June 8, 2008, Issue #137 Part 1
HUDSON VALLEY ACTIVIST NEWSLETTER/CALENDAR
This newsletter/calendar, published in New Paltz, N.Y., appears once a month, supplemented by additional listings of new activist events, usually sent to Valley readers only. Editor, Jack A. Smith (who writes all the news articles that appear without a byline or credit to other publications). Copy Editor, Donna Goodman. Calendar Editor, Rocco Rizzo. If you know someone who may benefit from this newsletter, ask them to subscribe at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you no longer wish to receive the newsletter, unsubscribe at the same address. Please send event listings to the above email address.
There will be more articles in a second part to this newsletter in a week. There were just too many stories to send in one packet this time. The activist events calendar was emailed only to Hudson Valley residents a few days ago. The calendar plus back issues of the newsletter may be accessed at http://activistnewsletter.blogspot.com/. Sometimes long transmissions get fouled up in the sending; if so, read the newsletter on line.
A number of criticisms of China have been expressed in the U.S. in recent months, some of them intended to embarrass the Beijing government before the Olympics. We examine the nature of such evaluations below — first with an article about China in relation to Tibet and Darfur, second regarding charges that China's trade practices amount to "stealing American jobs" and unfairly increasing the U.S. trade deficit.
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1. Editorial: A TIP OF THE HAT TO OBAMA AND CLINTON — Americans should be proud of the Democratic Party's selection of an African American candidate for president, and its near selection of a woman for the same post. But there's a lot more to it than that.
2. THE MAIN CAUSES OF THE OIL PRICE HIKES — There are several factors in the doubling of oil prices in the last 10 months. One factor stands out as primary, and contrary to the Bush Administration, it doesn't seem to be supply and demand.
3. ADDRESSING AMERICA'S CHINA SYNDROME — There seems to a revival of China bashing among some U.S. politicians around the issues of Tibet and Darfur. We look into it.
4. THE REALITIES OF CHINA-U.S. TRADE — A number of politicians, unionists and others charge that China's trade policies are responsible for the loss of jobs in America and for our country's huge trade deficit. What are the facts?
5. THE PERSISTENT FEMALE-MALE WAGE GAP — The 23.5% gap in women's pay for equal work done by men effects professional and retired women as well as women workers who are semi-skilled or unskilled, according to AFL-CIO statistics.
6. CHECK IT OUT — From "Barack the Red" to "Hamas on the Holocaust," here are this issue's descriptions and sources for obtaining our latest collection of interesting articles and brief news videos we think will interest our readers. There's even a charming audio-video moment on how to pronounce the name of Russia's new president, and a good little satire on the wealthy.
7. Editorial: THE ABDUCTED TEXAS CHILDREN — We applaud the decision of Texas courts to return 460 state-abducted children to their parents at the Yearning for Zion Ranch.
A TIP OF THE HAT TO OBAMA AND CLINTON
We Americans have something to be proud of today.
After slavery, Jim Crow, and the historic struggle for civil rights, an African American has been selected for the first time by one of our two ruling parties to be its candidate for the presidency of the United States.
Within a matter of months it is entirely possible that Sen. Barack Obama — who waged a brilliant primary campaign — will be elected to occupy the White House. This represents a important victory for the African American people who have been oppressed in our land since the 1600s, and for our entire country as well.
There's another reason to be proud, too.
After being forced into subordinate status as second class human beings and citizens throughout history, after struggling over a hundred years just for the right to vote, and then contesting sexism ever since for basic human rights, a woman very nearly became that party's candidate for president.
During the course of the campaign Sen. Hillary Clinton was as an indefatigable contender for the post of America's first woman president. Her campaign has inspired many people, women in particular, and as she neared the end of her quest Clinton came into her own as an advocate for women's rights.
As we recognize the progress that has just been made, it is even more necessary to recognize that African Americans and women still have a long way to go for genuine equality in our society. Racism and male supremacy remain deeply embedded in the fabric of our country economically, politically, socially, and culturally.
The struggle must continue to destroy both inequalities root and branch. And there is another great and far-reaching inequality in our society as well. This is class inequality, where a small minority on top lord it over a huge majority on the bottom, and essentially rule the country. Until all three — race, gender and class inequality — are eliminated, it will never be possible to construct a genuine democracy in America.
We are proud of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton for breaking barriers. But, from our perspective, that's about as far as it goes. Elections are political affairs first and foremost. Politically, both are centrists, tilting to center-right from time to time. As such, neither is capable of solving the great problems that beset our society.
What does "change" mean? It worries us that this overarching theme of the election — ultimately championed not just by its originator, Obama, but eventually by Clinton and John McCain as the race wore on — has never been explained. Why? Because it is an empty and deceptive slogan, promising everything and nothing. The voters just fill in the blank space with their own hopes, with no guarantee it's what the candidates mean by change.
Both Obama and Clinton support a foreign policy based upon American "leadership" in a world that is not asking to be led by the United States, and it is becoming clearer every day it would prefer not to be. Many European allied countries, as well as China, Russia and others, are known to prefer multipolar world leadership to Washington's "my way or the highway" unipolarity. Experience has proven this policy is based on the utilization of unequaled military power to pave the way for expanding American hegemony.
What is the Democratic Party candidate's program for ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan? All we hear are plans to remove some, not all, troops in Iraq and for sending more troops to Afghanistan. The fact is that the U.S. Armed Forces will remain in those countries for many years to come and the candidate knows it. What is the program for truly tackling poverty in America, and for ending the increasing rich-poor gap, and for closing the wide chasm between the income of white families and that of black, Latino and Native American families? Nothing of real substance.
What is the program for significantly reducing America's bloated parasite of a military budget? The program of both the Democratic and Republican candidates is to expand the number of troops and shovel even more of our nation's wealth into the Pentagon's bottomless pit.
And whatever happened to single-payer healthcare? And far, we have not heard of a realistic program for swiftly developing alternative energy sources. Nor has there been word of a serious crash program to meet the gathering environmental storm. What about a program to provide equal rights for gay, lesbian and transgender people? And how about immigration, and education, mass transportation, re-regulating the markets, and overturning all anti-labor laws — not just quickly forgotten campaign promises but concrete programs that Obama will fight for and be held accountable?
