Richard Wolff on the Greek and European Economic Crisis

Here’s the best analysis I’ve seen of the current economic catastrophe happening in Greece and the rest of Europe. It’s from Richard Wolff, an American economics professor and an avowed Marxist – one of the very few in the US. He does weekly radio commentaries on current economic events on KPFA, which are very insightful, and has two websites of his own:  and

Appropriately and necessarily, Wolff provides a Marxist historical perspective, situating the current Greek crisis in the history other economic crises in Europe over the 20th century, including how Germany was bailed out of total collapse after WWII, when the Western powers simply cancelled all its accumulated wartime debt – allowing it a fresh start, which was then lauded an “economic miracle”.

Alongside the Greeks, many other Europeans now grasp what awaits them too in the “unified Europe” that German leaders are constructing and using. Yet the Portuguese, Irish, Spanish, Italian and other poorer (relative to Germany and France) people want a differently unified Europe. With troubling historical echoes, German leaders once again seek to force a particular kind of capitalist unity onto Europe. The weapons this time are economic and political instead of military, but they too provoke
resistance. Europe risks severe divisions and disunity with serious ramifications for the world.

German capitalism in its way replicates the fundamental mistake of capitalists elsewhere. It does not know how or when to stop overstepping the limits of what the rest of society will endure and allow. No matter whether opposition comes from Greeks suffering absurd privations, from Germany’s only real opposition party, Die Linke, from Pope Francis or from rising questions and challenges of capitalism per se around the world, German capitalism pushes ahead oblivious. It ignores especially its own past lessons about recasting internal economic problems as the fault of other, lesser people who deserve harsh punishment. Europeans everywhere recoil, again, from German foreign economic policies and their modes of articulation. Their worries about the sort of European unity Germany’s economic dominance will yield are changing into opposition and resistance. Something ominous is underway, and the unfolding Greek tragedy-cum-resistance expresses it profoundly.

Thich Nhat Hanh On the Liberating Effect of Accepting the Possible Destruction of Civilization

In this Youtube interview, Canadian environmentalists David Suzuki and Jim Hoggan lay out the dire situation with public apathy, in both Canada and the United States, over the state of the environment and apparent ignorance of the seriousness of our situation.

The Vietnamese Buddhist meditation master Thich Nhat Hanh listens carefully to their analysis of the situation and then says calmly and forcefully – “You have to accept that this civilization can be destroyed. Not by something outside, but by ourselves. Many civilizations have been destroyed in the past, and it may take a million years to re-create another one on this planet.”

Thich Nhat Hanh then goes on to explain that if you allow despair to take over, you have no strength to do anything at all. But if you practice meditation so that you have peace in yourselves, becoming free of despair and anger, recognizing that even if civilization is destroyed, you can accomplish something.

New Book Exposes Links Between The Drug War and Transnational Capitalism

drugwarcapitalismA new book – Drug War Capitalism – by Canadian investigative journalist Dawn Paley, exposes the hidden but intrinsic connections between the so-called “war on drugs” and the southward spread of transnational US and Canadian corporations. In a review of the book and interview with Paley, Mark Karlin writes in Truthout – “Paley exposes it (the drug war) as a pretext for extending US militarization to, and control of, nations to enhance transnational business opportunities and prevent populist uprisings.”

As Paley writes “This war is about control over territory and society, and market share, cheap labor, mineral rights and profits, much more so than it is about cocaine or marijuana.” She joins a number of other analysts who have pointed out the “war on drugs” is really a smoke screen cover for what is is an integral part of the multinational capitalist class exploitation and domination agenda.

Paley writes that the so-called “war on drugs is really a war on people”, specifically, lower class, poor and minority groups, who make up the majority of those incarcerated or killed in the context of the drug war. Drug abuse and addiction is not an issue that can be solved by militaristic means – sociological studies have demonstrated again and again that drug war politics, in Mexico, the US or elsewhere, like SE Asia have never resulted in a decrease in drug use. Drug abuse and addiction are public health issues, like alcoholism, and need to be addressed as such. But the power of international drug cartels and their pernicious influence on US and Latin American policy cannot be reduced by a “war on drugs” – on the contrary, prohibitionist policies and drug abuse support each other.


