Saturday, July 09, 2016

Why They Left

by Costas Lapavitsas - Jacobin

July 7, 2016

Brexit wasn't the first time Europeans rejected the EU, and it won’t be the last. Here's what the Left should do. 

The Leave victory in the British referendum represents a moment of political confusion — a hiatus in the opposition between social classes. No class appears capable of directing events. The ruling class has no clear plans for the future, and seems temporarily stunned.

The working class and the poor have expressed great anger at the state of affairs of both society and nation, but are also deeply divided, with contradictory ideas prevailing in their midst.

The formless middle class is deeply frustrated at the turn of events and would like a firm hand at the tiller, but has no idea how to achieve this outcome.

Such moments call for a decisive political force to alter the social balance. Historically, moments like these have been captured by powerful personalities, who placed their stamp on social development, but there is no Churchill, not even a Pitt or a Wellington, in Britain at present.

Instead, the responsibility for taking the country out of the impasse lies with the personnel of the established political parties. Nor will the sense of confusion last long. Already the Tory Party, ruthless electoral machine that it is, has begun to adapt itself to the new conditions. If it succeeds, the outcome for working people will be thoroughly negative. This is the peril of the referendum.

The onus for averting such an outcome and taking the country forward lies with the Labour Party, which also faces profound turmoil. The Labour Party could give shape to the yearnings of the working class and the poor, whether they voted for Leave or Remain.

It is incumbent upon it to present a fresh vision of society and nation, taking Britain down a path that favors the interests of the great majority. This is the promise of the referendum, but for that the Labour Party must put its own house in order.

The referendum has created this sharp choice for Britain because it represents a shift of the tectonic plates in British society. A careful look at the results together with an extensive exit poll of more than twelve thousand people conducted by Lord Ashcroft polls — considered in the context of preceding political events — reveal two rifts, one far more profound than the other.

The Minor Rift

The minor rift is present within the British ruling class: the majority of financiers, industrialists, merchants, real estate speculators, and others favor staying in the European Union, while a much smaller minority have opted for Brexit. The evidence of the relative size of the two sides is undeniable.

More than 80 percent of Confederation of British Industry (CBI) members have come out in favor of Remain, while a mere 5 percent have declared for Leave. While a veritable roll call of British business leaders signed letters to the press advocating Remain, a vocal and well-connected minority has come out in favor of Leave.

This state of affairs is not surprising. The economic interests of the bulk of the British ruling class lie in close connections with the European Union, particularly in the freedom to trade without barriers within the Common Market.

In 2015 44.4 percent of British exports went to the European Union, while 53.6 percent of imports came from the same; there is no doubt that any significant disruption of these flows through tariffs or other barriers would have a negative effect on British big business.

Furthermore, the financial operations of the City also dictate remaining in the European Union; the City operates as a huge offshore center for the European Union, and despite the fact that the putative integration of European banking would probably have a negative impact on its activities. The Single Supervisory Mechanism and the rest of the regulatory institutions created by the European Union to oversee its Banking Union are likely to affect the freedom of the City to engage in speculative and other business.

Despite this interdependence, Britain is far less integrated into the EU networks than the core countries of the union. Trade links between Britain and the European Union are actually among the weakest within the twenty-eight-member union, similar by order of magnitude to trade flows between Greece and the European Union as well as Italy and the European Union. In contrast, for both France and Germany trade with the EU accounts for nearly 60 percent of exports and 70 percent of imports.

By contrast, the Leave side of the ruling class is a motley group without a strong sectoral character, who partly hope to trade more intensely outside the European Union. More than that, however, Leave supporters hope to advance a more thorough neoliberal agenda by ridding Britain of EU regulations and further reducing labor rights and social protection.

These noble aspirations certainly do not leave the rest of the British ruling class unmoved, and the relatively modest size of the Leave group should not obscure its considerable social weight and significance.

Above all, the Leave side reflects the long-standing suspicion of the entire British ruling class toward the economic and political ambitions of the EU project. Leave supporters have acted as the inner voice of the British establishment, reminding even Remain supporters that something is not quite right with the European Union, even if no-one is entirely clear what that is.

It is not hard to find evidence of the skeptical attitude toward the European Union that extends across the British ruling class but takes a sharp form only with the Leave side. Britain refused to join the European Monetary Union (EMU) and the chances that it would eventually adopt the euro were almost nil.

Avoiding the EMU turned out to be a wise decision in the wake of the 2008–9 financial crisis, but it also gave rise to a long-term problem for Britain, given that the European Union as a whole has come increasingly to rely on the institutions of the common currency. The European Central Bank, the Eurosystem, the European Stability Mechanism, and a host of other institutions that are vital to the monetary union have become the locus of policy-making within the EU.

Indeed, the European Union has effectively reshaped itself since 2010 to ensure the survival of the euro. It is far from clear how Britain would have continued to function within the EU while refusing to participate in the EMU.

Trade relations between the two are certainly important, but trade alone would never have been enough to ensure the integration of Britain into a changing European Union. The Leave side, in its own inarticulate manner, has reflected this core difficulty faced by the entire British ruling class.

The Major Rift

The true significance of the referendum, however, is that the rift within the British ruling class has acted as catalyst for the emergence of a far deeper rift within British society. This is a common occurrence when great historic events take place.

If the ruling is class is uniform in its outlook, it is much harder for deeper rifts in society to come to the surface; the dominated classes have few opportunities to voice their desires and demands. But if the ruling class itself is split, deep social rifts have the potential to become yawning chasms. This is precisely the state that Britain finds itself in.

Income and Employment

It is undeniable that the majority of the poor and the working class in Britain have voted in favor of Leave. According to the Ashcroft poll, 64 percent of the C2, D, and E categories voted for Brexit; these are basically skilled and unskilled manual workers, casual workers, those who depend on the welfare state for their income, and so on.

In contrast, groups A and B — higher and intermediate managerial, or administrative layers — voted to stay. Group C1 — junior managerial, or administrative layers — were split roughly down the middle.

These sociological descriptions correspond poorly with the traditional class categories in Marxist analysis. For one thing, they don’t include a ruling class, or even a well-defined capitalist class. Yet they still highlight the social composition of the voting camps. The poor and the working class have voted, by and large, for Leave.

The middle class, on the other hand, especially the higher professional and managerial groups have opted for Remain. This seismic shift reflecting a profound divide in British society, lies beneath the class hiatus in the country at present.


The significance of this rift is made visible by the geographical distribution of the referendum results (which have been provided by the BBC). The social balance always has a geographical dimension reflecting the distribution of skill, the local accumulation of wealth and poverty, and the historical accretion of class struggles.

Britain as a whole voted 51.9 percent for Leave and 48.1 percent for Remain. Within these percentages, England voted 53.4 percent for Leave and 46.6 percent for Remain — very similar to Wales’s 52.5 percent and 47.5 percent, respectively.

In contrast, Scotland voted 38 percent for Leave and 62 percent for Remain, while Northern Ireland voted 44.2 percent and 55.8 percent, respectively. Thus, there is no doubt that the overall result for Britain was driven by England, which calls for closer examination.

A simple way of capturing the geographical rift in England is to consider the “stronger” results, that is, the local percentages exceeding 60 percent in favor of either Leave, or Remain. This would provide an indication of the geographical concentration of “stronger” views, thus affording sharper insight into the class composition of the vote.

The list below includes the majority of referendum areas that voted at or above 60 percent in favor of Leave, as well as the majority of the referendum areas that voted at or above 60 percent in favor of Remain (hence 40 percent or less for Leave).

More than 60 percent for Leave: 

Barnsley 68.3%, Basildon 68.6%, Barking & Dagenham 62.4%, Dartford 64.2%, Doncaster 69%, East Riding of Yorkshire 60.4%, Epping Forest 62.7%, Fenland 71.4%, Havering 69.7%, Hartlepool 69.6%, King’s Lynn & West Norfolk 66.4%, Kingston upon Hull 67.4%, Mansfield 70.9%, Medway 64.1%, Newcastle under Lyme 63%, North East Lincolnshire 69.6%, North West Leicestershire 60.7%, Oldham 60.9%, Peterborough 60.9%, Redcar & Cleveland 66.2%, Rochdale 60.1%, Sandwell 66.7%, Scarborough 62%, Shepway 62.2%, South Staffordshire 64.8%, Stoke on Trend 69.4%, Sunderland 61.3%, Tameside 61.1%, Telford and Wrekin 63.2%, Tendring 69.5%, Thanet 63.8%, Thurrock 72.3%, Torbay 63.2%, Wakefield 66.4%, Walsall 67.9%, Wigan 63.9%, Wolverhampton 62.6%.

Less than 40 percent for Leave:

Barnet 37.8%, Cambridge 26.2%, Camden 25.1%, Hackney 21.5%, Hammersmith and Fulham 30%, Hackney 24.4%, Islington 24.8%, Kensington and Chelsea 31.3%, Kingston upon Thames 38.4%, Lambeth 21.4%, Lewisham 30.1%, Oxford 29.7%, Southwark 27.2%, St Albans 37.3%, Tower Hamlets 32.5%, Waltham Forest 40.9%, Wandsworth 25%, Westminster 31%.