Yes it will be relief to get rid of George W. Bush and the entire madhouse of reactionary scoundrels that came with him. And yes, opportunist Republican warhawk McCain is to Obama's right, which makes the Democrat one more in a long line of "lesser evils." But every politically progressive person in the U.S. knows, or should know by now, that while the political center is better than the right, only the left can offer a program that comes near to actually bringing substantive change to our people and country.
So, with a tip of the hat to both Obama and Clinton for their breakthrough achievements, we think its best to remain committed to real change, progressive change, not the illusion of change, and to working harder to bring it about.
2. THE MAIN CAUSES OF THE OIL PRICE HIKES
What is the cause of the extraordinary increase in the price of petroleum in 10 years from $11 a barrel in 1998 to up to $135 a barrel this year? The price has doubled from $65 last August. It's possible prices will go down, but not much, and the future trend is upward.
And what will be the ramifications of this new era of exceptionally high oil prices, not just the increase of U.S. gasoline to a startling $4 a gallon and climbing, but in the inevitable restructuring of the geopolitical chessboard? For one thing, countries with abundant energy resources will become more powerful. Russia, for instance, is the only member of the G8 wealthy nations that is not only energy independent but is awash in oil and natural gas for export.
So far there have been many different and often contradictory explanations for the recent upsurge in the price of petroleum resources.
President Bush argues predictably that it is a matter of supply and demand. He's backed by Energy Secretary Samuel W. Bodman who claims there is a "decline in global inventories" of crude oil. Many observers think demand is outstripping supply. Various analysts point to other causes, five of which are most prominent: The sharp decline in Federal Reserve Board interest rates, the weak dollar, the proximity of anticipated peak oil (the extraction of half the world reserves, after which there will be continual reductions in supply), oil company profiteering, and speculation on oil and gas in the commodities market.
All of these explanations have a relationship to the current price increases but some — and one in particular — seem to have greater influence at this time than others. Undoubtedly, supply and demand is a major factor in the long run, as is a peak decline in reserves. But the past decade and immediate decades ahead are in the relative short run. And while interest rates, the strength of the dollar, and record oil industry profiteering all bear upon the current situation, it seems to us — as we will explain below — that market speculation played a major role in the extreme increases of the last 10 months.
This is not to suggest that supply shortages are impossible at this stage, particularly with increasing world demand. Some oil fields are drying up. Some produce poor quality. Some fields won't come on line for years. Iraq and Iran are underperforming (the former because of the U.S. war, the latter partly due to Washington's sanctions and threats), and conflict has reduced Nigeria's output, among other dislocations around the globe. But these are temporary problems and the means exist to solve them. Of course if the U.S. launched a war against Iran, which we still continue to doubt, all bets are off if the narrow Strait of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf — through which up to 60% of world's oil must pass to reach its destination — was made impassable.
There's probably enough petroleum under ground for at least 40 years, during which time humankind will face three choices: 1. There can be wars over energy resources. 2. There can be scientific breakthroughs and solutions in the richer countries while the poorer countries are left to decline. 3. There can be collective worldwide emergency efforts to develop and share sufficient renewable energy alternatives and changes in infrastructure and lifestyle to survive at an advanced level, possibly avoiding the impending environmental calamity if greenhouse gases are largely eliminated in the process.
In the price increases of the last year, supply and demand does not appear to be a major factor, despite the Bush Administration's contention. Actually, demand slowed and reserves increased during this period due to high prices but they remained high.
Writing in Business Week April 1, automotive expert Ed Wallace points out that "There is no shortage. Gasoline reserves on hand are at the highest levels since the early 1990s." He noted that gas and oil prices have been skyrocketing in the U.S at precisely the moment when demand has been declining. In January, for instance, American demand was down 4% compared to January 2007 but prices just kept zooming upward at a time of increased world supplies. Throughout this year of intense price elevation, U.S. stockpiles of oil have been increasing by millions of barrels a month while consumption in May dropped 6%.
In March, Associated Press quoted oil analyst Victor Shum as stating: "Gasoline inventories are higher than the historical average at this time of the year so there is really no need to worry about supply being too tight." In April, Royal Dutch Shell CEO Jeroen van der Veer noted as prices were approaching $130 a barrel that the supply-demand ratio was "the same as when oil was selling for $60 a barrel [in August 2007], which is in itself quite a unique phenomenon." In May, David Kelly, chief market strategist for J.P. Morgan Funds, told The Washington Post that "the growth in the world oil consumption is not that strong." Business Week's Wallace notes that "the consensus of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists and the energy executives" is that "no supply crisis justifies the way the world's oil is being priced today."
If there is adequate supply and a bit less than normal demand, why have prices of gas and oil doubled in less than a year, causing extreme hardship for working people in many countries, including in America at a time of ever-higher food prices and the onset of a recession? The evidence points to speculation.
In early March, for instance, ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson stated that "the record run in oil prices is related more to speculation and a weakening dollar than supply and demand in the market…. [F]ear of supply reliability is overblown." Six months ago, oil analyst Fadel Gheit told a Congressional committee that "The current high oil prices are inflated by as much as 100%. The price surge is a result of excessive speculation."
What is speculation, or in this case futures speculation? One definition is investing as a gamble, based on informed guesswork, on an anticipated future price movement of a particular type of stock, bond, or commodity, usually with a higher risk to obtain a greater profit before pulling out. If enough money is bet on future price hikes in commodities such as petroleum or foodstuffs, this can artificially increase the paper price way above its actual value but determine real prices just the same.
In the year 2000 some $9 billion was invested in oil futures. By this year it is about $250 billion, a factor that has greatly inflated the anticipated price of oil even though the actual cost of extraction, transportation, refining and delivery has remained fairly stable. Goldman Sachs, a major Wall Street investment bank and the largest energy commodities trader in the world, predicted in mid-May that the cost of oil may jump to $200 a barrel within the next couple of years, and that the era of inexpensive petroleum has ended. This kind of news invites mounting speculation on future prices, thus driving up the price unnecessarily.
