources and people for economic gain. The whole system continues wealth concentration for elites and expanded wretched inequality for the masses….

‘Understanding permanent war as an economic relief valve for surplus capital is a vital part of comprehending capitalism in the world today. War provides investment opportunity for the Giants and TCC elites and a guaranteed return on capital. War also serves a repressive function of keeping the suffering masses of humanity afraid and compliant.’

As Phillips elaborates: This is why defense of global capital is the prime reason that NATO countries now account for 85 percent of the world’s military spending; the United States spends more on the military than the rest of the world combined.

In essence, ‘the Global Power Elite uses NATO and the US military empire for its worldwide security. This is part of an expanding strategy of US military domination around the world, whereby the US/ NATO military empire, advised by the power elite’s Atlantic Council, operates in service to the Transnational Corporate Class for the protection of international capital everywhere in the world’.

This entails ‘further pauperization of the bottom half of the world’s population and an unrelenting downward spiral of wages for 80 percent of the world. The world is facing economic crisis, and the neoliberal solution is to spend less on human needs and more on security. It is a world of financial institutions run amok, where the answer to economic collapse is to print more money through quantitative easing, flooding the population with trillions of new inflation-producing dollars. It is a world of permanent war, whereby spending for destruction requires further spending to rebuild, a cycle that profits the Giants and global networks of economic power. It is a world of drone killings, extrajudicial assassinations, death, and destruction, at home and abroad.’

Where is this all heading?

So what are the implications of this state of affairs? Phillips responds unequivocally: ‘This concentration of protected wealth leads to a crisis of humanity, whereby poverty, war, starvation, mass alienation, media propaganda, and environmental devastation are reaching a species-level threat. We realize that humankind is in danger of possible extinction’.

He goes on to state that the Global Power Elite is probably the only entity ‘capable of correcting this condition without major civil unrest, war, and chaos’ and elaborates an important aim of his book: to raise awareness of the importance of systemic change and the redistribution of wealth among both the book’s general readers but also the elite, ‘in the hope that they can begin the process of saving humanity.’ The book’s postscript is a ‘A Letter to the Global Power Elite’, co-signed by Phillips and 90 others, beseeching the elite to act accordingly.

‘It is no longer acceptable for you to believe that you can manage capitalism to grow its way out of the gross inequalities we all now face. The environment cannot accept more pollution and waste, and civil unrest is everywhere inevitable at some point. Humanity needs you to step up and insure that trickle-down becomes a river of resources that reaches every child, every family, and all human beings. We urge you to use your power and make the needed changes for humanity’s survival.’

But he also emphasizes that nonviolent social movements, using the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a moral code, can accelerate the process of redistributing wealth by pressuring the elite into action.

Conclusion

Peter Phillips has written an important book. For those of us interested in understanding elite control of the world, this book is a vital addition to the bookshelf. And like any good book, as you will see from my comments both above and below, it raised more questions for me even while it answered many.

As I read Phillips’ insightful and candid account of elite behavior in this regard, I am reminded, yet again, that the global power elite is extraordinarily violent and utterly insane: content to kill people in vast numbers (whether through starvation or military violence) and destroy the biosphere for profit, with zero sense of humanity’s now limited future. See ‘The Global Elite is Insane Revisited’ and ‘Human Extinction by 2026? A Last Ditch Strategy to Fight for Human Survival’ with more detailed explanations for the violence and insanity here: Why Violence? and Fearless Psychology and Fearful Psychology: Principles and Practice.

For this reason I do not share his faith in moral appeals to the elite, as articulated in the letter in his postscript. It is fine to make the appeal but history offers no evidence to suggest that there will be any significant response. The death and destruction inflicted by elites is highly profitable, centuries-old and ongoing. It will take powerful, strategically-focused nonviolent campaigns (or societal collapse) to compel the necessary changes in elite behavior. Hence, I fully endorse his call for nonviolent social movements to compel elite action where we cannot make the necessary changes without their involvement. See ‘A Nonviolent Strategy to End Violence and Avert Human Extinction’ and Nonviolent Campaign Strategy.

I would also encourage independent action, in one or more of several ways, by those individuals and communities powerful enough to do so. This includes nurturing more powerful individuals by making ‘My Promise to Children’, participating in ‘The Flame Tree Project to Save Life on Earth’ and signing the online pledge of ‘The People’s Charter to Create a Nonviolent World’.

