Friday, September 30, 2011

Observations of a Jailed Journalist John Farley | September 27, 2011 6:06 AM

Observations of a Jailed Journalist
John Farley | September 27, 2011 6:06 AM

MetroFocus Web Editor John Farley, kneeling, was arrested while reporting on the Occupy Wall Street protest. Farley was working on a story about citizen journalism at the time. MetroFocus/Sam Lewis.
On Sept. 24, while working on a story about citizen journalism for my employer, I found myself arrested, along with many other people. My arrest gave me a unique vantage point on the risks and rewards of citizen journalists, those non-professionals who capture stories (usually without pay) using videos and images via portable technology like a cell phone camera. Anyone, even a passerby or a police officer can be a citizen journalist. That’s its power.

Here’s what happened.

My colleague Sam Lewis and I had previously covered Occupy Wall Street, an ongoing demonstration against economic inequality, on the first day it began, Sept.17.

Throughout that day we noticed many protesters using their mobile devices to document their own experience, sometimes for themselves or their own blogs, sometimes to share with bona fide media organizations. So, midday this past Saturday, Sept. 24, we headed to Union Square, where the Occupy Wall Street protesters had marched that morning from Lower Manhattan.

When we first arrived on the scene, protesters were marching along the sidewalk in unison, chanting. There was no sense of chaos. Many held video and audio recording devices, including camera phones.

In a sudden burst of urban chaos, how can the police distinguish between passersby and protesters who may be committing civil disobedience or any other type of punishable offense? Or between citizen journalists and professional journalists?
However, the stream of protesters did disrupt traffic. Pedestrians wove in and out of the mass of protesters, some on their way to do Saturday errands, others who joined in for a block or two, chanting with the masses.

Sam and I were on the sidewalk observing the action. She was taking photographs, while I was juggling my reporter’s notebook and the audio recorder we’d brought along to interview protesters about how they were using media throughout the day.

As more people spilled into the street, police started to demand that protesters stay on the sidewalk. But as people seemed to be retreating from harm’s way, police began pushing the protesters. I saw police use large nets to corral people en masse. I watched as police pepper sprayed several young women in the face. (An NYPD spokesperson confirmed the use of pepper spray to MetroFocus.) I saw senior citizens and teenagers get arrested. I saw about 20 or 30 police officers tackle people and prod them roughly with police batons.


Video of the young female protesters against whom MetroFocus reporter John Farley saw the police use pepper spray. The headlines for this video was chosen by YouTube. Youtube/TheOther99Percent.

With nearly every arrest, the demonstrators called out for “cameras, cameras” — urging others to document the events — and chanted in unison “The whole world is watching! The whole world is watching!”

When I saw the young women get pepper sprayed, I ran over to interview them. While holding a microphone and wearing a badge identifying myself as an employee of “WNET – New York Public Media,” I found myself suddenly roped into one of the large nets. I was thrown against a wall and handcuffed with hard plastic zip-tie restraints. I sat on the sidewalk with about 50 others. I yelled over and over “I’m press! I’m with WNET MetroFocus! Please do not arrest me.”

I did not possess the press credentials that NYPD allocates to journalists. (As MetroFocus is less than three months old, neither I nor my journalist colleagues have yet met the NYPD’s qualifications.) So even though I work as a professional journalist, the NYPD lumped me in with everybody else.

Lumped me in indeed. I was in police custody for nine hours, eight of which I spent in a jail cell at the 1st Precinct.

An NYPD spokesperson told MetroFocus on Monday that 87 people have been arrested in total since the Occupy Wall Street protests began last weekend; however, the Daily News reported that at least 80 people were arrested on Sept. 24 alone, mostly on charges of disorderly conduct and obstructing traffic. The NYPD would not comment further on my arrest.

Before we were all jailed, they took away everybody’s possessions, including our notebooks, pens, cameras, recording devices and mobile phones. We were separated by gender.

My cellmates were about 35 other men. Most of them were protesters, with at least two bystanders who were snatched up while snapping souvenir photos in the afternoon mayhem. Most had spent quite a bit of time documenting the events of the day, including their arrests, with whatever media tools they had at their disposal.

My cellmate JRL, who preferred to be identified only by his initials, is a 23-year-old Brooklynite. He identified himself as a citizen journalist who streams live footage through Twitter. “We like the terminology ‘grassroots media,’ where people in the march were literally marching with laptops and webcams so that they could live broadcast. I think it’s an immediate, never before possible edge,” said JRL. He was arrested while carrying his Canon 7D camera.

Multiple videos from Sept. 24 show police arresting people holding cameras and audio equipment. An NYPD spokesperson told ABC News that the police were not targeting camera operators.

I don’t know precisely why I was arrested, though I have been charged with disorderly conduct. But what I realized is that in a sudden burst of urban chaos, how can the police distinguish between passersby and protesters who may be committing civil disobedience or any other type of punishable offense? Or between citizen journalists and professional journalists?

The arrest of my cell mate, Sam Queary, 24, adds another dimension to the issue: that of the inadvertent, spontaneous citizen journalist. Queary happened to be at work at Grey Dog Cafe near Union Square when the protesters marched by.

“I heard a commotion and went outside to find cops macing women and arresting people and hitting people with nightsticks, so I started taking pictures,” said Queary. “I followed a young, black male as he was being accosted by five cops. As I tried to take a picture I was pushed away. I asked why I was pushed away and then the next thing you know I was being judo flipped.”


Someone with a video camera documented John Farley’s cell-mate Sam Queary being “judo-flipped” by NYPD and arrested as he was photographing others being arrested. The video, shot by an unknown citizen journalist, has been widely broadcast and linked to by media outlets around the world. The headline for this video was chosen by YouTube. Youtube/LibertyPlazaRev.

I also met Rosa A., 33, in the police van while we were being transported to the 1st Precinct for processing. She had been shopping at the Barnes and Noble on Union Square when she saw the protesters outside. As many New Yorkers do when they see something unusual, she snapped a picture. And she was arrested.

“I’ve never been arrested,” said Rosa A., in visible pain from the plastic handcuffs. “I was just there looking at magazines.” She laughed, lightening the mood in the police van. Even our arresting officer, in the van with us, chuckled.

Between when the Occupy Wall Street protests began on Sept. 17 and this weekend’s wave of media coverage stemming from the arrests, the protesters have complained about being largely ignored by traditional media, including the major national and even metropolitan newspapers, the cable TV news channels and the local network news stations. Meanwhile, argue the protesters, similarly sized Tea Party demonstrations in recent years have received considerable coverage. The general consensus among the Occupy Wall Street protesters was that it was important to document constantly what is happening, and to present their own story when other media hasn’t.

The protesters have also claimed that the media coverage they did receive painted them in an unflattering light and hasn’t accurately represented them. Saturday’s New York Times article characterized the protesters as uninformed, mostly white hippies and trust-funded anti-capitalists. As a result, the protesters I spoke with were quite media savvy and conscious of their need to represent themselves in an attempt to legitimize their cause, which they’ve been doing on their website, on Twitter and on Youtube. In fact, they have an entire media team assembled at Zuccotti Park in Lower Manhattan, where about a dozen laptops are being powered by a portable generator, and citizen journalists are constantly uploading new footage.

The Occupy Wall Street demonstrators have been criticized, including in the aforementioned New York Times piece, as unorganized and lacking in any concrete goals, other than to raise awareness about economic corruption.

But as we all sat in a jail, I noticed an interesting thing happen.

People began to talk very seriously about organizing in a more cohesive way than they have been. Jailhouse rookies, who had never been arrested or involved in radical political activities, listened attentively as experienced activists spoke about the need to set clear demands in order to rally broader public support for specific outcomes.

I don’t know what’s going to happen to Occupy Wall Street as a movement. Maybe it will fizzle out, maybe it will grow. I do know that whatever happens will be documented. And I know that there’s a history of activist movements being bolstered when leaders and followers alike are jailed together.

My cellmate Daniel Gross, a protester who volunteers as an organizer with the Industrial Workers of the World Union, helped create the first union for Starbucks employees.

“I think the NYPD is really going to try to spin what happened today,” Gross told the group, as he handed out his contact information. “I think that we should organize our own press conference.”

Around 10:30 p.m. the police began letting us leave our cell in groups of two. Before leaving, many traded contact information through smuggled business cards and contraband pens.

The still-jailed cheered the newly free.


Tags: civic engagement, grassroots, law, Media, NYPD, Occupy Wall Street, protest
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129 Responses
William Carleton (@wac6) September 27, 2011 -- 12:26 pm
Good reporting, thank you; please keep it up! Your piece also makes me think that maybe there should not be such a hard line drawn between “citizen journalists” and . . . not sure what to call the other kind of journalists – “professional,” let’s say.

Ellis Amburn September 28, 2011 -- 12:52 pm
Thanks, John Farley, for courage and first-rate reportage. Now that mainstream media’s in Wall Street’s pocket, the Woodsteins of Watergate fame are emerging from the ranks of citizen journalists–fortunately for us all.

flame821 September 27, 2011 -- 12:47 pm
William, I think the difference is between journalists and reporters. Journalist investigate all sides of a story and write cohesive articles detailing the finer points, they uncover and report the good and the bad regardless of affiliation or ruffled feathers. Reporters simply parrot what they are told and never look deeply or critically at what they are regurgitating to the public. Mr. Farley is a journalist, Lauren Ellis is a reporter. Getting paid does not separate the two, some of the highest paid people in news are nothing more than reporters.

bigyaz September 28, 2011 -- 3:59 pm
You’re citing a non-existent distinction. Journalists are reporters; reporters are journalists. How well they do their job has nothing to do with what you call them.

Frank Capillo September 28, 2011 -- 5:36 pm
You can’t just make things up and pretend that they’re facts just to make a “point”

drjimmy September 29, 2011 -- 10:02 am
What difference does it make?!

sami September 29, 2011 -- 11:55 am
You hit the nail on the head with that. We need more Journalist like Farley. Thanks Farley for your being so open minded and reporting the facts. Reporter on mainstream media have a bias opinion, so the truth will never come threw with them. Keep up the good work!

