Wednesday, August 7, 2013

08-08-13 Activist Newsletter

August 8, 2013, Issue #193

2.    EGYPT’S COUP, part 2
3.    EGYPT’S COUP, part 3


Editor’s Note: Mid-Hudson readers — HOLD THE DATE, Saturday, September 7, for rally and march in New Paltz to defend women’s equality and the right to abortion. It was bad enough last year when far-right politicians were threatening to do away with abortion. But this year they are making serious headway on the state level (See article #10, Relentless Attack on Abortion Rights for details). The rally begins in Peace Park, adjacent to Village Hall, at 1 p.m. The event is being organized by the Mid-Hudson chapter of WORD (Women Organized to Resist and Defend) and will be sponsored by dozens of local organizations. It is one of a number of WORD demonstrations nationwide in recognition of Women's Equality Day on Aug. 26 but we are waiting until students are back from vacation. For local information contact Donna Goodman at The WORD website is at

By Jack A. Smith,  Editor
(Part 1 of 3 parts)

What is really happening in Egypt? Are the latest developments a progressive step forward or a regressive step backward for the millions of Egyptians seeking political change primarily through prolonged mass mobilizations in the streets?

It’s been over a month since a military coup d’état, with popular support, ousted the country’s first democratically elected government July 3 after only one year in office, following an earlier military coup with popular support that brought down dictator Hosni Mubarak.

There are diametrically opposed interpretations about what is taking place in Egypt. One fact remains certain, however. In 1952 during the overthrow of the monarchy, and in 2011during the overthrow of the dictatorship, and in 2013 during the overthrow of the newly elected government, the military was the ultimate power.  It has no intention to forego that power regardless of the outcome of the next election in 2014.

President Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), the candidate of the Freedom and Justice Party, remains in jail (or “incommunicado,” as the media prefers), along with other imprisoned former government functionaries and MB followers. Most are awaiting trial on a variety of charges, as though it was the Brotherhood that launched the coup.

Some 250 people, almost all of them Morsi supporters, have been slain by military and security forces when they demonstrated against the coup. The protests are continuing, and the military crackdown is becoming increasingly fierce.

The 450,000-strong armed forces, led by Gen. Abdul Fatah al-Sisi, dismissed the government just after popular anti-Morsi protests brought many millions of Egyptians into the streets June 30 to demand the president’s ouster. (In terms of the unusually huge crowds, this article just says “millions” because both sides tend to exaggerate their protest numbers.)

 Gen. Abdul Fatah al-Sisi
Sisi, who was named defense minister by Morsi, selected an interim government until new elections. Not one of the chosen 34 cabinet members belongs to the Muslim Brotherhood, but 11 of them are veterans of the Mubarak regime. It seems doubtful that the MB and its political groups and associates that have produced majorities in five elections (presidential and parliamentary), will be allowed to contend for power.

The return of elements of the Mubarak regime is beginning to draw media attention. Writing in the Washington Post from Cairo July 19, Abigail Hauslohner stated: “Egypt’s new power dynamic following the coup is eerily familiar. Gone are the Islamist rulers from the Muslim Brotherhood. Back are the faces of the old guard, many closely linked to Mubarak’s reign or to the all-
powerful generals.”

Professor Joseph Massad, who teaches Modern Arab Politics and Intellectual History at Columbia University, was highly critical of the coup in a July 14 article in CounterPunch: “What is clear for now, with the massive increase of police and army repression with the participation of the public, is that what this coalition has done is strengthen the Mubarakists and the army and weakened calls for a future Egyptian democracy, real or just procedural. Egypt is now ruled by an army whose top leadership was appointed and served under Mubarak, and is presided over by a judge appointed by Mubarak (Interim President Adly Mansour) and is policed by the same police used by Mubarak. People are free to call it a coup or not, but what Egypt has now is Mubarakism without Mubarak.”

There is no direct evidence that the U.S. was behind the coup. Of course Washington has long maintained intimate contact with the leaders of the armed forces and the Cairo government. It seems to have had as close a relationship with Morsi as it did with Mubarak and now with coup leader Gen. Sisi. There is an indirect connection, however, according to journalist Emad Mekay, writing in Aljazeera, July10:

“A review of dozens of U.S. federal government documents shows Washington has quietly funded senior Egyptian opposition figures who called for toppling of the country's now-deposed president Mohamed Morsi. Documents obtained by the Investigative Reporting Program at UC Berkeley show the U.S. channeled funding through a State Department program to promote democracy in the Middle East region. This program vigorously supported activists and politicians who have fomented unrest in Egypt, after autocratic president Hosni Mubarak was ousted in a popular uprising.”

“The State Department's program, dubbed by U.S. officials as a ‘democracy assistance’ initiative, is part of a wider Obama administration effort to try to stop the retreat of pro-Washington secularists, and to win back influence in Arab Spring countries that saw the rise of Islamists, who largely oppose U.S. interests in the Middle East. Activists bankrolled by the program include an exiled Egyptian police officer who plotted the violent overthrow of the Morsi government, an anti-Islamist politician who advocated closing mosques and dragging preachers out by force, as well as a coterie of opposition politicians who pushed for the ouster of the country's first democratically elected leader, government documents show.”

President Obama has proclaimed neutrality in this matter and seems to have positioned himself above the conflict, but Washington’s every practical deed has been supportive of the military and the military-dominated interim civilian leadership.

President Obama refused to characterize the overthrow as a coup, which of course it was, because to do so would legally terminate the annual bribe of $1.3 billion to the Egyptian armed forces — a token of America’s gratitude for maintaining good relations with Israel. On July 31 U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced that the Pentagon would participate in mid-September war games with the Egyptian army as its had done throughout the years of dictatorship.

The task of obliquely justifying the putsch fell to Secretary of State John Kerry. On July 17 he opined that before the coup there was “an extraordinary situation in Egypt of life and death, of the potential of civil war and enormous violence and you now have a constitutional process proceeding forward very rapidly. So we have to measure all of those facts against the law, and that's exactly what we will do."  On Aug. 1, he went further, alleging that the Egyptian army was “restoring order.” The next day, Egypt Independent reported, that an MB spokesperson “called Kerry's comments ‘alarming,’ and accused the U.S. administration of being ‘complicit’ in the military coup."

The U.S. and several countries, mostly western, are leading a very public “reconciliation” campaign essentially aimed at of convincing the leadership of the MB to capitulate, accept the overthrow, end the protests and “swallow the reality” of defeat. It is being portrayed as a peace effort, with no criticism directed toward the military that broke the law and evidently future jail terms for some MB leaders including Morsi who didn’t.

Under pressure from some in Congress, President Obama sent Republican Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham to Cairo Aug. 6 to suggest the U.S. might withdraw its yearly $1.5 billion stipend to the military unless the interim government took steps to restore democracy and conduct new elections. They also called for the release of Morsi and other MB political prisoners. Gen. Sisi already proclaims to be in the process of resuming democracy, so that’s not an issue. He would prefer to keep Morsi and other key Brotherhood leaders in prison for now lest they agitate for a return to power. This could be negotiated with Washington.

Clearly, despite remaining differences, it is just a matter of time —an “I” to be dotted, a “T” to be crossed — before Obama and Sisi will embrace in public.

A curious anti-Morsi coalition — a seemingly unprincipled amalgam of left, center and right, each with somewhat different agendas that they expect to advance by liquidating the Islamist government — has galvanized behind the military junta and is following its “roadmap” to the next elections.

Included in the coup-supporting coalition are (1) a large portion of the youthful protestors who launched the January 2011 Tahrir Square freedom struggle against the single-party rule of Mubarak’s now disbanded National Democratic Party, including such organizations as the April 6 Youth Movement and Tamarod; (2) opposition liberal, left, and secularist groups who have combined in the National Salvation Front, plus worker groups who demonstrated in the name of their unions; and (3) the many supporters of the old Mubarak regime joyfully emerging from the shadows to support the military that in 2011 forced their leader’s resignation and imprisonment.

Communist groups, underground for decades, materialized during the 2011 uprising. They all supported the second uprising too, but are not playing a significant role. The Egyptian Communist Party heartily backed Morsi’s overthrow and strongly argued it was a popular revolt, not a military coup. Other Marxist groups, viewing the MB as a reactionary right wing formation, similarly backed the anti-MB rebellion.

Most anti-Morsi organizations, including groups affiliated with the National Salvation Front, joined pro-military demonstrations called by Gen. Sisi himself July 26 to provide an additional popular mandate for increasing the suppression of “violence and terrorism,” primarily to crush continuing Brotherhood demonstrations. The interim cabinet declared: “Based on the mandate given by the people to the state… the cabinet has delegated the interior ministry to proceed with all legal measures to confront acts of terrorism and road-blocking.” The MB has not perpetrated any acts of “terrorism,” so the reference must have been to the Salafi struggle for power in Sinai. Road-blocking refers to two large long-lasting sit-down protests in Cairo by anti-coup forces.

On July 27, police slaughtered 82 Morsi supporters to break up one protest. They used live ammunition and shot to kill nonviolent demonstrators. In response, the Obama Administration muttered a few words lacking any significance. Imagine the outcry from Washington and the mass media had the slaughter taken place in Beijing, Moscow or Caracas. 

