Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

The 2012 Olympics, to be held in London, have been the focus of increased scrutiny from civil liberties advocates around the globe, due in the main to the intense and, according to some, excessive security measures planned for the event.

A recent article in the Daily Mail points out that police officers in London are beginning to look more like soldiers than cops. In response to last week’s attempted suicide bombing, members of the police force turned out sporting firepower that would be more at home on battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan than in the streets of suburban London. The Daily Mail reports:

In addition to a Heckler and Koch MP5 sub-machine gun, [the police are] carrying not one but two Glock self-loading pistols and a CS gas grenade. It is difficult to imagine anyone further removed from the traditional bobby on the beat.

And this isn’t the extent of the security beef-up as the opening ceremonies for the 2012 Olympics approach. It’s emerged that the UK government is seeking to install surface-to-air missiles on the tops of numerous high-rise residential buildings which surround Olympic Park, in case of an aerial terrorist attack. Again from the Mail:

Surface-to-air missiles may be stationed on top of flats as the last line of defence against a suicide jet targeting this summer’s Olympic Games…From there, they could use a multi-million-pound laser-guided system developed for modern warzones to shoot down a helicopter attack or suicide bombers piloting an aircraft. The range of the missiles is 3.4miles, which means they could reach St Paul’s Cathedral, Canary Wharf or parts of the North Circular from the flats in Bow, East London.

This is cause for concern in the minds of numerous residents whose homes would be occupied and turned into defensive bunkers by the UK military:

Resident Brian Whelan, 28, said his suspicions were raised when he saw soldiers examining [a] water tower a few weeks ago.

He said: ‘I don’t think in a democracy the military go round occupying private property and turning it into a military base without communicating with people.’

Local MP Rushanara Ali said she would be raising the matter in Parliament tomorrow. She said it was ‘unprecedented’ for missiles to be placed on residential buildings, adding: ‘This is a heavily built-up area. There has been no consultation – people have been told that this is what is likely to happen and people are very worried.’

All of this in a country that has already come under fire from civil libertarians for its Big Brother style surveillance of the English people. A report from The Guardian in May of 2011 stated that there are currently 1.85 million CCTV cameras in the UK, amounting to 1 camera for every 32 people living in the country.

Is this increase in security a sign that London expects terrorist activity at the 2012 games?

Perhaps the most chilling piece of information to emerge regarding the upcoming Olympics is a prediction made by the Rockefeller Foundation in a study entitled Scenarios for the Future of Technology and International Development, first published in May of 2010.

The study, which ostensibly explores the ways in which “technology could profoundly alter how we address some of the most pressing challenges in the developing world”, presents four “very plausible” visions of the future, each of which explore the positive and negative consequences of our increasing reliance upon technology.

In the third hypothetical narrative, entitled “Hack Attack”, described as a vision of “an economically unstable and shock-prone world in which governments weaken, criminals thrive, and dangerous innovations emerge,” the time in which we’re currently living (2010-2020) is labeled “the doom decade” due to all of the disastrous events that are predicted to unfold over that ten year period.

An earthquake in Indonesia killing 40,000, a famine in China and a tsunami off the coast of Nicaragua are among the grim natural disasters which the Rockefeller Foundation puts forward as part of their dystopian vision of the future.

And on page 34, specifically, they describe a horrific terrorist attack which will claim the lives of 13,000 people at the Summer Olympics in London. The report reads:

Devastating shocks like September 11, the Southeast Asian tsunami of 2004, and the 2010 Haiti earthquake had certainly primed the world for sudden disasters. But no one was prepared for a world in which large-scale catastrophes would occur with such breathtaking frequency. The years 2010 to 2020 were dubbed the “doom decade” for good reason: the 2012 Olympic bombing, which killed 13,000, was followed closely by an earthquake in Indonesia killing 40,000, a tsunami that almost wiped out Nicaragua, and the onset of the West China Famine, caused by a once-in-a-millennium drought linked to climate change.

Some have compared this to the infamous Project for the New American Century report, published in early 2000 and authored by numerous soon-to-be members of the Bush administration, that called for a “new Pearl Harbor” in order to facilitate the authoritarian changes the report’s authors desired.

Is the Rockefeller prediction simply hypothetical speculation? Or could this constitute a veiled warning regarding a terrorist attack planned for the 2012 games?

Whether or not an attack occurs, we can all be certain of one thing: that governments around the world will continue to use the threat of terror to further consolidate their power, and to strip the citizenry of their rights and civil liberties.


The only reason you’d continue to support a man like Barack Obama in 2012 is that you haven’t been paying any attention to his policy choices over the last 3 years.

Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not advocating voting for Mitt Romney. The man is a well-oiled political robot, and the generally negative response he’s received from pillars of his own party illustrates that clearly enough. For the life of me, I’m not sure how anyone on either side of the political spectrum could possibly be enthused about the current election cycle.

But this article is for all those in my generation who continue to believe in the empty promises of the Obama administration, despite all evidence to the contrary. This is an easy-to-use fact sheet on why Barack Obama does not deserve your vote in 2012.

Obama’s administration has upheld the Bush doctrine of pre-emptive war, further stripped the American people of their civil liberties, overstepped its Constitutional bounds, gotten into bed with the bankers and the nation’s wealthiest citizens at the expense of the average working man, and has broken innumerable campaign promises, governing in direct opposition to the once-hopeful slogan of “Change We Can Believe In”.

What follows is a short list of five reasons to not vote for Barack Obama.

#1: Passage of the NDAA

On December 31st, 2011, while everyone was busy ringing in the New Year, Barack Obama quietly signed into law a piece of legislation far more draconian than anything offered up by the Bush administration. The National Defense Authorization Act of 2012, which outlined the budget for U.S. defense expenditures at home and abroad, includes a notable section (1021) under the heading of “Counterterrorism” which allows for the indefinite detention of American citizens suspected of aiding and abetting terrorist activities, without trial.

Section 1021 reads as follows:

Congress affirms that the authority of the President to use all necessary and appropriate force…includes the authority for the Armed Forces of the United States to detain covered persons (as defined in subsection (b)) pending disposition under the law of war.

“Covered persons” is subsequently defined as “any person who has committed a belligerent act or has directly supported such hostilities in aid of [terrorist] enemy forces.” A “belligerent act” is never defined, and neither is it stipulated that an individual must be found guilty in a court of law in order to be treated as a supporter of terrorism. Suspicion alone is enough.

The Section continues, stating that “disposition under the law of war” is to be interpreted as referring to “detention under the law of war without trial until the end of the hostilities…” This effectively nullifies the Writ of Habeas Corpus, which is applied to all citizens in the Constitution of the United States, and guarantees them a fair and free trial in civilian court. And, of course, the “end of hostilities” is open to debate as well. The “war on terror” is a war declared on an abstract concept, not a nation state or even a particular organization of people, so how and when can it possibly end?

For his part, in the signing statement, President Obama assures us that his “Administration will not authorize the indefinite military detention without trial of American citizens”, and that the government “will interpret section 1021 in a manner that ensures that any detention it authorizes complies with the Constitution, the laws of war, and all other applicable law”.

But very few of us will be satisfied with hoping that our government will not choose to exercise the power it’s been newly invested with. It’s a dangerous gamble.

