Wednesday, 31 July 2013


Looking back at the Age of Imperialism (1880-1914), do most people around the world, even those living in the core (most advanced capitalist) countries that have a history of pursuing imperialist policies, want imperialism 19th century-style? Are we proud that apartheid conditions were created in South Africa during the Age of Imperialism? Are we proud that Britain reduced India into a pathetic colony and deprived this great nation it of its potential to serve the needs of its own people and pursue autonomy ans self-determination?

Is the world looking back with pride at what the US did in the Philippines (with the concentration camps) and Cuba in the aftermath of the Spanish-American War? Is what France did to Indochina and Algeria, reducing them to colonies and exploiting labor and resources, such a great thing that we must go back to those days? Was all of this worth it so that a few thousand families could be the barons of wealth, others enjoying the glory of military mights, and still others glowing over the political power they enjoyed?Are people today delighted that a form of a new phase of imperialism, a subtle phase under globalization, is practiced and causing social upheaval, economic polarization, political instability?

I am simply going to assume that the answer is a resounding NO for the vast majority of the world's population, at least those with a modicum of a social conscience.  Yet, the world is tolerating a return to the Age of Imperialism in the early 21st century in the name of globalization engendering economic growth neoliberal style for all nations, although within those nations the middle class is shrinking in size and in terms of income levels, while the working class is faced with constant bombardment of hard-fought rights like collective bargaining, eight-hour day, health care and benefits, and a social welfare safety net that is filled with large gaps.

Although social safety nets in the developed countries amount to 1-2% of GDP, the reactionary elements favoring corporate welfare instead of social welfare consider that any tax money going to the safety net is excessive. This is largely because the socioeconomic and political elites have accepted the idea that the political economy of the market system must be converted into a "market society". In my view this a reverting back to the Age of Imperialism when Western imperialist politicians, businessmen and bankers viewed the world as a marketplace that the state must secure on behalf of business.

The rise in socioeconomic polarization since the fall of the Communist bloc ought to give pause to all people on the planet who believe that the panacea for humanity rests with the political economy of state-supported capitalism. While in 2000, there were 322 billionaires with combined assets of $898 billion, in  2012 there were 1426 with assets totaling $5.4 trillion. While in 2002, nine of the ten top billionaires were US nationals, in 2013, five of the top ten billionaires are US citizens, with a combined assets of about one-quarter of a trillion dollars.What kind of a human being feels great that there a handful of billionaires while one billion around the world live a under one dollar per day, and two billion people live on less than two dollars per day? Does one not have to have an absolutely atomistic, self-centered nature and total lack of social conscious to have billions while knowing 30,000 babies per die die of starvation?

One hundred years from now, when our great grandchildren look back at the world in which we live today will they be proud of the legacy we left for them, or will they be immersed in shame as we are that our ancestors enslaved Africans, created colonies, killed people for demanding living wages, isolated and discriminated against women merely because they wanted to assert their humanity no differently than men? If we have for-profit health, education, utilities, and everything else, why not have a for-profit value system that permeates our identity? Why not measure our individual worth by the market system instead of intrinsic value as living beings? Has the market system so totally absorbed our value system that it too has become a marketable commodity no different than a machine? In that case, am I any different than the computer I using right now to communicate this message to an otherwise market-oriented audience? Will people look back with pride and glory one hundred years from now and praise my generation for its legacy or condemn it?

Sunday, 28 July 2013


 Human rights and international lending on the large scale that the World Bank Group is involved simply do not go together. Besides the financial, trade, and investment considerations that go into the Bank's decision-making process, there are always political factors. When Robert McNamara took over the World Bank in 1968, he tried to change some of the bank's image as a purely pro-big business institution that offered development loans linked to strengthening large domestic and especially foreign capital investment in targeted areas. He introduced anti-poverty programs and pro-environmental divisions within the Bank, largely because he saw that America and the world were changing and it was necessary to address both of those issues. These changes were made within the Bank's basic mission as a sister institution to the IMF that linked austerity measures to securing "stabilization loans", after which followed development loans in targeted areas, such as electrification projects, steel mills, etc. 

The World Bank Group operates like a bank whose purpose is to strengthen large private capital on a world scale and promote free trade and investment across national borders. Its mission to strengthen finance capital would be compromised in a substantial manner if it tried to take into account human rights as an objective criteria, regardless of where it is lending. For example, it will take human rights as a political criteria only if it came to making a loan let us say to Iran, but not to a pro-US-pro-EU Arab country that is just as authoritarian as Iran. Therefore, the World Bank Group is a political institution as much as it is a financial one. It is important to note that the Bank's real value is not so much the amount of the money it loans, but the political and symbolic significance of its loans. Therefore, if it were to carry out the McNamara spirit into its logical conclusion toward a more human-rights-oriented path, it would have a monumental impact in the world.