Several conclusions are immediately apparent:

  • The “strong” Leave vote was widely and evenly spread across England.
  • Large groups of the working class in the North voted strongly for Leave.
  • Areas of pronounced poverty across England voted strongly for Leave.
  • There were “strong” Leave votes in working-class areas in the South, particularly around London; these are sometimes called “white-flight areas”.
  • The “strong” Remain vote was extremely concentrated in London, particularly in the working-class areas that contain large concentrations of second- and third-generation immigrants. Note, though, that several of these areas have also been undergoing a process of gentrification and have substantial concentrations of the middle class.
  • The better-off areas of London voted strongly in favor of Remain. Very few other areas of the country voted similarly, including Cambridge, St. Albans, and Oxford.

There is no evidence at all that the Leave vote was heavily concentrated in parts of the country that have presumably suffered disproportionately from the form of capitalist development of Britain during the last several decades.

On the contrary, the Leave vote was spread fairly evenly across the country, even at its “strongest”. In contrast, the Remain vote was far more heavily concentrated, indeed its “strongest” instances were extremely concentrated in London.

London has always been different from the rest of the country, as all those with even a passing awareness of English history know. At present its concerns and aspirations reflect the large resident middle class whose cosmopolitan outlook typically favors Remain. This class has exceptional access to the media, and its views are transparently out of kilter with the rest of the country.

The concerns and aspirations of London also reflect the large concentration of second- and third-generation working-class and poor immigrants, evident in the strong Remain vote in areas such as Hackney, Lambeth, and Lewisham.

It should be stressed, however, that the cosmopolitan middle class of London enjoys a strong ideological and cultural preeminence in many of these areas as a result of advancing gentrification. This is strengthened by the relatively peaceful coexistence of communities within the areas undergoing gentrification.

The outer periphery of London, in contrast, particularly the so-called areas of “white flight,” exhibits a very different behavior, often strongly in favor of Leave.

In sum, it is apparent that the working class and the poor across England have voted for Leave. This conclusion is further backed by some of the qualitative findings of the Ashcroft poll. While a majority of those who are working full- or part-time voted to remain, most of those who are not working voted to leave, as did two-thirds of those on a state pension. A similar proportion (two-thirds) of tenants of council and housing association tenants also voted to leave.

The poorest had few doubts, it seems. They wanted out.

This also consistent with another finding of which no little fuss has been made in the international media: those with university degrees, especially higher ones, voted to remain, while a large majority of those with only secondary education voted to leave. The international chatterers discovered to their horror that the working class and the poor, by and large, do not go to university.

Quite obviously then, the strong majority in favor of Leave must have been the result of ignorance, and possibly obtuseness . . . in days of yore the habits of personal cleanliness and the dress codes of Leave voters would also have come in for mockery. Class prejudice against the poor, especially when they dare to express strong views, has never been subtle.

Why Vote Leave?

A referendum is by its nature a binary choice: yes or no. It is undoubtedly an exercise in democracy but of a very special nature conducive to expressing frustration and rejection. In the case of EU-related referenda there is a long history of rejection votes in several countries, most prominently in the Greek referendum of July 2015.

It appears that the people of Europe, when asked about the European Union, express alienation and distaste; united Europe appears not to be a grassroots project.

No wonder that the established powers within the European Union avoid referenda like the plague and take extraordinary action to repeat votes until the “right” result is produced, or even altogether ignore a “wrong” result, as happened most egregiously with the Greek referendum.

The British referendum is indisputably an instance of accumulated frustration among the working class and the poor in England resulting in a protest vote in favor of Leave. The question is, what were they frustrated and angry about, and why was their frustration channeled toward the European Union?

Pressure on Wages, Disposable Income, and Welfare Provision

One key underlying cause is not hard to find: British workers and British households have faced stagnating and even falling wages and disposable incomes since 2000, as Figures 1 and 2 show. The bulk of the British population has faced ever-tighter living conditions for a decade and a half.

Figure 1. OECD


Figure 2. OECD

The problem of wages and disposable income became especially severe after the major crisis of 2008–9, although there has been some improvement after 2014. That gigantic shock came after three decades of exceptional expansion of finance that has resulted in pronounced financialization of the British economy.

Financialization has produced tremendous profits and benefits for a narrow elite that is often associated with the City of London, while piling up insecurity and economic pressures for working people.

The global crisis of 2008–9, pivoting on a few banks, brought large deficits to the British government and has thus resulted in a sustained policy of austerity, designed and implemented by the Tory government and its chancellor, George Osborne.

Austerity has brought sustained pressure on welfare provision across the country, particularly on the National Health Service, education, and benefits for the poor. The last five or six years have witnessed not only unremitting tightness on wages and disposable income for British workers but also a general scrimping on social provision.

To cap it all, during this period there has been no reckoning for the bankers and financiers who took advantage of the boom conditions of the previous years and who have rightly attracted the ire of working people. There is absolutely no mystery about the accumulated frustration among the working class and the poor in Britain.

Migration, Racism, and the European Union

Frustration, however, is rarely expressed simply or directly in social affairs. It is almost always a mediated process, and it is impossible to predict the spill-over point. In Britain today the issues of migration and racism have been paramount during the campaign of the referendum and afterwards.

There is no doubt that the Leave camp made hay with the issue of immigration during the campaign. However, to ascribe up the referendum result to racism or hostility to migrants is nonsensical, and smacks of the contempt toward workers and the poor often exhibited by their social “betters”.

There is certainly racism within the Leave camp, but to appreciate the reaction of the workers and the poor to the issue of migration it is vital first to have a look at migration flows.

During 1991–99 the average net inflows of migration into Britain (excluding flows of British nationals) came to 233,000 a year, of which 14,000 were from the European Union and 53,000 from the Commonwealth. The annual average during 2000–3 increased to 284,000, of which 9,000 were from the European Union and 101,000 from the Commonwealth.

In the years that followed the net inflow rose further and its composition changed heavily toward EU nationals. In 2005 the net inflow was 294,000, of which 96,000 were from the European Union and 120,000 from the Commonwealth. By 2014 the net inflow was 375,000, of which 178,000 were from the EU and 86,000 from the Commonwealth.

In short, precisely at a time when British wages and disposable incomes came under sustained pressure, and exactly when austerity was imposed on the country adding pressure on welfare provision, the net inflows of migrants increased considerably. Within these flows the proportion from the European Union increased dramatically, particularly from the countries of Eastern Europe whose people had recently acquired the right to reside in Britain.

It would have required very focused and detailed political and social campaigning for this difficult social situation not to create tensions among British workers and the poor. When the queue at the accident and emergency section of a hospital or at a general practitioner’s surgery is hours long and half of it comprises migrants, the immediate reaction of many would be to blame migrants.

It would certainly be a wrong reaction and it might even have racism attached to it, but unless someone systematically explained the impact of the disastrous policies of Tory governments and offered realistic options, frustration would turn toward the obvious targets.

There is little evident racism in the referendum result, at least as far as the Ashcroft poll is concerned, and certainly none addressed to the usual victims of racism in Britain, i.e., Asian and black people. Indeed, it appears that about one-third of those who describe themselves as Asian and one-quarter of those who describe themselves as black voted for Leave.

There is no doubt, nonetheless, that the majority of the Asian and black communities have been deeply concerned about a possible racist backlash following a Leave vote, in view especially of the political leadership of the Leave camp.

The main concern of the Leave voters (49 percent) appears to have been “the principle that decisions about the UK should be taken in the UK.” A third (33 percent) said that the main reason for leaving the European Union was that it “offered the best chance for the UK to regain control over immigration and its own borders.”

The working class and the poor were explicitly concerned with democracy and sovereignty in relation to the European Union, even if these concerns had been overlaid by the issue of migration. The frustration accumulated over the years found vent in EU membership because workers and the poor felt that the EU directly affected the political levers and the democratic mechanisms available to tackle their problems.

Britain voted Leave not simply because working people and the poor were angry at the condition of the country. The real point is that they viewed the European Union as an alien, undemocratic set of institutions that would not provide a suitable framework for tackling problems of economy and migration. Sovereignty is a summary term for command over one’s own environment and it is fundamental to exercising democracy.

The working class and the poor understood the point clearly: in contemporary capitalism, transnational bodies, such as the European Union, are remote from the levers of democratic control and become a natural terrain for big business. In contrast, the nation-state provides a field within which it is possible to fight for certain basic rights and demands.

People in Britain have had ample opportunity over the last few years to observe the performance of the European Union, particularly in connection with the bypassing of democracy and its domineering attitude toward Greece, Italy, and elsewhere.

Given that the core of the British ruling class as well as the main beneficiaries of the policies of the last few years came out openly in favor of Remain, the decision of the majority of workers and the poor to leave was quite natural. Frustration found its natural outlet in rejecting the European Union, and with good reason too.

A Political Crisis

The main contradiction and chief political problem of the referendum result is that the anger and the justified concerns of working people and the poor in England have been exploited by a brazenly neoclassical and unprincipled right.