And more to the point, as Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) made clear on the floor of the Senate, it turns out that the Obama administration insisted that the controversial provision be included and that no exemption be made for U.S. citizens. In fact, numerous proposed amendments specifying that the American people be exempt from indefinite detention were defeated, apparently under pressure from the White House. Why insist on it if you don’t plan on utilizing it?

In its defense, the Obama administration has pointed to subsection (e) of Section 1021, which reads:

Nothing in this section shall be construed to affect existing law or authorities relating to the detention of United States citizens, lawful resident aliens of the United States, or any other persons who are captured or arrested in the United States.

But this is, as critics have pointed out, simply “meaningless rhetoric” designed to assuage our fear without actually guaranteeing our rights. The folks over at The Tenth Amendment Center, a civil liberties watchdog group, have this to say about it:

This provision is sometimes touted as protecting citizens because it preserves existing Supreme Court decisions. The problem is that, as yet, there are no Supreme Court decisions that squarely provide the full measure of habeas corpus protection to citizens or legal aliens accused within our borders. This is true because neither the Bush nor the Obama administration has had the audacity to round up U.S. citizens without our borders and hold them indefinitely without trial.

Johnathan Turley of The Guardian describes this bill as a “Mayan moment” for civil libertarians. “2012,” he says, “is when the nation embraced authoritarian powers with little more than a pause between rounds of drinks.”

#2: Extension of the PATRIOT Act Without Revision

The PATRIOT Act, considered by most civil liberties groups to constitute a gross invasion of privacy, came up for a one year renewal in early 2011. Barack Obama  had campaigned on the notion that legislation like the PATRIOT Act ought to be revised to include regulatory oversight, in order to avoid any possible abuse of power.

Obama’s official campaign statement regarding the war on terror, entitled “Barack Obama: The War We Need To Win”, stated that: “As president, Barack Obama would revisit the PATRIOT Act to ensure that there is real and robust oversight of tools like National Security Letters, sneak-and-peek searches, and the use of the material witness provision.”

But in the run-up to renewal, the Obama administration dramatically reversed its stance on the bill. Not only did Barack Obama fully support the Act, sans revision, he issued an official statement requesting that it be extended for not one year, but three! The statement made clear that the President “would strongly prefer enactment of reauthorizing legislation that would extend these authorities until December 2013.”

The Act’s renewal was successful, and specific provisions again came up for re-authorization in the middle of 2011. Obama unconditionally supported their renewal, as well, and as Politifact reports: “By reauthorizing the Patriot Act, President Obama guaranteed (barring any judicial action) that the law will live on in its current form until June 1, 2015.”

And this, of course, is not the extent of Obama’s trampling on the freedoms of the American public. The recent passage of CISPA, a draconian piece of legislation aimed at imposing government control on the internet, or the Executive Order entitled “National Defense Resource Preparedness”, which allows the Executive branch to seize control of the nation’s industries, transportation and energy, as well as to utilize the military domestically however the President sees fit; all of this represents a systemic pattern, not a handful of isolated incidents.

#3: Murder of American Citizens Overseas

On September 30th, 2011, Barack Obama ordered the targeted killing of American and Yemeni Muslim Imam, Anwar al-Awlaki, who was suspected (but never tried or found guilty) of being a top-ranking member of Al-Qaeda, working for the organization as one of its most influential recruiters.

Several weeks later on October 14th,  his 16-year-old son, Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, was also murdered in a CIA drone strike, while on his way to a barbecue. Abdulrahman was a full American citizen, born in Denver, Colorado.

Al-Awlaki and his son were just two names on the government’s targeted killing list, which was started during the Bush administration and has been continued and added to during Obama’s tenure in office.

The targeted killing of American citizens, depriving them of the due-process guaranteed to them under the Constitution is more than cause for concern. It represents a fundamental violation of our most basic right as members of American society. The administration’s justification for the murder of al-Awlaki is that there was no other way to eliminate the threat he posed to the country.

Of course, critics have pointed out that this would in no way be considered an acceptable argument in the context of domestic criminal behavior. Ted Kaczynski and Timothy McVeigh, for example, could not have been killed in an air strike without due process simply because arresting them was difficult.

Meanwhile, Eric Holder (who has advocated the suspension of Miranda rights for any American citizen suspected of aiding and abetting terrorist organizations) stated unequivocally that the murder of American citizens falls within the purview of the President, and that it’s legally justified under the following three circumstances:

First, [if] the U.S. government has determined, after a thorough and careful review, that the individual poses an imminent threat of violent attack against the United States; second, [if] capture is not feasible; and third, [if] the operation would be conducted in a manner consistent with applicable law of war principles.

Which puts our fates squarely in the hands of the Executive branch and its “thorough and careful review” (the details of which are not disclosed to the general public), rather than in the hands of a jury of our peers. Again, we’re asked to simply trust that the government won’t overstep its bounds. And were trust enough, we never would have needed to depart from the monarchy.

This is Orwellian reasoning, and were it coming from the mouths of the well-known players of the Bush administration (say Rumsfeld or Ashcroft), the left would quickly condemn it. As it stands, however, there’s been relatively little public outcry over this flagrant violation of Constitutionally guaranteed rights outlined in the 5th Amendment, which states clearly that the government cannot deprive citizens of life or liberty without due process, regardless of suspected criminal activity.

#4: Extension of the Bush Tax Cuts for the 1%

On December 17th, 2010, President Obama signed a bill extending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans for another two years.

The tax cuts amounted to 858 billion dollars of lost revenue between 2010 and 2012. That’s 858 billion of revenue lost during a time when we’re actively pushing to cut the salaries of teachers, to layoff firefighters and police officers, and to bust up public sector unions in order to scrimp and save a few pennies here and there.

The Obama administration, for its part, defends itself by stating that if they hadn’t extended the tax cuts, all legislative efforts favored by Democrats would have been blocked by the Republicans in the Senate.

However, as we’ll see below, Obama’s relationship with big business, big banking, and the wealthiest individuals in the country is far from reluctant.

So when Obama says (as he did just a few nights ago, while “slow-jamming” the news with Jimmy Fallon) that those on the right want to pay back the national debt only as long as it doesn’t include taxing billionaires, remember that it was Obama who put his signature to a bill that cost the country nearly 900 billion dollars for the sake of easing the burden on the nation’s wealthiest.

#5: In Bed With the Bankers

Obama, during the 2008 election cycle, received $1,013,091 from Goldman Sachs, $808,799 from J.P. Morgan, $736,771 from Citigroup, $624,618 from Time Warner, and multiple millions of dollars from various other moneyed interests in the financial sector.

Compare that to McCain’s donor list, which features the same corporate players, but about half of the amount of money donated from each company.

Obama’s former Chief of Staff, Rahm Emmanuel (now Mayor of Chicago), earned millions of dollars in investment banking after leaving the Clinton White House in 1999, much of it working in collusion with Goldman Sachs.

Then there’s the revolving door between Goldman and the Obama administration. More than a few prominent members of Obama’s team have enjoyed a long and profitable relationship with the banking giant. McClatchy reports:

Several former Goldman executives hold senior positions in the Obama administration, including Gary Gensler, the chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission; Mark Patterson, a former Goldman lobbyist who is chief of staff to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner; and Robert Hormats, the undersecretary of state for economic, energy and agricultural affairs.