Bri September 27, 2011 -- 12:47 pm
Very well done.It is very reflective of the state of affairs in the US today.Perhaps these small journalistic steps can overcome the immense apathy that has a stranglehold on the majority of US citizens.Keep up your good work,you are desperately needed.

V. V. W. September 28, 2011 -- 2:21 pm
Bri, you’re absolutely right. The level of apathy in the US is shocking. Right now, I’d guess that not more than 15% of the population is aware that OccupyWallStreet is even going on.

cj September 27, 2011 -- 12:51 pm
You’re all idiots. This is martial law. Get with it and wake up.

PotatOS September 28, 2011 -- 11:14 am
Nice try , Antony Bologna.

Angus September 29, 2011 -- 4:09 pm
No, I don’t think cj is coming at this from the Antony Bologna angle. If anything, directly in opposition. What Officer Bologna did was very much in keeping with an attempt to impose martial law, despite an official statement of it being imposed. As much support and goodwill as NYPD garnered in the wake of 9/11, they are quickly eroding that with their actions here. Whether the officers on the street are acting on orders, or simply have degenerated into a bunch of goons looking for any excuse to wield mace and club, I do not know, but either way the majority of the public needs to be made aware of their unprofessional behavior. The only thing which will cause this to stop is public outcry, and until it does stop, it is taking the focus away from the purpose of the protests. Maybe if the camera crews from C*O*P*S were there, they would behave themselves? Seems to work on the troopers the show rides along with, and you KNOW that the only reason those cops are as polite and tolerant as they are is because of the cameras.

Christine September 27, 2011 -- 1:00 pm
This is very excellent. I’ll be honest when I said I hadn’t really been paying attention until the “shower them in champagne” comments were reported ( for reference) and the pepper spray to the face occurred. If I were anywhere near New York, now, I would be there.

Anchorite September 28, 2011 -- 7:52 pm
Christine…thanks for the ” shower them in champagne” link….
truly enlightening…keep’em comng!!!!

HeadyJ September 27, 2011 -- 1:40 pm
Mr. Farley,

I salute you for your courage and journalistic integrity. At a time when when media outlets and “journalists” are scrambling to ignore or demonize these protests, you not only covered them passionately and accurately but also pointed out the brutality and injustice visited not only on protesters but also on observers and even, perhaps especially members of the media. It is through true journalists such as yourself and the fearless members of the livestream media team that the 99% will prevail. Thank you again and please continue doing this morally and ethically important job.

Frank Capillo September 28, 2011 -- 5:39 pm
There’s no scrambling to ignore this at all. There’s no platform that the protestors have, so what is there to report? News outlets can’t waste air time everytime someone just wants to make noise.

mrman September 28, 2011 -- 7:32 pm
I am assuming this comment was made in jest? Have you watched any news in the last 15 years? “News outlets can’t waste air time every time someone wants to make noise”. Yes they can and they do. They just pick and choose depending on who this someone is and how much money/shock value they have, not how solid their “platform” is. Does Lindsey Lohan have a “platform”? Does American Idol have a “platform”? Do Nancy Grace’s nipples have a “platform”? Does Mel Gibson have a “platform” other than that he is a racist drunk? I could go on for days. If the major news media chose to spend their time on groups with strong “platforms” the ACLU, Amnesty International and Doctors Without Borders would lead the top stories in the news everyday. I don’t recall seeing much peace and justice being talked about on news outlets in the last 15 years but I do recalling seeing drunk bigots, greedy corporate “leaders” and corrupt, fake politicians leading news stories quite often. If you don’t think there is a shared platform among these protesters that is stronger than the bs I just mentioned then I suggest you go down to Liberty square and see for yourself because the major media outlets are going to continue to act befuddled and say “they can’t grasp what it is all about” and “there is no goal” and there is no ” clear leader” and there is no “apparent platform”. Because that’s how they have always treated social movements. If they do write about them early on it is to confound and irritate their readers and get as many people to dismiss it as possible so it will go away and then there will never be a need to understand or explain anything. During civil rights it was what could these colored people possibly want? Don’t they already have it good enough? Labor movement: They should be happy they have jobs, what could their platform possibly consist of further than wanting a job? Women’s Lib: They are already allowed the right work, no one seems to know quite what it is that they could want other than that… The journalist that wrote this article grasped their “platform” I assure you. Mainly because he was there reporting with courage, not at home with spectacles reading the “Iraq 100% for sure has weapons of mass destruction” NY Times to get his information. Social movements often prevail because they are much more powerful than the people sitting at home, the NYT and other major media, their disinformation, politicians, corporate money and power put together. In fact, there was a revolution in this country in 1776 that was more powerful than all those things put together. More than 40% of this country at the time was with the Royalists who had the power and money but history tells us that a movement of people coming together and MAKING NOISE with statements like “WE ARE NOT GONNA TAKE IT ANYMORE” was “platform” enough to create a powerful revolution of the system in order to honor and respect justice, freedom and liberty. Don’t be confused or scared of revolution, it has spawned some of the greatest movements and moments the world has ever known. It’s now time that one of those moments comes back around.

Anchorite September 28, 2011 -- 7:55 pm
AMEN brother…!!!!

Robinh September 29, 2011 -- 7:16 am
GOD BLESS YOU. no one could have said it better. its obvious the person your responding to has been thoroughly brained washed into believing the disinformation that the msm puts out today. those who sit around and actually believe any and everything coming out of the msm are those who revel in living in denial. they are also the ones who have so much to say about others. one of the arguments i had on another site today is about the fact that these people are being labeled “trustfund babies” and “hippies” and when i posed the question of. well if they are trust fund babies then why exactly are they out their protesting? i mean according to all the posters these people are lazy bored good for nothings. and when i snapped back that at least they were not. THE ONE FALLING FOR THE HOOKEY. the forum lit up. the funny thing is the same people who are trying to degrade the movement and the people involved are also the ones who are constantly sitting behind their computers complaining about how no one from wall street went to jail for robbing us blind. and i stated why would they? what did any of you do to make sure they would get charged and indicted? oh i know you sat behind your computer complaining about it. again the forum lit up. these same idiots refuse to believe that the msm along with wall st and washington are owned by the world bankers. and the msm prints what they are told to print or they will be folded. “”We are grateful to The Washington Post, The New York Times, Time Magazine and other great publications whose directors have attended our meetings and respected their promises of discretion for almost forty years. It would have been impossible for us to develop our plan for the world if we had been subject to the bright lights of publicity during those years. But, the work is now much more sophisticated and prepared to march towards a world government. The supranational sovereignty of an intellectual elite and world bankers is surely preferable to the national autodetermination practiced in past centuries.” David Rockefeller, founder of the Trilateral Commission, in an address to a meeting of The Trilateral Commission, in June, 1991.

betsy shipley September 29, 2011 -- 6:55 pm
Excellent comment. We all know that if the tea party were there, the media would be all over them

Demer September 29, 2011 -- 5:59 pm
The Tea Party did not have a consistent message for months and months, with each protest the press reported a wide range of complaints. Your point is irreverent. Even with a small turnout if this was a Tea Party event you better believe the news networks would be all over this. Whenever it’s an anti-business angled protest it seems to get largely blackballed by the media because, duh, most of the major networks are owned by large corporations and why would they give a narrative to a message that is bound to be against their interests?

Tom Hillgardner September 27, 2011 -- 1:48 pm
The time has come where it should no longer be the police in charge of issuing press credentials. Those rules worked fine in the 1950′s. In the New Media Age they are anachronistic. The reporter here is a professional working journalist. Police continue to deny press credentials to public access television broadcasters who have programs airing for more than 10 years. Now with Twitter and Facebook and YouTube who is to say anymore who is a “legitimate” jopurnalist? Certainly not the police who are hell bent in suppressing the truth and who are well served by the current regime of press credentials where they know they get to say who gets to report about the police.

Ray September 27, 2011 -- 3:42 pm
Remeber the current New York Police Dept. is also a “crack” anti-terrorist organization now, so being slightly heavy handed is now part of their mentality and trust and fair are not part of that training at all.

They have been honed on fear, doubt, mistrust and suspicion far more then they were when it was just to “protect and serve” now it is to suspect and seize.

In this case, With great power comes little accountiblity , since they are now elite and protected by the political agendas of the fear and chaos folks. (right wing media and leadership)
The beltway media ignores you folks, because the reality undermines their presidential debate and their pre-scheduled manipulations of the debates and messaging they want to get out, via their media masters, who are in essence corporate funders of their own agendas, which do not include working class liberals who are just as bad as the “hippies’ of the 1960′s.

Keep fighting, but remember your need to get national exposure and to do it ina NON-VIOLENT WAY are crtitcal.
They will push you, they need unrest and chaos to keep this from growing.
(refere back to the civil rights movement for your solutions.)

Amelia September 28, 2011 -- 7:38 pm
You are so RIGHT ON, Ray. Yours is a voice of reason.

Eric Jaffa September 27, 2011 -- 4:01 pm
I hope you sue for false arrest.

Juan September 28, 2011 -- 7:44 pm
Unfortunately, you cannot sue the police for jailing you without cause. Part of the way things were built. In fact, if the police ignores your right to due process and keeps you jailed for 48 hours without telling you what you’re being charged with, you still can’t sue.

rosa adams September 27, 2011 -- 4:06 pm
Mr. Farley

I been trying to get in contact with you. I wanted to know how you were doing after the arrest. I have pictures off my camera phone and don’t know what to do with them and they’re pretty powerful.

Rosa A.