Weeks-long, huge  pro-Morsi sit-down protest in Cairo.

The conservative Economist magazine noted Aug. 3, “the new government is resurrecting the hated arms of Hosni Mubarak’s security state…. The liberal Egyptians who teamed up with the army to oust Mr. Morsi will come to regret their enthusiasm.”

Among such liberals, reported Los Angeles Times correspondent Jeffrey Fleishman July 3, was “Nobel laureate Mohamed ElBaradei, who once vilified army control, [but was] now asking the generals to reenter the scene in a moment of opportunity for both. ‘Every minute that passes without the armed forces intervention to perform its duties and protect the lives of Egyptians will waste more blood, especially since the person in the presidential position has lost his legitimacy and eligibility, and maybe even his mind,’ ElBaradei said.”

For his selfless efforts ElBaradei has been promoted to be the junta’s “Vice President for Foreign Affairs,” and from this exalted position he is now a big voice in the “reconciliation” campaign. Once the MB and its many millions of supporters “understand that Morsi failed” — that is, accept defeat —"they should continue to be part of the political process” and participate in the nation’s political affairs.
Children join tens of thousands of anti-coup protest.

The New York Times noted in an editorial July 31: “Whatever Egypt’s new military strongman… thought he was doing by summoning people to Tahrir Square [July 26] to demand a ‘mandate’ to fight terrorism, the result was to undermine Egypt’s prospects for stability even further. Whatever self-described pro-democracy groups thought they were doing by endorsing his call, the result was to strengthen the military and inflame raw divisions between civilian parties.”

The pro-military Tamarod — a youthful key group in building for the overthrow— encouraged all the opposition to attend Sisi’s rally. Tamarod (the name translates into “mutiny” or “rebellion,” depending on usage) justly rose to fame after collecting multi-millions of signatures demanding the ouster of Morsi, then by calling for the huge June 30 rally that drew many millions across the country. This protest provided an immediate excuse for Sisi to publicly give Morsi 48 hours to meet opposition demands or be removed.

Writing in the July 22 New Yorker, author Peter Hessler suggested the Tamarod was convinced beforehand the armed forces would intervene after the protest. During interviews in the Tamarod office just before the coup, he asked how they knew this would happen, and was told: “We know our army.” One source of this knowledge were the hints of a takeover emanating from some army officers, including Sisi, before the coup.

Tamarod maintains it has no outside funding for the extensive petition campaign but a millionaire businessman subsequently took credit for the funding, saying the youthful organizers may not have known where it came from. The group says 22 million people signed petitions but there has not been an independent count. 

(Continued below)

By Jack A. Smith
(Part 2 of 3 parts)

It is ironic that the military — formerly loathed for upholding the dictatorship for decades, then further reviled during its controversial 17-month governance until Morsi took office — is now supported by nearly the entire opposition. The officer corps only changed sides in 2011 to preserve and increase its power and privileges, rising to the occasion again in 2013 to enhance its position.

General Sisi, who is described as a dedicated Islamist, is now adored by multitudes in the increasingly national chauvinist atmosphere engulfing the opposition, most members of which have averted their eyes to the murderous violence by military and police units against Morsi demonstrators. Rumors abound that Sisi himself is considering a run for president  .

New York Times Cairo correspondent David Kirkpatrick reported July 16 that in “the square where liberals and Islamists once chanted together for democracy, demonstrators now carry posters hailing as a national hero the general who ousted the country’s first elected president….  The voices on the left who might be expected to raise alarms about the military’s ouster of a freely elected government are instead reveling in what they see as the country’s escape from the threat that an Islamist majority would steadily push Egypt to the right.”

Both those who applaud or resist the coup claim to support electoral democracy and the creation of a better society for Egypt’s 83 million people. From a left perspective, the various points of view about Morsi’s ejection revolve around one main question: Is a military-led coup against an elected government, backed by millions of demonstrators who prefer to elect another government (and could have done so in three years) — a progressive or regressive change within the capitalist context? (The issue of anti-capitalism is not on the agenda so far.)

The opposition forces claim theirs is a progressive step forward, and that the military “joined with the masses” to oust a “failed” regime. The Muslim Brotherhood, by far the country’s largest political organization, maintains that a regressive military coup illegally destroyed a democratically elected government and jailed its leaders.

In order to provide context for determining whether this is a progressive or regressive coup, it is important to understand whether there have been changes in the “deep state” power relations since the days of the dictatorship in four key areas — the military, the ruling class, the bureaucracy and the security forces. This will be followed by a discussion of the MB government’s year in office, the possible reasons for the coup, the politics and actions of the military and civil opposition, the needs of the Egyptian people, and the role of various countries in and around the Middle East.

1. The military has not changed. It has enjoyed near autonomy and virtual control of the government, openly or behind the scenes, for some 60 years, beginning as a left exponent of pan-Arab socialism and developing close relations with the Soviet Union. During the 1970s, President Anwar Sadat broke with Moscow in order to develop closer relations with the United States and capitalism. Since that time Cairo has become increasingly subject to American influence, receiving cash subsidies, training, equipment, international backing and guidance from Washington.

The armed forces were the power behind the dictatorial throne of President Mubarak, a former air force general, from 1981 to 2011 when he was ousted by the military in league with mass popular demonstrations seeking Western-type democratic elections. As soon as it was understood American interests would not be subverted, President Obama dropped Mubarak. The military continued as the ultimate power behind the democratic presidency of Morsi until he, too, was overthrown. The military always claims it does not want to be involved in the politics of running the country, but it has every intention of continuing its traditional role in the next government.

Gen. Sisi, who has just named himself first deputy prime minister as well as retaining his position of defense minister and head of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), received his master’s degree at the U.S. Army War College in Pennsylvania in 2006. Last year the pro-opposition newspaper al-Tahrir reported that Sisi had "strong ties with U.S. officials on both diplomatic and military levels." Doubtless, both the Pentagon and SCAF communicate daily these days.

2. The ruling class has not changed. Perhaps a few Islamist millionaires who honestly supported the Morsi government will no longer be welcome, but the moneyed interests, the bankers, the big investors, the corporate heads, the owners of the mass media, the military leaders and the security chiefs will remain in place. Virtually all supported Mubarak during his long years in power. They easily survived the transition to Morsi as they will the next regime, probably expanding their powers in the process.

3. The government bureaucracy has not changed. While heads of various government departments were mostly replaced when Morsi took power last year, and will be so again under the new regime, the basic organization and politics of the bureaucracy remain very similar to the Mubarak years. Morsi had to make do with a long-established officialdom that knew the ropes (as he didn’t), and which largely opposed him. The New York Times July 17 pointed out there is a “widespread perception that Egypt’s sprawling state bureaucracy had stopped cooperating with Mr. Morsi” before the latest coup.

4. The security forces have not changed. The national police and other security forces were only formally under Morsi government control. They remained largely the same repressive apparatus that Mubarak built to control the population. They fought actively during the first uprising in 2011to oppose the demonstrations against dictatorial authority but often turned their backs when MB facilities were trashed by anti-Morsi protestors. Morsi’s interior minister, Mohamed Ibrahim (a former general with close ties to the military), who did nothing to reform Mubarak’s brutal security and police apparatus, was reappointed to his position by the new government. In essence, according to The Economist July 6, “since the 2011 revolution, Egypt’s police force has abandoned many of its duties, helping generate a threefold surge in serious crime.” They appear to have returned with a vengeance.

So what has changed in Egypt since early 2011 when the Arab Spring began? Two main things.

1. The Egyptian masses in their many millions diverted the course of history when they bravely took to the streets to oust the dictatorship in quest of a form of democracy that would bring about improvements in the lives of the people. The causes were extremely high poverty (nearly 50%), devastating unemployment, weak and further reduced social services and subsidies due to the economic crisis, and the lack of political freedom.

Young people inspired by the Tunisian revolution weeks earlier initiated the uprising, They called for a demonstration in Tahrir Square Jan. 25, 2011. Unexpectedly, gigantic numbers of people joined the protest seeking a free and more open democratic society, jobs and a much improved economy. Within weeks there were millions of protesters in Tahrir Square and throughout the country. The MB did not join the Tahrir uprising at first but eventually entered the struggle. They were very cautious, having recently emerged from decades of government repression.

By mid-February Mubarak and vice president Omar Suleiman handed power to the armed forces, which facilitated their departures and ruled for the next year and a half. The U.S. effortlessly transferred its 30-year support for the old dictator to Gen. Sisi and the SCAF — an institution with which Washington had long enjoyed deep and fruitful ties. Mubarak was tried and sentenced to life in prison for allowing the army to kill peaceful protestors. The military disbanded parliament, ended “emergency laws,” suspended the constitution and appointed an interim leadership pending elections. Sharp protests continued from time to time because the ruling SCAF was both distrusted and not moving fast enough to bring about a democratic structure.

2. The political system was transformed from a capitalist dictatorship to a capitalist electoral democracy — a step forward that allowed the Egyptian people to elect their leadership for the first time in thousands of years. One year later, of course, a second military coup removed the elected government, backed by the same popular forces that fought to establish elections.