Meanwhile, allegations surfaced long ago that Goldman used its influence with the Obama administration to address charges of fraud leveled against them by the Securities and Exchange Commission. During their bout of legal troubles with the SEC, Goldman CEO Lloyd Blankfein visited the White House on at least four separate occasions to meet with President Obama. Their topics of conversation remain a mystery, of course.

And Obama’s collusion with the banking system goes further than that. In 2010, Obama began actively pursuing negotiations with five of the largest banking organizations in the country, stating that he would drop all investigations into their mortgage-related crimes (which caused the 2008 financial crisis) in exchange for a one-time payoff of roughly 20 billion dollars to the American people.

The deal was struck in February of this year, and the banks agreed to a 26 billion dollar settlement in exchange for immunity. The New York Times reports:

After months of painstaking talks, government authorities and five of the nation’s biggest banks have agreed to a $26 billion settlement that could provide relief to nearly two million current and former American homeowners harmed by the bursting of the housing bubble, state and federal officials said.

Reuters continues:

In exchange, the banks would get immunity from civil lawsuits by the states, as well as similar guarantees by the Justice Department and Department of Housing and Urban Development, which have participated in the talks. State and federal officials declined to say if any form of immunity from criminal prosecution also is under discussion.

The deal comes on the heels of new revelations that the banks continue to engage in all of the risky and potentially illegal practices which brought about the 2008 collapse. According to Reuters:

…major banks and other loan servicers have continued to file questionable documents in foreclosure cases. These include false mortgage assignments, and promissory notes with suspect or missing “endorsements,” which prove ownership. The Reuters report also showed continued “robo-signing,” in which lenders’ employees or outside contractors churn out reams of documents without fully understanding their content.

Critics contend that this deal amounts to bankers buying their way out of jail. Which of course it does. This from

[Iowa Attorney General Tom] Miller has repeatedly lied, on behalf of Obama, that the banks would be granted only limited immunity from their crimes, despite multiple leaks from within his group to the London’s Financial Times and the Wall Street Journal, insisting that in fact, the banks will be given a “Get Out of Jail Free” card for everything.

Obama, beholden as he is to the banking system and big business, is no friend to the average, American worker. His record over the last three years speaks for itself.

(BONUS!) #6: Warmonger in Chief

Yeah, I know I said “Top Five”, but this is too important to ignore.

In March of 2011, the Obama administration began airstrikes in support of rebel forces, aimed at ousting Colonel Muammar Gaddafi from power in Libya.

We have spent upwards of 1 billion dollars in Libya, though that’s not what’s gotten politicians from both sides of the aisle riled up. President Obama, who campaigned on the rule of law, and portrayed himself as the anti-Bush, the candidate who would respect Congressional authority and reign in the Executive branch, never sought Congressional approval for military action in Libya.

Under the War Powers Act of 1973, the President has 60 days from the beginning of any conflict to obtain official Congressional authorization for the use of military force. Obama, in a move which ruffled the feathers of many of the members of his own party, simply refused to comply. His administration stated flatly that the rules don’t apply to Libya:

“We’re not engaged in sustained fighting. There’s been no exchange of fire with hostile forces. We don’t have troops on the ground. We don’t risk casualties to those troops. None of the factors, frankly, speaking more broadly, has risked the sort of escalation that Congress was concerned would impinge on its war-making power.”

And further:

The president said he welcomed “Congressional action in support of the mission,” which “would underline the U.S. commitment.” But the administration argues this “support” is not required. It says the action in Libya is not war but, euphemistically, a “limited kinetic action.”

But many – Democrats, Republicans and Independents alike – feel differently. Jules Lobel, professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, stated that the Obama administration is “definitely supporting hostilities in a context where they could be fired upon. They are involved in a war, and the fact that they are in a support role, that I don’t think is dispositive in the War Powers Resolution debate.”

Obama’s unilateral action in Libya caused Representative Walter Jones (R) of North Carolina to introduce a resolution in the House that calls for the impeachment of President Obama should he fail to obtain authorization for the use of military force from Congress in the future.

Meanwhile, Obama is ratcheting up the rhetoric in the march to war with Iran. A story released several weeks ago in the Jerusalem Post asserted that Secretary of State Hilary Clinton has issued a final warning to the Iranians: the upcoming round of diplomatic negotiations in April represent the last chance to avoid military conflict. An unidentified Russian diplomatic source is quoted as saying:

“The invasion [of Iran] will happen before the year’s end. The Israelis are, in effect, blackmailing Obama: either he supports the war, or he risks losing the support [of the Jewish lobby].”

Speaking at joint press conference with British Prime Minister David Cameron earlier this morning, President Obama seemed to deliver the same message to the world, saying that the “window for diplomacy is shrinking”:

“Tehran must understand that it cannot escape or evade the choice before it. Meet your international obligations or face the consequences.”

And in Syria, reports have been coming in for some time (unreported, for the most part, by the mainstream media) that U.S. Special Forces are already on the ground and actively seeking the destabilization of the Assad regime.

An email from Reva Bhalla, Director of Analysis for the Texas-based “intelligence provider” Stratfor Corporation, described a plan being formulated by NATO and the United States to commit terrorist attacks in Syria in an effort to topple President Bashar al-Assad.

The email, released as part of the Wikileaks Stratfor dump, includes details of a joint strategic meeting which took place at the Pentagon on December 6, 2011, and included at least one representative from both the UK and France.

Bhalla was informed by those present that, media reports to the contrary, US Special Forces commandos were already on the ground in Syria, attempting to “commit guerrilla attacks, assassination campaigns, try to break the back of the Alawite forces [Assad’s support base], elicit collapse from within.”

The email records that:

After a couple hours of talking, they said without saying that SOF teams (presumably from US, UK, France, Jordan, Turkey) are already on the ground focused on [reconnaissance] missions and training opposition forces.

It’s troubling, to say the least, picturing the President ordering unilateral military force with the Nobel Peace Prize dangling around his neck.

So what happened to the era of law and order Obama was supposed to usher in? What change did this President bring? How much hope do you have for the future after reading the above? Obama has followed in the footsteps of his murderous, Constitution-shredding predecessor.

Spread this around to those who should read it. Don’t cast your vote for yet another madman on a power trip.

The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protecting Act, or CISPA, has been passed by the House of Representatives, with a vote of 248-162.

The bill, which would allow private companies to share confidential, personal information about their customers with government agencies, ostensibly to guarantee network security, has drawn fire from numerous civil liberties groups.

Aaron Schwartz, an activist who advocates internet freedom, describes the bill as “like a Patriot Act for the Internet. It sort of lets the government run roughshod over privacy protections and share personal data about you, take it from Facebook and Internet providers and use it without the normal privacy protections that are in the law.”

The bill has been supported by corporate giants like Facebook and Google, both of which have been accused of working hand in hand with government intelligence agencies.

According to Schwartz: “Big corporations are supporting the bill, especially big corporations that make money off of violating people’s privacy. So it’s not a big surprise they’re in favor. But we’re seeing that the same way grassroots efforts were able to stop SOPA…And now, even the White House is coming out against this bill with strong language, much stronger than they used against SOPA.”

But the Obama administration’s sole objection to the bill seems to be that it doesn’t go far enough in coercing online entities to cooperate with the government. According to a CBS News report, the White House believes that “the bill fails to protect privacy and gives a pass to companies that do not secure networks critical to the nation’s security.”

