President Barack Obama declared at the Summit of the Americas meeting in Trinidad and Tobago in April that there would no longer be junior and senior partners in the Americas–but his actions are sending a different message.
The most egregious case is Honduras, where the U.S. has played ball with the coup-makers who overthrew democratically elected President Manuel Zelaya earlier this month. The Obama administration also failed to speak out against last month’s Peruvian police massacre of more than 50 indigenous people in the Peruvian Amazon who were protesting the incursion of petroleum transnational corporations into their territory.
In Bolivia, too, Obama failed another important test. On June 30, the Obama administration rejected renewal of the Andean Trade Promotion and Drug Eradication Act (ATPDEA) for Bolivia, citing the country’s alleged failure to cooperate in drug eradication efforts.
With this pronouncement, the administration ratified George W. Bush’s decision last November to suspend the trade agreement with Bolivia on the basis of supposed non-cooperation in counter-narcotics operations. In reality, the suspension was one of a series of tit-for-tat moves that began when Bolivian President Evo Morales declared U.S. Ambassador Philip Goldberg persona non grata after he advised opposition politicians plotting a coup last September.
Bush overrode the decision of Congress to extend the agreement for six months just a few weeks after Morales announced that the Drug Enforcement Agency was no longer welcome in Bolivia. A few months earlier, Morales had supported the decision of coca growers in the Chapare region, where Morales was a union leader before becoming president, to expel the United States Agency for International Development from the area.
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According to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, the law was intended to help Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia “in their fight against drug production and trafficking by expanding their economic alternatives. To this end, the ATPA provided reduced-duty or duty-free treatment to most of these countries’ exports to the United States.” It was renewed in 2002 under the ATPDEA name.
The criteria for continued participation fall into four categories: investment policies, trade policies, counter-narcotics operations and workers’ rights.
While the decision cited Bolivia’s supposed failure to meet its counter-narcotics commitments as the reason for non-renewal, it is clear from the text of the U.S. Trade Representative’s report that Bolivia had offended the U.S. in other areas as well. The report cites Bolivia’s nationalization of hydrocarbons, the country’s withdrawal from the International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes, a “difficult investment climate,” and increased tariffs. These are described in matter-of-fact language–but it’s clear that the U.S. is none too pleased.
In the area of counter-narcotics, the trade representative’s report claims that the “loss of the DEA presence and its information network has severely diminished Bolivia’s interdiction capacity in both the short and the long term.”
The report concedes that the Bolivian government has “maintained its support for interdiction efforts” and that “interdiction of drugs and precursor chemicals continues to rise,” and that “the Bolivian counter-narcotics police and other CN [counter-narcotics] units have improved coordination effectiveness.” Yet even Bolivia’s success in these efforts is seen as a problem–the U.S. report concludes that Bolivia’s increased drug interdiction is evidence of “increased cocaine production and transshipment.”
While it appears that cocaine production has, in fact, increased in Bolivia, this is being used as an excuse for the U.S. to punish a government that is challenging American interference within its borders.
If the U.S. government was truly concerned with stopping the production and distribution of illegal drugs, and believed that ending trade preference agreements could have such an effect, it would refuse to extend trade preferences to U.S. ally Colombia, a country at the heart of cocaine production.
According to the Andean Information Network, coca production has risen in three of the four Andean countries participating in the ATPDEA: Colombia, Peru and Bolivia. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime reported that land area under coca cultivation in the region grew by 16 percent from 2006 to 2007. Colombia led the way with a 27 percent increase, while growth in Bolivia was 5 percent and in Peru 4 percent. “Overall, Colombia accounted for 85 percent of the net 24,700 hectare increase region-wide, while Peru accounted for 9 percent and Bolivia for 6 percent,” the UN agency reported.
Despite this region-wide spike in cocaine production, only Bolivia faces non-renewal of trade preferences. The U.S. recently renewed the ATPDEA for Peru and Colombia, and renewed it for Ecuador the same day it denied renewal to Bolivia.
The suspension of preferred trade status as of December 2008 had already led to a 14 percent decline in Bolivian sales to the U.S. and the loss of more than 2,000 jobs in the country’s largest textile exporter. The textile industry had benefited the most from trade preference and is being hit the hardest by its suspension.
According to AmericaEconomic.com, “Bolivian exports to the U.S., in large part due to the ATPDEA, reached $171,920,000 dollars in the first five months of 2008. In the same period in 2009, exports fell 19.5 percent to $138,370,000. The textile industry has protested that the suspension of the ATPDEA will lose the sector close to 9,000 jobs.”
The Agencia de Noticias Fides (ANF) estimates that 46,000 jobs will be lost nationally and between 5,000 and 7,000 businesses will be affected in the department (region) of La Paz alone. The Santa Cruz Chamber of Exporters estimates that exports from its department to the U.S. will decline 60 percent by the end of the year.
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IN THE lead-up to the decision on ATPDEA, President Morales appealed to the U.S. to renew the agreement, even sending a delegation to the U.S. to make the case. “If President Obama wants to have good relations,” Morales said, “I want to publicly tell him that hopefully he can mend the ways of ex-President Bush.”
When Obama followed Bush’s lead and refused to renew Bolivia’s status as a cooperating government in anti-drug efforts, Morales said the decision was “clearly political.” “I feel deceived by the suspension of the ATPDEA because the Obama government has lied and made slanderous and false accusations against the Bolivian government to suspend the trade preferences,” he told reporters.
So much for the Obama administration’s stated aim of improving relations with Latin America by establishing mutual respect and cooperation. Rather, recent events indicate that Obama is committed to re-establishing U.S. hegemony in the region in order to counter the “pink tide” of center-left governments that have been elected from Central America to the Southern Cone.
