Tag Archives: revolts

Corporate America Fleeced Us Again!

29 Mar

The coronavirus bill is an orgy of corporate welfare that rivals the 2008 bailout.
BY Moe Tkacik

Boeing’s CEO of Commercial Airplanes Stanley Deal speaks at the annual Aviation Summit in Washington, D.C., on March 5. Boeing, its business floundering after a a series of debacles, was quick to ask for a coronavirus bailout–before the pandemic affected it at all. It’s an audacious power grab by the same bunch of monstrous grifters who’ve spent the past 20 years reverse mortgaging the American economy to finance Third World dictator lifestyles.

The fundamental spirit of the CARES Act, the diabolical plutocrat bailout the Senate just passed, is summed up by the fact that it was inspired by the 60 billion dollar demand of a company whose business had not yet even been impacted by coronavirus.
You read that right. When Boeing made its humble plea for $60 billion in coronavirus relief funds on Saint Patrick’s Day 2020, leading the pack of corporate supplicants, all its assembly lines unrelated to its notorious self-hijacking 737 Max jets, whose production halted in January, were still operating at normal capacity. They were still open in spite of the fact that Seattle public schools had been closed for six days at that point, in spite of the fact that every restaurant and bar in the state had been closed the weekend earlier, and in spite of the fact that the disease was quickly spreading among the factory workers, one of whom, a 27-year veteran of the company, would die within days.
And they were still running in spite of the fact that demand for Boeing planes, thanks to the 737 crashes, is at an all-time low, with the company in January, a month in which its archrival Airbus sold 274 planes, reporting its first month in history without a single order. Which is to say, I can think of a lot of reasons Boeing might need a bailout. In December a space capsule the company designed to transport astronauts to the International Space Station failed to launch into orbit during a test mission because its timer was eleven hours off, a potentially half billion dollar mistake that may cost the company billions more in lost NASA business to Elon Musk’s SpaceX. In January, the company revealed that its attempts to load a software fix onto the 737s was repeatedly crashing the planes’ computers. Not long after that, the company finally admitted that the three-year-delay on its KC-46 aerial refueling tanker was going to be, at minimum, another three years. And then of course there’s the $70 billion the company has squandered over the past decade on stock buybacks and dividend checks.
What all of these problems have in common is that none of them has shit to do with coronavirus. And neither does the $500 billion corporate bailout the Senate appended to an otherwise vitally important relief package. It’s an audacious power grab by the same bunch of monstrous grifters who’ve spent the past 20 years reverse mortgaging the American economy to finance Third World dictator lifestyles. It’s just like the secret multitrillion dollar scramble to throw money at insolvent banks in 2008, only a hundred times more craven, and even though the American public is also considerably less naive than we were when we assumed programs with words like “home affordable relief” might actually, you know, offer some relief to homeowners hit with extortionate mortgage payments, it doesn’t matter. We don’t matter. We don’t matter because we don’t have lobbyists.

 

 

 

 

The airlines have faced an avalanche of criticism for their bailout ask for good reason: They took the spoils of a decade spent gouging passengers with fees for baggage and chips and wifi and ticket changes and four extra inches of legroom, and spent 96% of them on stock buybacks. But the strings attached to the airlines’ bailout are quite possibly the sole redeeming lines in the slush fund section of the bill. Thanks no doubt in large part to lobbying by the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA under the leadership of Sara Nelson, the airline bailout is structured to avoid layoffs, including those of contract employees, who are targeted in a special $3 billion loan program. In exchange for cash, airlines must keep their staff and pay full salaries through September 30.
And in their defense, the airlines can at least claim to have been legitimately done in by the coronavirus. Can the same really be said for the cargo carriers? Just last week, an air cargo travel consultant told Wired the cargo carriers were charging twice the typical per-kilogram fee to transport cargo from China to Chicago—and yet there they are in Section 4003, earmarked for a dedicated loan guarantee program totaling $4 billion.
And what about the provision lowering capital reserves for small banks, who say loosened reserve ratios will free up capital for emergency lending to small businesses (because that’s what they always say) but will invariably end up plowing the funds into real estate speculation (because that’s what they always do, and, also, the CARES Act just made real estate speculation $170 billion more profitable.)
You might have heard about the special provisions for abstinence-only education and for-profit colleges and the Kennedy Center. But in the end it’s probably the general free money programs that haven’t been earmarked yet that threaten to inflict the gravest injustices upon our already grievously unbalanced economy. There are the myriad special crisis era lending programs the Fed has resurrected to halt the stock market selloff, as well as Mnuchin’s $350 billion slush fund to the special Small Business Administration program, which forgives the loans of companies that retain or re-hire employees. Under the CARES Act, any individual Marriott or Hilton or Cheesecake Factory qualifies as a “small business” if it employs fewer than 500 people; the applications otherwise involve “very few borrower requirements,” according to an overview of the legislation prepared by law firm Steptoe & Johnson. But the federal government has demonstrated time and again, most recently with its pathetic student loan forgiveness programs and before that during the foreclosure crisis, that it has no real appetite or aptitude for processing large amounts of loan paperwork on behalf of hundreds of thousands of new applicants, and literally no one thinks the woefully neglected Small Business Administration is remotely up to the task. And so we can only assume the loans will go to he who hires the best lobbyists. Do not be surprised over the coming weeks when genuine small businesses begin getting swallowed by such ersatz small businesses, flush with private equity dry powder and lobbyist-secured government cheddar.
And don’t be surprised when in a few years someone reveals, as TARP watchdog Neil Barofsky did of then-Treasury Secretary Tim Geithnner’s comments about using the fiction of foreclosure relief programs as a ploy to “foam the runway” for the banks, that another corporate welfare orgy was the plan all along.