The Left, in contrast, has been unable to formulate a set of proposals or a radical program that would appeal to the great majority of the British people. The voice of workers has been muted or confused. This is the vital element in the class hiatus in the country at present.

The result of the referendum has thrown the Tory Party into a major upheaval, reflecting the rift within the British ruling class. The Remain side, led by the ex-prime minister David Cameron, has shown boundless arrogance and lack of understanding of the true state of the country, as befits a bunch of Public School and Oxbridge graduates.

Confident that they express the interests of the main section for the ruling class, and thus that they would win, they have been thrown completely out of balance by the result.

Cameron had gambled on an “easy” victory in the referendum to deal with the division within the Tory Party, and thus paid with an ignominious demise. Even more staggering, however, has been the frivolity of the Leave side, led by the Chief Pretender Boris Johnson, another Oxbridge graduate, who in truth did not expect to win.

His even more ignominious demise, stabbed at the back by his erstwhile ally, Michael Gove, is a token of just how disjointed the Leave side is. Further evidence to this effect has been adduced by the departure of Nigel Farage from the leadership of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP). The leading lights of the Leave camp, by and large, have proven incapable of offering leadership to the British ruling class at its time of confusion.

The confusion will soon abate, however. In the near future there will be a leadership contest in the Tory Party to elect someone with the authority to speak for the ruling class a whole. It is likely that the main contest will be between Teresa May, the voice of the Tory electoral machine and traditional pragmatism, and Michael Gove, the ambitious right-winger from a fairly humble background who could perhaps give expression to the harsh neoliberalism within the Leave side.

In view of the victory of Leave, the long-standing rift within the Tory Party is likely to be bridged in favor of a pragmatic exit from the European Union. This will also probably be the choice of the British ruling class as a whole.

It will not be an easy route for Britain to take and the country will have to renegotiate a series of treaties with the European Union over a period of time. The Tories will probably adopt a harsh neoliberal agenda domestically, coupled with a compromising attitude with regard to the EU and aiming for some sort of “special relationship.”

No one should be rash enough to think that the European Union will deal with Britain from a position of strength. The vote to leave has delivered a body blow to an EU that is already reeling under the failure of the EMU and the lack of growth across the continent. Even worse, there is a widespread perception that that the “project” of Europe is undemocratic and failing.

Euroskepticism has sunk roots during the last few years. If there is a major crisis in Italy at the end of 2016 — as is more than likely, given the state of Italian banks — the pressures on the European Union will become enormous.

Germany, the real leader of the European Union, is fully aware of how intractable the situation of the European Union is, and its leaders will be very careful in dealing with Britain. Whoever governs Britain in the coming period will probably have some room to maneuver.

In this context the role of the Labour Party will be critical. The party has been led by its left wing since the surprising ascendancy of Jeremy Corbyn in 2015. The new leadership has suffered from ceaseless internal strife motivated by the parliamentary group that leans to the right and could not contemplate policies that would decisively break with the neoliberal framework of the last four decades.

Yet the country is ready for drastic change, as even the referendum result has shown in its own warped way. Corbyn still enjoys substantial support from the Labour grassroots expressed through Momentum, an organization that has achieved national status in a matter of months. He also has clear support from the main trade union leadership, always a vital factor in British politics.

Corbyn’s problem, however, is that under his leadership the Labour Party has misjudged the referendum campaign, and thus finds himself under enormous pressure. Referenda are by their own nature “yes or no” choices, and those who sit on the fence pay a price.

The Labour Party adopted the stance of a mealy-mouthed Remain, while its natural constituency, the working class and the poor, voted for Leave. Even worse, at least a third of Labour voters also voted to leave. Corbyn was not alone in taking a middle-of-the-way position in favor of Remain.

Much of the trade union leadership also did the same, worried by the neoliberal agenda of the leadership of the Leave camp and the direct threat to labor rights and loss of social protection in the eventuality of an EU exit.

The result has been confusion and bewilderment among Labour supporters, not least because the right-wingers and racists across the country have had a spring in their gait since the result was announced.

The confused state of the Labour Party has offered a golden opportunity to its conservative wing to challenge Corbyn on the flimsiest and most extraordinary of excuses: apparently he should have offered stronger support to Remain precisely as his natural constituency in the country was moving toward Leave in great numbers! That would indeed have been an interesting way to commit political suicide.

The aim of Labour conservatives is clear: defeat the Left on any excuse and force it into the wilderness, thus returning politics to the tried and tested formula of the past four decades.

To cap it all, there is also the threat of a new independence referendum in Scotland, which voted strongly in favor of Remain. The prospect of a United Kingdom dominated by neoliberal Tories brings shivers to Scottish spines. For the Labour Party, which has lost its support in Scotland during the last two decades, Scottish independence would eliminate any prospect of radical government in Britain for the foreseeable future.

Yet an element of caution is required in connection with Scotland too. The Scottish National Party, which has effectively inherited the mantle of Labour in the working-class areas of Scotland, has actually performed very similarly to Labour in the referendum.

According to the Ashcroft poll, 36 percent of SNP supporters voted for Leave, even though their leader, Nicola Sturgeon, was one of the most vocal supporters of Remain in the country. The working class and the poor in Scotland might not be so different from those in England, after all.

Labour, led by the left wing, should break the hiatus and offer the country the program and the direction that it clearly wants.

It is apparent that Britain craves more democratic institutions that would ensure sovereignty. The European Union is not the answer to any of the demands of the working class and the poor, and Britain has already opted to leave. The Labour Party should put forth proposals that expand democracy and sovereignty from the perspective of workers and the poor.

In effect, it should help to redefine the nation in an inclusive way for the conditions of today. The concept of the citizen, transcending gender, race, and ethnicity, is the lever for democracy and sovereignty in Britain and across Europe. It also provides a foundation for policies on migration that protect the rights of migrants as well as of the existing inhabitants of countries.

On this political basis the Labour Party should offer an economic and social policy to the British people that could deal with the pressure on the National Health Service; tackle the growing housing pressure; lift austerity; nationalize transport, steel and banks; and engage in a determined campaign to “definancialize” the country.

The research and knowledge on how to engage in such a strategy already exist. If the Labour Party went confidently down this path, it would secure the support of the great majority in Britain, thus taking the country out of its historic impasse.

Britain could then act as a beacon of hope to a failing European Union that is already raising the specter of chaos. That is the path of hope.

Costas Lapavitsas is a professor of economics at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, and was elected as a member of the Hellenic Parliament for the left-wing Syriza party in the January 2015 general election. He subsequently defected to the Popular Unity in August 2015. 

Serving and Protecting a Violent and Racist System

Violent, Racist Cops Protect a Violent, Racist System

by Ted Rall - CounterPunch

July 8, 2016

Racism is complicated. When America’s most brilliant thinkers set out to explain its nature in terms as clear as the English language allows, as Michael Eric Dyson did in his searing July 7th essay “Death in Black and White,” even the relatively sophisticated readers of the New York Times didn’t get it.

Commenters didn’t understand that Dyson wasn’t addressing every white person, but “white America” — shorthand for a dominant power structure that is fundamentally racist while (of course) not every white person is.

If anti-racist white people take writing as straightforward as Dyson’s personally, if they take offense at his passion and so miss his message, is there any hope of “black America” and “white America” just getting along?

It’s been a hell of a week. Another one. Two more black men, Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, were gunned down by the police under the usual incomprehensible circumstances — events the media, and thus the government, is paying attention to only because someone invented the smartphone. Then a sniper, a veteran of America’s war against Afghanistan, shot 12 police officers at a march in Dallas protesting the deaths in Minnesota and Louisiana. Five died.

Needless to say, the Dallas cops didn’t have it coming. They didn’t have anything to do with what happened in entirely different states.

Well, it shouldn’t need to be said. But it does. Because, no matter how many times we hear public officials tell us that the police protect and serve us, it doesn’t ring true. Three out of four African-Americans tell pollsters they don’t think police are held accountable for their actions. So do 40% of whites.

The truth is, Americans don’t like cops.

Let’s be honest. If we think about them at all, we don’t mourn the slain Dallas police officers as deeply as we did the children who died in the day care center blown up in Oklahoma City, or the nightclubbers murdered in Orlando. We need to talk about why that is.

We have been hearing more about racial profiling, how blacks are targeted by police officers more than whites, how they are physically assaulted more often, how they are charged with more serious crimes for the same offenses, how they get longer prison sentences and harsher fines. And rightly so. This discussion is long overdue. Way too many people still don’t get it.

It is right and proper to focus on Black Lives Matter. To say it. To believe it. A retort that All Lives Matter is far worse than pabulum. Because it distracts from a point that still hasn’t received proper consideration in the media or in electoral politics, All Lives Matter is racist. Even the first black president has addressed the racism behind police violence only in “it sure is sad, we should do better” niceties rather than meaningful, sweeping policy changes. (He could start with blanket presidential pardons of black inmates serving ridiculously long prison sentences.) Black Lives Matter. That’s what we need to talk about now. For a good long time, too.

One possible place to start is the reaction of many people to the Dallas sniper attack. Like 9/11, it was shocking. Like 9/11, it also wasn’t surprising. You can’t go on acting like a bully forever. The powers that be can’t pressure their victims forever. Eventually the prey strike back. No, it isn’t justified. Nor is it right. But it is chickens coming home to roost.