Oliver September 28, 2011 -- 3:22 am
Hi Rosa- would you like to share the pictures with the rest of us? You could perhaps upload the flickr in low res or something?

rosa September 29, 2011 -- 2:28 pm

Dim the Lights, the Party's Over The US Position in the Middle is Disintegrating by MICHAEL BRENNER

SEPTEMBER 29, 2011

The United States’ strategic position in the greater Middle East is disintegrating. The repercussions of the Arab Spring have undercut the tacit alliance among Washington, Cairo, Riyadh, Amman and Jerusalem with auxiliary members in Yemen and Tunisia among other peripheral states. Mubarak is gone while his former military cohorts sap the revolution’s zeal through symbolic acts that include untying their bonds to Israel while cultivating an alliance with Turkey. Both pillars of the regional sub-system are animated by deepening anti-American feelings among their populace that are spreading across the Islamic world. In Ankara, moreover, the Erdogan government now has its own calculated view of a diplomatic field that no longer has the United States as its hub. The House of Saud is so badly rattled that it is turning on Washington as the cause of its new-found sense of vulnerability. Iraq’s sectarian Shi’ite leadership spurns the idea of a special relationship with us while incrementally building structures of cooperation with the Islamic Republic of Iran. Tehran will not bend the knee in response to our relentless campaign of shunning and sanctioning it – leaving Washington with the bleak choice of war or an indefinite period of tense onfrontation – in the absence of any readiness to speak seriously with its leaders about the terms of a modus vivendi.

Farther afield, Afghanistan is an endless slog with the vain hope of turning that ill-starred land into a Western oriented, pro-American country fading like the swirls of smoke from a lost pipe dream. Pakistan is now pronounced our enemy condemned routinely by our belligerent leaders as the source of all that stymies us in both places. Levels of anti-Americanism are so high as to leave those with favorable views of America within a statistical margin of error that reaches to 00.0. The country’s political elite is unifying around the hard position of giving a blunt ‘no’ in response to bellicose demands from Washington that it do our bidding. Everywhere we look, never has America’s standing been so weak, its authority so low, it credibility in such tatters, and its judgment so suspect.

Little of this registers in official Washington, or in the ante-chambers of power that is unofficial Washington. We continue to bluster and fume, we issue ukase, make declarations, scold and instruct, cast our failures as incidents in the mythic pageant of illusory triumphs from Baghdad to Kandahar to Somalia. The echo chamber keeps reality at bay. Each of these myriad failures has its own saga of hubris, incompetence, willful ignorance and flawed thinking. Iraq stands out only for the brazen deceit and mindlessness that were its hallmark from the inception.

The kaleidoscope of shards that depicts the broken remnants of the American position in the greater Middle East convey incoherence and fragmentation. This is one common element. It is the Israel/Palestine issue – more specifically, Washington’s progressive subordination of its own interests to the compulsions of Israel’s cynical rulers. It has grown from being a dark shadow that casts suspicions over American actions in the regime to a fatal flaw that has eaten away our authority to act as underwriter, our reputation for integrity and our protestations of concern for the well-being and interests of all peoples. Thus, it aggravates relations, inflames radicalism and sows distrust about Washington’s intentions. Barack Obama’s speech to the United Nations last week confirmed the worst fears of doubters and skeptics. America no longer was just Israel’s protector; it was now Israel’s shill. The President of the United States acted as the shameless mouthpiece for an unsavory client. Obama declared before all the world that he placed his personal electoral advantage above the values and interests of the country – still the potentially most influential state on the face of the earth. His abject behavior humiliated the United States in a way that leaves American diplomacy throughout the Islamic world – and beyond – severely compromised.

Predictably, these tragic consequences were little noted nor will they be long remembered among a political class whose insularity from the realities of the world is surpassed only by their insularity from the realities of their own nation.

Michael Brenner is a Professor of International Affairs at the University of Pittsburgh.

The History of the Haqqanis by SHAUKAT QADIR

SEPTEMBER 29, 2011

When the US suffers a defeat in Afghanistan, it will need another scapegoat. I stated this nine years ago; I give you one guess which country is a made-to-order scapegoat here? Neither history, nor truth, nor realities are of any significance. All that matters is that there is a readymade scapegoat to be proven guilty by media trial and convicted for its defeat. But Pakistan should be very proud. It has replaced the combined might of China and, the other erstwhile super-power; the USSR.

Is that what we are witnessing now?

Yes; and no. There are perhaps, other undercurrents at play. A scapegoat is definitely required so let’s just move on and view facts, before returning to conclusions and questions.

As a matter of fact, the period following Osama’s execution in Abbottabad has resulted, not only in increased attacks within Pakistan, but also in Kabul, Afghanistan, targeting the allied forces of occupation, so as to emphasize their vulnerability even within Kabul. Merely to list the prominent ones:

On May 18th a NATO military convoy came under attack on the Dar-ul-Aman Road in Kabul, close to the National Assembly building.
On June 28th, heavily armed individuals entered the Hotel Intercontinental Hotel, in the heart of Kabul.
On July 12th, Hamid Karzai’s half-brother, Ahmed Wali, was shot and killed by his own guard.
On September 12th, a dozen or so militants engaged the compound of the American Embassy and NATO HQ for about twenty hours, raining down rockets and heavy weapons fire, killing numerous local employees, before they were killed, though a few are believed to have escaped alive.
And on September 20th, Burhannuddin Rabbani, former President of Afghanistan and, since October last year, the head of the Afghan High Peace Council, was killed by a suicide bomber in his residence in Kabul.
While the US has accused the Haqqani Group of being responsible for these and other attacks, including the December 2009 attack on CIA’s Forward Operating Base Chapman which killed seven CIA personnel, I will confine myself to discussing the last two listed above, due to which US-Pak relations have plummeted to an all time low.

But before discussing these, a brief historical perspective of Jalaluddin Haqqani is essential

Born 1950 in the province of Paktia, he was 29 years old when the Soviets invaded Afghanistan. At a time when traditional Pashtun tribal elders were appointing proxies to lead their tribe in the struggle for freedom, Jalal was just the right age, to lead his own tribe; he soon established himself as a formidable leader. According to Wikipedia, he was cultivated as a “unilateral” (which implies exclusive, not shared with the ISI) source by the CIA. US Congressman Charlie Wilson, responsible for aiding the Afghan Mujahideedn in the 1980s, referred to Jalaluddin as “goodness personified”.

When the Taliban began their expansion, after capturing Kandahar, Hamid Karzai was one of the Taliban Salaars (general)—that’s right, the current Afghan President was a Taliban and Jalaludin was fighting against the Taliban. Only when Kabul fell, in 1996, and Jalal realized that the ISI, backed by the CIA were intent on assisting the Taliban, did he join them.

After 1996, when Osama bin Laden entered Afghanistan, Jalal witnessed the metamorphosis in the Taliban, especially Mulla Muhammed Omer, under the influence of OBL, with dismay, but remained a silent spectator.

When the US invaded Afghanistan in 2001 and the Taliban disintegrated, Jalal went his own way. Interestingly, 1n 2002, the CIA contacted Jalal to join the post-Taliban setup in Kabul, but Jalal was not prepared to serve under Burhanuddin Rabbani as President and was also wary of being associated with the Tajik and Uzbek dominated “Northern Alliance” which had a stranglehold on US decision making at the time.

Jalal has been accused of having assisted OBL’s escape from his base in Khost to the caves of Tora Bora in 2001; which is possible. He might well have considered himself bound by the tradition of Pashtun hospitality to protect someone within his area. However, the inference drawn from this accusation; that he was/is an Al-Quaida affiliate is blatantly false. Jalal, and his son, Siraj, have been fiercely independent Afghans. Even when he joined the Taliban, he never referred to himself as a Talib.

Hoping that the US would pull out, Jalal waited till 2003/4 before renewing his struggle to free Afghanistan from another foreign invader; the US. In 2006 and again in 2007, Hamid Karzai’s emissaries contacted him, obviously with US blessings, offering him the assignment of Prime Minister, but by that time, Karzai had lost all credibility with the Afghan Pashtun and, not wishing to be tainted, Jalal refused.

In September 2008, he was targeted by an American drone strike, killing 10 others, but he had left. Since then, Jalal and Siraj have flitted across the Durand Line, the de facto Pak-Afghan border, to NWA in Pakistan. However, soon after May this year, the Haqqanis started shifting back to Afghanistan and, while no one can be certain where they are, they are, almost certainly, back in Afghanistan.

The attack on the US Embassy

On September 13th, the US accused the Haqqani Group of being responsible for the attack on its Embassy compound. This was soon followed by accusations of a direct link between the attackers and Pakistan’s premier intelligence agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence, ISI. Although no evidence of this link between the ISI and the September 12th attackers has been made public, the first hint of evidence provided by the US media was that the attackers were in possession of cartons/bottles of Pakistan-made juice, that’s right; Pakistani juice.

But, of course, that is far from being all. From the cell phones recovered from the dead bodies, US intelligence was able to discover that the attackers had been in constant communication with “their ISI handlers”. Now even a low-tech person like this author is aware that any teen aged hacker can make a cell phone sym, or a laptop, for that matter, talk any language and say anything that he wants it to. However, being low-tech, I am mystified by a rather basic question: having recovered the cell numbers that the attackers were in communication with, how did the CIA establish that these cell numbers belonged to “ISI handlers”?

Does the CIA have a list of all cell numbers of ISI personnel? Or did they call the number and the person who replied began with, “ISI handler here”? Now I have never been in the intelligence business; my only knowledge of how it works is because of years of teaching at the Command and Staff College and the NDU (War Wing). But even a novice “handling” such an operation would procure a fresh SIM under a pseudonym and ensure that he/she was miles distant from his/her base for the duration of the attack, so that even if the call could be traced back, it would not lead to the real location of the handler.

Like I said, I am low tech and therefore, perhaps there is technology available to identify the individual’s affiliation as well. I leave it to my readers to judge.

Being a soldier, however, I am mystified by something else; a subject I am more familiar with: basic security measures. The attackers, reportedly, occupied an under construction fourteen story building which overlooks the US Embassy and the adjacent NATO HQ; a building in close proximity of both. Even to the meanest military mind, it posed an obvious threat for just such an attack and American troops in Afghanistan are obsessed with security; as they should be, considering the number of times it has been breached. How is it possible that there were absolutely no security measures to prevent it?