Fundamentally, Giants: The Global Power Elite is a call to action. Professor Peter Phillips is highly aware of our predicament – politically, socially, economically, environmentally and climatically – and the critical role played by the global power elite in generating that predicament.

If we cannot persuade the global power elite to respond sensibly to that predicament, or nonviolently compel it to do so, humanity’s time on Earth is indeed limited.

ù

30.08.2018 Pressenza London

The terrifying power of stereotypes – and how to deal with them
The Stereotypes bowling team from The Simpsons (Image by Fox, fair use, Wikimedia Commons)
Magdalena Zawisza, Anglia Ruskin University for The Conversation

From “girls suck at maths” and “men are so insensitive” to “he is getting a bit senile with age” or “black people struggle at university”, there’s no shortage of common cultural stereotypes about social groups. Chances are you have heard most of these examples at some point. In fact, stereotypes are a bit like air: invisible but always present.

We all have multiple identities and some of them are likely to be stigmatised. While it may seem like we should just stop paying attention to stereotypes, it often isn’t that easy. False beliefs about our abilities easily turn into a voice of self doubt in our heads that can be hard to ignore. And in the last couple of decades, scientists have started to discover that this can have damaging effects on our actual performance.

This mechanism is due to what psychologists call “stereotype threat” – referring to a fear of doing something that would confirm negative perceptions of a stigmatised group that we are members of. The phenomenon was first uncovered by American social psychologists in the 1990s.

In a seminal paper, they experimentally demonstrated how racial stereotypes can affect intellectual ability. In their study, black participants performed worse than white participants on verbal ability tests when they were told that the test was “diagnostic” – a “genuine test of your verbal abilities and limitations”. However, when this description was excluded, no such effect was seen. Clearly these individuals had negative thoughts about their verbal ability that affected their performance.

Black participants also underperformed when racial stereotypes were activated much more subtly. Just asking participants to identify their race on a preceding demographic questionnaire was enough. What’s more, under the threatening conditions (diagnostic test), black participants reported higher levels of self doubt than white participants.

Nobody’s safe

Stereotype threat effects are very robust and affect all stigmatised groups. A recent analysis of several previous studies on the topic revealed that stereotype threat related to the intellectual domain exists across various experimental manipulations, test types and ethnic groups – ranging from black and Latino Americans to Turkish Germans. A wealth of research also links stereotype threat with women’s underperformance in maths and leadership aspirations.

Men are vulnerable, too. A study showed that men performed worse when decoding non-verbal cues if the test was described as designed to measure “social sensitivity” – a stereotypically feminine skill. However, when the task was introduced as an “information processing test”, they did much better. In a similar vein, when children from poorer families are reminded of their lower socioeconomic status, they underperform on tests described as diagnostic of intellectual abilities – but not otherwise. Stereotype threat has also been shown to affect educational underachievement in immigrants and memory performance of the elderly.

It is important to remember that the triggering cues can be very subtle. One study demonstrated that when women viewed only two advertisements based on gender stereotypes among six commercials, they tended to avoid leadership roles in a subsequent task. This was the case even though the commercials had nothing to do with leadership.

Mental mechanisms

Stereotype threat leads to a vicious circle. Stigmatised individuals experience anxiety which depletes their cognitive resources and leads to underperformance, confirmation of the negative stereotype and reinforcement of the fear.

Researchers have identified a number of interrelated mechanisms responsible for this effect, with the key being deficits in working memory capacity – the ability to concentrate on the task at hand and ignore distraction. Working memory under stereotype threat conditions is affected by physiological stress, performance monitoring and suppression processes (of anxiety and the stereotype).

Neuroscientists have even measured these effects in the brain. When we are affected by stereotype threat, brain regions responsible for emotional self-regulation and social feedback are activated while activity in the regions responsible for task performance are inhibited.

In our recent study, published in Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, we demonstrated this effect for ageism. We used electroencephalography (EEG), a device which places electrodes on the scalp to track and record brainwave patterns, to show that older adults, having read a report about memory declining with age, experienced neural activation corresponding to having negative thoughts about oneself. They also underperformed in a subsequent, timed categorisation task.

Coping strategies

There is hope, however. Emerging studies on how to reduce stereotype threat identify a range of methods – the most obvious being changing the stereotype. Ultimately, this is the way to eliminate the problem once and for all.