Morales put it well:
In the U.S., the appearance of the leaders has changed, but the politics of empire have not. When he told us in Trinidad and Tobago that they are no longer senior and junior partners, President Obama lied to Latin America. Now there is not only a senior partner, there is a patron [boss], a policeman…
They told me not to trust Obama–that the empire is the empire. To those who made this recommendation to me, I thank you. Truly, the empire is the empire. But thankfully, the battle will continue with the consciousness of not only the Bolivian people, but all of the peoples of Latin America.
In a discussion with a New York audience in May, Uruguayan author Eduardo Galleano urged Obama, instead of restoring U.S. “leadership” in the region, to leave Latin America alone. While Obama would win a lot more favor with Latin American governments and populations were he to follow this advice, all signs point to an empire that is gearing up to reassert control in what it has long considered its backyard.
But the increasing consciousness, organization and mobilization of Latin America’s popular classes–there to see on the streets of Honduras in recent weeks–means that the U.S. won’t be able to re-establish hegemony in Latin America without a fight.
Sarah Hines writes from Bolivia
Originally Appeared on Socialistworker.org: http://socialistworker.org/2009/07/22/obamas-latin-america-policy
With the Waxman-Markley bill gaining steam in Congress, Sam Kephart looks at the intimate ties between Barack Obama, Al Gore and the lucrative futures market associated with Climate Change.
July 6, 2009
Senator John Thune
United States Senate SR-493
Washington, DC 20510
It was good to see you again, however briefly, at the staging site for the July 4th. parade on Saturday in Spearfish.
I mentioned to you my profound concern about the impending ‘Cap and Trade” legislation now before the Senate for consideration.
You and the Republican Senate leadership must kill this bill, which I refer to as ‘Crap and Betrayed’.
• It’s based on junk science. Long cycle solar waves, the Earth’s astronomical precession, and other natural phenomena are the predominant cause of “climate change”, not human activity.
• Cap and trade, even if mandated here in the US, will do no good unless China, Russia, India and other major generators of greenhouse gasses do likewise at the same time.
• The reduction goals are unrealistic. If you do the macroeconomic math, the long term goal of cap and trade, an 80% reduction by 2050, is moronic. It would take our carbon footprint from about 25 tons per person per year now to about 2 tons… a level that hasn’t been seen since the time of the Founding Fathers.
• It’s restraint of trade. Climate Exchange PLC of London wholly-owns the European Climate Exchange, the Chicago Climate Exchange, and the Chicago Climate Futures Exchange. The trading of carbon credits is a global monopoly.
• Carbon credit futures are derivatives. The exchange’s web site home page even uses that term. Hasn’t Main Street America suffered enough from the effects of derivatives invented by financiers (Wall Street and London)?
• It’s a financial scam. Waxman-Markey contains language that specifically allows non-users to buy, sell, trade, and hypothecate carbon credit futures. This means that hedge funds and other “sophisticated investors” can legally game the carbon credits markets in the same way they currently inflate oil and energy derivatives. Allowing them to invest/speculate will only raise, not lower the cost of carbon credits.
• Undisclosed relationships and interests. Both President Obama and former Vice-president Al Gore have ‘unclean hands’ here. Both were instrumental in helping to set up the Chicago Climate Exchange. Obama, for 3 years (1998-2001), was on the Board of the Joyce Foundation which helped fund it. Their cronies, Dr. Richard L. Sandor and his business associates, will literally become centi-millionaires, if not billionaires, overnight if Cap and Trade passes. Sandor was a major Obama supporter.
Where in the hell is the transparency here?
John, you attended the dinner where I gave my first political speech. It was August 6th, 2007 in Dakota Dunes. Do you remember my theme?
My key point that night was that America was poised to go off a financial and social cliff, like the final scene in Thelma and Louise.
The audience chuckled and tittered…. it’s not so funny now.
Further, you sat at the head table with me at the Fall River Lincoln Day Dinner on March 27th, 2008 when I publicly stated that derivatives would likely cause a ’29 style market meltdown. Everyone thought I was exaggerating.
Cap and Trade is bad legislation. It’s a hidden tax, it’s a financial scam in waiting, it’s being driven by hidden agendas, and it’s socialism and societal control run amok.
Lowering America’s carbon footprint over time is probably a good idea. However, it can be accomplished through education, retro-fit tax incentives for energy savings for home and business, better fuel economy mandates for cars and trucks, grants for promising green technologies, adding/improving rail services, tax incentives for utility companies to lower emissions, and clearing out the red tape for wind and solar farms and the lines needed to carry their output.
I have spent dozens of hours studying and researching this topic. I have attached a summary of my thoughts, along with proof of my claims and some other valuable perspectives.
John, you must get the word out to any independent thinking Senators, who really care about their country, to vote a resounding NO on this crap and betrayed concept.
Thank you for your time and consideration. Please call me with any questions at 605-639-3100.
Best Personal Wishes,
Samuel R. Kephart
cc: Qusi Al-Haj
‘Cap and Trade’ Report
Here are some key pointers to the truth about President Obama’s proposed cap and trade program.
There are two major question marks here:
• First, the argument for global climate change is NOT settled. Why add an economic burden to the taxpayers based on shaky evidence?
• Second, the carbon credit exchange idea is nothing more than a profound economic betrayal of the American middle-class and future generations using a wealth transfer scheme operated by global elites manipulating derivatives.
President Obama’s proposed “cap and trade” system for limiting and controlling carbon dioxide emissions from energy production, business, and industry will raise the cost of electricity and living for all of us. It will also further enrich the same financial oligarchs that invented sub-prime mortgages, Collateralized Debt Obligations, and Credit Default Swaps.
Since all humans and most human activities generate CO2, lowering those levels voluntarily, using clean technologies, tax incentives, and education is a good idea. Mandating a carbon credits program is a blunder for two reasons: First, there is convincing scientific evidence that shows global warming and cooling trends are, in large part, caused by long-cycle solar energy waves interacting with Earth’s upper atmosphere, not human Crap and Betrayed activity. Do human life and economic activity impact carbon dioxide levels? Yes, obviously.