In other words, whereas CISPA allows corporations to share previously confidential information with the government, the Obama administration would prefer legislation that forces companies to divulge personal information about their customers upon demand.

Legislation of that sort is already being prepared in the Senate, under Joe Lieberman (I-CT)and Susan Collins (R-ME), which would empower the White House to actively “determine security standards for companies with networks deemed critical to the nation’s cyber security.”

SOPA and ACTA, the government’s previous attempt at policing the internet, were shelved on January 20th of this year. And CISPA is even worse, according to Schwartz:

“…because it does allow the government to shut down websites for ‘national security’ reasons. It does have all the censorship problems the previous bill did. But it also goes much further and allows them to spy on people using the Internet, to get their personal data and e-mails. It’s an incredibly broad and dangerous bill.”

And SOPA was shut down in large part because of fierce corporate opposition. Wikipedia, Google and a host of other online companies loudly opposed both bills, which subsequently goaded the American people into action.

Not so with CISPA. One wonders if public opinion alone, unsupported by corporate money and lobbyists, will be enough to turn the tide and defeat this Orwellian piece of legislation.

by Ian Driscoll

Bolivia has made incredible strides under President Evo Morales, successfully combating illiteracy, child mortality rates, unemployment and poverty. But in the United States, Morales is continually portrayed as a dangerous dictator, bent on subverting the interests of the United States in the region. This article asks two questions: What are the reasons behind this negative portrayal, and what may lie ahead for the South American democracy?

Evo Morales

Evo Morales, the first Aymara President of Bolivia, was elected to office in 2006. He handily defeated a 2008 referendum recall with two thirds of the vote, and in 2009 won reelection to the Presidency with 64% of the popular vote, representing a strong mandate from the people.

Born into an impoverished household in 1959, he and his family were subsistence farmers, scratching out a living on a small piece of land and residing in an adobe home with dirt floors and a straw roof. He was one of seven siblings, though only he and two others would survive childhood.

His first taste of political activism came in the early 80s, after joining the coca grower’s union (not to be confused with cocaine, a very different, chemically constituted refinement of specific varieties of the coca plant). He rose through the ranks, and was eventually elected to the position of General Secretary in the early 90s.

He joined the MAS (Movimiento al Socialismo or Movement for Socialism) political party in the late 90s, continuing as an advocate for the rights of coca growers and indigenous campesinos. He was elected to Congress in 1997, but kicked out by the majority for supporting armed opposition to the “innumerable amount of abuses and assassinations” committed by government troops under a recently passed coca eradication plan. The plan, widely viewed as initiated by the United States (which, since the early 90s, has funded Bolivian eradication measures to the tune of roughly 150M per year), was intensely unpopular among the farmers which Evo represented. Morales responded to his expulsion by submitting an official complaint to the Bolivian Constitutional Tribunal, and declared:

“I was the congressman with the highest proportion of votes for his area and ‘obeying an order from the US’ they voted to expel me from Congress. It is only recently that the constitutional court finally declared the whole farce illegal, and now they are having to pay compensation for what they did.”

In 2005, Morales was elected to the Presidency with 54% of the popular vote, taking office in 2006. And in 2008 he fared even better, receiving a record majority of 64% of the vote, while his main opponent received an underwhelming 27%.

As a man favored by the people, who has made incredible headway in confronting some of Bolivia’s most systemic problems, and clearly commands the respect of the vast majority of the Bolivian population, why is Morales demonized in the American media?

Some have suggested that it’s his success.

Economic and Social Achievements

Between 2005 and 2010, the percentage of people living in “moderate poverty” declined by almost 12%, decreasing from 60% to 49.6%. The percentage of Bolivians living in extreme poverty also declined, from 38% to 25%. Unemployment fell from 8.4% to 4%, as well, and it’s economy has increased at an average rate of 4.5% every year since Morales took office.

Additionally, internal consumption of “electricity, purified water and domestic gas” has increased by 7% thanks to income redistribution, expanding access to basic services.

Bolivia was declared free of illiteracy under Morales as well. UNESCO standards dictate that a county is free of illiteracy if 96% of its population over the age of 15 can read and write. After taking office in 2006, Morales launched an ambitious, 30 month literacy program that was designed by Cuba (designated illiteracy free in 1961, two years after Castro took office), and paid for by Venezuela (free of illiteracy in 2005, under Hugo Chavez). The United States, on the other hand, may have much lower literacy rates than previously believed. A study released in 2003 entitled the National Assessment of Adult Literacy, suggests that literacy rates in the U.S. range anywhere from 65-85%.

According the UNDP (United Nations Development Program), Bolivia has also used the highest percentage of its GNP of all countries in Latin America for the advancement of the poor, “transferring resources to its most vulnerable population”.

And all of this has been achieved while the western world has suffered through the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.

So why would any of this make Morales unpopular in North America? Well, the results aren’t the problem, really. It’s the method that worries Uncle Sam.

Bolivia has achieved all of the success noted above by ignoring what’s known as the Washington Consensus, an unwritten list of economic commandments that America has imposed upon its neighbors since the Regan administration. This is known, in other parts of the world, as neoliberalism.

Without embarking on a thorough study of the Washington Consensus (or, neoliberalism), the main tenets of the economic dogma are as follows:

  • The rule of the market — freedom for capital, goods and services, where the market is self-regulating allowing the “trickle down” notion of wealth distribution. It also includes the deunionizing of labor forces and removals of any impediments to capital mobility, such as regulations. The freedom is from the state, or government.
  • Reducing public expenditure for social services, such as health and education, by the government
  • Deregulation, to allow market forces to act as a self-regulating mechanism
  • Privatization of public enterprise (things from water to even the internet)
  • Changing perceptions of public and community good to individualism and individual responsibility.

Deregulation, the breakdown of labor laws, the focus on the individual rather than the community, all these things are familiar to the American reader, and at least some have argued that they were directly responsible for the world economic collapse which began in late 2007.

For years, Bolivia was pressured by international monetary organizations like the World Bank and the IMF to privatize its natural resources. This culminated in the 2001 sale of the Cochabamba region’s water supply to a private, U.S. corporation called Bechtel, which promptly declared it illegal for the Bolivian poor to collect rain water in buckets on their roofs, claiming ownership of even the water which fell from the sky. Riots ensued, and Bechtel was eventually forced out.

Bolivia under Morales, on the other hand, embarked on a program diametrically opposed to the basic beliefs embodied in the Washington Consensus:

Evo Morales’s government did the opposite of what the Washington Consensus recommends: it nationalised hydrocarbons, electricity, telecommunications and mining; renegotiated the presence of direct foreign investment in the country; implemented an expansive fiscal policy and closed borders to the free importation of economically strategic products. The state took 34% of the economy under its control.

Morales has made clear that he’s interested in creating a new economic system, one based upon community and mutual respect, not just for one’s fellow human beings, but for the planet upon which we all live. Morales has stated:

“We don’t believe in the linear, cumulative conception of progress and of an unlimited development at the cost of other people and of nature. To live well is to think not only in terms of per capita income, but of cultural identity, community, harmony among ourselves and with Mother Earth.”