Morsi won the June 2012 election honestly with 51.73% of the vote but there are reasons to believe that a proportion of his majority backed him grudgingly. Four candidates ran in phase one of the balloting. Morsi won with 24.78% of the vote, which mainly came from the MB and other Islamic parties. Second was Ahmed Shafiq with 23.66% of the vote — presumably from supporters of the old regime, considering that he was a former air force commander who served a decade in Mubarak’s cabinet and was the dictator’s last prime minister, serving five weeks until early March 2011. In the runoff election — given the choice of a candidate who had been a Mubarak man or one from a powerful religious organization that was harassed by the old regime, a majority voted for Morsi. Shafiq, however, won a startling 47.27% of the vote.

Virtually as soon as he became Egypt’s first democratically elected president Morsi was confronted by fairly strong opposition waiting for him to fail. The honeymoon period lasted less than two months before there were protests seeking to remove him from office. Much of the mass media, mostly owned by Mubarak supporters, began criticizing him almost immediately, some viciously.

The New York Times reported, only a few months after he took office, that “Morsi’s advisers and Brotherhood leaders acknowledged that outside his core base of Islamist supporters he feels increasingly isolated in the political arena and even within his own government.”

One of the more interesting facts about the removal of the Islamist president is that the popularity of the MB, the Freedom and Justice Party (the vehicle for Morsi’s election victory) and to an extent Morsi himself is not terribly low — at least about three months before the coup. Here are the basic results from a public opinion poll conducted March 3-23, 2013, by the respected Pew Global Attitudes Project:

“Only 30% of Egyptians think the country is headed in the right direction, down from 53% last year and 65% in 2011, in the days after the revolution…. Despite the negative views about the country’s direction, most Egyptians still have a positive view of the Muslim Brotherhood, the organization that has been the dominant political force in post-Mubarak Egypt. Still, the group’s ratings have declined somewhat over the past two years – 63% give it a positive rating today, compared with 75% in 2011. About half (52%) express a favorable opinion of the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated Freedom and Justice Party…. The National Salvation Front (NSF), a relatively secular coalition of opposition forces, receives more negative reviews” than the MB and NSF. In time this seeming contradiction may be clarified.

Clearly there were strong doubts about Morsi and the MB, not only from those who backed Shafiq but from many who supported the MB candidate to keep the former regime out of power. This was hardly an auspicious beginning for Morsi.

Another factor was distrust of a religious regime. Islam has been Egypt’s state religion for many years. But ever since the leftist Free Officers Movement led by Gamal Abdel Nasser seized power in 1952 Egypt has kept religious parties off the ballot. Morsi was not only the first elected president, and the first non-military president, he was also the first Islamist president.

In seeking office the MB conveyed the impression it did not seek to impose an extreme Islamist government upon the country. Of the three main organized currents in Sunni Islam — the Muslim Brotherhood, the Wahhabi movement (and associated Salafism), and al-Qaeda (plus allied jihadist groupings) — the MB is the mildest and most open to modern governing structures. However, it is considered hyper-conservative on cultural issues, such as the rights of women, and it wasn’t trusted by large numbers of Egyptians.

The Morsi government committed a number of political miscalculations and blunders. Chief among them was its refusal in office to take meaningful steps to convince dubious constituencies that compose the opposition that he wanted to govern collegially by giving their concerns serious consideration. The MB and Morsi had no experience in governing or sophistication in relating to liberal and progressive Muslims and non-Muslims.  

Morsi governed as a majoritarian — a politician who thinks an electoral majority entitles a regime to do as it pleases without regard for the views of the opposition. A mature democracy may be able to survive this but it is unwise in a society’s first elected government when the opposition entertains deep worries.

During the campaign the MB, according to The Economist, “refrained from pushing an overtly Islamic agenda, for instance banning alcohol or enforcing corporal punishment, with the zeal which might have been feared. But in power the Brotherhood began to abandon its previous caution regarding its foes. Morsi appeared to dismiss secular opponents and minorities [Coptic Christians or Shia Muslims] as politically negligible. Instead of enacting the deeper reforms that had been a focus of popular revolutionary demands, such as choosing provincial governors by election rather than presidential appointment, or punishing corrupt Mubarak-era officials, the Brothers simply inserted themselves in key positions.”

“The Brotherhood's single most divisive act,” writes socialist journalist Mazda Majidi of the Party for Socialism and Liberation, “was passing a constitution that was strongly opposed by all secular forces. The constitution trampled the rights of women and laid the basis for the oppression of religious minorities. Far from creating a consensus of the wide array of forces that overthrew the Hosni Mubarak dictatorship, the Brotherhood codified its own reactionary social policies into the constitution.”

(Continued below)

By Jack A. Smith
(Part 3 of 3 parts)

Morsi offered some concessions to quell the constitutional uproar, “but opposition leaders turned a deaf ear, reiterating their demands to begin an overhaul of the Islamist-dominated constitutional assembly itself,” reported the New York Times Dec. 7. The assembly passed the constitution in a very low turnout election.

The MB made a big error in developing the constitution by seeking to please the ultra-conservative Islamist Salafi to strengthen Egypt’s Islamic bloc. In return the Salafi al-Nour Party eventually broke with the Brotherhood and joined the opposition when it saw a coup was on the agenda. The anti-Morsi side welcomed this important new addition. (The Salafi party withdrew from the opposition camp to save its reputation after the junta’s police massacred unarmed Islamist MB supporters.)

In its brief one year in office the Morsi government was never able to control the military or police, so it ended up catering to these powerful institutions lest they make more trouble. Writing in CounterPunch July 7, Franklin Lamb explained:

“Some Congressional analysts believe that one of Morsi's biggest mistakes 
resulted from a deliberate policy of accommodation and not, as is commonly believed, confrontation. He allowed the military to retain its corporate autonomy [it controls businesses] and remain beyond civilian control. Furthermore, he included in 
his cabinet a large number of non-Muslim Brotherhood figures who 
abandoned him within months when the going got tough, thus presenting to the public an image that the government was on the verge of collapse. 

Some have suggested that Morsi should have brought the military to heel 
soon after he assumed power and was at the height of his popularity, just as the military was at its lowest point in public perception.”

Morsi faced a plethora of serious problems from day one. The worst was the dilapidated condition of the free falling economy, the root cause of Egypt’s most pressing problems. The culprit was grave economic mismanagement during the Mubarak years drastically compounded by the worldwide capitalist recession, its lingering effects and the last two years of political disruption.

The MB’s struggling government was helped by gifts of billions of dollars, mostly from oil-rich Qatar ($7 billion) and lesser amounts from friendly Turkey and some other sources. This helped, but not enough. The new military-guided regime was immediately gifted with $12 billion from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates.

The Cairo government is dependent on tourism, which brought in 17% of the country’s GNP until it vanished abruptly with the first mass demonstrations in early 2011. Investment dropped for the same reason. The price of food imports, largely wheat, increased after Morsi won the election.

In January 2011, when the first uprising began, unemployment was 8.9%. When Morsi took office in July 2012 it was 12.6%, and today it is 13.2%. About 80% of the jobless are workers under 30 years old. In urban areas, more than 50% of young men are unemployed — a politically volatile statistic. This situation was worsened in recent months when public anger boiled over due to fuel and electricity shortages. (The shortages ended virtually the day after Morsi was ousted, a coincidence that led critics to suspect that anti-MB sabotage intentionally caused the problem as an incentive for the uprising.)

The Brotherhood’s rise to power exposed a sharp dispute between the key Sunni factions in the region — the MB on one side and the more extreme Wahhabi, Salafi, and al-Qaeda orientations on the other.

Indian news analyst M. K. Bhadrakumar commented in Asia Times July 9: “The autocratic Persian Gulf oligarchies rushed to celebrate the overthrow of the elected government under Mohamed Morsi by the Egyptian military. Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah dispatched his congratulatory cable to Cairo within hours of the announcement of Morsi's ouster. The sense of jubilation is palpable that the Muslim Brotherhood, which spearheads popular stirrings against the Persian Gulf regimes, has lost power in Egypt.” (Saudi Arabia helps finance the Egyptian Salafi and cheered when the al-Nour Party joined the opposition.)

“In that respect,” William McCants wrote in Foreign Affairs July 7: “No Salafi is likely more pleased with the turn of events in Egypt than Ayman al-Zawahiri, the leader of al-Qaeda. For decades, Zawahiri has argued that the Muslim Brotherhood's engagement in party politics does nothing more than strengthen the hands of its adversaries and ratify an un-Islamic system of rule. Since the beginning of the Arab Spring, he has continued to make his argument that the West and its local proxies will never allow an Islamist government to actually rule. He doubtless views the coup as a final vindication of his argument.”

Syria was also elated by Egypt’s coup since Morsi called for the overthrow of the Assad government and even suggested that Egyptian Islamists consider joining the fight. However, Syria’s main ally, Iran, condemned the coup. Oil rich Qatar (which also opposes Assad in Syria) is odd monarchy out among the Gulf states, having provided generous funding to Morsi’s government and deploring the coup.

Turkey, which had very close relations with the MB regime in Egypt strongly opposed the coup. Foreign Minister Ahmed Davutoglu said: “A leader who came [to power] with the support of the people can only be removed through elections. It is unacceptable for democratically elected leaders, for whatever reason, to be toppled through illegal means, even a coup…. Turkey will take sides with the Egyptian people.”