However, the question is does human-generated CO2 create global warming… or are these proven solar cycles the principal cause?
Historical data indicate significant heating and cooling periods have occurred on earth long before man and, with all due respect, Al Gore walked the planet. Second is the assumption that a cap system here will offer a net improvement. Unless imposed globally, it can’t. Carbon dioxide accumulates in the upper atmosphere and moves around the world; it doesn’t hang over any given country. A U.S. cap, even if successful, will be rendered meaningless by uncapped growth in China, Russia, India, and other emerging economies.
It can be argued that even if all countries simultaneously reduced their CO2 emissions by 20 percent, it would offer little or no net benefit. Some environmental studies claim that it is too late to curb CO2 accumulations that the damage is done and global warming, if you accept carbon dioxide is the cause, will be with us for centuries.
Further, how do we benefit from the increased costs of compliance and reduced standard of living a cap and trade scheme will impose on us? We don’t. Currently voluntary, a mandated carbon cap will force many of America’s electric utilities, industrial companies, and smaller businesses, like bakeries and possibly even live stock producers, to purchase carbon credits to offset or trade for the “pollution” they’re sending into the upper atmosphere, contributing, at least theoretically, to global warming. These costs will be passed on to us as substantially higher prices for coal-fired electricity and other staples of our economy. Here’s where we get plundered:
Carbon credit futures are financial derivatives; they are nothing more than a shared illusion that literally creates something expensive out of nothing. The same Wall Street casino mentality that caused our current economic mess is already pumping up this $100 billion plus international market. It’s contrived vaporware designed to guilt the American people into paying a hidden energy and pollution tax and transfer our wealth to others. It will have little or no effect on global warming and it will only further enrich the financial elite by generating tens of billions in commissions annually.
“Cap and trade” is the next step in selling out the middle class and bringing our country one step closer to national socialism. It!s a fraud… and I can prove it to you.
Currently, there are only two major carbon credit exchanges, The London Exchange and the Chicago Climate Futures Exchange. The London entity owns the one in Chicago (see above), so, in essence, carbon credits brokerage is a global monopoly (see attached Press Releases). Both Barack Obama and Al Gore, Jr. have significant links to the founding of the Chicago Climate Exchange (see attached article).
If passed, the proposed !cap and trade” bill will make Obama”s and Gore”s cronies and business associates millionaires overnight…. quite literally.
President Obama has been advocating openness and transparency in his administration. Have you heard him disclose ANYTHING about something this significant regarding his impending cap and trade legislation?
The Democrat-controlled Congress is now trying to push though cap and trade legislation.
The rush to legislate has clouded the reality that this is a thinly veiled wealth redistribution tax masquerading as a solution for global climate change. As if this insanity weren’t bad enough, Title VIII of the proposed Waxman Markey House bill allows investment banks, hedge funds and other speculators to participate in carbon credit futures, aka derivatives. Here”s an image from the home page of the Chicago Climate Futures Exchange:
We!re in our current economic mess because of derivatives. Further, speculation last summer and now is the primary cause of our rising oil and gasoline prices.”Since cap and trade would”create a de facto tax on coal-fired power plants, do we really want the “big boys” gaming”our electric rates too?”Didn’t we endure enough of that trading fraud during the Enron years?
This is particularly troubling since government has shown no”inclination to properly regulate derivatives. In fact, the bulk of the money ($180 billion so far) given to AIG has been used to pay out for losses to investment banks like Goldman Sachs for gambles they took on derivatives.
Short and sweet, South Dakota taxpayers are footing the bill for a bunch greedy assholes with a gambling habit who were trying to leverage their bets beyond all reason to puff up the investment returns and get their bonuses.
Further, why should we let those who are primarily responsible for the”current economic crisis participate in anything else?” Have they not done enough”damage? Has the American public not yet rendered enough “tribute” ? Al Gore, Jr. is a phony about all this climate change, as well. His father, Al Gore, Sr., was a long-seated director of”Occidental Petroleum. OXY has been a steady supplier of campaign funds to Gore and to the Democratic Party, though its relationship with Gore goes far deeper. When the elder Gore left the Senate in 1970, Armand Hammer (the founder and CEO of OXY) gave him a $500,000-a-year job as the chairman of Island Coal Creek Co., an Occidental subsidiary, and a seat on Occidental’s board of directors. By 1992, Gore owned Occidental stock valued at $680,000
Before”Dr. Armand Hammer died, he arranged for the Gore family to be sold some oil producing properties at a favorable rate as a “thank you” for Gore, Sr!s loyal service to OXY.”
Here’s photographic proof. Al Gore Senior is standing in the second row, third man from the left:
At the time Gore Senior died, roughly 85% to 90% of the value of the Gore Family Trust was OXY stock or oil producing properties and mineral rights sold to them by OXY.”Most of Al Gore’s wealth comes from hydrocarbons. Lowering America’s carbon footprint may be a good idea, but cap and trade isn”t.
Circus impresario P. T. Barnum is credited with saying, “There’s a sucker born every minute!” Are the citizens of South Dakota among them?
Click below to download a full copy of Sam Kephart’s Letter to Senator Thune:
Early Sunday morning in Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras, the Hoduran military, trained and armed by the United States, removed the President of Honduras, Manuel Zelaya, by gunshots and force to an airbase, where he was flown to neighboring Costa Rica. The situation was a result of Zelaya attempting to hold an opinion poll on a Constitutional referendum seeking to do away with the current one-term limit of the Presidency. Also at work was Zelaya’s desire to implement reforms for those living in poverty, by seeking to institute a minimum wage, rather than initiating IMF & World Bank projects that assist the business wealthy and military class. The Honduran Congress sought to cement the Military Coup by producing a forged resignation letter, proportedly written by Zelaya, in a move that bypasses both the electorate as well as the sitting Vice President. They then installed the head of the Congress, Roberto Micheletti, within 2 hours of Zelaya’s forcible removal and kidnapping.