Dawn Paley

Karlin and Paley in their discussion make the point that 85% of drug cartel profits are generated in the US cocaine market – and this money is in turn invested in the US economy in various ways. The war on drugs is actually a cover for excavation and expropriation of basic minerals, oil and lumber and the creation of marketing environments for multinational corporations – reducing labor costs, increasing the prison population, i.e. extending and increasing the power and wealth of the military-prison-industrial complex.

When our current newspapers are filled with terror stories about the increasing lawlessness and terror regimes in Mexico and Columbia, we can understand Paley’s analyses of the “structural elements that allow this kind of killing and terror to take place. Certainly US-funded militarization is a key component. There’s the media and the government, which blame victims for their own deaths by linking them with drug trafficking. Then there is the impunity, the fact that those responsible for criminal acts not only get away with their crimes, but various levels of government are actively involved and thus also cover their tracks.”

Paley’s book is an important contribution to an ongoing, indeed intensifying, out of control system of state-supported terror in Central and South American countries, in which the US plays a decisive and collusive role. All under the pretext and cover of combating a “drug problem” – a problem created by the very forces who are engaged militarily to combat it.

The Railway Man – A true film of war, torture, healing, love and redemption

railwaymanThe Railway Man is a 2013 British-Australian film directed by Jonathan Teplitsky. It is an adaptation of the best selling autobiography of the same name by Eric Lomax.

The story concerns the British officer Lomax (played by Colin Firth), who seeks to heal his long-suppressed war-trauma from twenty years earlier, assisted by his new love (played by Nicole Kidman) and his best friend. During World War II both men had been captured by the Japanese and sent to a POW camp, forced to work on the Thai-Burma railway in the Malaysian peninsula.

During his imprisonment Lomax had built a radio and was brutally tortured by the Japanese, leaving him with PTSD which threatens to derail his new marriage. Supported by his new wife and best friend, Lomax decides to return to Burma to confront his war-time enemy and torturer and exorcise the trauma demons from his psyche.

I appreciated this film/story’s truthfulness and authenticity in many respects. While it does show the emotional and personal trauma of war-violence – it does not dwell on them more than the minimum necessary for the story (unlike the films of Quentin Tarantino and many war-movies). It shows the psychological truth that to really heal the effects of PTSD, rather than just cover them over, the empathic trust and love of a friend or partner is essential.

In the film, it is Lomax’s new wife who plays that role. His fellow-veteran from the war, who has no one he can trust, hangs himself.  In therapy situations that are successful, it may be the therapist can play that role. The empathy needs to be genuine – it can’t just be pretended – and for torture situations that’s really difficult. I also appreciated that the film and Lomax’s story do not use his confrontation with the Japanese officer who tortured him for revenge or pay-back, which would simply continue the karmic chain, but for truth-telling with sincere remorse.

This reminded me of the truth-and-reconciliation rituals developed in South Africa and other places; and of the movements, in the US and elsewhere, where families who have lost loved ones to murder, step out of the cycle of “an eye for an eye”, and seek to connect with the perpetrators, opposing the death penalty for all capital cases. See the film – you won’t regret it.

How the Egypt civil war may be a grim harbinger of things to come

In a perceptive and prescient essay by journalist Chris Hedges, published on Alternet (August 15, 2013  | By Chris Hedges ) he argues that  “the massacres in Egypt are a precursor to a wider global conflict between the elites and the world’s poor.  The engine for this chaos is not religion but the collapsing global economy, a world where the wretched of the Earth are to be subjugated and starved or shot.