Role models can help mitigate effects.
Photo: Master Sgt. Cecilio Ricardo, U.S. Air Force • Public domain

But changing stereotypes sadly often takes time. While we are working on it, there are techniques to help us cope. For example, visible, accessible and relevant role models are important. One study reported a positive “Obama effect” on African Americans. Whenever Obama drew press attention for positive, stereotype-defying reasons, stereotype threat effects were markedly reduced in black Americans’ exam performance.

Another method is to buffer the threat through shifting self perceptions to positive group identity or self affirmation. For example, Asian women underperformed on maths tests when reminded of their gender identity but not when reminded of their Asian identity. This is because Asian individuals are stereotypically seen as good at maths. In the same way, many of us belong to a few different groups – it is sometimes worth shifting the focus towards the one which gives us strength.

Gaining confidence by practising the otherwise threatening task is also beneficial, as seen with female chess players. One way to do this could be by reframing the task as a challenge.

Finally, merely being aware of the damaging effects that stereotypes can have can help us reinterpret the anxiety and makes us more likely to perform better. We may not be able to avoid stereotypes completely and immediately, but we can try to clear the air of them.The Conversation

Magdalena Zawisza, Senior Lecturer in Psychology, Anglia Ruskin University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

28.08.2018 Anna Polo

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Moni Ovadia: accusing those who criticise Israel’s politics of anti-Semitism is shameful
(Image by (Image from: https://www.facebook.com/MoniOvadiaPaginaUfficiale)

Moni Ovadia is an Italian theatre actor, musician, singer and author. He has long been engaged in the search for a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict which earned him the Premio Colombe for Peace in 2005; we asked him for his opinion on recent events.  

Those who criticise Israel’s politics and, particularly, its violations of Palestinians’ human rights are often accused of anti-Semitism. How do you think those claims can be countered?

We should start by condemning those accusations for what they are: shameful, sinister acts of propaganda with the aim of keeping people quiet, cowardly actions seeking to prevent any form of discussion about the injustices suffered by the Palestinian people; a form of paranoia, a psychopathological short-circuiting. It is as if the people who make these claims lived in Berlin in 1935 and not in a country armed to the teeth, in possession of nuclear weapons and allied not only with the United States but also Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. It is the only country to do as it pleases, ignoring UN resolutions while the international community stands by.

I have been on the receiving end myself. As anti-Semitism is a crime in Italy, I have challenged my accusers to take me to court, so we can really have an open debate. I have also suggested they should see a psychiatrist for a long course of therapy.

How do you view the law that was approved a month ago by the Israeli Parliament declaring Israel as the “nation state of the Jewish people?”

I consider it to be a law that makes what was previously a system of de facto apartheid and racism official policy and is an expression of a colonial logic and mentality. It is madness when 20% of the population are Palestinian Arabs, making Israel a bi-national state anyway.

I am not suggesting that this is the mentality of all Israelis. There are those who are gripped by fear and by the myth of being surrounded, those who prefer to hide from reality and those who criticise official policy and pay the consequences for their bravery. Unfortunately, the latter are in the minority. However, history teaches us that often it is the minorities who redeem and save us. The majority may have the right to govern, but it does not follow that they are right.

Organisations such as Combatants for Peace unite Israelis and Palestinians who have embraced peace after fighting against each other in military action. The Prayer of the Mothers brought thousands of Jewish, Muslim and Christian women together to demand a non-violent solution to the conflict, acceptable to both sides. What do you think of these initiatives?

They are courageous and admirable initiatives carried out by people who the government boycotts and accuses of being against Israel’s interests. I’d also like to mention the young conscientious objectors who would rather go to prison than serve in the occupied territories and human rights associations such as B’Tselem. Two years ago, during a special meeting of the United Nations Security Council, B’Tselem’s director Hagai El-Ad called for “immediate action” against Israel’s settlements and the “invisible, bureaucratic daily violence” that Palestinians suffer “from the cradle to the grave.”

In your opinion, what contribution can we in Europe, and in particular in Italy, make towards finding a peaceful solution to the conflict between Israel and Palestine?

The first thing is the cultural point I was making earlier. We need to keep reiterating that denouncing the injustices and oppressions that the Palestinians suffer has got nothing to do with anti-Semitism or the Holocaust.

Secondly, pressure governments to take a stand and demand that the UN resolutions that Israel has always violated are respected.

Thirdly, support the BDS movement, a global campaign using boycotts, divestments and sanctions against Israel and which is asking Europe to seize goods – on the basis that they are illegal – produced in the occupied territories and settlements of the colonies. The message is simple, but very powerful: “This is not your land, these are therefore contraband and illegal goods, and we do not want them.”