Like the Bush Administration after 9/11 (“Why? Why do they hate us?”), the police and the political elites the police actually protects and serves look silly when they pretend that they can’t possibly imagine why anyone might dislike them. “There is no possible justification for these kinds of attacks or any violence against law enforcement,” President Obama said after Dallas. No justification? Sure.

No possible justification? Before they blew him up with a robot bomb, suspect Micah Johnson told police negotiators that he was “upset about the recent police shootings…[that] he wanted to kill white people, especially white officers.” You’d have to be especially thick, or really really white, not to see why a black guy might snap after watching the Alton Sterling and Philando Castile snuff videos.

Obama continued: “Anyone involved in the senseless murders will be held fully accountable. Justice will be done.” Naturally, Obama was referring only to justice for the murdered police officers. There’s never any justice for those murdered by police officers (c.f., Freddie Gray, Michael Brown, Walter Scott, Eric Garner, etc.).

There’s a lot to worry about in all this. As for me, I’m concerned that the true nature of the police, the roots of its brutality in its role as the armed guards of the ruling classes, has been completely obscured by the racial divide. Racism is complicated. So is class warfare.

Even if you are privileged as I am – white, male, able-bodied, Ivy League-educated – odds are that your interactions, like mine, with the police are generally unpleasant. Mostly, I run into them when they pull me over to give me a ticket. If I’m lucky, they are merely rude, overbearing, aggressive and condescending. Once in a blue moon, a cop manages to be merely gruff. And I’m lucky. I’ve seen the way cops act in black neighborhoods. It’s much, much worse. They’re disgusting.

I had a bad experience with a Los Angeles police officer in 2001. He arrested me for jaywalking — falsely. He roughed me up and handcuffed me. This being America, I couldn’t help wonder whether he might have targeted me because he was black and I was white. But he never said anything that indicated that. Maybe he had a quota to fill.

Black or white, the police are paid to oppress, not protect. Black or white, citizens have good cause to be afraid of them. That’s the nature of the system. It’s another reason the system has got to go

Ted Rall, syndicated writer and the cartoonist for, is the author of the book “Snowden,” the biography of the NSA whistleblower.
More articles by:Ted Rall

Who Cares As Rudderless Britannia Goes Down?

As the Leaderless UK Begins Sinking, MPs, Media and British Citizens Don’t Seem to Care

by Andy Worthington

July 8, 2016

Two weeks after the EU referendum, the situation in the UK is even more depressing than it was at the time, for a variety of reasons, primarily to do with having no leadership whatsoever, with few people seemingly caring that we have no leadership whatsoever, and with our political class and our media failing to understand that the ramifications of the referendum result mean that is is not business as usual, and will not be ever again.

Since the result was announced (52.1% for Leave, 48.9% to Remain, on a 72% turnout) we have constantly been told, by those with power and influence, that the will of the people must be accepted, but it remains apparent that the referendum should never have been called, and was only called because of David Cameron’s pathetically narrow political concerns and his cowardly refusal to challenge UKIP and Eurosceptics in his own party.

It also remains apparent that it was primarily won because of outrageous lies by the Leave campaign, led by someone — Boris Johnson — who didn’t want to leave the EU and only did so to further his own political aims.

I don’t mean to suggest, by the way, that people only voted Leave because they were lied to. I understand that millions of people made up their own minds, although I don’t believe in general that proper consideration was given to the myriad ramifications of severing our involvement with the EU, by those who weren’t either acting on racist and xenophobic impulses, or false notions of sovereignty (the “us v. them” scenario, even though as a member of the EU, we were part of “them” and, in any case, most decisions about our spending and policies were still taken by our own government), or some essentially counter-productive notion of giving a kicking to the out-of-touch political elite in Westminster. On our sovereignty, by the way, I would just like to remind anyone reading this that Chatham House (aka the Royal Institute of International Affairs) noted, in “Britain, the EU and the Sovereignty Myth,” an important briefing before the referendum, that, “Apart from EU immigration, the British government still determines the vast majority of policy over every issue of greatest concern to British voters – including health, education, pensions, welfare, monetary policy, defence and border security. The arguments for leaving also ignore the fact that the UK controls more than 98 per cent of its public expenditure.”

It is also becoming more and more apparent to me that almost everyone on the political left — the old Left, as I see it — also voted to Leave, in what seems to me to be the mistaken belief that we will somehow be freed from the EU’s neo-liberal impulses, whereas it seems more likely to me that the minnow we will become outside the EU will be forced into even worse trade treaties. I think the Lexit camp also overlooked the many rights that we take for granted that are enshrined in EU legislation, but that are anathema to the Tories. Of course, the Left’s presumption is that they will somehow seize power now we are freed from the yoke of Europe, but it seems more likely that we will instead simply be subjected to an even heavier and more oppressive yoke of homegrown Conservatism, determined to finish the job of destroying the state provision of almost all services in the UK, and turning us into a privatised feudal state, with renewed vigour.

Two weeks on from the referendum, all those responsible have fled, leaving us — disturbingly —without any leadership, as I mentioned at the start of this article. David Cameron resigned immediately, then Boris Johnson, and then Nigel Farage, and the last to go was Michael Gove, squeezed out of the Conservative Party leadership contest. It is appropriate to be happy that all of these clowns have gone, but, like the public schoolboys they are, they have handed on their mess to someone else to clean up. And throughout this whole disaster, not only is there no accountability, but, more importantly, there is also a hole where outrage and deep concern should be.

The media has become distracted by the Tories’ leadership election, to elect someone who may or may not clean up the mess in an adequate manner, although the details of how that might be done are still not considered to be important enough to be discussed in any sort of detail. And in the meantime, as the weeks pass, the elephant in the room — We are leaderless! No one is steering the ship! — is ignored, when clearly it is a topic that ought to be of the greatest importance.

And all the while, of course, the economy of the newly leaderless UK is in freefall, although, after the initial shock in the markets, we are barely being told about it. My main source of news, on a regular basis throughout the day, is the Guardian’s front page online, but the UK as a leaderless Titanic is never a headline, and even the economic impact of Brexit is rarely the main story. Elsewhere, of course, in the more right-wing media, there is even less interest, even though the pound has sunk to its lowest level against the dollar since 1985 — £1 yesterday bought just $1.29, a loss of 10% since the referendum, with pessimists predicting $1.16 by the end of the year — and even though, as the Guardian currently describes it, “turmoil in the UK commercial property sector prompted by the Brexit vote [is] forc[ing] fund managers to revalue their portfolios or temporarily prevent investors withdrawing their savings.”

The panic is affecting billions of pounds’ worth of property, and while I am an enthusiast for seeing the housing bubble in London and the south east brought an end, as it is the epitome of greed out of control, I worry that a systemic crash, triggered by the referendum and bringing down the economy as a whole, may be a disproportionately damaging way for it to happen, with repercussions that, as with any economic collapse, will impact most heavily on those who can least afford it.

In 2010, when the Tories failed to win an outright majority, the markets demanded a solution as quickly as possible, and a coalition government was formed within five days. Now, however, we’re being told that the country will not have a leader for another two months, leaving an unprecedented amount of time for the markets to give up on the economy. Britain’s economy is currently being held together — single-handedly, it seems — by Mark Carney, the Governor of the Bank of England (and, ironically, an immigrant), but by September Britain could potentially face an unprecedented collapse, as there appears to be no serious support within the actual government to combat the pound’s decline, the politicians of the Leave camp having made no plan, and David Cameron having left Brexit plans in the hands of a particularly notable clown, Oliver Lewin, who has no demonstrable ability to do anything whatsoever. See the FT for more on what can be expected — beyond Letwin, that is.

I cannot express strongly enough how much the mainstream media needs to question and address its complicity in supporting the messages of the Leave campaigners, even when they were baseless propaganda, and its failure to investigate in detail almost all the issues involved in our proposed departure from the EU, and not just the obvious topics of immigration and perceptions of sovereignty. See Lord Puttnam on this, criticising the BBC’s coverage of the referendum as “constipated” and accusing broadcasters of a “criminal act” by not subjecting Boris Johnson’s claims under scrutiny, and also see the thoughts of Justin Webb of the Today programme.

As I see it, not only were the Leave camp’s lies rarely, if ever examined rigorously, but many highly important topics were never even covered, as I mentioned in an article following the result. One of the topics I discussed there was the uncertain future for Britain’s universities, and see here for a Reuters article from July 5 asking how the UK’s universities can “plug a funding gap and maintain prestige if the flood of students from across the EU slows to a trickle,” as it may well do.

Two weeks on from the referendum, and the mainstream media is now doing what it always does, but now needs to rethink urgently, which is to move on to whatever it is that is happening now and that can be dressed up as interesting. For some time now, it has been apparent to me that the maximum attention span of the mainstream media is about two weeks, however bad the news and however massive the newsworthy topic, to the extent that, as I have often joked, if the modern media were present at the start of the Second World War, they would have lost interest before the end of September 1939.