To that end, he went so far as to pass the world’s first piece of legislation granting nature rights equal to those of human beings. The Law of Mother Earth, as it is called, granted to nature 11 hard and fast rights, including: “the right to life and to exist; the right to continue vital cycles and processes free from human alteration; the right to pure water and clean air; the right to balance; the right not to be polluted; and the right to not have cellular structure modified or genetically altered.” The U.N. General Assembly named Morales “World Hero of Mother Earth” in recognition of the historic law, but the United States and its corporate interests aren’t happy:

…there is a great deal of opposition from powerful sectors, particularly mining and agro-industrial enterprises, to any ecological laws that would threaten profits. The main organization of soya producers, which claimed that the law “will make the productive sector inviable,” is one of many powerful groups who have already come out against the law.

And the threat to profits isn’t all that the U.S. is upset about. The defiance of the Washington Consensus clearly indicates a radical shift away from America dominated domestic policy.

And this isn’t an isolated case. In recent years, there has arisen a wave of leftist leaders openly hostile to the economic demands of Washington D.C. and its international banking arms. Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, Rafael Correa of Ecuador, the Kirchners of Argentina, Lula in Brazil, Fernando Lugo in Paraguay, and of course the omnipresent Fidel Castro who is widely recognized as the grandfather of the entire movement. These leaders represent a united front against what they perceive as a kind of economic colonialism advanced by the United States of America for the last 70 years.

But Washington isn’t sitting on its hands. In the last decade, there have been numerous coup and assassination attempts directed at several of the leaders listed above, many of which are directly linked to CIA activity and corporate interests in the region.

Assassination Attempts

The most recent and widely publicized attempt at assassinating Evo Morales came in 2009, when three men were shot dead by Bolivian police at a hotel in Santa Cruz.

Morales, who had gone to Venezuela to meet with President Hugo Chavez, had ordered their arrest prior to departing. The police had entered the hotel at which the men were staying at around 4 in the morning. A firefight ensued, and along with the bodies of the three men in question, a large cache of weapons and high explosive devices were recovered.

President Morales publicly speculated as to whether or not the U.S. Embassy in La Paz may have been behind the assassination plot, calling on President Obama to repudiate the actions of the would-be assassins. Obama, for his part, said that he was “unfamiliar with the incident but assured Morales that his administration was not involved.”

However, facts that emerged in the years following the attempted assassination seem to indicate that the CIA, at the very least, had direct and detailed knowledge of the plot to kill Morales, and may have even been actively working with the plotters.

The three men who were killed during the firefight in April of 2009 were all foreigners, one of them an Irishman named Michael Dwyer with a background in private security, who had traveled to Bolivia under the pretense of a “security training program”.

The other two men were named as Eduardo Rosza Flores (Hungarian-Bolivian head of a paramilitary organization and ringleader of the plot), as well as Magyarosi Arpak (Romanian).

Dwyer worked at a Shell Oil compound in County Mayo, Ireland, and Rosza and Dwyer had a mutual friend (commander of a Romanian paramilitary group, the Szekler Legion) who was still employed by Shell’s security services at the time of the 2009 shooting. Both worked specifically for the IRMS (Integrated Risk Management Service), the internal security component of Shell Oil Company, known for employing violent thugs and criminals to protect Shell’s global interests. IRMS was created by the “US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to protect Queen Beatrix’s holdings in Iraq after her company was given the rights to Iraq’s vast oil and gas fields in what is described as a ‘no bid contract’ by the Bush Administration.”

Additionally, in 2011, a cable made public in a Wikileaks dump and written by John S. Creamer, Charge D’ Affaires at the US Embassy in La Paz, Bolivia revealed that Marcelo Soza, the Bolivian prosecutor in charge of investigating the plot to assassinate Morales, had found evidence of email correspondence between Rosza and a CIA operative who had since died. The body of the cable reads as follows:

Marcelo Soza, the prosecutor in charge of investigating the April 2009 Rozsa case, announced February 5 that a review of Rozsa’s computer hard drive had uncovered evidence of email communication between Rozsa and an alleged ex-CIA employee (a U.S. citizen named Belovays). According to Soza, Belovays had been active in the Balkans wars, where he supposedly met Rozsa and became his mentor. An internet search on Belovays suggested that he has since died, Soza reported (Rozsa and two others were killed in a police raid; another two suspects are in custody). Soza claimed that Rozsa’s computer files show that Rozsa was in constant contact with Belovays — who, Soza said, is assumed to have been in Bolivia at some point — and kept him informed of his group’s activities and plans.

It’s worth noting that in 2008, Morales had expelled the U.S. Ambassador, Philip Goldberg, from Bolivia, accusing him of “conspiring against democracy” and encouraging civil unrest.

Morales had also, upon being inaugurated in 2006, declared that his government would nationalize the oil companies in his country, including Royal Dutch Shell:

Morales ordered the nationalization of Bolivia’s oil and gas industry in a surprise decree on May 1, 2006. After six months of tense negotiations, the foreign companies were allowed to remain in the country but agreed to sell a controlling interest in their Bolivian operations to the state.

The forced government buyout of Shell Oil has led many to speculate that perhaps the IRMS was actively involved in the assassination attempt of 2009, and some have even gone so far as to suggest that Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands was aware of the plot.

Regardless of specifics, the involvement of Shell Oil in some capacity, as well as the CIA, seems beyond doubt. And the use and control  of Bolivia’s national resources is sure to take center stage in the years to come.

The Coming War

President Obama just recently filed a trade complaint with the WTO regarding China’s restrictions on exportation of their rare earth minerals. Rare earth minerals (chief amongst which is lithium) are so named because they’re rarely found in pure form within the earth. They’re used to manufacture most of the technological devices we’ve become so reliant upon: “cell phones, solar cells, tablet computers, TVs, hybrid cars and wind turbines”.

China is currently producing about 95% of the world’s rare minerals, though they own only an estimated 30% of the world’s reserves:

China has only about 30 percent of the world’s known rare-earths deposits. But other countries, including the United States, Canada and Australia, stopped mining more than a decade ago, because the price of the Chinese-produced rare earths was cheaper.

This is because the extraction process entails incredibly costly and toxic procedures, which the United States and other western countries prefer to leave to China. However, as China tightens its grip on the market, the western world will be forced to resume mining, preferably externalizing the more detrimental aspects of extraction.

Recently, it was discovered that Afghanistan (which we’re already conveniently occupying), possesses some of the largest rare earth reserves in existence, totaling one million tons of rare earth minerals.

Some have speculated that it may be for this reason rather than any other that we’ve continued to occupy Afghanistan after leaving Iraq, despite the disproportionately small number of al-Qaeda fighters estimated to still exist in the country (about 100 at last estimate). And Christopher Ecclestone, mining strategist at Hallgarten & Company, has stated:

“I think there is a school of thought that if the US can find enough stuff in Afghanistan that we should stay. And frankly there are plenty of rare earths around in the world.”

Enter Bolivia. It is slowly coming to the world’s attention that Bolivia, the small, impoverished country in the middle of South America, possesses over half the world’s lithium reserves in its vast salt flats.

Lithium, one of the most sought after rare earth minerals, is used to power laptop computers, mobile phones, and increasingly, the electric car:

Mitsubishi, which plans to release its own electric car soon, estimates that the demand for lithium will outstrip supply in less than 10 years unless new sources are found.

And they have ended up in Bolivia.

“The demand for lithium won’t double but increase by five times,” according to Eichi Maeyama Mitsubishi’s general manager in La Paz.