No sentries posted at the foot of the building to prevent attackers climbing to the top? No electronic, sonar, or laser sensors that could give warning? Nothing, nothing at all, or am I seeing something that is invisible to the US military?

Were they incompetent or complicit?

Very interestingly, Sirajuddin Haqqani, Jalaluddin’s son, and now the effective operational commander of the group, rang up from an undisclosed location to speak to a Pakistani daily. Not only did he categorically state that he had been in Afghanistan for some months past (a fact I can testify to), but added that he no longer needed succor, even occasionally, in North Waziristan, NWA, Pakistan. That his following in Afghanistan had grown to the extent that he was safer in Afghanistan.

In response to a direct question, he refused to accept or deny responsibility for the attack; which, if he was responsible for it, is surprising. (A Taliban spokesman, however, did accept responsibility for the attack.) Most interesting was Siraj’s comment, which no one seems to have adverted to, that “we are in contact with the Taliban”, implying thereby that he was not a Taliban, but an “Afghan Freedom Fighter” against a foreign army of occupation.

That is the status that Haqqani; father and son, have always claimed: Afghan Freedom Fighters; and have now been elevated , by the US singling them out since 2009, as the only group that really posed a threat. In 2008, US estimated their group to consist of less than 5,000; today they are estimated to have a following of 15,000, and growing. ISAF’s initial report in 2009, under Stanley McChrystal, categorically advised that the US should be prepared to negotiate with all factions of the Taliban, except the Haqqani Group. I have never understood why this group was singled out. The only reasonable explanation that comes to mind is that perhaps, Mc Chrystal, probably incorrectly, since Mulla Omer is just as intractable, identified Jalal as the one man who would not compromise with a prolonged US presence in Afghanistan.

Whatever the reason, increasing number of Afghans who want to see the back of the Americans are flocking to the Haqqani banner.

Finally; another small question that worries me: if these, Haqqani Group attackers did indeed come from NWA to Kabul, the shortest route leads through the Afghan provinces of Khost, Paktia, and Logar, a distance of approximately 170 kilometers, as the crow flies; but the actual route is much longer. Khost hosts an American airbase, the Combat Team of 3rd Brigade, 1st Infantry division, Camp Clark, and Forward Operating Base, FOB, Salerno. I-279 Infantry, FOB Lightning, and I-10 Attack Aviation are located in Paktia. In Logar, adjacent to Kabul, are 4 Mountain Division, an Engineer Battalion, FOB Shank, and a Combat Team. All of them equipped with high-tech Force Protection Facilities, which includes every conceivable detection device available.

Knowing how the Afghan freedom fighters/Taliban operates, sneaking through in ones and twos, it is possible for them to sneak through this intricate web of US bases, but it certainly does not reflect too well on the state of security, intelligence, and extremely high-tech early warning systems that American forces possess: incompetent, incapable, or complicit?

The assassination of Burhanuddin Rabbani

On September 20th, exactly a week after the daring attack on the US Embassy, Burhanuddin Rabbani, was killed by a suicide bomber. Two (supposed) emissaries of the Taliban, were brought by Muhammed Maasoom Stanikzai, also a member of the Afghan High Peace Council, and a trusted friend of Rabbani. Understandably, they would not be submitted to a body search. Presumably, however, knowing that Rabbani was treading on dangerous grounds and in danger, there would have been the usual security machines and sniffer dogs that can smell out explosive?

If these were there, why was there no warning? If they weren’t, why weren’t there any? Was there complicity or incompetence?

But please wait, it is more interesting when the perspective to this is added. February this year, Counterpunch carried an article by me titled, “Why did Joe Biden rush to Pakistan?” In this article, I explained how the so-called “Rabbani initiative” started to facilitate talks between all Afghan stakeholders, including Taliban, for the future of Afghanistan. That these talks would be exclusively between Afghans, excluding ALL non-Afghans, though negotiations with factions of those Taliban who count and the “Haqqani Group” would be facilitated by Pakistan. And that Rabbani got the nod of approval for this from Pakistan army’s chief.

In effect, therefore, Pakistan had a role to play, while the US did not.

It is also worth noting that Rabbani, a Tajik, had also adopted the Taliban stance that the Americans must pull out of Afghanistan, lock, stock, and barrel, and at the earliest possible.

Now there were Taliban who still found Rabbani unacceptable and were willing to kill him; he had a bloody history of targeting Pashtuns, along with other members of The Northern Alliance. Therefore, the very interesting response from Mulla Omer’s faction after his murder, “we cannot comment until we have carried out a thorough investigation.”

Clearly implying, that this was not an act on instructions from Mulla Omer but it could still have been carried out by ‘rogue’ elements from their ranks. If the reader refers to “Why Joe Biden rushed to Pakistan”, it will become obvious that Mulla Omer had accepted Rabbani as an interlocutor and, since Pakistan (GHQ) had given its blessings, Pakistan could not be interested in Rabbani’s elimination. And, if the Haqqani Group has any links with the ISI, neither would they.

A spokesman, who also identified himself as, Zabiullah Mujahid, also a name associated with Mulla Omer’s group, did call the Pakistani media to claim credit; which is actually meaningless, since all glory seekers would jump at the chance to claim credit for an ‘unclaimed hit’ on such a significant target. And who can identify a voice on the phone. What is more, this spokesman talked about an explosive-filled jacket, whereas it has been established by forensics, that the explosive was in his turban.

However, this murder was indeed carried out by mid level Taliban of Omer’s faction, the two individuals who were brought by Stanikzai, were acknowledged members of Omer’s group; but who let them in, but the real question is; why?


On the dangerous game of “Chicken” presently still ongoing, between the US and Pakistan, I will make a separate effort. Will someone blink; if so, who and when? But I had warned of this inevitability in another article carried by CounterPunch; “Has Pakistan declared its independence? This dog won’t come to heel”.

However, in this process of the final brinkmanship, in response to which Pakistan has picked up the gauntlet, the US has done Pakistan a great favor. I have frequently explained the logic behind the now irrelevant and immensely weakened Al-Quaida’s call to arms against Muslim states. It was based on the accusation that the leaders of Muslim majority countries have been bought, body and soul, by the US; and now the leaders are selling their nation to the US, identified as the Kafir (infidel) of all Kafirs — that same US which is at war with Muslims all over the world and backs Israel’s inhuman treatment of Palestinians. Therefore the leaders of these Muslim majority countries and their followers are also Kafirs; legitimate targets for all devout Muslims to kill.

However warped, that was the rationale and many Pakistanis, including the vast majority of non-militant ones genuinely believed this; and with good reason. Despite the fact that the Pakistani nation was unified in its determination to eradicate the scourge of terrorism within; it was still a nation lacking self respect and confidence in its leadership, due toPakistani subservience to the US.

By forcing Pakistan to defy it, to the extent of saying that Pakistan is, militarily, economically, and diplomatically prepared for all consequences, the US has restored Pakistani nation’s self respect and has united it against this common challenge. There is only one individual in this whole wide world capable of gifting us this miracle: the one and only; our dearly beloved uncle: Uncle Sam. I thank you Uncle, from the depths of my heart. That is one favor we, Pakistanis can never repay, and can never thank you for, sufficiently.

SHAUKAT QADIR is a retired brigadier and a former president of the Islamabad Policy Research Institute. He can be reached at

The New Republican Offensive The Resurgence of Military Trials by JOANNE MARINER

SEPTEMBER 29, 2011
Congressional Republicans have won a string of victories in their fight to preserve the Bush Administration’s harmful “war on terror” policies.

They blocked the transfer of prisoners from Guantanamo to the United States, keeping the military prison at Guantanamo open despite President Obama’s 2009 executive order that called for the facility’s closure.

They forced the Justice Department to back down from its decision to prosecute Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his four co-defendants in U.S. federal court, even though Attorney General Eric Holder was personally committed to trying the men in fair civilian proceedings.

Exercising the filibuster, their weapon of choice, they derailed the confirmation of James Cole as deputy attorney general last May, citing the nominee’s past claims that the federal courts were preferable to military commissions in trying terrorist crimes.

Their latest campaign seems even more ambitious. Not satisfied with keeping Guantanamo open, they want its population to expand. They are also seeking to ensure that military commissions, not federal courts, become the default forum for trials of terrorist suspects, no matter where those suspects are found or where their alleged crimes have taken place.

The extent to which the Obama Administration will defend against these pressures is unclear. An ongoing case involving an alleged Hezbollah commander detained in Iraq for crimes against U.S. military personnel may mark a negative change in approach.

The Republican Offensive

In a letter sent to Attorney General Holder in May, five Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee called for the detainee, Lebanese citizen Ali Mussa Daqduq, to be brought before a military commission for trial. They also posed aggressive questions as to why the Administration was not considering transferring Daqduq to Guantanamo.

To date, the Obama Administration has not moved a single new detainee to Guantanamo, nor has it brought military commission charges against any detainees who had not previously been charged in that forum. Despite congressional criticism, terrorist suspects like Uman Farouk Abdulmuttalab, the Nigerian so-called underwear bomber picked up in Detroit, and Abdulkadir Warsame, the Somali alleged militant picked up in the Gulf of Aden, have been charged in civilian courts in the United States.

Even the most superficial scrutiny of the courts’ record shows why the Administration has confidence in them. Over the past decade, the federal courts have handled hundreds more terrorism cases than have the military commissions, and have provided fairer proceedings than would be possible using the commissions’ flawed structures.

Critics of the federal court system cannot point to a single case in which a genuine terrorist has escaped conviction. Indeed, sentences have generally been longer in the federal courts than in military commissions.

But the Administration’s practice of bringing all new terrorism cases to federal trial may change. According an article written by the Associated Press last weekend, the Obama administration is now seriously considering holding the Daqduq trial in a military commission, albeit one on a military base on U.S. soil.