The history if the sister banks created by Bretton Woods is one of strengthening large private capital, especially emanating from core countries, while weakening the state apparatus so that it becomes inexorably dependent on large foreign and domestic private capital. In short, the IMF austerity measures followed by World Bank development loans are mere tools used as leverage to undo the Keynesian policies that many countries were pursuing from the Great Depression and thereafter. The result is perpetual transfer of capital from the periphery (developing nations) to the core (industrialized) and the cycle of dependency never ending. Under such conditions, one has to wonder is the methods of the sister banks (IMF-World Bank) are not conduits to preventing development and by extension contributing to poverty in the Third World, with all the human rights consequences that widespread poverty entails.

In some respects this is an issue of the Northern vs. Southern hemisphere conflict that many have addressed, including the United Nations. In another respect, given what has happened in the last five years as a result of the global recession, it is clear that the nature of the North-South conflict is no longer valid, given that Spain, Portugal, Greece, Ireland, and most of the Balkans and Eastern Europe are in the same "austerity-neoliberalism program" as nations in the Southern Hemisphere. Human rights violations that were perhaps more visible in the Southern Hemisphere are now just as visible in Northern Hemisphere nations, and those too are linked to economic policies.

The World Bank is part of the problem to human rights abuses and the cycle of poverty, despite the fact that it employs experts in these fields. It has an image to protect as an institution that tries to solve the problems of poverty and human rights, but the core of its concern is the image it must maintain, because in essence the Bank only exacerbates existing problems. 

It is extremely difficult to dismantle institutions in the absence of dismantling the system that has given birth to such institutions. For many years, I have found myself in forums with individuals from different ideological perspectives who argued that the solution is to reform the IMF and World Bank so that they serve the needs of ordinary people instead of large corporate and financial interests. Another groups of people argues in favor of doing away with the sister banks.

1. Reform scenario: Let us assume that the sister banks are reformed and they do take into account not just the interests of large banks and multinational corporations, but also the interests of the middle class, workers, and peasants. In the end, the banks can only operate successfully if they are furthering the interests of finance capital on which they themselves rely and whose purpose it is to support. They can only throw crumbs to the masses, but only if they first cater to the larger interests of finance capital. Otherwise, finance capital has no need of them.

2. Abolishing IMF-World Bank scenario: OK Tomorrow they no longer exist. Does this change anything even in the slightest manner inn the capitalist world economy? The gap that they will leave behind will easily be taken up by large commercial banks. After all, did the IMF-World Bank exist before 1944? Did we not have capitalism.

Conclusion: These institutions are actually part of the superstructure in the political economy and they act to manage what the ordinary person wants to believe is a "free market system". The world economy is actually managed by central banks answerable to governments, the WTO, IMF, World Bank, European Investment Bank, European Central Bank, etc, The world system of capitalism is managed in order to maintain itself, so that we do not have a repeat of an uncoordinated system as we did in the interwar era when the Great Depression took place. If the IMF-World Bank did not exist, something else would have to be in their place to assist in the management of the world economy.

My response to comments from LINKEDIN groups:

 When I was a guest research at the World Bank archives, I must confess that the staff was extraordinarily cordial, informative, and indeed well aware of what people outside the Bank think of its policies. The IMF was a bit more stuffy, but they were trying to follow along the path of the Bank. The people who work there are well-meaning, nice people. This has nothing to do with the policies that they must implement.

Karl Marx associated with capitalists in his life and did not blame them, for choosing to appropriate capital from labor. He argued that the political economy of the free market made them what they were, so the individual is a product of the system. If there was a different system, these people would not be appropriating capital from labor as far as Marx was concerned.

The great Italian intellectual and political activist during the Mussolini era, Palmiro Togliatti, had the audacity in an audience at Moscow University where Josef Stalin was present not to blame people who became Fascists because the system was such they had to survive. If a worker had a choice between the idealism of opposing the Fascist regime. which meant starving his family, and becoming a card-carrying Fascist, then the worker would join Mussolini's party because survival is natural to all species.

However, I wonder if people are indeed defined by their choices, as Existentialists like Jean-Paul Sartre have argued. Assuming a modicum of free will, does this not say a great deal of who we are by the choices we make as human beings? The points that Marx and Togliatti were making were valid about focusing on the system instead of the individual who is indeed shaped by the system and its values. However, why is it that some individual make a conscious decision to pursue a career path that they know is unethical in the sense that it is detrimental to social justice. Do the people who control through computers the DRONES have any qualms when they discover that these planes kill innocent people, including children? Did they not know that the nature of their work would include killing children? Same goes for the well-refined and otherwise fine people of the IMF and World Bank, institutions that have a devastating impact on the lives of hundreds of millions around the world.

Thursday, 18 July 2013


In late spring 2013, there were US accusations that the Syrian government used chemical weapons against the rebels. “Our intelligence community does asses with varying degrees of confidence that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons on a small scale in Syria, specifically the chemical agent Sarin,” insisted the administration that has argued the use of such weapons would constitute grounds for more direct role by the US and its allies in the conflict that has Russia (China and Iran also involved to a degree) on Assad's side, and the US-NATO partners on the other.