“We will need more lithium sources – and 50% of the world’s reserves of lithium exist in Bolivia, in the Salar de Uyuni,” he adds, pointing out that without new production, the price of lithium will rise prohibitively.

Corporations fear that Bolivia will use their highly prized lithium reserves to their own advantage, and under Morales the chances of the country ceding control to U.S. (or any foreign) companies are slim.

Couple that with the fact that Bolivian oil reserves are the second largest on the continent (after Venezuela, proven oil reserves of which are the largest in the world), and there’s more than enough reason for western intervention in Bolivia.

In fact, under President Obama, the Special Operations budget (money funding clandestine military activities the world over) has increased by roughly 4.5B dollars:

Obama just requested an increase of 5.7% for the budget of Special Operations 2011. He asked for $ 6.3 billion, plus U.S. $ 3.5 billion extra for the contingency clandestine operations. For 2011, the total defense budget reaches U.S. $ 872 billion, U.S. with $75 billion to the intelligence community. There is money to spare.

And it’s recently emerged that Obama has deployed Special Forces troops to numerous regions around the world, focusing intently on South America:

The Venezuelan-American journalist, Eva Golinger, points out in a recent article, that the researcher Jeremy Scahill discovered that the administration of Barack Obama has sent teams of elite special forces under the Joint Special Operations Command, to Iran, Georgia, Ukraine, and also to Bolivia, Paraguay, Ecuador and Peru…The U.S. plans to destabilize governments that exist in several places. They are already prepared. Washington only waits for the moment to activate them. Golinger’s article refers to a top Pentagon military man who said that Obama is allowing many of the actions, strategies and operations that were not permitted during George W. Bush.

The U.S. history of military intervention in South America has generally favored covert operations to direct war, so it’s disconcerting to note that under the Obama administration, “irregular warfare” has been greatly expanded:

One senior military official told The Washington Post that the Obama administration has given the green light for “things that the previous administration did not.” Special operations commanders, the paper reports, have more direct access to the White House than they did under Bush. “We have a lot more access,” a military official told the paper. “They are talking publicly much less but they are acting more. They are willing to get aggressive much more quickly.”

And further:

“…we reserve the right to unilaterally act against al Qaeda and its affiliates anywhere in the world that they operate,” said one special forces source. The current mindset in the White House, he said, is that “the Pentagon is already empowered to do these things, so let JSOC off the leash. And that’s what this White House has done.” He added: “JSOC has been more empowered more under this administration than any other in recent history. No question…The world is the battlefield, we’ve returned to that,” he adds, referring to the Obama administration’s strategy. “We were moving away from it for a little bit, but…[i]t’s embraced by this administration.”

If the United States is successful in its bid for control of oil within the Middle East, one can be certain that the next region of the world scheduled for “clean up” is South America. Venezuela and Bolivia under Chavez and Morales are already being maligned as havens for terrorist groups, presumably as an excuse for military intervention to feed to the American people.

Should the global balance of power not shift prior to end of the inevitable war between Iran and the United States, should the prevailing paradigm remain one of “might means right”, then South America, and Bolivia specifically, will violently collide with American imperialism once again, as it did throughout the 20th century.

by Ian Driscoll

The brutal murder of four innocent people, 3 of whom were children, outside of a Jewish school shocked all of France when the news was broadcast two days ago. Originally thought to be the work of white supremacists, it’s now claimed that one man, acting alone, carried out the killings, in the name of Al-Qaeda.

It’s emerged recently that the man supposedly claiming affiliation with the infamous terrorist organization was jailed for some time in the southern province of Kandahar, Afghanistan, accused of manufacturing bombs for the insurgency. We’re told that he escaped from prison, with the help of the Taliban, and subsequently applied to join the French Foreign Legion. Why he would have chosen to join the Legion is unexplained; certainly an odd choice for an escaped prisoner of war working on behalf of Islamic extremists. He was apparently rejected due to psychological instability.

We’re also told that the French intelligence service, the DCRI, had been monitoring Merah for years, due to frequent trips he made to “militant zones”. Merah visited Waziristan, Pakistan, in 2010 and 2011. Why an escaped terrorist would not have been more than monitored is yet another question left unanswered so far, causing some to speculate as to whether or not Merah may in fact be a CIA asset.

Though by now the picture painted of Merah by international media is one of a radicalized Islamic fundamentalist, bent on avenging the Palestinians killed in Israeli missile attacks, numerous facts pertaining to the murders simply don’t square with that image. For instance, Merah was tracked down (we’re told) after contacting his first victim, Imad Ibn Ziaten, a Sargent in the French military and a fellow Muslim, via computer. Merah, who had identified himself to the Sargent as a soldier, subsequently shot Ziaten and dumped his body behind a Jewish school.

Four days later, Merah is said to have fatally shot two paratroopers, both of them of North African origin, and both of them Muslim.

And despite a record of juvenile crime, Merah was never imagined to be a radical (or even deeply committed) Muslim by his friends and neighbors. The lawyer who defended him during his early trials stated that “[Merah] had not given the impression of being a fanatic and had never talked about Islam to him.”

A friend of Merah’s identified only as “Samir” stated that they had served together in the army and Merah had “never said anything” to him regarding Islam in any context.

The same friend said that Merah was a frequent patron of loud dance clubs. Merah had been seen in one such club in Toulouse only a week prior to the shootings. An additional acquaintance of Merah’s told the BBC that he had run into Merah at a rai (which is a popular kind of Arab dance music) night club “around the time of the first shooting.” He described Merah’s personality:

“He’s a waster, a layabout, a loner. Not a serious guy… Sometimes he had his hair long, sometimes short, sometimes red.”

Not the typical portrait of an Islamic extremist.

Meanwhile, some have commented on how fortuitous these horrific murders may turn out to be for Nicholas Sarkozy, the embattled right-wing incumbent in France’s upcoming Presidential elections, set to take place in almost exactly one month.

Sarkozy, who is currently trailing in the polls to his main rival, Socialist Party candidate Francois Hollande, is likely to benefit greatly from this tragedy, as the campaigns of all of the French Presidential candidates have been suspended until the situation is resolved. Of course, this leaves Sarkozy as the sole Presidential presence on French and international TV, allowing him to strike a pose as the stalwart leader, intent on bringing the perpetrator swiftly to justice. The Guardian writes:

Crucial to Sarkozy is the personal turnaround in his image. He had been fighting a bitter and difficult battle for re-election, but instantly suspended his campaign after the school shooting…For Sarkozy, the shootings could mark a return to his old image of Supercop, France’s one-time tough-talking interior minister and head of police. But that raises pressure to deliver a faultless police operation. It was reported that Sarkozy personally phoned the heads of the elite squads, and he turned up at the barracks near the gunman’s besieged flat during the stand-off.

Additionally, the shootings may well generate sympathy for the Jewish community that could be channeled into support for the Israeli march to war with Iran. Merah (we’re told) is on record as having said that the killings were carried out as revenge for the death of Palestinian children at the hands of the Israelis. Could this be groundwork for the eventual “discovery” that the alleged Al-Qaeda gunman has ties to Hezbollah or Iran?

Mossad officials are already jumping the gun. A former Mossad chief, Danny Yatom, said that “if it turns out to have been a terror attack rather than a hate crime, he believes Iran or its Lebanese proxy Hezbollah are likely suspects.” How he could know that is anyone’s guess.