The Bush Precedents

One of the sad ironies of the Obama administration’s current predicament is that in pressing for Daqduq’s military trial congressional Republicans are seeking to out-Bush the “war on terror” president himself. Daqduq was originally captured in 2007, and it was the Bush Administration that made the then-uncontroversial decision to try him in civilian proceedings.

The choice was not unprecedented. Just two months prior to Daqduq’s capture, the U.S. government had arraigned another defendant in federal court who was implicated in terrorist crimes in Iraq; the defendant later pled guilty. During the Bush Administration, in fact, no detainees were brought from Iraq to Guantanamo, and no crimes committed in Iraq were ever prosecuted by military commission.

There is no good reason why this approach should change. Just yesterday, in a commonsense ruling that does not mention Guantanamo or military commissions, let alone the heated political debates surrounding them, a federal judge reaffirmed the power of the U.S. courts to adjudicate cases involving terrorist acts in Iraq. Rejecting an Iraqi defendant’s claim that conduct occurring in Iraq was beyond the reach of the U.S. judicial system, the court denied his motion to dismiss parts of the federal indictment against him.

If only Congress’s wrongheaded assertions could be so firmly quashed. One part partisan politics and two parts fear-mongering, congressional attempts to expand Guantanamo and reinvigorate the military commission system will be ever more ambitious until the Obama Administration makes more convincing efforts to resist them.

Joanne Mariner is the director of Hunter College’s Human Rights Program. She is an expert on human rights, counterterrorism, and international humanitarian law.

PATRICK COCKBURN The Latest Crackdown In Iraq

SEPTEMBER 29, 2011
The Iraqi government is seeking to silence critics who accuse it of rampant corruption by removing officials who try to prosecute racketeers and intimidating politicians and journalists who support them.

This month alone it has forced the head of its anti-corruption watchdog to resign. And a prominent Iraqi journalist, who had been threatened for leading anti-government protests, was shot dead in his home in Baghdad.

There is growing anger that the ruling elite is stealing or embezzling much of the country’s $2bn (£1.3bn) a week in oil revenues, depleting funding for electricity, water, health care, housing, education and even rubbish collection. Transparency International says that last year Iraq was the fourth most corrupt country in the world, out of 178 countries surveyed.

The Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, and his government have apparently decided to deal with the accusations by hitting back at their accusers. They are trying to remove the parliamentary immunity of an independent MP, Sabah al-Saadi, formerly head of the parliamentary committee on integrity, so that they can arrest him for making allegations against Maliki.

So few officials in Iraq are prosecuted or lose their jobs for corruption that it is difficult to prove how widespread it is, though most Iraqis assume that no job or contract is awarded without a bribe. A report this week by the Brussels-based International Crisis Group, called Failing Oversight: Iraq’s Unchecked Government, relates how the Electricity Minister was forced to resign “accused of having signed multibillion-dollar contracts with a Canadian shell company [one with a physical address but no assets or operations] and a German company that had declared bankruptcy.”

Earlier this year, Saadi embarrassed the government by revealing that the general in charge of its rapid reaction team had been arrested in a sting for accepting a $50,000 bribe.

The ICG report says that Maliki’s government has fought long and hard to prevent official theft being curbed by blocking efforts to strengthen state institutions in charge of investigations and prosecution. An Iraqi inspector general is cited as saying that the anti-corruption framework is “like an aspirin to Iraq’s cancer”.

Judge Rahim al-Ugaili, the head of the Integrity Commission, one of the principal oversight bodies, was forced to resign his post on September 9. He said he had had to give up his job because the government was not supporting his anti-corruption work and was interfering politically in his work.

A senior US embassy official testified before Congress that the Prime Minister’s office had issued “secret orders” to the Integrity Commission, prohibiting it from referring cases to the courts involving “former or current high-ranking Iraqi government officials, including the Prime Minister… The secret order is, literally, a licence to steal.”

Critics of the government say they have all been threatened with violence. On the day Ugaili was forced out of his job, a popular radio journalist, Hadi al-Mahdi, was shot twice in the head in his flat in the normally safe Karrada district of Baghdad. His killing happened just before he was due to lead a pro-democracy demonstration against corruption and authoritarianism.

Mahdi had run an outspoken radio show called To Whoever Listens, which was highly critical of the government. Two months ago, he was forced to take it off the air because of fears for his safety. He had told Amnesty International this year that he and three other journalists had been arrested at a protest rally and taken to a military headquarters, where they were beaten, given electric shocks and threatened with rape. Several hours before he was shot Mahdi posted a note on Facebook saying he felt he was in danger. “I have lived the last two days in a state of terror,” he wrote.

The reason for Ugaili’s resignation shows that corruption in Iraq has reached saturation level. The ICG report, citing government sources, says that in 2011 the Integrity Commission and the Board of Supreme Audit had identified hundreds of shell companies abroad linked to senior government officials in the Defense Ministry and Prime Minister’s office. These were winning contracts in Iraq, many of which were never implemented despite being paid for. When Ugaili sought to get the courts to prosecute, the government blocked him and he resigned.

Patrick Cockburn is the author of “Muqtada: Muqtada Al-Sadr, the Shia Revival, and the Struggle for Iraq

Time to Choose Your Symbol Ireland’s Bread and Circuses by HARRY BROWNE

SEPTEMBER 29, 2011


Last Monday, the Irish state paid €1.465 billion (about $2 billion) to senior unsecured boldholders in Bank of Ireland, as part of its obligation under the blanket guarantee of Irish banks issued by the government three years ago this week. This was, according to the Bondwatchwebsite that is keeping a grim tally of these things, part of a total of €4.3 billion paid this month by a government that continues to impose crippling austerity measures on its people.

That’s a lot of bread being taken from our mouths and fed to international financiers. You’d think we’d be up in arms about it. But Ireland’s chattering classes love, above all other things, an election, and next month’s presidential election in the Republic is offering one hell of a circus to distract us from the beggaring of the people by the state, in partnership with the unholy troika of the EU, IMF and European Central Bank. The story of how we are bleeding into the coffers of the bondholders barely merits a mention.

It’s understandable. The deadly bonds have been around for years, and there’s no doubt this election offers an interesting and entertaining choice, from no fewer than seven candidates, including a couple of much-loved Southern lefties and an important leader of Northern militant republicanism. Then there’s the former Eurovision singer, the celebrity businessman and the charitable lady who lunches. To add further weirdness: the one candidate who is widely regarded as standing little chance of winning is the career politician who represents the most popular party in the state, the senior party of the current government, Fine Gael.

The trouble is, despite all that choice, and despite the single-transferable-vote system that will ensure a long and intriguing count as we track the lines of ideology, geography and gender along which votes will flow from eliminated candidates to those who remain, this is really just a meaningless election to a meaningless office. It’s no doubt lovely for the triumphant individual, who will earn a hefty annual salary in the region of €300,000, travel the world, and with a bit of luck live to retire into further global prominence, a la Mary Robinson. But the Irish constitution gives the office of president very little power — taoiseach (prime minister) is where that lies — and so this is merely another opportunity for voters to make some sort of symbolic gesture. (Actually, the last general election here was a lot like that too.)

So choose your symbol. Dana Rosemary Scallon (formerly known simply as Dana) won the Eurovision Song Contest in 1970 with the insufferably treacly ‘All Kinds of Everything’, and spent a few years doing Christian radio and TV in the US; she has since served as a member of the European parliament, and with her record of anti-abortion activism, she represents the clearest ‘throwback’ on offer. She’s one of two candidates from Derry, which as part of British-controlled Northern Ireland has no vote in this election. Sean Gallagher, from the border county of Cavan, is the one who Knows Business, as viewers have seen on TV’s Dragon’s Den — the equivalent US show is apparently called Shark Tank — and has spent time on the national executive of the hugely discredited Fianna Fail party, whose fall is so steep that it has not even named a candidate this time, for an office it has controlled throughout the history of the State for all but Robinson’s seven years. Mary Davis (who hopes to be the third President Mary in a row) was in charge of the Special Olympics when it came to Ireland and is the favoured candidate of media tycoon Denis O’Brien, ensuring her at least some degree of favourable coverage; she is adept at vague platitudes: her slogan, “Pride at Home, Respect Abroad”, was somehow also adopted by Fine Gael candidate Gay Mitchell, who thus had to abandon it in favour of “Understands Our Past, Believes in Our Future”. Polls suggest Mitchell will provide the evidence that support for a particular party doesn’t translate into support for its presidential candidate.

The three frontrunners, according to bookies’ odds, all come, broadly, from the Left. Poet and politician Michael D. Higgins has been holding up the left wing of the Irish Labour Party almost single-handedly for many years — so many years that his age, 70, is seen as his chief vulnerability. No one calls him “Higgins”: he is always, mostly affectionately, “Michael D.” Left-wing campaigns have usually been able to count on his support even when his party leadership was not so sure; the slight downside, from campaigners’ point of view, was the passionate but long and rambling speech he was sure to make at your event. Few who were there will ever forget the night in 1989 when hundreds of solidarity activists filled the National Concert Hall to welcome Nicaraguan president Daniel Ortega. Michael D. seemed like he would burst with emotion as he made the main welcoming address, but it was anyone’s bet when it would finish so that Ortega could speak. (When Ortega did speak he was so dull that we were instantly nostalgic for the interminable passion of Michael D. — only the sight of Ortega’s beautiful wife Rosario Murillo sitting on stage in her spectacular blood-red dress kept our eyes from shutting.) As a government minister looking after the arts and communications for a few short years in the 1990s, Michael D. achieved real popularity with the constituencies who benefited from his department’s largesse.