Interestingly, although they are on opposite sides of the volatile Syrian civil war, Turkey and Iran are strongly united against the coup, despite Tehran’s silent reservations about Morsi’s recent anti-Shi’a comments and his backing for rebel forces in Syria. The interim regime in Cairo has already made friendly overtures to Damascus.

Remarking on the unusual Ankara-Tehran coupling, Bhadrakumar wrote: “The two key regional powers in the Middle East have now openly challenged the military junta in Egypt. It will have a profound impact on the so-called Arab Street. A Turkish-Iranian platform will be hard to resist, in geopolitical terms, for the coup's Arab enthusiasts — Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates,

Stratfor, the private geopolitical intelligence company, argues that the “coup does not bode well for international efforts to bring radical Islamists into the mainstream. However, it does serve the interests of Arab monarchies, particularly those of the energy-rich Gulf Cooperation Council states (and especially Saudi Arabia), most of which see the Brotherhood-style Islamist forces as a challenge to their legitimacy. The fall of the Morsi government has given them cause to celebrate because the Brotherhood’s political ideals run counter to their political interests.” The Egypt-centered Brotherhood has branches in Syria, Jordan, Gaza (Hamas), Tunisia and Morocco. It governs in the latter two countries. “Each group will be affected according to its particular geopolitical circumstances,” says Stratfor.

What lessons are to be deduced from the extraordinary mass demonstrations of the Egyptian people from 2011 to 2013. There are two important lessons, among others.

First, what occurred was an incredible display of the political power that can be generated when unprecedented numbers of people respond to mass popular dissatisfaction — in this case mammoth economic, political and social problems — uniting in prolonged militant actions in the streets, where everyone can see them and hear them. They booted out a dictator and elected a president.

Such actions do not often achieve a change of government, of course. But they certainly are — or should be — an inspiration for those who wish to change especially onerous or harmful government policies, if not government itself.

Second, while the people in the streets of Egypt were inspiring and they certainly changed history, the absence of a strong political organization with clear detailed goals and respected leadership, greatly weakened their accomplishment.

The army, which served a dictatorship for 59 of its 61 years, still rules, stronger than ever, having made the transition from a decrepit, failed Mubarak regime to a weak and pliable democracy. A difficult but worthwhile first experiment in electoral democracy was crushed by the military acting in the name of the mass opposition. Now, key figures from the old dictatorship have reappeared. There is no chance the next government will be politically left enough to resolve the grave problems plaguing the Egyptian people. The Muslim Brotherhood is about to be repressed again, and there is no telling how it will respond.

A number of the people who took an important part in the mass demonstrations seemed to believe that organization, goals and leadership could be replaced by individual or small group initiatives, enthusiasm and spontaneity. These qualities can go so far, but no further.

For the Egyptian people to build a viable electoral democracy with a program that puts the needs of the working masses first, they require an organization, leadership, allies, finances, strategy and tactics sufficient to attain that goal. The same methods exist for building socialism, which will be considerably more difficult to attain but offers far more benefits for the working class, middle class and the poor.

A number of left commentators have questioned the preference of some groups involved in the mass actions, such as Tamarod, a key player, to minimize the need for organization and leadership. In this regard here is a quote from an article in the July 7 CounterPunch titled, “The End of the ‘Leaderless’ Revolution,” by Cihan Tugal, who teaches Sociology at the University of California-Berkeley:

“Multiple anti-representation theses from rival ideological corners (anarchist, liberal, autonomist, postmodernist, etc.) all boil down to the following assumption: when there is no meta-discourse and no leadership, plurality will win. This might be true in the short-run. Indeed, in the case of Egypt, the anonymity of Tamarod’s spokespersons initially helped: the spokespersons (who are not leaders, it is held) could not be demonized as partisan populists. Moreover, thanks to uniting people only through their negative identity (being anti-Brotherhood), as well as to its innovative tactics, Tamarod mobilized people of all kinds. Still, the mobilized people fell prey to the only existing option: the old regime!

“When the revolutionaries do not produce ideology, demands and leaders, this does not mean that the revolt will have no ideology, demands and leaders. In fact, Tamarod’s spontaneous ideology turned out to be militarist nationalism, its demand a postmodern coup, its leader the feloul (remnants of the old regime). This is the danger that awaits any allegedly leaderless revolt: Appropriation by the main institutional alternatives of the institutions they are fighting against.

“It is time to globalize the lessons from the [actions of] 2011-2013. Let’s start with the U.S. and Egypt. What we learn from this case is that when movements don’t have (or claim not to have) ideologies, agendas, demands and leaders, they can go in two directions: they can dissipate (as did Occupy), or serve the agendas of others…. The end of the leaderless revolution does not mean the end of the Egyptian revolutionary process. But it spells the end of the fallacy that the people can take power without an agenda, an alternative platform, an ideology, and leaders.”

The accomplishment of the Egyptian masses in ridding themselves of a dictatorship is immense. The move toward bourgeois democracy is progressive within the confines of capitalism. But a variety of factors noted above have stalled this hopefully continuing progress, not least because of the absence of a unifying political organization with a point of view based upon the needs of the working people and a course of action leading to victory.

The MB won the election because it was an experienced large organization, toughened by government repression, that knew what it wanted. Had there been a similar secular organization with an enlightened progressive program representing the interests of the people, the MB may have lost. In general it seems the people prefer a secular progressive government that will do everything possible to serve their needs and interests.

Instead of building such an organization out of the willing masses that spontaneously answered the call for action against the dictatorship— an organization that could enter the next election — the army destroyed the first government and is guiding the masses toward a new conservative regime. The increasingly glorified and powerful military is not only welcoming back the reactionary Mubarakists, but is making certain that the other inhabitants of the deep state — the ruling class, bureaucracy and security forces  — will be pleased with their new accommodations.

Morsi made many mistakes, but he was known to be an Islamist when he was elected and he was not a repressive or dictatorial force. His mistakes could have been rectified through the democratic process without a military coup. The violence now directed at peacefully protesting supporters of the illegally deposed president are unjust.

There is still time to pursue the progressive course of revolution that began in January of 2011. The millions who took to the streets for democracy are still waiting for the political mechanism that will propel them to attaining their goals. As long as the masses remain active and prepared to take to the streets, and as long as there are progressive forces that recognize the necessity for building an organization to take power, the revolution continues.

By the Activist Newsletter

Historians usually define the 1950-53 Korean War as a stalemate since the war ended as it began at the 38th parallel that divided South Korea from North Korea, and the political situation on the Korean peninsula remained the same.

But President Obama has decided, after six decades and no historical evidence, to declare victory.

The commander in chief did so in Washington July 27 at an outdoor commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the armistice that temporarily halted hostilities in the 1950-53 Korean War. "Here, today,” he told a cheering crowd of elderly U.S. and South Korean veterans, “we can say with confidence that this war was no tie. Korea was a victory!"

Whence derives that confidence?  Obama was surely aware of history’s verdict when he claimed the bloody conflict was “no tie.” But he never explained how the U.S., which did most of the fighting in the so-called “UN Peace Action,” actually won. He couldn’t, but since the audience of old vets really loved it, and most Americans know little or nothing about the Korean War, why not claim victory?

President Obama was not known for an infatuation with the military before he entered the Oval Office. But since then he has demonstrated a pronounced militarist side. One aspect of this is his repeated public adulation of America’s Armed Forces, frequently defining them as “the best military in the world,” and repeatedly lavishing reverential praise upon military personnel. In his 2012 State of the Union speech he even declared: “At a time when too many of our institutions have let us down, they [the troops] exceed all expectations.”

From the beginning Obama wanted to undercut rightwing allegations that the Democrats were “soft on defense” and could not be trusted to protect the American people.  There are two other possibilities as well.

One is that his hyperbole is intended to inject a heavy dose of self-confidence in a military that isn’t winning any victories on his watch.  The long wars against absurdly weaker Iraq and Afghanistan have ended (or will end) in stalemates at a cost of several trillion dollars. The fault belongs to the politicians and the generals, but it is important to elevate the morale of the troops with embellishments of their prowess. The other two big wars since WWII ended weren’t victories either. Korea has been mentioned. Vietnam was a humiliating defeat.

It’s also entirely probable such exaggerations about the military and its accomplishments are intended to motivate the American people to continue paying the indecently expensive bills for Obama to “maintain our military superiority in all areas— air, land, sea, space and cyber,” as he lists them. This is in addition to the grossly disproportionate fear of terrorism that Washington has cultivated among the American people for over a decade.

The U.S. may be able to frighten every country in the world with its various weapons of mass destruction, but on the ground in a conventional fight against smaller, weaker foes, Obama knows the score. This is why the Pentagon is switching to drones, working to perfect automated battlefields with much fewer soldiers, and developing technologies for quick, devastating long distance wars.

But the Pentagon’s wars and the threat of future wars will continue as they have for the last 65 years since the U.S. emerged from the carnage of the Second World War as a superpower with the goal of achieving and maintaining global hegemony.

So now Korea’s a “victory” and eventually in a generation or two Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan may also become victories.

The ability to continue financing and feeding the insatiable maw of U.S. militarism is built on a variety of fabrications and will continue until the American people finally see through the fog of propaganda and rebel against the Warfare State.