Radical Islam is the last refuge of the Muslim poor. The mandated five prayers a day give the only real structure to the lives of impoverished believers. The careful rituals of washing before prayers in the mosque, the strict moral code that prohibits alcohol, along with the understanding that life has an ultimate purpose and meaning, keep hundreds of millions of destitute Muslims from despair. The fundamentalist ideology that rises from oppression is rigid and unforgiving. It radically splits the world into black and white, good and evil, apostates and believers. It is bigoted and cruel to women, Jews, Christians and secularists along with gays and lesbians. But at the same time it offers to those on the very bottom of society a final refuge and hope. The massacres of hundreds of believers in the streets of Cairo signal not only an assault against a religious ideology, not only a return to the brutal police state of Hosni Mubarak, but the start of a holy war that will turn Egypt and other poor regions of the globe into a cauldron of blood and suffering. The only way to break the hold of radical Islam is to give followers of the movement a stake in the wider economy, the possibility of a life where the future is not dominated by grinding poverty, repression and hopelessness.

The lifeblood of radical movements is martyrdom. The faces and the names of the sanctified dead will be used by enraged clerics to call for holy vengeance. And as violence grows and the lists of martyrs expand it will ignite a war that will tear Egypt apart. Random attacks and assassinations by gunmen will puncture daily life in Egypt as it did in the 1990s when I was in Cairo for the New York Times, although this time the scale of the attacks will become fiercer and wider, far harder to control or ultimately crush.

What is happening in Egypt is a precursor to a wider global war between the world’s elites and the world’s poor, a war caused by diminishing resources, chronic unemployment and underemployment, declining crop yields caused by climate change, overpopulation and rising food prices.

The belief systems the oppressed embrace can be intolerant, but these belief systems are a response to the injustice, state violence and cruelty inflicted on them by the global elites. Our (common)  enemy is not radical Islam. It is global capitalism. It is a world where the wretched of the Earth are forced to bow before the dictates of the marketplace, where children go hungry so global corporate elites can siphon away the world’s wealth and natural resources and where U.S.-backed militaries carry out massacres on city streets. Egypt offers a window into the coming dystopia. The wars of survival will mark the final stage of human habitation of the planet.”

The hubris of empire and the courage of whistle-blowers

In The Six Pathways of Destiny, I wrote about critics, spies and whistle-blowers exemplifying a blending of the path of the warrior-reformer and the path of the signaling-communicator (pp. 117-119).  “In social organizations and communities it is the role of the critic and reformer to identify weaknesses of corruption and degeneration and thereby seek to bring about reforms to correct them.” Laws to protect whistle-blowers of corruption and theft in business corporations have been passed in recent times – but the potential for them to lose their livelihood or their liberty is still high in most countries. The stakes – and the risks – are astronomically higher in cases where the whistle-blower exposes corruption and malfeasance in the government of the military-industrial complex itself. In the 1960s, the country and the world were riveted by Daniel Ellsberg’s exposure of the Pentagon Papers for which he faced and survived the risk of spending the rest of his life in prison.

Currently, the revelations of Julian Assange, Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden have been casting a startling and bracing bright light on the globally pervasive nakedness of information imperialism. All three of these reformer-warriors were highly trained and skilled initiates in the secret world of digital information management – and all three came to the point of being appalled at the endemic violations of human rights and privacy that they witnessed.

Julian Assange has managed to find personal refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he has been living for a year, while the network of digital allies he developed continues with its periodic exposures. Bradley Manning was arrested, held under torturous conditions in a military prison for over a year and is now facing a possible life-sentence for his revelations. He has not yet been sentenced. A campaign to award him the Nobel Peace Prize has generated several hundred thousand signatures, while mainstream American politicians and commentators denounce him as a “traitor.”

Edward Snowden, after entrusting his story and encrypted information download to two courageous independent journalists – Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras – ended up in the Moscow airport, stripped of his US passport, was unable to fly to any of the three Central American countries that offered him refuge because of fear of being arrested in mid-flight  – a fear that turned out to be justified when a plane flying from Moscow carrying the Bolivian head of state was intercepted by anonymous authorities in Vienna who searched the plane for no apparent reason. After living in the Moscow international airport lounge for two weeks, Snowden was granted provisional asylum in Russia, despite strenuous pleading and attempted pressure for extradition by US authorities from the President on down. Reminding his American counterparts that the US and Russia do not have an extradition treaty, Russian president Vladimir Putin, clearly relishing the opportunity to score diplomatic points, remarked with sardonic humor  “Ask yourself a question: should people like that (human rights activists like Assange and Snowden) be extradited so that they can can put them in prison? I prefer not to deal with such issues. It’s like shearing a piglet: a lot squealing and little wool.”