 

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NO NUKES – US deploys “usable” nuclear weapon amid continuing war threats against Iran.

1 Feb

The Pentagon deployed a new, smaller nuclear warhead aboard the ballistic missile submarine USS Tennessee as it sailed into the Atlantic last month in the midst of the spiraling crisis with Iran. The weapon, known as the W76-2 warhead, has an explosive yield of roughly five kilotons, a third of the destructive power of the “Little Boy” bomb that claimed the lives of some 140,000 people in Hiroshima in 1945.

The Federation of American Scientists (FAS) revealed the deployment this week, citing unnamed civilian and military figures. It stated that two of the 20 Trident submarine-launched ballistic missiles onboard the USS Tennessee and other subs will be armed with the W76-2 warheads. Each missile can be loaded with as many as eight such warheads, capable of striking multiple targets.

 

First launch of a Trident missile on January 18, 1977 at Cape Canaveral, Florida

 

The new weapon has been rolled out with remarkable speed. The Trump administration’s 2018 Nuclear Posture Review called for the development of “a low-yield SLBM [submarine-launched ballistic missile] warhead to ensure a prompt response option that is able to penetrate adversary defenses” and close “an exploitable ‘gap’ in US regional deterrence capabilities.”

The pretext for the warhead’s deployment was the unsubstantiated claim that Russia is developing similar weapons and has adopted a doctrine of “escalate to de-escalate” or “escalate to win” by utilizing low-yield nuclear weapons, with the expectation that Washington would not retaliate with strategic warheads for fear of initiating an all out thermonuclear war. The Pentagon’s argument has been that a low-yield and rapid reaction ballistic missile is needed to “restore deterrence.”

The report by the FAS strongly suggests, however, that this alleged Russian doctrine is a pretext and that “it is much more likely that the new low-yield weapon is intended to facilitate first-use of nuclear weapons against North Korea or Iran.”

It points out that both the US National Security Strategy and the Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) envision the use of nuclear weapons in response to “non-nuclear attacks, and large-scale conventional aggression,” and that the NPR explicitly stated that the W76-2 warhead was designed to “expand the range of credible US options for responding to nuclear or non-nuclear strategic attack.” Washington does not rule out a nuclear strike, including against non-nuclear armed countries like Iran.

 

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The deployment of the USS Tennessee with its new “usable” nuclear warheads came at roughly the same time as President Donald Trump huddled with his top aides on December 29 at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, ordering the criminal drone missile assassination of Gen. Qassem Suleimani, one of Iran’s top officials. The drone killing was carried out at Baghdad’s international airport five days later.

In a report Thursday, NBC News, citing unnamed senior US officials, established that at the same meeting in Florida, “Trump also authorized the bombing of Iranian ships, missile launchers and air defense systems… Technically, the military can now hit those targets without further presidential authorization, though in practice, it would consult with the White House before any such action.”

The report warned that “the two sides remain in a dangerous boxer’s clench, in which the smallest miscalculation, some officials believe, could lead to disaster.”

In other words, for all the talk of war having been averted following the act of war and war crime carried out by Washington in the murder of Suleimani, the reality is that the world remains on the knife’s edge of a catastrophic military confrontation, which could rapidly escalate into the first use of nuclear weapons in three-quarters of a century.