Senator David Norris has never achieved even that degree of actual political power — the senate here being largely an irrelevant talking shop. A witty, entertaining lecturer on Anglo-Irish literature in Trinity College — I can recall him literally dancing across classrooms when I attended his lectures on Joyce in 1985 — his fame and popularity came about because he is gay. Back in those days it was often remarked that if you asked most Irish people what they thought about homosexuality, the reply would be: “Oh, I like that David Norris, he’s lovely.” Norris was more than lovely, he was important: he took the legal case to Europe that struck down Ireland’s anti-gay legislation, and despite his British colonial background (he was born in what was then Leopoldville in the Belgian Congo) and previous status as a leading “Irish friend of Israel”, he has moved steadily to the left over the last two decades, especially on international issues. He might even be counted as a friend of CounterPunch, having launched my book about activists who bashed US planes at Shannon Airport, Hammered by the Irish, not long after he launched my wife Catherine’s poetry collection, A Bone in My Throat — and must be one of only a handful of people who would and could do both those launches exceptionally well. Like Michael D., he might be accused of liking the sound of his own voice, but in Norris’s case there may also be an addiction to the gales of laughter that often interrupt it.

Norris would, it is claimed, be the world’s first openly gay head of state, and much of the independent left has supported him. But as an independent he has had to chase nominations from members of the parliament and from county councils, and in the midst of his efforts over the summer, controversy erupted. First, an old interview surfaced in which he appeared to favour, at least in principle, the ancient-Greek idea of a young man being sexually initiated by an older one. Then there emerged letters that he wrote in 1997 pleading for clemency for an ex-partner who was convicted in Israel of statutory rape of a 15-year-old boy. The revelations in recent years about the Catholic Church have made many Irish liberals very illiberal indeed when it comes to sex with minors: there is no room, it seems, to consider the facts of a particular case, no room for debate about the principle and age of consent. In this context it is quite extraordinary that Norris has nonetheless, and just barely, got himself nominated in time for this Wednesday’s deadline, and that he generally leads in the opinion polls; but it could yet get ugly. And it would appear that his campaign’s revival at the last moment was at least in part inspired by the desire of some right-wing and anti-republican elements to support a candidate who could block the real political giant in this contest, the late-emerging Sinn Feiner Martin McGuinness, the race’s second Derry candidate, who has stepped down as deputy first minister in Northern Ireland so he can run for president in the Republic.

McGuinness says he joined, then left, the Provisional IRA in the early 1970s. No one believes him about the ‘left’ part, and credible sources suggest he was the paramilitary group’s chief of staff for at least some time in the 1970s and 1980s. He says he has fired a gun but never killed anyone, an assertion that has been greeted here as the Irish-republican equivalent of Bill Clinton’s professed failure to inhale.

There is no doubt that the austere, largely teetotal McGuinness was a hugely important member of the ‘republican movement’, the formulation that takes in both the IRA and the Sinn Fein political party. When I first saw him speak in the late 1980s he was a compelling voice for an understanding of the Irish nationalist struggle in terms that were more broadly anti-imperialist, and revolutionary-socialist. Since those days he has clearly stood beside Gerry Adams in guiding the ‘peace process’ — veteran journalist Ed Moloney, in a definitive Irish Times article, recalls IRA hardliners who could say with confidence, “If Martin is for it, then so am I.” His own personal peace process progressed to the astonishing point where in recent years he formed a warm governing double-act, dubbed “the Chuckle Brothers”, with the Protestant bigot Ian Paisley. His candidacy has been endorsed by many of the sort of people the IRA tried to kill during the Troubles.

The fact remains that McGuinness is, at best, opaque about his past. And perhaps more pertinent, though certainly less discussed here in the Republic, is the fact that Sinn Fein’s record in its powersharing coalition with the Paisleyite Democratic Unionist Party largely belies the leftish rhetoric that has brought the party some electoral success down South.

But since the Southern media is allergic to the realities of Northern politics, and given that the office of president isn’t a policy-making one anyway, the focus of the campaign will clearly be on unpicking McGuinness’s past, all the better to revive the partitionism and distaste for Northern nationalists that tend to dominate Dublin’s middle class. This revival is by no means sure to discredit and defeat him, since the distaste is far less prevalent among the population at large. The outgoing president, Mary McAleese, came from a Northern nationalist background. When she ran for the office in 1997, an influential newspaper columnist described her as a “tribal time bomb”, but this did not stop her from being easily elected then, and returned unopposed in 2004, all the time working to strengthen relations between her alleged tribe and the opposing one of Ulster unionism.

There is nonetheless a big difference between McAleese, previously a lawyer and academic, and McGuinness, who is seen, rightly or wrongly, as a leader almost without parallel of the Provos’ quarter-century armed campaign. To elect him, so that he would be president at the centenary of the Easter Rising in 2016, would be arguably to accept the proposition that his journey from insurrection to the corridors of power is directly analogous to that of the generation of Irish freedom-fighters whose struggle led to the establishment of the State. He and his supporters spend a lot of time mentioning Eamon De Valera and Nelson Mandela, ‘terrorists’ who became the very embodiment of their nations. The assertion sticks in the craw of a middle-aged Dublin establishment who, while they have grown accustomed to Sinn Fein’s rise, have never liked it. After all, if there was even a little legitimacy to the Provisional IRA’s struggle on behalf of Northern nationalists against an oppressive British-backed state, then our children might well ask us what exactly we did during the war.

On the other hand, those of us who did nothing may gain some small measure of satisfaction, a sense of striking our first blow for the Republic, by voting for Martin McGuinness. The discomfort McGuinness brings to the political and media elites could, in these ugly days of crushing orthodoxy, be all the more satisfying. For all his good qualities, Michael D. Higgins, after all, represents one of the parties in the awful Dublin government. David Norris may be a noble friend of CounterPunch as well as a friend of Dorothy, but in this election — politics indeed making strange bedfellows — he is also on intimate terms with the reactionary Sunday Independent, where commentators who cheered the invasion of Iraq will tell us that McGuinness is an unacceptable man of violence.

It is inevitable that our choice of symbol from this extraordinary array will dominate discussions here in the coming weeks, and for leftists perhaps it is heartening that, whoever wins, Higgins, Norris and McGuinness are almost certainly to gain more than half of the first-preferences between them. But after the election on October 27th, it’s vital that we ditch the symbol-making, get down to the reality of our predicament, of the global predicament, and start to fight our way out of it.

HARRY BROWNE lectures in journalism at Dublin Institute of Technology. He is the author of Hammered By the Irish, published by CounterPunch / AK Press. He can be reached at:

Estonia, My Estonia U.S. Lags Far Behind in Worker Protection by DAVID MACARAY

SEPTEMBER 29, 2011

If you were wondering where the United States ranks, relative to the rest of the world, in the general category of “worker protection,” there is now a precise answer available—one supplied by Professor Kenneth Thomas of the University of Missouri (St. Louis), who based his findings on statistics supplied by OECD members.

The OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) is a group of 34 comparatively “rich” industrialized nations that was founded in 1961 and whose stated purpose, more or less, is to meet semi-regularly to discuss ways of increasing economic progress through world trade. It might help to think of the OECD as an international version of the Chamber of Commerce. Its headquarters are in Paris, France.

The following countries are members of the OECD: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Chile, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Korea, Luxembourg, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

So what did Professor Thomas learn from his survey? Where does the proud and accomplished United States rank? Shockingly, the U.S. not only finishes dead last overall, but in many of the specific categories (maternity leaves, medical leaves, education, etc.) we’re not even within shouting distance of the rest of the pack.

Now a sharp-eyed realist might attempt to mitigate these findings by arguing that getting beaten in these categories by Denmark, Sweden and Norway is no disgrace and certainly no surprise. After all, Scandinavia is/was known as a veritable “workers paradise.” But Estonia and Mexico? Chile and Slovenia? Surely, someone is joking.

But it’s no joke. Thomas shows that the U.S. not only lags well behind its fellow OECD members in worker protection, it even trails the so-called BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) countries in many areas. Among the categories considered in the OECD study: being fired unfairly, not receiving severance pay, not getting enough notice on mass layoffs, and the use of non-vested, non-permanent employees.

Arguably, the U.S. is undergoing a shift in self-identity. Instead of seeing ourselves, collectively, as a “country”—a society, a culture, a national community—we now see ourselves as nothing more than an economic arena—a gladiatorial arena where it’s every man for himself, where there are only winners and losers. And while no one knows how all of this will ultimately play out, it’s safe to say it will end badly for the majority (formerly known as “citizens”; now referred to as “losers”).

There are two (and only two) sources of worker protection: federal and state labor laws, and union contracts. In the absence of these two safeguards, it’s economic free-fall. As for our laws, they’re being tested and challenged every day by predatory corporations looking for shortcuts and loopholes. Making it worse, the courts and media reflexively defend these corporations. Meanwhile, the Democrats—labor’s putative “friends”—are terrified of doing anything that will make them look pro-labor.

Which leaves only the unions to provide a modicum of worker protection and dignity. And, as everyone knows, union membership now hovers at a mere 12.4%, down from a high of nearly 35% back in the glory days of the 1950s, when the middle-class was thriving and prosperous. Who would’ve thought it possible? Who would’ve dreamed the day would come when the American worker looked to Estonia for inspiration?

David Macaray, a Los Angeles playwright and author (“It’s Never Been Easy: Essays on Modern Labor”), was a former union rep. He can be reached at

SEPTEMBER 29, 2011 6 Merkel Prevails, But Eurozone Still Tilting Toward Recession Europe Blinking Red by MIKE WHITNEY

German parliamentarians reaffirmed their commitment to the Euro-project on Thursday by approving an expansion of the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF). The balloting provided the landslide victory (523 to 85) that German Chancellor Angela Merkel needed to reestablish her leadership and to silence dissidents. The bill will increase the size of the emergency fund (from $340 billion to $600 billion) while allowing greater flexibility in the way in which the funds are distributed. Officials are now free to recapitalize struggling banks as well as purchase bonds from nations that have seen yields spike and government debt soar.