Speaking May 26 on the Between the Lines radio newsmagazine, Tyson Slocum, director of Public Citizen's Energy Program, declared: "Speculators have been moving steadily into the oil futures market, where the prices of oil and gas are actually set. And these markets are not in Saudi Arabia or any OPEC member nation, but rather in places like New York, where energy traders trade contracts for these products. And increasingly, because of the lack of adequate regulation over these markets, we feel that there is the potential for anti-competitive practices in the industry for market manipulation and other nefarious activities."
F. William Engdahl, author of "A Century of War: Anglo-American Oil Politics and the New World Order," wrote in May for Global Research: "At least 60% of today’s $128 per barrel price of crude oil comes from unregulated futures speculation by hedge funds, banks and financial groups using the London ICE Futures and New York NYMEX futures exchanges and uncontrolled inter-bank or Over-The-Counter trading to avoid scrutiny.
"U.S. margin rules of the government’s Commodity Futures Trading Commission allow speculators to buy a crude oil futures contract on the NYMEX, by having to pay only 6% of the value of the contract. At today's price of $128 per barrel, that means a futures trader only has to put up about $8 for every barrel. He borrows the other $120. This extreme “leverage” of 16 to 1 helps drive prices to wildly unrealistic levels and offset bank losses in sub-prime and other disasters at the expense of the overall population."
Engdahl points out that nearly two years ago, a U.S. Senate committee report titled, "The Role of Market Speculation in Rising Oil and Gas Prices," argued: "There's a few hedge fund managers out there who are masters at knowing how to exploit the peak oil theories and hot buttons of supply and demand, and by making bold predictions of shocking price advancements to come, they only add more fuel to the bullish fire in a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy."
Journalist Mike Whitney wrote May 30 that the record price hike in oil and gas "is a hoax cooked up by the investment banks and hedge funds who are trying to dig their way out of the trillion dollar mortgage-backed securities mess that they created by turning garbage loans into securities. That scam blew up in their face last August and left them scrounging for handouts from the Federal Reserve. Now the billions of dollars they're getting from the Fed is being diverted into commodities which is destabilizing the world economy; driving gas prices to the moon, and triggering food riots across the planet."
Writers Hossein Askari and Noureddine Krichene, in articles May 29 and 31 in Asia Times Online, charge that "The U.S. Federal Reserve was in large part responsible for the oil price explosion and its volatility…. In response to the collapse of the credit and speculation boom, the Fed has set a deliberate re-inflationary objective in order to reverse falling asset prices…. A depreciating dollar and rising oil prices have gone hand-in-hand. Oil prices are quoted in dollars; a falling dollar results in an increasing dollar price for oil."
"Since the Fed in August 2007 aggressively resumed the inflationary policy it had followed during 2001-2006, oil prices have been rising at an accelerating pace…, food prices have increased at an unprecedented rate causing riots around the globe, and the dollar has been sinking. Each interest rate cut has been immediately followed by an inflationary spike in oil and food prices and a falling dollar; and in turn accompanied by a rapid fall in real incomes of the working classes and pensioners."
Responding to reports critical of the Federal Reserve, Fed chairman Ben Bernanke, addressing the International Monetary Conference in Barcelona, Spain, June 3, seemed principally to blame the present crisis in financial markets on East Asian exporters, mainly China, for creating a global "savings glut" and "large buildups in foreign exchange reserves." (See article below, The Realities of U.S.-China Trade.)
Writing in The Times (UK) May 22, economist Anatole Kaletsky noted that demand for oil was declining at today's prices but there are "plenty of buyers for pieces of paper linked to the price of oil next month and next year. This situation is exactly analogous to the bubble in credit markets a year ago, where nobody wanted to buy sub-prime mortgage bonds, but there was plenty of demand for 'financial derivatives' that allowed investors to bet on the future value of these bonds…. Rip up your textbooks, the doubling of oil prices has little to do with China's appetite."
Public Citizen's Slocum was critical of the fact that despite record profits big oil companies continue to receive an estimated at $8 billion a year in taxpayer subsidies. Here's what should be done, he said:
"End subsidies to fossil fuels, increase subsidies for renewable energy and energy efficiency, particularly for households…. Second, we've got to have better functioning markets…. Companies are allowed to engage in all sorts of behavior behind closed doors. That's not the way a modern economy is supposed to function. We've got to have stronger regulations…. Third, I think a congressional investigation [is needed] into potentially anti-competitive practices by the oil industry and whether or not we need to strengthen our anti-trust laws to ensure that oil companies are playing fair and aren't colluding with one another to jack up prices."
There is a positive aspect to the oil price fiasco for a country that consumes 25% of the world's energy resources even though it only has 5% of the population: It will finally rivet public and even possibly governmental attention on the urgent need for greatly expanded mass transportation options including an improved rail system, high-mileage fuels for cars and trucks, and the decisive development and production of alternative energy sources that do not contribute to global warming and which are equal to our advanced country's great needs.
The need for all this has been known by the U.S. government for many years, but it has done little to nothing. Between 1990 and 2004, even after dire environmental concerns began infiltrating world consciousness, the U.S. increased its daily use of petroleum 24% — from 17 million to 24 million barrels. Increasing auto travel in low mileage vehicles was the main reason. Needless to say, minimum attention has been paid by candidates of the ruling political parties in the current presidential elections to the requirement for massive government-directed programs to deal with these matters adequately and swiftly. The big U.S. automakers knew it too, but it took until this June 3 for GM to finally decide to phase out its gas guzzling SUVs.
The one biofuel alternative that the Bush Administration has promoted — corn-based ethanol — may be creating more problems than it solves. According to the April 30 New York Times, ethanol "is now blamed for driving up food prices while emitting more carbon dioxide and providing a third less energy per gallon than gasoline. It is no panacea either. Even if oil companies can meet the federal requirement to use 36 billion gallons of ethanol by 2022, which many say will be impossible, it would only amount to 10% of the country’s current oil demand."
The geopolitical implications of expensive oil are legion. Michael T. Klare, a progressive Hampshire College professor, author and oil expert, writing in TomDispatch May 8, declared: The U.S. "lost its claim to superpower status when a barrel of crude oil roared past $110 on the international market, gasoline prices crossed the $3.50 threshold at American pumps, and diesel fuel topped $4. America's wealth and power has long rested on the abundance of cheap petroleum….When it came to reliance on [oil] imports, the United States crossed the 50% threshold in 1998 and now has passed 65%. Though few fully realized it, this represented a significant erosion of sovereign independence…. By now, we are transferring such staggering sums yearly to foreign oil producers, who are using it to gobble up valuable American assets, that, whether we know it or not, we have essentially abandoned our claim to superpowerdom."