By Liberation newspaper

On July 30, a judge in a military court found Bradley Manning guilty of 19 of the 21 charges brought against him. Although he was acquitted of “aiding the enemy,” the most serious he faced, Manning could still face a sentence of about 100 years' imprisonment.

It is absurd that the U.S. government would prosecute Manning, a whistleblower who exposed crimes and secrets that were being covered up by the Pentagon and State Department. It is equally absurd that the so-called justice system allows the real criminals in society—Wall Street drug launderers, CEOs responsible for willful and deadly negligence, racist murderers, killer cops and war criminals—to walk free. Below is a list of a dozen people, in no particular order, who should rightfully be sitting in prison cells instead of Bradley Manning.

1. George Zimmerman
Racist vigilante George Zimmerman murdered 17-year-old Trayvon Martin on Feb. 26, 2012, in Sanford, Fla., as Martin walked home from a convenience store. Although Zimmerman got out of his car with a handgun and stalked the totally unarmed Trayvon, while muttering racist insults about “punks” who “always get away,” he was found not guilty by an overwhelmingly white jury. Zimmerman has shown no remorse and expressed "no regrets" for his cold-blooded crime, going so far as to ask the Black community to apologize to him following his outrageous acquittal.

2. Don Blankenship
Former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship is responsible for the 2010 Upper Big Branch mine explosion that killed 29 coal miners in Raleigh County, W. Va. His insatiable drive for greater and greater profit led him to blatantly ignore safety regulations—the mine was cited for 57 infractions the month of the disaster, including two the very day of the explosion.

3. George W. Bush
President of the United States from 2001 to 2009 despite losing the popular vote in the dubious 2000 election, George W. Bush is a war criminal notorious for the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan and the 2003 invasion of Iraq. In addition to the deaths of well over one million civilians who were killed as a result of these wars, Bush supported the failed 2002 coup in Venezuela, the 2004 coup and subsequent occupation of Haiti, and the criminally negligent response to Hurricane Katrina, in which hundreds of mostly Black residents of New Orleans died after being totally abandoned by government “relief” agencies.

4. Johannes Mehserle
Bay Area Rapid Transit cop Johannes Mehserle murdered Oscar Grant, a Black man who had a 4-year-old daughter, on a train in Oakland, Calif., on New Year’s Day, 2009. Mehserle attacked Grant, who was trying to break up a fight, threw him on the ground and, while Grant was restrained and lying face down, fatally shot him in the back. Although Mehserle’s shocking crime was caught on video, he served less than eight months in prison and walks free today.

5. Joe Arpaio
Arizona's Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio is a symbol of racism and anti-immigrant hate, who has waged a campaign of terror against undocumented workers and all oppressed people since taking office in 1993. He regularly subjects prisoners to cruel and unusual punishment, was an outspoken backer of the SB1070 “show me your papers” law and has taken his department’s policy of racial profiling to such extremes that even the Department of Justice filed suit against him last year.

6. Ken Thompson
Money launderer of choice for a range of drug cartels, Ken Thompson served as CEO of Wachovia Corporation from 2000 until 2008—the sixth largest bank in the country until the financial crash led to its taxpayer-funded acquisition by Wells Fargo. He helped brutal narcotics trafficking syndicates embezzle an estimated $378 billion between 2004 and 2007, but unlike most victims of the racist war on drugs, his organization was able to settle out of court. They paid just a fraction of a percent of what they earned from their drug dealings.

7. Henry Kissinger
National security adviser from 1969-1975 and secretary of state from 1973 to 1977, Henry Kissinger played a key role in the genocidal Vietnam War and orchestrated the 1973 coup in Chile that led to 17 years of blood-soaked military dictatorship. For his distinguished service to world imperialism, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

8. Richard Haste
On Feb. 2, 2012, Officer Richard Haste kicked down the door into 18-year-old Ramarley Graham’s home in the oppressed South Bronx neighborhood of New York City, and then ran upstairs and fatally shot Graham in his bathroom based on the suspicion that he was in possession of a bag of marijuana. Graham was completely unarmed.

9. Dick Cheney
A key figure in the notorious Bush administration, former Vice-President Dick Cheney played a central role in the murderous invasion of Iraq and the adoption of torture as an official government policy. The CEO of energy conglomerate Halliburton immediately prior to taking office, he used the brutal occupation of Iraq as an opportunity to reward his business connections. 

10. Luis Posada Carriles
International terrorist Luis Posada Carriles began his career as a torturer for Venezuela’s now-defunct DISIP secret police, but soon became a central figure in the CIA-backed campaign of counter-revolutionary terrorism against Cuba. Along with his accomplice Orlando Bosch, he carried out the bombing of Cubana Airlines flight 455 in 1976, killing all 73 people on board. He now lives in Miami.

11. Oliver North
Current TV personality and author, Ret. Col. Oliver North was in charge of the Iran-Contra scheme in which he illegally funneled money to the “Contra” death squads attempting to undo the historic 1979 Sandinista revolution in Nicaragua. Working closely with cocaine traffickers, this arrangement was an important component of a broader reign of terror imposed by the U.S. government aimed at repressing revolutionary movements throughout Central America in the 1980s that led to hundreds of thousands of deaths.

12. Lamar McKay
As president of BP America, Lamar McKay is responsible for the 2010 BP oil spill following an explosion on the inadequately constructed Deepwater Horizon drilling rig that killed 11 workers. Hundreds of millions of gallons of oil filled the Gulf of Mexico over the course of nearly three months, destroying the environment and devastating communities along the Gulf Coast. Currently, McKay is head of BP’s Upstream unit, which is tasked with oil and natural gas exploration.


By the activist Newsletter

1. America is the richest country on earth, but 50 million of us — over third of them children— go hungry. Debates on how to address hunger, in both Congress and the media, are filled with tired clichés about freeloaders undeserving of government help. If this concerns you at all, do not miss the recent Bill Moyers interview with two of the women associated with the powerful new documentary “A Place at the Table,” about hunger and the poor. It’s online at’s-hungry/.

2. Most readers are aware of President's Obama's remarks in the aftermath of the jury decision not to convict George Zimmerman for the murder of unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin. It's good he spoke up, and many people were moved by his statement. However, we suggest you check out Amy Goodman’s July 22 interview with Cornell West, the African American public intellectual who teaches at Union Theological Seminary. He took Obama to task on Democracy Now for offering too little, too late, and for his failure to challenge the "New Jim Crow.” West’s comments hit the mark. It’s available online (video, voice or text) at

3. Readers interested in an anti-capitalist view of national and international news should tune in to the weekly half-hour Liberation Radio broadcast online. It’s a valued supplement to such progressive media as Democracy Now and Bill Moyers. This week’s Liberation Radio focuses on three topics: Bradley Manning’s conviction, a travesty of justice; Obama on Trayvon, the words left unsaid; California unites against police brutality. It is at

4. Have you heard about Nadezhda Popova? Probably not, so we recommend that you read her obituary published in the July 15 New York Times. Popova, a World War II “Night Witch” for the Red Army, died recently at the age of 91. What an incredible life she led as a young woman fighting the Nazi invaders. It’s online at

5. On July 26, radical hip-hop producer Agent of Change released a "beat tape" to mark the 60th anniversary of the start of the Cuban Revolution. Agent of Change, also known as London-based activist and writer Carlos Martinez, said: "The 18 hip-hop instrumentals - with a couple of feature
verses from Fidel Castro and Nelson Mandela — celebrate Cuban culture, drawing influence and samples from Cuba’s diverse musical heritage."

By Glen Greenwald

One of the worst myths Democratic partisans love to tell themselves — and everyone else – is that the GOP refuses to support President Obama no matter what he does. Like its close cousin — the massively deceitful inside-DC grievance that the two parties refuse to cooperate on anything — it's hard to overstate how false this Democratic myth is. When it comes to foreign policy, war, assassinations, drones, surveillance, secrecy, and civil liberties, President Obama's most stalwart, enthusiastic defenders are often found among the most radical precincts of the Republican Party.

The rabidly pro-war and anti-Muslim GOP former Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, Peter King, has repeatedly lavished Obama with all sorts of praise and support for his policies in those areas. The Obama White House frequently needs, and receives, large amounts of GOP Congressional support to have its measures enacted or bills it dislikes defeated. The Obama DOJ often prevails before the US Supreme Court solely because the Roberts/Scalia/Thomas faction adopts its view while the Ginsburg/Sotomayor/Breyer faction rejects it (as happened in February when the Court, by a 5-4 ruling, dismissed a lawsuit brought by Amnesty and the ACLU which argued that the NSA's domestic warrantless eavesdropping activities violate the Fourth Amendment; the Roberts/Scalia wing accepted the Obama DOJ's argument that the plaintiffs lack standing to sue because the NSA successfully conceals the identity of which Americans are subjected to the surveillance). As Wired put it at the time about that NSA ruling:
The 5-4 decision by Justice Samuel Alito was a clear victory for the President Barack Obama administration, which like its predecessor, argued that government wiretapping laws cannot be challenged in court."