The NY Times Sunday Magazine,  August 18, 2013 published a story by Peter Maas, entitled How Laura Poitras helped expose what the American government does in the name of security. In the course of reporting his profile of Laura Poitras, Peter Maas conducted an encrypted question-and-answer session, for which Poitras served as intermediary, with Edward J.  Snowden. now living somewhere in Russia. The interview was accompanied in the magazine by a photo of a crowd of people in Brazil holding masks of Edward Snowden at hearing on the NSA surveillance programs, which have sparked outrage around the world.

Below are selections from that conversation, providing fascinating insight into the enormous courage and fierce intelligence which these whistle-blowers are demonstrating. Both Greenwald and Poitras now have chosen to live outside the US (Greenwald in Brazil, Poitras in Berlin) to protect their person and their journalistic writings from seizure.

Edward Snowden Speaks to Peter Maass of the New York Times

 Peter Maas: Why did you seek out Laura and Glenn, rather than journalists from major American news outlets (N.Y.T., W.P., W.S.J. etc.)? In particular, why Laura, a documentary filmmaker?

Edward Snowden: After 9/11, many of the most important news outlets in America abdicated their role as a check to power — the journalistic responsibility to challenge the excesses of government — for fear of being seen as unpatriotic and punished in the market during a period of heightened nationalism. From a business perspective, this was the obvious strategy, but what benefited the institutions ended up costing the public dearly. The major outlets are still only beginning to recover from this cold period.

Laura and Glenn are among the few who reported fearlessly on controversial topics throughout this period, even in the face of withering personal criticism, and resulted in Laura specifically becoming targeted by the very programs involved in the recent disclosures. She had demonstrated the courage, personal experience and skill needed to handle what is probably the most dangerous assignment any journalist can be given — reporting on the secret misdeeds of the most powerful government in the world — making her an obvious choice.

P.M.: Was there a moment during your contact with Laura when you realized you could trust her? What was that moment, what caused it?

E.S.: We came to a point in the verification and vetting process where I discovered Laura was more suspicious of me than I was of her, and I’m famously paranoid. The combination of her experience and her exacting focus on detail and process gave her a natural talent for security, and that’s a refreshing trait to discover in someone who is likely to come under intense scrutiny in the future, as normally one would have to work very hard to get them to take the risks seriously. With that putting me at ease, it became easier to open up without fearing the invested trust would be mishandled.

P.M.: Were you surprised that Glenn did not respond to your requests and instructions for encrypted communication?

E.S.: Yes and no. I know journalists are busy and had assumed being taken seriously would be a challenge, especially given the paucity of detail I could initially offer. At the same time, this is 2013, and he’s a journalist who regularly reported on the concentration and excess of state power. I was surprised to realize that there were people in news organizations who didn’t recognize any unencrypted message sent over the Internet is being delivered to every intelligence service in the world. In the wake of this year’s disclosures, it should be clear that unencrypted journalist-source communication is unforgivably reckless.

P.M.: When you first met Laura and Glenn in Hong Kong, what was your initial reaction? Were you surprised by anything in the way they worked and interacted with you?

E.S.: I think they were annoyed that I was younger than they expected, and I was annoyed they had arrived too early, which complicated the initial verification. As soon as we were behind closed doors, however, I think everyone was reassured by the obsessive attention to precaution and bona fides. I was particularly impressed by Glenn’s ability to operate without sleep for days at a time.

P.M.: Laura started filming you from nearly the start. Were you surprised by that? Why or why not?