Mainstream geopolitical strategist George Friedman, founder of Stratfor.com, wrote May 27 that "The rise in the price of oil is triggering shifts in economic power that are in turn creating changes in the international order. Obviously, the winners in this game are those who export oil, and the losers are those who import it…. The real winners are countries that can export and generate cash in excess of what they need domestically….The big losers are countries that not only have to import oil but also are heavily industrialized relative to their economy [such as China]. Countries in which service makes up a larger sector than manufacturing obviously use less oil for critical economic functions than do countries that are heavily manufacturing-oriented. Certainly, consumers in countries such as the United States are hurt by rising prices. And these countries’ economies might slow…. Russia is the big winner. Russia is an exporter of natural gas and oil. It also could be a massive exporter of grains if prices were attractive enough and if it had the infrastructure…. The biggest winners are the countries of the Arabian Peninsula."
3. ADDRESSING AMERICA'S CHINA SYNDROME
As the People's Republic of China (PRC) deals with the catastrophic Sichuan earthquake and prepares for the historic Olympics this summer, the U.S. corporate mass media have focused much of America's attention in recent months on criticism of Beijing's policies in Tibet and the Darfur region of Sudan. In addition, American China bashers are hopping mad about the loss of U.S. jobs and the trade deficit, which they also blame on Beijing.
What's it all about? In this article we will focus on Tibet and Darfur. In a second article below we will discuss China-U.S. trade and the argument about jobs and the deficit.
First, we must express our sympathy and solidarity to the Chinese people and government at this moment of recovery and rebuilding from the devastating May 12 earthquake in Sichuan Province.
Beijing is to be praised for its swift action in responding to the crisis and to the needs of the survivors. The decisiveness of President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao in handling this tragedy stands in stark contrast to the dismal, virtually indifferent response to Hurricane Katrina in September 2005 by the government of President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney.
The destruction caused by the earthquake is many times the magnitude of Katrina, leaving in its aftermath some 70,000 dead, at least 360,000 injured, a minimum of 4,000 orphaned children, more than 3 million homes destroyed and four times that number damaged. Some 12 million people were made homeless and many millions of people have been relocated to other parts of China from quake-affected areas. Serious relief work began within hours, ultimately bolstered by 130,000 members of the People's Liberation Army (PLA). Beijing has launched a reconstruction program with a three-year completion date.
By comparison, Katrina killed 1,557 people in Louisiana and another 279 in several other Southern states while about 275,000 homes were destroyed. To this day, portions of New Orleans remain a ruin; permanent new housing within that city has not been built for the remaining refugees — usually people of low income and color — who are scattered, isolated, and mostly forgotten. Thousands of homeless people, a great many of whom are physically or mentally disabled, roam New Orleans, as the New York Times reported May 28. Mayor C. Ray Nagin recently "joked" by suggesting that "a way to reduce this city’s post-Katrina homeless population was to give them one-way bus tickets out of town."
In August, a great international event will take place in China — the Olympics — that will help ease the national sorrow felt by China's 1.3 billion people. It will also focus world attention on the country's material progress and enlarged role in world affairs.
We opposed efforts by anti-China groups to interfere with the running of the Olympic torch in the U.S. and elsewhere, and deplore suggestions — particularly those from American politicians — to boycott or devalue these games of friendly international competition.
China bashers in the U.S. are doing their best to undermine the summer games in order to discredit the Beijing government. These American detractors — led by an informal coalition of some members of Congress from both parties, a few celebrities and union leaders, human rights groups, neocons, and Cold War anticommunists — have lately been focusing on Tibet and Darfur, and so shall we here, beginning with Tibet.
American critics of China charge the PRC with taking over Tibet in 1950 and causing grave hardship to the Tibetan people in subsequent years. We've heard some reports that Tibet was a virtual Buddhist Shangri-La until the Han nonbelievers took over with their red flags. Numerous histories of the region, however, suggest that China has exercised a loose sovereignty in Tibet for over 600 years. (See footnote 1.) And we believe there is ample evidence that the lives of the working people of Tibet have been greatly enhanced since the 1949 Chinese revolution.
For example, until the revolution over 90% of the people in Tibet had been poor, landless serfs ruled by a feudal theocracy which kept them in bondage and illiteracy. About 5% were actually slaves to the ruling elite. Everything in the country of value was owned by about 100 noble families and the abbots of an equal number of big monasteries. There were no public schools, except for feudal monasteries where a handful of young boys studied religious chants. Several hundred wealthy boys attended a private school. Education for women did not exist in 1950. There was no health care at all for the masses of people. (Footnote 2.)
Feudalism and slavery were terminated by the Chinese revolution, and the people of the Autonomous Region of Tibet are now living in a developing society with education, healthcare, and all the basics of life.
Washington's Cold War response to the Chinese revolution and the entrance of the PLA into Tibet was to instruct the CIA to secretly encourage and help finance the Tibetan elite's quest for independence, and eventually to funnel funds to the Tibet "Government in Exile" in Dharamsala, India, at least until the early '70s. (Footnote 3.) This type of subversion evidently ended due to the U.S.-China rapprochement, though Washington still confers political blessings, and perhaps more than that, upon the Dalai Lama and the former ruling class which leads the Dharamsala formation.
The Chinese state has made errors in Tibet. They include, at one time or another, a certain degree of Han chauvinism, heavy-handedness in administering the territory, and a lack of sensitivity to cultural mores. On the other hand, Beijing's positive accomplishments in Tibet have far exceeded its mistakes.
The U.S. has recognized Tibet as part of China's territory for almost 100 years. In 2003, the Bush Administration reiterated that Tibet was a territory of China, but then advocated that the PRC enter talks with the Dalai Lama to bring about considerably more autonomy for Tibet than now exists. This would result in the transfer of greater political authority to the traditional elite and theocratic religious leaders.