The extraordinary events that took place in the House of Representatives July 24 are perhaps the most vivid illustration yet of this dynamic, and it independently reveals several other important trends. The House voted on an amendment sponsored by Justin Amash, the young Michigan lawyer elected in 2010 as a Tea Party candidate, and co-sponsored by Michigan’s John Conyers, the 24-term senior Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee. The amendment was simple. It would de-fund one single NSA program: the agency's bulk collection of the telephone records of all Americans that we first revealed in this space, back on June 6. It accomplished this "by requiring the FISA court under Sec. 215 [of the Patriot Act] to order the production of records that pertain only to a person under investigation".

The amendment yesterday was defeated. But it lost by only 12 votes: 205-217. Given that the amendment sought to de-fund a major domestic surveillance program of the NSA, the very close vote was nothing short of shocking. In fact, in the post-9/11 world, amendments like this, which directly challenge the Surveillance and National Security States, almost never get votes at all. That the GOP House Leadership was forced to allow it to reach the floor was a sign of how much things have changed over the last seven weeks.

—This article is continued on the Guardian (UK) website at

By the Activist Newsletter

Can there be any doubt about the American political system’s quick-march to the right? The increasing rightward trend has been going on for decades, but in recent years the trend has become a near craze for the Republican Party and an occasion for tut-tutting — but little more — by the Democratic Party, which itself is chiseling away at American equality and democracy.

How else to explain the recent Republican House vote eliminating food stamps for 47 million poor, hungry Americans, half of them children? Or right wing successes in weakening abortion rights in state legislatures? Or the accelerated conservative campaign to destroy public service unions in several states? Or the ultra-conservative Supreme Court’s decision to gut the Voting Rights Act?

Simultaneously, the Democrats are rapidly converting America into a global surveillance state where virtually every move by the people is noted, recorded and retrieved at will. When whistle-blower Edward Snowden revealed the extent of the government’s secret criminal destruction of our liberties, the Big Brothers in Washington branded him a disloyal saboteur in the land of freedom and harmony. Opinion polls show most people view him as a whistle-blower, not a traitor.

Democrat Jimmy Carter, not much of a president but the best ex-president America ever had, evaluated Snowden’s revelations and concluded July 16: “America has no functioning democracy.” He was essentially referring to the appalling expansion of surveillance during the Bush and Obama Administrations. 

President Obama tried to make the revelations appear trivial but he has ordered a vast tightening of government security systems, and he will employ all his formidable powers to severely punish Snowden for exposing the shocking extent of his administration’s contempt for the civil liberties and privacy rights of the American people. Good grief, they even photograph every envelope we send or receive via snail mail. One looks back with nostalgia to the days when they mainly just tapped our phones.

The center right Democratic Party ignores its own excesses and wrings its hands over those of the far right but does virtually nothing to fight the Tea Party-infused Republicans because it is politically unable to fight fire with the return fire that is required. It has made a decent showing on behalf of certain women’s rights and gay marriage, but in general it is characterized by conciliation and compromise with the right as they collude in crippling our democracy.

The Democrats are not defending the great majority of the American people — the poor, the working class and lower middle class and a substantial sector of the middle class as well — against the reactionary onslaught. Our electoral system is in the hands of big money and our democracy is gradually corroding. The Democrats may be better than the obstructionists of the far right, but they are clearly part of the problem, infrequently part of the solution.

President Obama refuses to create a serious jobs program to cut unemployment. He won’t take meaningful action to halt foreclosures. He shuts his eyes to the economic crisis afflicting the black community. He won’t fight on behalf of the labor movement. He has not taken one step in the direction of reducing ever-mounting inequality in America. And despite his recent hopeful rhetoric, he has done nothing to halt global warming.

Instead, the White House coddles the corporations, bails out the bankers, weakens Wall St. regulations, panders to the wealthy1%, pursues militarism and weakens our civil liberties.

How long are we going to suffocate in a two party system of right and center right, of evil and lesser evil? How long before the people build a viable and broad political left to wage a decisive struggle against the forces of reaction and lead the advance to a better life for the great majority of Americans?

By the Activist Newsletter

According to the July 2013 jobs report from the Bureau of Labor StatisticsAug. 2, unemployment in America remains unacceptably —7.4%, four years after the Great Recession ended.

When will “full” employment return to America? (Full employment, according to the U.S. government, means that “only” about 5% of the U.S. workforce will still be jobless.)

The Economic Policy Institute (EPI) suggests it may take five more years to attain “full” status.

Liberal economist Paul Krugman, writing in the July 8 New York Times, declared with exasperation: “Full recovery still looks a very long way off. And I’m beginning to worry that it may never happen.”

The new jobs report claimed that 162,000 jobs had been created in July, which motivated CNN to report that “the job market made solid improvement last month, sending signals to markets that the Federal Reserve is on track to start pulling back on its stimulus program.” It should be noted that population growth is somewhat over 90,000 a month so that must be subtracted from the totals.

EPI notes that the June rate “brought the average monthly job growth of the last three months to 196,000. This rate is an improvement, as the average growth rate for the previous 12 months was 169,000.” However, EPI reported: “At the current pace of job growth, it will be more than five years until the economy returns to the pre-recession unemployment rate [4.4%], an indication of how little progress we have made over the last four years towards undoing the damage caused by the Great Recession.

“The gap in our labor market is so profound that even if we added more than a million jobs each quarter, it would take us another 2.5 years to be made whole. Behind these numbers is the financial and emotional toll that unemployment takes on millions of Americans who want to work but cannot find jobs.

Getting the kind of job growth we need would take a radical shift from policy makers. Absent that shift, we can expect to see elevated unemployment for years to come — which represents an ongoing disaster for the U.S. workforce.”

USA Today declared July 5: “The underemployment rate — a broader gauge of joblessness that includes people who stopped looking for work and part-time workers who prefer full-time jobs, as well as the unemployed — jumped to 14.3% from 13.8%. The number of so-called involuntary part-time workers increased by 322,000 to 8.2 million.” All told, this includes about 23 million people. Not included are 2.3 million incarcerated Americans.

African Americans have been hit hardest by unemployment —12.6%. Latinos are next, 9.4%. Whites, 6.6%. The rate for young workers (16 to 24) is 16.3%, and for teenagers only, 23.7%.

A July 5 article in points out: “There is the ongoing crisis in the quality of American jobs. 2/3 of jobs are being created in the retail trade, and the leisure and hospitality sectors. These jobs pay poorly. At the same time, leisure and hospitality jobs are heavily part time. Overall, job hours remain largely static and wages are either stagnant or falling slightly behind, despite a low inflation rate.”

The Obama Administration has utterly failed to provide adequate jobs programs to bring about full employment. Asking “What, exactly, will bring us back to full employment?” Krugman answered: “We certainly can’t count on fiscal policy. The austerity gang may have experienced a stunning defeat in the intellectual debate, but stimulus is still a dirty word, and no deliberate job-creation program is likely soon, or ever.

“Aggressive monetary action by the Federal Reserve, something like what the Bank of Japan is now trying, might do the trick. But far from becoming more aggressive, the Fed is talking about ‘tapering’ its efforts. This talk has already done real damage.

“Someday, I suppose, something will turn up that finally gets us back to full employment. But I can’t help recalling that the last time we were in this kind of situation, the thing that eventually turned up was World War II.”

Why is “full” employment actually about 5% unemployment?  Structural unemployment of this nature is entirely acceptable to Wall Street and the business sector because it provides a ready supply of desperate workers when needed. It also acts to reduce working class/lower middle class wages and benefits since millions of unemployed workers are ready to replace employees dissatisfied with their low pay and working conditions.

Unions protect workers through collective bargaining with employers for wages and benefits, but decades of anti-union campaigns by management and anti-labor legislation have drastically reduced union membership and power, leading to lower wages. This situation has seemed to worsen regardless of whether Republicans or Democrats dominate Washington.

A more realistic full employment rate, where only 1% or 1.5% of the working age population was seeking jobs, would significantly strengthen labor at the expense of capital. But even when unemployment is 7.6%, capital is hardly complaining or taking any action to facilitate a real jobs program, as long as its own profits continue to pile up.

By the Activist Newsletter

The ultra-conservative war on the right to abortion is increasing throughout the U.S. in states where the right wing enjoys political leverage. Here are the major legislative restrictions on abortion enacted so far in 2013, based on reports from the American Civil Liberties Union. If you live in the Mid-Hudson region of New York State and wish to protest these infringements on the right to abortion, attend the big outdoor rally for women’s rights in New Paltz at Peace Park on Saturday, Sept. 7, at 1 p.m. Information,  

FEBRUARY — Arkansas enacted a law that bans abortion after 20 weeks. Arkansas enacted a law that prevents plans sold in the new health exchanges from offering comprehensive insurance coverage that includes abortion care.

MARCH — Arkansas went a step further and enacted a law that bans abortion after 12 weeks. The ACLU has challenged this bill in court, along with the ACLU of Arkansas and Center for Reproductive Rights.

North Dakota enacted a law that bans abortions after about 6 weeks (before a woman may know she is pregnant). The same state subsequently enacted a law that bans abortions when sought because of the sex of the fetus or because of fetal anomaly, even fatal fetal anomalies. Further, it enacted a law that requires that doctors providing abortions have admitting privileges at local hospitals. This bill is designed to shut down the one clinic in the state.

South Dakota enacted a law that declares the 72 hour waiting period between a woman’s first trip to the clinic and her abortion does not toll on a Saturday, Sunday, or holiday.