As expected, the Assad government accused the rebels of using such weapons. While the US and Syria were trying to convince world public opinion about which side used chemical weapons, the death toll was been rising astronomically and the displaced persons are becoming a major problem for the neighboring countries and for humanitarian organizations trying to handle this crisis.

When investigations were carried out by independent entities, it was discovered that rebels more likely used chemical weapons. The interesting thing is that while Assad has been receiving Russian (Iran, through Hezbollah as well) assistance, rebels have been receiving arms and money from the US, EU, Israel, Saudi Arabia among some of their staunchest supporters. It now seems just about certain the US-EU-Israel-Saudi-backed rebels have indeed used weapons of mass destruction. Who sold them such weapons? What if Western corporations have been selling weapons in a typical profiteering fashion, as is normal for weapons companies in time of conflict, knowing they are violating international law and killing people en masse; and all because it is simply good business to kill people for profit when there is government cover behind you.
Countries led by power-hungry individual immersed in illusions of grandeur and achievement of immortality by amassing wealth and power at any cost including mass killings, have had no qualms in centuries past going to war. From ancient times to the 19th century wars were carried out to secure trade routes, and any possession from metals to land and humans reduced to slavery. With the advent of modern industrial society and open society institutions, there are more subtle ways to profiteer, but the result remains the same, namely people die for profit. Indirectly putting countless people to death so that a few may profit in the process is partly at the core of why wars are fought. Even today, may believe that one quick way to achieve economic recovery is to have wars, no matter what that entails for the victims of conflict. This is a reflection of the moral compass of those who have no problem selling weapons, especially chemical weapons, if it means amassing wealth.

Although this brief article deals with chemical weapons sales by developed countries to non-Western nations where people are dying so that Western corporations can amass greater wealth, there are many ways that corporations and governments are killing people for profit. HMO's denying care to their clients is one way that they are killing people. Drug and food corporations knowingly risking people's health and lives by including ingredients that could place health and safety at risk is another way people are killed for profit, as much as an automaker neglecting to fix a problem with its vehicles that could place at risk people's lives. The  soybean industry is intentionally fattening people and livestock so that three multinational corporations can amass greater profits. This industry is slowly killing people because fast food products, everything from burger places to frozen foods - depend on it.

There are the blatant industrial accidents that have killed people throughout the course of modern capitalism. Commonplace in the 19th and early 20th century in industrial societies, they have now become more common in India, Bangladesh and non-Western countries.The garment factory making products for Western corporations suffered an accident that killed several hundred workers in May 2013. The only industrial disaster worse than the one in Bangladesh was the Bhopal gas tragedy in December 1984. That accident exposed half-a-million people to methyl isocyanate gas in a Union Carbide plant, killing between 2,259 (officially) and 16,000 (unofficially), while causing 38,478 injuries.

One could argue that it is not corporate capitalism that kills people, but that there is something innately destructive in human nature, considering that we had mass killings in ancient times under the master-slave mode of production, and then again under the feudal-manorial system in the Middle Ages. It is indeed true that human beings have been destructive for centuries under different systems of government, but all of them were based on an elitist social and institutional structure, no different than the current political economy that promotes inequality institutionally, despite claims to the contrary.

Besides these obvious ways that corporations, enjoying the backing of governments, are killing people for profit, the most blatant way is the manufacture and export sales of chemical weapons. While the US claims that it is driven by "a moral responsibility and humanitarian" considerations, this is purely an issue of who determines the regional balance of power, and to what degree is the US willing to risk rupture of good relations with Moscow to satisfy the defense lobby, right-wing ideologues, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Israel. That the US and the West have zero moral authority is a matter of record because Western companies have supplied the rebels with chemical weapons. The alleged use of chemical weapons and possession of the material (uranium) to make weapons of mass destruction by Iraqi president Saddam Hussein is the reason the US gave to invade. In July 2013, we have clear evidence that the West has been supplying chemical weapons to rebels who used them in the Syrian civil war. Leaving aside the violation of international law pertaining to this issue, what about the humanitarian and moral one that the US raised?

In a recent press publication, it has been revealed that the UK is a major exporter of chemicals that can be used to make weapons, with Israel is its number one buyer, absorbing more than half of the entire purchases. However, the UK has also issued licenses to export chemicals and weapons to Muslim countries, as Prime Minister David Cameron has been advocating a major push for weapons exports, presumably to stimulate the recessionary economy and keep job growth at reasonable levels.  Besides trying to export any sort of defense-related products to Israel and Arab countries, led by Saudi Arabia, the UK has also approached India. It is the official policy of the UK not sell weapons to governments that have a poor human rights record. However, that is only for public relations purposes. Moreover, neither Israel nor Egypt, both countries to which the UK has sold chemical weapons, have signed the convention signed by 188 states to ban such weapons.