Beijing is convinced that a sector of the exile leadership actually seeks secession from China, though the Dalai Lama himself — who is not without more radical opponents in his circle and within different strains of the Tibetan Buddhist community — speaks only of autonomy.
The Chinese government blamed the Dalai Lama for the riots in Lhasa, the Tibet capital, last March when mobs, according to the Guardian (UK), "attacked Han Chinese, Muslim Hui and other ethnic minorities," killing several and burning down a number of stores. The religious leader, who is an advocate of nonviolence, denied fostering the kind of eruption that took place, and it may well have been carried out by a faction out of his control. Limited disturbances took place in several other locations but quickly ended. The exile government" claims up to 200 people were killed in the riots; Beijing says 20, about half of them by the rioters.
The brief clashes this spring, which Dharamsala probably initiated but evidently got out of hand, were intended to embarrass Beijing before the Olympics and focus world opinion on the Dalai Lama's call for greater autonomy. The U.S. mass media practically made it appear there was a major uprising, which was not the case. And during the running of the Olympic torch in various countries, nightly TV coverage created a sense that there was a mass world outcry to "free Tibet," when only quite small numbers were involved.
Beijing seeks "harmony" in Tibet as it does throughout all China in response to rising protests in recent years by workers and peasants dissatisfied about economic and social inequities, and official corruption. Increasingly, it has been pouring money and resources into Tibet, building infrastructure, a rail connection for the first time, educational and social services, and tourism facilities. Following the riots, in our view, Beijing probably will take steps to ease tensions and increase its commitment to development. The government will continue to hold occasional discussions with representatives of the Dalai Lama, but there will be no major expansion in existing regional autonomy in the foreseeable future.
The situation in Sudan's Darfur province is another issue for which China is blamed in certain quarters. Some U.S. political figures and an organization called the Save Darfur Coalition accuse People's China for the dreadful plight of refugees in Darfur because Beijing is the Khartoum government's biggest trading partner, foreign investor, oil extractor, and small arms provider. (Actually 90% of such arms derive from other countries, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.)
The critics seem to suggest that all China need do is crack the Big Power whip and the Sudan government will be brought to heel. This is very simplistic. Khartoum bears a portion of responsibility for the Darfur tragedy. But to leave it at that is to ignore the complex political, economic, social and religious complications that have existed during the decades of continuous civil war and strife that have followed Sudan's release from colonial subjugation. And China is, in fact, using its good offices to help resolve the crisis and improve the conditions of the refugees.
The Save Darfur Coalition insists that the Khartoum government is guilty of genocide. Congress passed a resolution charging genocide in 2004 and President Bush began using the term to describe the Darfur situation. No other government leader has done so. After an examination of the facts the United Nations reported that there is great suffering in the region but that genocide was a mischaracterization. Jimmy Carter, after his own investigation last year, likewise stated it was not genocide.
Save Darfur was the subject of considerable criticism earlier this year from several other aid organizations working in the region for spending much of its large budget on full-page political advertisements targeting China and not "on aid for the long-suffering citizens of the region." (Footnote 4.)
On May 28, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John McCain issued a joint statement through the coalition pledging to focus on Darfur in the next administration. The New York Times reported that "the statement is largely symbolic because the three are not proposing any specific Congressional action against Sudan. Nor are they calling for tangible steps by the United States to put pressure on the Sudanese government. For instance, the statement is silent about whether the Bush administration should use its turn as president of the United Nations Security Council in June to seek further ways to press Sudan."
Actually, the United States has done little regarding the crisis in Sudan, a country that has experienced American economic sanctions for 11 years (unrelated to Darfur) and which was the object of an unjustified U.S. cruise missile attack in 1998 that destroyed the country's only pharmaceutical factory.
For its part, the Chinese government for many decades has followed a strict policy of non-intervention in the internal affairs of other countries. An official Beijing statement reports, however, that "China has, on the basis of mutual respect and equality, given constructive advice to Sudan on the Darfur issue."
China's recent statement noted it had been "working closely with the United Nations to resolve the Darfur crisis through political means." It "helped push forward the Sudanese, African Union and UN consensus on sending a hybrid [peacekeeping] force to Darfur, and actively participated in the peacekeeping efforts." Beijing further "made proposals to Sudan and the UN for a peaceful settlement of the Darfur issue and worked to persuade Khartoum to accept the UN resolution." In addition it was "the first non-African country to send peacekeeping troops to the Darfur region" and also has sent construction brigades to UN peacekeeping camps. (See footnote 5.)
Even Save Darfur has grudgingly acknowledged that China used its influence for the good, but it demands that Beijing do far more, and its criticism continues, almost as though disparaging China was an end in itself. But without exception Beijing does not and will not issue orders and threats to other countries. Would that the Washington government intervened far less in the affairs of other nations — but on this subject China's critics usually remain less than vocal. (See footnote 6 regarding China "Five Principles of Coexistence.")
UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes, who also is coordinator of the world body's emergency relief program, declared a year ago that the situation in nearby Somalia — which is indirectly controlled by the U.S. through its Ethiopian military surrogates who invaded at Washington's command — is "a worse crisis than Darfur or Chad or anywhere else this year." The U.S. even bombs Somalia from time to time, but the response from the U.S. humanitarian and peace community is minuscule.
What accounts for China bashing? It goes a long way back. Extreme racism toward Chinese immigrants to the U.S. in the 1800s and first part of the next century set the tone. The political bashing started with the triumph of the communist revolution in 1949. China was thoroughly demonized and ostracized by the U.S. government for a quarter-century until the two countries entered into a tacit alliance directed against the USSR in the mid-1970s. Although Washington largely ended its worst anti-Chinese propaganda since then, suspicion and criticism of Beijing has been an undertone in U.S. relations and policy ever since, despite diplomatic cordiality and the advantageous economic relationship it continues to cultivate.
In fact, as we pointed out in a series of articles in 2006, the U.S. launched a virtual new cold war against China some years ago and it is still in effect under the surface. Indeed, China — which has no military bases outside its own territory and armed forces quite weak compared to Washington's military colossus — is surrounded by American military bases, Navy fleets and submarines, Air Force landing fields, nuclear-armed intercontinental missiles aimed at its cities, spy satellites, sophisticated eavesdropping stations, and countries with which Washington enjoys mutual security alliances.