Hence my disappointment and anxiety that the true impact of Brexit, and questions about whether our national suicide is really in the national interest, is missing from the front pages of newspapers and from TV broadcasts, when we still appear to be in a disturbing new world full of almost endless uncertainty — and of a dangerous but predictable increase in racism and xenophobia — in which the UK before the morning of June 24 is absolutely not the same place as it has been since, and every certainty that existed before — regarding our rights as Europeans, as British citizens or as immigrants — is now open to debate, and every nuance of the politics of Cameron’s Britain, with its six years of austerity and its identifiable policies, however wretched they may have been, suddenly seems to be ancient history.

To many in the Leave camp, questioning the outcome of the referendum is regarded as unfair, but it must be stressed that the outcome was only advisory, and that it is now up to the government to implement it, and, as I mentioned a few days ago, in an important article for the Guardian last week, Geoffrey Robertson QC made clear where MPs’ responsibility lies. He pointed out that “‘[s]overeignty’ — a much misunderstood word in the campaign — resides in Britain with the ‘Queen in parliament’, that is with MPs alone who can make or break laws and peers who can block them. Before Brexit can be triggered, parliament must repeal the 1972 European Communities Act by which it voted to take us into the European Union — and MPs have every right, and indeed a duty if they think it best for Britain, to vote to stay.”

I also made reference to an article by law professor and former Foreign Office advisor Philip Allott, who stated that the Brexit decision may be “unlawful,” and another article explaining how solicitors at the prominent law firm Mishcon de Reya are “taking pre-emptive legal action against the government, following the EU referendum result, to try to ensure article 50 [triggering our departure from the EU] is not triggered without an act of parliament.”

In today’s Guardian, I’m glad to note, another flicker of light was provided by the news that “[t]he first legal attempt to prevent the prime minister initiating Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union is to be heard later this month,” as “[a] high court judge, Mr. Justice Cranston, has set 19 July for a preliminary hearing of [a] judicial review challenge brought on behalf of the British citizen Deir Dos Santos,” who “argues that only parliament – not the prime minister – can authorise the signing of article 50 of the Lisbon treaty, which begins the UK’s formal withdrawal process.”

The Guardian article also noted that the Dos Santos claim argues that, although David Cameron claimed, in his resignation speech, that the government “is of the view that the prime minister of the day has the power under article 50 (2) of the Lisbon treaty to trigger article 50 without reference to parliament,” that decision “is ‘ultra vires’ – beyond the legitimate powers of the government – because under ‘the UK’s constitutional requirements’, notification to the European Union council of withdrawal ‘can only be given with the prior authorisation of the UK parliament.’”

I admit that I have found myself clinging to these points of view over the past two weeks, and that their general dismissal disturbs me, because I genuinely fear for the future if — when — we leave the EU: the prolonged shock to the economy, the hardening of racist sentiment, the calls for the expulsion of all those regarded as unwanted immigrants, Britain’s inevitable decline in Europe and on the world stage, a deluded minnow sinking in wealth an influence, isolating itself just when more of the opposite was needed — more cooperation, more opening doors, more movement.

If you care about these issues, do let me know. There are millions of us, across all the political parties (well, except UKIP) and we urgently need to make our voices heard.

Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer, film-maker and singer-songwriter (the lead singer and main songwriter for the London-based band The Four Fathers, whose debut album ‘Love and War’ and EP ‘Fighting Injustice’ are available here to download or on CD via Bandcamp).

He is the co-founder of the Close Guantánamo campaign (and the Countdown to Close Guantánamo initiative, launched in January 2016), the co-director of We Stand With Shaker, which called for the release from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison (finally freed on October 30, 2015), and the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by the University of Chicago Press in the US, and available from Amazon, including a Kindle edition — click on the following for the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield.

He is also the co-director (with Polly Nash) of the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (available on DVD here — or here for the US).

To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to Andy’s RSS feed — and he can also be found on Facebook (and here), Twitter, Flickr and YouTube. Also see the six-part definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, and The Complete Guantánamo Files, an ongoing, 70-part, million-word series drawing on files released by WikiLeaks in April 2011. Also see the definitive Guantánamo habeas list, the full military commissions list, and the chronological list of all Andy’s articles.

Please also consider joining the Close Guantánamo campaign, and, if you appreciate Andy’s work, feel free to make a donation.

Don't GMO My Bud, Dude: Monsanto's Push into the Weed Market

Monsanto, Bayer, and the Push for Corporate Cannabis

by Ellen Brown - CounterPunch

July 8, 2016    

As detailed in my recent article “The War on Weed is Winding Down,” the health benefits of cannabis are now well established. It is a cheap, natural alternative effective for a broad range of conditions, and the non-psychoactive form known as hemp has thousands of industrial uses.

At one time, cannabis was one of the world’s most important crops.

There have been no recorded deaths from cannabis overdose in the US, compared to about 30,000 deaths annually from alcohol abuse (not counting auto accidents), and 100,000 deaths annually from prescription drugs taken as directed.

Yet cannabis remains a Schedule I controlled substance (“a deadly dangerous drug with no medical use and high potential for abuse”), illegal to be sold or grown in the US.

Powerful corporate interests no doubt had a hand in keeping cannabis off the market. The question now is why they have suddenly gotten on the bandwagon for its legalization. According to an April 2014 article in The Washington Times, the big money behind the recent push for legalization has come, not from a grassroots movement, but from a few very wealthy individuals with links to Big Ag and Big Pharma.

Leading the charge is George Soros, a major shareholder in Monsanto, the world’s largest seed company and producer of genetically modified seeds. Monsanto is the biotech giant that brought you Agent Orange, DDT, PCBs, dioxin-based pesticides, aspartame, rBGH (genetically engineered bovine growth hormone), RoundUp (glyphosate) herbicides, and RoundUp Ready crops (seeds genetically engineered to withstand glyphosate).

Monsanto now appears to be developing genetically modified (GMO) forms of cannabis, with the intent of cornering the market with patented GMO seeds just as it did with GMO corn and GMO soybeans. For that, the plant would need to be legalized but still tightly enough controlled that it could be captured by big corporate interests. Competition could be suppressed by limiting access to homegrown marijuana; bringing production, sale and use within monitored and regulated industry guidelines; and legislating a definition of industrial hemp as a plant having such low psychoactivity that only GMO versions qualify. Those are the sorts of conditions that critics have found buried in the fine print of the latest initiatives for cannabis legalization.

Patients who use the cannabis plant in large quantities to heal serious diseases (e.g. by juicing it) find that the natural plant grown organically in sunlight is far more effective than hothouse plants or pharmaceutical cannabis derivatives. Letitia Pepper is a California attorney and activist who uses medical marijuana to control multiple sclerosis. As she puts it, if you don’t have an irrevocable right to grow a natural, therapeutic herb in your backyard that a corporation able to afford high license fees can grow and sell to you at premium prices, isn’t that still a war on people who use marijuana?

Follow the Money to Uruguay

Monsanto has denied that it is working on GMO strains. But William Engdahl, author of Seeds of Destruction: The Hidden Agenda of Genetic Manipulation, presents compelling circumstantial evidence to the contrary. In a March 2014 article titled “The Connection Between the Legalization of Marijuana in Uruguay, Monsanto and George Soros”, Engdahl observes that in 2014, Uruguay became the first country to legalize the cultivation, sale and consumption of marijuana. Soros is a major player in Uruguay and was instrumental in getting the law passed. He sits on the board of the New York-based Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), the world’s most influential organization for cannabis legalization. The DPA is active not only in the US but in Uruguay and other Latin American countries. Engdahl writes:

Studies show that Monsanto without much fanfare conducts research projects on the active ingredient in marijuana, namely THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), in order to genetically manipulate the plant. David Watson of the Dutch company Hortapharm has since 1990 created the world’s largest collection of Cannabis seed varieties. In 1998, the British firm GW Pharmaceuticals signed an agreement with Hortapharm that gives GW Pharma the rights to use the Hortapharm cannabis for their research.

In 2003 the German Bayer AG then signed an agreement with GW Pharmaceuticals for joint research on a cannabis-based extract. In 2007, Bayer AG agreed to an exchange of technology with . . . Monsanto . . . . Thus Monsanto has discreet access to the work of the cannabis plant and its genetic modification. In 2009 GW Pharmaceuticals announced that it had succeeded in genetically altering a cannabis plant and patented a new breed of cannabis.

Monsanto could have even greater access to the Bayer/GW research soon. In March 2016, Monsanto approached the giant German chemical and pharmaceutical company Bayer AG with a joint venture proposal concerning its crop science unit. In May, Bayer then made an unsolicited takeover bid for Monsanto. On May 24th, the $62 billion bid was rejected as too low; but negotiations are continuing.

The prospective merger would create the world’s largest supplier of seeds and chemicals. Environmentalists worry that the entire farming industry could soon be looking at sterile crops soaked in dangerous pesticides. Monsanto has sued hundreds of farmers for simply saving seeds from year to year, something they have done for millennia. Organic farmers are finding it increasingly difficult to prevent contamination of their crops by Monsanto’s GMOs.