E.S.: Definitely surprised. As one might imagine, normally spies allergically avoid contact with reporters or media, so I was a virgin source — everything was a surprise. Had I intended to skulk away anonymously, I think it would have been far harder to work with Laura, but we all knew what was at stake. The weight of the situation actually made it easier to focus on what was in the public interest rather than our own. I think we all knew there was no going back once she turned that camera on, and the ultimate outcome would be decided by the world.

JFK, Mary Pinchot Meyer and the Leary Connection

Over two thousand books have been written about the life and death of John F. Kennedy almost 50 years ago and 60% of the American people don’t believe the “lone assassin” theory espoused by the official Warren Commission report. It’s interesting to reflect on the fact that if the real assassins have not been brought to justice, they have been and still are, if alive, “hiding in plain sight.” A fractious consensus among assassination researchers points to multiple, complex conspiracies involving elements in the CIA, the military, the mob and Cuban exile groups – all of whom had demonstrated antagonism against the President, thus the motive and the means to carry out the crime.

I am going to discuss two recently published books: (1) David Talbot’s BrothersThe Hidden History of the Kennedy Years (2007) and (2) Peter Janney’s Mary’s Mosaic – The CIA Conspiracy to Murder John F. Kennedy, Mary Pinchot Meyer, and Their Vision for World Peace (2012). Both are extensively documented and annotated books of over 400 pages, telling complex stories impossible to summarize. I will follow the example of Howard Zinn, author of A People’s History of the United States, and state out front the view that I have come to hold, so that the reader can know what my bias is, rather than trying to pretend I don’t have one. I have come to believe that the multiple assassinations of leaders (JFK, RFK, MLK, Malcolm X to name only four of the most prominent) that occurred in the 1960s signaled the end of the American republic and the establishment of a military-industrial empire, governed according to increasingly secretive, fascistic and militaristic principles, with the formerly “free press” reduced to being the propaganda extension of the controlling elites.

The assassination of JFK brought about the end of the American republic analogously to the way the assassination of Julius Caesar by a cabal of wealthy land-owner senators, whose power and influence Caesar had started to break up, brought about the end of the 500-hundred year history of the Roman Republic and was followed by a totalitarian empire. For a fascinating fresh look at that event, read historian Michael Parenti’s The Assassination of Julius Caesar (2003).

David Talbot’s Brothers focuses on the relationship of JFK and Robert Kennedy, who became not only his attorney general, but his most trusted advisory as it became clear that, because of the debacle of the botched Cuban Bay of Pigs invasion he could not trust the Joint Chiefs of Staffs, who were always itching to go to war (that’s what the military always want) and had become his sworn enemies. He also could not trust the CIA (which he said he wanted to “splinter into a thousand pieces”) when he realized they were always pursuing their own subversive agendas in various parts of the world, without any oversight or even truthful disclosure, as required by law. The CIA and their Cuban exile allies wanted to take Cuba back from Castro and were deeply resentful of what they perceived as Kennedy’s failure to follow-up their Bay of Pigs invasion agenda by “sending in the Marines” even though Kennedy had assured them beforehand he had no intention of doing so.

During the Cuban missile crisis, when the entire world came within a hair’s breadth of exchanging nuclear missiles and terminating civilization as we know it, JFK only managed to defuse the situation through his personal back-channel connection to Nikita Krushchev, the Soviet Premier who was similarly being pushed by his military commanders breathing down his neck to let fly the missiles. The two men talked directly, but secretly, by telephone and agreed to turn their respective countries away from war and toward peace. Kennedy and Krushchev thereafter started taking the first, small steps toward a negotiated, gradual disarmament process. As a life-long peace activist, this was to me the most moving and dramatic revelation of Talbot’s book – to know that at the height of maximum tension in the Cold War, these two warriors at the heads of their respective imperial armies reached out and agreed to take steps to avert and avoid war for ever. Immediately after the assassination, Robert Kennedy, who was of course aware of his brother’s plans and activities, took pains to use his own back channel connection with the Kremlin to assure Krushchev that he and the Americans were not blaming the Soviets for his brother’s assassination (knowing that the CIA and the military would have attempted to do just that).