For nearly 60 years now, in one way or another, the American people have been taught by their government and most politicians to be either afraid, distrustful or antagonistic toward China. One reason is that despite China's ingestion of a large dose of capitalism it is still a country led by a Communist Party, and Washington's 90-year demonization of communism has affected the thinking of generations of Americans.
There are other reasons as well. China is becoming a powerful nation and probably will in a few decades surpass the U.S. in economic prowess. Many American politicians resent China's rise as an affront to U.S. national interests. Beijing, although accommodating and trying to avoid conflict, stands up to Uncle Sam when he gets pushy.
China also gives Washington a body blow to its geopolitical solar plexus when it criticizes imperialism, albeit mildly, and America's unipolar domination of the world by calling for a multipolar global order, or when it refuses to support the U.S. in an unjust war or won't trounce Iran. Also, since China is not an America-type democracy, it is a convenient target to be bashed by any politician looking for a round of applause.
In a sense, the 2008 summer Olympics in Beijing will signify the importance of China as a major global power. Recognizing that China is in the midst of an historic century-long and longer political, economic and social transition, and that the outcome has not yet been finally determined, we think the emergence of this important society with a preference for peace and equality among nations, along with its Five Principles of Coexistence in foreign affairs, can make a positive contribution to a better world in the years to come.
[Editor's Note: Our 12,000-word two-part series on "Where is China Headed?" (January 2007) addressed positive and negative elements the Beijing government's policies from the Chinese revolution until last year. If you are a new reader or want to review the articles again, email a request to us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will send them to you.]
1. A good book about Tibet's history from an academic source is “The Making of Modern Tibet,” by State University of New York Professor A. Tom Grunfeld, published in 1996 by M. E. Sharpe.
2. An article of interest about Tibet was written last year by progressive author Michael Parenti titled "Friendly Feudalism: The Tibet Myth." It is available online at http://www.michaelparenti.org/Tibet.html.
3. Richard M. Bennett's recent article on "Tibet, the 'great game' and the CIA" is at http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=8442
4. There are several informative articles about the Save Darfur Coalition.
New York Times, June 2, 2007: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/06/02/world/africa/02darfur.html
Democracy Now, June 4, 2007:
MRZine April 28, 2006:
5. For China's reply to allegations of misconduct in Darfur, see http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2008-02/16/content_6460400.htm.
6. China's attitude toward Sudan regarding Darfur is based on its approach to foreign affairs since 1953 embodied in its Five Principles of Coexistence, which were incorporated into the constitution in 1982. They are: (1) mutual respect for each other's sovereignty and territorial integrity, (2) mutual non-aggression, (3) mutual non-interference in each others internal affairs, (4) equality and mutual benefit and (5) peaceful co-existence.
4. THE REALITIES OF CHINA-U.S. TRADE
China is being blamed by members of Congress and some labor leaders among others for the loss of good jobs in the United States and our country's enormous balance of payments (trade) deficit.
Much of the mass media uncritically echoes the views of the economic China bashers on these matters. But the business press, which is more inclined to level with its readers because their money is involved, is more nuanced on the question of jobs, the trade deficit, and the value of China's currency (see footnote 1).
U.S.-China trade is taking place within an economic construct championed and enforced by the United States through the World Trade Organization. China thus plays by American rules, or it would not be allowed in the game.
The rules are based on neoliberal globalization, the contemporary modus operandi of American corporate capitalism and its bodyguard, the U.S. government. Neoliberalism prefers a free trade orientation, deregulation of markets, privatization, and government noninterference. Globalization facilitates the current unprecedented internationalization of business. This is not to say Washington practices what it preaches about neoliberalism: it is quite interventionist on behalf of big business and protective of its trade when thought necessary.
Corporate and financial wealth in the U.S. has one overriding objective: the acquisition of more wealth. Reducing the cost of labor is a key means of increasing profits. Many years ago, owners of factories in New England closed shop and moved to the poorer, non-union South. In the current era, corporate leaders are moving throughout world to take advantage of the lower wages paid in the post-colonial economies of developing Asia, Latin America and Africa. This window of opportunity will not last forever because workers in time are going to demand increasingly better compensation.
American multinationals operate in many such countries in quest of higher profits, and threaten to move elsewhere if wages rise. The largest number have been investing, building production facilities, and subcontracting to thousands of factories in China for over 20 years, all with Washington's encouragement and understanding that a byproduct of this policy would be an increase in the trade deficit. The move to China, and the great profits that the corporations earn there, was considered worth the higher deficit. As Foreign Affairs magazine commented in 2002:
"U.S. multinational corporations are using China as an export platform in the face of unrelenting global competition. An increasing percentage of the products these affiliates export from China is destined for the U.S. market. These goods count as Chinese exports to the United States — even though they are shipped by U.S.-owned entities — and they contribute to the ever-widening American trade deficit. European and Japanese multinationals are following a similar strategy of manufacturing in China for export, further adding to America's import bill from that country. Together, the delivery of U.S. goods through affiliates and the increasing use of the mainland as an export base by the world's leading multinational corporations could inhibit any significant improvement in the American trade deficit with China."
And of course it has. Last year, the total U.S. trade deficit was $738.6 billion, a 9% decline from 2006 due to the weaker dollar (which increases demand for lower-priced American exports) and slowing economy. Some U.S. politicians convey the impression that China causes the entire deficit but about $400 billion of the 2007 total was because of ever increasing oil imports. By comparison, America's petroleum import bill was only $48 billion a decade ago. China accounted for $256.3 billion of the U.S. trade deficit in 2007.
At least 30% the "Made in China" goods exported from that country to the U.S. actually is produced by subsidiaries of American multinational companies — and this accounts for a considerable portion of the deficit. (If American companies stayed in the U.S., and paid a decent wage, there wouldn't be a big China deficit, and many jobs would have remained back home, but corporate profits would be smaller.) Another chunk of the China deficit is from imports of goods manufactured by subsidiaries of corporations from other advanced capitalist economies.