In Seeds of Destruction, Engdahl quotes Henry Kissinger, Richard Nixon’s Secretary of State. Kissinger notoriously said, “Control oil and you control nations; control food and you control the people.” Engdahl asserts that the “Green Revolution” was part of the Rockefeller agenda to destroy seed diversity and push oil- and gas-based agricultural products in which Rockefeller had a major interest. Destruction of seed diversity and dependence on proprietary hybrids was the first step in food control. About 75% of the foodstuffs at the grocery store are now genetically manipulated, in what has been called the world’s largest biological experiment on humans.

Genetic engineering is now moving from foodstuffs to plant-based drugs and plant-based industrial fibers. Engdahl writes of Monsanto’s work in Uruguay:

Since the cultivation of cannabis plants in Uruguay is allowed, one can easily imagine that Monsanto sees a huge new market that the Group is able to control just with patented cannabis seeds such as today is happening on the market for soybeans. Uruguay’s President Mujica has made it clear he wants a unique genetic code for cannabis in his country in order to “keep the black market under control.”

Genetically modified cannabis seeds from Monsanto would grant such control. For decades Monsanto has been growing gene-soybean and GM maize in Uruguay too. George Soros is co-owner of agribusinesses Adecoagro, which planted genetically modified soybeans and sunflowers for biofuel.

Other commentators express similar concerns. Natural health writer Mike Adams warns:

[W]ith the cannabis industry predicted to generate over $13 billion by 2020, becoming one of the largest agricultural markets in the nation, there should be little doubt that companies like Monsanto are simply waiting for Uncle Sam to remove the herb from its current Schedule I classification before getting into the business.

In a 2010 article concerning Proposition 19, an earlier legalization initiative that was defeated by California voters, Conrad Justice Kiczenski noted that criminalization of cannabis as both industrial hemp and medical marijuana has served a multitude of industries, including the prison and military industry, the petroleum, timber, cotton, and pharmaceutical industries, and the banking industry. With the decriminalization of cannabis, he warned:

The next stage in continuing this control is in the regulation, licensing and taxation of Cannabis cultivation and use through the only practical means available to the corporate system, which is through genetic engineering and patenting of the Cannabis genome.

AUMA: Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing?

Suspicions like these are helping to fuel opposition to the Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA), a 2016 initiative that would rewrite the medical marijuana laws in California. While AUMA purports to legalize marijuana for recreational use, the bill comes with so many restrictions that it actually makes acquisition more difficult and expensive than under existing law, and makes it a criminal offense for anyone under 21. Critics contend that the Act will simply throw access to this medicinal wonder plant into the waiting arms of the Monsanto/Bayer/petrochemical/pharmaceutical complex. They say AUMA is a covert attempt to preempt California’s Compassionate Use Act, Proposition 215, which was passed in 1996 by voter initiative.

Prop 215 did not legalize the sale of marijuana, but it did give ill or disabled people of any age the right to grow and share the plant and its derivatives on a not-for-profit basis. They could see a doctor of their choice, who could approve medical marijuana for a vast panoply of conditions; and they were assured of safe and affordable access to the plant at a nearby cooperative not-for-profit dispensary, or in their own backyards. As clarified by the 2008 Attorney General’s Guidelines, Prop 215 allowed reimbursement for the labor, costs and skill necessary to grow and distribute medical marijuana; and it allowed distribution through a “storefront dispensing collective.” However, the sale of marijuana for corporate profit remained illegal. Big Pharma and affiliates were thus blocked from entering the field.

At the end of 2015 (effective 2016), the California state legislature over-rode Prop 215 with MMRSA – the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act of 2015/16 – which effectively rewrites the Health Code pertaining to medical marijuana. Opponents contend that MMRSA is unconstitutional, since a voter initiative cannot be changed by legislative action unless it so provides. And that is why its backers need AUMA, a voter initiative that validates MMRSA in its fine print. In combination with stricter California Medical Association rules for enforcement, MMRSA effectively moves medical marijuana therapy from the wholistic plant to a pharmaceutical derivative, one that must follow an AUMA or American Pharmaceutical Association mode of delivery. MMRSA turns the right to cultivate into a revocable privilege to grow, contingent on local rules. The right to choose one’s own doctor is also eliminated.

Critics note that of the hundreds of millions in tax revenues that AUMA is expected to generate from marijuana and marijuana-related products, not a penny will go to the California general fund. That means no money for California’s public schools, colleges, universities, hospitals, roads and other infrastructure. Instead, it will go into a giant slush fund controlled by AUMA’s “Marijuana Control Board,” to be spent first for its own administration, then for its own law enforcement, then for penal and judicial program expenditures.

Law enforcement and penalties will continue to be big business, since AUMA legalizes marijuana use only for people over 21 and makes access so difficult and expensive that even adults could be tempted to turn to the black market. “Legalization” through AUMA will chiefly serve a petrochemical/pharmaceutical complex bent on controlling all farming and plant life globally.

Ellen Brown is an attorney, founder of the Public Banking Institute, and author of twelve books including the best-selling Web of Debt. Her latest book, The Public Bank Solution, explores successful public banking models historically and globally. Her 300+ blog articles are at
More articles by:Ellen Brown

Friday, July 08, 2016

"Freeze, Sucker!" Combatants at Home and Abroad

Don't Move

by Kathy Kelly - VCNV

July 7, 2016

Two major news stories here in the U.S., both chilling, point out how readily U.S. authorities will murder people based on race and the slightest possibility of a threat to those in places of power.

On July 5th Baton Rouge police killed Anton Sterling in a Louisiana parking lot. Sterling was a 37-year-old Black father of five selling CDs outside of a local storege. As captured on widely seen cellphone video, two officers tased him, held him with their hands and knees down on the ground and then shot him multiple times at close range.

The officers pulled a gun out of Sterling’s pocket after they had killed him but witnesses say Sterling was not holding the gun and his hands were never near his pockets. The situation might have escalated further but clearly little concern was shown for the sanctity of a human life deemed a threat to officers. In the witness-recorded video one officer promises, "If you f---ing move, I swear to God!"

Police departments in the U.S. often arrest and all too often kill citizens on U.S. streets based on "racial profiling," Young men of certain demographics are targeted based on their "patterns of behavior" for confrontations in which officers' safety trumps any concern for the safety of suspects, and which easily ramp up to killing.

And so it is abroad. The week's other chilling news involved the long-promised release of U.S. government data on drone strikes and civilian deaths. The report covered four countries with which the U.S. is not at war. From 2009 through 2015 in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and Libya the U.S. admits to its drone strikes having killed between 64 and 116 civilians, although these numbers are only a small fraction of even the most conservative estimates on such deaths made by credible independent reporters and researchers over the same period. With U.S. definitions of a "combatant" constantly in flux, many of the 2,372 to 2,581 "combatants" the government reports killed over the same period will have certainly been civilian casualties. Few eyes in the U.S. watch for cellphone video from these countries, and so the executing officers’ versions of events are often all that matters.

In June 2011 CIA Director John Brennan stated there hadn’t been "a single collateral death" caused by drone strikes over the previous eighteen months. Ample reportage showed this statistic was a flat lie. Marjorie Cohn notes that what little we know of President Obama’s 2013 policy guidelines (still classified) for decreasing civilian deaths is inconsistent even on the point of a known target having been present. Many strikes are targeted at areas of suspicious activity with no idea of who is present.

As Philip Giraldi notes, a March 2015 Physicians for Social Responsibility report claims that more (perhaps far more) than 1.3 million people were killed during the first ten years of the "Global War on Terror" in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. Adding Syria, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen, he finds the current total might easily exceed 2 million with some estimates credibly going to 4 or beyond. He fears the data released July 1st will end up normalizing the drone program, writing:

"The past 15 years have institutionalized and validated the killing process. President Clinton or Trump will be able to do more of the same, as the procedures involved are 'completely legal' and likely soon to be authorized under an executive order." 

The July 1st data minimizes civilian deaths by limiting itself to countries with which the U.S. is not at war. But the United States' drone arsenal is precisely designed to project violence into areas miles from any battlefield where arrest, not assassination would before have been considered both feasible and morally indispensable in dealing with suspects accused of a crime. U.S. figures do not count untold numbers of civilians learning to fear the sky, in formerly peaceful areas, for weapons that might be fired without warning. The drones take away the very idea of trials and evidence, of the rule of law, making the whole world a battlefield.

In the U.S. neighborhoods where people like Alton Sterling most risk summary execution, residents cannot be faulted for concluding that the U.S.' government and society don’t mind treating their homes as war zones; that lives of innocent people caught up in these brutal wars do not matter provided the safety and property of the people outside, and of the people sent in to quell disorder, are rigorously protected.

My friends and sometime hosts in Afghanistan, the Afghan Peace Volunteers, run a school for street kids, and a seamstress program to distribute thick blankets in the winter. They seek to apply Mohandas Gandhi’s discipline of letting a determination to keep the peace show them the difficult work needed to replace battlefields with community. Their resources are small and they live in a dangerous city at a perilous time. Their work does little, to say the least, to ensure their safety. They aim to put the safety of their most desperate neighbors first.