It seems clear that there’s more to this story than we’ve heard. Time will tell whether or not Merah turns out to have government connections as so many supposed independent terrorist operatives have in the past.

by Ian Driscoll

Michael Moore (seen above, heckled by OWS protestors in Zucotti Park) the acclaimed director of such films as “Bowling for Columbine”, “Sicko” and most recently “Capitalism: A Love Story”, likes to portray himself as just another working class Joe that happened to catch a break.

Upon announcing the sale of distribution rights for his first big picture, Roger & Me, to Warner Bros. for a cool 3M, he recalls a cheer going up in the ranks of the “union guys” standing around him. He describes the feelings and events of the day:

It was absolutely unheard of for one of us in the working class of Flint (or anywhere) to receive such a sum of money unless one of us had either robbed a bank or, by luck, won the Michigan lottery…The day was filled with high-fives and “Way-ta-go Mike!”s. When you are from the working class you root for each other, and when one of you does well, the others are beaming with pride — not just for that one person’s success, but for the fact that the team had somehow won, beating the system that was brutal and unforgiving and which ran a game that was rigged against us…Somehow, I found a crack through the wall and made it through.

And that’s how Moore, and legions of his supporters, tend to view his rise to fame. It was a coup, beating the system at its own game, driving a progressive truck straight through what Moore calls the capitalist loophole: the profit motive. As Moore says: the capitalist will sell you the rope to hang him with if he thinks he can make a buck off of it.

And Moore sees himself as the hangman. A former employee of Moore’s on “TV Nation” recalled that Moore believed himself to be the avenger of the everyman, “trying to sneak a piece of completely subversive, life-changing, revolutionary television onto the network owned by General Electric and Fox that’s going to touch the people of this country and make them take up their torches and pitchforks.”

Any criticism of the man or his methods is painted as right-wing smear tactics, the agenda of the hated banksters and the 1%. Among his supporters, it only tends to fuel the David-v-Goliath mythology.

So before I get in to denouncing Moore’s grandstanding and blatant hypocrisy, I want to be certain there’s no mistake: I’m a political atheist. I don’t trust either party, I believe corporate and banking influence has decimated not only the country, but the world, and I don’t believe in the myth of pure, free-market capitalism. It never existed, it will never exist, and those who presently extoll the virtues of competition are only rationalizing greed, in my opinion.

Just so we’re clear.

But I’ve got a problem with Moore. I don’t mind the bankers reveling in their wealth and their exploitation of the working class. It gives you something to take aim at. But when one of the wealthy descends weekly to fraternize with the common folk, donning a John Deere cap and blue jeans to go unnoticed amongst the crowds, and claiming to know the mind of blue-collar America, I start feeling a little queasy. Something is terribly wrong when a 1-percenter in everything but speech is heralded as champion of the people.

So let’s take a look at Moore, and the choices this “working-class” Joe made after he found that crack in the wall.

Employment Practices

Michael Moore has spent decades criticizing the employment practices of big corporations. Nike, General Motors, HMOs, various defense contractors, PayDay candy bars, and on, and on. So you’d expect him to go out of his way to treat his employees exceptionally well.

Not so, according to numerous ex-employees of his various enterprises.

The latest fallout between Moore and his workers occurred during the filming of his most recent picture, “Capitalism: A Love Story”. The movie, which trained a critical eye on the destruction wrought by unregulated greed, provoked ire amongst union employees because it emerged that Moore had snubbed union members during the making of the film, choosing instead to use non-union labor during production.

An internal memo revealed that the non-union employees were, additionally, not offered health insurance.

It’s not the first time Moore has been accused of side-stepping the unions. During the shooting of Rage Against the Machine’s “Sleep Now in the Fire” back in 2000, Mr. Moore hired non-union extras for background work. Responding to the accusation, Moore said that he only became aware of their non-union status after the fact. But the latest tiff revolving around Capitalism: A Love Story, would seem to indicate habitual, non-union hiring practices.

And his general behavior towards his various employees on other projects he’s undertaken was no better.

Moore was fired from his position as editor at Mother Jones magazine back in 1986 because, according to everyone who attempted to work with him, he was “impossible”:

Little by little, he began to alienate people. He disliked sharing credit with his writers. He would often come in late. He didn’t yell at people: if someone said something he didn’t like, he wouldn’t argue; he would simply not invite that person to the next meeting, or the person would be fired.

The following anecdote, told of his days working on a short-lived television series called “The Awful Truth”, is revealing in its portrayal of an opportunistic boss, indifferent to the plights of his employees and their union:

One day during production on the first season of the show, Moore called two of his writers into his office. It was, for both of them, their first job in television, and they had been hired with the title of associate producer. They were not members of the Writers’ Guild, the powerful union for writers in movies and TV, and thus were not receiving health benefits, and would not qualify later for a percentage of video and rerun sales. “Michael said, ‘I’m getting a lot of heat from the union to call you guys writers and pay you under the union rules,’ ” Eric Zicklin, one of the associate producers, says. “ ‘I don’t have the budget for that. But if they keep coming down on me that’ll mean I’ll only be able to afford one of you and the other one’s gotta go.’ ”

Moore appeared to have surmised (incorrectly) that the two writers had been appealing to the union behind his back. (Moore says that he doesn’t remember this and that he insisted that “TV Nation” be a union show.) “He wanted to let us know that this would hurt us if it continued,” Zicklin says. “We were scared out of our minds. It was like a theme from ‘Roger & Me.’ ” Of course, no one would have thought twice about a meeting like that with any other boss—but this was Michael Moore.

His corporate employers accuse him of wanton greed, as well: “Moore’s employers were confronted with ever more regal demands. He insisted that Channel 4 house him at the Ritz when he worked in England on The Awful Truth, a fact he now portrays as the revenge of the working class against corporate might.”

And the reviews only go from bad to worse: ” ‘He’s a jerk and a hypocrite and didn’t treat us right and he was false in all of his dealings,’ said one former worker. His former manager, Douglas Urbanski, has said that Moore ‘was the most difficult man I’ve ever met… he’s money-obsessed’.”

His employees, shocked by his apparent duplicity, became disenchanted, in large part because they had believed in the mythology that Moore had created for himself. A New Yorker profile summarizes the disillusionment of his former colleagues:

One by one, his employees stopped believing in the Cause. The job became just a job, and Moore became just another boss in a business that had an almost limitless tolerance for bad behavior. But, because they had once believed in him, their disappointment was painful. “I have let go of Michael,” the former “TV Nation” employee says, in the shakily resolute tone of a reforming alcoholic. “I have not seen one of his products, his movies, his TV shows, his books. I’m sure they’re all good. I’m sure they’re spreading the message and enraging all the right people. But I can’t accept him as a political person. I can’t buy into this thing of Michael Moore is on your side—it’s like trying to believe that Justin Timberlake is a soulful guy. It’s a media product: he’s just selling me something. For the preservation of my own soul I have to consider him as just an entertainer, because otherwise he’s a huge asshole. If you consider him an entertainer, then his acting like a selfish, self-absorbed, pouty, deeply conflicted, easily wounded child is run-of-the-mill, standard behavior.

Personal Life

Charges of immense wealth and excessive living have been leveled at Moore before. Defenders point out that these attacks constitute ad hominems, and don’t address his body of work. But, as has been mentioned repeatedly, it’s Moore himself who’s made personal lifestyle choices fair game.