Translation from Italian by Malcolm Gilmour

 

28.08.2018 Countercurrents

Cultures of Death: Pope Francis, Apology and Child Abuse

By Dr Binoy Kampmark

It was long overdue, but Pope Francis’s letter of condemnation and apology regarding the abuse of children by Catholic priests did sent a few ripples of comfort and reckoning.  He conceded that the Church “showed no care for the little ones; we abandoned them”.  He acknowledged the “heart-wrenching pain” of the victims who had been assaulted by the clerical class, and the cries “long ignored, kept quiet or silenced”.

“With shame and repentance,” went the Pope’s grave words, “we acknowledge as an ecclesial community that we were not where we should have been, that we did not act in a timely manner, realizing the magnitude and the gravity of the damage done to so many lives.”

What is left hanging in the air is any system of defined accountability, one characterised by an ancient institution mothballed by secrecy and obfuscation.  In the pointed words of Irish abuse survivor Marie Collins, “Statements from the Vatican or Pope should stop telling us how terrible abuse is, and how all must be held accountable.”

The Pope had been given a prompting this month, a nasty reminder he acknowledged in his note.  “Even though it can be said that most of these cases belong to the past, nonetheless as time goes on we have come to know the pain of the many of the victims.”  The Pennsylvania Supreme Court had made a near 900 page grand jury report investigating clerical sex abuse of minors public, a digging enterprise spearheaded by the Pennsylvania state Attorney General Josh Shapiro.  The grizzly bounty came to 301 accused priests, with some 1,000 victims throughout the state, and even then, it only covered six of the eight dioceses in the state.

The details read like chillingly lurid pornography: a priest in the Diocese of Erie who “fondled boys and told them he was giving them a ‘cancer check’”; a priest in the Diocese of Allentown who impregnated a 17-year-old and “forged another pastor’s signature on a marriage certificate”.  What also accompanied such acts of molestation was the divine remit: victims were assured that their sexual provision was part of a broader Godly purpose.

The exploits of some of the accused resemble catalogues of brutal overachievement.  Rev. Edward R. Graff, who served in the diocese of Allentown for 35 years, could add scores of victims to his repertoire. Much of his conduct was executed on the premise that he was “an instrument of god”.

After the abuse comes the vast apparatus, the doctrinally directed cover-ups that warn of continuing offending behavior while still keeping matters bolted and in-house.  The report notes the point.  “What we can say, though, despite some institutional reform, individual leaders of the church have largely escaped public accountability.  Priests were raping little boys and girls, and the men of God who were responsible for them not only did nothing; they hid it all.  For decades.”  Within the church itself, church officials received protection and succour. “Monsignors, auxiliary bishops, bishops, archbishops, cardinals have mostly been protected; many, including some named in this report, have been promoted.”

Matters have been particularly heady in the field of child abuse accusation this US summer.  Cardinal Theodore McCarrick resigned his cardinalship after accusations of abuse from adult seminarians and children.  On the other side of the planet, one of the Vatican’s highest ranking officials, Australia’s Cardinal George Pell, is busy battling charges of historical sex abuse.

Resistance to prodding from the secular world remains trenchant in some branches of the Church. In Australia, despite the passage of legislation breaching the sacred seal of the confession, priests have openly stated that they would sooner go to prison than reveal the contents of a penitent’s confession, even if it discloses instances of child abuse.  Church business remains resistant, defiantly so.

To that end, the shaking measures of legal action may be one of few mechanisms to ensure accountability.  Criminal prosecutions have tended to rarely succeed; issues of evidence and the passage of time often condemn them.  Civil lawsuits, as Timothy D. Lytton of Georgia State University argues, might have more prospects of success.  This, however, will face bars imposed by the statute of limitations. “Unless lawmakers across the country pass reforms to extend or suspend the statute of limitations in their states, I believe that the church will never provide a full accounting of the scandal.”

The language of Pope Francis can be misconstrued as healing and resolving.  It does neither.  The Church sprawls and continues to exist with its own rationales, its basis of functioning. It was the world’s first operational corporation, its crimes and infractions as much to do with that logic than anything else.  Until its approach to the powerful clerical class is reformed, the abuses will continue in the shadow of misused divinity.


Dr. Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge.  He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne.  Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

25.08.2018 Democracy Now!

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KKK Leader Sentenced for Firing Pistol at Charlottesville Rally
(Image by Democracy Now!)