These U.S. and foreign corporations make the big bucks. American consumers of modest income tend to get cheaper prices from items imported from China, in many cases to partially compensate for lower wages or joblessness. China benefits, but gets the blame in Congress and from some unions for "stealing" American jobs and causing the deficit. The China bashers act as though our country's runaway corporations and a complicit Washington are innocent bystanders, and that it was not in the ingrained nature of capitalism to put profits before the needs of the people.
The anti-Beijing coterie suggests China doesn't buy American goods, but Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez recently called China America's "fastest growing market for U.S. exports." China would import more, but the de-industrializing U.S. now produces far fewer goods than yesteryear, and many of them made in America are simply not competitive. Look at how the mighty U.S. auto industry deflated its own tires. In addition, a range of costly high technology items that Chinese buyers want to purchase are withheld for "national security" reasons.
China's critics attribute some of the deficit to Beijing's undervalued currency, the yuan. According to Ramapo College (NJ) Professor Behzad Yaghmaian in early May: "Conceding to American pressures, China relinquished its decade-long policy of pegging the yuan to the dollar in July 2005. The yuan rose by more than 5% in the first year, 12% by the end of 2007, and 14.13% by March 2008. Meanwhile, the trade deficit with China continued to swell by more than 15 percent."
The U.S. wants China to increasingly strengthen the yuan, but Beijing responds that it must proceed gradually lest its own economy stumble. The stronger the yuan, the tighter the profit margins for a multitude of small and medium export-oriented Chinese companies, causing reductions in wages and layoffs at a time when the Communist Party is already concerned about worker protests.
On June 5, the PRC Customs Administration reported that for the first time in five years "China's trade surplus is likely to shrink in 2008." It fell 7.9% in the first four months of this year against a similar period in 2007. One of the factors was a "clear acceleration" in the value of the yuan against the dollar, plus increased global protectionism and a reduction in exports to the U.S. due to the apparent recession. The agency also forecast China's "imports will keep picking up speed. This will result in a reversal of the swift growth in the trade surplus and in the trade imbalances." In the wake of the American financial downturn, the European Union has now become China's largest export market.
A significant problem behind the trade deficit is that the U.S. is simply spending much more money on imports than it has in the bank, and its trading partners (China and Japan mainly) have been lending Washington great sums of money for deficit financing. Much of America's consumer and government spending is based on debt as well, and it is one of the symptoms of our country's decline.
As far as jobs and wages for American workers are concerned, big business for the last few decades, has been carrying out a campaign to eviscerate the labor movement, to deprive workers of the fruits of increased productivity, to lower wages and benefits, and to oppose government intervention on the side of the working class/lower middle class and the poor. Shifting jobs overseas and turning the screw ever tighter on American workers at home is what's causing job loss, not China.
As Business Week wrote a few years ago, "One reason politicians are whipping themselves into a frenzy over China is because it's an easy way to explain the constant din of layoff announcements that show little sign of slowing."
Much of America's industrial base that has not gone abroad for superprofits has failed to keep up with the foreign competition (except in the production and export of weapons of war, where the U.S. is without peer). As progressive writer James Petras wrote a couple of years ago, "China bashing is merely a response to the loss of competitiveness. Nationalist demagogy in a declining global power is a compensatory mechanism."
Contrary to many of the arguments seeking to blame China for some of the problems afflicting the U.S. economy and American workers, we think such difficulties were generated within our country's capitalist system itself, compounded by the policies of neoliberalism and corporate globalization.
1. Although there are many more recent pieces on the question of job loss and the trade deficit, we think Business Week's article of Oct. 2, 2003 — "Is the Job Drain China's Fault?" — touches lots of bases and holds up quite well. It's at http://www.businessweek.com/print/magazine/content/03_41/b3853053.htm?chan=mz.
5. THE PERSISTENT FEMALE-MALE WAGE GAP
Following is an extract from important statistics compiled by the AFL-CIO last year about the wage gap between female and male workers, showing that women earn just 76.5% as much as men, and that this includes professional women and retired women as well as workers who are semi-skilled or unskilled. Access to the full fact sheet about women workers is contained in the "Check It Out" column below, under the headline "Ask a Working Women."
In 2006, median weekly earnings for women were 80.8% those of men. For most women of color, the earnings gap was even larger.
• African American women earned just 70 cents for every dollar earned by men in 2006.
• Hispanic and Latina women earned just 59 cents for every dollar men earned.
• Only Asian American women’s earnings were closer to parity with men’s: in 2006, they earned 94% that of all men. However, they earned 79% as much as Asian American men.
The wage gap is also more pronounced for older women: in 2006, women over 25 earned 79% that of men in the same age group while women aged 16-24 earned 95% as much as their male peers.
Equal pay is a problem in every occupational category, even in occupations where women considerably outnumber men. In 2006, certain professions showed a significant gap.
• Women in professional and related occupations earned over 27% less than their male counterparts, while women in sales and office occupations earned 23% less than similarly employed men.
• Female elementary and middle school teachers earned more than 10% less than similarly employed men, despite comprising 82% of the field.
• Female registered nurses earned nearly 10% less than their male colleagues, despite the fact that 90% of nurses are women.
• Female physicians and surgeons earned a whopping 38% less than their male counterparts.
• Female college and university teachers earned over 25% less than those who were male.
• Female lawyers earned 30% less than male lawyers.
Women also earn less at every level of education. For full-time workers aged 18 and older in 2005:
• The median annual earnings of a female high school graduate was more than 34% less than that of her male counterpart;
• The median annual earnings of a woman with a bachelor’s degree was almost 31% (or $15,911) less than that of a similarly qualified man;
• Women are more likely to complete graduate education. A woman with a master’s degree earned 32% (or $21,374) less than a man with a master’s degree;
• The median annual earnings for a woman with a professional degree were $65,941 while men earned over $100,000.
• A woman with a doctoral degree earned more than 29% (or $22,824) less than a similarly qualified man.
• According to a recent report by the American Association of University Women, women who attended highly selective colleges earn less than men from either highly or moderately selective colleges and about the same as men from minimally selective colleges.
• Men and women remain segregated by college major, with women making up 79% of education majors and men making up 82% of engineering majors. This segregation is found in the workplace as well, where women make up 74% of the education field and men make up 84% of the engineering and architecture fields.