APRIL — Kansas enacted a sweeping anti-abortion law described by an opponent as "delightful" because it opens so many avenues to obstruct access. This law could force doctors to share information about a supposed link between breast cancer and abortion and aims to impose new taxes on the women who need abortions and the health centers that provide them. Also bans abortion based on the sex of the fetus and includes personhood language that could lay the groundwork for further restrictions.

Montana enacted a law that requires parental consent for a woman under 18 who needs an abortion.

Virginia enacted a law that prevents plans sold in the new health exchange from offering comprehensive insurance coverage that includes abortion care.

Virginia Board of Health approved regulations to require clinics to become like mini-hospitals, designed to force many to close. At least one clinic has already closed down.

MAY— Indiana enacted a law that imposes regulations intended for surgical facilities on clinics that provide only medical abortions. This law may prevent a Planned Parenthood site from continuing to provide abortion care.

On May 23, the U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee, Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice held a hearing on H.R. 1797, which would ban abortion care starting at 20 weeks of pregnancy. As introduced, the proposed ban would apply only to Washington, D.C., but its sponsor, Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), recently announced his intention to expand it nationwide.

JUNE — Pennsylvania enacted a bill that prevents women from obtaining comprehensive insurance coverage that includes abortion care in the new health care exchanges. 

The Ohio legislature enacted provisions that aim to make it harder on women to access abortion care. Legislation signed by the Governor would make it more difficult for clinic doctors to obtain written agreements from hospitals confirming hospitals’ willingness to accept the doctor’s patients in the rare event they need hospital care, even though (or because) hospitals face political pressure to deny such written confirmations. The legislation also includes ultrasound provisions and an attempt to block Planned Parenthood from receiving funding.

JULYSenators in North Carolina amended sweeping anti-abortion provisions on an unrelated House bill July 3, rushed it through the Senate and it now awaits action in the House. On July 29, the North Carolina Governor signed a bill that contains sweeping anti-abortion provisions, including opening the door to regulations that could shut down most providers in the state.

The Wisconsin legislature enacted a bill July 5 that could require a woman seeking an abortion to undergo an ultrasound, force doctors to display and describe the ultrasound image to her, and force the doctors performing the abortion to have special hospital privileges that have proven impossible to get in other states. The ACLU, ACLU of Wisconsin, and Planned Parenthood Federation of America have challenged this bill in court.

The Texas House passed a sweeping anti-abortion bill July 9 that could block women from accessing abortion care in most of the state and prevent doctors from treating women who need
an abortion. The bill now awaits Senate action.  On July 18 Legislators introduced another abortion restriction that opens the door to banning abortion very early in pregnancy, before a woman may know the health of her pregnancy and before she may even know she is pregnant at all. The same day, Texas Gov. Rick Perry today signed into law a sweeping anti-abortion bill that could result in the closure of most women's health clinics that provide abortions in the state and block doctors from providing abortion care when needed.


[The following article from the New York Review of Books dated Aug. 15, 2013, explains the inner workings of the U.S. Surveillance State. James Branford is the author of three books on the NSA, including “The Shadow Factory: The Ultra-Secret NSA from 9/11.” The link for continuing is below.]

By James Branford

In mid-May, Edward Snowden, an American in his late twenties, walked through the onyx entrance of the Mira Hotel on Nathan Road in Hong Kong and checked in. He was pulling a small black travel bag and had a number of laptop cases draped over his shoulders. Inside those cases were four computers packed with some of his country’s most closely held secrets.

Within days of Snowden’s documents appearing in The Guardian and The Washington Post, revealing several of the National Security Agency’s extensive domestic surveillance programs, bookstores reported a sudden spike in the sales of George Orwell’s classic dystopian novel 1984. On, the book made the “Movers & Shakers” list and skyrocketed 6,021% in a single day. Written 65 years ago, it described a fictitious totalitarian society where a shadowy leader known as “Big Brother” controls his population through invasive surveillance. “The telescreens,” Orwell wrote, “have hidden microphones and cameras. These devices, alongside informers, permit the Thought Police to spy upon everyone….”

Today, as the Snowden documents make clear, it is the NSA that keeps track of phone calls, monitors communications, and analyzes people’s thoughts through data mining of Google searches and other online activity. “Any sound that Winston made, above the level of a very low whisper, would be picked up by it,” Orwell wrote about his protagonist, Winston Smith.

“There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment. How often, or on what system, the Thought Police plugged in on any individual wire was guesswork. It was even conceivable that they watched everybody all the time. But at any rate they could plug in your wire whenever they wanted to. You had to live  — did live, from habit that became instinct  — in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and, except in darkness, every movement scrutinized.”

Of course the U.S. is not a totalitarian society, and no equivalent of Big Brother runs it, as the widespread reporting of Snowden’s information shows. We know little about what uses the NSA makes of most information available to it  — it claims to have exposed a number of terrorist plots  — and it has yet to be shown what effects its activities may have on the lives of most American citizens. Congressional committees and a special federal court are charged with overseeing its work, although they are committed to secrecy, and the court can hear appeals only from the government.

Still, the U.S. intelligence agencies also seem to have adopted Orwell’s idea of doublethink  —  “to be conscious of complete truthfulness,” he wrote, “while telling carefully constructed lies.” For example, James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, was  asked at a Senate hearing in March whether “the NSA collect[s] any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans.” Clapper’s answer: “No, sir…. Not wittingly.”

Three months later, following the revelations of the phone-log program in which the NSA collects telephone data  — the numbers of both callers and the length of the calls  — on hundreds of millions of Americans, Clapper switched to doublethink. He said that his previous answer was not a lie; he just chose to respond in the “least untruthful manner.” With such an Orwellian concept of the truth now being used, it is useful to take a look at what the government has been telling the public about its surveillance activities over the years, and compare it with what we know now as a result of the top secret documents and other information released by, among others, the former NSA contract employee Edward Snowden.

This article continues with details about the history America’s development into a surveillance state.

By Hope Yan

WASHINGTON — Four out of five U.S. adults struggle with joblessness, near-poverty or reliance on welfare for at least parts of their lives, a sign of deteriorating economic security and an elusive American dream.

Survey data exclusive to The Associated Press points to an increasingly globalized U.S. economy, the widening gap between rich and poor, and the loss of good-paying manufacturing jobs as reasons for the trend.

As nonwhites approach a numerical majority in the U.S., one question is how public programs to lift the disadvantaged should be best focused – on the affirmative action that historically has tried to eliminate the racial barriers seen as the major impediment to economic equality, or simply on improving socioeconomic status for all, regardless of race.

Hardship is particularly growing among whites, based on several measures. Pessimism among that racial group about their families' economic futures has climbed to the highest point since at least 1987. In the most recent AP-GfK poll, 63% of whites called the economy "poor."

"I think it's going to get worse," said Irene Salyers, 52, of Buchanan County, Va., a declining coal region in Appalachia. Married and divorced three times, Salyers now helps run a fruit and vegetable stand with her boyfriend but it doesn't generate much income. They live mostly off government disability checks.
"If you do try to go apply for a job, they're not hiring people, and they're not paying that much to even go to work," she said. Children, she said, have "nothing better to do than to get on drugs."

While racial and ethnic minorities are more likely to live in poverty, race disparities in the poverty rate have narrowed substantially since the 1970s, census data show. Economic insecurity among whites also is more pervasive than is shown in the government's poverty data, engulfing more than 76% of white adults by the time they turn 60, according to a new economic gauge being published next year by the Oxford University Press.

The gauge defines "economic insecurity" as experiencing unemployment at some point in their working lives, or a year or more of reliance on government aid such as food stamps or income below 150% of the poverty line. Measured across all races, the risk of economic insecurity rises to 79%.

Marriage rates are in decline across all races, and the number of white mother-headed households living in poverty has risen to the level of black ones.

"It's time that America comes to understand that many of the nation's biggest disparities, from education and life expectancy to poverty, are increasingly due to economic class position," said William Julius Wilson, a Harvard professor who specializes in race and poverty. He noted that despite continuing economic difficulties, minorities have more optimism about the future after Obama's election, while struggling whites do not.

"There is the real possibility that white alienation will increase if steps are not taken to highlight and address inequality on a broad front," Wilson said.

Nationwide, the count of America's poor remains stuck at a record number: 46.2 million, or 15% of the population, due in part to lingering high unemployment following the recession. While poverty rates for blacks and Hispanics are nearly three times higher, by absolute numbers the predominant face of the poor is white.

More than 19 million whites fall below the poverty line of $23,021 for a family of four, accounting for more than 41% of the nation's destitute, nearly double the number of poor blacks.
Sometimes termed "the invisible poor" by demographers, lower-income whites generally are dispersed in suburbs as well as small rural towns, where more than 60% of the poor are white. Concentrated in Appalachia in the East, they are numerous in the industrial Midwest and spread across America's heartland, from Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma up through the Great Plains….

In 2011 that snapshot showed 12.6% of adults in their prime working-age years of 25-60 lived in poverty. But measured in terms of a person's lifetime risk, a much higher number – 4 in 10 adults – falls into poverty for at least a year of their lives.