According to Der Speigel:

“… the law passed on Thursday includes a provision which gives the German parliament a say in future EFSF decisions. In a recent verdict, Germany’s highest court had demanded greater parliamentary involvement in decisions relating to euro-zone bailouts. And now, a special committee will be established in the Bundestag to ensure parliamentary involvement even in hurried EFSF resolutions.” (“German Parliament Passes Euro Fund Expansion”, Speigel Online)

The importance of the Bundestag’s “special committee” can’t be overstated. The representatives of the German people will now have a veto-power over policies related to the emergency fund. That means that the fund won’t be “massively leveraged”–to meet the bond purchasing needs of Spain and Italy–unless the new committee agrees. And, agreement would be difficult for anyone seeking reelection in Germany where public opposition to more bailouts is overwhelming. So, while Merkel has won a crucial victory in the short-term, the future of the eurozone is more uncertain than ever.

This is from Bloomberg:

“Global investors anticipate Europe’s debt crisis leading to an economic slump, a financial meltdown and social unrest in the next year with 72 percent predicting a country abandoning the euro as a shared currency within five years, a Bloomberg survey found.

About three-quarters of those questioned this week said the euro-area economy will fall into recession during the next 12 months and 53 percent said turmoil will worsen in a banking sector laden with government bonds, according to the quarterly Global Poll of 1,031 investors, analysts and traders who are Bloomberg subscribers. Forty percent see the 17-nation currency bloc losing at least one member in the next year.

More than a third of participants say deteriorating European debt will derail the world economy over the next year, with the pessimism highlighting the pressure European policy makers face as they try again to fix their 18-month sovereign crisis. Stocks last week tumbled into their first bear market in two years and foreign leaders, including President Barack Obama, are urging European leaders to intensify their rescue efforts.” (“Europe Meltdown Seen Converging With Recession”, Bloomberg)

So, the outlook is still pretty gloomy. Merkel’s triumph hasn’t changed the basic eurozone dynamic; the monetary union’s structural problems still persist. The EFSF just glosses over the problem by sticking a big pile of money in front of investors saying “See how committed we are!” That’s quite a bit different than providing blanket guarantees on government debt or backing state bonds with the “full faith and credit” of the United States of Europe. Any real solution requires credible government institutions that underwrite state debt. A mountain of money doesn’t achieve that goal.

And while its true that bond yields are rising in Spain and Italy because the rate of debt-to-GDP is high, part of the increase is due to investor jitters that there is no lender of last resort (as there is in the US or any other sovereign country that pays its debts in its own currency) And when there’s no lender of last resort, then how can bondholders be certain they will be repaid? Keep in mind, people who buy government bonds, do not do so for the high rate of return, but because they don’t want to worry about getting their money back, which is why government bonds are commonly called “risk free” assets.

Are Italian bonds risk free assets if repayment depends on the whims of German parliamentarians?

The EFSF has been called Euro-TARP, which is a fair description. But TARP was just one of many programs that kept the financial system from experiencing even bigger tremors. The Fed also purchased over $1.25 trillion in mortgage-backed securities (The so called “toxic assets”) and created a myriad of lending facilities to backstop all parts of the financial system, including blanket underwriting of dodgy assets traded by unregulated shadow banks.

Is the Bundestag prepared to do the same?

And what about the markets? While the reaction to the balloting is bound to be equities-positive, will it relieve the pressure that’s been building in the credit markets where the real troubles lie?

Not likely. Earlier in the week, global markets rallied for two full days on a rumour that turned out to be false. CNBC market analyst Steve Liesman reported that a “detailed plan is currently in the works on levering the money from the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) … Under the plan the European Investment Bank (EIB) would form a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) to issue bonds and purchase sovereign debt with the bonds it used so it could take the capital from the EFSF lever up these bonds could also be used as collateral at the European Central Bank (ECB).”

That’s the rumor that sent stocks into the stratosphere. Traders loved the idea that the emergency fund would be transformed into an Enron-type perma-leverage-machine that could amplify the original sum of 440 billion euros by 5 or 10X. But, as it happens, the report was wrong.

This is from Bloomberg:

“The European Investment Bank said is has not been approached concerning a reported plan involving a special purpose vehicle connected wi th the European Financial Stability Facility for the purpose of bailouts.

“There have been media reports about a potential involvement of the EIB in a special purpose vehicle in connection with the EFSF, for the purpose of bailouts,” the EIB said today in a statement. “The EIB has not been approached and has no plans to be involved in this. The EIB will continue to focus on its mission which is financing viable investment projects.” (Bloomberg)

So, no mega-bailout fund, after all?

The point is, that while stocks were flying-high, the credit markets were still blinking red. For example, Libor continued to rise during the rally and through today (Thursday) for a 15th straight day. In other words, the cost of borrowing dollars and euros for three months in the London interbank market is still going up. At the same time, yields on Spanish and Italian debt continue to rise to new highs.

This is from euronews:

“Italy was able to sell 14.5 billion euros worth of short-term government bonds in its latest debt auction on Tuesday. But Rome again had to pay higher rates of interest to raise most of that money….Spain also paid higher borrowing rates as it sold 3.2 billion euros of new short-term debt.” (

The TED spread has remained elevated at 36 basis points, another sign of distress. 

And, according to Bloomberg:

“The ECB said financial institutions increased overnight deposits. Banks parked 165 billion euros ($225 billion) with the Frankfurt-based lender yesterday, compared with 151 billion euros on Sept. 23 and 198 billion euros on Sept. 12, the ECB said.”

Overnight deposits are a sign that banks are too distrustful about the solvency of other banks to leave it with them.

And what about EU bank funding; is that still a problem?

Yes, a bigtime problem. Take a look at this from the Wall Street Journal:

“An extraordinary dry spell in the market for long-term European bank funding is amplifying pressure on policy makers to devise a solution to the Continent’s banking crisis.

For the past three months, European banks have been largely unable to sell debt at affordable prices to investors, who are wary of the banks’ vulnerability to risky euro-zone government bonds and other loans.

At $34 billion, the amount of senior unsecured debt issued by the Continent’s financial institutions this quarter is on track to be the smallest of any quarter in more than a decade, according to data provider Dealogic. Most of those were bite-size deals of less than $500 million apiece. Traditionally, issuing such debt has been among the most popular ways for banks to finance themselves over the long term.”

Now market observers are worried that the funding freeze is going to continue and perhaps worsen heading into 2012, with potentially serious repercussions for the banking industry. (“Europe’s Banks Face New Funding Squeeze”, Wall Street Journal)

Or how about this, again from another article in the Wall Street Journal:

“European bank funding markets are in the deep freeze, with no public senior euro issuance since early July. That is becoming a major problem: Three-quarters of financing for Europe’s economy comes from banks, according to the European Central Bank. Restoring access to long-term funding must be a priority for Europe’s policymakers.

Bank bond issuance has collapsed as the sovereign crisis has deepened….Fear of sovereign defaults risks a vicious circle where banks unable to borrow then cut back on lending. That crimps growth prospects and increases the risk of sovereign solvency problems.

The International Monetary Fund estimates that spillover costs from the turmoil in government bond markets could amount to EUR300 billion and calls have mounted for banks to raise fresh capital. But this alone is unlikely to reduce funding costs and boost issuance: If the fear is one of widespread sovereign defaults, including heavyweights such as Spain or Italy, it is difficult to imagine enough capital could be raised to withstand the subsequent havoc….

The longer the euro area dithers, the worse the downturn is likely to be. (“Bank Funding, Not Capital, Must Be Priority”, Wall Street Journal.)

Get the picture? No sane investor would touch EU bank debt with a 10 ft. dungpole. So, who are you going to believe; the stock markets or the credit markets? The truth is, troubles in the eurozone are getting worse not better.

Still, there’s no doubt that EU leaders will use Merkel’s victory to try to make changes to the emergency fund that will allow for more leverage. Even so, the enhanced bailout plan is likely to meet stiff resistance on the way. According to one report, German opposition party leader on budget issues, Schneider, has warned Merkel that “any introduction of leverage that would not feature explicitly in the EFSF reform bill discussed and voted on this Thursday in the Lower House would be a de facto circumvention of Parliament, and that this would simply be unacceptable to the SPD.” (“The ‘No More Lehmans’ rally”, FT.Alphaville)

So, there are going to be more hurdles, more legal challenges and more public resistance to the bailout fund. And while the expanded bond purchasing program will undoubtedly have positive effects on debt-stricken countries in the south (and credit markets), austerity measures will continue to short-circuit private sector spending leading the way to higher unemployment, slower growth and an ever-deepening slump. The eurozone is headed for recession.

The 17-member monetary union has structural problems that can’t be resolved by holding down bond yields and propping up banks. Either the problems are fixed or the eurozone won’t survive.

Mike Whitney lives in Washington state. He can be reached at

An American diversion - more reflection than really 'tis necessary in re: a children's riddle - now all befuddling and making them muddling our leaders of men and deceivers of themselves

Patti Shanaberg

Why DID the chicken cross the road???

SARAH PALIN: The chicken crossed the road because, gosh-darn it, he's a

BARACK OBAMA: The chicken crossed the road because it was time for change! The
chicken wanted change!
JOHN MC CAIN: My friends, that chicken crossed the road because he recognized
the need to engage in cooperation and dialogue with all the chickens on the
other side of the road.

HILLARY CLINTON: When I was First Lady, I personally helped that little
chicken to cross the road. This experience makes me uniquely qualified to
ensure right from Day One that every chicken in this country gets the chance it
deserves to cross the road. But then, this really isn't about me.

GEORGE W. BUSH: We don't really care why the chicken crossed the road. We
just want to know if the chicken is on our side of the road, or not. The
chicken is either against us, or for us. There is no middle ground here.

DICK CHENEY: Where's my gun?

COLIN POWELL: Now to the left of the screen, you can clearly see the satellite
image of the chicken crossing the road.

BILL CLINTON: I did not cross the road with that chicken.

AL GORE: I invented the chicken.

JOHN KERRY: Although I voted to let the chicken cross the road, I am now
against it! It was the wrong road to cross, and I was misled about the
chicken's intentions. I am not for it now, and will remain against it.

AL SHARPTON: Why are all the chickens white? We need some black chickens up in

DR. PHIL: The problem we have here is that this chicken won't realize that he
must first deal with the problem on this side of the road before it goes after
the problem on the other side of the road. What we need to do is help him
realize how stupid he's acting by not taking on his current problems before
adding new problems.