In Charlottesville, Virginia, a judge sentenced Ku Klux Klan leader Richard Preston Jr. to four years in prison Wednesday, after he pleaded no contest to a charge of firing a pistol into a crowd of anti-racist protesters during last August’s “Unite the Right” rally.

Video of the incident shows Preston, who was wearing a bulletproof vest, walked up to an African-American man at close range and fired a shot at the ground right in front of him. Preston then turned around and walked past a line of state troopers, who witnessed the shooting but did not move.

23.08.2018 Pressenza London

In Wake of Anti-Choice Senate Vote, Argentines Join Movement to Abandon Catholic Church

“Obtaining the vote for women, the divorce law, marriage equality, the gender identity law, the assisted human fertilization law, the law of integral sexual education, the dignified death law were all done fighting clerical power, which seeks to have total dominion over our minds and bodies.”

Hundreds of Argentines stood in long lines in Buenos Aires and around Argentina this weekend to join a “Collective Apostasy” movement, renouncing their Catholic faith a week after an anti-choice Senate vote sent thousands of Argentines out into the streets to protest.

The forms signed by participants will be given to the Episcopal Conference in the Vatican, according to the Associated Press. Organizers told La Nacion that attendance at the events exceeded expectations.

The “Apostasia Colectiva” movement, begun by the Argentine Coalition for a Secular State, is aimed at weakening the hold of a church of which two-thirds of Argentinian people are members. The huge turnout at Saturday’s events was brought on not only by the Senate’s decision to uphold a ban on abortions for women up to 14 weeks into a pregnancy, but the Church’s power over the nation and the numerous struggles Argentines have fought against the Church over the years.

“Obtaining the vote for women, the divorce law, marriage equality, the gender identity law, the assisted human fertilization law, the law of integral sexual education, the dignified death law were all done fighting clerical power, which seeks to have total dominion over our minds and bodies,” the event’s organizers wrote on social media.

The Catholic Church lobbied aggressively against the legalized abortion bill. Every year, about 500,000 illegal and unsafe abortions take place in the country, and since the abortion rights vote, at least one woman has died from an attempt to perform an abortion on herself.

“The discourse by the church to convince the people to not accept the law was so outrageous that I reached the height of my enmity toward the Catholic Church,” Nora Cortinas, a human rights advocate, told the AP.

On social media, some indicated that numerous cases of sexual abuse in the Church, like the one a grand jury report revealed in Pennsylvania last week, also figured into the growth of the Apostasia Colectiva movement.

23.08.2018 IDN InDepthNews

73 Years On, a Nuclear-Weapons-Free World Remains a Mirage
Secretary-General António Guterres views an exhibit at the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum. (Image by Photo: Secretary-General António Guterres (front left) views an exhibit at the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum on 9 August 2018. UN Photo/Daniel Powell)

By Ramesh Jaura

BERLIN (IDN) – Nobel Peace Prize laureate Adolfo Pérez Esquivel and Buddhist philosopher Daisaku Ikeda recall a quote from Martin Luther King Jr – “We are always on the threshold of a new dawn” – and aver that the adoption of the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in July 2017 is such a ‘threshold’.

In a joint appeal ‘To the Youth of the World’, released to the media and wider public in Rome, and handed over to Pope Francis, they note that the Treaty “is an international legal instrument that establishes the absolute illegality” of nuclear weapons.

The statement also refers to the international symposium ‘Perspectives for a World Free from Nuclear Weapons and for Integral Disarmament‘, which Pope Francis convened at the Vatican in November 2017.

The symposium participants – including the Tokyo-based Soka Gakkai International (SGI) presided by Dr Ikeda – agreed that in pursuing the goal of a world without nuclear weapons, we must eliminate the threat nuclear weapons pose.

“There is,” therefore, “an urgent need to disarm our ways of thinking,” accentuates the appeal Nobel Peace Prize laureate Dr Esquivel presented to Pope Francis on June 9, 2018 at the Vatican.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres agrees. “Sadly, 73 years on, fears of nuclear war are still with us,” he said in Nagasaki on August 9 commemorating the 73rd anniversary of the atomic bombing of the city and of Hiroshima on August 6.

“Millions of people, including here in Japan, live in a shadow cast by the dread of unthinkable carnage. States in possession of nuclear weapons are spending vast sums to modernize their arsenals,” he said.