The risks of poverty also have been increasing in recent decades, particularly among people ages 35-55, coinciding with widening income inequality. For instance, people ages 35-45 had a 17% risk of encountering poverty during the 1969-1989 time period; that risk increased to 23% during the 1989-2009 period. For those ages 45-55, the risk of poverty jumped from 11.8% to 17.7%.

Higher recent rates of unemployment mean the lifetime risk of experiencing economic insecurity now runs even higher: 79%, or 4 in 5 adults, by the time they turn 60.

By race, nonwhites still have a higher risk of being economically insecure, at 90%. But compared with the official poverty rate, some of the biggest jumps under the newer measure are among whites, with more than 76% enduring periods of joblessness, life on welfare or near-poverty.

By 2030, based on the current trend of widening income inequality, close to 85% of all working-age adults in the U.S. will experience bouts of economic insecurity.

"Poverty is no longer an issue of ‘Them', it's an issue of “us” says Mark Rank, a professor at Washington University in St. Louis who calculated the numbers. "Only when poverty is thought of as a mainstream event, rather than a fringe experience that just affects blacks and Hispanics, can we really begin to build broader support for programs that lift people in need."

The numbers come from Rank's analysis being published by the Oxford University Press. They are supplemented with interviews and figures provided to the AP by Tom Hirschl, a professor at Cornell University; John Iceland, a sociology professor at Penn State University; the University of New Hampshire's Carsey Institute; the Census Bureau; and the Population Reference Bureau.
Among the findings:

• For the first time since 1975, the number of white single-mother households living in poverty with children surpassed or equaled black ones in the past decade, spurred by job losses and faster rates of out-of-wedlock births among whites. White single-mother families in poverty stood at nearly 1.5 million in 2011, comparable to the number for blacks. Hispanic single-mother families in poverty trailed at 1.2 million.
• Since 2000, the poverty rate among working-class whites has grown faster than among working-class nonwhites, rising 3%age points to 11% as the recession took a bigger toll among lower-wage workers. Still, poverty among working-class nonwhites remains higher, at 23%.

• The share of children living in high-poverty neighborhoods – those with poverty rates of 30% or more – has increased to 1 in 10, putting them at higher risk of teenage pregnancy or dropping out of school. Non-Hispanic whites accounted for 17% of the child population in such neighborhoods, compared with 13% in 2000, even though the overall proportion of white children in the U.S. has been declining.

—From Huffington Post, July 26, 2013.


[The Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz features a number of liberal writers. Among them is Gideon Levy, a long time columnist who often speaks his mind on controversial matters. In this July 14 article he for the first time calls for an economic boycott of Israel.]

By Gideon Levy

Anyone who really fears for the future of the country [Israel] needs to be in favor at this point of boycotting it economically.

A contradiction in terms? We have considered the alternatives. A boycott is the least of all evils, and it could produce historic benefits. It is the least violent of the options and the one least likely to result in bloodshed. It would be painful like the others, but the others would be worse.

On the assumption that the current status quo cannot continue forever, it is the most reasonable option to convince Israel to change. Its effectiveness has already been proven. More and more Israelis have become concerned recently about the threat of the boycott. When Justice Minister Tzipi Livni warns about it spreading and calls as a result for the diplomatic deadlock to be broken, she provides proof of the need for a boycott. She and others are therefore joining the boycott, divestment and sanction movement. Welcome to the club.

The change won’t come from within. That has been clear for a long time. As long as Israelis don’t pay a price for the occupation [of Palestinian territory], or at least don’t make the connection between cause and effect, they have no incentive to bring it to an end. And why should the average resident of Tel Aviv be bothered by what is happening in the West Bank city of Jenin or Rafah in the Gaza Strip? Those places are far away and not particularly interesting. As long as the arrogance and self-victimization continue among the Chosen People, the most chosen in the world, always the only victim, the world’s explicit stance won’t change a thing.

It’s anti-Semitism, we say. The whole world’s against us and we are not the ones responsible for its attitude toward us. And besides that, despite everything, the English singer Cliff Richard came to perform here. Most Israeli public opinion is divorced from reality  — the reality in the territories and abroad. And there are those who are seeing to it that this dangerous disconnect is maintained. Along with the dehumanization and demonization of the Palestinians and the Arabs, people here are too brainwashed with nationalism to come to their senses.

Change will only come from the outside. No one — this writer included, of course — wants another cycle of bloodshed. A nonviolent popular Palestinian uprising is one option, but it is doubtful that will happen anytime soon. And then there’s American diplomatic pressure and the European economic boycott. But the United States won’t apply pressure. If the Obama Administration hasn’t done it, no American administration will. And then there’s Europe. Justice Minister Livni said that the discourse in Europe has become ideological. She knows what she’s talking about. She also said that a European boycott would not stop at products made in West Bank settlements.

There’s no reason it should. The distinction between products from the occupation and Israeli products is an artificial creation. It’s not the settlers who are the primary culprits but rather those who cultivate their existence. All of Israel is immersed in the settlement enterprise, so all of Israel must take responsibility for it and pay the price for it. There is no one unaffected by the occupation, including those who fancy looking the other way and steering clear of it. We are all settlers.

Economic boycott was proven effective in South Africa. When the apartheid regime’s business community approached the country’s leadership saying that the prevailing circumstances could not continue, the die was cast. The uprising, the stature of leaders like Nelson Mandela and Frederik de Klerk, the boycott of South African sports and the country’s diplomatic isolation also contributed of course to the fall of the odious regime. But the tone was set by the business community.

And it can happen here too. Israel’s economy will not withstand a boycott. It is true that at the beginning it will enhance the sense of victimhood, isolationism and nationalism, but not in the long run. It could result in a major change in attitude. When the business community approaches the government, the government will listen and also perhaps act. When the damage is to every citizen’s pocketbook, more Israelis will ask themselves, maybe for the first time, what it’s all about and why it’s happening.

It’s difficult and painful, almost impossibly so, for an Israeli who has lived his whole life here, who has not boycotted it, who has never considered emigrating and feels connected to this country with all his being, to call for such a boycott. I have never done so. I have understood what motivated the boycott and was able to provide justification for such motives. But I never preached for others to take such a step. However, with Israel getting itself into another round of deep stalemate, both diplomatic and ideological, the call for a boycott is required as the last refuge of a patriot.


UNITED NATIONS, (IPS): The United Nations has singled out China – the world’s most populous country with over 1.3 billion people – as one of the key success stories in the longstanding battle against poverty.

Although extreme poverty rates have fallen in every developing region, says a new 60-page report released here last month, China is way ahead of the pack.

In China, extreme poverty dropped from 60% in 1990 to 16% in 2005 and 12% in 2010.

Still, “poverty remains widespread in sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia, although progress in the latter region has been substantial,” according to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) Report 2013, released Monday.

Following the launch of the report in Geneva, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon hailed the MDGs as “the most successful global anti-poverty push in history.”

The study takes stock of the successes and failures of the MDGs – aimed primarily at fighting poverty, hunger, illiteracy, disease and gender discrimination – which were approved at a summit of world leaders in September 2000, with a targeted deadline of 2015.

Despite impressive achievements at the global level, the study said, 1.2 billion people are still living in extreme poverty.

While trumpeting some of the successes, including big gains in improved health and reduction in hunger, the report says progress towards achieving the MDGs has been uneven – not only among regions and countries but also between population groups within countries.

The study also says that over two billion people gained access to improved sources of drinking water and there were “remarkable gains” in the fight against malaria and tuberculosis.
The bad news is that environmental sustainability is under severe threat, too many children are still denied their right to primary education, and there is less aid money overall, with the poorest countries most adversely affected.

Roberto Bissio, coordinator of the Uruguay-based Social Watch, an international non-governmental organization (NGO) advocating poverty eradication, told IPS the reduction of income poverty, highlighted as the single major achievement of the MDGs, happened almost exclusively in China.

“But it happened mainly before the year 2000, and thus cannot be honestly attributed as a success of the MDGs,” he added….

Shobha Das, director of programs at the London-based Minority Rights Group (MRG), told IPS that the MDGs served to build a global discourse around development needs, and they have achieved much.
“However, the MDGs appear to have consistently failed minorities and indigenous peoples around the world,” she said.

For example, in India, poverty rates have remained higher for minorities and indigenous peoples as compared to the overall population, she noted.

In Uganda, rates of malnourishment are higher for the minority pastoralist population than for non-pastoralists.

In Peru, a lower proportion of children from the Afro-Peruvian community complete primary school than the overall national rate.

A key reason for these disparities, she pointed out, is that governments have not been encouraged or incentivized to resist cherry-picking in the scramble to meet MDG targets.

“This has meant they have reached the easiest to reach populations, who are usually the majority communities, and left behind the harder to reach populations, who are usually minorities,” Das added.
An eye on inequality is therefore key to the success of the proposed Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), to be launched as part of the UN’s post-2015 development agenda.

“Without clear targets to reduce inequality and spread the benefits of development equally, it is all too likely that the failures of the MDGs for minorities and indigenous peoples will be repeated post-2015,” she said….

The World Bank and the different drafts for a post-2015 agenda claim that “for the first time ever” it is now possible to eradicate extreme poverty by 2030….

Paradoxically, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is now saying that poverty in developed countries and inequalities everywhere are an obstacle for recovery of the global economy.