Peter Janney’s book Mary’s Mosaic is about Mary Pinchot Meyer – a woman whom Kennedy really loved (unlike the numerous bimbos his sex addiction brought to his bed) and with whom he came to share his vision of turning the world toward a lasting peace. Mary Meyer was assassinated in a Washington park where she was walking, a few months after the JFK assassination. An uneducated black man walking nearby was arrested and tried for the murder – but acquitted for lack of credible evidence. Since Mary Meyer came from an upper class family and had relatives and friends in high places (her former husband was Cord Meyer, who was a high CIA official) her death occupied the rumor mills for quite a while, but then receded into oblivion as yet another unsolved murder case. Peter Janney, who spent forty years researching this book, had a personal connection to Mary Meyer since he was best friends with her son, who got killed in an automobile accident as a child. And Janney’s father was also a high-ranking CIA official, making with Cord Meyer and James Angleton, a trio of CIA spooks who feature repeatedly in the various conspiratorial scenarios that swirl around the assassinations of the 1960s and beyond.

I found his book incredibly interesting and powerful, blending a poignant story of personal tragedy with stories of outrageous criminality in the highest corridors of the American imperial court. The Mary Meyer murder story, which features briefly in David Talbot’s book and hardly at all in most other Kennedy books is the central focus of Janney’s book, because of his personal connection to her family. My old friend and colleague Tim Leary also features in the Mary Meyer story, although I personally never heard him talk about this connection. (It does not surprise me at all that Leary would keep his contacts with Mary secret, at her request). In his autobiography Flashbacks, Leary relates that Mary came to see him in 1962-63, seeking guidance on how to guide LSD sessions for a small group of Washington insider wives, who were wanting to turn the world system to world peace. They had a few meetings, Mary reported that things were going well – but then something happened that alarmed her, her peace conspiracy had been discovered. She warned Leary to lie low, they lost contact. Then in November 1963, JFK was killed, three or four months later Mary Meyer was killed. Many people believe that Mary kept a diary of her meetings with JFK, which the CIA and others were anxious to retrieve.

Regardless of whether there was a diary in which Mary described her affair with the President and/or his designs for peace – a supposition that I for one find unlikely, given the woman’s obvious understanding of the explosiveness of their thinking if it was revealed prematurely or at all. Janney’s book includes a description of a never-before published two-hour interview of Tim Leary and what he knew about Mary Meyer, conducted by Leo Damore (himself an assassination researcher who died of a sudden brain tumor before he could finish his own book) in 1990 (i.e. more than forty years after the assassination) confirming much of the story Leary told in Flashbacks, and adding details.

The conclusions emerging from this book are staggering –Kennedy and the only woman he truly loved took LSD together in the White House, conceiving and birthing their vision for world peace and how to bring it about. As Janney writes, explaining his concluding understanding of why she was killed, –

After Dallas, amid utter horror and shock, Mary had taken it upon herself to to discover and make sense of the truth of the conspiracy that had taken place – only to realize the magnitude of the second conspiracy, a cover-up taking place right before her eyes.. It was her own mosaic of people, events, circumstances, and exploration that informed her understanding – not only of the evil that had taken place in Dallas, but of the villainous darkness that was now enveloping all of America. She had furiously confronted her ex-husband, Cord Meyer, possibly Jim Angleton as well, with what she had discovered, not fully realizing the extent of their own diabolical ruthlessness. The Warren Report was nothing but a house of cards; once ignited, it would be engulfed in flames. If Mary courageously went public with who she was, and what she knew, making clear her position in the final years of Jack’s life, people with influence would take notice; the fire of suspicion around Dallas would erupt into a conflagration. She had to be eliminated (p. 391).

This book shines a brave and brilliant light of truth into a still dark and somber chapter of American history (irrespective of whether the story he tells is precisely true in all its details), a crucial turning point on the pathway from republican democracy to military empire, a pathway on which he are still marching, blinded by fear and ignorance. May these two books (and others now coming out about the Kennedy era) contribute to our awakening and a returning to sanity.