This, Masato Tainaka commented in the The Asahi Shimbun, was “a thinly veiled attack on the Trump administration”. Guterres, the first UN chief to attend the annual ceremony in Nagasaki, added Tainaka, “deftly sidestepped naming the United States, but there was no disguising that his speech was a scathing indictment of the Trump administration’s position on nuclear arms.”

More than $1.7 trillion was spent in 2017 on arms and armies, noted Guterres. That was not only the highest level since the end of the Cold War but also around 80 times the amount needed for global humanitarian aid, he said.

“Meanwhile, disarmament processes have slowed and even come to a halt,” said the UN Chief in an obvious dig in particular at the five nuclear weapon states: USA, Russia, China, Britain and France. “Many States demonstrated their frustration by adopting the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons last year,” he added.

Earlier, in Hiroshima, Izumi Nakamitsu, UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, thanked on behalf of Guterres “the Hibakusha (the survivors of atomic bombings) and the people of Hiroshima for their decades of dedication to educating the world about the threat nuclear weapons pose to our global, national and human security.”

“The world needs your continued moral leadership. After decades of momentum towards the shared goal of a world free of nuclear weapons, progress has stalled,” she added on behalf of the UN Chief. “Tensions between nuclear-armed States are rising. Nuclear arsenals are being modernized and, in some cases, expanded.”

These remarks echo a stark reality that smashes the hope of “a new dawn”: But since, as American mystic and author Terence McKenna wrote, “reality itself is not static… but “some kind of an organism evolving toward a conclusion,” nuclear disarmament experts are not plunging into despair.

“We have seen how young people worldwide worked as key agents of civil society in solidarity with the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) to propel the adoption of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons,” Dr Esquivel and Dr Ikeda maintain.

Anticipating that the international support that exists for a permanent end to the threat posed by nuclear arms, as well as frustration at the slow pace of achieving this goal, can change the current reality, Guterres is pleading with world leaders “to return to dialogue and diplomacy, to a common path towards the total elimination of nuclear weapons and a safer and more secure world for all.”

This is the background for his new initiative on disarmament. His disarmament agenda, Securing Our Common Future, released in May 2018, seeks to strengthen disarmament as a practical tool that enhances international peace and security.

UNFOLD ZERO advises looking forward to September 26, United Nations International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons (Nuclear Abolition Day), and the day in 1983 when a nuclear war was almost triggered by accident. Remembering that day, the UN will hold a half-day High-Level Meeting at its headquarters in New York.

On that day, world leaders will in New York for the opening session of the United Nations General Assembly, notes UNFOLD ZERO, a project of PragueVisionPNNDBasel Peace OfficeMayors for Peace 2020 Vision Campaign, Aotearoa Lawyers for Peace, World Future CouncilWorld Federalist Movement and Global Security Institute.

UNFOLD ZERO also points to another opportunity to contribute to a nuclear weapons free world – by way of supporting the three-day High-Level Conference (Summit) on Nuclear Disarmament originally scheduled for May 2018. However, according to Alyn Ware – co-chair, World Future Council Disarmament Commission – pro-nuclear forces managed to have the Summit postponed; they are now at pains to have it cancelled altogether. However, if the Summit takes place, it could provide important opportunities to make concrete progress on nuclear war prevention and disarmament initiatives, such as de-alerting, no-first use, nuclear stockpile reductions and building more support for the new Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weaponsnotes Alyn Ware.

The co-founder and Treaty Coordinator Tim Wright of the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize laureate ICANanalyses how the Nuclear Ban Treaty, adopted by 122 states, is faring nearly one year on.

When the Treaty opened for signature on September 20, 2017 in New York, he says, there was a welcome rush to sign. Fifty states signed that day, three of them ratifying at the same time.

Meanwhile 60 states have signed and 14 ratified, from diverse regions. The pace of ratification, Wright notes, has been faster than for any other multilateral treaty related to weapons of mass destruction (WMDs), such as the conventions banning biological and chemical weapons, the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).

Besides, parliamentary, departmental and legislative processes towards joining the Treaty are well underway in many countries in Africa, Latin America, Southeast Asia and the Pacific. “Recently Switzerland’s first chamber of parliament voted to join, and New Zealand’s Cabinet has decided to ratify… the European Parliament reiterated its call for all 28 EU member states to sign and ratify the Treaty,” adds Wright.