The threat against Iran is part of far broader buildup to global war through which US imperialism is seeking to offset the erosion of its previously hegemonic domination of the global economy by resorting to the criminal use of overwhelming military force.

 

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After securing a $738 billion military budget for 2020 with the support of an overwhelming majority—Democratic and Republican alike—in the US Congress, the Trump administration is now preparing to push through a 20 percent increase in the budget for the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), the agency overseeing the buildup of the US nuclear arsenal. This $20 billion budget proposal, made public this week, represents only a fraction of the more than $1 trillion the US is projected to spend on “modernizing” the arsenal over the next three decades—plans that were set into motion under the Democratic administration of Barack Obama, before Trump took office.

Trump is a war criminal. His threats to carry out the “obliteration” of Iran and to rain “fire and fury” upon North Korea are not merely hyperbole. The “usable” nuclear weapons to commit such atrocities have already been placed in his hands.

As the Senate impeachment trial of the US president limps to an ignominious close, it is striking that Trump’s greatest crimes, including acts of war and his threat to drag the world into a nuclear war, feature in no way in the charges against him. On the contrary, the articles of impeachment center on allegations that he withheld lethal military aid to Ukraine and has been insufficiently aggressive in confronting Russia.

This charge is made, as Newsweek pointed out this week, after the Pentagon staged an unprecedented 93 separate military exercises between May and the end of September of last year, all of them simulating or preparing for war against Russia. This includes practice bombing runs less than 500 miles from the Russian border and the steady build-up of ground forces in the three Baltic states and Poland, together with escalating US air deployments described as “bomber assurance” and “theater security” programs.

The drive to war has its source not in the diseased mind of Donald Trump, but rather in the insoluble crisis of global capitalism. There exists no antiwar faction within the US ruling class, including its Democratic representatives, only tactical differences over how US imperialist interests should best be pursued on the global arena.

The struggle against a new imperialist world war and the threat it poses to the survival of humanity can be based only upon the struggles of the working class, which is engaged in a wave of strikes and social upheavals across the planet. These emerging mass struggles must be armed with a socialist and internationalist program to unify workers in the common fight to put an end to the source of war and social inequality, the capitalist system. BY Bill Van Auken

 

Published by the International Committee of the Fourth International (ICFI)

 

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The US-backed coup in Bolivia – Published by the International Committee of the Fourth International (ICFI)

14 Nov

 

The US-backed coup in Bolivia;

Published by the International Committee of the Fourth International (ICFI)

Bolivia, South America’s most impoverished nation, teeters on the brink of a civil war in the wake of a US-backed coup that led to the resignation Sunday of President Evo Morales, Vice President Álvaro García Linera and various ministers, state governors and government officials.

While Morales, García Linera and others have fled the country for asylum in Mexico, the Bolivian workers, peasants and indigenous majority that they purported to represent have been left behind to confront heavily armed troops and fascist gangs in the streets.

The bitter lesson that the Latin American working class can advance its interests not by means of “left” bourgeois nationalist regimes, but only through its own independent revolutionary struggle, is once again being written in blood.

Thousands of workers and youth have responded with courageous resistance to the coup, taking to the streets of La Paz and the neighboring working-class district of El Alto, where they burned down police stations and confronted security forces. Elsewhere, miners and peasants have blocked highways, and anti-coup protesters have confronted heavily armed troops firing live ammunition and tear gas grenades. In Cochabamba, the military brought in a helicopter to fire on crowds. The toll of dead and wounded has steadily risen.

The military-police violence has been accompanied by a reign of terror by the fascistic opponents of Morales, who have burned down homes of those linked to the government, kidnapped family members of officials and carried out violent assaults against those linked to Morales’s Movement toward Socialism (MAS) party, as well as targeting indigenous people, especially women, for attacks. Headquarters of social organizations have been attacked, and radio stations invaded and taken off the air.

After three weeks of protests over the disputed October 20 presidential election, the coup was consummated Sunday with a televised address by Gen. Williams Kaliman, the chief of the armed forces, surrounded by the entire military command, in which they “suggested” that “the president resign his presidential mandate and allow the pacification and reestablishment of stability for the good of Bolivia.”

Morales and García Linera took the “suggestion,” saying that they were doing so to “avoid bloodshed” and “guarantee peace.” If that was their objective, their capitulation to the military and the Bolivian right has failed miserably.