Honduras houses a major US Military base, as well as receiving $2 Million annually for arms and training. The coup is remaniscent of shows of force have happened frequently in the history of Latin America, though in recent years they have become less prevalent. In nearby Haiti, Jean Bertrand-Aristede was summarily kidnapped in 2004 from the Presidental home and flown, without knowledge of his destination, 6,500 miles away across the Atlantic to the Central African Republic.
Though Zelaya was removed by the military in exactly the same fashion, he was not flown as far afield, and upon his landing, he immediately called the press to his aid. The Organization of American States has condemned the coup, as they did in Haiti, but have taken the added step of refusing to acknoledge the newly sworn in Micheletti. ALBA, the organization of Bolivarian states lead primarily by Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador and others, has likewise condemned the coup, with Chavez threatening military intervention if Zelaya was not restored to power, a move in response as well to the kidnapping and beating on Sunday of the Venezuela and Cuban ambassadors in Honduras. Foreign Minister Patricia Rodas was proportedly kidnapped as well and her whereabouts are currently unknown.
The Honduran Supreme Court has ruled that a referendum to add another term to the Presidency is unconstitutional, but it remains to be seen if the opinion poll due to occur on Sunday, for a Referendum Vote due in November, 2009, required the Supreme Court to sanction a Military takeover of a democractically elected government.
U.S. Response has been soft to the point of complicity. Obama said that the administration was ‘deeply concerned’, but offered no language of condemnation, while Hillary Clinton stated that people need to , ‘address the underlying problems that led to yesterday’s events.’ This sort of soft-speech in a region and country that has a long history of U.S. interventions, cout-d’etats, disappearances, extra-judial killings, assassination squads and military dictatorships does not and should not sleep well with either the Honduran people or persons of conscience around the world. It is beyond a troubling sign that the new Obama Administration has not outrightly condemned the forced removal of an elected head of state and is grossly suspicious. Though Obama on Monday called the removal of Zelaya ‘illegal’, it remains to be seen what concrete steps he or the administration will take to bring the Honduran President back to office.
Said cadejo4 of dailykos.com:
It’s remarkable, when you think about it. In a period of just over 2 hours, the Honduran congress removed a president from power and (skipping over the vice-president in line of succession) installed a new president. All after forcibly removing the president and shipping him off to another country, while controlling all sources of information, limiting communication and disseminating misinformation about the president’s resignation.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
Activist organizations are calling on supporters of democracy to call the State Department and White House and demand:
1. A cut-off of all military aid to Honduras until President Zelaya and Foreign Minister Rodas are safely returned to office
2. Support for international movements to bring the coup plotters to justice
3. Replace the U.S. ambassador to Honduras.
Call the State Department at 800-877-8339 and the White House at 202-456-1414.
Chris Hedges speaks of a meeting between the largest and most populous countries on the planet, as they seek to organize and consolidate interests by dumping the U.S. Dollar and collecting on the U.S. Debt. The fact that the United States was not invited to the meeting, despite their expressed interest in attending, shows just how late in the game things have progressed.
The following first appeared on Truthdig.org:
Posted on Jun 14, 2009
By Chris Hedges
This week marks the end of the dollar’s reign as the world’s reserve currency. It marks the start of a terrible period of economic and political decline in the United States. And it signals the last gasp of the American imperium. That’s over. It is not coming back. And what is to come will be very, very painful.
Barack Obama, and the criminal class on Wall Street, aided by a corporate media that continues to peddle fatuous gossip and trash talk as news while we endure the greatest economic crisis in our history, may have fooled us, but the rest of the world knows we are bankrupt. And these nations are damned if they are going to continue to prop up an inflated dollar and sustain the massive federal budget deficits, swollen to over $2 trillion, which fund America’s imperial expansion in Eurasia and our system of casino capitalism. They have us by the throat. They are about to squeeze.
There are meetings being held Monday and Tuesday in Yekaterinburg, Russia, (formerly Sverdlovsk) among Chinese President Hu Jintao, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and other top officials of the six-nation Shanghai Cooperation Organization. The United States, which asked to attend, was denied admittance. Watch what happens there carefully. The gathering is, in the words of economist Michael Hudson, “the most important meeting of the 21st century so far.”
It is the first formal step by our major trading partners to replace the dollar as the world’s reserve currency. If they succeed, the dollar will dramatically plummet in value, the cost of imports, including oil, will skyrocket, interest rates will climb and jobs will hemorrhage at a rate that will make the last few months look like boom times. State and federal services will be reduced or shut down for lack of funds. The United States will begin to resemble the Weimar Republic or Zimbabwe. Obama, endowed by many with the qualities of a savior, will suddenly look pitiful, inept and weak. And the rage that has kindled a handful of shootings and hate crimes in the past few weeks will engulf vast segments of a disenfranchised and bewildered working and middle class. The people of this class will demand vengeance, radical change, order and moral renewal, which an array of proto-fascists, from the Christian right to the goons who disseminate hate talk on Fox News, will assure the country they will impose.
I called Hudson, who has an article in Monday’s Financial Times called “The Yekaterinburg Turning Point: De-Dollarization and the Ending of America’s Financial-Military Hegemony.” “Yekaterinburg,” Hudson writes, “may become known not only as the death place of the czars but of the American empire as well.” His article is worth reading, along with John Lanchester’s disturbing exposé of the world’s banking system, titled “It’s Finished,” which appeared in the May 28 issue of the London Review of Books.