While experts believe that the US and Russia have the largest stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons, both in violation of the convention, the illegal sale of such weapons by other countries is popular because they are easy and cheap to make and they bring in a great deal of money. Behind the Syrian civil war are Russia on Assad's side and the US on the side of the Islamist rebels. While it is true that Syria has stockpiles of chemical weapons, it is also likely that the rebels are the ones who used them, not just according to Russia, but UN human rights investigators.

On 16 July 2013, the British government announced that it will provide Syrian rebels with gas hoods and gas tablets at a cost of 650,000 pounds sterling. This is an extraordinary sum and an indication that either the Foreign Office has intelligence to indicate that Assad's military will be using chemical weapons, or that the rebels themselves would be using them and they need to be protected. In December 2012, the Syrian rebels admitted that they had chemical weapons, but they claimed they acquired them from Libyan elements, not the UK or any of the other rebel sponsors.

There have been unconfirmed reports that the rebels have enormous chemical weapons stockpiles, and that the US-Western team providing advice to them from inside Turkey is waiting for orders from the US to determine when such weapons could be used.  If the civil war goes out of control and the rebels become increasingly desperate, what would prevent them from using the chemical weapons they now possess? Considering that the UK will be providing them with gas tablets and hoods, this is an indication that the West is now preparing the rebels for the possibility of chemical warfare. Of course, we cannot rule out the possibility that Assad may stop listening to his Russian sponsor if he becomes desperate and decides to use chemical weapons against the rebels. In the absence of a political solution, which so far the US flatly refuses to agree, the situation in Syria is very dangerous and it could explode if chemical weapons are used.

Judging from the horrible mess that the US created in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the meddling of the US and NATO in Arab Spring countries now suffering low-level civil strife, Syria is in the same category, except for the element of chemical weapons. Clearly, the defense contractors in the West that export anything related to chemical warfare are elated with the situation, but it is important to remember the devastation of such weapons on human beings. Killing people for profit must have its limits, even in hard economic times when many cry out for more wars to stimulate the economy.

Sunday, 14 July 2013


A Florida jury found George Zimmerman, the white male who killed an unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin. What if the exact same jury and judge had a case before them where the defendant was the young black teenager Martin and the victim was Zimmerman. Would a black defendant even go up on charges of second degree murder, or would he be faced with first degree because skin color is a sign of a guilty individual.One would think that even if the accused were on trial for deliberately running over a cat, a jury would have given him at least a couple of months in jail. In the state Florida, intentional cruelty to animals is punished by a fine of $10,000 and up to five years in prison. Is the life of a human being not worth that of an animal?

It is not just the US watching the trial, but the entire world to see if indeed the American system of justice has changed since the 1960s when KKK members could not be found guilty because no jury would convict them. Racism remains blatant at the core of American society and the judicial system is one manifestation of it.

The following citation offers a synopsis that many people know about the racist nature of the American justice system.
"Blacks, who are 2.6% of the U.S. population, currently account for 38.9% of all violent crime arrests nationwide—including 32.5% of all rapes, 55.5% of all robberies, and 33.9% of all aggravated assaults. (Further, blacks are 29.8% of all property-crime arrestees.) ... because of racism, white defendants are not only acquitted more regularly than their black counterparts, but are treated more leniently even in cases where they are found guilty. Such disparate treatment, says the left, explains why, as of December 31, 2010, blacks (2.6% of the U.S. population) constituted fully 37.9% of all prisoners under state and federal jurisdiction—whereas non-Hispanic whites, (64% of the population) were just 32.2% of prisoners, and Hispanics (16% of the population) were 22.3% of prisoners. While black males were incarcerated at a rate of 3,074 per 100,000, the corresponding rates for white and Hispanic males were 459 and 1,258 per 100,000, respectively. I will not go into the statistics showing that American prisons are filled with blacks, nor will I mention that 84% of blacks feel the entire justice system, from the cop on the beat to the supreme court, is racist to the core and the evidence is in the results of who winds up in prison and who is acquitted."

One of the ironies in the American justice system and society at large is that it has made monumental efforts to conceal racism behind the official policy of "political correctness". While it is a socially just to behave in a non-racist manner in society, whether one is a private business, a school, local government, or an individual, all evidence is that political correctness has been but a very thin veneer behind which rests racism. What difference does it make to me if I am a black man looking for work to have a white personnel manager smile and say the right things to me, if in the end the action of the company's hiring policies will speak louder than its political correctness attitude? What difference does it make that the "political correctness" language is used as a communications tactic, when in essence the result is the continuance of the racial divide? Why should I care that white people are "politically correct" with me in their outward behavior, but in essence the institutional structure is stacked against me? Do I care that a politician says all the right things that a multicultural society wants to hear, but votes for policies that advance the wealthy who are invariably of the majority race while voting to lower living standards and social safety net for the poor, among them mostly blacks? When a society has institutionalized "political correctness", it has done so precisely because it has not dealt substantively with issues of racial and social justice.