In an interview published on IDN-INPS special website, he said: “We are hopeful that the Treaty will enter into force in 2019. We are working towards that target… We know of many countries that are well advanced in their ratification processes. Some countries should be ready to deposit their ratification instruments in the next few months.” The Treaty will enter into force as soon as 50 states have ratified.

Nonetheless, even after it has come into force, efforts would have to continue at multiple levels for the complete elimination of nuclear weapons. Because neither the five nuclear powers with veto-wielding permanent seats (P5) in the Security Council, nor India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea – that together possess around 15,000 nuclear weapons – are willing to abandon their atomic arsenal.

This is true of NATO member nuclear weapons sharing states (Belgium, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Turkey) and countries enjoying U.S. nuclear umbrella such as Japan and South Korea as well.

The outright refusal of the P5 – USA, Russia, China, Britain and France – to forsake their arsenal encourages the other four nuclear powers to follow in their footsteps. While Israel has a policy of ambiguity in relation to its nuclear arsenal, neither confirming nor denying its existence, both India and Pakistan justify their stockpiles as deterrents to a potential nuclear assault by either.

India is convinced that the goal of nuclear disarmament can be achieved by a step-by-step process “underwritten by a universal commitment” and an agreed multilateral framework that is global and non-discriminatory to non-P5 nuclear powers.

This is the argument North Korea has been advancing for many years at meetings of non-aligned movement (NAM) – a point that is often overlooked in discussions about the country’s “denuclearisation”. [IDN-InDepthNews – 20 August 2018]

Photo: Secretary-General António Guterres (front left) views an exhibit at the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum on 9 August 2018. UN Photo/Daniel Powell

IDN is flagship agency of the International Press Syndicate.

Amanda Boucault

This post is also available in: Spanish

Sara Bizarro: “It’s very difficult to make plans when you don’t have a basic income security”
(Image by Álvaro Orús)
Sara Bizarro, member of BIEN and of USBIG and a research fellow at CEPS, talks about different approaches to Universal Basic Income in the US and in Europe in the full interview she gave for the documentary “UBI, our right to live“.
Vídeo: Álvaro Orús and Mayte Quintanilla

Born in Portugal but now living in the US, Sara Bizarro believes that the Basic Income is surprisingly growing. According to her, in the United States the subject appears more frequently in the media as important politicians like Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have talked about it. In Portugal, on the other hand, the only party defending it is People Nature and Animals (PAN), but others are acknowledging that this is something that should be debated.

The approach also depends on cultural nuances. As North American society traditionally gives a lot of value to work – your status depends on what you do for a living – Basic Income is seen as a way for people to find a job that they think is meaningful to them. Its anti paternalism is also a point in its favor.  As Americans are mostly against intervening in individual behavior, they would grant money to people so they can decide what to do with it. In Europe it’s different, there is more of a social consciousness in which the idea is to find the best conditions in which to work.

Either way, there is a tendency towards accepting the Basic Income which could allow more people to make plans for their lives, as it’s very difficult to think about the future when you don’t have a basic income security.

14.08.2018 – Lisbon, Portugal Redacción Madrid

Scott Santens, activist and example of how to live on a basic income
(Image by Álvaro Orús)

Activist Scott Santens is American and lives in New Orleans. Through a crowfunding campaign he lives from his own basic income.

Álvaro Orús and Mayte Quintanilla

“I’m dedicating my life to making this idea really come to light,” Scott Santens tells us in this complete interview that served as the basis for the documentary UBI, our right to live. “Since January 2016, I’ve been living with the basic income of a thousand dollars a month, so this is what really helps me to understand it from a personal perspective, not just something I’m talking about and saying, ‘I think it’s a good idea’, because of my various researches I understand that it’s a good idea because I live with it and feel the effects of it, and I know it works’.

Santens understands that technology should be at the service of people and that UBI is a measure that should have been adopted decades ago. In this interview, he reminds us how President Nixon wanted to implement a similar measure and Congress didn’t approve it. In any case, he is optimistic that more and more people are talking about  basic income in his country and in others, even though each one is analysed from different perspectives.

He also sees it as a good thing that renowned people like Elon Musk, Mark Zuckergerg and Hillary Clinton are supporting the implementation of a basic income for the entire population.

On the other hand, Santens proposes to redefine work, clarifying that the best form – from his point of view – is the one that is done for free. “Like me, I am capable of fighting for this world that I build, I am capable of researching basic income, I am capable of writing about it, I am capable of traveling and talking about it, because I have the time and capacity, and the passion to do this work… There are many people with great ideas, a lot of meaningful work that they cannot do and who could do it with a basic income”.