“This means the end of the dollar,” Hudson told me. “It means China, Russia, India, Pakistan, Iran are forming an official financial and military area to get America out of Eurasia. The balance-of-payments deficit is mainly military in nature. Half of America’s discretionary spending is military. The deficit ends up in the hands of foreign banks, central banks. They don’t have any choice but to recycle the money to buy U.S. government debt. The Asian countries have been financing their own military encirclement. They have been forced to accept dollars that have no chance of being repaid. They are paying for America’s military aggression against them. They want to get rid of this.”
China, as Hudson points out, has already struck bilateral trade deals with Brazil and Malaysia to denominate their trade in China’s yuan rather than the dollar, pound or euro. Russia promises to begin trading in the ruble and local currencies. The governor of China’s central bank has openly called for the abandonment of the dollar as reserve currency, suggesting in its place the use of the International Monetary Fund’s Special Drawing Rights. What the new system will be remains unclear, but the flight from the dollar has clearly begun. The goal, in the words of the Russian president, is to build a “multipolar world order” which will break the economic and, by extension, military domination by the United States. China is frantically spending its dollar reserves to buy factories and property around the globe so it can unload its U.S. currency. This is why Aluminum Corp. of China made so many major concessions in the failed attempt to salvage its $19.5 billion alliance with the Rio Tinto mining concern in Australia. It desperately needs to shed its dollars.
“China is trying to get rid of all the dollars they can in a trash-for-resource deal,” Hudson said. “They will give the dollars to countries willing to sell off their resources since America refuses to sell any of its high-tech industries, even Unocal, to the yellow peril. It realizes these dollars are going to be worthless pretty quickly.”
The architects of this new global exchange realize that if they break the dollar they also break America’s military domination. Our military spending cannot be sustained without this cycle of heavy borrowing. The official U.S. defense budget for fiscal year 2008 is $623 billion, before we add on things like nuclear research. The next closest national military budget is China’s, at $65 billion, according to the Central Intelligence Agency.
There are three categories of the balance-of-payment deficits. America imports more than it exports. This is trade. Wall Street and American corporations buy up foreign companies. This is capital movement. The third and most important balance-of-payment deficit for the past 50 years has been Pentagon spending abroad. It is primarily military spending that has been responsible for the balance-of-payments deficit for the last five decades. Look at table five in the Balance of Payments Report, published in the Survey of Current Business quarterly, and check under military spending. There you can see the deficit.
To fund our permanent war economy, we have been flooding the world with dollars. The foreign recipients turn the dollars over to their central banks for local currency. The central banks then have a problem. If a central bank does not spend the money in the United States then the exchange rate against the dollar will go up. This will penalize exporters. This has allowed America to print money without restraint to buy imports and foreign companies, fund our military expansion and ensure that foreign nations like China continue to buy our treasury bonds. This cycle appears now to be over. Once the dollar cannot flood central banks and no one buys our treasury bonds, our empire collapses. The profligate spending on the military, some $1 trillion when everything is counted, will be unsustainable.
“We will have to finance our own military spending,” Hudson warned, “and the only way to do this will be to sharply cut back wage rates. The class war is back in business. Wall Street understands that. This is why it had Bush and Obama give it $10 trillion in a huge rip-off so it can have enough money to survive.”
The desperate effort to borrow our way out of financial collapse has promoted a level of state intervention unseen since World War II. It has also led us into uncharted territory.
“We have in effect had to declare war to get us out of the hole created by our economic system,” Lanchester wrote in the London Review of Books. “There is no model or precedent for this, and no way to argue that it’s all right really, because under such-and-such a model of capitalism … there is no such model. It isn’t supposed to work like this, and there is no road-map for what’s happened.”
The cost of daily living, from buying food to getting medical care, will become difficult for all but a few as the dollar plunges. States and cities will see their pension funds drained and finally shut down. The government will be forced to sell off infrastructure, including roads and transport, to private corporations. We will be increasingly charged by privatized utilities—think Enron—for what was once regulated and subsidized. Commercial and private real estate will be worth less than half its current value. The negative equity that already plagues 25 percent of American homes will expand to include nearly all property owners. It will be difficult to borrow and impossible to sell real estate unless we accept massive losses. There will be block after block of empty stores and boarded-up houses. Foreclosures will be epidemic. There will be long lines at soup kitchens and many, many homeless. Our corporate-controlled media, already banal and trivial, will work overtime to anesthetize us with useless gossip, spectacles, sex, gratuitous violence, fear and tawdry junk politics. America will be composed of a large dispossessed underclass and a tiny empowered oligarchy that will run a ruthless and brutal system of neo-feudalism from secure compounds. Those who resist will be silenced, many by force. We will pay a terrible price, and we will pay this price soon, for the gross malfeasance of our power elite.
The Imaginary War
“Will the United States bomb itself?” ~Eduardo Galeano
With three months and change in office, its a fair time to take a look at the record of the 44th president of the United States. The leading deceptions of Barack Obama to date has been made capable by his understanding of the American psyche, and his misuse of the public’s desire for genuine change.
The best example of the psychological malfeasance of Obama is the Iraq war. In June of 2008, while campaigning, he stated that on day one of his presidency he would immediately begin the withdrawal of troops from Iraq, and ship them instead to the good war in Afghanistan. Somehow, it is more acceptable to capture civilians and torture them for bad intelligence that then leads to more arrests and more torture in Afghanistan, than to perform the same practices in Iraq. But the goal of beginning the removal of troops immediately was, after the election, immediately subverted by Barack Obama. An immediate withdrawl of troops became an 18-month drawdown, with now no end in sight.