A society that has a racist justice system is racist, no matter how much it tries to conceal its racism with affirmative action legislation and even electing a black president who is committed in maintaining the white elitist racist system of justice. What moral authority does the US have to preach to the rest of the world about democracy and freedom, of pluralism and human rights when it is practicing racism, even in blatant cases of murder? What moral authority does the US have to speak of an open and just society that it wishes to promote around the world when its own society is socially unjust more so than those to whom the US is preaching around the world? What does it mean to have a black president in America but a system of justice rooted in racism? Is this the new more stealthy face of American racism, or is it merely a continuation of a culture immersed in apartheid mindset from which it refuses to escape because it is always convenient to have minorities as scapegoats for all the problems that the elites cause for society.

It is amazing that some conservatives have tried to make the Zimmerman trial into a gun rights issue, a liberal vs. conservative, as though the struggle against racism is a matter for those favoring gun control. This is a manifestation of the mass psychosis of racism that prevails American society to such a degree that the essence of the murder trial becomes trivialized and lost in a "gun control issue". Five decades after the Civil Rights movement some things have changed. However, deep down in the underbelly of American society, racism is alive and well, concealed behind all sorts of liberal and conservative issues.

My response to comments on LINKEDIN:
If only it were the judges that were the problem with the system, then something could be done and fairly quickly. The society itself in its many complex phases from pro-gun activists finding institutional backing, to those hiding behind "law-and-order" rhetoric and others arguing that terrorism is looming just around the corner, the climate is one of a quasi-police state where minorities are an easy target for the entire justice system. America has remnants of the pre-civil rights society, now under the veil of combating crime and terrorism and the presumption of guilt based on skin color.

 It is important for people differing to try and understand not just the words but the intention behind the worlds, as Ludwig Wittgenstein correctly argued in his philosophy of language. Having said that, it is important to understand that what makes us human is compassion for all creatures, especially our fellow human beings regardless of skin color or any other external trait that has absolutely nothing to do with the innate traits of that person. The capacity to see things from the perspective of the victim in a society that discriminates is a measure of compassionate. In all honesty, those who lack such compassion may themselves have never been on the receiving end, or they may have overwhelming fears of losing their identity by accepting others who appear different on the outside, but in essence are us, or it may be a case of a bad experience, etc. Whatever it is, the species has a single origin and it is important we value our own species, instead of seeking to undermine, denigrate, or do away with some within that species so we can feel the illusion of godlike.

Friday, 12 July 2013


Do the pets of the wealthy in rich countries live better than most people around the world? Not that animals ought not to have a nice life, but is there anything disturbing about people caring more for the welfare of their pets than they do for babies dying of starvation and disease?  Depending on the particular study, it is estimated that 20,000 to 40,000 children die every day as a result of hunger. One of the worst crime against humanity is lack of clean water and food that is a problem for an estimated 1.5 billion people in a population of roughly 7 billion.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), one-third of the world's population is well-fed, one-third is under-fed and the last one-third is seriously malnourished or starving. This does not have to be so because about 1.3 billion tons of foodstuffs per year is wasted, mostly in North America, Europe and industrialized Asian countries. The result of lack of malnutrition and clean water for 1.5 billion people on this planet has enormous costs ranging from economic to sociopolitical.

The World Bank report on food waste shows that 25-33% of food goes to waste on a global scale, most of it watsed by the end user, while a percentage is also wasted in the production and conservation stages of food.

The World Health Organization (WHO) provides the following statistic regarding the effects of unsafe drinking water on the masses.
  • 1.6 million people die every year from diarrhoeal diseases (including cholera) attributable to lack of access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation and 90% of these are children under 5, mostly in developing countries.
  • 160 million people are infected with schistosomiasis causing tens of thousands of deaths yearly; 500 million people are at risk of trachoma from which 146 million are threatened by blindness and 6 million are visually impaired.
According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), 870 million people, or one in eight in the world, suffer from chronic undernourishment. The vast majority live in developing countries, representing 15 percent of the population of developing counties, but the numbers of malnourished in advanced countries has been growing as well. For the amount that Europeans and North Americans spend on perfume, that is roughly $13 billion, the problem of food and clean water can be provided to those in need. However, it is profitable to sell perfume, while it is not profitable to provide clean water and food to those in need, nor is it profitable to provide the means for them to solve the problems of clean water and food for the duration.

It is ironic that food waste is a problem in advanced countries where the malnourished population is also growing. However, it is not as ironic as it appears once we examine that there is profit in waste, while there is no profit in solving the problem of food and clean water that plagues billions of people. In two separate studies in 2004 and 2013, it becomes evident that about 40% of food in the US is wasted, that is to say, it is thrown out as waste at a cost of $165 to $180 billion, according to the Department of Agriculture and EPA.