It makes no-one safer to make our cities and the world a battlefield. The frenzied concern for our safety and comfort driving so much of our war on the Middle East has made our lives far more dangerous. Can we ask ourselves: which has ever brought a peaceful future nearer to people in Afghan or U.S. neighborhoods– weaponized military and surveillance systems or the efforts of concerned neighbors seeking justice? Gigantic multinational “defense” systems gobble up resources, while programs intended for social well-being are cut back. The U.S. withholds anything like the quantity of resources needed for the task of healing the battle scar the U.S. and NATO have inflicted on so much of the Muslim world. If our fear is endless, how will these wars ever end?

We have to face that when the U.S. acts as self-appointed “global policeman,” what it does to poor nations resembles what those two officers did to Alton Sterling. We must temper selfish and unreasonable fears for our own safety with the knowledge that others also want safe and stable lives. We must build community by lessening inequality. We must swear off making the world our battlefield and be appalled to hear the U.S. government seem to tell the world "I will kill you if you f---ing move."

Kathy Kelly ( co-coordinates Voices for Creative Nonviolence (

Not Fade Away: David Petraeus, the Old Soldier Who Stayed

Leaker, Speaker, Soldier, Spy: The Charmed Life of David Petraeus

by Nick Turse - TomDispatch

July 5, 2016

I ran into David Petraeus the other night. Or rather, I ran after him.

It’s been more than a year since I first tried to connect with the retired four-star general and ex-CIA director -- and no luck yet.

On a recent evening, as the sky was turning from a crisp ice blue into a host of Easter-egg hues, I missed him again.

Led from a curtained “backstage” area where he had retreated after a midtown Manhattan event, Petraeus moved briskly to a staff-only room, then into a tightly packed elevator, and momentarily out onto the street before being quickly ushered into a waiting late-model, black Mercedes S550.

And then he was gone, whisked into the warm New York night, companions in tow.

Tomgram: Nick Turse, Revolving Doors, Robust Rolodexes, and Runaway Generals 
Here’s an oddity: Americans recognize corruption as an endemic problem in much of the world, just not in our own. And that’s strange. After all, to take but one example, America’s twenty-first-century war zones have been notorious quagmires of corruption on a scale that should boggle the imagination. In 2011, a final report from the congressionally mandated Commission on Wartime Contracting estimated that somewhere between $31 billion and $60 billion U.S. taxpayer dollars were lost to fraud and waste in the American “reconstruction” of Iraq and Afghanistan (which undoubtedly will, in the end, prove an underestimate). U.S. taxpayer dollars were spent to build roads to nowhere; a gas station in the middle of nowhere; teacher-training centers and other structures that were never finished (but made oodles of money for lucky contractors); a chicken-plucking factory that never plucked a chicken (but plucked American taxpayers); and a lavish $25 million headquarters that no one ever needed or bothered to use. Thanks to tens of billions of U.S. dollars, whole security forces were funded, trained, armed, and filled with “ghost” soldiers and police (while local commanders and other officials lined their pockets with completely unspectral “salaries”). And so it went.

Of course, all that took place in another galaxy far, far away where corruption is the norm. In the U.S.A. itself, corruption is considered un-American (though don’t tell that to the denizens of Ferguson, Missouri). This is, of course, largely a matter of definition, as Thomas Frank made vividly clear at TomDispatch recently when he laid out the scope of the “influence” industry in Washington. You know, the hordes of lobbyists who live the good life and offer tastes of it to government officials they would like to influence -- none of which is “corrupt.” It’s completely legit, a thoroughly congenial way of operating among Washington’s power brokers.

In its 2010 Citizens United decision, the Supreme Court offered its own redefinition of corruption in America, ensuring that dollars by the barrelful could be piped directly into the political system with remarkable ease to influence (not to say buy) politicians and elections. Only the other day, it spoke up again with a unanimous decision in favor of corruption as a perfectly acceptable way of life. It overturned the conviction of Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell for “using his office to help Jonnie R. Williams Sr., who had provided the McDonnells with luxury products, loans, and vacations worth more than $175,000 when Mr. McDonnell was governor.” (Lest I seem too gloomy on the subject, let me mention one small sign of something different. Anti-corruption scholar and activist Zephyr Teachout just won the Democratic nomination for a congressional seat in New York State. Will wonders never cease?)

That American knack for banishing corruption from our lives without banishing the activities that normally go with it came to mind again today because TomDispatch's managing editor, Nick Turse, has a look at a former general who successfully navigated America’s war zones of corruption, and whose post-official life could -- depending on your viewpoint -- be seen as pure as the driven snow, or as corrupt as can be imagined. You choose. Tom

Leaker, Speaker, Soldier, Spy:  

The Charmed Life of David Petraeus

by Nick Turse 


For the previous hour, Petraeus had been in conversation with Peter Bergen, a journalist, CNN analyst, and vice president at New America, the think tank sponsoring the event. Looking fit and well-rested in a smart dark-blue suit, the former four-star offered palatable, pat, and -- judging from the approving murmurs of the audience -- popular answers to a host of questions about national security issues ranging from the fight against the Islamic State to domestic gun control.

While voicing support for the Second Amendment, for example, he spoke about implementing “common sense solutions to the availability of weapons,” specifically keeping guns out of the hands of “domestic abusers” and those on the no-fly list. Even as he expressed “great respect” for those who carried out acts of torture in the wake of 9/11, he denounced its use -- except in the case of a “ticking time bomb.” In an era when victory hasn’t been a word much used in relation to the American military, he even predicted something close to it on the horizon. “I’ve said from the very beginning, even in the darkest days, the Islamic State would be defeated in Iraq,” he told the appreciative crowd.

I went to the event hoping to ask Petraeus a question or two, but Bergen never called on me during the Q & A portion of the evening. My attendance was not, however, a total loss.

Watching the retired general in action, I was reminded of the peculiarity of this peculiar era -- an age of generals whose careers are made in winless wars; years in which such high-ranking, mission-unaccomplished officers rotate through revolving doors that lead not only to top posts with major weapons merchants, but also too-big-to-fail banks, top universities, cutting-edge tech companies, healthcare firms, and other corporate behemoths. Hardly a soul, it seems, cares that these generals and admirals have had leading roles in quagmire wars or even, in two prominent cases, saw their government service cease as a result of career-ending scandal. And Citizen David Petraeus is undoubtedly the epitome of this phenomenon.

Celebrated as the most cerebral of generals, the West Point grad and Princeton Ph.D. rose to stardom during the Iraq War -- credited with pacifying the restive city of Mosul before becoming one of the architects of the new Iraqi Army. Petraeus would then return to the United States where he revamped and revived the Army's failed counterinsurgency doctrine from the Vietnam War, before being tapped to lead “The Surge” of U.S. forces in Iraq -- an effort to turn around the foundering conflict. Through it all, Petraeus waged one of the most deft self-promotion campaigns in recent memory, cultivating politicians, academics, and especially fawning journalists who reported on his running stamina, his penchant for push-ups, and even -- I kid you not -- how he woke a lieutenant from what was thought to be an irreversible coma by shouting the battle cry of his unit.

A series of biographers would lionize the general who, after achieving what to some looked like success in Iraq, went on to head U.S. Central Command, overseeing the conflicts in both Iraq and Afghanistan. When the military career of his subordinate General Stanley McChrystal imploded, Petraeus was sent once more unto the breach to spearhead an Afghan War surge and win another quagmire war.

And win Petraeus did. Not in Afghanistan, of course. That war grinds on without end. But the Teflon general somehow emerged from it all with people talking about him as a future presidential contender. Looking back at Petraeus’s successes, one understands just what a feat this was. Statistics show that Petraeus never actually pacified Mosul, which has now been under the control of the Islamic State (ISIS) for years. The army Petraeus helped build in Iraq crumbled in the face of that same force which, in some cases, was even supported by Sunni fighters Petraeus had put on the U.S. payroll to make The Surge appear successful.

Indeed, Petraeus had come to New America’s New York headquarters to answer one question in particular: “What will the next president's national security challenges be?” Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, ISIS, Iraq, Afghanistan: precisely the set of groups he had fought, places he had fought in, or what had resulted from his supposed victories.

Retired Brass, Then and Now

“What can you do with a general, when he stops being a general? Oh, what can you do with a general who retires?”

Irving Berlin first posed these questions in 1948 and Bing Crosby crooned them six years later in White Christmas, the lavish Hollywood musical that has become a holiday season staple.

These are not, however, questions which seem to have plagued David Petraeus. He retired from the Army in 2011 to take a job as director of the CIA, only to resign in disgrace a year later when it was revealed that he had leaked classified information to his biographer and one-time lover Paula Broadwell and then lied about it to the FBI. Thanks to a deal with federal prosecutors, Petraeus pled guilty to just a single misdemeanor and served no jail time, allowing him, as the New York Times reported last year, “to focus on his lucrative post-government career as a partner in a private equity firm and a worldwide speaker on national security issues.”