If this is the case, what was the net effect of taking a position and then changing it? With this practice, the public gets the false impression that things are changing, that their opinion is valued and that their trust is sacred. In the current age, it is of central importance for most Americans to not feel offended. Perceived offense is taken as seriously as physical harm. With this mindset, all persons who lead guarded lives of safety feel just as at risk as those who are living from day to day, week to week, month to month, year to year, in an economy that keeps people permanently displaced, on the move from job to job. An economy that sees 22% of American children grow up in poverty. An economy that is seeing record foreclosures, massive unemployment, evaporating wages for the poor and coming epic inflation. In such an environment, ownership becomes rentership, and interpersonal trust becomes a matter of commerce.
The nation wanted universal, single-payer healthcare, and at first Barack Obama claimed he would provide it. But demanding a new plan was not a priority for him, the goal of universal coverage is being kicked further down the road to a place where no one actually believes it will be picked up. There is a word for all of this, deceit.
Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency as well took the applauded position of halting mountaintop coal-removal, that process that blasts entire tops of the oldest mountains of the Eastern Americas for a finite, polluting resource. Tennessee was covered in 400 acres of coal sludge up to 6 feet deep in December, but after Obama waited one month, the EPA stated that 42 of 48 sites, including two dozen mountaintop sites, were A-OK, and that business could proceed as planned, by business, for business, for profit.
In addition, Obama promised and immediately acted to close the torture facility known as Guantanamo Bay. There were no words spoken of whether Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan or other sites further afield known for torture as well would be closed, and it mattered little as the immediate order was allowed to air for a few weeks, then was quietly shelved. A public debate then ensues about whether the prisoners are allowed the rights of human beings, with no one seeming to notice that to date there are over two hundred people who have been held without due process, in massive isolation, for almost a decade now, in order to prove that the United States is a country of laws. To date, the only persons to be tried are Osama Bin Laden’s driver, and his cook. The gravest crime between the two is the forging of a passport. The matter of closing Guantanamo now proceeds toward the ever less likely for a public that is having its will publicly eroded.
To speak for a moment of the importance of location; in Afghanistan, in Palestine, in Iraq, to be a young man between the ages of 18 and 35 is to be a target. US reports of deaths of men between the ages of 18 to 35 proceed with the presumption that all men of this age group are presumed to be ‘terrorists’. For the United States, a country which has never had active on-going military bombardment, the use of robotic planes to eliminate the risk to the precious flesh of our soldiers while bombs are dropped on villagers and random mud huts in Pakistan and Afghanistan, surely indicates that our country has crossed a line into the realm of pure fantasy.
A young man, born into the country of Iraq, sees his neighborhood destroyed and his neighbors killed, tortured or forced to flee the country, has a choice. Leave, become a passive target for an unaccountable U.S. Military or Iraqi militia, or join the resistance. An entire population of people is considered, in the eyes of the American Media, guilty by age and location of birth and is pushed toward desparation. War does not even exist on television screens, apart from the sterile discussion of tactics. More time of televised discussion is focused on one sporting game than the active US military bombardment of three nations. We are at a sad point of dislocation from reality. The estimated 1 million people killed in Iraq are proportionally equal to the country of Iraq invading the U.S. and killing the entire population of the state of Michigan. The US has displaced a populace equivalent to the state of California.
All of this though isn’t altering the public’s ability to believe Barack Obama. The reason is a very straightforward trick of mnemonics. If the brain remembers something, anything, and if the brain then tries to remember that same thing later, the brain can literally not tell the difference between whether something occurred in reality, or if it is a memory of a memory. So when Barack Obama says the right thing, the moral thing, the thing the public believes in, he is able to give people the illusion of having made a difference, while deferring to their sloth and refusal to check-up on stories greater than 2 weeks old. All of this in order to have business continue unabated, unbridled, slightly reorganized, but funded, as the military is, at the same or greater levels, funding the same entities, with the same lack of oversight, for the same duration, forever.
In a world that is moving exponentially closer to economic, agricultural, environmental and inter-national collapse, one thing has been made very clear. The saving of the financial institutions, including Wall Street primarily, but secondarily the finance arms of GM and Chrysler, have shown that Obama is not interested in reviving the sections of the economy that produce a single thing. Bold change, bold leadership, would have seen Obama ban the sale of domestic automobiles for a year, two years, in order to have the plants retool for wind turbines and massively decrease the number of automobiles available while increasing the number of hybrids and electric autos on the road. Bold leadership would have followed through on what Obama said when he stated, “If I were designing a system from scratch, then I’d probably set up a single-payer (healthcare) system.” There will never be a better time to confront the insurance giants, the megalithic healthcare providers, and pharmaceutical corporations than right now. Bold leadership would have followed the advice of Major General Paul Eaton’s son, currently in Afghanistan, “I don’t need any more combat power. I need agriculture experts, I need water engineers, I need doctors, nurses, dentists .”
And so it is with Barack obama. He has made it clear that the production economy is not his priority. The non-producing economies, the banking system, and the destructive economies, the war machines, are the priority. These are the areas that are being supported by the administration. These are the areas for which priority speed has been granted. Torture will continue under a different name. The American Public will continue to pay its tax money to be spied on by its own government, to risk random arrest, to be fed to another non-productive system, the prison system. At what point will the American Population begin to realize that a few more plastic baubles from Wal-Mart, a few more cheap poisoned tangerines, are not worth the amount of destruction we are leaving our children, are not worth the wreckage we are visiting upon our fellow human beings, do not amount to more than a hollow, ransacked way of doing things that we shouldn’t be saving in the first place?
On the day the American Populace figures that out, there will be revolution in this country, and it will be needed.
Interview by Dan Skye
On December 24, 2008, a delegation of Lakota leaders delivered a message to the State Department announcing that their people were unilaterally withdrawing from treaties signed with the US. No longer would they tolerate the federal government’s gross violations of these agreements; America was put on notice that the Republic of Lakotah had been re-created. The new nation would issue its own passports and driving licenses, and living there would be tax-free—provided residents renounced their US citizenship. As has been the case for the past 40 years, Russell Means, the longtime Indian-rights activist, was there, helping see the declaration through and cosigning it. “We are no longer citizens of the United States of America, and all those who live in the five-state area that encompasses our country are free to join us,” he stated.