US President Donald Trump celebrated the overthrow of Morales as a “significant moment for democracy in the Western Hemisphere,” warning that Venezuela and Nicaragua are next.

But it wasn’t only Trump. Both the New York Times and the Washington Post published editorials Tuesday supporting the coup and suggesting that it was a blow for “democracy,” and that the role of the military in forcing Morales out was merely incidental.

This reflects the fundamental continuity in Washington’s imperialist policy in Latin America under Democrats and Republicans alike, from the abortive 2002 coup against Hugo Chavez in Venezuela under George W. Bush (prematurely celebrated by the Times), to the 2009 US-backed overthrow of President Manuel Zelaya in Honduras under Barack Obama, to today’s ouster of Morales under Trump.

Underlying this continuity is the drive by US imperialism to reverse the decline of its global economic hegemony by means of military force and violence, particularly in the region that it has so long regarded as its “own backyard.” This is driven both by the desire of US transnationals to lay unfettered claim on Latin America’s resources and markets—not least Bolivia’s vast energy and mineral reserves, including 70 percent of the world’s lithium—and by the strategic confrontation between US imperialism and China, whose trade with the region rose to $306 billon last year.

Morales’s government was part of the so-called “Pink Tide” of left-posturing bourgeois nationalist governments that came to power in Latin America, beginning with that of Hugo Chavez in 1998.

Like Chavez, Morales declared himself an adherent of the “Bolivarian Revolution” and socialism. He and the MAS were swept into office on the wave of revolutionary upheavals that shook Bolivia and brought down successive governments during the so-called water and gas “wars”—against water privatization and for the nationalization of gas—between 2000 and 2005.

The leader of the coca growers’ union and the first Bolivian president from the country’s long-oppressed indigenous population, Morales won broad popular support for a government that served as the vehicle for containing the revolutionary struggles of the Bolivian masses.

This government, however, soon allowed that its aim was not really socialism, but rather “Andean-Amazonian capitalism,” which consisted of “nationalizations” that imposed new taxes on transnational corporations that were guaranteed even greater access to the exploitation of Bolivia’s gas and other natural resources.

In addition to its alliance with transnational capital, the Morales government cemented a pact with the agricultural oligarchy. Both were granted rights to exploit lands that had previously been declared national parks to protect their indigenous populations.

The government also relied upon what it described as the “military-peasant alliance,” through which it sought to solidify support in the military command by offering it control over sections of the economy, resources for creating its own businesses and generous benefits. It created an “Anti-imperialist Military School” and had soldiers salute their officers with the Guevarist slogan of “Hasta la victoria siempre.” In the end, the bourgeois army, which Morales never disbanded, proved loyal to its roots in the fascist-military dictatorships of Generals Hugo Banzer and Luis García Meza and the national security state doctrine of the Pentagon’s School of the Americas.

The right-wing policies of the Morales government led to continuous confrontations with the working class and peasantry and steadily eroded its support. Its right-wing opponents in Bolivia’s traditional ruling oligarchy were able to exploit Morales’s attempt to secure himself another term as president—in violation of the constitution and the results of a 2016 referendum—to win a popular base for its counterrevolutionary objectives.

Morales and the MAS leadership bear criminal responsibility for the coup which they condemn. Its principal victims will be not Morales and his fellow politicians, but the masses of Bolivian workers, peasants and oppressed.

Also sharing blame for the acute dangers now confronting the masses of workers and oppressed in Bolivia are the various pseudo-left groups that promoted the Bolivarian revolutionary pretensions of the Morales government and demanded that the working class subordinate itself to the leadership of the bourgeois nationalists. Chief among them are various revisionist tendencies that split from the International Committee of the Fourth International (ICFI), rejecting its struggle for the international unity and political independence of the working class based upon a revolutionary socialist program in order to adapt themselves to Stalinism and various forms of bourgeois nationalism, chief among them, Castroism.

The period in which these parties have been able to help suppress the class struggle is coming to an end, not only in Latin America, but internationally. The events in Bolivia, along with the mass uprisings of workers and youth in Chile and elsewhere on the Latin American continent, are demonstrating that the ruling class is no longer able to rule in the old way, and it has become impossible for the working class to live in the old way, creating the conditions for a new period of revolutionary upheavals.

The most urgent political task is the formation of a new revolutionary leadership in the working class based on an assimilation of the long struggle of Trotskyism against revisionism. This means building sections of the International Committee of the Fourth International throughout Latin America.

Bill Van Auken

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