Scott questions this system, which relies on private property, which means that some steal from others, and proposes building another system based on a basic income, convinced that this will build a civilization in which we develop everything we are capable of.

13.08.2018 – Lisbon, Portugal Redacción Madrid

Louise Haagh: the right to subsistence is not guaranteed
(Image by Álvaro Orús)

The RBU is the only missing element in the welfare state we established after the last world war to guarantee the right to subsistence, according to Louise Haagh, President of BIEN and Professor at York University (England).

“To be able to lead a stable, secure, meaningful and full life is not only an individual responsibility, it is also a duty of our society, which must provide opportunities for it.

Álvaro Orús, Mayte Quintanilla and Ángel Bravo

Here are Haagh’s statements during the BIEN 2017 Congress in Lisbon. Although the text is not literal, it is very close.

I first heard about the RBU in Brazil, back in 2001, where they were developing the “Bolsa familia” program, which would later be implemented by Lula.

In my doctorate, and in a book based on it that I published later, I coined the term “occupational citizenship”, with which I wanted to emphasize that to belong to a society and to evolve as a human being it is important to have a purpose in life, and an occupation is a type of life purpose. But this is not only an individual matter, society also has a duty to provide opportunities for individuals to lead a stable, meaningful and fulfilling life. However, the neoliberal model places this responsibility exclusively on individuals.

Full interview

That is why, when I heard about the UBI in Brazil, as a guarantee of subsistence and a support of freedom and economic security, I realized that it was something very necessary and the missing piece in the economic development model of the time. And since then I have become an advocate for the UBI, because it will allow me to live a dignified life. But for me, UBI is no different from other rights that we already have guaranteed, such as health or education, for me UBI is a natural progression of the social welfare system that we enjoy in some societies. The UBI is the only missing element in the welfare state we established after the last world war: guaranteeing the right to subsistence.

Now, UBI is no longer a philosophical idea but an institutional proposition. But to do so, we must stop trying to make UBI a response to all kinds of problems and allow it to become part of a broader concept of just human development.

As for the current UBI experiments, I do not think they are necessary, because there is no need to prove that UBI is good, just as we do not need to prove that universal health and education are good. UBI is constitutive of human development, just like health or education. Moreover, most current experiments only look at how people who receive an UBI behave, in the sense that they still want to work in the labour market, which we know is absolutely unfair as it stands.

Speaking of the global labour market (globalisation), it is curious to note the reactions that have taken place against it in the last two years: almost all have taken the form of fascism, nationalism or populism, but there are some who are seeking democratic solutions at the local level and who are promoting UBI experiments as a way of providing unconditional income security. And in these local experiments I see the future of the UBI.

On the other hand, the opposition to the UBI that has emerged in the socialist unions and parties has had more to do with the way we have presented the UBI, as a contrast to the old structures of solidarity and social security. And in this presentation that we have made, the trade unions were a kind of “agents of the past”, and they are not, because they defend the same democratic values as the UBI. Moreover, we have claimed that the UBI is something radical and revolutionary, which will completely transform society. But this is not true, the UBI will not completely change society, at least not in the short term. The UBI is going to make changes of various kinds possible, so it will be a small but important reform. However, we should not aim for it to be able to solve many kinds of problems at the same time. The UBI is merely a step in the right direction.

And, finally, it must be realized that, although the UBI will have a positive influence on poverty reduction and wealth redistribution, it will not, however, totally end the UBI, because poverty is not only a lack of resources, but also a lack of the ability to live a full life, not to have eco-social relationships and not to control one’s own destiny within society. I believe that more than just UBI is necessary for all human beings to enjoy real opportunities.

However, if there is one thing relatively easy to achieve in our time that will improve our common destiny, it is UBI.

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Dietrich Bonhoeffer

We must act and dare the appropiateness and not whatever comes to our mind not floating in the likelihood but grasp the reality as brave as we can be freedom lies in action not in the absence of mind obedience knows the essence of good and satisfies it, freedom dares to act and returns God the ultimate judgment of what is right and what is wrong, Obedience performs blindly but Freedom is wide awake Freedom wants to know why, Obedience has its hands tied, Freedom is inventive obedient man respects God’s commands and by virtu of his Freedom, he creats new commands. Both Obedience and Freedom come true in responsability (Dietrich Bonhoeffer)

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