Means is one of the best-known, most influential activists in the Indian community. He rose to prominence as a leader of the American Indian Movement, and participated in the 1969 takeover of Alcatraz that lasted 19 months. He also participated in AIM’s takeover of the Bureau of Indian Affairs office in Washington, DC, and was one of the leaders in the famous standoff between Native Americans and the government at Wounded Knee in 1973. In recent years, he has directed Indian youth programs and worked vigorously to improve the conditions for his people in Pine Ridge, SD.
In addition to his lifelong commitment to Indian rights, Means has sought the governorship of New Mexico and battled Ron Paul for the Libertarian Party’s presidential nomination in 1987. Many probably know him best as a talented actor who has appeared in numerous films, most notably Last of the Mohicans and Natural Born Killers. In all his dealings, Means says that he strives “to speak from the heart.” That forthrightness has sometimes caused controversy, but Means remains a vital presence in the American Indian community.
Describe growing up as an Indian.
I was born on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, but I didn’t grow up there—I was five years old when we moved to California. My dad worked in the defense industry as a welder. In large part, I grew up in Northern California, in the Bay Area. I was the only Indian at San Leandro High School until my brother got there in the 10th grade. I was always very conscious of who I am. I always have been—through my relatives and extended family. I made continual visits back home.
When did your activism begin?
Not until after I got out of high school—then the Indian-relocation program was going full swing. [The Relocation Act of 1956 provided funding to establish “job-training centers” for American Indians in various urban areas, and financed the relocation of individuals and whole families to these locales. It was coupled with a denial of funds for similar programs and economic development on the reservations themselves—in fact, those who availed themselves of the “opportunity” were usually required to sign an agreement stating that they wouldn’t return to the reservation to live there.]
I started hanging around with Indian people at the bars in Los Angeles. The forced relocation of American Indians from their land into urban areas forced us to get together as independents. They didn’t put us in specific neighborhoods; they dispersed us throughout different ghettos and barrios. Our only social activity together would be at a local bar. But from the local bar, we formed athletic leagues and social events. That’s how we did our socializing as Indian people. It really opened us up to a whole range of different experiences in thinking from the different Indian peoples.
Talk about the early days of the American Indian Movement.
The American Indian Movement began in Minneapolis. Dennis Banks and Clyde Bellecourt were the founders of AIM. We sat in a hotel room one Saturday afternoon in Minneapolis, and we’re all drinking beer and socializing, and there’s about seven or eight of us, which included some of the women who were founders. We asked questions of ourselves: Who are we? Where did we come from? Why are we? And where are we going? It was the consensus that we return to our respective reservations and find out. We were fortunate that the real old people who had been born in the 1800s were still alive. They’d been raised by people who had been born free. None of them had been contaminated with the white man’s education; they had a clarity of mind and a purity of heart. They had our worldview intact as indigenous people—and, of course, our own language, our own songs.
AIM certainly caused concern for the government. Were you frightened of repercussions?
No, it was an exhilarating time. Freedom is an exhilaration. I believe if you have fear, you can’t be free. We come from a matriarchal society. Patriarchal societies are fear-based societies. Therefore, we had a head start on the rest of humanity, and we had no fear. We have trust in the unseen, to put it one way. The pride that was engendered, the self-dignity, was enormous—and it spread. It was thrilling.
Often there was dissension within the AIM ranks. What caused that?
We’ve all been colonized, unfortunately, and to what degree varies from individual to individual. Those disagreements were initiated out of misguided ego.
You became a prominent spokesperson, a handsome, articulate presence—even charismatic. How do you think you are perceived?
[Laughs] You know, I never thought of myself as good-looking. It wasn’t a consideration in my life. When I first joined AIM, a Crow man told me: “Now that you’ve joined AIM, you’ve made yourself a target. Remember that. But always speak from the heart and you can’t go wrong.” That’s all I’ve done my whole life is speak from the heart. Actually, our whole tradition is that way.
AIM often staged events and protests that were meant to tweak the government—like the Mount Rushmore event, where you and others planted a prayer staff there and renamed it “Mount Crazy Horse.”
The one thing I love in the American Indian Movement, and it was the first thing I learned: Don’t fool with bureaucracy—go right to the top. If you’re going to go to Washington, DC … figure it out. At Mount Rushmore, we went right to the top: These are our treaty rights, we own that land, and we’re going right to the top, man! Four white men up there, and I peed on George Washington’s head—one of the proudest moments of my life. Right in front of God and everybody.
What current obstacles do Natives face?
Well, as far as AIM is concerned, the obstacle has been and will always be the United States of America government and its subsidiaries—until it destroys itself.
Has activism changed over the past 40 years?
There’s a very big difference between then and now. When the civil-rights movement began, it wasn’t called “civil rights.” Everything was liberation—freedom, free speech, black freedom, women’s lib, gay liberation. Liberation, liberation! It was a great time in America. Everywhere you went, everywhere you turned, people were talking about liberation, and it lasted for a good 10 years. When you’re young, that’s a long time.
Then the government threw a couple words in there that killed it all: “civil rights.” All of a sudden, everybody lowered their sights on freedom down to “I want to ask the powerful white males for permission for the same rights and privileges that they have.”
We were now fighting for our “civil rights,” our “equality.” I don’t want to be “equal” to a white man—I don’t want to lower myself! Who wants to be a white male in terms of values? I come from a matriarchal society. Why women would want to lower themselves is beyond me!
How do you view Obama?
The problem is, everybody wants freedom as long as it’s easy—and that’s Obama.