OPRAH: Well, I understand that the chicken is having problems, which is why he
wants to cross this road so badly. So instead of having the chicken learn from
his mistakes and take falls, which is a part of life, I'm going to give this
chicken a NEW CAR so that he can just drive across the road and not live his
life like the rest of the chickens.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN: We have reason to believe there is a chicken, but we
have not yet been allowed to have access to the other side of the road.

NANCY GRACE: That chicken crossed the road because he's guilty! You can see it
in his eyes and the way he walks.

PAT BUCHANAN: To steal the job of a decent, hardworking American.

MARTHA STEWART: No one called me to warn me which way that chicken was going.
I had a standing order at the Farmer's Market to sell my eggs when the price
dropped to a certain level. No little bird gave me any insider information.

DR. SEUSS: Did the chicken cross the road? Did he cross it with a toad? Yes,
the chicken crossed the road, but why it crossed I've not been told.

ERNEST HEMINGWAY: To die in the rain, alone.

JERRY FALWELL: Because the chicken was gay! Can't you people see the plain
truth? That's why they call it the 'other side.' Yes, my friends, that chicken
is gay. And if you eat that chicken, you will become gay too. I say we
boycott all chickens until we sort out this abomination that the Liberal media
whitewashes with seemingly harmless phrases like 'the other side.' That
chicken should not be crossing the road. It's as plain and as simple as that.

GRANDPA: In my day we didn't ask why the chicken crossed the road. Somebody
told us the chicken crossed the road, and that was good enough.

BARARA WALTERS: Isn't that interesting? In a few moments, we will be
listening to the chicken tell, for the first time, the heart warming story of
how it experienced a serious case of molting, and went on to accomplish it's
lifelong dream of crossing the road.

ARISTOTLE: It is the nature of chickens to cross the road.

JOHN LENNON: Imagine all the chickens in the world crossing roads together, in

BILL GATES: I have just released eChicken2011, which will not only cross
roads, but will lay eggs, file your important documents, and balance your
checkbook. Internet Explorer is an integral part of eChicken2011. This new
platform is much more stable and will never reboot.

ALBERT EINSTEIN: Did the chicken really cross the road, or did the road move
beneath the chicken?

COLONEL SANDERS: Did I miss one?

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

As kind, gentle, fair, empathetic, intelligent a human as would ever walk the planet

I had the profound pleasure of dating Wendy Effer in 1969-70. While it was distressing to be defeated routinely by 60-80 pins at bowling by a 4' 10" inch female bowler, because she would listen to me try to sort out the wheat from the chaff, and because her parents treated me as an honored visitor in their home, and because she never judged, and because she was so interesting that even I would eventually just listen, ... I was blessed beyond words; beyond conception -- I had a true friend who would have driven into the bowels of hell to come and save me from the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune that I was so inclined to shoot myself with:

And, I present, once again, a BLOG POST from Wendy Effer:

Awaiting the next invasion
Gouvia, Greece
5 days ago

more from Gouvia, Greece
Fri 23rd Sept Gouvia, Corfu
The quiet before the storm, or awaiting the next invasion

We beat the weather and had a good crossing from Leuca in Italy to a tiny little island 20nm west of Corfu called Othinoi. A lovely little place for our first experience of Greece. Then on to Corfu itself, to the village of Kassiopi, up against the town quay with an anchor out. A thriving little fishing come tourist resort and attractive - a bit too much in the way of English about, but I think that is Corfu - it was after all a British protectorate in the 19th C.

But here we had the most spectacular storm, thunder and lightning and absolutely torrential rain. Thankfully, not as much wind as further south, but sufficient to make us put a second anchor out, worry about bouncing our keel on the shallow bottom in the surges and putting the engine on for a bit to keep our stern battering against the quay. Our neighbouring boat was a kind local who had 3 tailed lines of ground tackle for security and offered us the use of one of his lines. So after attaching ourselves also to him, we managed to get some sleep. The whole sky lit up over Albania all night long in a remarkable display. In a bay further south on Levkada, apparently several boats were broken up and one person tragically died trying to keep their boat from smashing in Force 11 winds. Precious they may be, but it is only a boat and let it smash, it is not worth a life!

A couple of wonderful little coves later (Kalami pictured was home of Lawrence Durrell) and we are in Gouvia, near the marina, awaiting the arrival of Jane and Clive (friends with an identical HR to ours, Talisman). A small world, we had dinner last night with yet other fellow HR (HR42 De Vreiheid) owners, Martin and Issie, who keep their boat here and were preparing to fly home today.

Corfu is beautiful, smells of pine and dryness, yet is very green and mountainous, in complete comparison to Albania across the strait which is very brown, bleak and mountainous. This is going to be good!! Gotta go, J & C just texted arrival, need to go pick up!

The social-democratic solution has become an illusion. The question is what will replace it for the vast majority of the world's populations. by Immanuel Wallerstein

Commentary No. 313, September 15, 2011

"The Social-Democratic Illusion"

Social-democracy had its apogee in the period 1945 to the late 1960s. At that time, it represented an ideology and a movement that stood for the use of state resources to ensure some redistribution to the majority of the population in various concrete ways: expansion of educational and health facilities; guarantees of lifelong income levels by programs to support the needs of the non-"wage-employed" groups, particularly children and seniors; and programs to minimize unemployment. Social-democracy promised an ever-better future for future generations, a sort of permanent rising level of national and family incomes. This was called the welfare state. It was an ideology that reflected the view that capitalism could be "reformed" and acquire a more human face.

The Social-Democrats were most powerful in western Europe, Great Britain, Australia and New Zealand, Canada, and the United States (where they were called New Deal Democrats) - in short, in the wealthy countries of the world-system, those that constituted what might be called the pan-European world. They were so successful that their right-of-center opponents also endorsed the concept of the welfare state, trying merely to reduce its costs and extent. In the rest of the world, the states tried to jump onto this bandwagon by projects of national "development."

Social-democracy was a highly successful program during this period. It was sustained by two realities of the times: the incredible expansion of the world-economy, which created the resources that made the redistribution possible; and United States hegemony in the world-system, which ensured the relative stability of the world-system, and especially the absence of serious violence within this wealthy zone.

This rosy picture did not last. The two realities came to an end. The world-economy stopped expanding and entered into a long stagnation, in which we are still living; and the United States began its long, if slow, decline as a hegemonic power. Both new realities have accelerated considerably in the twenty-first century.

The new era beginning in the 1970s saw the end of the world centrist consensus on the virtues of the welfare state and state-managed "development." It was replaced by a new, more rightwing ideology, called variously neo-liberalism or the Washington Consensus, which preached the merits of reliance on markets rather than on governments. This program was said to be based on a supposedly new reality of "globalization" to which "there was no alternative."

Implementing neo-liberal programs seemed to maintain rising levels of "growth" on stock markets but at the same time led to rising worldwide levels of indebtedness, unemployment, and lower real income levels for the vast majority of the world's populations. Nonetheless, the parties that had been the mainstays of the left-of-center social-democratic programs moved steadily to the right, eschewing or playing down support for the welfare state and accepting that the role of reformist governments had to be reduced considerably.

While the negative effects on the majority of the populations were felt even within the wealthy pan-European world, they were felt even more acutely in the rest of the world. What were their governments to do? They began to take advantage of the relative economic and geopolitical decline of the United States (and more widely of the pan-European world) by focusing on their own national "development." They used the power of their state apparatuses and their overall lower costs of production to become "emerging" nations. The more "left" their verbiage and even their political commitment, the more they were determined to "develop."

Will this work for them as it had once worked for the pan-European world in the post-1945 period? It is far from obvious that it can, despite the remarkable "growth" rates of some of these countries - particularly, the so-called BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India, China) - in the last five to ten years. For there are some serious differences between the current state of the world-system and that of the immediate post-1945 period.

One, the real cost levels of production, despite neoliberal efforts to reduce them, are in fact now considerably higher than they were in the post-1945 period, and threaten the real possibilities of capital accumulation. This makes capitalism as a system less attractive to capitalists, the most perceptive of whom are searching for alternative ways to secure their privileges.

Two, the ability of the emerging nations to increase in the short run their acquisition of wealth has put a great strain on the availability of resources to provide their needs. It therefore has created an ever-growing race for land acquisition, water, food, and energy resources, which is not only leading to fierce struggles but is in turn also reducing the worldwide ability of capitalists to accumulate capital.

Three, the enormous expansion of capitalist production has created at last a serious strain on the world's ecology, such that the world has entered into a climate crisis, whose consequences threaten the quality of life throughout the world. It has also fostered a movement for reconsidering fundamentally the virtues of "growth" and "development" as economic objectives. This growing demand for a different "civilizational" perspective is what is being called in Latin America the movement for "buen vivir" (a liveable world).

Four, the demands of subordinate groups for a real degree of participation in the decision-making processes of the world has come to be directed not only at "capitalists" but also at the "left" governments that are promoting national "development."

Fifth, the combination of all these factors, plus the visible decline of the erstwhile hegemonic power, has created a climate of constant and radical fluctuations in both the world-economy and the geopolitical situation, which has had the result of paralyzing both the world's entrepreneurs and the world's governments. The degree of uncertainty - not only long-term but also the very short-term - has escalated markedly, and with it the real level of violence.

The social-democratic solution has become an illusion. The question is what will replace it for the vast majority of the world's populations.

by Immanuel Wallerstein

[Copyright by Immanuel Wallerstein, distributed by Agence Global. For rights and permissions, including translations and posting to non-commercial sites, and contact:, 1.336.686.9002 or 1.336.286.6606. Permission is granted to download, forward electronically, or e-mail to others, provided the essay remains intact and the copyright note is displayed. To contact author, write:

These commentaries, published twice monthly, are intended to be reflections on the contemporary world scene, as seen from the perspective not of the immediate headlines but of the long term.]