In “Capitalism”, he leads a tour to the homes of corporate execs who benefited from the bailouts. In “Fahrenheit 9/11” he stands on a busy corner in Washington D.C., asking elected representatives who supported war in Iraq whether or not their children have enlisted in the armed services. Clearly, Moore believes that the consistency of a man’s character, and the courage of his convictions, are relevant.

With that in mind, the discovery that Michael Moore is one of Hollywood’s wealthiest directors, with a net worth estimated at 50M, may be a difficult pill to swallow. His top three films (“Bowling for Columbine”, “Fahrenheit 9/11”, and “Capitalism: A Love Story”) have grossed a combined 300M at the box office. And “Capitalism” was even subsidized by the state of Michigan, to the tune of 1M dollars. One wonders what was going through his head when he commented to a large crowd in 2004:

“I still believe the lessons I learned when I was raised in a Roman Catholic household. Like, it’s harder for a rich man to get into Heaven than for a camel to go through the eye of a needle.”

He lives on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, in an exclusive penthouse apartment valued at roughly 1.27M, and sent his daughter to an exclusive private academy, where she would be safe from the dangers of public education. Quite a statement from an anti-capitalist. When The Guardian broached the subject with Moore in a 2004 interview with the film maker, he had this to say:

“…we moved to New York and we went to see the local public school and we walked through a metal detector and we said, “We’re not putting our child through a metal detector.” We’ll continue our fight to see to it that our society is such that you don’t have to have a metal detector at the entrance to schools. But our daughter is not the one to be sacrificed to make things better. And so she went to a school two blocks away.”

Presumably it’s up to poorer, less privileged children to jump on that grenade. Moore continues:

“Is that a bad thing? I don’t know. Every parent wants to do what’s best for their child. Whatever I can afford, I’m going to get my kid the best education I can get.”

As Guardian journalist Andrew Anthony points out, although this may be understandable from a parent’s point of view, it’s hard to see the difference between Moore’s mindset and the Republican philosophy of every man for himself.

But Moore’s extravagance doesn’t end there. His primary residence, as we mentioned, is a million-dollar penthouse in New York City. But his vacation home is even grander. Moore recently purchased a 10,000 sq. ft. home on Torch Lake in northern Michigan, valued at roughly 2M dollars. Henry Payne of The Detroit News writes:

Flint-native Moore bought the original 2,500 square foot home, local real estate sources say, then gobbled up two surrounding lots to expand his massive estate. Antrim County public records (see nearby) show the property in the name of Moore and his wife, Kathleen Glynn, and lists its taxable value at nearly $1 million. Local real estate agents estimate the real value of the 7,500-12,000 square foot compound at $2 million (see an overhead view at here). A Michigan View survey of the area (see nearby photos) finds an exclusive community of homes and boat slips with housing values ranging from to $500,000 to Moore’s high-end $2 million.

With his sprawling, luxurious getaway, Moore joins the ranks of former Chrysler chairman Bob Eaton, Madonna and Bruce Willis, who all own lake-view homes in northern Michigan.

So rather than encouraging Occupiers to expand their protests to rich suburbs (Moore is quoted as saying “That’s where the money is, right?”), perhaps he should invite them to occupy his living room(s). In either Manhattan or Michigan. His choice.

Financial Investments

I’ve saved the best for last.

In 2005, author Peter Schweizer produced a copy of Michael Moore’s schedule D  from one of his tax filings, which revealed that Moore, through his personal foundation, quietly invested a combined total of almost 400K dollars in nearly every company against which he rails publicly.

So in which companies specifically has Moore owned stock? Here’s a short list: Pfizer and Merck, major pharmaceutical companies that Moore blames for the dilapidated state of American health care in “Sicko”; Transocean Sedco Forex, owner of the Deepwater Horizon rig that was responsible for the Gulf of Mexico oil spill in 2010; McDonalds…enough said; General Electric, Boeing and Honeywell, all defense contractors responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people the world over, and condemned by Moore in “Bowling for Columbine”; AOL Time Warner, one of the largest media conglomerates in history.

Oh, and one more: Halliburton.

That’s right. Halliburton, the nation’s leading manufacturer of outrage and corruption, was owned (2K shares) by Michael Moore’s foundation. Moore sold the stock in 2005, for a 15% profit. Turns out he probably should’ve held on to it. But hey, everyone makes mistakes. How was he to know the wars would continue this long?

In Liverpool, in 2004, Moore made a speech to an audience of eager listeners. He said:

“Who’s the beneficiary of this war? Halliburton…The oil companies, Israel, Halliburton. I would just like to make a modest proposal: from now on, for every Brit or American kid that’s killed in this war, I would like Halliburton to slay one mid-level executive.”

It’s rare to witness such unabashed hypocrisy from anyone other than a politician or a TV evangelist.

And how does Moore respond to these allegations? During an interview on CSPAN, Mike had this to say:

“Michael Moore own Halliburton stock? See, that’s like a great comedy line. I know it’s not true – I mean, I’ve never owned a share of stock in my life. Anybody who knows me knows that, you know – who’s gonna believe that? Just crazy people are going to believe it – crazy people who tune in to the Fox News Channel.”

Although the above basically constitutes an appeal to the Moore mythology in an effort to rebut the allegations, and it does not attempt to deny the authenticity of the copy of his tax filings upon which Schweizer bases his information, Moore is technically correct in stating that he does not personally own stock in any of the above mentioned companies.

It’s only his privately run foundation administered solely by him that owns stock in those evil corporations.

So let’s recap: a multimillionaire Hollywood film maker who splits his time between the Upper West Side and a 2M dollar estate in northern Michigan, who snubs union employees, is “money-obsessed” and owns stock in companies like Boeing, Pfizer and Halliburton.

If his name wasn’t Michael Moore, something tells me no one would have any trouble recognizing him for what he is: the 1%, slummin’ it. Hey, if the John Deere hat fits…

originally posted February 27th, 2012 on

Stories about TSA abuse litter the internet like confetti after a security theater parade. So the fact that Senator Schumer is proposing the addition of passenger advocates at TSA checkpoints is a serious step forward. Unfortunately, Schumer’s press release states that under his plan “TSA would train existing officers in dispute resolution and require the agency to have one TSA officer designated as the on-duty passenger advocate to assist fliers with concerns and complaints at all airports.”

While the passenger-advocate concept is laudable, the implementation defies logic. If the abuses come from within TSA, does it make any sense to continue to trust TSA to ameliorate their own problems?

Secondly, TSA has violated the public trust so deeply that it’s hard to imagine passengers trusting one TSA employee when they are being abused by another. A passenger advocate, from the passenger’s point of view, is just going to look like yet another TSA employee. Or, worse, passengers will continue to mistake the advocate for a law enforcement officer. This is already a  problem because TSA employees are called “officers” and given uniforms that resemble law enforcement uniforms, despite the fact that they are not law enforcement officers.

Finally, if TSA were capable of policing their own, they already would have done it. In order for any advocate to be effective in a checks and balances system, the advocate must have autonomy. Will a TSA passenger advocate employee really be able to stand up to their own boss if it is the supervisor who is being abusive? It’s too much to ask, knowing what we do about human nature and the inclination to submit to authority. Time to dust off the old Milgram study, once again.