Given that an estimated $1 to $1.3 billion is spent to dispose of food waste representing 12% of solid waste, and given that 15% of the wasted food could feed 25 million people, the question is whether there is a way to feed the hungry population - one in six Americans - and reduce food waste that is costly to dispose and produces methane gas that is 21 times more damaging to the environment than carbon dioxide and accounts for 25% of methane emissions.  One could logically argue that if people want to waste 40% of the food they purchase, there is nothing that can be done, other than forcing them to dispose of it in a separate container for collection. The only thing that communities can do is to introduce more educational programs about food waste, which drives prices higher, wastes more resources, including energy, and pollutes the environment.

Under the existing political economy, the motive is to concentrate capital, and solving the food and clean water problem costs the taxpayers and does not provide a profit motive for the private sector wishing to have a role in food and water issues for the poor only if there is a profit motive. For example, it is more profitable to use corn that is is abundance as bio-fuel, animal feed, and value added products rather than to feed those starving. Why does the US use 40% of corn for bio-fuel and a large percentage for animal feed? Because it is profitable to do so. The same goes for Brazil where poverty runs between 25 and 30%.

The use of bio-fuels sends prices higher and results in greater market pressure on foodstuffs for the masses suffering from malnutrition. One could argue that the government ought not to pay to subsidize foodstuffs to feed the malnourished. The reality is that governments, including the US, spend billions subsidizing bio-fuels for corporations. Therefore, while social welfare is something that people oppose, they seem to have no reaction to corporate welfare, given that the US government alone paid more than $33 billion to oil companies for ethanol, and much more to agri-business for value-added products to make them competitive. Moreover, the US export subsidies intended to make US products competitive globally cost the taxpayer roughly $20 billion, and just to be balanced, we have similar sort of subsidies and tax breaks on the part of other industrialized nations that also engage in corporate welfare policies. These subsidies to corporations are just fine, but feeding starving children is an anathema because it is simply not profitable to keep them alive.

Clearly, while the short-term solution to those in need of clean water and food is aid, the long-term solution is assistance to become self-reliant. The UN, World Bank, EU and US have programs to introduce greater self-reliance on food and water, but all of those are market-based, commercially-oriented programs rooted in the neoliberal ideology. Anything that even resembles cooperative farming with a socialized-communitarian orientation is something that the industrialized countries oppose, because it is outside the boundaries of the profit-based system. Meanwhile, wasting 40% of food in the US is acceptable because it is a healthy sign of frivolous consumption on which the market economy is based.

What is to be Done?
While humanitarian assistance is something for which there will always be a need, it is not a permanent solution to the problem. It is indeed great that there are private and governmental organizations that offer food and water assistance, no matter their motives behind their gift-giving efforts. Among the proposed solutions out there, some constructive, others cynical, are the following:

1. reduce poverty by reducing the poor through birth control methods;
2. reduce food hunger by raising food aid in the top 20 richest nations;
3. support the " Millennium Development Goals that the United Nations has set for the 21st century;
4. UN and other international organization like the World Bank and NGO's working close together with governments to reduce poverty through self-help efforts at the local level;
5. introduce more genetically-engineered products that can provide daily nutrition for the masses;
6. World Trade Organization efforts to reduce poverty by promoting greater trade liberalization under neoliberal policy regimes;
7. grassroots action and collaboration with interested groups working toward the same goal;
8. change the political system that perpetuate widespread poverty so that the problem can be solved once and for all;
9. accept poverty as God's way of proving that there are limitations to human achievements, including preventing thousands of children dying of hunger every day.
10. feeding the hungry is a global communal responsibility, and allowing them to suffer and die of starvation a reflection of our values and who we are.

In response to a critic on who asked me what is to be done?

 By no means should you do not away with pets that indeed bring comfort to you.  Nor is there any point feeling guilty that babies die because of starvation, because your guilt will not save them. Nor do I blame you for feeling fed up with homeless people begging outside the station. It makes one feel very bad seeing them there, begging day after day, because deep inside you fear they are the ugly side of humanity's mirror. Trying to save the starving children, the homeless, etc. is a monumental moral responsibility that cannot possibly fall on your shoulders, not on any individual's shoulders. This is a collective responsibility that must come through government policy, especially on the part of the G-20 - richest 20 nations.

Just as we all agree - even those of us who have no problem with moral relativism - that it is immoral to kill babies, we can agree that governments must adopt policies that reduce the dramatic rate of people, especially children, dying of hunger and lack of clean water. Government policy is the only solution. As much as humanitarian efforts help to deal with the immediate problem in targeted areas, the only permanent solution is a collective effort via the UN or NGO's perhaps, to reduce the serious problem of food and clean water problem. 
The decomposition of food and other organic waste in landfills produces methane, a greenhouse gas 21 times more damaging to the environment than carbon dioxide. Landfills are the largest human-related source of methane in the United States, accounting for 34 percent of all methane emissions. - See more at:
The decomposition of food and other organic waste in landfills produces methane, a greenhouse gas 21 times more damaging to the environment than carbon dioxide. Landfills are the largest human-related source of methane in the United States, accounting for 34 percent of all methane emissions. - See more at:
The decomposition of food and other organic waste in landfills produces methane, a greenhouse gas 21 times more damaging to the environment than carbon dioxide. Landfills are the largest human-related source of methane in the United States, accounting for 34 percent of all methane emissions. - See more at:

Monday, 8 July 2013


I could argue that some vote Republican because they are wealthy and the GOP represents their interests, but there are many wealthy people who vote Democrat. One could argue that those who are not wealthy but vote Republican are simply ignorant because they do not know their own best interests, or they are brainwashed by the media, teachers and preachers, neighbors, etc. However, there are complex reasons why people vote Republican or Democrat, the two mainstream political parties that enjoy monopoly of power in all branches of government and do not need to worry about competition from any other political force.

First, the two political parties are very old and well established in society with very deep roots both institutionally and among the people. Both enjoy almost all of the mainstream media coverage that projects them as the only alternatives within a framework of democracy where nothing outside of the two exists for it would pose a threat. Both parties enjoy substantial financial contributions from private sources, something that makes them difficult to defeat in costly elections if you run as an "Independent" candidate with nothing more than enthusiasm and idealism to do good things for all people and not a small group that pays for your campaign.

Although it is true that both agree on the economic system and social structure, there are differences, mainly in social and cultural issues where Republicans tend to be driven by dogmatism infused with a heavy dose of religion in obvious and opportunistic ways that often prove to be hypocritical. Not that Republicans have monopoly on hypocrisy, but how often have we seen that good Christian Republican politicians have been engaged in less than pious conduct in secret while morally judging the rest of sinners that include gays, minorities, and women.

On minorities, women, gays and the popular social classes there are distinct differences between Republican and Democrat driven partly by ideology and partly by traditional values that could be traced back to the era of the Progressive Movement (1890s to mid-1910s) that left its imprint on 20th century American history. The emergence of the broader popular classes, including consciousness-raising among women and minorities, as a result of rapid industrialization meant that the political system would have to change as well to keep up with the evolving social movements.

The Republicans in the 1920s reacted very negatively to social-cultural progress (there was a resurgence of the KKK and conservatism linked to Christian fundamentalism). Under FDR, Democrats were much more receptive to social change, largely because society was in a deep economic crisis. The legacy of the "Progressive Movement" as it evolved throughout the 20th century was one that progressive Democrats embraced - mainly representing the urban areas and mostly the northeast, upper Midwest and West coast. Republicans kept their ideological hold rooted in rural America, mostly in the South, but in other parts of the country where the agricultural economy played a major role.

Republicans linked "American identity" with the rural areas, religion, gun ownership and resistance to sociocultural change that would permit equality with white males of minorities, gays, women and the poor. The sense of loss of identity in terms of what it means to be an American is inexorably linked to the political party as long as the leaders at the time of election appear to be convincing to the voters. In short, there is an emotional or psychological factor here, so we cannot always try to look at the issue from a rational perspective, because people simply do not vote their own interests.

Both parties have some important differences on social policy, with Democrats favoring a stronger middle class and a social safety net for the poor, while Republicans see the social safety net (welfare state) as a burden to the taxpayer. They have some peripheral differences on economic and fiscal/monetary policy, again with Democrats having a bit more sensitivity to high rates of unemployment and poverty, while Republicans would permit the state-supported marketplace to "devour the poor." Why does anyone who is not well off vote Republican, given the economic, fiscal/monetary policy of the party favors the rich? Because people aspire to be rich and believe the Republicans are best able to deliver the American Dream, while the Democrats want to force social welfare down the throat of America and equalize those who believe in elitism.

The two main parties have only marginal differences on foreign policy, with Republicans having a greater affinity to unilateral approach to diplomacy, if not neo-isolationism, whereas the Democrats lean toward multilateral diplomacy. In the end, there is bipartisan consensus, though the Republicans have proved more trigger happy in recent decades than the Democrats. It is true that Republicans tend to be more open to the idea of military adventures and military solutions instead of opting for political solutions. However, it is also true that many Democrats agree with that position, because they see it as part of their sense of patriotism, which they equate with militarism. Why vote Republican if you are anti-war? Because Democrats are not likely to be much different, though more contained in their reckless use of force and more worried about the broader consequences of war than Republicans who see war as a stimulant to the economy.