Actually, I have to hand it to the controllers of Americas. They brought in the emperor with new clothes—and the whole world suddenly just changes. Obama offers hope because he’s like a preacher. Americans feel good about themselves. We were the worst people in the world under Bush. But now we’ve got Obama! We’re great Americans again! Even though Obama said before the election he’d consider invading Pakistan. And he’s not leaving Iraq—that’s the new Indian reservation.
Mass psychology, and it happened overnight! I have lived a very fortunate life in a fortunate time. In my lifetime, I witnessed this about America: In the late ’50s, it started turning itself from a producing, productive country into a consumer nation. By the mid-’80s, it was complete—a beautiful study of mass-psychological control of the masses. It was amazing. George Orwell saw it all. Americans are so easily led, like the slaves that they are.
What do you think is the biggest misconception about Native Americans?
There aren’t any misconceptions. There aren’t any conceptions, either—we’re out of sight, out of mind. And Hollywood is the second-most-racist, anti-Indian institution in America—just short of the American government. They’ve perpetuated stereotypes, and that’s what people think of us: We don’t have a brain, we’re still primitive. That’s why they won’t get rid of those sports-team names—we’re out of sight, out of mind. We don’t have any power in the white man’s world, so they don’t have to pay attention to us. They can’t be harmed politically or economically.
You must have distinct views on Hollywood’s Indian films. Give us your take on Dances with Wolves.
Remember Lawrence of Arabia? That was Lawrence of the Plains. The odd thing about making that movie is, they had a woman teaching the actors the Lakota language. But Lakota has a male-gendered language and a female-gendered language. Some of the Indians and Kevin Costner were speaking in the feminine way. When I went to see it with a bunch of Lakota guys, we were laughing.
Good movie … great movie. It was based on the truth—but, unfortunately, it was fictitious. I wish they had focused more on the story of Leonard Peltier itself.
One of the worst. One of the worst! One of the most anti-Indian movies ever. It’s a statement of the Jesuits.
Pathfinder, which you were in?
Huge disappointment. It was Marcus Nispel’s second movie. He remade The Texas Chainsaw Massacre; it made a $100 million, so he was hot at the time. He got to do his passion, which is American Indians. It’s all about violence, and there’s no story—it was a horrible, stereotypical movie and, of course, it starred a white superman who taught us how to fight, where to go, and how to walk across ice and everything else. The Native cast got together to change the dialogue, but it was all cut out. It got panned by critics.
Last of the Mohicans?
Great movie, except for that one scene—what I call the “African village” scene. Back before black liberation took hold on the African continent and in the United States, you always saw the star rescuing the fair maiden in the African village, with the chieftain on his throne and his sub-chiefs around him with all their plumage on. Of course, the entire village is yelling for blood.
I’ll name the movies that were good. In the ’50s, there was Broken Arrow, about Cochise. In the ’60s, there was Tell Them Willie Boy Is Here and Little Big Man. Then there’s The Outlaw Josey Wales and Last of the Mohicans.
One of the things Hollywood does to Indian people is, we’re only allowed to make two kinds of movies: Either we dress up in leather in the summertime, or we have to be drunken, dysfunctional misfits in movies like Skins or Smoke Signals.
In January, Lakota leaders withdrew from all treaties with the United States. You were at the forefront of this action. You even called some tribal councils “Vichy governments,” an allusion to French collaboration with the Nazis during World War II. Do you feel your rhetoric is divisive?
Listen, colonialism is divisive. Not only in America: look at Guatemala, at Africa, Pakistan, India. Colonialism takes its toll. I try to call a spade a spade—I can’t help it if people are brainwashed.
What challenges does the Republic of Lakotah face?
Back in the ’80s, under Carter, this whole five-state area, which is the Republic of Lakotah, was designated as a “national sacrifice area” because of its richness in coal and uranium and iron ore. The Black Hills Alliance defeated mining in the Black Hills through the lobbying of state legislators: Union Carbide, all of them—we beat those guys. That coalition was made up of Indian people, white ranchers—pure Westerners. Now they’re gone, our old people are gone, and just a few Indian people are hanging on.
But there are more battles in the future. We defeated the government interests once with the people of South Dakota, the landowners. And that’s what the Republic of Lakotah is all about: We want to include the landowners—especially family farmers and founding ranchers—in a free country.
The Northern Plains have been called by experts the “Saudi Arabia of wind energy.” The sun shines on the Northern Plains over 300 days a year. We have all of this free energy—we have enough wind, according to experts, to light up every major city in America 24/7, forever. But the coal companies control the energy of the West. Some may say that it’s an impossible dream to fight against those guys and expect to win, but we’re going to. People can only take a police state for so long, and you can’t mess with rural people. Because rural people are, by and large, mostly self-sufficient, or they have a very recent memory of self-sufficiency. They’re not used to being pushed around. So they will react like we did in the ’80s against the planned sacrifice that opened mining in the Black Hills. I can see that through arbitration and mass psychology in this country, they plan to colonize this rural area and the people. That’s another reason why the Republic of Lakotah was re-created. We can defeat them again.
We have non-Indians who have come in. These are new immigrants to the Republic of Lakotah, but these are all professional people, very skilled people. It’s amazing—they’re moving here. It’s not massive, and we wouldn’t want that, because we’re rebuilding the foundation of freedom. It’s going to be a free society. We have our four major plans: health, education, economics and politics.
You’ve run for tribal president in Pine Ridge four times. If you were elected, what would your agenda be?
Freedom—outright sovereignty. If you want to be sovereign, you have to act sovereign. Freedom isn’t free. You’re free to be responsible, and if you want to be responsible—therefore free—it’s hard work. But it’s pleasurable work.
I ran on the “Freedom” ticket on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, and 45 percent of my people who voted wanted freedom.
Do you plan to run again?
No. We got a country to run.
Visit russellmeans.com or republicoflakotah.com