Because women are paid less when they work, they receive smaller Social Security benefits when they retire:
• Women represent 58% of all Social Security beneficiaries age 62 and older and approximately 70% of beneficiaries age 85 and older.
• In 2005, the average Social Security retirement benefit was 32% smaller for women than men. 72.3% of women receive a monthly benefit of under $1,000 while 67.8% of men receive more than $1,000 per month.
• Only 29.2% of women 65 and older received any form of pension or annuity income and the median amount was $6,420. For men, 43.8% received pensions or annuity income and the median amount was $12,000.
• The benefit structure disproportionately benefits married women. For unmarried women over 65, Social Security comprises 52% of their total income, while it is only 38% of that of an unmarried elderly man.
• In 2004, 46% of all elderly unmarried females receiving Social Security benefits relied on Social Security for 90% or more of their income.
6. CHECK IT OUT
SUPER-RICH LOOK DOWN ON MERELY RICH: The rich have truly become the disenfranchised of American society, while the super-rich are living it up and mocking the conventionally wealthy. View the news report about this veritable tragedy at http://www.theonion.com/content/video/in_the_know_are_americas_rich.
THE GREAT IMMIGRATION PANIC: That's the title of an editorial in the June 3 New York Times that we wish were printed in every newspaper in America. If you haven't read it, do so at http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/03/opinion/03tue1.html?_r=1&ref=todayspaper&oref=slogin.
BARACK THE RED: We may view Barack Obama as a cautious political centrist who will implement a program entirely acceptable to the ruling elite, but the right wing "swiftboating" kooks will attempt to depict the Democratic presidential nominee as a disloyal leftist who is a virtual front for communists and terrorists, writes Dana Milbank in the Washington Post. After reading the article, we're sure you will want to pin the flag to your lapel, denounce your minister and join a proper church, and shake your fist when you hear the word "Fidel." The article is at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/05/22/AR2008052203905.html
PRONOUNCE MEDVEDEV: How should Americans correctly pronounce the last name of Russian President Dmitry Medvedev? Written down it's Med-vee'-ah-div, but it's worthwhile checking out the audio pronunciation in this 1 minute and 24 second video, to the very end:
SPEND LIKE THERE'S NO TOMORROW: This under two minute video shows what several people purchased when each was sent on a $3 trillion shopping spree. What would you buy? Here are some options: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lgq5suMXCV8.
MOYERS ON DEMOCRACY: That's the title of Bill Moyers new book, published by Doubleday this May at 416 pages. He's one of the very best and most honest of the diminishing camp of American liberalism. His weekly PBS program is perhaps the most important and consistently informative on TV today. "Democracy in America," he writes, "is a series of narrow escapes, and we may be running out of luck. The reigning presumption about the American experience... is grounded in the idea of progress, the conviction that the present is 'better' than the past and the future will bring even more improvement. For all of its shortcomings, we keep telling ourselves, 'The system works.' Now all bets are off. We have fallen under the spell of money, faction, and fear, and the great American experience in creating a different future together has been subjugated to individual cunning in the pursuit of wealth and power — and to the claims of empire, with its ravenous demands and stuporous distractions." A 1,600 word excerpt is available at http://www.alternet.org/story/85521/
HAMAS ON THE HOLOCAUST: There seems to be considerable misunderstanding about the position of the political leadership in Gaza regarding the Holocaust. This article from the May 12 issue of the Guardian (UK) clears up any confusion. It was written by Bassem Naeem, minister of health and information in Gaza. It is available at http://commentisfree.guardian.co.uk/bassem_naeem/2008/05/hamas_condemns_the_holocaust.html.
MCCAIN: A REAL TOUGH SOB: This brief news video will show you a side of the GOP candidate that you may only have suspected before: http://www.theonion.com/content/video/mccain_vows_to_replace_secret
ASK A WORKING WOMAN: The AFL-CIO is in the midst of taking its important biannual "Ask A Working Woman Survey," based on responses to the union federation's online questions about pay equity, health care coverage, family and medical leave, and the like. Results from previous surveys plus other facts about working women show that, for instance, "Women also are disproportionately at risk in the current foreclosure crisis, since women are 32% more likely than men to have subprime mortgages. Women have significantly fewer savings to fall back on in a time of economic hardship. Non-married women have a net worth that’s 48% lower than non-married men, and women are less likely than men to participate in employer-sponsored retirement savings programs." To access a brief article which will guide our working women readers to the survey questions, visit http://www.alternet.org/blogs/reproductivejustice/85520/. To view the AFL-CIO's revealing fact sheet about women workers in general, plus vital job statistics regarding professional women, go to http://www.dpeaflcio.org/programs/factsheets/fs_2007_Professional_Women.htm.
THE ABDUCTED TEXAS CHILDREN
We applaud the unexpected decision of two Texas courts to return 460 children to their parents at the Yearning for Zion Ranch compound of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS).
It was a miscarriage of justice and abuse of state power to abduct these children early last April at the behest of the state's Department of Family and Protective Services on the basis of an anonymous telephone call charging that the children were being abused. The caller never came forward, and the department never presented any evidence of abuse before or after the children were forcibly taken from their parents and placed in various temporary facilities throughout the state.
In a unanimous nine-page ruling by the 3rd Court of Appeals in Austin May 22, the three-judge panel said the Department of Family and Protective Services' case was legally and factually insufficient, and that 51st District Judge Barbara Walther acted improperly in April hearings when she ordered the children to remain in state custody. The state had claimed that the sect's polygamy, communal households, and underage marriages put every child in the community "in urgent" danger.
The ruling held: "There is simply no evidence specific to children at all except that they exist, they were taken into custody at the Yearning for Zion Ranch, and they were living with people who share a 'pervasive belief system' that condones underage marriage and underage pregnancy." This decision was subsequently upheld by the state Supreme Court, which decided 6-3 that "removal of the children was not warranted." The children, some of who have been traumatized by the state's action, began coming home in early June.
A chastened Department of Family and Protective Services will continue its investigation, and that is proper if it acts with sensitivity and within a liberal interpretation of the law. If one or more children are being abused at the compound, they should be protected, and if just laws are being broken the practice must stop. But there has to be proof in each individual case.