Given that the voting process is not based on reason, but largely on emotion, it makes sense that voters who believe it is wrong to discriminate against gays, women, and minorities may still vote for Republican Party because it best expresses their sense of self not as who they are, but who they would like to be.Having said all of this about why Americans would tend to vote Republican vs. Democrat, it is important to note that in the early 21st century mainstream political parties represent the same socioeconomic interests, similar fiscal and monetary policies, similar trade and investment policies and similar welfare and trade union policies. In short, in the last few decades, we have seen policy convergence among political parties of the right and center, to the degree that the voter who honestly wants change is left disillusioned.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013


The following facts can be considered to determine if blacks have made progress under Obama.
a) The first black president in the the nation's history proves that there is no discrimination in America when it comes to elected officials.
 b) High visibility of blacks politicians at all levels of government means that the community has plenty of representatives, so there is no need to complain that democracy does not extend to them. 
c) TV, Hollywood, and entertainment are flooded with blacks, therefore, the merit-based value system must really work as well as the American Dream for blacks. After all, Oprah and Will Smith among so many others have made it and so can the black child on the south side of Chicago or in inner city Detroit.
d) There are millionaire blacks in business standing out as outstanding examples that capitalism works just as well for minorities as it does for whites. If a handful of blacks can become millionaires, can the American Dream be far behind for the rest?
e) Blacks are in educational institutions - k-through graduate school - and that is further proof that talented blacks are a well integrated in society and have nothing to complain about because education like all American institutions are equal opportunity entities and work for all people. 

a) black unemployment at about 15% and poverty at 26%. This is something we find in Third World countries or in those like Southern Europe undergoing very serious debt-related problems.

b) Income disparity between blacks and whites suggests a divide between a first world vs. a Third World nation. While the median income of white households stood at $113,149 in 2009, that of blacks was $5,677, according to the Pew Research Center. In short, we have ratios of 20 to 1 for blacks, and the widest wealth gap since Reagan's first term in office.

c) roughly 15% of the entire US population, yet half of the prisoners are blacks. Why is it that a small percentage of whites are in prison, while a large percentage of blacks? 
1. racial profiling; 
2. minor infractions turning into major ones; 
3. judicial system heavily geared to assume guilt on the part of minorities; 
4. drug-related offenses reveal that although blacks represent 14% of users, vs. 25% of the general population, nevertheless, blacks are incarcerated at the rate of 45% for drug offenses.  
5.  poverty and disintegration of the family unity, partly owing to weak or non-existing community services

Did Civil Rights help or hinder the black community achieve broad upward socioeconomic mobility? Did integration simply placate blacks because it co-opted the elites in mainstream institutions from politics and business to education and social organizations? While "Affirmative Action" corrected some problems, it too was used as a tool of co-option of the black community. The NAACP has clearly stated that blacks are worse off today under Obama than they were during the Clinton era. The NAACP, like many organizations and individuals, simply assumed that Obama would advance blacks and minorities, simply because of his skin color. 

The record shows that Obama has advanced the wealthy, even among whites, and has neglected blacks from whom he simply expected support because he too is black, not because of his policies. It is tragic to see so many millions of people take such pride in the first black president, and such treachery on his part to do nothing to reduce black poverty, unemployment, and to introduce community programs that would educate more kids instead of having them wind up in prison. I suppose a black teenager looking at the president on TV feels as good as his mother that there is a black man who made it, among millions who live on the margins. 

My reply to questions about the article from readers on LINKEDIN who raised questions about the underlying assumptions of the article:

 1. If the observation is that the black-white disparity in American society is a question of imperialism, then I would agree, and add that there is literature on the subject as well.

2. If the observation is that progress is a matter of cultural relativism, then I would also agree.

3. If the question is that one must have a starting point of groups one compares, and that means relative to a starting point, let say the 1960s generation (Dr. Martin Luther King) civil rights generation, then I would say that this has some validity, though it strikes me as an argument that conservative apologists would make for they are not interested in raising the level of "progress" as white America defines it, for all people.

4. If the argument is that one must necessarily take into account the value system and definition of the people in question, especially the black minority, my answer to that is that of course that should be case. On the other hand, class transcends race in the existing political economy, and that means that there is no cohesive black community because the class-based social structure has kept it divided. 

First, the article I wrote is about blacks in the US making progress under Obama, not since the Dred Scott decision. I am not sure what point is served making comparisons with the slavery era, other than to project the impression that "at least blacks are not slaves any more".

Second, it is estimated that 60 million, or 2.5% of the world's population perished in WWII, although some statistics run as high as 80 million. The total number of US soldiers killed in WWI is 291,557, and it goes to 1076,245 with the wounded. By contrast, the total number killed in the Civil War is 214,938 and with the wounded included the number rises to 646,932. Therefore, WWII was much deadlier for the US than the Civil War.  

Third, those who have studied US history know that the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments meant very little in practice for the lives of blacks, as the white establishment found ways to circumvent the Amendments and nothing was done until the 1960s during the Civil Rights movement. Let us not forget the KKK thrived and blacks lived in apartheid conditions.

Fourth, appointing high level officials who are black does nothing for the black community except to appease it so nothing changes to improve their lives simply because a black person is in position of authority.

Fifth, in January 2013, the NAACP President argued that blacks are worse off under Obama in comparison with whites.

Finally, the incredibly sad thing in all of this is that a black president has advanced white elites as much as any white president would have done, but blacks remain loyal and proud of the symbol in the White House.