In the Bing and Berlin era, following back-to-back victories in world wars, things were different. Take George C. Marshall, a five-star general and the most important U.S. military leader during World War II who is best remembered today for the post-war European recovery plan that bore his name. Fellow five-star general and later president Dwight Eisenhower recalled that, during the Second World War, Marshall “did not want to sit in Washington and be a chief of staff. I am sure he wanted a field command, but he wouldn't even allow his chief [President Franklin Roosevelt] to know what he wanted, because he said, ‘I am here to serve and not to satisfy personal ambition.’” That mindset seemed to remain his guiding directive after he retired in 1945 and went on to serve as a special envoy to China, secretary of state, and secretary of defense.

Marshall reportedly refused a number of lucrative offers to write his memoirs, including the then-princely sum of a million dollars after taxes from Time and Life publisher Henry Luce. He did so on the grounds that it was unethical to profit from service to the United States or to benefit from the sacrifices of the men who had served under him, supposedly telling one publisher “that he had not spent his life serving the government in order to sell his life story to the Saturday Evening Post.” In his last years, he finally cooperated with a biographer and gave his archives to the George C. Marshall Research Foundation on “the condition that no monetary returns from a book or books based on his materials would go to him or his family but would be used for the research program of the Marshall Foundation.” Even his biographer was asked to “waive the right to any royalties from the biography.” Marshall also declined to serve on any corporate boards.

Marshall may have been a paragon of restraint and moral rectitude, but he wasn’t alone. As late as the years 1994-1998, according to an analysis by the Boston Globe, fewer than 50% of retiring three- and four-star officers went to work as consultants or defense executives. By 2004-2008, that number had jumped to 80%. An analysis by the Washington D.C.-based nonprofit group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, found that it was still at a lofty 70% for the years 2009-2011.

Celebrity generals like Petraeus and fellow former four-star generals Stanley McChrystal (whose military career was also consumed in the flames of scandal) and Ray Odierno (who retired amid controversy), as well as retired admiral and former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mike Mullen, don’t even need to enter the world of arms dealers and defense firms. These days, those jobs may increasingly be left to second-tier military luminaries like Marine Corps general James Cartwright, the former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, now on the board of directors at Raytheon, as well as former Vice Admiral and Director of Naval Intelligence Jack Dorsett, who joined Northrop Grumman.

If, however, you are one of the military’s top stars, the sky is increasingly the limit. You can, for instance, lead a consulting firm (McChrystal and Mullen) or advise or even join the boards of banks and civilian corporations like JPMorgan Chase (Odierno), Jet Blue (McChrystal), and General Motors (Mullen).

For his part, after putting his extramarital affair behind him, Petraeus became a partner at the private equity firm Kohlberg, Kravis, Roberts & Co. L.P. (KKR), where he also serves as the chairman of the KKR Global Institute and, according to his bio, “oversees the institute's thought leadership platform focused on geopolitical and macro-economic trends, as well as environmental, social, and governance issues.” His lieutenants include a former chairman of the Republican National Committee and campaign manager for President George W. Bush, as well as a former leading light at Morgan Stanley.

KKR’s portfolio boasts a bit of everything, from Alliant Insurance Services and Panasonic Healthcare to a host of Chinese firms (Rundong Automobile Group and Asia Dairy, among them). There are also defense firms under its umbrella, including TASC, the self-proclaimed “premier provider of advanced systems engineering and integration services across the Intelligence Community, Department of Defense, and civilian agencies of the federal government,” and Airbus Group’s defense electronics business which KKR recently bought for $1.2 billion.

KKR is, however, just where Petraeus's post-military, post-CIA résumé begins.

A Man for Four Seasons

“Nobody thinks of assigning him, when they stop wining and dining him,” wrote Irving Berlin 68 years ago.

How times do change. When it comes to Petraeus, the wining and dining is evidently unending -- as when Financial Times columnist Edward Luce took him to the Four Seasons Restaurant earlier this year for a lunch of tuna tartare, poached salmon, and a bowl of mixed berries with cream.

At the elegant eatery, just a short walk from Petraeus’s Manhattan office, the former CIA chief left Luce momentarily forlorn. “When I inquire what keeps him busy nowadays his answer goes on for so long I half regret asking,” he wrote.

I evidently heard a version of the same well prepared lines when, parrying a question from journalist Fred Kaplan at the New America event I attended, Petraeus produced a wall of words explaining how busy he is. In the process, he shed light on just what it means to be a retired celebrity general from America’s winless wars. “I’ve got a day job with KKR. I teach once a week at the City University of New York -- Honors College. I do a week per semester at USC [University of Southern California]. I do several days at Harvard. I’m on the speaking circuit. I do pro bono stuff like this. I’m the co-chairman of the Wilson Institute’s Global Advisory Council, the senior vice president of RUSI [Royal United Services Institute, a research institution focused on military issues]. I’m on three other think tank boards,” he said.

In an era when fellow leakers of government secrets -- from National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Edward Snowden to CIA whistleblower John Kiriakou to Army whistleblower Chelsea Manning -- have ended up in exile or prison, Petraeus’s post-leak life has obviously been quite another matter.

The experience of former NSA senior executive Thomas Drake who shared unclassified information about that agency’s wasteful ways with a reporter is more typical of what leakers should expect. Although the Justice Department eventually dropped the most serious charges against him -- he pled guilty to a single misdemeanor -- he lost his job and his pension, went bankrupt, and has spent years working at an Apple store after being prosecuted under the World War I-era Espionage Act. “My social contacts are gone, and I’m persona non grata,” he told Defense One last year. “I can’t find any work in government contracting or in the quasi-government space, those who defend whistleblowers won’t touch me.”

Petraeus, on the other hand, shared with his lover and biographer eight highly classified “black books” that the government says included “the identities of covert officers, war strategy, intelligence capabilities and mechanisms, diplomatic discussions, quotes and deliberative discussions from high-level National Security Council meetings, and defendant David Howell Petraeus's discussions with the President of the United States of America.” Petraeus was prosecuted, pled guilty, and was sentenced to two years of probation and fined $100,000.

Yet it’s Petraeus who today moves in rarified circles and through hallowed halls, with memberships and posts at one influential institution after another. In addition to the positions he mentioned at New America, his CV includes: honorary visiting professor at Exeter University, co-chairman of the Task Force on North America at the Council on Foreign Relations, co-chairman of the Global Advisory Committee at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, member of the Concordia Summit’s Concordia Leadership Council, member of the board of trustees at the McCain Institute for International Leadership, member of the National Security Advisory Council of the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition, and a seat on the board of directors at the Atlantic Council.

Brand Petraeus

About a year ago, I tried to contact Petraeus through KKR as well as the Macaulay Honors College at the City University of New York, to get a comment on a story. I never received a reply.

I figured he was ducking me -- or anyone asking potentially difficult questions -- or that his gatekeepers didn’t think I was important enough to respond to. But perhaps he was simply too busy. To be honest, I didn’t realize just how crowded his schedule was. (Of course, FT’s Edward Luce reports that when he sent Petraeus an email invite, the retired general accepted within minutes, so maybe it’s because I wasn’t then holding out the prospect of a meal at the Four Seasons.)

I attended the New America event because I had yet more questions for Petraeus. But I wasn’t as fortunate as Fred Kaplan -- author, by the way, of The Insurgents: David Petraeus and the Plot to Change the American Way of War -- and wasn’t quite speedy or nimble enough to catch the former general before he slipped into the backseat of that luxurious Mercedes sedan.

Irving Berlin’s “What Can You Do With A General?” ends on a somber note that sounds better in Crosby’s dulcimer tones than it reads on the page: “It seems this country never has enjoyed, so many one and two and three and four-star generals, unemployed.”

Today, a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff retiring after 38 years receives a pension of about $20,000 a month, not exactly a shabby unemployment check for the rest of your life, but one that many in the tight-knit fraternity of top officers are still eager to supplement. Take General Cartwright, who joined Raytheon in 2012 and, according to Morningstar, the investment research firm, receives close to $364,000 per year in compensation from that company while holding more than $1.2 million in its stock.

All of this left me with yet more questions for Petraeus (whose pension is reportedly worth more than $18,000 per month or $220,000 per year) about a mindset that seems light years distant from the one Marshall espoused during his retirement. I was curious, for instance, about his take on why the winning of wars isn’t a prerequisite for cashing in on one’s leadership in them, and why the personal and professional costs of scandal are so incredibly selective.

Today, it seems, a robust Rolodex with the right global roster, a marquee name, and a cultivated geopolitical brand covers a multitude of sins. And that’s precisely the type of firepower that Petraeus brings to the table.

After a year without a reply, I got in touch with KKR again. This time, through an intermediary, Petraeus provided me an answer to a new request for an interview. “Thank you for your interest, Nick, but he respectfully declines at this time,” I was told.

I’m hoping, however, that the retired general changes his mind. For the privilege of asking Petraeus various questions, I’d be more than happy to take him to lunch at the Four Seasons.

With that tony power-lunch spot closing down soon as part of a plan to relocate elsewhere, we’d need to act fast. Getting a table could be tough.

Luckily, I know just the name to drop.


Nick Turse is the managing editor of TomDispatch, a fellow at the Nation Institute, and a contributing writer for the Intercept. He is the author of the New York Times bestseller Kill Anything That Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam.
His latest book is Next Time They’ll Come to Count the Dead: War and Survival in South Sudan. His website is

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